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30 While 30: The dark side of the force.

Can I be honest with you all for a moment?

Ok, thanks.

Want to know something true?

Sometimes my life is out of balance.

I know.  I know.  Shocker.

Let me tell you a bit about this.

I walk a fine line between contentment and ambition.  I don’t mean contentment with “things”.  In fact, I feel pretty settled with stuff like money and possessions.  I’ve written a few times about our family’s new policy on simplifying our existence, and having read Radical (and espousing with easy belief – though sometimes challenging practice) I understand that even on my poorest day, I am more financially blessed than 80% of the world’s population.  I am content with things, rarely ambitious with stuff.

I’m not really talking about money, or stuff.

My problem, as I have discovered this week, is walking the line between contentment and ambition in influence.

Believe it or not, I get a little jealous of others.

In this last year, I have widened my net as far as learning from others about how they run their business, how they connect with people, better ways of getting things done, smart ways of losing weight and being fit, and engaging in conversations about personal development, making changes in life, and making a difference in others.

And yet, there are days that I am jealous.

I am jealous that someone has a better and more developed platform than I do.  I am jealous that someone has more twitter followers.  I will make harsh statements about how “I could have said that waaay better“, or vehemently disagreeing with someone yet thinking no one pays attention to me, because I’m just a comment in a thread.  I am jealous of those that are getting to live their dream, today.  I, at times, am discontent, because I feel I am living between two realities: where I am and where I want to be.

But Jealousy is of the dark side.

To broaden that for the non-Star Wars aficionados, jealousy – along with things like anger, fear, and hate, are the things that lead down the dark side of the force, the dark side of a life philosophy that is dominated by a selfish perspective on life.

It was present this week.

In a week where I had many things to say, I didn’t post at all.

In a week where I debated trying to add a post on Sundays on to talk about faith related things I am experiencing, I didn’t post at all.

In a week where I read about the success of others, all I could see were the barriers in my own life.  All I could see were the reasons why it wouldn’t work, why I didn’t have the time, why it wouldn’t make any difference at all even if I did “make it”.

All I could see where the wrong things.

I share all of this, mainly to share with you that I am human, and I am not past expressing my troubles in the same space that I express my successes. I share also to encourage any of you out there that might feel the same.  I encourage you with the reminders that I use for myself.

There is a story in the Bible about a man that went on a trip and gave to his servants a share of his wealth.  He came back after a time to take account.  While each of them were given a different measure of wealth to work with, each was held accountable for what they were entrusted, and were not measured against their peers … only against themselves.

In moments where I am jealous of others influence, I remind myself that I am in a different place, with different skills, and with a different (albeit similar) mission.  I can only do that which I can do, and I will not be measured or judged in light of other humans, but on what I did with my skills, abilities, and resources in my time.

In moments of discouragement about blogging schedules, A/P II, applying to graduate school, building a website … I must remember balance.  Balance between loving where I am for where I am, while not forgetting where I should be going, and pointing myself and my family in that direction.

To weigh too heavily in contentment, is to become stagnant.  It is to cease growing and cease creating.

To weigh too heavily in ambition is to forget what makes the journey important.  It is to sacrifice timing and experience for the sake of the next task.

So today, a new day, the start of a new week, I work to practice balance, remembering that where I am is an important to place to be, and where I am going is important, too … in it’s own time.

Happy Monday!

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30 While 30: Day 244 – On motorcycles, novels, and races …

Hello all!

A few updates for you all.  I know that my “non-list” posting has slowed down, but I have promised myself not to start every post with “I know I haven’t been posting as much because” … oh wait … ah well, better luck next time.

1. I’m legal!  (Well almost)

If anyone reading is a follower on Facebook or twitter (my twitter handle is Thomsthoughts), you got a few messages from me about a week ago about my most recent list-item conquering:

#4 (Learn to ride a motorcycle.)

Done!  It took about 20 hours, but I finished.  I went from never having sat on a motorcycle (or dirtbike for that matter – I didn’t have the most adventeurous or risky childhood), to being able to pass the state riding and written test (with a 100% no less).  I only wrecked the bike once.

Yeah, you read that right.

It was actually not that bad.  Probably only my 6-7 time getting going, had the throttle up a little too high, and let the clutch go out a little too much.  That, and all my previous experience with motorized machines taught me that when in trouble, let go, and you’ll be ok …. well, not on a motorcycle.  The clutch popped, and the bike kept going.  I tried to stay on it for a bit, but balance was off and it went down.

I felt like a 2 year old.

Then the instructor came over and treated me like one.

And this wasn’t a bad thing.

You see, once it happened, he asked me if I was ok.  (answer was Yes, though I am sported a nice bump on my shin for about a week).  He then asked me what went wrong, and I was able to give an accurate answer.  He then had me pick up the bike, make sure it started, and get back in line.

As much as I try to avoid finding life lessons in random things … there it is again.  Don’t expect … when you are trying something new, that it is all daffodils and butterflies.  Sometimes the things that are hard, or are difficult, are the very things that we absolutely need to do.  I could have easily quit right then, but that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting point, or even more important … a highly uninteresting blog post.

2.  I have officially completed a race longer than I ever have before.

#6 (Run a 10k)

On the 5th, got a chance to run in the “Sango Scamper” in my hometown.  A local, and rather small race, but was a fundraiser for our local habitat for humanity.  The 10k started at 7am.  I started running in the dark, but got the joy of seeing the sunrise while on the course.

At about 3.4 miles (34 min) in, here was my view:

I was definitely not the first, and to be honest, I was not too ashamed of my time: 1:20:08.  Not only that, but I didn’t die, which is also a plus.

–          –          –

More stuff tomorrow.  Suffice it to say, this month (November) I am writing more than I have all year, though much of it you all might not see until much later.  I’ll try to share as many glimpses as possible.


30 While 30: Day 183 – Tofu won’t kill you (Vegetarian – Day 8)

I have to write quickly.  I may not have much time.

Tonight, I ate tofu.  Fried in oil, and contained in the following recepie:

 

Sweet & Sour Tofu

From EatingWell:  October/November 2005

Sweet & Sour Tofu Recipe

4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks or tidbits, packed in juice
  • 3 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips

Preparation

  1. Drain and set aside pineapple, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Whisk the reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Place tofu in a large bowl; toss with 3 tablespoons of the sauce. Let marinate for at least 5 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add cornstarch to the remaining sauce and whisk until smooth.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the tofu to the pan using a slotted spoon; whisk any remaining marinade into the bowl of reserved sauce. Cook the tofu, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add red and green peppers and cook, stirring often, until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the tofu and pineapple and cook, stirring gently, until heated through, about 2 minutes more.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: The tofu can be marinated (Step 1) up to 30 minutes in advance.

Nutrition

Per serving: 255 calories; 12 g fat ( 1 g sat , 5 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrates; 4 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 4 g fiber; 368 mg sodium; 537 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (230% daily value), Vitamin A (35% dv), Calcium (25% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 2

Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1 other carb, 1 medium-fat meat, 1 fat (mono)

–     –     –

And … it was good.  For those of you that know me in any context, you know I am a picky eater (more on that in a later post).  That being said, I trust my wife to not kill me with food – though at times it has been a close call – j/k babe ;).  She has been very accommodating in the last week, and even though this month might be very short, she has been a big help.

As far as other list updates go:

1. Saturday, I run in my first 5k of the season in Lebanon, TN, and am hoping to shave at least 10 minutes off my time last year.  An update on that once I get back on Monday.

2. I am already back in school.  Granted, it’s undergrad, but I have to take a few pre-reqs for even if I get in.  So, I am currently knee-deep in Anatomy and Physiology I, and am staring down A/P II and Microbiology in the Spring and Summer.  I should find out if I’m in the program by Spring 2012.  Let’s hope these classes aren’t just for my health.

Peace Out!

_Thomas


Posts back up on Wednesday –

No, I haven’t gone anywhere. It’s been a hectic weekend, with a death in the family and some extra work duties. All is well, and should be back on schedule on Wednesday!


30 While 30: Day 152 – Are you too old for this?

Just Friday before last, I got to attend my first ever DCI (Drum Corps International) competition.  For those of you unlearned, it’s pretty much the major leagues for marching bands.  The different Corps have their own followings, their own fans, their own T-shirts … their own sponsors.

It’s a big deal.

Now granted, it’s not for everyone.  But for the ones that it is for …. it is the “thing” for them.

The show was amazing.  The music was thrilling, and the formations crisp and precise.  In the process of the evening (because, remember, this is the Major Leauge), the DCI folks had “field-side” reporters interviewing members of the Corps as they completed their performances.  I’ll admit, it was kind of cheezy, until close to the end, one of the color guard (the members that use the flags and rifles in the shows) engaged in this conversation with the reporter (I’m paraphrasing – well, except for the last part)

Reporter:  “So, an awesome show.  What was your favorite part?”

Guard: “Oh, by far, the wobbly-bumps after the dingle dangles” (enter my professional summary).

Reporter: “So, is this your last year?”

Guard: Yeah.  “It is, I age out in November.  I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I can feel it.  I’m getting too old for this.”

I lean in to my friend, and ask “What age do you age out of the Corps?”  He replies:

“22.”

Yeah, you heard that.  22.

This got me thinking (I know, I know … I do think a lot … but seriously…), 22 is too old for something? Well, yeah.  Olympic Gymnasts normally hit their prime age 15-17, heck a lot of Olympians hit their prime by age 30.  It’s not just athletes, either.  How many times did you think to yourself that you were ‘too old’ for something?

To be perfectly honest, when we are telling ourselves we are “too old” for something, we are really saying a myriad of things (not all of which are bad things):

I am too busy for that.

I’m not in shape enough for that.

I have become interested in other things.

That thing is not important to me.

My career goals don’t mesh well with that activity.

I am burnt out from that activity.

That thing was once a joy, now it is a stress.

I want to do something new.

I don’t think I can accomplish that.

You see, whenever we are telling ourselves that we are “too old” (or enter other excuse here), what we are telling ourselves is not that our bodies aren’t capable of the activity (though in some rare instances that is the case), what we are telling ourselves is …

That specific activity, idea, purpose, passion … is not a priority for me.

This isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes, we need convincing that certain things in our lives are not benefiting ourselves as much as as they once were, or as much as we desperately want believe them to be benefiting us.  Sometimes, we need the reality check of letting some tasks, ideas, or even dreams go, to make room for what is in store tomorrow.

Sometimes, we need the idea that we are “too old”, to bolster our resolve.  To stop taking the excuses of our physical body, and master whatever it is that we need to master.

So which is it?  Well, if I told you, I would just write a book and become a millionaire.

Just remember, that when you say: “I can’t”,  It always means something, and while you may not be immediately sure what it means, never take that moment of potential insight for granted.


30 While 30: Day 140 – On Wine, Passports, Trumpets, and Running for a Reason…

Hello All!

A small post today, with some significant list updates, and planning for things that I am really excited about!

1) Even though I consider #9 (Find a good table wine.) completed, I had the enjoyment of a spontanous gift from my wife, Summer, of a selection of wines to taste.  Placed in a nice little box, with enough wine for two people to taste in each miniature bottle, it was a fun experience.  I continue to solidify my feeling that I am a “sweet over dry” kind of wine drinker, but there were a few drier ones that were still appealing (as I need a decent red dry wine to have with red meat).

2) This week, I took a major step (for me) towards #18 (Invest in a cause greater than myself, outside the shores of the United States).  I completed and submitted my passport application.  We also have Summer’s renewal prepared, but are waiting for a certified copy of our marriage license before we mail in her paperwork.  Also investigating timing and feasability of getting ones for the kids as well.  Not real sure on where and when, but this process opens those doors.  Suggestions are always welcome! 

3) I am a Band Geek.  It’s ok.  I know it.  I’ve known it for some time.  Well, to indulge in my geekdom, and in an attempt to satisfy #17 (Attend a nerd conference), I have the esteemed pleasure of attending the Drum Corps International: The Masters of the Summer Music Games, a Tour of Champions Series event in Murfreesboro, TN this coming Friday.  I am pumped!  One would say that I might be “geeked out”!

4) As you read in the post from Monday, my races, to achieve #’s 5, 6, and 7 (Run in 2 5k races. Run a 10k. Run a Half-Maraton). 

What I am happy to officially announce today is that not only am I running in the Half-Marathon in Memphis TN (in December) to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, I am running for a reason! 

I have agreed to, and committed to fundraising a minimum of $500.00 in addition to my fees to run the race.  I cannot begin to say how excited I am about this.  Summer ran the full marathon last year, and the experience, as a whole, was amazing.  To be able to participate alone is an amazing honor, but to do more to contribute to the work done at St. Jude’s pours the honor on more.

If you are interested, they have provided me with a site to make the donations towards my goal.  I hope from now until race day to update my readers on my progress training, as well as fundraising.

Here is my personal fundraising site (sponsored and set up by St. Jude). 

I will update as this process develops, with as much functionality that they give me.

I hope you will particiapte with me in this.  Even a small donation is appreciated, as any amount helps in the development of new treatments for children, and ensuring that no child is turned away from treatment becasue they cannot afford it.

Tomorrow, I restart the book reviews from my list, strarting with Kevin DeYoungs, Just do Something.

_Thomas


30 While 30: Day 110 – The calm before the storm…

The storm being that I am going to be solo with my two lovely boys for almost 6 days.  That should have been a goal on my list.  Nevertheless, the weekend has been busy with me getting some prep work done for this week, as well as planning longer term for some of my longer goals.  I’ve been so distracted with some of those things, that I didn’t even get this post put together until this afternoon.  Sorry if I missed your coffee this morning, but today will be brief anyways.

1. The reality of my running goals are coming to bear.  Summer and I had an impromptu talk today about some of those goals, especially the half-marathon, sharing some goals that I need to hit by August, September, and October.  To be honest with all of you, I haven’t been spending as much time and attention to working on the running goals.  Sure, I have plenty of things to blame, the heat, and when it wasn’t too hot, the rain.  Yes, there are plenty of reasons why not … but of course the reasons “why not” are the reason why this list is a reality in the first place.

2. I spent some time online trying to connect with other personal productivity blogs, and to be honest, it’s a little overwhelming.  I think, more today than ever before, the internet is a confusing and muddled mess.  Just try searching for just about anything.  Anyways, expect a post in a week or so with what I’m tracking.

Do you have any professional and personal development blogs that you follow?

See you guys on Wednesday, with some more specific updates!