First Contact

Family

When last we left my attempt at amateur radio, I had passed my test and ordered a radio.  I was awaiting my license from the FCC and looking forward to moving ahead.  Since then a bit has happened.

Recently I attended my first local radio club meeting.  It was a fascinating experience because I knew almost none of the vocabulary that was being used and I had no experience to use context clues to help me.  I sat next to some very nice people who helped me out when I needed it.  There were also a lot more people than I thought would be there.  Like 90+ people in fact.  Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

At this point my license and radio had come in.  Being nervous of messing something up I had really only listened to hear what I could.  I met a gentleman that was willing to help me program my radio to listen to the local (and not so local) chatter which was awesome.  After helping me, I also got a tour of our local county emergency services building and I was in awe.  I knew we had a lot of resources through the county, but I didn’t think it was so comprehensive.

As I’m writing this, I just finished up my first transmission on my radio to check in with a local net.  Basically, I logged in to a conversation of local radio operators during a training session.  Was I nervous?  Yes.  Was it as nerve racking as I thought it would be?  No.  So far, so good.

Advertisements

Lifelong Learning

Family

I tend to fall into the same trap over and over.  I play to my strengths.  A common trope right now in the leadership world is making sure that we operate from our strengths instead of work on our weaknesses, and I can understand why.  Why would I work harder on things that I could delegate to those who are gifted in that area?  I decided about two weeks ago that I was going to take on a new learning opportunity that I have no background in.

I am a history teacher by trade, hopefully you already know this.  My wheelhouse is compare/contrast, primary sources, reading, and writing.  In general, I like to tell stories about the past.  Very little of my day-to-day brain power is delegated to the math or science part of my brain.  While I do enjoy learning things that I am naturally inclined to, I started thinking about times in my life when I really enjoyed learning new things.  The nerd part of me began longing for the merit badge system of the Boy Scouts (now the Scouts).

There are programs out there for adults that are merit badge based, but I cannot afford their prices.  So I thought about an area that does not cost too much to get into that flexes the math and science area of my brain.  It would be a bonus if it provided a skill that I could use in the future (potentially).  So I settled on Amateur Radio, better known as “Ham Radio”.

My first step towards getting on the air was passing the licence exam.  The initial licence costs under $20 and a book or app to study.  For this exam I bought the book and the app, but I found the app much easier to study in small amounts of time.  I had a little under a week before the local ham radio club offered the test, so I studied my tail off during that time.  I showed up on test day and passed the test.  I am now waiting on the FCC to issue me a licence.

In the mean time (since it can take a couple of weeks), I ordered my first radio.  I opted for the handheld variety to start out with.  I also signed up for the local ham radio club which conveniently is right around the corner from my house.  I am going to keep updating my progress and how much I’ve learned.  Who knows, maybe this will start the trend of me having all kinds of other learning adventures.

Balance

Family

In a life filled with things to do and things to become better at, I struggle sometime finding a balance.  I want to be a good husband/father/son/friend, I want to be good at my job, I want to do the things I like to do and make me happy, etc.  I really would love to be able to excel in all of those things, but sometimes that just seems so hard to do because of balance.

For instance, I could definitely spend a lot more time in leisure activities, but what is the opportunity cost for that?  How do you like that senior year economics vocabulary coming back to me as an adult?  If I were to increase my leisure time, I would be giving up the opportunity to spend time with my family or my job.  Since I can’t cut my time as an educator because I have to help pay the bills, that would mean less time with my family.  There would eventually reach a tipping point where I’m clearly spending too much time at leisure and too little time with the family, but I don’t know that I ever want to find where that point would be.  I love my family and want to be around them as much as I can.

The problem for me is that balance is a trial and error process.  We don’t know we’re out of balance until it’s too late.  As a pseudo-perfectionist (at times) the idea that I’m not getting it correct can wear on me.  Maybe one day I’ll have more definite thoughts on what balance looks like for a full-time educator, husband, father of two, that likes to have some amount of leisure time.  Until that time, I’ll keep struggling to find it…and enjoying the ride.

A Weekend of Firsts

Family

Most weekends are the same for our family.  I take that back, after the fall our weekends are mostly the same.  I feel like in the fall we spend time in a lot of different places for different family events, but as the spring season comes around we settle into a groove.  This past weekend had a couple of things happen that were firsts for our little family:

Pumpkin

 

Picture from Kam Abbott

Caroline went to her first pumpkin patch ever.  I’m not a huge fan or opponent of Halloween.  I think it’s an average holiday and take it as an opportunity to meet neighbors I never would have otherwise.  Generally we sit on our driveway and talk with people when it’s light out and then retreat into our house once it gets dark.  It gives us an opportunity to interact with people as they walk by and talk with other young families in our neighborhood, mostly because they are the ones who are out before dark.  Part of any good Halloween is having a pumpkin.  Not a fake pumpkin, although we have one of those too, but going to an artificial pumpkin patch in a church parking lot and picking out a pumpkin.  We have two options in our neck of the woods a gigantic one with a carnival next to it or a small patch with only pumpkins.  We opted for the smaller one for Caroline’s first so we could get some good pictures without making her crazy with all the noise.

After the pumpkin patch, we loaded up and headed off to the nearest Trader Joe’s…which was 35 minutes away.  We have never shopped for groceries at one and had heard the magical claims of the Trader Joe’s faithful.  We bought so much stuff while we were there.  We bought stuff for lunches for this week, bottles of wine (which we don’t drink often), things that looked new and interesting, all kinds of stuff.  When we got to the register I was a little worried about what number might be waiting for us, but it was about the price of an average week at the grocery store for us.  We got home and tried some of our newly purchased food and it was all excellent.  I don’t know if we’ll head there too often (because of the commute), but it’s good to know that it lives up to the hype if one decides to sprout up closer to us.

Baby’s First Road Trip

Family

One of the bonuses for me when I was afforded the opportunity to not coach any more was that it freed me up to travel with my family during the football season.  When I was coaching, I was so exhausted on the weekends that it was almost impossible to do much of anything, and that was before we had a baby in the mix.  As I reflect on my schedule for the fall, we may have overdone our fall schedule with a baby, but she did really well on her first weekend road trip to Aggieland.

My wife graduated from Texas A&M, I did not.  With that being said, it is by far my favorite state university in Texas.  In fact, I almost transferred to A&M after my first year at Trinity University, but stayed and really enjoyed my time there.  A lot of my friends went to A&M so I’ve been there a lot of times throughout the years and it is a great college town.  Haley’s family has season tickets to the football games and this weekend was the first of the games we get the opportunity to go to.  The Aggies played Sam Houston State University as their final warm-up for the Alabama game next week, which we also get the opportunity to go to.  We left Caroline with her grandmother at the hotel in Bryan, TX and went to the game sans-baby.  She did awesome with her grandma and we had a good time at the game.  It rained most of the first half, which was new for me, but it also cooled off the weather quite a bit.  Normally we would expect to be sitting in 90-105 degree weather.  Saturday night it was 75 and windy…so pretty much perfect.   On the way back to Denton the following day she slept the entire 4-ish hour drive home!

Acouple of side-notes:

  • I got to go in the updated MSC at A&M.  It was awesome, but really crowded on game day
  • I also got to see a group of the Corps perform a yell at the gravesite of the dead mascots right near the stadium.  Every time I go to College Station I feel like I see another weird tradition I didn’t know existed.

First Sunday at Church

Family

Today was Caroline’s first day at church and there was one first during church, one first after church, and one interesting discussion that followed:

One First During Church:

We dropped Caroline off at Little Village, which is the children’s ministry at our church.  We put our parent pick-up sticker on her, left some instructions for the lovely ladies in the nursery, and made our way to church.  We sat with some friends of ours and the service started.  Haley was nervous since this was the first time we’d left our baby with the church nursery.  The service began and everything seemed fine, until five minutes later when the nursery paging service illuminated our parent code which meant we needed to check on our baby.  Haley left to go see what was going on and when she came back approximately 20 minutes later she told me that Caroline had been hysterically crying and had spit up all over one of the nursery workers.  She had gotten her to fall asleep in one of their baby rockers and we held our breaths until the end of the sermon, and then grabbed her and moseyed on our way.  Definitely not how we envisioned Caroline’s time in the nursery, but not the worst I’d ever heard either.

One First After Church:

We met with a girl we knew from church about the possibility of her moving into one of our guest rooms for the fall semester.  We presented what we thought was a great blessing for her, and she thought it would be great.  We’re hoping that this works out and that we can use the gift of our house to bless others.  We really wanted our house to be a ministry opportunity for our family and beyond.  If this doesn’t work out that’s completely ok, but it would be a great opportunity for us and her.  We’ve tried to think through all the possible downfalls of this and really be intentional about making sure we’re above reproach.  The major hurdle was the possibility that Haley were to go out of town.  The solution we came up with was for me to go to my parent’s house for the evenings Haley is out of town just to make sure there is no way for anyone to call anything into question.  Hopefully this won’t be the only time we can use the house God blessed us with as a ministry opportunity.

An Interesting Discussion:

The sermon at church was talking about the local church body and how they are being very intentional about the ways they are encouraging our discipleship.  They laid out their plan for every level of church, from children to adults.  While most of the age ranges made sense, the issue of youth ministry at our church left Haley and I with a big discussion.  Haley grew up with a strong youth group that allowed her to forge lifelong relationships with her friends at school as well as provided adults that consistently loved and discipled her.  Our church’s stance is that they don’t use a “program-driven” youth ministry, and they outlined why that is.  While Haley and I both understand their point-of-view on the topic, we don’t necessarily agree.  Our stance for now is going to be to see how the youth ministry morphs over the next few years and make a decision about youth ministry when Caroline is closer to that age.  Haley and I both agree that we love their children’s program as well as the theology of the church, but we want to have other adults than just ourselves pouring wisdom and the gospel into their lives as they grow up.  It was a great discussion for the two of us and one that we will have to revisit later.

East Texas BBQ

Family

Stanleys

My wife is from east Texas.  She grew up in Longview, TX but her parents now live in Tyler, TX (seems spooky that she married a Tyler) so we visit from time to time.  On consistent time we see them is on the 4th of July to celebrate Independence Day.  We spent a bit more time in Tyler than we usually do, which gave me the opportunity to sample some of east Texas’ finest BBQ (according to Texas Monthly’s list).

Having sampled the best BBQ in my area fairly recently, I was excited to sample something fairly close to it.  When I asked Haley’s father (who has competed in BBQ competitions before) where he would go for great food, he never really mentioned Stanley’s as being at the top of the list.  My wife, baby and I went to Stanley’s on a Friday during lunch and initially were worried because the parking was very spotty.  We found some parking behind the main dining area and walked down the metal steps to the bar and live music stage.  No one was playing this particular Friday morning, but we both decided it would be a great place to watch live music…without a baby in tow.  My wife saved a table for our group that had a great view of Beckham St. and I went into the smallish indoor seating area to order.  My wife got a sliced brisket sandwich while I chose the two meat plate with sliced brisket and turkey.  Most traditional BBQ people will go with ribs and brisket, but I love the flavor of great smoked turkey and if it’s done right is fantastic.  One thing I noticed about the menu was they gave you a guide to ordering brisket, prompting you to tell the person taking your order if you’d like fatty or more bark.  I didn’t specify to see what they would give me.  The wait for food wasn’t bad even though we showed up in the middle of a minor lunch rush.  The portions could have been a little bigger, although if I wanted a ton of food I could have ordered the meat of my choice by the pound.  My wife’s sandwich seemed to be very lean brisket, which she enjoyed, while my brisket came with a great bark and smoke ring.  There wasn’t a ton of fat on the brisket, but there was plenty for the portion I was given.  It tasted wonderful and I consumed it without any of the sauce that was placed on our outdoor table.  The turkey was smokey and peppery, exactly how I like a smoked turkey.  The side items that came with my plate were pretty good, but I wasn’t there for beans and cole slaw.  The friends we were there with sampled some ribs as well as brisket and their opinion was that the pork ribs weren’t as meaty as they could have been, but maybe they were from the end of the rack.

All things considered, we really enjoyed our trip to Stanley’s and will definitely be back in future trips to Tyler, TX.  I would love to go check out some live music on their outdoor patio or see what their breakfast menu looks like.  Next time I’m going to branch out and try out some different things to see the scope of their products.

Sleepy Time

Family

This past week our family entered a brand new phase.  Since May 1, Haley (and sometimes I) haven’t been able to sleep in longer than four hour increments.  We went on our annual trip to Lake Tyler for Independence Day and something magical happened.  Without us needing to have her stay in bed crying or do some weird sleeping night feed, Caroline decided it was time for her to sleep through the night.  Four days in a row Caroline has slept in her own crib from approximately 10 PM until 6 AM the following day.  Haley couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t be prouder of my baby girl.  Hopefully she keeps up her awesome work at the game of life!

Coaching Change

Education, Family

This week is one of the biggest in my career as a teacher.  It might be on par with my appointment to department head of the history department at my school and the day I was hired in my district (which was tougher since I was alternatively certified).  This week I officially signed paperwork that says I will teach from now on, but not coach.  It’s a bittersweet ending, but one that is the best for me and my newly formed family.

I have coached since the day I entered the classroom.  To be honest, coaching was really something I wanted to try as well as a way to get my foot in the door with a district.  When I was single, I thought I could coach for the rest of my career.  Sure there were long nights and early mornings, but what else did I have to do?  As I began to progress through engagement and into marriage time became more precious.  Suddenly there were more forces at work pulling me all over the place.  I wanted to do everything, but I was severely limited due to my coaching responsibilities.  My wife and I began talking about what a family would look like and our desires for how it would operate.  We didn’t agree on everything, but we did agree that coaching and family life don’t go together in our household.  We decided that when we began our family it was time to begin looking for the ability to teach but not coach.  I lucked out this year because some situations happened that opened up a full time history teaching position for me to take.  Part of my brain thought I would have to leave my district and search for a position that didn’t require me to coach, but luckily that didn’t happen.

I’m really happy to be able to commit to more family events this upcoming school year.  I’m excited to be able to take off a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday during the football season without being deathly ill.  I’m really excited to be a true department head for the history team.  I’m sad to not be around the awesome group of coaches at my school as much, but I’m excited to begin the rest of my teaching career.

Workouts and Growth

Family

Most teachers I know have some goal that they set for their summers.  Sometimes it’s to spend time with their families, travel a lot, or even spend time reworking their classroom for the following school year.  For me, this summer is being characterized by waking up early to do P90X early in the morning before the rest of my family wakes up and growing a beard.

I have done the P90X program before, but this summer (so far) I have really committed to staying with the schedule.  It’s been really good for me to wake up a little early and work out because it gives me time to finish and relax a little bit before our baby gets up and it’s family time.  The workouts usually take about an hour (sometimes more) and I use my upstairs game room to keep the noise to a minimum downstairs.  Oddly enough, I’ve really enjoyed trying the Yoga portion of the program even though I’m terrible at it and usually give up well before the end.  I’m also still working to finish the Ab Ripper portion of the program, but I get better every time I try it.  I’ve also been going on long-ish walks every night when I have the opportunity.  I started downloading podcasts to keep me entertained on my walks.  I’ve even thought about starting back up on the Couch to 5K program, but as of yet I have not.  Overall I’ve enjoyed the summer workout regime and hope to keep it up through the summer and into the school year.

I have a love/hate relationship with the beard growing enterprise.  Some days I really love the look of me in a beard.  I’ve always humored the idea of growing a full beard and I usually grow some sort of facial hair during the summer, since I can’t grow any during the school year.  The problem I’m finding with my beard is that some days it doesn’t bother me at all and other days it is itchy and almost unbearable.  My goal was to grow out my beard for the entire summer, but depending on the day that may or may not happen.  For now, I’ll keep it and I’ll post some before and after pictures after I shave again.