Daily Life


So it’s beautiful spring morning and it’s Friday. Could life get better? What I love about this time of year is that is a lot of beautiful sunshine but still plenty of long shadows because the sun isn’t too high in the sky. This morning Candyce, Norah, and Stella went on a four mile run before nine o’clock. When you run at the start of your day, your muscles have a gentle tingle throughout the rest of the morning. It’s a fun sensation to remind you that you’re alive.

It’s been almost a month since I last updated my blog. I know from experience that it’s too difficult to write a good narrative, so I’ll just list out what’s on my mind. We’ll see what happens…

Final MBA Trimester

I am at the beginning of my final trimester of business school. I have a ticker on all of my computers (work, home, phone) that announces each day how many days I have until graduation. I never get tired of looking at this because it gets better every day. I know that logically there should be no surprise at the passing of time, but emotionally, it’s an absolute delight to watch that number deflate with each day that passes. Rejoice! At risk of sounding melodramatic, I feel that through every day of 2011 I’ve gotten a little of my soul back. I’m happier at home, work, and in class. It’s not that I dislike school–I really do enjoy it–but it’s always stressful to have too many obligations and too little time. It beats you down.

Staff Retreat

We had a great staff retreat at Covecrest back in Georgia. This year was different because we let staff members lead sessions. I could go on forever about why this was a good idea, but what stands out the most is that it gives everyone on the retreat diverse perspectives that keep the four days interesting.

It’s too much to talk about the spiritual experience of the retreat because those are private experiences that are hard to share cohesively on a public blog. But I will say this. I went on this retreat with every intention of jump-starting my soul. I engaged in every prayer and sacremental experience there. I spent hours in the chapel. I prayed non-stop for four days. This isn’t because I’m a superior spiritual athlete, but it’s because it’s what my soul needed. It was required no effort to sit in the chapel alone at midnight.

It was soul satisfying to spend quality time with Andrew, Paul, and Michelle. I rode with Dad to the Atlanta airport because he was making another trip to Haiti. He’s in Haiti so often now that I cannot even make sense of it all. He’s almost become part of the community there.

Candyce’s New Group

After a year of prayer and preparation, Candyce began her girls prayer group / Bible study at our home. She’s following the same curriculum that she’s experienced with her group at Stacey’s house for the past five years. (Wow, that was before we were even engaged.) Candyce has enjoyed life so much more since she was invited to join Stacey’s group.

One of my greatest sources of joy in my life right now is knowing that these 14 young women who enter my home twice a month will have a richer experience of life. They don’t know that yet, and that’s part of what makes it so much fun. My job in all of this is to help clean the house the day before the group and to take care of Norah and Stella when I am not in class. I love being behind the scenes.

What Didn’t Get Make It

Here are things that I wanted to write about but I’ve run out of time:

  • Why it’s hard to write a blog
  • Lent
  • My men’s group
  • Home prices
  • Current events
  • Cool MBA electives
  • Fresh Fridays at work
  • Why I want to redesign this website
  • Gas prices
  • Candyce’s blog stealing my blog’s material
  • The Newly Weds Supper Club
  • The joy of building community
  • The 2012 Chrysler 300
  • How much I love having an iPhone
  • The power of positive thinking

For the record, I drank two espressos during this blog.

33rd Birthday Party

33rd Birthday Party
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New Life Farm

A few months ago I did an interview I did with LifeTeen.com about what it was like to be raised in a family with foster children. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my childhood and how it has shaped who I am today. Here’s the question that really got me:

Greg Iwinski: Now that you have two daughters of your own and you start a new branch of the Smith family, what lessons from having foster siblings do you think you will bring into raising your own kids?

ME: That’s a good question. I don’t think I have answer for that one yet. I guess just talking about all this now reveals how counter-cultural my childhood was. The rest of the world moved along just fine without knowing about our humble lives in the mountains. We were disconnected from the glamorous things of the world—trends, music, celebrity culture, professional sports, wealth, whatever. Whatever I saw on TV about what it was like to be young and have a family – my life looked nothinglike that. We were off the grid, but that doesn’t mean what happened there didn’t matter.

The Smith family in 1984

Somewhere along the way society has become consumed with appearances, and that has confused what it means to be a “happy family.” You know, the parents drive nice cars, they have a sweet house in a cool neighborhood where all the lawns are perfect… the kids are all hip and dress nice and have cool stuff. Fancy vacations. The whole deal. How uncool would life be if all we tried to do as a family was impress others? There’s no soul in that. I want my children to know that its okay to be counter cultural. And there’s nothing more counter cultural than loving like Christ loved.

I should say that my answer didn’t come out quite so composed on my first try. It was an email interview, which means I had time to reflect on the questions and then put together thoughtful answers. It was supposed to only take me thirty minutes, and it took me well over two hours. Because this was the first time that I had to consider my upbringing and then consider how I would raise my own children.

I’ve found myself marveling at the life my parents created for themselves and for us kids. This is what has stuck with me about Mom and Dad:

  • Be Creative. They bought an old house with lots of land and they decided they wanted to start a farm. Then came the animals, the large garden, and the fish bait business. Dad even split his own fence posts from trees that he harvested from the woods.  How resourceful is that? Beyond the six of us little kids, they brought in teenage foster children too. We never had enough money to do all that with comfort, but we still did it. My parents were resourceful and creative.
  • Be Fearless. What did my dad do? He met the girl of his dreams and they started a whole new life together. There was no hesitation here. They knew what they wanted and they did it. Dad didn’t know all he needed to know to become a farmer, and that was okay. He made his decision and he did it. My parents had little interest in sticking around their homes in the northeast to see what their friends from college were doing with their careers.
  • Be Faithful. Mom and Dad called our farm New Life Farm because it was a new beginning for them, for us little kids, and for the foster children that we brought into our home. Our farm had a logo too—a dove. It was stunning. Dad even painted it onto the side of our home. (Again, I have to interrupt here. Do you know what would happen to me if I painted a logo on the side of my home today? I wouldn’t make it till sunset without our HOA having an emergency meeting.)

A big part of life is figuring out your place in the world. Why am I here? Do I matter? What makes me unique? When you are young, these questions define your life in a very obvious way. As you grown into adulthood, these questions may not be in the forefront of your mind each day, but they reside deep within each of us. I believe that most of us make decisions in life with hopes of finding answers to these questions.

Inevitably, we compare ourselves to others to get some context for who we are. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I get jealous of people who have inherited opportunities from their family: admission to an Ivy League school, the family business, the vacation home, the brownstone in NYC, the vintage Ferrari.  They have so many resources from which to draw as they create their own story on this Earth.

I have none of that, and I’m beginning to see that that’s okay. I do have a heritage of creativity, gall, and faith. Absolute individuality. I need to live and breathe this heritage. This defined my childhood and it should define my adulthood.

Photos of Good Architecture

I enjoyed spending snapping photos of cool houses and buildings here in North County San Diego over the past couple of weeks on our Christmas vacation. The first photos in the gallery below are snapped from a book I got from the Encinitas library. (The book is called the Not So Big Remodel, an edition of Sarah Susanka ubiquitous Not So Big series about home design.) The rest of the photos are from residential and commercial buildings I’ve seen around town. What does these buildings have in common? They all make me happy.

This last photo is epic. I went shopping on December 22. I scored the most awesome parking space. Ever. There are 1000s of cars in this parking lot, and this parking space was closer to Crate and Barrel than the handicap space. I didn’t even know those spaces existed! I was so thankful that I took a photo to commemorate the event.

Family Trip to Downtown San Diego

This morning the Smiths and Berghoffs spent our morning in downtown San Diego. We had breakfast at Cafe 222 to try what Bobby Flay called the best French toast he’s ever had. Next we walked around the Gaslamp District and then explored the auto shop of a Mercedes restorer. Fun stuff.

This was the first sunny day we’ve had since we got out here to California. Although I’ve enjoyed the moodiness of the rain, I have enjoyed the sunshine.