First of all, if you are reading this, I'm not sure whether to say "thanks" or "why are you still here?". It's been a long time since there was any activity on this blog, but in the interest of not going a full year without a post, I've decided to take a little time to give you an update.
This past year has been absolutely fantastic. I really don't even know where to begin to describe it, except to say that God has blessed me far beyond anything I deserve. He's given me so much favor and allowed me to do things that I am not qualified or educated for, and yet have had incredible success in.
The hardest part so far is answering the question "what do you do?". You see, I thought that I would be working primarily on software development projects (web applications, portals, etc.), which are fairly easy to describe and summarize. However, I've been doing some less technical work, such as workflow and process improvement, communications coaching, and even working to repair strained relationships within businesses (departments that don't work well together, etc.). That stuff is a little more difficult to explain in a quick sentence or sum up in a job title. I may still do the technical work (in fact, I'm doing a more technical system implementation / customization job right now), but the other, less tangible work seems to be a huge need that I'm finding and being able to fill well, so I suspect there will be more of that to come.
Aside from work, there's not a whole lot to talk about that hasn't been discussed on Mary's blog or one of the kids' blogs.
Our Sunday School class is growing, and we've made some changes as of the end of last year. It's no longer a newlywed (or even marriage-specific) class - we've opened it up to anyone and changed the focus to more of a general life-application class. I've enjoyed getting to teach on some different topics.
I finally got the image stabilization lens I've been wanting ever since we bought our Digital Rebel. There's a whole long story about how I got one that arrived broken and had to return it and found another one on Craigslist, but the guy wanted to trade it for something I didn't have... yada yada - I got it and I love it. Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time to go out and use it as I would like, but as soon as the weather warms up, I'll be planning a trip to the zoo.
I'm also planning to go to Sun-N-Fun for at least a day or two again this year, and will be glad to have the lens then. I went two years ago and really enjoyed it, and got some good pictures. This time around I think that Owen is old enough that I can take him one day, and see how he likes it. I bet he'll love the air show.
So, uh - what else is new? I bought a Mazda RX-8 in August, and that has been a lot of fun. It's red with heated leather seats and a navigation system, and of course I got a very good deal on it.
Mary and I went to St. Louis for our 10-year anniversary in November. My parents were kind enough to come up the weekend before Thanksgiving and watch the two older boys so we could take a trip without all the kids (we had to take Aron, who was only two months old). We had a great time visiting one of our favorite cities. If you are ever there, we recommend you visit their zoo - it's a great one.
We've had lots of visitors over the last year or so. I don't think we've gone a full month without someone staying with us, and it's been really nice. God blessed us with a spacious house a few years back, and I'm so glad we've been able to share it.
So, I'm sure there are a ton of things I'm leaving out, but hey, something is better than nothing, right? I would really like to get back into the habit of blogging, but I'm not making any promises. There never seems to be enough time to fit it all in, but we'll see how it goes.
It's been a long time since I posted anything here, and that's mainly because I have been very consumed for the past couple of months with something that I couldn't speak very publicly about. That is, until today.
This morning, I submitted my resignation at my job of over 8 years. The best part is that I am not just going to another job - I'm starting (or rather, have started) my own business. I'm going to be an independent consultant, and continue to do many of the things that I have been doing but for a number of different companies instead of just one.
There will be more details forthcoming, and feel free to ask me more about it if you see me, but that's all I have time to write at the moment. I'm just glad it's finally official and out in the open.
I have a ton of work to do...
This is definitely worth checking out. The two head coaches of this year's Super Bowl teams (Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears) have teamed up with Athletes In Action to create a website to share their stories and most importantly, their faith. Supposedly, there will be ads in major newspapers around the country to promote the website as well.
Take a look: http://www.beyondtheultimate.org/
I failed to mention in my previous post that it was my birthday on Saturday, and in addition to getting the aquarium all set up, we had a nice little immediate-family-only birthday party. Mary made me a very tasty cake (lemon cake with strawberry jell-o mixed in), and she and the boys sang "Happy Birthday" and gave me a gift - one which requires a brief explanation.
I have mentioned several times in the past my interest in radio-controlled clocks which synchronize themselves automatically with the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado (the most accurate clock in the world), which is run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Basically, what happens is that there is a very low frequency radio signal that is broadcast all over the country, with the exact date and time from the atomic clock. You can buy clocks (both digital and analog), which pick up on that signal and set themselves, then check it on a regular basis (usually once per day) to make sure they remain accurate. They automatically adjust for daylight savings time, too, which means you pretty much just turn it on and leave it alone.
Inaccurate clocks are a pet peave of mine, so I have said before that I'd love to change out all the clocks in our house with radio clocks that will set themselves. Then every clock in the house would not only show the exact same time, but show the correct time (down to the second). I got a portable radio-controled alarm clock at Christmas (from my father-in-law), and now I have a nice analog clock for my office. Two down, about a dozen or so to go...
So, anyway - it was a nice, low-key birthday. It was a lot of work setting up the aquarium, but it was fun work, and I was very happy with the results. And then I ate cake.
A few months after we moved into this house, I made the decision to pack up all three of my aquariums and put them away for a while. We had lost many of the fish during the moving process (despite my best efforts and a lot of help from Eric during the move - thanks again, Eric) and life was very busy at that point so I decided it would be easier to put them away for a while and focus on other things.
For the last couple of months, I've been toying with the idea of getting at least one of them out again, and seeing how the boys liked it. Owen was not even a year old when I packed them up, so he never could really appreciate them before (although he did seem to enjoy looking at them as a baby). Mary and I had talked about setting up the 20-gallon tank first, and if the boys really enjoyed it, we could get out the 55-gallon tank as well (I also have a 10-gallon tank).
We had decided the ideal spot for the 20-gallon tank was in the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs, but we didn't have a good table or stand to put it on. A full 20-gallon tank weighs around 200 pounds, and you don't want it to shake or move at all because that could spill water and stress out the fish. So, you can't put it on just anything. At our old house, it was sitting on a very sturdy table in my office, but that table was being used for something else and wouldn't really fit in the kitchen, anyway.
Long story short, we ended up buying a very nice stand / cabinet that is made specifically for a 20-gallon aquarium. It looks very nice and would work as a regular table if we decide not to have the aquariums long term, so I didn't feel like we were committing to anything if the boys didn't show any interest.
Owen was really interested, though. Once I told him we were buying a stand to set up a fish tank, he wanted to buy some fish immediately. Of course, we couldn't do that until the tank was all set up and ready to go, so I pretty much spent the whole day on Saturday putting the stand together, getting out the tank and all the supplies, cleaning everything thoroughly, setting it all up, filling it with water, checking for leaks (none, thankfully), and making sure the filter and heater still worked. By about 5 PM, I had everything going, and Owen and I headed down to the pet store.
When you set up a new aquarium, there are several steps in the process of getting the water chemistry right. I won't go into all the details about what happens, but it takes about a month from the point that you add fish to the aquarium to the point that the water chemistry is right and stable. The types of fish that I want to ultimately have are not the types of fish who can thrive during that month-long process, so I usually start with some cheap but tough fish who can survive the set-up period, and then trade them out for what I really want later.
I used to go to a local mom-n-pop fish store called "The Fish Bowl", where the owners were always there and I got to know most of the employees. They were good about letting you get some of the "cheap-but-tough" fish to begin with, and then trade them in for what you really want later. Sadly, though, The Fish Bowl closed sometime in the last couple of years, so we just went to PetsMart, which is near our house. PetsMart doesn't let you trade in your fish, but there's another good store across town that will take trade-ins even if you didn't buy them there, so I may end up going there when I get to that point.
Owen was very excited about picking out some fish. He initially wanted goldfish, which definitely fit the mold of cheap and tough, but I talked him out of that because once you put goldfish in a tank, it can take a lot of work to make it suitable for other types of fish because of the high amounts of ammonia that goldfish give off. We settled on some cherry barbs, which I've actually had before and they are a pretty red color and fairly active. They're not very big, but they'll grow some (and besides, they are only temporary).
After dinner, I set Owen and Ivan in chairs in front of the tank to watch as I let the fish out of their little bag and into the tank. Ivan pointed and squealed when he saw them swim out of the bag - he was so excited. I've been letting Owen help me feed the fish (which he wants to do way too many times per day), and Ivan likes to watch them swim around. The only problem with having it in the kitchen is that it's somewhat of a distraction while they eat, but I'm sure the newness of it will wear off after a while.
If all goes well, I'll be getting some better fish in about a month, and then looking for a good place to set up the bigger one.
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