Earlier this year, after running into a friend who’d obviously gotten in a good bit better shape than she’d been, I joined her Crossfit gym. At first it was just as part of a 6 week challenge, but after seeing the results, I opted in for a membership. I’d lost > 10 lbs and a recognizable percent of body fat, neither of which come easily to me.

So I’m now three months in, which means that I still need to do a number of the exercises scaled down. I’ve never in my life been able to do a pull-up, for example, though I’m closer than I’ve ever been before.

My Crossfit “box” participates in what seems to be a Crossfit tradition: doing the “Murph” on Memorial Day. My box does it as a big event, starting at midnight on Memorial Day and going as long as it takes to complete the iteration. As I’m neither in fit enough shape to think I could complete it, nor a particular fan of doing much at midnight, I let the opportunity pass me by.  Next year, I thought, when I can do the workout better justice.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Monday morning’s 9:30 am class transformed from situps + power cleans to “the Murph”. Ah. I haven’t yet told you what “the Murph” is. It’s in honor of a Navy SEAL, Michael Murphy, whose heroism deserves to be told over and over again. In Navy SEAL style, he had a favorite workout that BEGINS with a one mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, followed by 200 pushups, followed by 300 air squats, rounded out with another mile run.  You know, your walk in the park sort of workout…

Well, I didn’t quite complete it.  My target was to keep moving for 60 minutes (the intended cap) and get as much in as I could, while finishing out with the final run.  I did 15 rounds of 5 ring rows (my scaled down pull-ups), 10 box pushups (scaled down pushups: I can do 100 regular through the course of a day, but thought 200 within an hour was well pushing it), and 15 air squats (those I just did).  So, 3/4 of a Murph, on a day where I didn’t expect to be doing one.  Right proud of myself, I am…

It’s not the heroism of Michael Murphy.  It was a stretch beyond myself, where I kept myself on the course by not wanting to let the workout and the man it symbolized down.  Next year, it’ll be a full..  next year, at midnight.  And next year, at least some of those pullups will be full scale.

I’ve been seeing an overload of Facebook ads for something called HealthyWage. The premise is that you make a bet on your diet results. Pay in your bet amount, meet or exceed your weight loss goal, and get paid back your bet amount plus. I’d mostly ignored the ads until I went into my local kickboxing place to check out a “free” intro offer, and heard them make a pitch that over a 6 week period, I’d put up a (very large!) amount, and would then win it back if I achieved my goals. I walked out annoyed, and then checked into the HealthyWage thing again.

The premise of betting on yourself is one that I’ve seen listed before as a success tactic for weight loss.  Usually, the form has been, you put up an amount that you’ll contribute to some cause you otherwise would be strongly averse to supporting.  So, not only are you out money, but you’re mad at yourself.  I’m not going to give money to a cause I don’t find worthy, and we _do_ give money to causes we do find worthy, so that isn’t a good motivator for me.  But making some money?  Sure!

I ended up making a 6 month bet for a 25 pound weight loss.  I’d actually like to lose 30, but opted to give myself a 5 pound buffer.  I’d already signed up for a half-marathon in June – the running should help me lose the pounds, and losing the pounds should help me more readily get to the time goal I set for myself for the half- marathon.  Win win.  I’m paying in less money per month than I’d have been either as part of the kickbox gym “free” challenge or were I to pay for their monthly membership fees.  When (not if, when!) I win, I’ll collect a nice surplus to what I paid in, enough to let me feel richly rewarded for a bit, ready for a fun treat.

If all of that sounds good to you, too, use my referral link to HealthyWage.  You’ll get $40 added to your prize, and so will I.  More win win.  And then we can encourage each other through the weight loss journey.  I happen to have a “Black Card” membership to Planet Fitness, and would be happy to go with a workout buddy.

Life is busy. That seems to be a characteristic of how I do things, rather than a stage of life. In high school, I ended up taking a night class for typing, because it didn’t fit into the day’s schedule. Junior year, I convinced a teacher to give up her study period to teach me a math class that wouldn’t fit into my schedule any other way. In college, I at one point was a triple major, with a job, while captaining a rugby team, and fitting in some volunteering activities. Let’s just say I tend to fill the glass with _all_ the rocks.

The analogous activity of juggling is highly appealing to me. In juggling, everything gets held for just enough time to get something done, before moving to the next thing. It’s a game of synchronized holding: I can’t hold but so many things at a time, so the air holds the remainder until it’s those things turn. For Christmas, I received a set of spinning plates: there’s another saying beyond someone juggling – that they’ve got a lot of plates in the air. Right now, my set has three. I can get two spinning on sticks that I’m holding, and I can have the third on my head. That third spins when I do.

When I’m really on my game with those plates, I can throw them up in the air…. or both two spinning ones up in the air at a time… or once I even managed to throw between my two sticks and have them land and keep spinning… A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were passing spinning plates between us – timing and aiming our tosses so that the plates didn’t collide and could land solidly on our throwing partner’s stick.

It’s still a matter of synchronization. When I’m in control of all elements, the plates keep spinning. When I lose control, things drop. Or worse, things fly – traversing not just down but down and away, or down and oh my goodness AT. (I did just invest in some performer’s insurance, in case my things fly or fall in ways that might cause lawsuits.) . The dogs and cats are generally opting to be FAR away this evening. Thankfully, spinning plates are plastic.

It’s the evening of Christmas. Presents have long since been opened, and dinner weighs heavy in my belly. Many thanks to my wonderful parents-in-law (honestly, mostly my mother-in-law) for hosting us for dinner today. Today was a day of family. My kids enjoyed opening a “joint” present of a Nintendo Switch, and have spent the day playing with each other and even a bit with their dad and mom. Mom is a lousy Mario Kart racer – can reasonably be counted to come in last or next to last. The three kids are downstairs now playing something. I love to hear their voices as they laugh and goof around with each other.

Last night we all went to church together, the kids somewhat grudgingly, and attended service with our church family as well as Jason’s parents. I love church on Christmas Eve. As an elder, I got to help serve communion, which I always love, but _especially_ love on Christmas Eve as there are more folks there to participate in a lovely communal ritual. Christmas Eve’s evening service (only one yesterday) is also the candlelight service, which is a beautiful representation of the love and light of Christ being passed from person to person… Just gives me chills!

This morning we all opened gifts. I love to buy presents for my family. I love to see my kids enjoying giving gifts to each other. Christmas morning is one of my favorite days of year – not for stuff’s sake, but for the love shown through stuff. Oh, and I got (stuff’s sake) spinning plates and a diabolo – more fun toys for Clementine! And, of course, I got to see the kids’ faces for the Switch. It’s definitely a more expensive gift than our norm – I explained to the kids that my employer graciously gave we employees a tech bonus this year and that I was happy to share that with them.

I even got to talk with my dad this evening – a rare treat.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I am wonderfully grateful for this day, and recognize it as a gift. I hope your day had its own elements in which you saw blessing, and if not, that God blesses you in the upcoming days through those He blessed today.

I got an email this morning from Ebates, one of the cash-back apps I use when online shopping, with the heading ‘Late shoppers rejoice’.  Late shoppers?  It’s the third of December!  I’ve begun shopping, catching deals on a couple of key items, but I haven’t even aspired to be done.  Part of the joy of Christmas shopping is getting to spend time contemplating what might be a joyously received gift.  Whether I buy in a local retail store or online, I love shopping a little at a time, seeing if I can find that ‘oh, they’d love that!’ kind of item.  Last year I gave each kid a unique pair of socks that I’d tripped across on a shopping adventure; this year an ad or two which hit my email inbin made me think of a new avenue for gifting.  If I were “done”, I’d miss that joy.

Quick note: the link above includes my referral code for Ebates.  Enjoy (or not) the post with (or without) clicking on the link.  But it and Ibotta have so far worked out well for me in my personal shopping.   Always nice to get a check or a gift card back as a “rebate”.  And simpler than couponing, which I also do…

 

This week our church hosted ‘winter relief emergency shelter’. Arundel House of Hope organizes a safety net of housing during the winter for our local homeless population – our church was one of many who took a week to open its doors at night to provide housing so that folks weren’t stuck sleeping in the cold. The accommodations aren’t amazing: they’re camp cots lined up in a large room. Because our church hosted both men and women, there was a divider wall in the middle of the room to separate the men’s sleeping quarters from the women. But these aren’t glamorous or even private bunks. We manage to provide hot showers 3 nights of the 7, and offer breakfast and dinner each day. In the morning, volunteers drive our guests back to Arundel House of Hope (or sometimes to the light rail or to a methadone clinic) – everyone’s up and out by 7am, not to return again until 4:30pm when they’re driven back from the House of Hope.

To pull off this week requires an enormous amount of volunteer manpower. There are three shifts of volunteers: 4-8, 8-11, and 11-8. Yep, 11-8 – to provide a safe place for our guests to sleep, we have two volunteers on site and at least one of them awake round the ‘clock. Beyond the on-site volunteers, the list of people needs includes drivers, cooks, folks to act as hosts for the shower nights, setup, teardown, prayer team, … For our small-ish church, it’s a lot of hands in.

For the past few years, I’ve worked at least one overnight shift, and often had other reasons to come visit whilst folks were more awake. Each year, we see some new faces and some familiar ones. This year, I met a mom and her high school senior son. The son attends a local public charter school and has plans to join the Coast Guard when he graduates in a few months. He likes comic books, and he and his mom spent some time playing cards together. I met a gentleman who I ended up needing to call an ambulance for, as he was in a significant amount of abdominal pain due to his stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I met another guy who showed me the business proposal estimate he was putting together on behalf of a client of his electrician business. Another guy came down the hall in his shirt and tie each morning, after shaving and prepping in the mens’ restroom. Yet another guy had us wake him up at 3am each morning so he could catch the light rail and go to its farthest stop, and then walk another 3 miles to get to his job.

Sadly, that last guy I’d met before. He was here last year, and the year before. I don’t understand why, in his particular case. There were a few others I recognize from years’ past – some who I realize face mental or other challenges that will likely keep them coming back year after year. If we (and other churches) can give them a safe warm place to be and a welcoming environment, I hope they recognize us as bearers of God’s message of love. Others give me hope that they won’t be rejoining us next year as shelter guests, but will instead keep coming ’round “only” as members of our congregation, maybe even joining the ranks of us putting out the welcome mat again in 2019.

If you’ve gotten to the end here and want to learn more, I’d encourage you to check out Arundel House of Hope’s site. They work in a number of ways with the local homeless community, so I sent you to their front page. The direct page for the winter relief program, along with reports of how things have gone in previous years and contact info for getting involved, is here. It’s an amazing program, which enables the volunteer efforts of many to unite into a safety net for those whom society often overlooks. Arundel House of Hope puts their mission to our guests as ‘To keep those experiencing homelessness in the Baltimore/Annapolis corridor from freezing to death during the Winter months and to show them the Divine’s love in simple practical ways during our time together.’ I’m pretty convinced that both of those are pursuits worthy of time and energy.

A friend / previous co-worker of mine sent out an intriguing tweet:

George is an agile coach, among many other things.  (I believe him also to be a sailor and a grandfather, and someone whose tweets I enjoy.)  I assume his book proposal has something to with agile development or coaching of agile teams.  I’ll be looking to see when he announces that someone’s accepted it!  In the meantime, I’ve offered my services for review. 

George’s book would make #3 of book reviews for me.  He’d be in the esteemed company of Steve McConnell (‘Software Estimation’) and Karl Fogel (‘Producing Open Source Software’, 2nd edition).  I’d forgotten the McConnell book until George mentioned it recently, and Karl’s finished up his second edition fairly recently (November).  In Mr. Fogel’s case, I was spear-heading an interesting project in an interesting space and so had some experiences to offer; in Mr. McConnell’s case, I believe my pitch for reviewing was my relative lack of experience at the time – could his material speak to a neophyte software project manager?  (This was years and years ago – I’m now much older and much less neophyte.)  Both spectrums were useful for the authors: in the one case, could I offer a new insight?  In the second case, does the insights the author shares come through to the audience they intend?

I find it interesting that both ranges of experience are useful.  I find that to be the case in my projects, as well, both software and otherwise.  Seek to contribute whether you’re the expert or the newbie.  The value you offer is different, but valuable on both ends!

I’m in a beach house in North Carolina, relaxing on the computer with some homework after a busy day at the beach and boardwalk. There are 10 of us in a massive beach house that’s only a few hundred feet from a beach that’s private to the community. It’s my 3 kids and hubby, his parents, his brother and wife and niece. We’ve just been chilling here since Tuesday, enjoying the beach, the house pool, the whirlpool, and an amazing amount of space and comfort.

Growing up, vacations were at best an over the weekend camping trip with my mom and grandpa. Dad would usually stay home to take care of the pooches. We didn’t go out of state, much less do the out of the country thing we plan for our vacation next year. I don’t have many memories of those vacations, though am hoping for grander ones in my kids’ brains from this one and the other ones we’ve taken. These opportunities to hang out as a family, particularly with the larger family, are things I love to give them, and memories I love to make for myself.

We’re here courtesy of the generosity of my employer. She owns this house and allows employees to have a week’s stay for the cost of the house cleaning and a fee for pool cleaning/electricity/water, etc. All a heck of lot less expensive than renting something down here in the summer. My hubby and I have at various points thought about purchasing a vacation home to let us do a similar thing, albeit with less employee motivation motives. We’ve assumed that if we bought a vacation home, it’d have a significant usage for friends, family, church members, etc… On our walk yesterday, we talked about it a bit more. I’m not sure we’d ever get more than two weeks, max, of use on a vacation property. And the idea of tying ourselves down to another property beyond our primary home doesn’t make sense to us. So, we’ll have to let the vacation home idea pass by and enjoy the largesse of my employer. And/or, work with the vacation resorts of the world to craft our vacation. Send us your deals! We’ll have to find ways to extend hospitality and generosity through means other than loaning out our vacation home. The Coleman’s have vacation memories to make!

“It really seems like everyone is turning 25 this summer.” So said a former youth group teen of mine on the occasion of her birthday. My first reaction was “I wish!”. I turn 43 later this week, and 25 is a full adult-sized gap behind me. But then I rethought that.

At 25, I had been married a year, but we didn’t yet have kids. We had just bought a house, and saw the long tail of debt that that involved. At 43, we’re still in that house, but the mortgage no longer seems so large nor so long – by shortly after 46, it’ll in fact be paid. And it doesn’t hurt that the salary of the 43 year old me beats tail the salary of the 25 year old me.

At 25, I wanted to run a marathon. In my 30s, I did it. And then did it again. And ran some half marathons in there, as well.

At 25, I think I had given up playing rugby. I’d played in college and played after college, but just couldn’t make it all fit in schedule wise. In my late 30s, I took up rugby again (oldest player on the team by far) and went to the national championships twice. I hung up my cleats for good just shy of my 40th birthday, and now I’m amused at the players on my previous team who retire in their late 20s because they feel “too old” to keep playing. (For the record, the recent Olympics had rugby, and one of my former teammates played in it. I think she was the second oldest player on the team, which put her in her 30s when she went to Rio.)

At 25, I wanted a motorcycle. For my 41st birthday, I took the motorcycle safety class, and then crashed the bike on the course, failing the test. Later that week I screwed up my courage and went and retook the test, got my license, and a few weeks later, bought my motorcycle.

In my twenties, I quit my software development career and contemplated potential careers as a financial planner, a decorative furniture painter, a children’s clown, or a full-time volunteer. I returned to software development fairly quickly, but just a year ago, began clowning for fun after the encouragement I received at a Christian retreat.

So, I’m not turning 25 this summer. I’m having a heck of a lot more fun than that!

Realized my last post was almost two months ago! It’s been a bit of a busy period.

Clementine shared balloons and fun with kids at a community festival, marched in a parade, and served as a entertainment on the midway. Oh, and got herself a new pair of polka dotted oversize Converse sneakers!

I bought, built, and directed the decorations for vacation bible school, led games for vacation bible school, and went with a group of youth (including both of my daughters) on a week long mission trip. I even got to use one of my clown magic tricks for the VBS kids… that was my excuse to buy the requisite parts, so good to use it at least once or twice.

In between, I’ve also been working my way through a Coursera multi-class specialization on strategic leadership, and gotten to help bring a few candidates into our company. A bit more learning on Kubernetes, Gitlab, and ELK as part of the day job, too.

Oh, and we got a kitten! Strategy suggests I should keep up with my daily allergy pills. Miso (kitten’s name) is cute, but he makes ‘me so’ sneezy