Family Life

Who’s Yard is This Anyway?

My wife is an impulsive photographer. She will carry Norah into the other room while she’s looking for her flip flops. Fifteen minutes later, I get curious and explore the house to see what happened to my two ladies. In the corner of the living room, I’ll find Norah laying on a black blanket by the windows. Candyce will have the camera on a tripod. She snaps photos with one hand while shaking a baby toy with her other hand. I’ll ask Candyce, “Didn’t you come in here to find your flip flops? I’m confused about what is happening here.”

Candyce continues to snap photos and shake the toy and then slowly explains, “She just looked so cute I couldn’t help myself.”

Whenever Norah had on a particularly “precious” outfit, Candyce would carry her outside and trample through our front yard to our neighbor’s yard. Then she would lower Norah onto his flawless thatch of green and start snapping photos. Why? My patchy brownish yard was a raw and savage terrain that was not fit for an infant.

This hurt my self esteem.

That was two months ago. How things have changed! Take a look at the photo below that I snapped over the weekend. The black Jeep in the distance is the driveway belongs to my neighbor, the young doctor who has unknowingly hosted photo shoots with Norah. Sure, you can see a minor shift of texture between the two yards, near the white planter box. But make no mistake, that big ocean of green that covers most of the photo is my own yard.

Green Yard


I cannot take credit for nursing my yard back to health. I can only take credit for hiring Marcel & Associates to do the job for me. After nearly eight years of home ownership, I recognized that life has changed and I did not have the time to take care of my yard.

Now my yard is ready for a photo shoot with Norah. If any of my friends and family want to take some photos on a flawless yard, just give me a call and we’ll arrange a time.

Let’s Get Real About Exercising

Yesterday we ran in the Pat Tilman Run in downtown Tempe. Candyce and I trained for a couple months to build up our endurance to finish the 4.2 miles with strength. I knew all along that we could do it, but Candyce had never run in a race that long and had her doubts whether she could run the whole way. Her fear was enough to make our training intense and consistent.

We are the champions.

The run was beautiful. It was exciting to cross the Tempe Town Lake and run through the south end of Papago Park.  I was proud to push Norah in her running stroller because I love my little girl and I want her to experience this kind of thing. (Note to self: start the race with the 7-minute miler because the 10-minute milers are really just walkers who are delusional.)

The stands at Sun Devil stadium were packed with cheering friends and fans. We crossed the finish line with great sense of accomplishment. We ran and we ran hard.

To celebrate, we met friends and family who also ran at La Grande Orange for a festive brunch. There were dozens of other runners there, all sporting their race number pinned to their chest. The place was glowing with pride. This is why I’ve become a huge advocate for these road races–because it builds pride in yourself and in your community. Plus, exercise makes you look hotter and live longer. What could be wrong with that?

I will avoid chastising people who do not exercise, because I understand that it’s difficult to keep exercise as a top priority in your life. It’s rare to find an adult who has exercised consistently throughout their adulthood, that is, unless that someone is a professional athlete. There are just too many big life experiences that demand your attention. My post-college years were active for sure–working in the yard, on the house, traveling–but I wasn’t getting my heart thumping.

Lucky for me, life changes. Candyce and I have been married for two years, and we’ve run several times a week through most of those 24 months. It’s a huge part of our lifestyle together.  We enjoy the weather, nature, and looking at the beautiful homes in our neighborhood. We talk to each other and share about our day. It’s wonderful. For the past seven months, I’ve had the added bonus of buckling baby Norah in the running stroller and pushing her down the streets of my neighborhood. She loves adventures outside of the house, and that makes me and Candyce happy.

Norah bundled up in her stroller on a cool evening, taken in January of this year.

Today we’re not running. We’re relaxing and letting our bodies rest after yesterday’s race. We’re feeling good. …I know that hot summer months are coming and they aren’t the best condition for running. This makes me sad if I think too much about it. Candyce and I have talked about how it will be more difficult to exercise as our family grows in the years to come.  I imagine that our life together may get more complicated as our years unfold. Who knows if we will be able to continue to exercise as consistently as we do today? I certainly don’t. But what I do know is that Candyce and I will always remember these first two years together as being blissfully active. And we’ll always be pressed to recreate this feeling for the rest of our life together.

Norah’s Easter Dress

I would like to write about Holy Week…Candyce’s family coming into town… and the Suns not making the playoffs… everything that has happened in the past couple weeks. But instead, I’ll just post a photo of Norah from last week. She’s my little angel.

Norah's First Easter

Norah on Easter Sunday with her baby chicken.

How To Get Things Done

Note: What you are about to read might be boring. If you are an overachiever who enjoys reading about overachieving, then this one is for you.

The first three months of this year have been profoundly productive in both my personal life and my professional life. (I opted for “profoundly” because “extremely” and “ridiculously” are overused.) Today I will write about the profound productivity in my personal life.

This all started because Candyce and I crashed for the last two weeks of 2008 on the beaches of San Diego and the slopes of Big Bear. It was good to relax and enjoy Christmas with family. We returned home with a new year prompting us to be go-getters. We spent the first week in Phoenix explaining to each other all of the things we had to do. By the weekend, my head was spinning with the dozens of things we had to do right now. I was filled with anxiety.

In years past, I would see that there was something to do and then immediately do it. The kitchen is dirty? Clean it. What’s next–the car needs an oil change? Drive it to the shop down the street. Are my gold teeth getting dull? Polish ’em!!!

You get the idea.

This impulsive and never-ending laboring is a sign of a young overachiever who hasn’t reckoned ambition with reality.  In high school and college, a young overachiever takes difficult classes, plays lots of sports, gets a job, and you stays involved in clubs.  I’ve learned that packing your schedule is a good thing, but it’s also a linear way to be productive. It’s good to get stuff done, but am I getting the right stuff done? Don’t confuse being busy with being productive.

Make Priorities, Save Your Life

I like to think I’ve matured into becoming an overachiever who obsesses over making priorities.  How does this look? You step away from your projects/goals/ambitions and analyze what you need to do before you do it. You recognize what projects are more important than others. Then you get realistic with your time, money, and energy. Next you spread out your projects over a realistic time frame. Then you get to work.

It’s a straight forward process, really.

Now that I am married, it’s absolutely critical that we make priorities together–because we’re both trying to get things done. If we don’t work together, our home is filled with tension and frustration. We see one another as an obstacle to accomplishing our goals.

So Candyce and I sat down at the dinner table in early January and wrote down everything that was on our mind: dentist appointments, finally mailing Christmas cards, fixing the hot water heater, childproofing the house, taking down the Christmas tree, etc. These are the obvious chores that scream at you as you walk through your day.

Some couples will make the list and then make priorities. But I strongly encourage you to write down all the things that aren’t chores or projects, but things that steal our joy: fear of high cell phone bills, or the fear that the tree in the backyard was dying and might blow over, etc.  It takes humility to be honest with yourself (and your spouse) about what is causing you anxiety in your life. Most of us have been so battered by inconsiderate people in our lives that it’s hard to be vulnerable and explain the things that frighten us, so the thought of sharing those things with someone else seems like a bad idea. But the way I see it, there are a million things out there that can steal your joy or make you an anxious person. Anxiety is a useless state of being; you feel horrible and you are paralyzed from getting things done, which creates more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.

So we talked through each of the joy-stealers. Candyce assured me that our cell phone plan had free picture messaging so it’s okay to send photos to her parents. I told Candyce that the tree was dying and would need to be cut down, but it’s not going to fall over this unless we get a hurricane in Arizona. After talking through the other joy-stealers, we both felt better.

Now that we had calm hearts, we looked at our list of stuff to do. (For the record, this was a big list, filling up both sides of a sheet of paper.) It was time to prioritize. Which things need to get done today? This week? What can be postponed till next month? Later in the year? We weren’t procrastinating, but we were being realistic how long projects take. This is why a newly-elected U.S. President doesn’t try to get everything done in his first 100 days. He spreads his work over a 4-year term.

After we prioritized and scheduled our chores we were new people. We looked at that long list with a sense of pride. The anxiety, fear, frustration–all gone! Sure, there was plenty of work to do, but we knew what and when and why.

Changing Priorities as Time Passes

We start each week by reviewing the list and then communicating what both of us will be working on. This list sits on our dining room table so that it’s convenient and visible for both of us. If we had a free hour or two and felt energetic, we’d look at the list and pick out out a project to work on.  And of course, we took great pride in crossing things off the list.

Over the past three months, we’ve added things to this list because life gives you more work to do.  Sometimes random things happen and you have to change your priorities. But don’t slide back into your old ways and impulsively jumping into a new project;  first add it to our list and seeing if the project is more important than the things we said we wanted to do at the beginning of the year.

So What Did I Accomplish?

If you are feeling voyeuristic, here’s a look back at the things on my half of the list.

  1. Run. Run. Run. Candyce, Norah, and I have run at least three miles 3-4 times a week. Last month we ran in a 5k race and did well. This Saturday we’ll run in the Pat Tilman Run here in Tempe.
  2. Made a wooden block set for my nephew Jack.
  3. Got ticketed in Scottsdale for having an expired license plate. Although it was humiliating to be lit up on my way to a Bible study, the officer was a cool guy. He didn’t ticket me for speeding, just for the expired plate. I got some insider info on Charles Barkley’s arrest from a couple weeks earlier. To set my life in order, I got the car tested for emissions. Then renewed my plates. Through January and February, I went to court twice: the first to get my ticket reduced (which happened) the second to get the moving violation expunged from my record (which didn’t happened.) This was not on our list, but stuff happens and your list changes.
  4. Made sense of Norah’s big fast stack hospital bills. This was HUGE. Dozens of letters had to be opened, deciphered, organized, and fact checked. And some had to be disputed.
  5. Inbox Zero. The guys at the office are having fun finding creative ways to be more productive (see, and my favorite new technique is to purposefully check your email with the end goal being an empty inbox. From their site,

    “Clearly, the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible.”

  6. Prepared for and delivered eight talks in eight different cities–in less than three months. That’s about 15,000 miles of flying.
  7. Had Candyce’s pearl earrings fixed–not the biggest chore, but what man likes to plan a trip to the jewelry store?
  8. Condensed our two remote controls into one. You cannot imagine how much easier this makes my life. Fixed our Tivo (with the help of a guy on the phone) so we can record one show while watching another. Don’t accuse me of being a couch potato because you don’t know me.
  9. In the kitchen crown molding, I recessed the nails with a nail set, filled in with wood filler, caulked the joints, and finished with two coats of paint.
  10. Hiked Picacho Peak, Elephant Butte, and South Mountain (twice)
  11. Sanded and finished my kitchen bar stools
  12. Switched car insurance
  13. Switched dentists
  14. Banking matters
  15. Hired landscape guys to maintain the yard
  16. Started twittering:
  17. Kept this blog updated
  18. Made major progress on a freelance web project
  19. Cheered for the Phoenix Suns.
  20. Cleaned my garage
  21. Celebrated spring by attending about 15 picnic lunches hosted by Candyce and Norah.
  22. Hosted Candyce’s family in town for Holy Week
  23. Got my 1954 Chevy fired up gain, drove it around the block
  24. Filed my 2008 taxes

The end result? We’re a happier couple and more satisfied with where we are in our lives. This style of planning and prioritizing will be a big part of our life together. Now it’s time to plan for the 2nd quarter.

Music from My Wedding Day

Candyce and I are one week away from our 2nd Anniversary. I found a couple playlists I created for the day and thought I’d share them with everyone. This is as good as it gets:

Music for the Wedding Mass

  1. John Michael Talbot – Holy is His Name
  2. Bach – Jesu, Joy of a Man’s Desiring
  3. Chris Tomlin – Take My Life
  4. Chris Tomlin – Indescribable
  5. Chris Tomlin – How Great is Our God
  6. Delirious – Our God Reigns
  7. Tim Hughes – Beautiful One

Music for Wedding Reception

  1. Elton John – Tiny Dancer
  2. The Killers – When We Were Young
  3. The Format – The Compromise
  4. The Troggs – Love is All Around
  5. Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
  6. John Mayer – The Heart of Life
  7. The Beach Boys – Surfer Girl
  8. The Format – Inches and Falling
  9. The Shins – New Slang
  10. John Mayer – Daughters
  11. U2 – Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
  12. Fleming and John – Love Song
  13. Howie Day – Collide
  14. Howie Day – Brace Yourself
  15. Mat Kearny – Nothing Left to Lose
  16. Coldplay – Fix You
  17. Jimmy Eat World – Hear You Me
  18. Weezer – Perfect Situation
  19. Justin Timberlake – My Love
  20. U2 – Beautiful Day