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My own form of nesting

I’ve been ignoring my office at home for about seven months.

The desk got all piled up with books, papers, DVDs, cards from the kids and mail. The corpse of my iPhone 4 is still laying there.

I’m out of shelf space so I’ve got little piles of books near the shelves and even a stack of books or two at the foot of my desk.

And old, broken-down video baby monitor holds down a spot near the door, with its cord and AC adapter stretching out behind it like a tail.

The room just cries out: neglect.

Last night I grabbed a big black trash bag and I assaulted my office.

I went through every pile on my desk and junked the things I didn’t need. I cleaned out my filing bins and stored away things from the top of my desk I’d neglected to file away.

I looked through each bookshelf and each stack of books to see what I needed to keep.

And get this: I threw away a bunch of books.

That sounds crazy, right?

Aren’t you supposed to keep books or pass them on or take them to the used book store?

Isn’t throwing away a book kinda like kicking a kitten?

If the book means something to you, yes.

But I threw away a bunch of books that were just crap. The books I threw away I hadn’t bought, hadn’t read, and couldn’t picture myself reading. So off you go.

I get hung up way too often thinking about what I should do about something that I end up getting stuck having never done anything.


I should take these books to the used book store. Or I should take these books and put them on the back table in our Sunday School classroom to see if anyone wants them. Or I should post a picture of them to Facebook to see if anyone wants them.

And then I never find time to do any of those things, so the books sit.

So guess what?

Throw the books away and the problem is solved.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent about how I got rid of a few books last night.

By the time I went to bed last night, I could see vast expanses of my desk. I’m not done getting this office whipped into shape but I’m on my way.

I’m writing this post from my desk, which is a place I haven’t wanted to sit in a long time.

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Clothes on

I don’t ever remember feeling excited for school to start back after a break.

Okay. I take that back.

I was excited to go back to school after Christmas break of our senior year of college.

I had a pretty big crush on MC and I knew she was going back to school a few days early, so I worked it out to get back a few days early, too.

That’s the only time I can remember being excited for school to start.

This morning at 5:30 I was drinking coffee and reading my January book.

I say my “January book” because I set a goal to read 12 books this year. One each month.

Ever since we went to Uganda, I haven’t had any appetite for books. I don’t know why. I might have finished three books since we’ve been back.

Anyway, if 12 books sounds low, that’s why. I’m trying to work back up to reading more. Also, it’s my goal. Not yours. You set whatever goal you want.

Where were we?

That’s right, reading and drinking coffee. So I was reading and drinking coffee and I hear stirring upstairs in the direction of Franklin’s room. But not his usual calls for attention. Some shuffling. Some footsteps.

Then I hear, faintly, “Clothes on. Clothes on.”

I rushed to his room and found the little guy standing by his school clothes (which MC laid out last night.) He was tugging at his pajamas.

“Clothes on,” he said.

The little guy was excited about school and he wanted to get dressed.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled that he was up at 5:30. He’d been sleeping until 7:00 some days during Christmas break…and that’s a huge breakthrough for him. But I didn’t make a big deal about it being early because I didn’t want to crap all over his excitement.

Not today, anyway.

I talked to him a little about school and he said he was going to play with his friend and see his teacher. I gave him some big hugs and then got him all dressed for the day. Then we made MC some coffee and we got the rest of the morning routine going.

I love that our little Franklin has a place that he loves and where he is loved. To be honest, when he puts his backpack on at 6:30 a.m. and says, “Go school now?” over and over again for two straight hours it gets a little frustrating. But it sure beats dealing with screaming and crying because he doesn’t want to go.

I’m happy he’s happy.

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The Two Distinct Sides to a Writer

I came across an epic quote the other night and I’m dying to share it with you.

My big kids are huge fans of Roald Dahl’s stories. Do you know about Roald Dahl?

I’ll bet you do, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell.

He’s the man behind the classic stories James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Of course, he wrote mountains of other stuff, but those are the titles you might easily recognize.

We love his stories.

One of the books we have is a collection of six short stories. What’s cool is that one of the stories is how Roald Dahl became a writer.

Tucked inside that story, I found something that I bet anyone who does any kind of creative work will feel.

Check out Roald Dahl’s masterful description of the two distinct sides of a writer. Here’s the first side:

“And it was then that I began to realize for the first time that there are two distinct sides to a writer of fiction. First, there is the side he displays to the public, that of an ordinary person like anyone else, a person who does ordinary things and speaks an ordinary language.”

Then he explains the second side…

“There is the secret side, which comes out in him only after he has closed the door of his workroom and is completely alone.”

I think many of you already know what he’s talking about.

“It is then that he slips into another world altogether, a world where his imagination takes over and he finds himself actually living in the places he is writing about at that moment. I myself, if you want to know, fall into a kind of trance, and everything around me disappears. I see only the point of my pencil moving over the paper…”

And here’s something every writer has experienced:

“…and quite often two hours go by as though they were a couple of seconds.”

Here’s to those of you with a secret side. You’re not alone.

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Nine books that changed the way I see the world

I’d be lost without books. I love ’em.

But while some books simply add to my base of knowledge, every now and then a book will change the way I see the world.

Here are some of the books that have done that for me:

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Simple Life by Thom S. Rainer and Art Rainer

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

There is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children by Melissa Fay Greene

Are any of those on the list of books that have shaped the way you see the world?

What’s not on this list that has been a game-changer for you?


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2011: 20 books

I love books.

When I get a little stir-crazy or Mary Craig just wants me to go have a few minutes to myself, she says, “Why don’t you go walk around the bookstore?”

It’s a happy place for me.

As much as I love books and as much as I love to read, with our action-packed family life (read: we have three kids) I don’t get to read as much as I’d like.

I read 14 books in 2010.

My favorites were:

  • Linchpin by Seth Godin
  • Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  • Radical by David Platt

The only way I was able to get 14 books read in 2010 was by waking up early to read most days and keeping the light on for a few minutes after Mary Craig went to sleep some nights.

I want to read 20 books in 2011. That means more early mornings. And more coffee, so I’m good with that.


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What are you studying?

I wrote a post a while ago about how my tombstone is going to tell everyone that I took a lot of notes.

The first time I had to take notes was in college. When I got there, I didn’t really know what people did in college classes, so I just wrote down every word the professors said and then I’d try to memorize the notes before the exams.

I still don’t know if that’s what people do in college classes, but I graduated. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I can’t recall many of the facts that I scribbled in those classes in college, but the most important thing that happened as a result of all my time in the classroom is that something soaked into my bones: learning is for a lifetime.

So my parents paid a ton of money and I gave four years to a small private college. But that was really only the beginning of the learning process.

That’s why I’m in incessant note taker – because there are free classes happening all the time. Church is a free class. Work is a free class. Breakfast with a mentor is a free class. Books, podcasts and YouTube are free classes.

There’s more to learn than we can ever grasp, but God gave us minds than can handle it.

Life is a pretty awesome classroom. What are you studying right now?


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Saturday notes

A few quick notes from my seat next to the boy while he watches Curious George:

1) Last night, MC and I caught the last few minutes of a show on NatGeo called “My Child is a Monkey.” It was about people who have monkeys and raise them as children. I don’t have any problem with people having monkeys. Do what you gotta do. But when I see that there’s a TV show about it, and that there’s a show called “Cupcake Wars” I can understand why people in other countries tend not to be huge fans of Americans.

2) I talked with a guy the other day who runs a small business. He does really, really good work in a pretty unique niche. He quoted his price to do what needed to be done for a customer recently, and the customer said, “Well, what can I get if I spend $x,xxx?” which was about double what this guy quoted. When you do really good work, every now and then people will gladly pay double what you ask them to pay.

3) On Mary Craig’s recommendation, I’m reading There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. I’m like 45 pages in and can’t believe how much I’ve learned.

4) A car drove slowly in front of the house last night, so we did a cursory cleaning in case someone wants to come see it. The general rule is that people only want to see it when it’s at its messiest. We’ll see.

Have a great weekend.

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These pages are multiplying at night

Most of the time when I order a salad in a restaurant, there comes a point when I just stop eating.

It’s not that I’m full. It’s not that the plate is empty.

I just get tired of eating.

I look down at the plate and think:

I’ve been eating this salad for 30 minutes and it’s not going anywhere. There’s as much there now as there was when I started.

I’m reading Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and I’m experiencing a little bit of that.

I’ve been in this book for a month and no matter how much I read, I’m still in the middle.

It’s a fantastic book, but it feels like there’s as much there as when I started.

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Book review: The X and Y of Buy

A few weeks ago, I joined Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program. I’ve done a little reading in the days since, so here’s my first review:

The X and Y of Buy: Sell more and market better by knowing how the sexes shop

By Elizabeth Pace

This shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone, but I’m going to say it anyway: men and women are different.

Even though that truth is glaringly obvious, it’s surprising how often we overlook it. In her book The X and Y of Buy, Elizabeth Pace makes the case that marketers can increase their effectiveness by understanding the unique differences between men and women.

As someone who needs to communicate effectively with both sexes to be successful, I found the premise of Pace’s book engaging. I’ve certainly finished appointments with clients or prospects thinking I’d knocked the cover off the ball, only to have the folks go elsewhere with their business. Reading The X and Y of Buy made me almost certain that I’ve missed some opportunities by not working hard enough to understand the way my customer makes decisions.

It wasn’t far into the book that Pace began to show that men are highly task-oriented people, while women are more process-oriented. Men buy and women shop, she says. Men are data-driven, while women are relationship-driven.

If I had to point to a weakness, I’d say at times I felt the book leaned a little too hard on the idea that gender traits haven’t changed that much since prehistoric times. I felt like I was being told that men are hunters and women are nurturers a few too many times.

I thought the book was engaging, and would be especially helpful for folks in sales, marketing, customer service and retail. I’m keeping it on the shelf as a reference book because there’s a healthy dose of practical, street-level advice for implementing gender-specific communication techniques.

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The Discipline of Fatherhood

A couple years ago, I read a great book by Kent Hughes titled Disciplines of a Godly Man. It contains a great chapter on fatherhood. In the chapter, he says we as fathers must evaluate the job we are doing by asking ourselves these questions:

  • Do you criticize your children, or build them up?
  • Are you overly strict, or reasonably strict – gradually granting your child greater freedom?
  • Are you impatient and irritable, or patient and self-controlled, when dealing with your children?
  • Are you consistent in your expectations?
  • Have you kept your promises?
  • Do you show favoritism?
  • Are you tender with both your sons and daughters?
  • Do you share in the discipline?
  • Are you spending time with your children, as a family and individually?

When I read the book the first time, Daughter was tiny, so I passed these with flying colors. Now that she’s three, they’re a little more convicting. Yet they remind me that every day is a chance to be a better parent than the day before.

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