Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Diet Plan

Shawna and I started a new diet yesterday. This isn't one of those "we're going to eat healthier" diets. It's a Medi-Fast diet. You eat six times a day. Five of those "meals" are provided by Medi-Fast. The sixth meal is a "lean and green" meal. It consists of 5-7oz of lean meat and a veggie. This meal you provide yourself.

Each of the Medi-Fast meals is 100 calories. And they are entirely interchangeable. There are about 70 different things you can choose from. They all have basically the same nutritional profile.

So what we're talking about is basically around 800-1000 calories per day. They actually warn you against exercising during the first 3-4 weeks of the diet. And they give you measures to take if you suffer from headache or dizziness as a result of the low caloric intake.

The Medi-Fast meals are interesting. Many of them are simply powder that you mix with water and microwave. Two such meals I had yesterday were eggs (egg whites) and vegetarian sloppy joes. These were both surprisingly good.

The program also calls for drinking a gallon of water per day, or 1oz of water for every 2lbs of body weight, whichever is greater.

It's certainly too early to draw any conclusions. Based on our experience with day one, we think this is something we can do. And with one month of Medi-Fast food coming in at over $600, we had already decided that this was a commitment we were determined to make.

I personally think that one of the bigger factors in the success of this program will be the almost complete removal of decision making from our diet. We totally don't have to think about it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ship of Fools

This was written right after President Obama's initial election. It's doubly true now that he's been re-elected, with half the nation in utter disbelief that anyone in their right mind would give this man a second term.

"The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president."

~from a Czech newspaper

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life Changes

Today I accepted a new full-time programmer/analyst position with a wood products company in Eugene, and gave my two-week notice with my current employer.

Roughly three months ago my employer reduced my hours (and pay) by 40%. Otherwise known as a partial layoff. The reason given was dollars. Government budgets are tight everywhere and the particular services I am employed to support are not bringing in the revenue to justify the cost. And I was the last one in my group to be hired... so that made me the first to go.

If you count both of my stints with the ESD... I've worked there for a total of 9 years. By far longer than I've been with any other programming job. Most of the people I work with have been there that whole time. My coworkers have been great. And no matter what else has happened... it's the people I work with that made the ESD a great place to be. I'm definitely going to miss that.

So a new chapter is beginning. I'm moving from a government job back into the private sector. And this is not only a private sector job I'm taking, but it's in a family-owned business. About as far from a government job as I'm likely to get.

I mentioned to my new boss today that I might experience a little "culture shock". But I made sure he knew that I fully intend on stepping up to the plate and doing a good job for them. One of the notable things about my new boss so far... it's obvious that he really *wants* me there. They are totally glad to get me. That's a nice feeling.

Regarding the culture shock... at the ESD we are limited to 40-hour work weeks. At my new job, they are scheduling me for 48-hour weeks right off the bat. I will be one of two programmers... and the other guy typically puts in 50 hours a week. But the job is salary... so 48-hour weeks pay the same as 40-hour ones do.

They don't award sick leave at my new job. They just figure if you're sick, you're sick. I guess with overtime being the norm, they assume you'll make that up and it will still work out in their favor.

They are initially going to have me working four 10-hour days in the office, and one 8-hour day from home each week. In addition to the mandatory overtime, I will have a one-hour commute each way. That's going to make for some long days. Each workday that I'm in the office will be about 12 hours long if you include the commute. I haven't figured out how lunch will factor in. At least I will only have to do that four days a week.

I feel like I'm making a big leap. Not really sure what I'm getting myself into. Not sure how it will all work out. A lot of unknowns. But I have high hopes and a sense of adventure. I am feeling pretty good about a challenge. I think I will probably find out a few things about myself in the process.

My wife has also taken a new job. She has one day left to work on her current job before she starts on with the office of the state fire marshal (part of the state police). I will see if I can get her to blog a little about that.

~Elden

Monday, October 8, 2012

Great C.S. Lewis quote

I posted a portion of this quote on Facebook today. Then I found myself wanting to read the context in which it was written. Well here it is!

“But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mass exodus...

Preach it brother! This man is calling for all Christians and Bible-believing Jews to end their affiliation with the democratic party. He tells it like it is.

Our wayward selves

I've been reading one of those daily "one-year" Bibles for a number of years. They walk you through the Bible in one year. They give you a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, a little Psalms and a little Proverbs each day.

This really gives one a clear contrast between the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament is full of the love of Christ. All about Him wanting to give us new life.

But the Old Testament seems to paint a very different picture of God. The God of the Old Testament seems to really be a jealous God who is not always that merciful toward His people when they go astray.

So as I read, I've been trying to see some sort of balance between the two seemingly different pictures of God.

Yesterday I ran across this in Jeremiah.
"My wayward children," says the LORD, "come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts." Jeremiah 3:22
This verse comes after a fairly lengthy description of how unfaithful Israel had been to God. In spite of that, God wanted them back.

The neat thing about this is, God appears to be saying that if they return to Him, He will essentially help them to be less wayward.

Even though I may not want to do what is right all the time, I would like to want to. I think that as we turn to God, He helps us want to.

~Elden

Saturday, September 22, 2012

There's a rule and there's a judge

There is a new movie coming out about the start of Scientology. It's called "The Master". Apparently it's quite good as far as acting and recreating the 1950 time period goes.

I was just reading another review of the movie here.

The review states that some in Hollywood turn to Scientology to help them have the discipline to combat the temptations of the show biz world. Below is an excerpt where this benefit of Scientology is compared to similar benefits of other religions.

And of course, others will say that traditional religion provides even better answers to eternal human concerns. Those traditional religions, after all, can provide plenty of rigor; indeed, it can be argued that the more rigorous the faith, the longer it survives and flourishes.

A case in point is Orthodox Judaism. Lloyd Green, a lawyer in New York City--and sometime contributor to Fox News Opinion--notes that every day, the observant Jew recites a liturgy that includes the words, Yesh din v'yesh dayan--“There’s a rule and there’s a judge.” Green explains: “We are reminded that there are rules and the individual is not the ultimate self-arbiter.” Those rules were decreed by God, and have been adhered to for thousands of years. Now that’s rigor.

So yes, “The Master” is an interesting movie to see, and Scientology is interesting in its way, too. But for most people, other traditions provide more. Much more.


I really like that Jewish saying... "There’s a rule and there’s a judge". We are not to be our own masters. Not a bad idea to remind oneself of that daily.

~Elden

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Person Can Make a Difference

I believe that one person really can make a difference.  All too often we hear reference to the fact that I am just one person, I can’t change the world.  I am learning that we really do all individually and collectively make a difference.  Just like the rock that is skipped across the still water that sends ripples as it disappears into the bottom of the lake; we too send ripples across not only our lives but the lives all around us.  Just imagine what the lake would look like if 3 or 4 were skipping rocks at the same time, now imagine how dramatically the face of it would change if a hundred all did the same.  The ripple effect becomes exponential, not only do we have an impact on those around us but also on the spheres of influences that those around us have. 

One can look back at history and see many examples of individuals who made a huge impact on the world.  Billy Graham, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln just to name a few.  We see their influence on the world and attribute it to some special gift that they had.  While circumstances may have impacted their influence they each chose to use the situations they were given to make a difference for others.  I am not sure that they were really anything “special” more that the outcome was based on the decisions that they made. 

We are all nobody special and yet we all are special in that each and everyone regardless of status, upbringing, mistakes of the past, and even natural ability can and do make a difference.  Recently I received notice that my son was going to receive the Presidential Unit Citation.  This award is given for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy.  The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.”  How does a young man from Keizer, Oregon; raised by a single mom; not associated with anyone of high stature; just a regular every day kid become such a hero?  I would like to take credit that I was such a wonderful mom who had all the right answers and did all the right things but that’s really not true (except the wonderful mom thing, well okay truthfully, I just did the best that I knew how with lots of mistakes and tons of God’s grace).  What really shaped this young man was a result of the seeds that were planted by all those who crossed his path, yes even the bad seed. 

Kind of an interesting thought how does bad seed turn into good fruit?  While the seed that was sown may not have necessarily been meant for good; our attitude, decisions and choices that we make can stall us, turn us bitter, or even develop into a full blown pity party.  (Oh yes I have often had coffee with pity, sometimes even a full scale lunch, it was a lonely gathering that only I enjoyed, unfortunately for those around me it often had a rancid odor, in other words while I might have enjoyed the pity party it stunk for those around me.)  Or we can use the seed to turn a different direction, reevaluate our purpose and mission, or in my sons’ case set out to prove that they were wrong.  Whatever the motivation it still boils down to decisions and choices and in many cases those decisions and choices must be made over and over again.  The problem with much of life is it is so daily.  Daily decisions (often the same ones being made over and over again), daily habits, daily choices that often don’t really seem to make a difference.  Maybe it’s just that we don’t see the difference that they make.  Consider eating a 3 inch chocolate chip cookie.  Will it make a difference if I have one today? Probably not, but if I make a decision to have a cookie today, and then tomorrow, and the next and so on that simple cookie that adds 120 calories a day, adds 3600 calories in a month or 43,200 calories in a year.  There is power in exponential growth.  Influence works the exact same way; if we each only made a difference in a person’s life exponential growth will automatically kick in.  But even more what if we each made a difference each and every day whether it be simply holding the door open, buying a meal or a bag of groceries for someone who is hungry, a kind word, or even simpler sharing a smile with everyone we walk or drive by.  By looking at things this way changing the world seems more of a possibility, maybe even a reality.

One may never know the impact that they have on others.  I have been extremely blessed to see the impact of one’s life that really just loved and accepted others where they were.  I have had so many come up to me and tell me how much they knew that Ryan loved them.  He didn’t just say it, he showed it.  It has impacted me to emulate my son and make a difference in others and I do believe that I can inspire others to do the same.  It is best summed up by John F Kennedy “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”

Shawna

Friday, August 10, 2012

For Your Birthday

I like to think about
God watching over our lives
from the beginning...

...arranging things
so that our paths would cross
and we would realize
we were meant for each other.

God made you for me...
and I bet it makes Him happy
to see what a wonderful husband
you are.

It makes me happy, too...
having your love
and sharing our faith
in the One who knows us so well.

I love you.

---------------------------------------

Above was the verse on the birthday card my wife gave me today. While I'm not entirely sure I'm worthy of such praise... I can truly identify with the idea that our relationship was divinely arranged from the beginning. I know that some people have their faith reinforced after witnessing healings and such. Our relationship is one miracle that has definitely reinforced mine. It was as much an obvious evidence of God as I could imagine.

-=Elden=-

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pondering Thoughts of the Vastness of Life

I sat outside this afternoon at the picnic table at work soaking up the sun (yes it does shine once in awhile here in Oregon).   The view was tremendous.  My office is on a hillside overlooking the south part of town, it is almost a park like setting.  The industrial area below was humming with work, and you could hear the traffic moving along I-5, yet the birds chirping seemed to be a much stronger sound, well at least more peaceful and beautiful.  The valley gives way to rolling hills which leads into the mountains, really quite breath taking.

As I sat there taking it all in I was overwhelmed by the vastness.  Quite different than the view from my desk which is really limited.  I began to wonder what God's view was at that time (and yes for a brief minute, Ryan's view from Heaven, how spectacular it must be).

I began to think about the little details.  I am confident that in one of the houses, way across where I could barely see, was someone.  However, my view being limited I couldn't tell if there was someone, let alone what color their hair was, or eyes, or were they wearing flip flops?  Probably not at least not blinged out ones like those of us who are "cool" do.  Okay squirrel....(for those of you who are wondering what in the world that means, watch the movie UP). Focus...okay back to the view and thought.

How in the world can God up in Heaven, look down at the vastness and yet care about each and everyone of us individually?  He not only knows what color my hair is, He has a plan and purpose that is specific just for me.   While I don't doubt this at all, I just don't understand how that is possible.  He is not surprised by anything that happens and He promises to work all things for good.  Our lives are indeed like the tapestry.  Lots of threads all woven together.  

While I prefer bright cheery colors and could live with out the black and dark brown colors, I realize the blacks and the browns or dark colors if you will, are what give the tapestry definition.  Just like the dark times in our lives, they add definition and dimension to make up the final picture. While I know this is true, I still would prefer to live without the dark.  Perhaps I have already had enough of the dark colors and now its time for the brightness to paint my life.

It's been a little over 5 years since Ryan was KIA.  I am reminded of it again as the anniversary of some of his best buddies approaches tomorrow.  I couldn't help but ask why they were taken.  Ryan's purpose was to protect them, if they were going to be taken as well, then why did he have to die also?  These questions still remain unanswered, although the more I learn the more I wonder if he could have handled it.  He took the other losses so personal.  He told me his job and mission was to protect the others.  He had felt like he failed.  So when he was killed I accepted it, knowing he was saving the others (okay so accepted may not be the best word, but it did help knowing that he was doing what he was "called" to do).  All that to say that the darkest days have also shaped who I am.  I definitely have a different perspective on life and it's brevity.  In fact 6 years ago, I probably wouldn't have taken the time to sit out on the picnic bench.

We don't always know what God's plan for us is but we can stand on His promises knowing that He loves us, never gives us more than we can handle and will work all things for good.  Just like the sunshine that beat down on my face today, God has blessed me immensely with a new phase of bright colors and sunshine with the perfect man for me.

You're the Best, Shawna

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Principles for Life

I have been reading Black Belt Patriot by Chuck Norris (which I highly recommend). Imagine what this country if not the world would be like each if us adapted his Principles for Life:

  1. I will develop myself to the maximum of my potential in all ways.
  2. I will forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.
  3. I will always be in a positive frame of mind and convey this feeling to every person that I meet.
  4. I will continually work at developing love, happiness and loyalty in my family and acknowledge that no other success can compensate for failure in the home.
  5. I will look for the good in all people and make them feel worthwhile.
  6. If I have nothing good to say about a person, I will say nothing.
  7. I will give so much time to the improvement of myself that I will have no time to criticize others.
  8. I will always be as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
  9. I will maintain an attitude of open-mindedness toward another person's viewpoint while still holding fast to that which I know to be true and honest.
  10. I will maintain respect for those in authority and demonstrate this respect at all times.
  11. I will always remain loyal to God, my country, family and my friends.
  12. I will remain highly goal-oriented throughout my life because that positive attitude helps my family, my country, and myself.

Just imagine.... Shawna

Monday, April 30, 2012

Civic review

The following is an excerpt from a review of the Civic by a Kelley Blue Book editor. After our trip up the coast yesterday, I can say it's pretty accurate.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Honda Civic is not the smoothest or quietest car in the category. Nor is it the most fun to drive. Curious, then, that we'd rate it tops in driving dynamics in our shootout of the four newest cars in the category. How does it do it? With the help of steering and pedal response that other automakers could only dream of delivering. It's easy to overlook excellence in these areas, but just as driving feel is a big part of the magic in a Porsche, the way the Civic gracefully listens and responds to a driver's input is a key reason we consider the 2012 Honda Civic the connoisseur's compact sedan.

-=Elden=-

Saturday, April 28, 2012

His and hers

Shawna and I had talked a bit about the idea of his/hers Honda Civics. While we both thought the idea was interesting, she wasn't really having much of it. Her Chrysler 300C HEMI was quite a bit nicer than a Civic. We also felt we needed a four-door car for occasional passengers.

But then I found out that the Civic EX-L version has leather and heated seats! Once I mentioned that, she was all over it. So we threw out the idea of having a four-door altogether and decided on a second two-door Civic. The EX-L model comes standard with an automatic transmission. So hers is an automatic and mine is a stick. I'm sure that will at least mess me up once in awhile with me either trying to hit the clutch in hers or forgetting to in mine.

The vehicle pictured is identical to the one we got for her today. I call it the "princess" edition. And her Chrysler 300 is going to find a new home somewhere.

While two new cars at once would normally be a little unreasonable. We had very good trade-ins. I think we traded both cars in at a very good place in their lives. And we got a fair price for them.

Actually it really seemed that the two-door EX-L was just meant to be hers. These are very hard to find in the two-door models. We went to the only dealer in the area who had one. We arrived at 10:10am. And when we arrived our salesperson told us that she had an appointment with a man to buy this very car at 10:00am. But he was late because he got called into work. We literally bought it out from under him. He showed up while we were finishing up our negotiations.

-=Elden=-

Friday, April 27, 2012

New car

A few days ago I parted with my 2006 Mustang in favor of a new 2012 Honda Civic.

Things change a little bit when a single-person one-car situation turns in to a married-couple two-car family.

When we got married, Shawna had a nice 2006 Chrysler 300 with 90,000 miles on it. And I had a 2006 Mustang with just over 80,000 miles. Both great cars. But as I was thinking about practicality and the future, I sort of figured that one really nice car is enough. Our other car should be more sensible and more economical.

While a smaller two-door car would be ok for us most of the time, we know there will be times when we need something larger with four doors. So the logical choice was to trade in my Mustang on an economy car. Then just keep the Chrysler 300 for those times when we need a four-door.

So I started thinking about trading in the Mustang on something more lower-end. I was initially leaning toward a Nissan Versa or a Toyota Yaris. But we decided to go a notch or two up with the Honda Civic. We found one online at a local dealer that was two years old and "certified pre-owned" with only 12,000 miles on it. A four-door Civic with an automatic.

We went to the dealer with a pretty solid plan for negotiating. We decided if they didn't meet our price requirements that we would just flat walk out. Turns out they had sold the car we wanted. So instead we started eyeing a brand new bright red two-door Civic with a 5-speed.

Oddly enough, the price of a two year-old used Civic was not very different at all from the price of a new one. After talking to a number of people about this, it seems to be true. The used car market is weird right now when you're looking for low-mileage cars.

Their asking price for the new car wasn't bad. But they initially made a pretty low offer for the trade-in allowance on the Mustang. However we knew exactly what it was worth. So we held firm and sent the sales person back to his boss about four times before they finally came back and gave us a good price.

While we said yes on the deal, we said no on virtually all the options and extras they wanted to sell us. There was an extended warranty, undercoating, clear bra, and a bunch of other things. We said no to everything except one. That was the theft protection where they etch a serial number into all the glass in the car so that it makes identification and recovery easier. Since Honda Civics are near the top of the list of cars being stolen these days, it made sense.

So far Shawna has been driving the new Civic to work each day since she has the longer commute. And we'll probably take the Honda on most longer trips like up to the Portland area. Should work out rather well and also prevent adding too many miles to the Chrysler 300.

Yippee!

P.S. The red car in the picture is the exact car we ended up with.

-=Elden=-

Monday, March 26, 2012

Communication in the modern age

I recently read a little article titled something like "Phone calls are rude". The point of the article was that calling someone on the telephone demands immediate, undivided attention. Whereas other forms of communication we use today like instant messaging, text messaging, email, and many others do not. I find this to be an interesting topic.

Then a few weeks ago I was working on a fairly urgent project. I was waiting on a file from someone that worked for another agency. I emailed him to ask if he would please let me know just as soon as the file was available so I could do my thing. I then went to work from home for the afternoon because I was expecting a delivery.

Well, I never received notice the the file had been made available. So our deadline came and went and there was a fair amount of hardship caused as a result.

The following Monday I came into the office to find a voice mail from this person at the other agency. They had called my on the telephone to tell me that this necessary file was available. Gah! Had I received that message in a timely fashion, I could have met the deadline. But I did not receive the message until it was too late.

I don't ever check my work voice mail from home. Compared to email... I almost never use the phone at work period. I might receive one phone call every couple of weeks if that. So checking my voicemail from home would never occur to me. Nothing important ever gets done that way anymore.

In addition to that... I made my request to this person via email. I can't really avoid the blame for not getting the message. But when you ask a question in email, don't you normally expect the response to come via email?

-=Elden=-

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seasons

As I sit and look out the window with the blue sky attempting to burst through the dull gray of winter, it reminds me of the cycles people often go through. There are times in life that reflect the warmth of summer — bursting with love, peace, laughter, family and all the joyful things that are like a child playing on a swing set on a warm August day. Then there are the dark seasons of life that resemble gloomy, cold, stormy days in the midst of winter — loss of a loved one, financial stress, even the humdrum of daily life. But then there comes the season I enjoy most — springtime. Spring is full of hope. New buds and blossoms burst forth with signs of new life invoking new possibilities, hopes and dreams; gray transitions into beautiful colors bringing joy to all those around. The air, while still crisp, warms, and the sun begins to peek through the window pane, warming my soul and bringing a smile to my face.

Just as nature experiences all seasons, so do we. Sometimes we can prepare —like putting on a coat during the winter — but life does throw us curve balls. We go through unexpected seasons, but we can remain hopeful when going through winter because we know “spring” is coming. I have found challenging times lead to growth and new opportunities. I must choose to take advantage of those opportunities and in the difficult seasons plant good seeds so that when spring comes around, beauty, hope and joy will burst forth and bless others. So while it is still winter time, know that spring is coming and with that season will come hope.

~Shawna Fenison

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Malice

A couple of months ago, Shawna got in a bit of a fender bender. She changed lanes and didn't see the car next to her. It seemed like fairly minor damage, but the repair bill was around $2,000. So a couple of weeks ago we paid the $500 deductible to get it fixed. The body shop did a wonderful job. It looked great.

Then a couple of days ago... I noticed that someone had KEYED her car... right where the damage had been. We're talking a significant wavy scratch about two feet long. We got an estimate on fixing the scratch... $780.00!!

This makes me pretty angry. I don't think a complete stranger would have done this. Hard to say. I guess I just don't understand the motivation behind it. It's probably not fair to suspect anyone specific without evidence. 

Every time I see that scratch, I get a little angrier. I just cannot fathom that level of malice. The idea of karma comes to mind. While that term is derived from eastern religions... the concept is true. Whoever did this will reap what they have sown.

-=Elden=-

Wow

A ton has happened in the four months since my last blog post. I got married to a wonderful woman. We've merged our households, our finances, and our lives. It's been a completely enjoyable and exciting process.

I think there's always something in us that, when going through a period of excitement, waits for things to get back to normal. But normal is no longer the same. It's a *new* normal. Yippee! Still figuring out what that new normal really is. But so far it's pretty cool.

One of my best friends from my high school days (who I had not seen in about 25 years) drove about 550 miles with his wife to come to our wedding. That was pretty awesome.

-=Elden=-