When you work from home

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Working from a home office is an interesting life sometimes. No, there’s no coworkers around to annoy you, and very few impromptu meetings pop up. It does have it’s own curveballs, however, and that is what makes it fun.

When you work from home…

– you are ALWAYS the one who has to make a new pot of coffee

– on snow days, your kids go to work with you

– you’ve got a shower connected to your office, just like the CEO

– most of your colleagues only see you in a head and shoulders shot on Skype

– every day is ‘take the dog to work day’

– you can get a workout in at lunchtime and not worry about the shower afterwards

– the commute is always great

– you have to remind yourself to ‘leave’ the office at the office

– you sometimes get lonely

– nobody checks your time sheet

– it is all about productivity because there’s no one to fool into thinking you’re BUSY

– ‘the office’ can be a very loose term and can be the deck, the kitchen, the coffee shop, the bar, the kid’s basketball practice, or the grocery store

In an effort to work to live instead of living to work, I wouldn’t trade working from home for anything. I couldn’t have done it at 28, but at 38 it is the perfect way for me to keep balance and perspective, rest and run hard, work and wind down.

 

Business Travelers

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Anybody who travels regularly knows that there are Leisure Travelers and Business Travelers who occupy the space in our airports. The fun thing about traveling is learning some of the finer points of identifying particular species of Business Travelers. For those of you just learning this art, here’s a quick lesson…

The Suit and Tie
Natural Habitats: LaGuardia, O’Hare, LAX, Atlanta, Dulles, Houston
Distinguishing Traits: Crisply pressed suit and tie (pocket square likely), hard sided briefcase, phone constantly to the ear having ‘very important conversation,’ curt to all other passengers and airline personnel, most often seen on flights before 8a and after 8p (with tie loosened, but not off).

The Sportcoat, Slacks, No Tie
Natural Habitats: Charlotte, Boston, Miami, DFW, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit
Distinguishing Traits: Only slightly less uptight than Suit and Tie, this guy has meetings to get to, but isn’t as self-important or just has a more relaxed corporate environment, also on the phone constantly, but at least courteous to other passengers and airline staff, still likely to carry a briefcase, but may be soft sided, most often seen on flights mid-morning and mid-afternoon because he doesn’t have to cram every single minute of every day with work.

The Sportcoat and Jeans
Natural Habitats: Same as Sportcoat, Slacks, No Tie, but also occasionally seen in San Diego, Portland, Nashville, Birmingham, and San Antonio
Distinguishing Traits: Relaxed and laid back, this guy is either done with his meetings and threw on some jeans to wind down or (like me) has a job where this uniform is the norm (creative businesses of all types wear this uniform), mixture of soft-sided briefcases and backpacks carried by this species, but he is only on the phone with the wife and kids and is almost always courteous to everyone, most often seen mid-morning and mid-afternoon but you’ll also see him on a red-eye after a long west coast work day

The Blue Collar 
Natural Habitats: This species is everywhere, but concentrated in Dallas Love Field, Denver, Phoenix, Chicago Midway, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Nashville, and any other regional airport
Distinguishing Traits: The style varies, but there are always boots (cowboy or work), there are usually jeans or pressed khakis, and there is nearly always a button down shirt with a logo on the chest, also common to see a matching logo jacket (Carhhart is preferred) and some sort of hat, overly courteous to everyone, rarely on his flip phone, if he carries a bag it will be beat up and rugged, and he is always anxious to get to the bar

Jogging Suit
Natural Habitats: most often found flying TO a regional airport
Distinguishing Traits: very difficult to distinguish from a Leisure Traveler, one must look carefully for tell tale signs – dress socks with a jogging suit and sneakers, a briefcase that doesn’t fit with the outfit, far too many self-important cell phone calls, and dropping the corporate credit card at the bar after one too many in his relaxed state; on rare occasions, this species will also throw on the sportcoat that he doesn’t want to wrinkle in his bag over the jogging suit

Women
Easily identifiable, but no defining characteristics. Most female business travelers look like they could immediately walk into a CEO level business meeting or a PTA board meeting without missing a beat. All species pretty much the same.

I hope this will make your next trip to the airport more interesting and enjoyable. Happy Hunting.

Real Facebook Friends

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I’ve oft bemoaned the damage that Facebook and other social media tools available today have done to the self esteem and self awareness of our generation. My gripe is that the generation I am a part of (Generation X) already has enough hurdles in front of us…from being the first generation to earn less than our parents, to being the lucky group that were the primary recipients of the genius of the banking industry called the “interest only loan,” to being the victims of the greatest scam in American automotive industry – the new car lease. The last thing we really need is a place to post all of the greatest things in our lives and make each other feel worthless because our lives aren’t even remotely as rich, fun, happy, full, or exciting as all of our ‘friends’ on Facebook.

But there is hope, because here is the reality – for most people, Facebook is ONLY the highlight reel of our lives, and no one who really cares about us only wants to see only the highlight reel, they want to see the full season because that is the only way you really understand what is going on. Like any good highlight reel, many of our Facebook lives leave out the bloopers, the blunders, the stupid mistakes, and the missed opportunities. All of our family bickering, money problems, marital stress, gossiping about friends, complaining about work, and generally mundane and unhealthy parts of our lives end up on the cutting room floor. This begs the question: Are the lives we live on social media our real lives, are our friends there our real friends, and is it mentally and emotionally healthy to be friends with people whom we are only wiling to share our highlight reels with each day?

So, what to do? I love Facebook! It allows me to stay connected and updated on the lives of people I truly care about but don’t get the opportunity to see or talk to as much as I’d like (the guys above, for instance). But I want to have REAL Facebook friends. Here’s what I’ve decided to do about it. I went through my Facebook friends list and thoughtfully considered whether or not I would actually be friends with them if we lived in the same town and had the opportunity to have a more connected personal relationship? Would I invite them over for an impromtu Saturday bbq, would I call them for support if a member of my family died, would we have coffee together once a month just to catch up, would we meet at church and want to be in a small group together, would we get together as couples and have a quiet dinner, would our kids play together so we’d get to know each other, would we call each other for Friday Happy Hour at the corner tap, or would we be running buddies? Wherever the answer to any of those questions was YES, I kept them as a Facebook friend, where it was NO, I unfriended them. I am sure that I unfriended a lot of good people – it isn’t personal. I just have decided that I am not going to have any friends on Facebook that I don’t consider REAL.

I’m sure I’ll still post lots of pics and posts about all of the cool stuff that our family experiences. I probably won’t post any pictures of my kids throwing a temper tantrum right before church as I scream at them to GET IN THE CAR SO WE CAN GO WORSHIP JESUS! But that happens. I will probably continue to flaunt all of the fun places I get to visit and go for runs in as I travel for work. I may not post pictures of what I look like when I stumble off a red eye flight home after a long week. But that happens. I will continue to post pictures of the rare and special nights when my beautiful wife and I get to go out to eat alone with no kids. I probably won’t post pictures of the stand off at the dinner table that I have at least once a week with my seven year old when he doesn’t want to eat vegetables. But that happens. And I’m sure I’ll post pictures of fantastic vacations and getaways like the one above. I may not post any details of our conversations about whether or not we’re putting enough money away for retirement or our kid’s education because there just doesn’t ever seem to be the surplus we’d hoped for at the end of each month. But that happens. Life happens to all of us. If we’re going to be Facebook friends, let’s be REAL friends and encourage one another, listen to one another, share tough times with one another, and share honestly with one another. 

I’m not his friend, but I’m not the enemy.

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I’m not his friend, but I’m not the enemy…I’m his dad.

My own journey towards greater self awareness always seems to hit a speed bump with my kids. Yesterday was a long day at work. I don’t do anything that is saving the world or curing cancer, but just like everyone else, I sometimes have long and challenging days at work. At the end of the day, as I was preparing to get dinner started I asked my son to get his homework started before dinner and get as much done as possible. Tantrum ensued…

My first instinct was: “you’re not his friend, that is an INAPPROPRIATE response to a simple request! Correct this reaction with an equally powerful CONSEQUENCE!!!”

And for the first time I paused (the self awareness creeping in), and a second thought crossed my mind: “you’re not the enemy either, redirect his response and work with him to get him to do what was asked.”

What I realized that night as I tucked my firstborn in and discussed his day is that I’m his dad, and that noun does not have the word ‘friend’ or ‘enemy’ in the definition. I often wring my hands at today’s Generation X Parent who out of a desire to be their child’s ‘friend’ becomes permissive, smothering, and protective. I now realize that in reaction to that, I have often taken on the role of ‘enemy’ by lashing out in harshness, elevating my own status to make sure I get what I want, and fighting anger with anger in battles with my kids.

I love them, have always loved them. But from now on, I’m going to strive to be dad, not friend or enemy. I’m going to correct without anger, react without overreaction, support with expectation, and love without obsession. 

In the Groove

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Recently I had a friend tell me that “I was really in the groove of life.” That made me feel really good, and then I got to thinking…what does it mean to be “in the groove” in life and how did I get there?

For me, being in the groove means a heightened level of mindfulness (being present and self aware in every moment), genuinely caring for others more than I care for myself, and a right ordering of priorities in which I work to live and live to the fullest possible. By no means am I 100% in each of these areas (Michael Jordan still missed some shots when he was in ‘the zone’). I still yell at my kids, skip workout days when I shouldn’t, eat or drink to excess on occasion, act insensitively to my wife’s feelings, and forget to call friends back. However, I do tangibly sense an awareness when these things happen and I consciously act to repair my mistakes. The simple recognition of these mistakes and working to be more mindful makes me feel better mentally and physically, makes my family happier, and improves my overall well being. It is because of that awareness that I can recognize that I’m slipping out of the groove and I can do tangible things to get back.

So, how did I get there? The answer is pretty simple but the solution was complex. Friends got me there. Friends who told me I didn’t seem like myself and had started to let other people and their opinion of me dictate how I was acting on a day to day basis. I am so grateful to those friends for having the courage to tell me that. I decided it wasn’t going to be that way anymore, but as I said, the solution was complex and I didn’t really know what to do. Again, friends helped. On a fall morning, sitting on the deck sipping coffee looking at the serene view above, a friend asked me “have you ever thought about all of the JUNK that clutters your mind and messes you up?” I had not, but for the next 2 hours we had one of the most meaningful conversations of my life – it was all about mindfulness. 

Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING of your mind.” Nearly every day since that fall morning at the lake I have been renewing my mind and trying not to conform to the world. As a result, I’m in the groove of life and I’ve never felt better.

Sustenance

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One of our families’ resolutions for 2014 is to get back to a habit that we wandered away from – planning our weekly menus each Sunday to be more efficient and cost effective at the grocery store AND put more thoughtful, balanced meals on our table each week. So we sat down, looked at what we already had in the pantry, planned this week’s menu, let the kids have their input about what they wanted to eat, tried to create some balance, and off I went to the store. My wife’s job was to update the kitchen chalkboard with the week’s menu so we keep it top of mind throughout the week instead of taking the lazy way out and grabbing Chik-fil-a on the way home!

When I came home, she had created the above beautifully artistic way to present the week’s menu. What struck me was the power of the word she chose – sustenance. The word sustenance communicates the importance of these meals. These are not just things we’re shoving into our mouths because that is what we do every night…this food is designed to SUSTAIN us. If it is one of the key things our body is relying on to be sustained, I’d better make sure that it is HEALTHY, DELICIOUS, and APPEALING TO EAT. For me, meals and the food that is incorporated into those meals are powerful things and this simple piece of chalk art is a great reminder of how important that food, the care taken to prepare it, and the time our family spends at the table eating it are to our overall health and well being.

Think about what you eat this week and consider it an important part of your sustenance, not just what you shove in your mouth at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mindfulness around food can be a wonderful and powerful thing in being healthier mentally and physically.