It’s Sunday, but Monday’s a Commin’

So I woke up today at a Super 8 in Ashland. I know, I was a little shocked too. No one killed me in the middle of the night (nor was I accosted by any ladies of the evening, so that was a little disappointing, but turns it, its not one of those kinds of hotels). I did however wake up to several inches of freshly fallen snow (I hate cleaning off my car).

Since I had added this day to my perviously booked stay, I actually had to go back to the front office and check out so that I could turn around and check in again. While they were busy shuffling papers around, I did enjoy the free “breakfast.” I could have made waffles, eaten some fruit or cold cereal, but instead I opted for a bagged cinnamon roll and a cup of O.J. As an added extra bonus they even let me stay in my same room, so I’ll take that as kind of a win.

As this was going to be my base of operations for the next few days, I figured I should probably get the lay of the land. Step one would be to find my way to work and, just as importantly, where I was going to park. Now when the weather warms up, I would like to go back to parking on the wrong side of campus and walking to the office every morning, but for now, I’ll take what’s close. I fired up SIRI (and Google Maps just to make sure) and plotted a course first to the university.

It was a pretty straight shot even though the roads were kinda sloppy. I managed to turn into the wrong parking lot at AU while they were plowing, so that was a bit of an adventure. I did managed to locate the correct parking lot in short order and got a sense of where I thought I could park. So that was that. No big deal. Now what to do with my day?

I had considered the evening before that it might be nice to visit a local congregation for worship in the morning, but since I don’t know a whole lot about the Brethren tradition (which is the underlying tradition that Ashland was founded on), I decided to head to something a bit more within my wheel house. I had checked out two different churches and decided that the Disciples of Christ probably wasn’t the one for me either so I headed to the next logical choice. Once again I fired up SIRI and headed out on my way.

It was interesting to drive through Ashland, covered in snow, devoid of people and drive through different areas. I found one section that used to focus on manufacturing and had long since been boarded up. I would love to go through those buildings and take pictures but I’m too much of a chicken to trespass and too lazy to track down who owns the buildings and seek permission. For now though, I’ll just tuck it away in the back of my head for later.

The church was pretty easy to locate (and I was excited that it was located on road with Orange in it), but I was clearly early and the parking lot looked a little empty. So I turned around and headed back into town to drive around for a bit. I like to do when when I come into a new area, just drive or walk around and see how roads intersect, what are different ways I can get to point B. I ended up back at the University and found the parking lot again just to make sure. Having killed 20 minutes it was back to church.

There is an innate dread one has when visiting a church for the first time (or at least I do). Slipping into a big church is no big deal, people who go there for years don’t know everyone so they just all assume that you too have been going there for a while and they just haven’t seen you (or that they have seen you, but the simply don’t know your name). But going to a small church in a small town (by yourself) is an experience. The greeters were friendly and the minister spotted me as a new guy right away. He was super friendly and really did his best to make me feel at home. He connected serval times to ask more questions, find out about and see if he could connect me to someone, anyone that might provide a level of familiarity. At long last he found a guy who had attended GLCC near the window that I did and introduced us.

Then comes the “greet your neighbor” part of the service where people shake your hand near by, but are more put out that you are in their spot or space. They mean well I am sure, but no one asks your name or really expresses a desire to make your visit a better experience. This reminds me of a few things churches need to keep in mind:

    1) People who are connected to someone are more apt to feel welcome and return to your church
    2) People who actually visit your church do so for a reason (if they don’t have someone there who invited them), attach them to someone. This person should be their shield and guide through your congregation and should not leave their side. Invest in them. Get contact information. Follow up.

I try not to comment on sermons, I have a different taste and style than others so I don’t judge. It wasn’t awful and it wasn’t awesome. It just was. Since I have a good memory, I can tell you all about it, but let’s pretended that I don’t and that I cannot recall what was said. What I would recall though is that the minister went out of his way to welcome me, offer to take me to lunch with his family, and they tried to offer me a welcome basket (which was amazingly thoughtful). That’s the part that matters to folks and he did a great job with that part and that’s more important than if he had funny jokes, catchy stories or a moving oration. He was just a good guy and wanted to make sure that I felt welcome and I very much appreciate that.

Don’t Grumble With Your Soul

Well, not enough to join them for lunch or take a gift bag, but you get the idea. I really just wanted to drive around more and get a sense of the town, and how things connect so I went back to wandering around. I found the fair grounds where they hold an annual hot air balloon festival (which will be cool this summer) and several other places. It is nice to be in an area that has hills.

As I was driving I passed a sign that originally I thought read, “Don’t Grumble With Your Soul.” At second glance, I’m pretty sure that it said, “Don’t gamble with your soul,” but I think my initial reading has more meaning. We grumble a lot. We try to cover it up by calling it “first world problems,” as Americans we complain about everything. How long the wait is, how slow the internet is, how people drive like idiots (which driving like an idiot). We are so unsatisfied with all that we have. We grumble with our souls and it sours the way we see the world and the quality of the life we live. Nothing is good enough for us and we spend so much of our time unhappy. I don’t want to grumble with my soul. I want to be grateful with my soul.

So I prayed that while I was driving, “God, help me not to grumble with my soul.”

Life is full of lessons if we will only take advantage of the opportunities that we have to learn and grown from our experiences. I am confident that God is going to give me lots of chances to be better than I am if I will only take the time to choose them.

Welcome to Ashland.

Ashland: Day 1

So this isn’t really about my first day at Ashland, that actually happened on Ashland Day:3. This is all about what happened on Ashland: Day 1 which was March 1st.

Now I’ve already written to you about my experience with the Mormons, but that story actually takes place in a larger context. See, I had originally planned on heading to Ashland on Sunday, but all reports indicated that we were going to get hit with another round of snowmageddon. I was looking at a 4 hour drive through 9-13″ of snow from Fort Wayne to Columbus to Ashland. That really didn’t sound like a good time for me. I decided to err on the side of caution and went ahead and booked another an additional night at the Super 8. Yeah, tons-o-fun.

Michelle and I have been looking at furniture ideas for the new house as well as trying to figure out how to pack the stuff that we have now. We decided rather than buying another bookcase, that we would by some crates that we could stack and use to haul books around in. After doing some research, we found some that we liked at Walmart that were functional and not too overpriced. Turns out however that we got the last 5 that they had online. There were none in our local stores and we needed a few more to accomplish what we wanted to. After doing some more searching we found that that the Walrmart near the new house had some in stock. So we ordered them and scheduled them for pickup.

This of course meant that I either had to pick them up on my way TO Ashland or on my way FROM Ashland. Since I miss my wife fiercely, the idea of having to add an extra two hours to my travel time just to get some boxes didn’t sound like a fun time. So I decided that I would get it on my way there.

I don’t use a GPS device, I typically use my iPhone and to date, Apple maps haven’t let me down… well except this time. For some strange reason, SIRI wanted to send me 6 miles future down the road from where I wanted to go. So I’m flying down the road and I pass the Walmart in Delaware and then a few more miles down the road there is another one. As I drove pass, I thought to myself, “That’s odd, there sure are a lot of Walmarts on this road, the one I am going to is just down the road a bit further.” Well until I “reached my destination on the right” which wasn’t my destination at all. So I busted out Google Maps, and confirmed that the store I wanted to go to was the last one that I had passed. Argh.

I turned around, got gas, and made my way back to Walmart. I ended up being helped by a really cool person (ironically) named Michelle who happened to be French. We chatted about my name, if I knew any French and all the secret stuff French people talk about behind the backs of non-French. From there I headed to the house where I met the neighborhood Mormons.

Since I had the chance, I figured this would be a good time to try a trial run of my morning commute (where I discovered that we are super close to a Meijer and Marsh) and headed out to the highway. I learned a few things.

    1) It’s pothole season even on 71… few things suck worse than hitting a large hole at 70+ after spending $$ to get your car realigned (at least I know which lane to avoid when).
    2) I speed on a three lane separated highway.
    3) I speed more when there are annoying people sitting in the fast lane doing the speed-limit.

Oh well, at least I have an idea of what it will be like (which while it will take longer when I drive slower, tickets suck worse than potholes so I’d like to avoid those too), it isn’t awful and I have some great audiobooks to keep me company.

Super 9

Because I’m cheap, I opted to book a room at the Super 8, taking a smaller sized bed than I am used to. Since I am staying for a number of days, every dollar I save is multiplied by 6 and that adds up quick when you’re moving and starting a new job. I was a little worried because, well, it’s the Super 8. While the room is tiny (mostly because I have two doors, one that leads to the outside and then one that leads to an interior hall), I checked the bed and there wasn’t anything living there and to my surprise it had a wonderful shower designed for tall people. As an extra bonus it had a mini-fridge and microwave. Being cheap, I headed down to Walmart (which was 1 minute down the road) and stocked up on some money saving items that I could store in my room. Then, I carried in my suitcase, my huge purple tote filled with office stuff and 7 crates that I picked up in the Columbus area. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t have a place to sleep after all.

After getting settled in, I figured it was time to finally get some dinner. As luck (it really isn’t so lucky) would have it, there was a Denny’s parked next to my car. I made the unfortunate mistake of ordering the French Slam (yes, the internet has already told me to avoid ordering foods with the word SLAM in them). I rarely feel good having eaten there. It was interesting however to sit back and people watch.

Ashland isn’t a big town and the more people I talk to, many of them have lived their all their lives. They stay because their family lives there. I am reminded of how lucky I am. I grew up in a small town of Kalkaska. It was a good place to grow up and I’m happy that I did. Yet, I didn’t stay there (not that there is anything wrong with that). I’ve lived in Lansing, Charlotte, Grabil, and Fort Wayne. Now I get to live in Delaware and work in another town. I get to explore a whole new state. Yes it’s nothing so drastic is moving across the country, but I also get a chance to make some new experiences. My kids get a chance for new some experiences and hopefully the won’t be afraid to out on their own and explore the world when it’s there time.

Change is nothing more than an opportunity for growth. I am grateful to have one here in Ashland (even if I can hear the guy snoring through the wall in the room next to me and the motion sensor keeps going off in my bathroom as if it’s haunted).

The Book of Ashland

MormonI don’t even live in our new house yet and I’ve already been visited by the Mormons. True story.

But before I get there, let me back up a bit.

There have been a lot of obstacles in making the move to AU. Probably the biggest has been finding a place to live. I know that sounds a bit hard to believe, but let me clarify. See, we aren’t looking to buy a house just yet. For starters we still own our house in Fort Wayne and while we think we have a buyer lined up, nothing is final until the paperwork is signed and the closing costs are paid. Secondly we aren’t sure where we want to live next or where Michelle might find a new opportunity to work. Not only that with the boys still need to be able to return to the area to spend time with their mom. All of this means that we needed to find a place to rent.

We don’t really need anything fancy, we just have some basic criteria: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and it has to allow cats. Simple enough right? Turns out, not so much:

No Place to Live

So our main options where Cleveland (which I hear rocks), Akron, Canton or Columbus. All of those places mean that I have to commute to Ashland University. 40-75 minutes one direction (thankfully I like to listen to audiobooks) regardless of which area we choose. As we’ve done our investigation we’ve found a number of homes, but each time we found one that we liked, it rented before we could actually go see it (living 2.5-3 hours away makes it hard to go look at homes).

A few weeks ago we had a rather interesting day of looking at rentals (one crazy lady who said I had trust issues because she didn’t show up, not only for our appointment but for the family that she scheduled at the same time – if that house rents I deserve some commission – a house that didn’t have the required lock box on it, on seeing one near a shooting range). However as part of that experience, our rental agents told us about a house that they had acquired that was similar to one that we wanted but had already rented. She was able to get us in to take a sneak peak. Apparently they had a leak before they got the house that caused some damage that needed to be addressed:


As you can see, that’s not good. However they let us know that they were going to get working on it and should have it ready before I needed to start working on the 3rd. Well, life happens and we weren’t able to get into the house before I started working. We did get a call last week that they were finished and so I wanted to drive by and check things out, take a few photos, that kind of thing.

Thankfully I was able to get into the house and look around. Everything that was broken was fixed and looking great. I had been there for about 10 minutes when I heard a knock on the door. Low and behold, it was the Mormons. Nice folks, we chatted a bit and they gave me their card. It reminded me that I really want to go see the ‘The Book of Mormon’ soon. It makes me smile that my first visitors to the house that I’m not living in yet was from a group of people who are passionate about sharing their faith, even with people who don’t live there. Something tells me that this is going to be a fun adventure.

We move in on March 10th. Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses will stop by.


Ohio Bound

Ashland UniversityYes, yes. I realize that it’s been like three years since I’ve taken the opportunity to write anything aside from papers, emails, and angry letters to the editor (*note: no actual letters to the editor were written). But that was then and this is now.

Now I am embarking a new adventure.

After 10 amazing years at the University of Saint Francis, I’m turning in my keys, saying goodbye to some awesome folks (you know who you are) and I am taking a leap to head into the unknown (yes, I admit it, Steven Curtis Chapman hit my play list a number of times this past two months). As a way to share this adventure with those I am leaving to their own devices, as well as those who often wonder what I am doing with my life, I thought it was a good time to pick up the digital pen and get back to writing some thoughts down. I will still probably fade out after a few weeks, but hey, it’s free entertainment so no complaining.

I am often asked how did you get here? I thought you were happy at USF, that you’d been promoted to being in charge of IT, why would you leave? All of those things are true. I couldn’t be happier with the people I work with and I enjoy the mission and heart of what the sisters are trying to do at the university, but sometimes you just have to take a leap to get to where you want to go next. I’m not sure where that is, but I do know when it reveals itself, I want to be free to jump. Taking the job at Ashland gives us the opportunity to shed the last of our debt (i.e. house), serve at a larger university, and live near a city like Columbus (we are 15 minutes away from Koalas). They are supportive of my desire to get a PhD (USF was as well, just for the record) and it gives me an opportunity to get back into learning technology and teaching (which is what I hope my PhD work will be in). The team of people that I get to work with are passionate and hungry for a partner who can help them achieve what they want to do (again, so did the great folks at USF).

It is easy to get comfortable in life. To get stuck in a rut, caught in a system, and give into group think. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with where you are at, you simply need to do something new and different. This is it. This is that chance to do that. Ashland spoke up first (sorry Purdue) so that’s where we are headed.

These are the records of my adventures here.

Of Ends, Beginnings and the Beginning of the End

I realize that I should be doing something else. It’s not that I lack for things to do, because I certainly have a growing pile with little end in sight.

But for me that was the trigger… An end. The end. The beginning.

A new year is always a time filled with transitions. People resolve themselves to do things that they haven’t been able to make themselves do in the past. They hope that this go around their will is somehow stronger; their goals more achievable.

It’s been an interesting week so far. Two of my friends are in the process of packing up their apartment to start a new journey. A journey that has no clear path set out before them; no notion of destination, just merely an urge to begin walking again. I had lunch with one friend on Monday who lamented that time is running short, that retirement seems closer this year than the last. Then on Tuesday I had lunch with a different friend is contemplating that the their future starts now, they have things they want to get moving on; changing careers, locations, adding to their family.

And then there’s me. As you may recall I’ve become an avid audiobook fan. Not simply because I am too lazy to read (though I still read actual word books even if more and more it is in a digital format), but because it gives me a better way to spend time in the car on the way to work or dropping off the boys at school. I had recently finished up one book (The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett) and I always like to balance fiction with nonfiction and so I decided to start listening to the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. How’s that for a choice about beginnings and ends.

For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of a “Last Lecture”, it was a trend started a number of years ago on major college campuses where they challenged faculty members to imagine if they had to give their last lecture, what would it be about? Well as it turns out, Randy Pausch was faced with that actual situation as he had terminal cancer and didn’t have long to live (Randy passed away in 2008). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very upbeat book, but you cannot wade through these types of topics and not at least begin to think about yourself in those situations.

Yes, it’s true that sometimes I can be a pessimist. I currently have no morbid notion of my own end looming overhead (though I live with an awareness that the only moment I am assured is now). Instead I troubled by the thought that I don’t know that I have dreams driving me towards and end.

I don’t think it has anything to do with me being an insomniac, nor do I believe it was that because as a kid I didn’t have dreams of what I would one day do or become. I’m afraid that I’ve just misplaced them.
How sad a thought is that? But I guess it’s really no different than the scene in Hook where Peter Pan(ning) has lost his happy thoughts. I know they are there, somewhere inside, waiting to be rediscovered, reimagined, and most importantly re-dreamed.

I’ve buried them under the everyday, the need to feed my kids, pay the house payment and maybe buy a new iPad 2 in a few months. I’ve hid them away from fears because I do not want to see them get eaten by the scary reality that threatens to take them away.

What if they never happen?
What if I cannot fulfill them?
What if people laugh at me for dreaming them?

I am amazed at how much of our lives and shaped by fear.

We recently finished up the process of hiring a new employee for our department. While I certainly picked up a lot of great one-liners from the various interviews (God I thought they would never end, we had a lot of them), there was one line that stuck a cord with me. One candidate said, “We all know that people fear change. But change is inevitable…” I was stuck by those two thoughts. I realize there is nothing profound in them in and of themselves and that I haven’t strung those two things together a dozen times myself in the past year.

However, I was struck by this rephrase that popped in my head, “We fear the inevitable.” We fear the inevitable. We fear what we cannot change, cannot stop, or alter in any way. I have often said that the only thing we can control in this life is how we react. If we fear what cannot be changed and we can only control our actions then ultimately we can only control the way in which we react to something that we know is coming.

But honestly, how cool is that? Most people are live in fear that they don’t know what is going to happen, yet on the grand scheme of things that simply isn’t true. We know what is going to happen, maybe not how, maybe not when, but it will, it’s certain, foregone. We have an opportunity to be prepared to respond to the thing that we are afraid of in advanced of its happening.

Everything changes. Everything.

Things end. Jobs end. Relationships and even life itself ends. You cannot avoid that. It’s inevitable, but it doesn’t need to be feared, simply prepared for.

You cannot change plans unless you have them.

Make them.

Make plans for today, for tomorrow and for forever even if it never comes. Let those plans be built upon the dreams you had when you were old enough to imagine the world as it should be… as it could be. Dream beyond your fears. Live for the end. Be the beginning.

So here’s to 2011.