Category: personal

Fighting Burnout

The end part of a drive is always the hardest part for me. It doesn’t really matter how long the drive itself is. If I’m going on an hour drive, then I begin to get antsy at the 45 minute mark. If I’m on an 8 hour drive, then the last hour or so will be rough, but I breeze through that 45 minute mark. (This is one of the reasons that I try to trick my mind when I go on trips. I say to myself that an 8 hour trip will be 10 hours, and I keep focused on that 10 hour mark the entire trip. Surprisingly, this actually works for me. Perhaps I’m just that good at deluding myself.)

It’s been a tough semester. Denisa’s been teaching three classes and tutoring students, we’ve had multiple renovation projects going on, I’ve had writing deadlines to worry about, I’m pushing my diet hard, and I’ve gotten a new calling at church that’s keeping me on my toes. And I’ve been handling it all pretty well, more or less. But the closer we get to the end of the semester, the harder it seems to have gotten. This past week there have been multiple times when I just have felt like I have nothing left in the tank. I’m persisting on sheer will power alone, and there’s not much of that left, either.

It’s not a pleasant feeling to have. Some of it must be because I know I’m going on vacation soon. I’m at the tail end of the drive, and I’ve hit the point where I know I’m almost done, and so it’s the hardest to keep going.

At times like this, I try to think of what I would tell someone else if they came to me asking for advice on how to handle it. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can lighten up for a few days and be just fine. This is a marathon, not a sprint.” But it’s one thing to know what the advice would be, and quite another to actually follow it. The thing that I’m having to push on the most the past bit is my writing. I get home from work and am just fried. I have pretty much no desire to do anything other than read a book, watch a movie, or sleep. But I know I have writing to do, and so I plop myself down in a chair and get it done. I always feel better having done it, but I wish I could feel better when I’m actually in the process of writing.

I didn’t really set out to complain about stuff in this  post. Many many things are going great, and I have to remind myself of that. But the end part of a drive is always the hardest part for me, and that vacation can’t come soon enough.

Speaking of which, I’m hereby stepping back from the blog for tomorrow and all of next week. This is me, giving myself permission to not blog if I don’t want to. If I have something I really want to say, I’ll pop on here and say it, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me until the 27th. I’ll be on Facebook. You can catch me over there.

When You Lock Yourself Out of Your House at 6:30am

I’m not a morning person. I’ve never made any claims to the contrary. It takes me a while before my brain is fully functional each morning. It’s not unheard of for me to forget my lunch at home, or forget my computer even. (Which is a great reason to live not too terribly far from my workplace.)

But this morning, I forgot my car keys.

Typically, that wouldn’t be a problem. You just go back inside and get the keys, and all is well. Except I’d already closed the garage door when I realized this, and my car keys are with my house keys. Also, we have no front door right now, since we’re working on building a new staircase to the front door. So basically, I discovered myself locked out of my house at 6:30am.

The whole family was asleep. I didn’t want to wake the kids up, so calling the home phone was a bad idea. I tried calling Denisa on her cell, but it was in quiet mode. (6:30am, remember?) It didn’t ring. Our bedroom is on the second floor, so after some thinking, I decided to go with the old “throw rocks at the window until the girl comes” approach. It works in all the movies, right?

Step one: find small enough rocks. It’s dark that early in Maine right now, so that wasn’t quite as simple as it would seem. How many rocks would I need? I got five.

Step two: throw the rocks. Our bedroom windows are particularly high, so I had to really chuck those rocks to get them to hit the window. Also, there are screens on the lower half of them, which muffle the rock noises. Of my five rocks, only 2 actually made contact with the glass. But they made a satisfying plinking noise.

Step three: wait. I waited to have Denisa come to the window. I waited some more. No dice.

Step four: repeat step one and two and three until Denisa shows up. The good news is that I got a lot of practice throwing rocks. Of course, cars kept driving by, and I felt like an idiot standing in front of his house throwing rocks at it, but maybe it was too dark for them to see me. I think I threw about another 10-15 rocks.

Step five: since Denisa still hasn’t shown up, try calling her again. I got out my phone and noticed she had sent me a text! Exciting! It was a simple question: Is it hailing outside?

Step six: text your wife that no, it isn’t hailing. I’m locked out of the house, and would you come open the garage door?

Step seven: wait. Surely she’ll see that text soon.

Step eight: repeat steps one, two, and three. Begin to ponder whether waking up the rest of the family would be so bad or not. Just when you’re getting ready to do it (after 12 minutes of rock throwing) . . .

Step nine: Denisa shows up at the window!

Success. I got my keys and got to work, and I can now say I’ve personally done the “throw rocks at the window” schtick from the movies. Not quite as romantic in real life as it is on the silver screen.

Maybe that’s just because it was below freezing.

My First Rain Day

I woke up this morning to a text from the kids’ school: canceled. In January, this is nothing unexpected. In late October, when the temperature is above 60? I hadn’t seen that coming. Yes, I’d heard there was some wind on the way and a couple inches of rain, but it didn’t seem like it would be too big of a deal this far inland.

So I chalked it up to the school being abundantly cautious.

Of course, then I looked outside when I went downstairs, and I saw the police car next to my house, blocking off the road because of a downed tree and power line. Since my road is one of the main ways to the high school, suddenly the closure made more sense.

Still, I got in the car and trekked off to work as normal. It was quite gusty, but not even raining at that point. Thirty minutes into my emails, the power at the university flickered and died. And never came back. So the university decided to delay opening until noon.

I trekked back home (in much windier, rainier conditions) noting a whole lot more power out along the way. Again, this wasn’t crazy driving. I didn’t see any other downed trees, but it looked like something had taken out a whole lot of electricity recently.

Once I was home, I got my writing done and prepped to go back again, checking the news from time to time. Then I saw how many people were without power. (Currently over 400,000). And I read an article about how the power company has said they won’t be bringing power back online until tomorrow at the earliest.

And then the university threw in the towel, and Denisa and I both got the day off.

We’re lucky. We have power and internet. About 1/3 of the state does not. And of course it makes me think of the people in Puerto Rico, and how long they’ve been without power, and how much more extreme the situation is for them. We got some gusts up here in Maine. Nothing hurricane force, but it’s still going to be a few days before we get it cleared up.

That said, I’m grateful it’s not snow. (Not something I typically ever say.) When people have no power in the winter up here, people freeze to death. I’ll take the warmer temperatures for this one.

In any case, I think I’m going to use this time to clean my room some. Here’s hoping the rest of the state can hunker down and have a quick recovery.

On Friendship and Time

As I was driving to Augusta yesterday on my birthday, I found myself reflecting on what’s changed in my life over the years. Specifically, I was thinking back on all the birthdays I’ve spent with my family, both when I was growing up and after I’d married Denisa. There’s been a lot of change over the years, and that led me to thinking about the friendships I’ve made over time, and how they’ve changed as well.

I’ve had a few “best friends” in my life. Of the ones I had growing up and in college, I no longer have much chance to communicate with any of them. Now and then I’ll get an email or a Facebook message or a Like on a post, but for the most part, those friendships are no longer a functioning part of my life.

I remember the summer before I left on my mission, my best friend from college, Sue, came out to stay at my house in Pennsylvania for about a week. We had an absolute blast. Went into New York City to see The King and I on Broadway. Drove to Amish country to check things out over there. Just hung out and spent time together. But over all of it was this pallor, because I knew it would come to an end.

At last I had to take her to the airport. This was back in the days when you actually walked out with the passengers to the terminals, and you sat together waiting for their plane to board. In many ways, I prefer the modern approach. I’m terrible at long goodbyes, and those old airport goodbyes were the pits. I remember sitting there just feeling sick to my stomach, because this was it. The End.

I already had enough experience with friendships to realize that they can drastically change as your circumstances shift. My friends from high school had all gone different ways. We still saw each other now and then, but life moved on. We weren’t as close anymore, and I knew we would never be. And here I was in an airport, saying goodbye to yet another stage of my life.

Sue and I kept in touch while I was on my mission. She was gone to Honduras on a mission of her own when I returned. Honduran postal service leaves much to be desired, speaking from experience. By the time she was home, I was engaged (secretly) to Denisa. (Though I told Sue about the engagement. Not many people knew. Less than a handful. Sue was one.)

Close friendships like that have a real rough time lasting through one of the friends getting married. Which is as it should be, honestly. Denisa is my best friend now, and there’s only so much room in a person’s life.

One of the things I’ve always valued and prided myself in was loyalty. I don’t necessarily make really good friends that often. I am a friendly person, and I’ll happily talk with many many acquaintances, but close friends take a while for me to develop, typically. Once someone’s in that “close friend” circle, though, it’s generally for life, as far as I’m concerned. If one of my close friends from high school or college were to reach out to me for help, I would try to do whatever I could to help them. Not necessarily for the person they are now, but for the friend they used to be, if that makes sense.

And generally, I’ve found those old friendships have deep roots. They go into hibernation, and when I have the opportunity to see old friends and interact with them, I’m often so relieved and happy to see everything is still there, and it’s like we never stopped being friends at all.

And now this post has gotten far too reflective for a Friday. I’m not even really sure where it was heading. It was more this package of thoughts that occurred to me on a drive home from Augusta, and I wanted to somehow give voice to it. I’m not tragically sad about old friendships that are no longer thriving. My personal feeling is that they will one day be resumed, each one of them. Of course, that gets us onto theological ground, and I think I’ve wandered far enough afield in today’s post to stop short of going there.

But I’ll end with a final thought. I used to actually write poems. True story. My favorite to write were classical Elizabethan sonnets. I loved the constraints the poem’s form put on me. Trying to pack as much meaning into such a structure was a fun word game.

And while I was on my mission in Germany, still reflecting on the aftermath of that goodbye in the Philadelphia airport, I wrote this one on friendship. I can still recite it from memory, and I still feel it sums up my feelings very well on the subject. And so I present it to you.

Have a pleasant Friday, and here’s hoping I’m back to my normal peppy self by Monday. Thanks for reading.

On Friendship

Is friendship’s flame so soundly smothered out
By hushed good-byes that slip through silent lips?
Can certainty be made to mimic doubt?
Does anchor chain the ocean or the ship?
Toy boat that burst and bubbled down the brook
Abruptly stopped. Caught. Tangled by the twigs
That lurk beneath the sunny surface. Shook,
Then merrily resumed its zags and zigs.
Great Neptune never changes for a chain,
And knowledge never dawdles doubtingly.
The silence of goodbye is mute in vain,
For friendship’s fire shouts out eternally.
The current rest may last three beats or four,
But rest assured: the song will play once more.

It’s My Birthday: Level Up!

I know that as some people get older, they begin to dread birthdays. One more sign of the body breaking down, or whatever. But why not view it differently? What if, instead of saying “I’m now 39 years old,” you said, “I’m level 39″?

In video games, we celebrate when we reach a new level. It means your character is able to do things it wasn’t before. It got smarter. Added abilities. Mastered new skills. And isn’t that pretty much what life is?

At 39, I definitely can do much more than I could when I was 19 or 9. Sure, some things have changed. I’m no longer able to pull an all nighter and not feel the effects, but I’m also smarter than I was. I no longer *want* to pull an all nighter, because I know its effects.

I’ve racked up a whole slew of achievements. Two masters degrees. Three children that I’ve successfully raised to level 13, level 9, and level 4. First house. Fourth car. And on and on.

Getting older isn’t a liability. It’s an accomplishment. It’s hard work, getting through life in one piece. Making it around the sun one more time. The fact that someone managed to do it so many times is something that should be admired, right?


In any case, thanks for all the great birthday wishes. As always, anyone wanting to get me something special could review one of my books on Amazon or Goodreads. MEMORY THIEF is sitting with just 6 reviews on Amazon at the moment, and I’m sure those reviews would love some friends. Especially that 1 star review. That person needs lots of friends to cheer up some. The Goodreads reviews are a bit more robust, at 41, but they could always use some more too.

Have a good one!

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