This is what a 30-minute blog update looks like

Ironman – My sister-in-law Lauryn placed 2nd in her age/girl group in yesterday’s Ironman race here in Tempe. The girl swam 2.4 miles. Then she rode her bike for 112 miles. Then she finished with 26.2 miles. That’s a 4-hour marathon at the end of the day. The girl is tough as nails! I am inspired to be more fit.

Woody Wagons – I’ve always loved cars, but I’ve had a particular affinity for woody wagons. When I was young, I loved the boxy woody wagons from that 1930s that became sleek during the 1940s. When I was in high school, I fell for the less-is-more woody wagons during the 1950s. After college, I fell for the long and low woodys in the 1960s. Now that I am a Dad in my 30s, I’m really diggin the 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. Why? Mostly b/c this is a woody that I could really buy and not just adore. And when it comes time to buying, I want something that is fast, reliable, and safe. The roadmaster has a Corvette engine that is both quick and reliable. Plus it has modern safety features and comfy new leather interior. I’m aware that commoners will look at the 1996 Estate Wagon and remember that they made fun of that wagon while they sat tall and proud in the 1996 Ford Explorer on their way to soccer practice. I’m okay with that. Their distaste today keeps me from having to pay tomorrow’s collector car premium. In other words, a great car is cheaper when not everyone agrees that its cool. It’s a supply and demand thing.

Getting it Together – In my 20s, I always felt overwhelmed by the routines of life. Maybe I was traveling too much or I was just too distracted by pursuing women, but I always felt overwhelmed by cycles calendar year. I never felt like I had enough time to plan for any holiday–Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year. Every holiday, including my own birthday, felt like it was rushed upon me with short notice. But now that I am married and have a family, I can actually see holidays coming and plan accordingly. Life is more fun this way.

Family Room Renovation – For the last couple of months, I’ve been redoing my family room: new floors, new fireplace, new wall paneling, and new built-in shelves. I’m about 75% there and it feels so good to have the most lived-in room of the house finally looking right. I want to get it all done in time to enjoy stockings hung from the mantel.

TV – It’s fun to watch TV shows and movies as I renovate my family room. But I am well aware of that magic on the screen doesn’t pass through into my own life. To be entertained through shows, movies, and video games is to accept the reality that your life partly defined by fictitious characters.

Staying Put – Candyce and I have always been adventurers, but during the last few months, our #1 priority has been to stay home. We’ve turned down invitations to great parties and outings with friends. We’ve had no regrets. It’s hard to figure it all out, but since Norah turned 4 earlier this fall, it’s dawned on both me and Candyce that life is going by terribly fast. We want to slow down and savor our life together, and staying home more than we leave home seems to be helping slow down the clock.

“I’m perfect, here’s my blog.” – I’m inspired by the designers and fashionistas who keep such picture perfect lifestyles and share them on their blogs. I’m also okay with the fact that my blog is very much like me–imperfect.

It is a mistake to apply American democratic procedures to the faith and the truth. You cannot take a vote on the truth. The value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. – Pope John Paul II

Family Wagonz

I want to talk about buying a car for my growing family. But first, lets take a trip back to middle school.

1990 was a complex year for me. I was 11 years old and I was in love with everything about cars. Back to the Future II had just come out, and my mind was spinning with the fantastical hovering cars from the future. This gave me such great hope, because we had just finished the most boring decade for automobiles: The 80s!  Of course there were supercars that gained popularity on posters (read: Lamborghini), but cars for people who weren’t millionaires was dreadfully dull.

So 1990 was symbolic of things changing. The future was here! Maybe no hovering cars, but surely the Ford Mustang could get some style, couldn’t it? Nope. With every new car that debuted from Detroit, I got less excited about the future.

So instead of looking forward for cool, I looked backward. I loved the hot rods from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but they were too expensive. Then I discovered VWs by way of curiously sentimental people known as “hippies.” I discovered that Volkswagen owned the 1960s and 1970s had daring style and personality: VW Beatle, VW Bus, VW Rabbit, the VW Thing!

It seemed like there was room for everyone in the VW scene. If you wanted to restore your Beatle to it’s glory from 1969, that was cool. Or if you wanted to chop it up into an outrageous custom, that was cooler. My favorite trip of the month was to Wal-Mart with my family b/c they carried VW Trends and Hot VWs on their magazine rack. I remember the rush of optimism as I walked towards the magazine rack hoping to find a new issue tucked in those shelves. I loved the radical VWs with crazy paint and intense customization. Somewhere I have drawings of my own custom VW Beatles. Limo, truck, and permanent convertible. I was 11 and I could draw. There were no limits.

My favorite was probably the 18-window VW bus with the slide back roof.  It’s an endless summer for you and 6 friends. I was also fascinated with the newer VW buses, even if I didn’t fall in love with the new ones as much as the old ones.

The Eurovan. So what if it didn't fit in with the rest of the minivans in 1993?

The Eurovan. So what if it didn’t fit in with the rest of the minivans in 1993?

Enter Pastor Ted from Oak Forrest Methodist Church. Thank you, my friend, for giving me one of the most awesome memories of my childhood. That trip with the youth group down to Florida was priceless. For this little dude, riding in your new 1991 or 1992 EuroVan camper was one of the richest memories of my youth. Sleeping in the pop-top camper/tent made me so happy—you have no idea! Now 20 years later, I’m flirting with the idea of getting a Pastor Ted era VW Eurovan. Out here on the coast, I see them all the time. The guys look like they’re having so much more fun than me. Plus, now that I have three little ones, I’m more interested cars with more seats.

So I would love if the VW New Bus Concept that they came up with a few years ago would actually get made. How much fun is this? If it were real, I’d drive up to the dealership and come back home with one.

Top: VW New Bus Concept. Bottom: A cool kid’s rendering of how to make it cooler. Victory!

 

This is How I Roll

Since there are VW New Buses available, earlier this weekI test drove a 2013 Honda Pilot, Honda Odyssey, and Ford Flex Titanium Edition. Here’s my quick review, in a Twitter-style 140 characters:

1) Honda Pilot – Another SUV. Not a lot of style. YAWN. Reliable Honda. Spacious. Holds value. Disappointing SUV gas mileage.

2) Honda Odyssey – Coolest minivan on earth in 2012 AD. Sliding doors = chill parents.  Surprising power, good on gas. 26mph hwy. Lux options. Expensive! Holds value.

3) Ford Flex, Titanium Edition – Cool. Cool. Cool. Lux! Mediocre gas mileage. Different in a good way. May or may not hold value. Ford’s street cred is on the up.

It’s too early to know what direction we’ll go. If I feel like being impractical, I’ll go the 1990s EuroVan route. Or I’ll get an older Toyota Landcruiser. Those get better with age. But more than likely, I’ll buy my family an Odyssey, and then wait for the perfect time to get a Ford Flex for myself. Or I’ll get a Toyota FJ. Or a 2008 Dodge Magnum SRT-8. Or maybe, I’ll just wait for Honda to bring back the Element and I’ll get another one of those.

It’s hard to believe because Norah is just about to turn four years old, but she’s really into this whole car search. Last night she asked to borrow my iPad and she went onto the eBay app. Five minutes later, she squealed with excitement and shouted, “Daddy, I found the perfect fam-el-eee tar.” Then she shows me this:

1962 Impala SS convertible, 22 inch rims

…she has great taste.

Flight from Atlanta to Phoenix

Flight from Atlanta to Phoenix

This is going to be a long, long flight. I’ve been in seats that don’t recline, but this one is particularly upright. It feels like I am trying to lean against a wall. Maybe worse. Could it be that this seat actually leans forward?

I spent the past few days near Mobile, Alabama, at a retreat/planning/visioning meeting with the leaders of Life Teen. It was cool because everyone’s spouses were invited, and many of them came. Unfortunately, Candyce wasn’t able to come b/c our baby sitters changed plans and, thus, Candyce stayed home with the girls.

:::

I just took a 2-hour break from writing this blog to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie on the Delta screen in front of me. I know that book snobs live to make fun of Nicholas Sparks b/c his stories are sentimental and predictable, but I am not a book snob. I am a father of three girls under four, and every minute of entertainment on our screens at home is soft, cuddly, and sweet. So any movie that I can watch with action and/or adventure is treat.

In this movie, I got enjoy all kinds of reckless manliness: wartime heroism, sleeping by a fire under a big ass tree, training dogs, restoring old homes, vintage Ford F100 pickups, a new Dodge Challenger, standing up to cops, fixing old boats, saving a cute child from a flooding river, spontaneously charming a woman by playing a piano, being misunderstood, grabbing a gun from the hand of a drunk cop, etc.

I think I’m going to get a tattoo.

:::

Last week we bought four new mattresses for the Smith household. I know that Eden is only a few months old and won’t need a mattress for a few years, but it feels dorky to go shopping for mattresses frequently. So I just bought them all at once. It was an expensive trip to the store, but I am hopeful that the quality of life for everyone in our family will get better.

Based on what Brian at the mattress store told me, our new Tempurepedic mattress will need to be replaced in ten years. So that’s the year 2022. Far off dates like that didn’t mean much to me when I was single because so much was uncertain. In less than two years, I could’ve moved, changed jobs, and fallen in love and then broken up. Now that I am married and have children, these dates actually mean something. When it’s time for me to get a new mattress, Norah will be about 14, Stella will be 12, and Eden will be 10. And those girls will probably have little brothers and sisters too. Me? I’ll be 43. That’s CRAZY.

This is another way that fatherhood has added richness to my life. Time becomes precious because every moment of life is a moment shared with my daughters. Candyce and I talk about this all the time. It doesn’t matter what else happens in our adult worlds that day—none of that should distract us from the simple joy of spending time with Norah, Stella, and Eden.

:::

I really dig my iPad b/c it’s made it easy for me to draw again. I love the app called Paper from the company fiftythree. I’ll have to post some of my drawings in this blog. Actually, I’m going to close down this laptop and start doodling on the iPad.

From San Antonio, Thoughts on Olympians

From San Antonio, Thoughts on Olympians

Inspiration San Antonio 2012

I am in a quiet San Antonio airport on a Sunday morning. The sun is slowly illuminating the clouds outside. So with every minute, this room gets brighter for me and the handful of the people at this gate that will be flying today. I am aching because I wanted so much to sleep another two hours. But I’d rather be get home early and see my girls.

Yesterday we hosted Inspiration San Antonio at Six Flags Fiesta. About 1500-1600 teenagers came to the event, which is our highest attendance in the 9 years since we first started hosting the event.

Friday was night was a rare treat. When my plane touched down in San Antonio, I called my Uncle Paul and my cousin Jonathan to see if we could meet for dinner while I was in town. Within an hour, the three of us were sitting down at a Z-Tejas near my hotel.  It was cool to see Jonathan now as a junior in college. Oh how time flies.

Olympics

Speaking of flying, I’ve really enjoyed the 2012 Olympics in London. My family never got into the Olympics when I was young, but Candyce’s family makes a big deal out of it. When the 2008 Olympics in Beijing came around, I was studying for the GMAT to enter graduate school. What a difficult, awkward time that was. We were staying at a resort and water park in Phoenix. While everyone else was out enjoying the luxuries of life, I was holed away in an air conditioned room with the curtains closed tightly so that I wouldn’t be distracted by their wonderland.  …and now four years later, here I am: Matt Smith, MBA. And now I have time to enjoy the watching the Olympics with my little family.

What has really fascinated me about the Olympics this year is that I am watching athletes at their finest. As an adult, “working out” is what you do when you want to lose weight and look hot. Very rarely is it about health. Or, if you are one in a million, you get to be an adult and a professional athlete. There you have the glory, fortune, and lifestyle. As much as I enjoy watching those professional sports, it’s an unsatisfying thought to know that he’s rewarded $200,000 for every game that he dribbles a ball up and down the court for four quarters. I sit on my couch for those four quarters and I don’t get paid anything.  But in the Olympics, the context of professional sports is stripped away. Team USA men’s basketball feels more pure than an NBA playoff game. Same guys, different context.

But the Olympics are special because the spotlight shines on those who don’t get massive multi-year salaries and even bigger endorsement deals. Gymnastics, swimming, track and field. I love that people train so hard for so long just to run 100 meters. Then they’re done. No second chance until the next Olympics.

These athletes fascinate me.

And now it’s time to board the plane.