Choices, Changes and a New Addition

When Courney and I were first engaged we both agreed that we wouldn't start a family until we turned 30. Two and a half years ago I turned 27 less than a month after our son Riley was born. Over these two and half years we've grown as a family in so many ways. We've sold our home, moved to a completely new city, sold our cars and donated most of our possessions to live a simpler life without a robust support system of friends and family like we had in Memphis. Courtney is able to stay at home with Riley and we make it work on half our previous income in a city that's twice as expensive to live in. Every parent out there knows this but parenthood isn't something you come into knowing how to do. You make choices and adjust as you go, constantly monitoring and considering everything. We're really happy with the big choices we've made since Riley was born and not so happy with some smaller ones (but that's for another day). At the end of 2015 we were ready to grow our family and in February we got the great news that we're having a second child. Usually people share this on social media much sooner than I am but we chose not to. It's been fun to tell people individually over the last few months. We're having another boy and we can't wait to meet him in November. The holidays are going to have a new blessing and a new chapter for us as a family. I can confidently say that we're ready for it.

Oh, and Riley is ready to be a big brother!

Riley’s Going to Be A Big Brother!

Racism is the Bogeyman

Let me lay my "political" views out here for the first time by linking to this intimate piece by Albert McMurry. It presents a fear I can't understand but can damn well prevent from growing. As a father, voter and community member I can do something. As a white male I have no excuse for apathy on the subject of racism. The simple fact that Donald Trump's statements, demeanor and actions towards any race other than caucasian is fueled by hatred is exactly why he won't get my vote.

via John Gruber

Concerning the Ebb and Flow of “Work”

Shawn Blanc writes:

You have to be inspired first before you can create.

You have to learn before you can teach.

You have to experience before you can share.

There is no shame in taking time “off” of your work, in order to learn something, experience something, and be inspired.

This is the ebb and flow of work. This is having multi-year cycles where we grow in our mastery of creation beyond just mastery of tools and workflows. This is why resting well is so valuable and why learning, thinking, and discovering cannot be underrated.

Over the last two years I've been going through a mental transformation to adapt to a mindfulness that mirrors what Shawn has conveyed in this piece. It's one of the reasons Course Code isn't updated daily and probably won't be for as long as I maintain a day job. I'm happy with that now but two years ago I was a mess between my stressful day job, independent consulting business and expecting myself to write something of any value. It's difficult to find inspiration when that's how you spend your life. It's not that I regret that time in my life, I'm glad I was able to learn from it in my mid-twenties just as we found out Courtney was pregnant with our son. I've been on an interesting road to a more thoughtful investment of my time since. That has included a couple of dramatic changes in our lives and spans of time where I retracted from aspects of life that I needed to let rest (this site included). Overall it's lead me to have longer sprints of inspiration and creativity and has helped me continue to hone in on what's worth my time.

If you're stressed and pulling yourself a hundred different ways, take a break to assess and find what you truly want for your life. What's in the way of letting that be the driver for the decisions you make? If you need to make changes to get there, do it. It will take time (likely more time than you're imagining) but I can tell you that it's worth it. Rest and reflect so you can move forward.

Mr. Independent

My buddy Stephen announced he was going independent today. Let me just take this internet armor off for a minute to say I’m so proud of Stephen. He’s poured himself into his writing and podcasting for years now as a side gig and he’s finally able to take it full time. I have immense respect for the amount of hard work and dedication I know Stephen put into getting himself prepared to sustain the independent career. It’s not easy to be steadfast in saying no to so many things so you can say yes to the the long term goal. Speaking as someone who has similar long term goals of going independent I’m proof that sticking with it is difficult [1]. Stephen joins Shawn Blanc, Myke Hurley, Marco Arment, Jason Snell and many others in proving that if you put in the effort and continually invest in your craft it is possible to live sustainably doing so.

512 Pixels 2015 T-Shirt

Ok, now that all of the feels are out it’s time to help support Stephen’s independent career in the best way possible; buying a t-shirt! I’ll leave it to Stephen to describe the thought behind the design.

The quote on the back of the shirt comes from the original Macintosh unveiling in January 1984. After an impressive multimedia demo, the computer spoke:

Hello. I am Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag.

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer you can’t lift!

Obviously, I can talk, but right now I’d like to sit back and listen. So, it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me … Steve Jobs!

In so many ways, this single demonstration explains almost everything about Apple. Take good technology, infuse it with something special and you’ll end up with a great product that can change the lives of its users.

  1. 6 months between posts is bonkers. My Illiad length post that explores why it happened is currently being drafted.  ↩

Project 365

I've always seen Project 365 as a daunting thing to try. There are a few people I follow online that have participated in years past and I've never been willing to challenge myself to give it a try. Stephen Hackett provides a good description of what I've always assumed as an observer:

Having completed three of these projects in the past, I can speak first-hand to the difficulty of them. Even in a world full of iPhones, it's hard at first to remember to take and post a photo every 24 hours. Subject matter has a tendency to grow stale, but I view it as a challenge to pay attention to every day's uniqueness.

This year I'm giving it a go and posting a photo a day. I'm living in a different city that I find new inspirations woven into on a daily basis. Many aspects of life are going to fluctuate this year with 2015 providing a bright outlook for Courtney, Riley and I. With what seems like a limitless amount of new experiences ahead of me here in Chicago I know that I won't have any shortage of opportunities for a photo per day. The question is whether I will be mindful enough to catch those moments with my camera.

Follow along with me on Flickr or on Twitter.

RP: 'Introducing The City Harmonic'

Introducing The City Haromonic

It's 75 degrees outside and pain runs through my body. This is emotional pain like I've never felt in my life. I'm driving up I-10 in Florida from what was my grandparent's house. I've been with my uncle for the last week on an unexpected trip to help my grandmother brace for the impact of divorce.

While my uncle and I drove down together, he's stayed behind as there is uncertainty around grandma's stability when we started packing to head back to Memphis. So I'm alone in a red Volvo on the 13 hour drive home when I begin to process the past week. The lawyer, the counselors, the endless scanning of documents, the friends, the family and the tears. Oh, the tears.

After 56 years of marriage and a family so woven into this patriarchy, it's all unbound in less than two years. I keep thinking this can't be happening. How could it? Not us. We can't be that family. Can we? We're stronger than this. Aren't we? It's all so selfish but it's what everyone in our family has always known to be good and true and now it's over. Dead. Gone.

I'm grasping more than ever for understanding and love that can fill a hole wider than I thought existed in me. I'm searching for God in all of it. Then this song comes on the radio in the background. The DJ of the most recent FM station I've been able to tune into talks the song up as one that's jumping up the charts.

"Here's "Manifesto" by The City Harmonic on 97.1, The Love of K" (or something to that effect).

All I hear is God. Drenched into every sound. It's poignant and loud. Beautiful and noisy. It's what I need. Like a cup of water in the middle of the desert. I realize that I don't know who this band is but I need more of what they're offering. The Volvo doesn't have an auxilary port so I pull over and dig out my headphones. I look The City Harmonic up on Spotify and find a single album. Introducing the City Harmonic. There are six songs. I immediately press play.

I Wonder
The song opens with an orchestra getting in pitch and the conductor tapping their baton on the podium to open the album.

Tears begin to fall almost immediately.

"I Wonder" questions the love of God. It's size and how we see it in our life. Everything hits home when gets to the second verse.

I see it in the pain of the widowed wife.
In death defeated where he found true life.
I see the love of God and I feel alive.
I wonder, I wonder.

These words are what I'm searching for. Finding God's love in the pain of life. I drink it up. Then comes track two.

This is the song that led me to seek this album out. It says so much about who Christ is and what I believe. Even in darkness there is light.

We believe in the one true God.
We believe in Father Spirit Son.
We believe that good has won.

It's hard not to sing the chorus at the top of your lungs and lose yourself in Him. The tears haven't stopped and I continue to belt out garbled lyrics with lots of AMEN.

My God

I lift my eyes up,
In these days of trouble.
Will my help come from You?
And if I stumble,
Will You pick me up?
What else could a father do?

The words are crafted as if they're for me in this struggle. Then the beat picks up and the second verse opens.

I lift my heart up,
Whether it’s whole or broken,
Good God I know You’re gonna work it out.

What more can I do in this moment? I can't handle the weight I'm carrying. I'm so lost in this music that been carrying me for the last 13 minutes and I've lost control of emotion. It just keeps pouring out of me. Everything I've bottled up over the last 7 days since I found out what's been going on and what the outcome will be is just spilling over.

Coming My Way
"Coming My Way" soothes and calms. It's a beautiful ballad to God and talks about the journey home to heaven and finding heaven here on Earth in Him. I calm ever so slightly.

I Am
A simple guitar riff, a drum beat and into the first verse.

I am a man who built his house on sand.
I am a thief upon a cross.
I’m just like Judas, that sorry fool.
Who can’t be glad for what he’s got.

In all of the pain, these words pierce my soul. I've been angry and bitter at the circumstances and choices that have led to what is unthinkable to me. And yet, I'm no better. I'm fallen and failing each and every day. The chorus repeats that God is good, God is great and God is love. And I am...

I am a man who has been bought by love.
I am a man who sold his soul.
I’m like the man, who when he found his pearl.
He gave up everything he owned.

Through His grace I'm redeemed and I am love. Love works.

This song sweeps me straight off of my feet and I listen to it again. And again. And again. It's such a beautiful portrait of forgiveness and the redemption that comes through His unending mercy. This is instantly my favorite track on the album. The tears continue to flow as I realize how broken I am in my own walk and how easily I've judged others throughout this ordeal.

What I Want

So go on sing, sing, all of heaven and earth.
But don’t just sing, be and be every word.

This is my favorite line from "What I Want". It asks us to step out on our faith and walk the talk. To be the change that God calls us to be on this Earth. This is my constant struggle. To fearlessly be who I'm called to be.

I contemplate the experience I've just had. Through these six songs being played a few times over I've given up my burden and opened myself up to God in a way that I've been missing since I was in college. This album is now permanently bound to this specific moment in my life. The ghost of my burden is forever reflected in this album for me. And yet I can't recommend Introducing The City Harmonic more highly.

It's been roughly two years since I jumped into that red Volvo and this album still brings tears to my eyes when it comes on. This past week was the second Thanksgiving without my grandfather present and it has left an impression on our family tradition. As we grandkids grow up and start having our own kids the weight of the thing still lingers. It's been 7 months since I originally shared this as a journal entry. I was too scared to put these words on Course Code directly in April so I buried it in a Day One entry but this is the force that music can have on a person's soul and the fear is overcome by it. I hope that someone might find a similar strength from these six songs.

A New Season...

The Windy City

It was nearly 7 years ago that I was getting ready to start working at the local Apple Store here in Memphis. I'd moved here 3 months earlier to help my uncle and his family build their new home in Mississippi. He'd called me on a Monday with the offer to pay me while I oversaw the contractors who were working on multiple aspects of the house and to perform a variation of work getting the house constructed. I loaded my car in Canton, OH and was in Memphis on Friday. Digging trenches, sanding and painting what seemed like an endless amount of walls and installing pillars to hold the porch overhang that wrapped most of the house were only a few of the tasks that come to mind while I was working on the house. My uncle is a firefighter in a surrounding suburb of Memphis and has weeks where he couldn't be there to oversee the construction process. Our goal was to get the house into livable conditions to house our tradition of Thanksgiving at their house. Once we'd rounded into October and were where we needed to be, it was time for me to figure out what I was doing next. I applied at Apple, got called in for a group interview and was in core training by the end of the month. It was at Apple that I first met some of my longest friends in Memphis such as Stephen Hackett. I also met Courtney within 3 weeks of working at Apple. She was part of the batch of new hires right after me. Over the next two and a half years I moved through nearly ever role within Apple Retail with the exception of management, began my relationship with Courtney and asked her to marry me.

From Apple I moved to Securas Consulting Group and managed the Apple side of the business. I started with Securas after a series of unfortunate events had occurred within the company. We were starting small with the intention of keeping it small. We moved offices from Collierville to North Memphis and started with the handful of clients we carried over. I was responsible for the Apple services side of the business which included repair work. I can remember replacing hundreds of displays, bezels and top cases that plagued the non-unibody MacBooks over the summer for our education customers. Stephen and Jake Graves came in to help perform repairs. We'd work late into the night from the auto garage turned repair room that was the Securas Office. Courtney and I got married about 6 months after I'd started at Securas. It was an amazingly perfect day in October. It's hard to beat Memphis in the Fall.

One of my clients with Securas Consulting Group was Power Center Academy. PCA is a charter school here in Memphis that had seen so much success it was being approached to replicate the model of the school across the city of Memphis. This led to the formation of Gestalt Community Schools and to an offer to become it's IT Director. I accepted the opportunity and the challenge that was ahead of me. Being responsible for taking a single school with an emphasis on technology in the classroom and planning to scale it to multiple campuses with a standardized model within budget was a lot of responsbility. Being the lone IT support for 450 people at the same time made it daunting. I was yet again calling on my friends to come help me with the overwhelming work that has to be done in the minimal two month summer window in preparation for the new school year. During my time at GCS I found myself heavily dependent on High Point as my release and rejuvination to continue pressing forward during some of the most stressful weeks and months of my career. As GCS started to even out into a more normal 40 hours per week I started serving at High Point and have been doing so for a year now. I've made so many new friends that are walking through the same aspects of life as I am.

When Gestalt went through some layoffs earlier this year which included my position I was anxious to avoid going straight into another tech job. I needed to figure out where I was going from here. I decided to expand my side business and see if I could build it into something that we could live off of. We listed our home with the intention of using the equity to pay off all of our debt and make a down payment on a house in Memphis proper. Over the last few months we've been challenged in so many ways with both the business and the house. Adding new clients is incredibly difficult, especially when you're trying to build sustainable income from month to month. Our house has had 30 or more showings with no offers. We've burned through the little runway we've had and are running on blessings and prayers at this point. Even with all of this, the last few months have been an amazing learning opportunity and test of our faith in God to carry us forward. He's provided enough to keep us afloat and we've been happier as a family.

It's been almost a month since my grandfather passed away at the age of 97. The 12 hour trip to Ohio gave Courtney and I a lot of time to talk. It wasn't long before we were talking about what we wanted for ourselves as a family and we kept coming to a place where a big change was crucial to the mix. I brought up the idea of moving to Chicago (a favorite place of ours) and it was as if I'd just taken Courtney's dream directly out of her head. She told me she'd avoided bringing it up in the past because of how engrained I am in Memphis. It showed me that my focus on so many things has blurred my vision for what Courtney is thinking, especially as we've grown into parents and our decisions have a larger impact. It was a near instant agreement and release of tension when I brought up moving to Chicago. We were both in agreement that it was what we needed to do. For me it felt like the first time we were walking together, in sync, as a family. Uprooting our lives from Memphis to Chicago might sound exciting (and it is) but it's not easy. We'll be moving away from our support system of family and friends and starting fresh in a city that neither of us is familiar with. We've been spoiled to have lots of free babysitters and the ability to accomodate our schedules without much issue with Riley. Moving to Chicago means we won't have any safety net. Ultimately it will make us better parents and it will force us to grow. I've spent the last three weeks applying and interviewing and am happy to be joining the team at MXOtech next week. As soon as the house sells, Courtney and Riley will be coming to Chicago. Our new season of life began months ago and we just weren't attentive to it. It's astounding to me how easy it is to resist what God has for us through our own vision of what our life should look like. If you're in a similar situation, try to let it go and see what God has for you. I guarantee it will be the right path.