This ‘n That (08/26/2021)

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Hey gang!

I’m taking a break from Twitter for a few weeks, but I still have random topics I’m itching to talk to SOMEONE about, so I thought I’d post some of that here as a grab-bag of sorts. This will be different from the #FridayFeed, since those posts will be more strictly links and videos I’m sharing for your enjoyment.

Think of “This ‘n That” as having more of a coffee-break, chit-chat vibe–a mix of personal updates, comments about current news/culture, and maybe some recommendations of cool stuff I’ve found recently. Those of you who have been reading my stuff for a long time might like to think of this as the next iteration of the “PBB Cool Ten.” I won’t post something like this every week, but whenever I have enough to natter on about, I’ll share with the class. So here we go!

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Afghanistan

Let’s go ahead and lead with real news before getting to the silliness. The situation in Afghanistan is a disaster on multiple levels. While I agree that there had to be some sort of end-point for America’s direct military involvement in the country (but not necessarily an end to a US presence in the country/region–see: Germany, South Korea, etc.), the way this has been done is utterly baffling, tragic, and infuriating. The United States should not be treating the Taliban as either a threat or an ally, yet somehow the American president is doing both. We have an obligation not only to extract our citizens and materiel, but also our allies who have risked their lives and families to assist us in our missions. The US military has been put in an impossible and unwinnable position, and their leaders and government commanders have brought shame upon them throughout this episode. The more I read about what’s going on, the more I’m filled with anger, frustration, and grief over the loss of life that is ongoing and will only escalate as American forces continue to exit the country. What an utter disaster. What a failure. What a crippling, cowardly episode that should be hung like an albatross around the neck of this president for the rest of his political career. I have no other “appropriate” words for what I think about this.

A few days ago, I commented to my wife that perhaps on Earth-3 (or some other alternate reality), there is a different American president who is saying something like, “The Taliban has not kept their end of the bargain and are already terrorizing the country again, so right now American troops have begun an overwhelming offensive with the single goal of wiping out the Taliban in its entirety.” Turns out, Jocko Willink and I were on the same wavelength. This instagram post with a message from “President Jocko” is well-worth watching, even if only for giving us a glimpse of a different kind of presidency in this moment.

But seriously, if you are Christian, I would encourage you to pray ardently for Afghanistan and especially for the Christian church there. I’m already hearing reports of frightening and deadly persecution ramping up at the hands of the Taliban. It’s getting bad there, and it’s getting bad quickly.

Okay, serious discussion over. Time for some lighter things. (At least, somewhat lighter.)

Sonny Chiba

I heard last week that Sonny Chiba died. I only knew of him as the great sword-maker (and sushi chef) Hattori Honzo from the Kill Bill movies, but he had a pretty notable career in Asian cinema, both as a hero and as a villain. I’d be curious to check out his older work sometime (you know, during a future life-stage when I’m not watching Blippi or Paw Patrol or Fireman Sam more than actual grown-up television shows). Speaking of which…

Blippi

Let’s talk for a minute about Blippi. Blippi is a gangly, goofy man in his late 20’s / early 30’s wearing a signature blue and orange hat, bowtie, suspenders, and skinny jeans. His videos are mostly harmless, though they can be pretty inane. (I think any parent would agree that there’s a sort of “Mendoza Line” where silliness becomes annoying stupidity. Blippi lives on that line.) His videos are colorful and musical and somewhat informative (half the time, it sounds like he didn’t read his script and is ad-libbing science “facts” about the creatures at the aquarium or on the farm).

While I don’t have the kind of beef that some think-piece writers have against him (which is hilarious to me, to be honest), one thing that has always bothered me is that he’s a grown man displaying the mentality and behavior of a 7-year-old boy (think Tom Hanks in Big, but hopped up on sugar). When I first became a father, I started paying a lot more attention to how dads (and grown men in general) are presented in media. There’s no question in my mind that media catechizes kids on how to see the world, so presentations of what men and women are and how adults behave in these videos and movies matter. I want to find better examples of what men and women are and do for my kids to take in and emulate. Most importantly, I want to be one of those examples. I’d rather they think of me when they think about how a grown man behaves, rather than thinking of Blippi bouncing around and giggling like an idiot.

Back in the Gloom

In April, I talked about starting to attend F3, a boot-camp style workout in the early morning hours. I kept attending occasionally, but through the spring and into the early summer, our family was dealing with several rounds of illness that worked through the whole family, so I’d miss 1 or 2 days a week out of the 3 available at my chosen location. With so many gaps in my attendance, I didn’t make much progress (though some friends encouraged me by pointing out my improvement, however minimal). But then I noticed my forearm started aching and losing strength. I stopped working out for about 6-7 weeks, as I tried to rest my arm and figure out what was going on. I had so much trouble gripping and lifting things with that arm that I eventually had to go to the doctor. Turns out, I had developed a clear case of “tennis elbow.” The orthopedic surgeon I met with told me that 1 out of 3 people he sees that are in my age group will develop tennis elbow, because our ligaments just tend to start breaking down in middle age. Great. Thankfully, there was no visible structural damage, so he gave me some stretches to do and meds to take, and I’m now on the mend. After my long absence, I finally went back to the workout last Saturday, though I was really anxious for some reason that my heart wouldn’t handle the sudden resumption of hard work. As you might have guessed, my heart made it just fine. My legs, on the other hand, were shredded by dozens and dozens of squats, leaving me hobbling and groaning like an old man for almost a week. So I’ll be posting again for a workout this Saturday, and hopefully (with some foresight re: stretching and resting properly), I won’t be missing many more workouts from now on.

Nudge Coffee Bar

Gotta tell you about the newest delightful treat my wife brought home from the grocery store: Nudge Coffee Bars. (#NotSpon, but for real, Nudge, hit me up, becauase I am a FAN). They have the consistency (the “mouth-feel,” if you prefer) of chocolate bars, but they are not made of chocolate (a fact they are strangely emphatic about!). The bars are essentially what you’d have if you made chocolate with coffee beans instead of cocoa beans, added some other stuff, and this magical concoction popped out of the pan. Each square has the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee, so if you want to take a sweet treat on the go that gives you a little pick-me-up, this is a great option. PLUS!!! Nudge bars are made with an erythritol/monk fruit blend and some added fiber, so they are only around 1-2 net carbs per square, which means they are a great option for a low-carb/ketogenic eating plan. I tried the Ethiopian and Italian Roast flavors, and both are delicious. The crazy thing is, while Nudge Coffee Bars are most assuredly NOT made of chocolate (don’t you put that on them, Ricky Bobby), they really do taste like a rich mocha or espresso drink. The danger for me is that I’m already drinking coffee throughout the day, so I can’t eat too much of this goodness at once before all the caffeine hits my system, my heart races, and I start to see sound. But man, Nudge is so good. Check ’em out.

Fun with Greek vocabulary

I had the privilege of preaching 4 times at a small church about an hour north of ours. You may have noticed that I’ve been posting my sermon transcripts lately (next one coming this Sunday, Lord-willing). I’ve been really enjoying studying for these sermons, and part of that has to do with how I’m changing my approach to sermon prep and shifting the time spent so that I’m analyzing the text more than studying a stack of commentaries. I’ll go into detail about this in another post on a group blog I’ve joined recently (I really will have something posted soon, Michael!), but I just wanted to note that part of the joy of preparing to preach over the last month has been getting to do some this more in-depth language study. What’s crazy is, I can’t read New Testament Greek yet (hoping to start learning in the spring!). I’ve been relying on a (possibly a bit outdated) interlinear text and a Strong’s concordance that is meant for use with a King James translation (requiring an extra layer of translation on my part, from KJV to ESV!). But as I’ve studied how Jude uses the Greek language to communicate huge truths in just 25 verses, it’s been wild to learn how a slight change in spelling or phrasing makes such a huge difference in meaning. All of this to say: the Bible is amazing, y’all. It’s a miracle. 66 books, 40 or so human authors, across 3 continents and 2500 years–yet still unified and consistent because it has one Divine Author who inspired every letter of it. Just awesome.

Power Wash Simulator

When I first heard about the computer game Power Wash Simulator, I thought it sounded like one of those troll games with janky mechanics that is meant to last only a few minutes. Then I noticed that some Youtube gaming channels I watch from time to time were talking more and more about the game. So, I checked out a few “let’s play” videos. Y’all, I don’t have time to play video games much anymore, but I was *thisclose* to dropping the twenty bucks on Steam to pick it up. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about watching this gameplay. I won’t send you to the channels I watched (I think you have to be used to those streamers’ typical patter in order not to get annoyed), so here’s a no-commentary video of the first level or so of the game. Seriously, I dare you to watch it without feeling some sense of satisfaction as the van is transformed from dirty to spotless.

Dad Clothes

Speaking of things that are utterly dad-like: My wife teased me the other day because my outfit for leaving the house was a “dad” uniform: plaid button-down (untucked and sleeve-rolled, natch), khaki cargo shorts, leather boat shoes, faded ball cap. I’ll admit it, I’ve leaned in hard to the “dad look,” but you know what? I’m comfortable with that. I hate having to think about clothes or style. I have the body type that looks schlumpy, no matter what I’m wearing, so I just go with what’s comfortable and not too form-fitting (gotta protect the hearts and minds of the ladies). And cargo shorts make sense–all that pocket room! (I draw the line at jorts, however… though I wish I’d drawn that line before my teens/twenties. The pictures from the early 2000’s… *shudder*) I did grimace ruefully last week as I was reading an article in the Gut Check Quarterly that was inteded to lampoon seasonal style guides, and did so by recommending…the stuff I normally wear. But you know what? Dads don’t care. Dads abide. Often in a stained white undershirt, like the one I’m wearing…right…huh.

Reading the Paper

Might as well complete the “dad” trifecta: I bought an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal this week, and I’m loving it. It was a phenomenal deal: $4 a month for a year. I’ve been looking to add another source of news to my media diet, and at the odd times over the years when I’ve had access to the WSJ (which is normally crazy expensive, so I only get it when we stay at certain hotels), I’ve found the writing to be thoughtful, even-keeled, and informative. So far, I’ve already learned some interesting things that I probably would not have picked up otherwise by relying on social media trends, news blogs, and local TV news. Plus, the WSJ has a daily crossword that you can complete on the app, and I’ve enjoyed knocking those out over the last few days. I’m starting to develop a daily habit of reading “the paper” either during breakfast or after evening clean-up once the kids go to bed. Hopefully this will make my online news consumption a bit more well-rounded than what it is currently.

#TwitterSupperClub

I’ve been away from Twitter (mostly) for a few days, and I’ve realized that I miss interacting with a few folks on Twitter, but I don’t miss the experience of Twitter–with one exception: #TwitterSupperClub. This is the brain-child of Andrew Donaldson, the managing editor of Ordinary Times, and it’s brilliant. People who participate in the #TwitterSupperClub basically do what non-tweeters thought the platform was in the early days: a bunch of folks posting about what they had for dinner. Participants share pictures, descriptions, and recipes for the enjoyment, envy, and often inspiration of others. Donaldson described it once as a way to cleanse the digital palate of all the madness that often fills our social media feeds. So, if you’re on Twitter, let me encourage you to take a look at the hashtag and perhaps participate. The world could use more noodles and less negativity, more havarti and less hatred, more vanilla creme and less vitriol. Hook us up with pics of your delicious creations. Spread the love.

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That’s all I’ve got this week. I know I haven’t been posting very often lately, but I appreciate y’all checking in. Check back for a new sermon on Sunday, and more fun next week!

“See you in the gloom.”

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I started working out again.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this so soon–perhaps I was afraid I’d jinx myself or something (not that I believe in such things). More likely, it’s that I don’t feel I deserve any kudos for doing this yet.

When I start to make some positive change in my life, my wife will sometimes tell me she’s proud of me. My knee-jerk response is, “Be proud of me later.” Maybe that’s the wrong response to give, but I know myself. I know how often I’ve begun new projects or habits or “life changes” and how quickly I’ve faded out, lost steam, and fallen away. I’d much rather that she’s proud of me for being faithful at something for a long time than for merely starting it.

Anyway.

I have some friends who are part of a fitness group called F3 (which stands for “Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith”). They have been encouraging me to take part in their early morning workouts for a year or two, but I’ve rebuffed their suggestions with various lame excuses about timing and schedule and energy levels.

The fact of the matter is I didn’t want to join for two very important reasons: 1) Most of the workouts are at 5:30 a.m. and I hate waking up early; and 2) I’m fat and lazy and don’t like to be uncomfortable.

I needed something to jolt me out of those excuses.

Embracing My Why

In conversations and coaching about lifestyle changes like weight loss and fitness, a common refrain is “find your why”–the bottom-line driving reason for you to make a change. The logic of this is that you have to want a certain outcome more than you want the bad-for-you momentary choices. If you can hold on to your “why,” you can say “no” to yourself enough to build a better habit.

Obviously, a big “why” for me is my family. I’m 40 years old, and I know (at least on some level) that I am shortening my lifespan by living at a very unhealthy weight. Nevertheless, I still struggle to break some of the habits that keep me at this weight. (We don’t need to get too deep into the psychology of why that is, at this point. But suffice it to say, unless something changes, I’m not doing myself or my family any favors.)

On top of that, at my current weight, I can only get a limited amount of life insurance, so if anything were to happen to me, my family would struggle financially for a while before they could get their feet under them. That’s not at all what I want for them.

In the past, thinking about my “why” has usually triggered at least some sort of short-term change that quickly burned out as I reverted to old patterns. Then something happened about 2 weeks ago that flipped the first switch.

One night at around 1:30 a.m., our newborn woke up crying–piercing screams rather than her usual slow build-up cries. She was totally fine–she had a gas bubble, which in her 6 weeks of life experience would fairly be called an emergency–but I realized that I was not fine. For some reason, her cries triggered a physiological panic reaction in me: heart racing, chest tightness, jaw tightness, arm/shoulder pain, difficulty breathing, headache. Even as my wife tended to our daughter and I laid myself back down to sleep, I still felt amped up. My mind buzzed.

What if this was it? What if this was actually the heart attack I’ve been warned of but pretended wouldn’t catch up to me? What would happen to my wife and daughters if I died right now?

I’ve had those types of thoughts before. And while I can always rest in the reality that ultimately God will watch over my family, it’s still my responsibility to provide for and protect them–which I can’t do if I’m not alive.

For some reason, this early-morning shock hit me differently, and it was enough to make me decide to take a leap I’d been putting off for months.

I was going to go work out with other people.

Friendly New Guy

There is a third reason I put off going to those early-morning workouts with my friends: I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I didn’t want to be the one really fat guy who couldn’t keep up and who spent the whole time sucking wind and sweating like a wounded buffalo, while all these other athletes were completing exercises I couldn’t get close to finishing. (Seriously, the “burpee” is a cruel, sadistic exercise that has no right having such a cutesy name.)

But I went anyway, willing to risk embarrassment to try it out. I didn’t think I’d like exercising with other people. I didn’t think I’d finish the workout. I didn’t know if I’d ever go back. But I wanted to give it a try. But here’s what I found.

The guys were really welcoming. I was greeted warmly and welcomed by several of the group that morning. Between very challenging sets of exercises, some of them took turns hanging back in the back of the pack with me to talk. I was a little surprised by how cool everyone was. I was obviously in the worst shape of anyone there (by orders of magnitude) but they were all working hard and encouraging each other and me. That was refereshing.

I did better than I thought. I had to modify most exercises (and was encouraged to do so), and I’m most definitely the last man to finish every set. But I didn’t quit and I didn’t puke. That’s a small victory. The group’s repeated encouragement was that I wasn’t competing against anyone out there except myself, and my goal should just be to get better. And that is definitely my goal. I want to get better each time.

I became part of the group, not just a tag-along. One of the cool things about F3 and the culture they build is that they give each person a nickname or call-sign. You show up as a “Friendly New Guy,” but by the end, the group gives you a nickname and you are invited back. This sounds corny, but I think this may be part of the secret sauce of the whole thing. The feeling I was dreading most of all, going into this, was of being seen as a poser, as not really belonging there. The way these F3 groups welcome new guys and build rapport is something special.

I felt way better than I expected. I was totally gassed, and my muscles were unbelievably sore the next day. But I came home after that first workout with a smile on my face, and even told my wife it was “fun.” I committed to myself to show up for 3 workouts a week (at least at first) and have only missed one in the last 2 weeks. Obviously, it’s still really early in the process, but no matter how hard the workout is each time, I’m always glad after I finish and looking forward to going back.

SYITG

This really wasn’t supposed to be an infomercial post for the F3 program (#NotSpon), but this is just a cool development in my life and I wanted to share a little bit about it.

If you’re a man in the US and you need some motivation to get healthier or get stronger or just get moving, check out their site and look for a group near you. It’s all free to participate and volunteer-led. If you think you’re too old/fat/slow/shy to join any kind of workout group, I’d say just give it a try. Do your best. Swallow your pride. Get after it.

And depending on the day, if you’re in a certain part of the Houston area, I’ll see you out there in the early-morning gloom. Because I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.