Saturday, May 26, 2012


May has been such a busy month.  I volunteered to do some pro bono work and presentations in our community as part of my job.  Work was already very busy without these added responsibilities and tasks.  We ran a garage sale to raise money for our adoption.  We were out of town three consecutive weekends to see family for various events, and to attend an all-day class as part of the adoption process with our agency.  Jackie's schedule was also packed, as the school year winds down and there are more events taking place, and more pressure to get everything completed with the kids.  With the election, I also had a day to work the election, and some additional meetings as part of my membership on a study committee looking at how we run elections in our county.  Today, the first weekend we have stayed home this month, I feel like I kind finally exhale a little bit.

But, what really made the month seem so out of whack was facing car trouble for most of the month.  Our Fusion, which we had bought used just earlier this year, was having various problems, which ended up including both a speed sensor, and later, transmission issues.  I had taken the car in multiple times, had the car looked at, something on it fixed, and it would work fine for a day or two before acting up again.  Several trips to the mechanics and back, I got the car back earlier this week, and thus far, have faced no more issues. *crosses fingers* So, hopefully, that adventure is behind us.

All this is a long introduction to, once again, how fortunate Jackie and I are.  Despite all these issues, we were able to manage most of the month with only one car, despite our busy schedules and competing obligations.  (We had one day where it was very difficult to make it work, and we so very lucky that some good friends were able to lend us a car for that day - again, we are fortunate).  It certain took some sacrifice, and some creativity, but we worked it out.  This is only possible because we live in a small town where Jackie works, so her drive is only 1 mile.  So it was easy for me to take her to work in the morning before I commenced by also short 10 mile commute.  I think about this because the first year of our marriage seemed to be defined by travel.  I was still in law school, and commuting over an hour one one direction, while Jackie was commuting about 45 minutes in the other direction.  Jackie's car at the time actually died during that time, and we had to rent a car for a week before we could arrange to get another car to replace hers.

But what I remember the most is just how much time that took from our lives, especially as compared to now.  Jackie spends less than 5 minutes a day commuting now, as compared to 90 minutes a day then.  I spend 30 minutes a day going to and from work now, as compared to two and a half hours then.  It is amazing how much more time we have now solely because of that - Jackie has 85 more minutes each workday, or approximately 7 hours a week more time.  I'm saving almost 2 hours a day, or 10 hours every week just by being closer to my "work" location.  That's a lot of time.

When we were looking for a house, we made such an effort to buy in Middlebury, because that was where Jackie worked and she wanted to be in the same school district as her own school.  I know that proximity to work was discussed, but never in the context of much that factor would improve our quality of life.  And truly, it does improve the quality of life.  Having collectively 17 more hours each week than we did during our first year of marriage has so many benefits, from being able to keep up on household tasks and chores for sure, but being able to have more time for each other, and more time to get involved with friends and our community.

As I think about that benefit, it makes me thankful that things worked out for us in this manner.  When they talk about real estate, one of the sayings is that they're not making any more land.  This is true.  But time is also not an endless commodity for us humans.  And learning how we can make better use of it, about not to waste it in activities that contribute nothing to our own lives and other lives, has been a great benefit for both of us, I think.  Til next time.

"Time is what we want most, but what we use the worst." - William Penn

"You may delay, but time will not." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting Back on the Wagon

As I've written many times, a couple years ago I started on a journey to lose weight, for many reasons.  Some health reasons started to pop up...nothing serious, but it didn't take any imagination to realize that without corrective action, the health concerns could quickly become serious.  You just can't continue to live in an obese body without repercussions.  Generally, I just wanted to be more active, to not feel so wiped out by doing yard work or when going for a long walk with the dog.  I wanted to have better joint health, particularly knee health, so I could get up and down off the floor easily whenever we had kids.  I wanted to like what I saw when I looked in the mirror in the morning before leaving for work.

These reasons motivated me for close to two years, pushing me to count calories, take walks in the evenings during the spring, summer, and fall whenever the opportunity presented itself, and to push myself on the treadmill in the morning.  And it worked.  I lost a little over 50 pounds that first year (2010), and close to 50 pounds through the first nine months or so of 2011.  And then, for reasons I have yet to be able to explain, the reasons stopped motivating me.  Maybe I became complacent, maybe I became satisfied with the nice round number I hit (100 pounds of weight loss) and figured that was good enough.  But for whatever reason, I struggled to get myself to the treadmill in the morning.

In the short term, this was not crushing.  I was still in the habit of eating right and watching calories, and I had and continue to have my breakfast and lunch so regimented that I still maintained an appropriate caloric intake.  But slowly, over the past few months, that complacency has crept and crept and taken up a more permanent residence.  It hasn't been a disaster, but I've probably gained somewhere between 5-10 pounds back.  And after almost two years of really hard work, it is frustrating to stare that reality in the face, and see failure.

I used to write here weekly about my treadmill progress, and did so because I felt like it held me accountable, for whatever reason.  I may now be back at that point.  When I started this journey, I convinced myself to look at it as I would college or law school - it was a several year process.  Thus, I am now convincing myself to look at the past 6 months as a bad semester, and doing my best to re-motivate myself.  The loss of 100 pounds (or 90 as it stands now) is a great thing.  My reality is that I have much more to lose.  Per my analogy, I have become complacent with a bunch of college credit, but not the degree.  I've allowed myself to think that its okay to not finish something I started, which typically is not my modus operandi.

It's time to get back on that wagon.  Not the wagon of counting calories all the time.  Not the wagon of taking walks in the evening.  Not the wagon of pushing myself on the treadmill in the mornings.  The wagon of making these decisions on a daily basis; the wagon of deciding to positively affect the quality of my life, and my health; the wagon of making an active and fit lifestyle important.

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb

"If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking." - Buddhist Saying

Friday, May 18, 2012

Getting Closer

Earlier this week, we completed our home study through the our adoption agency, bringing us one step closer to actually being on that list and waiting for a match.  We spent days preparing our house, cleaning the inside and prepping the outside, so that everything could look as well as possible.  It wasn't so much that this would have any impact on the actual home study visit itself, but it was an actual "thing" that we could exercise control over, that we could impact, and therefore put our nervousness to good use.

In light of all that work, the home study itself was practically anti-climactic.  The social worker from agency sat in our living room and "interviewed" us for about 90 minutes or so, just asking questions about our individual histories, as well as relationship and various philosophies.  She then took about a 5 minute trip around the house, noted where our smoke/carbon monoxide detectors were, where our fire extinguishers were, and then headed on her way.  Such a relief for that part to be done.

As fast as it all went, it did have a couple odd moments.  Ellie, even with an extensive walk the morning of, still play the over-excited, crazy jumping, in your face dog to a we were thankful that the social worker has a small dog of her own and was somewhat familiar with their antics.  Granted, having Ellie jump quickly on the arms of the chairs and sniff into her face was probably a little much, but that's what crazy little dogs do.

The other odd moment was the social worker mentioning in passing right at the beginning that her grandson would be visiting the Creation Museum that day.  Jackie's thought, when she heard this, was "I'm not looking at Don, I'm not looking at Don."  I imagine by reading here and here, one can gather my thoughts on a museum that takes Genesis as literal truth, posits that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and has humans living side by side with dinosaurs.  Its one of the things that I can rant upon pretty easily, so it was beneficial that in addition to my ranting skills, I can also hold my tongue when its appropriate.

But that's all an aside.  In a couple weeks or so, we should receive a copy of the home study, along with our bio that will be shown to birth mothers thinking about adoption.  Once we review and confirm everything (and pay another hefty fee), our information will start being shown to the agency's prospective birth mothers as an available adoptive family.

Getting closer to completing this journey, and starting the next one.

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." - Nelson Mandela

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Updates on our Adoption Journey

Back during the first week of April, I wrote about the many steps Jackie and I were taking during her spring break towards our adoption process.  Since then, we spent a good couple weeks preparing all the paperwork we needed to our agency - stuff about our family history, our relationship with our family and with each other, hobbies, interests, etc.  Then we kind of sat for a couple weeks with nothing involved in the process.  Yesterday, that waiting for the next step ended.

We traveled down to Indianapolis for our "home study class," which was basically a seminar put on by the agency giving and discussing information on the process of adoption once one is on the list - things involving how are bios are shown, the financial expectations, how one is matched, meeting potential birthparents, what to expect at the hospital, etc.  Much of the information was useful, if not a little overwhelming (and other parts, redundant from a prior seminar).

This coming Tuesday, we have our actual home study.  One of the social workers will come up to our home, "inspect" it for any obvious safety issues, interview us some more about our life, relationship, and life/parenting philosophies, and begin writing our home study document.  Then, once this is done, we continue to wait.  They say it takes about 4-6 weeks for the document to be completed, and once that is completed and reviewed by us, we become "active," and start waiting for a potential match.  Truly, its exciting stuff, to think that before July we will start being shown to prospective birth mothers seeking to place their child for adoption.

It won't be complete waiting around doing nothing.  We are having a garage sale next weekend to assist in raising money for the adoption.  Once we are active, we will be immediately buying a car seat and some other things we have to have in case we have a "fall in the lap" adoption with little notice.  That means a little discussion and research to see what makes sense for us.  Jackie will probably casually work on the nursery room this summer, so we have that in place for whenever the time comes.  I will continue to run calculations over and over in my head figuring out the best way to pay not only for the adoption, but for the things that come afterward.

But as those thoughts will swirl in my mind from time to time, while I sit here tonight, listening to the wind chimes on our back patio mixed in with the crickets, I'm simply excited about the possibilities that may await us in the near future.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Reflections on a Small Town

When I was growing up, I always wanted to live in a larger city.  Being from Michigan and thus a Midwesterner, the obvious close places were Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis.  I loved scouring maps when I was a kid looking at the "big yellow" sprawls of various metropolises.  This desire continued when I was in college.  I visited Denver and liked it.  I visited Salt Lake City and liked it.  I went abroad to London, Paris, Rome, Athens, and loved them all.  And the constant in all that was that I loved the energy that a big city has.  Seems like there is always movement, and like the larger city is its own living, breathing organism filled to the brim with activity.

Thus, there may seem to be a small bit of irony that I now live in a town of approximately 3,000 people, and the closest "city" has only 30,000 people.  And its in the heart of Northern Indiana Amish country.  Things are quiet. People are scarce.  Its quite the opposite to those things I desired in a living place when I was young and in college.

The reason I am reflecting on this is that last week I was in Indianapolis for a seminar.  I arrived right around 5pm, so of course everything was bustling.  There was noisy construction on the north side when I arrived.  As such, traffic was even more packed and jammed than usual at that time of the day.  Once downtown, the traffic was just as packed, but included tons of people out walking to parking garages, to restaurants, to bus stops, etc.  That night, walking out to dinner, it seemed like every place had plenty of business, and the air seemed like it was filled with constant noises of civilization - chattering, honking, yelling, and just that hum of activity.  All night in the hotel room, you could still hear the activity, that energy, emanating from the streets below.

Such a contrast in so many ways.  At night at home, it truly is quiet.  Often, later, you can hear the clickety-clack of the horses pulling buggies.  You hear the wind, instead of just feeling it.  You can hear a dog bark from several houses away, and it competes with nothing to make noise.  You can see the full night sky, not blocked at all by city lights and/or pollution.

I never thought I would end up in such a small town.  And the truth is now, I have hard time imagining living anywhere else.  Every night I take the dog out late, I look forward to the task so I can gaze on such a wonderful night sky and contemplate on the age and size of the Universe.  I've come to believe that there's something spiritual about being able to hear wind, not just feel it.  Where I once found quiet to be unnerving, I now find the solitude of it peaceful.

And I think I've come to see that the energy I so loved about big cities, and still do, is still present in my small town setting.  Instead of taking the form of noise and fast-paced activity, it reside in the moments of quiet reflection I experience, and the awe I continually have most nights when gazing upon our wondrous canopy of stars.

Both places are filled with life, and I've grown to love that life I get from the small town.