Indianapolis for NCYC

It seems to me that this big world of ours is really just a bunch of little niches. The conferences/conventions/summits out there are simply gatherings of like-minded people who need to talk about stuff. It’s not any more complicated than that. Every industry, social movement, political group, every everything has a conference or a series of conferences that gather people in for a sequence of days. What’s fascinating to me in spite of the simplicity of the format, these gatherings have tremendous momentum and influence.

I am on the flight from Indianapolis back to Phoenix. I spent the last three days—three very full days—at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). About 25,000 teens from around the country come together every two years for this event. In the mornings and at nights, it’s a mix of main stage talks, concerts, and entertainment. In the hours in between, teenagers explore the bazillion acres of convention space for more talks, concerts, entertainment, plus an exhibit hall where different organization set up with booths.

Our own Life Teen booth was cool and all, but if you walked past us, you would never know that we were one of the largest Catholic organizations on earth. It wasn’t big or flashy. Then again, no booth was big and flashy. There’s so little money to be made in this “industry” that it would be silly to invest all your money in a booth b/c there’s no market share to grab. Instead, we all support the mission of Faith in humble and simple ways.

While I was at NCYC, I gave two talks on the subject of the entertainment media to a room of 1000, and one talk to a room of about 1500. I don’t know of any other time throughout the year where I can have that big of an impact in such little time. For this reason, I am a big fan of NCYC. It’s an efficient trip.

I can’t deny, though, that this NCYC thing is so big that I can’t make sense of it. Maybe it’s because I am tired, and it’s too hard to write about something when I haven’t had the time or the energy to write about it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to this conference several times before, so that the conference’s magnitude in and of itself doesn’t ignite my awe anymore. I’m not discounting the spiritual foundation of NCYC and the impact that the conference can have on each person who attends. It’s just hard to see in the middle of the circus. Here’s the ironic thing—every adult who leads or contributes to the event would probably agree with me. So we all do our part to make it more than a fleeting rah! rah! trip in the middle of November.

I can’t wait to get home. Candyce said that Norah woke up all throughout the night crying because she misses me. What could be more heartwarming to a father than that? The bad news is that Norah ended up waking up Stella. So none of my three girls slept well last night. I can’t wait to be on the ground again so I can continue what’s most important to me—being a husband and father.

Busy Busy June and July

Travel has been pretty intense through June and July…

  • San Diego, CA (Post graduation trip with the family)
  • Pittsburgh / Steubenville, Ohio (Franciscan University Youth conference)
  • Kansas City / Atchison, Kansas (Benedictine College for LTLC)
  • Prescott, AZ (Camp Tepeyac)
  • San Diego, CA (Family Vacation)
  • Hiawassee, GA (Family Visit with parents)
  • Atlanta, GA (Steubenville Youth Conference)
  • Tiger, GA (Family at Camp Covecrest)

I don’t know if there will be time to reflect on the experiences that I had in each of those places. I’ve got plenty of stories and cool photos, but not enough time to collect them into a blog. It’s a good thing that Candyce has a blog too.  Soon she will stack her blog with photos and sweet memories.

This recent 2-week vacation to Georgia (we got back a couple days ago) was really good for our family. I got to spend a lot of time with my daughters, with Candyce, my parents, sisters, brothers, and my grandmother. I also spent a lot of time with teenagers (2500 at Steubenville, 220 at camp) who benefit from my hard work throughout the year at Life Teen. It was encouraging.

Just for fun, I’ll be impulsive and write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve got 20 minutes before I have to go.

  1. I need a haircut. We’ve been out of town so much that I couldn’t schedule in a trim with my barber here in Tempe. I told myself that I could get a haircut while out of town, but we were always having so much fun that it seemed like a waste to ruin the party by driving down the street for a haircut. I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror.
  2. Oil change. Seriously, it’s been over a year since I’ve changed the oil in my car. While I was in Georgia I rented a loaded Chrysler 300. I love that car. It was fun to ride around in style.
  3. Recession etc. My classmates and I felt confident back in 2009 that by the time we graduated in May 2011, the recession would have passed and the economy would be on the rebound. To a degree, we were right. However, the “rebound” is hardly a reality. I spent a lot of time with students entering college over the past few weeks, and each of them talked about how they were grateful that they could weather the recession through four years of college.
  4. Sharp-dressed man. It’s hard to dress well every day. My standard attire during the work week is a pair of leather shoes, chinos, and a shirt with a collar. I’ve been doing this for about three years and it has its benefits. But the downside is that I spend a lot of time ironing pants and shirts. When I meet the girls for lunch, Norah usually wrinkles/dirties/thrashes my well-pressed attire. I take it in stride, but again, it’s hard to dress well every day.
  5. ReadyMade. I learned this morning that my favorite magazine over the last 10 years is closing up shop. I think the Internet ran away with their zeal for DIY.
  6. Facebook. It gets boring in the summer. Every time I login I am remarkable uninterested. For the sake of documenting technology as it happens, Google+ started a few weeks ago. It may or may not be a replacement for Facebook, LinkedIn, and SomeThing Else.
  7. Rebuilding Interest. With school done, I’m trying to get up to speed with new technologies/trends/innovations/Apps.
  8. Compassion. There is a lot of hurt in this world. Everyone needs compassion and love.

Well, time is up.

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.

Flight from San Antonio to Phoenix

I spent yesterday at a cool multi-church event in San Antonio, Texas. It’s harder than ever to leave on business trips now that I have two little girls at home. Norah asked Candyce to call me last night as they were going to bed. Norah cried into the phone that she wanted me to hold her at her house. What on earth could be sweeter than that?

So last night in the hotel I watched a couple episodes of the Uniter or something like that. The premise of the show is that a dude (who incidentally is kind of odd) helps people find lost loved ones. One episode I caught was about three college-aged children searching for their drug-addicted mother who they had not seen in six years. Another episode was about a young mom who decided to search for her half-sister who was put up for an adoption as in infant to cover up her father’s affair. The good news is that on both shows the people were reunited with those they were looking for. The reunions were super dramatic because the host explains to the seeker what he’s learned about their lost family member, then he tells the people to turn around and their lost family member walks through the door. Everyone starts to cry and hug and sob. I got a little drippy too. How could I not? Seriously, I could cry right here right now on this airplane in seat 8A if I think about those reunion scenes.

What has stuck with me most about this show is that these people’s lives were consumed with the desire to find the lost members of their family. Through every day of their lives, they ached inside because of their loss. I can’t even imagine what that pain must be like. How blessed I am to know everyone in my family, to know that I can call them and have a happy conversation whenever I feel like it.

I don’t know. The more I look around, the more I realize how blessed I am.


So in seven months I will graduate with my MBA. That’s just two more trimesters. Having time off of work for paternity leave has given me a glimpse of my life was like before graduate school and what I can expect in the spring—less stress and more fun. Plus I’ll have time to catch up on every other part of my life that I placed on a two-year hold. It’s like heaven is waiting for me in May. I am so glad that I entered grad school when Norah was just 12 months old. It would be almost impossible to have pulled this thing off with more little ones at home.

My battery is dying. So it’s time to finish up and read some more of my new John Grisham book.