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I hate you Steve Pavlina

(with apologies to Billy Joel)
it’s 5 o’clock on a Saturday;
the time: early as sin.
My wife’s asleep next to me,
but my day’s about to begin

Really, though, right now it’s about 6 am on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning.

6 am.

And I’m awake.

I’ve been awake since 5. Starting a new business and making ends meet with another is a lot of work. A lot. Some of it’s hard work, too, which hopefully I’ll get to talk about on Sunday, but mostly, it’s just a lot of work.

(As a side note, it’s most helpful to have the J-Men (or Triple J)—Jeff, James and Juicio—as my business partners. Most helpful, indeed.)

It used to be that I would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning finishing up projects. It’s a great time to work mostly because there are so few distractions: no one’s writing e-mail, no phone calls, no big news to pour over, contemplate and forget. Since getting married, though, it’s been hard to work those hours. I’d rather spend time with Sarah.

More often than not, once Sarah gets home my work day is over. Again: I’d rather be hanging out with her than working. It’s been really difficult to start working again at 10 or 11 pm… my brain just can’t get into gear.

I’ve been struggling with this for a little while because, quite simply, I need to be getting more work done. I’m not one of those guys who is consumed and preoccupied by his work (though sometimes I feel like I should be). Work is not the top priority. But accomplishing goals is important, and right now those goals, both financial and personal, require me to put in a lot of hours. I’ve still got some pretty good balance, and I feel the time I’m putting in now is certainly worth it.

I think I may have stumbled upon a way to increase my productive hours. It makes perfect sense, I’ve just never been able to do it: be an early riser. I’d never found a way to make this work, because typically I go to bed pretty late and since I never had any real good reason (and more importantly, the discipline) to wake up early, I’d sleep in.

Steve Pavlina has a personal development blog I quite enjoy (StevePavlina.com: Personal Development Pursued Consciously) which I found through LifeHack.org. Published there, he has two articles on rising early:
How to Become an Early Riser
How to Become an Early Riser – Part II

They boil down to this: Wake up at the same time every day, and go to bed when you are sleepy.

Brilliant, right?

Yeah, right. But I think there were 2 key components which made me want to / able to try it out: 1. it’s a system which has worked for someone else who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about; 2. It explicitly frees you from the idea that you need 8 hours of sleep, and allows you to trust your body.

The system component has a lot to do with personal discipline, and my newfound respect for it (you’ll hear more about this on Sunday, too, if all goes as planned). A new thing I’ve learned about myself is that It’s easier for me to be self-disciplined when it’s connected to a system.

The second part just makes sense to me: your body will tell you when you need to sleep. If your body learns that you’re going to wake up at 5 every day, it’ll tell you when it needs rest. At first it might tell you that it needs rest and then, expecting 10 hours of rest, be sorely disappointed at the measly 6 it got, but eventually, your body will learn. That’s Steve’s premise (or should I say promise?) anyway (if I remember correctly–if not, I’ve created a new system. YES!).

Before celebrating my successes (and yours, of course, since you benefit from me having more time to write) I should note that I’ve only been doing this since Tuesday morning. Which is only 5 days. But it’s the most consistently I’ve ever woken up before 6 am in my life… and I hadn’t done that since high school.

Sarah’s been helpful–making sure I get up at 5 instead of letting me snooze (probably because she doesn’t want to deal with the snooze alarm at 5:10, 5:20, 5:30, 5:40, 5:50, 6:00, 6:10, 6:20, 6:30…), and I’ve taken a couple of 20 minute naps during the week. But it seems to be working.

Since I’m able to stay up late anyway, I can now get up early, have a few more productive hours, and then, when Sarah gets home, “stay up late” until 10 or 11 and enjoy the evening.

I think I’ll go read something for a little while now.

Good day.

One Year

This past weekend Sarah and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.

I don’t have words of profundity to share. I mean, the first year was easy.

And it was great.

Many more “interesting” and “exciting” things happened during the year of our engagement, but this year with the start of school for Sarah and the start of my business for me, we’ve been content to just enjoy the time we get to spend together.

The celebration of our anniversary followed suit. Since our wedding spanned three days, we divided up our anniversary over three, too. Friday: surprise gift giving; Saturday: nice dinner out; Sunday: we made paper.

Paper?

Yeah, paper.

I guess traditionally, your first anniversary is your “paper” anniversary. So we got paper-making supplies, and after our walk (well, aborted walk really. We drove around looking for festivals, but none of them started until later in the day.) we came home, busted out the supplies and spent a few hours pressing some paper.

It was fun; a nice way to spend our anniversary–doing something together. And since we’re both a little crafty (she more than I, certainly), it was fitting.

We made about 6 sheets of 8×5.5″ paper of a variety of colors and with a variety of additives dropped in–like flower petals, magazine snippings, even paper towels.

So if your budget’s tight, or you’re short on time for your first anniversary, or you simply want to do something fun, go to your local art store, buy a paper-making kit, and enjoy.

Luciferin + ATP + Oxygen

equals the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!

Fireflies!

I had never seen them before, and tonight, when Sarah and I were taking out the trash, she was like, “ooh, a firefly”, and I was like, “ooh. so what.” But that was before I actually got to see one myself.

They are amazing… the first one I saw actually flew right in front of my face, and though most of the fireflies we ended up seeing would flash on and off really quickly, this one sort of pulsed a couple of times. It looks like any other small flying beetle, except the end of the abdomen, which is the part which lights up, looks like a Lite Brite peg. A bright green Lite Brite peg.

We went and sat on the grass and watched them for a while. Out of the corner of your eye, they really do look like flashes of lightning. I was fascinated; giddy like a little kid.

Some other evening, I’ll set up the camera and see if I can catch some in a long exposure.

It was really, really amazing.

Wow.

I Do Look Better

Today Sarah is taking a comprehensive exam, culminating her first year of medical school. The time between this exam and her last core exam was 10 days. For each exam of the school year (she had one every 2-3 weeks) she had enough time to get through about 60% of the material. Now for this exam, she has only 10 days to review that same 60% for each test, plus the 40% she never go to the first time around.

Insanity!

******

Okay, let’s say it together now: “Worst Blogger Ever!”

I started this entry on May 11th or 12th… it is today, June 11th. In the intervening time, Sarah and I have been in the bay area for 7 days or so, Jessica, Sarah’s sister visited us for about a week, and then Golden, CO visiting Sarah’s dad and step-mom for about 10 days.

Let’s see if I can remember what I was writing about and if I can make it half-way interesting.

******

So, on the Sunday before the exam (which was now a month ago) we went to the Salem Baptist Church, whose mantra would appear to be (as written on the program): “Be the Salt • Shine the Light • Do Good Works • Bring Glory to God • Live the Mission”. The Salem Baptist Church is a mostly black church in North Omaha which is “the black part” of Omaha. Omaha seems to be divided: North Omaha: black; South Omaha: Hispanic; East Omaha: White Old Rich; West Omaha: White New Rich. We live in East Omaha, but I guess all of that is neither here nor there.

Anyway, how did we end up here? A couple of weeks before this month ago of which we are speaking, I was in Washington, D.C., and Sarah was looking for a church akin to Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. I haven’t been there, but from what I hear about it it’s an extremely diverse, open, interfaith church where the worship is celebratory, rather than overly-solemn. It’s supposed to be a blast. I think it’s the type of place where you could go for inspiration and a sense of community: turning sin into wonderful agents of personal change, life’s challenges into a promising future, and worship into celebration.

Salem Baptist is that sort of church (less the diversity, and interfaith parts). And, seeing as Sarah had this monstrously overwhelming exam in a few days, she was looking for a little celebration and inspiration–so we ended up there. I was reluctant, but I was dumb.

It was awesome.

It’s a large church seating about 1300, and it was full. The seats are arranged in a semicircle facing the stage which is backed by a large (100 person?), colorful choir and has a single podium down-center.

We arrived just before the climax of the sermon, and for my dollar, we couldn’t have timed it better. This is a better story when told in person, when I can act it out, but since I’m not a video blogger yet, my words will have to do.

Okay, so imagine the above described church packed ’til it was just about busting at the seams. Everyone is sitting down, but the crowd is just starting to get a bit agitated with exultant shouts of “Hallelujah!” and”Praise the Lord” and “Yes, Yes!”. Agitated in the good way, not the bad… The preacher is preaching, the band punctuating his sermon with organ chords and drum beats and trumpet blares.

He’s just finished telling the bible story he was telling, and he’s established the moral:

“You are somewhere in the future (pause) and you look better (pause) than you do right now!”

The sermon concluded as follows:

You are somewhere, in the future and you look better than you do right now!

Got a challenge?
Face it!

Got a mountain?
Climb it!

Why?

‘Cause you are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!

Got a grudge?
Drop it!

Broke a fence?
Mend it!

‘Cause you are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!

You are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!

As the phrasing continued, the intesity mounted and crowd’s response increased and increased, with more and more folks calling out, “Hallelujah!”, “Praise the Lord!” The energy was amazing.

You are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!

‘Cause everything!

Everything!

Everything

(pause fraught with expectancy)

Is gonna be alright!

AND THEN HE DID A SPIN!

That was the moment when I was sold. Band accompaniment, filling each pause with a musical blast, half the audience are on their feet, clapping and praising Jesus, and then the spin. Yes!

He continued:

Now everybody!

Put your hands in the air!

Put your hands in the air!

And praise Jesus…

like you just don’t care!

At that point, it was over–he had everyone in the palm of his hand. The words were over, but the band picked up and everyone was cheering and clapping… all 1300+ on their feet.

As I said, it was awesome.

It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had in a church, extremely inspiring, and the message has stuck with me better than any other. We’re certain to go back–and if you come visit us and you’re lookin’ for a little Sunday morning party, we’d be more than happy to take you…

For the next few days after that joyful Sunday (and even on some days since) when studying seemed an insurmountable task, all I’d say to Sarah is “Got a mountain? Climb it! ‘Cause you are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!”

Well, after all that, Sarah passed her test and has been enjoying her well-earned vacation. As I said, a lot’s happened since then, and if I get another hankerin’ to write, I’ll regale you with the tale, but until then, when life’s got you down, remember one thing:

You are somewhere in the future, and you look better than you do right now!

Peace.

At The Zoo

Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe it’s true.

Well, I do now.

What a day we had at the zoo yesterday!

My sister is visiting, which, let’s be honest, can kind of be a zoo in and of itself. (Whenever I type “itself”, I wonder if it should be “its self”–’cause that makes a lot of sense to me.) Cathie-Mom (i.e. Mom on the Sarah’s side of things) made us members of the zoo when we first moved here. I hadn’t been to the zoo since… since elementary school? Dunno. Anyway, we’ve been a few times now and I have found that, really, despite my expectations, I really enjoy the zoo.

Sarah, Sheel and I spent much of the day at the zoo switching between laughing and fascinated… Sometimes both at the same time!

Your attention please, as I now present to you the top top four interesting/fascinating incidents of our most recent visit to the zoo:

4. The Preening Peacock.
Okay, well, not preening, actually—but I like the way it sounds. “Presenting Peacock” was another option… but I’m pretty sure presenting is something females do. What we actually saw was a male peacock giving a full mating display. The peacocks at the zoo roam around freely, and just as we were leaving for the day, Sarah said, “look at that!”—and there it was, NBC logo three dimensions and full color!

As kids Sheel and I would often get peacock feather fans/decorations from India, so I already knew how pretty peacock feathers are—but I’d never seen a real-live peacock open his feathers and display them. As I mentioned earlier, the peacocks roam freely so they’re somewhat tame. We were able to get within a few feet of him (probably could have gotten closer, but we didn’t want to get in the way of a male, any male, attempting to mate) and the colors, textures and patterns of the peacock were absolutely beatiful. We probably spent somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, just admiring it. I got a couple of pictures. Wait—I can insert images in this thing, can’t I? Hold on…

See? Pretty as a peacock. That should have been the title of this section! Pretty as a Peacock.

Look at the rich blue of the throat.

Look at the layers of green behind his head. With the light green outlined with the dark green.

Look at the black and white pattern on his sides; how it contrasts with the rest of his colors.

Look at the striking markings around his eyes.

Look at his cool hat (as Sheel called it) with blue circles at the ends.

Look at the big long feathers of his tail–the oranges, the yellows, the blues and the greens.

Sarah remarked later that a peacock is one of those things that you can put a name and a picture to at a very young age—so it’s something that, when you actually get to see a real one and take some time to look at it, actually looks very different from what you thought you knew.

3. Corky the Bear
I’ve been told that something extremely cute is a polar bear swimming. I cannot personally attest to this—primarily because I am a man, and men don’t say such things; and secondarily, because I’ve never seen it. So in hopes of seeing such a thing, we went to the Polar Bear exhibit where we saw a few very wet looking bears, which meant it was likely they were done with their evening swim.

We saw 2 pretty remarkable things at this pen. First was Mean Bear (I call him Mean Bear because the other male bear, who I call Corky the Bear, kept a wide birth of MB). Floating in their “pond” was a large plastic barrel about 3/4 filled with water. I imagine that it would take me, you and another person to pull it out of the water. Mean Bear, however, was able to pull it out of the water with his face. With his face! Polar Bears look cute, but seeing the strength of those jaws and the giant, giant paws was enough to let me know that behind that gentle, cuddly teddy-bear softness was a man-killer.

I have decided never to fight a polar bear.

Although… that does bring us to the second bear: Corky the Bear. After spending about 10 minutes at one end of the pen with Sarah and Sheel trying to coax mean bear to take a swim, we noticed that at the other end of the pen was a bit of activity which required a closer look.

You see, we had noticed Corky the Bear. I should have taken a video of this. Corky had his back towards the guests, and on all fours, would take 7 and a half steps forward, and then, with his paw in mid-air, about to complete the 8th step, would stop, and reverse, taking 7.5 steps backwards. And then Corky the Bear would do it again.

And then Corky the Bear would do it again.

And then Corky the Bear would do it again.

and again.

and again.

and… Well… You see.

Though not the funniest thing we saw at the zoo—it was funny enough that we spent about five minutes just watching him, alternately fascinated, flummoxed, and laughing.

Later we learned from one of our friends that he witnissed the same bear running in circles for a good long while.

I think, maybe, I’d fight that bear.

2. The Grande Dame Orangutan

The most dramatic presentation came as we were travelling through the Hubbard Gorilla Valley. It’s an indoor walkway with a variety of indoor and outdoor monkey exhibits. They’re currently building a giant outdoor exhibit for the Orangutans, the Orangutan Forest, replete with towering, many-branched fake trees (which look very real–it’s been cool to watch them being built) and long vines which hang to the ground.

Anyway, we neared the window which looks out at an older exhibit space currently displaying orangutans… Or as was the case on this day, orangutan. And, boy did she know she was the star attraction. Looking out it appeared the pen was empty, but then about 50 feet from our window, from a little nook in the wall to our right, we saw an orangutan lean back from her hips from a sitting position, so we could see her head, and part of her upper body. Obviously registering our presence at the window, she leaned forward out of site, and then reappeared, approaching our window.

Slowly, methodically, dramatically, she made her way to our window. Finally having arrived, she sat down just in front of us and took us in. Once she was certain that we were captivated, she began to lick the window. This, too, she did slowly, methodically, dramatically… She started at about the middle of the window and licked across it towards me for about 3 feet or so.

When she got closer to me, I took out my camera and pointed it at her. Just before I clicked, I could see the glint of a smile in her eyes. She knew exactly what she was doing. Playing us like a fiddle.

Having traversed the window with her tongue, she gave us one last look, seemed satisfied with her performance, turned around and ambled on back to her dressing room.

I was fairly convinced that the she had put the performance on just for me. 10 minutes later, though, I was sad to find her giving the same performance for another group of people. I was heartbroken.

1. Screaming Little Person

I write this final passage without any hope of conveying to you how funny a scene we witnessed. But Sarah and I still laugh out loud if either of us mention it. Please, bear with me.

Sheel, Sarah and I sat watching a pair of young orangutans frolic about. The female wrapping herself up in some burlap and rolling around; the male climbing to the top of tree and hanging from the ceiling. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls, I guess. Their pen was located just after the long and very cool Gorilla exhibit.

Captivated by the scene, we were startled by a child’s scream. Not a shriek, but a single, high-pitched, monotonal scream. First of all, in a zoo full of children shrieks are common–nothing to investigate. In this case, though, the scream was long enough for us to realize something must be up, turn, look to find the source of the scream, look to find the stimulus to the scream, return the source of the scream and continue to watch as the scream proceeded for a couple more seconds.

The source of the scream was a three-or-four-year-old boy sitting in a stroller. The whole time he was screaming (which was a long time) he sat stock-still, his mouth remained a constant, adorable but horrified “O”, and he was transfixed by what he was seeing. That image alone is enough to make my cheeks hurt from laughing. Oh, he was screaming for *so* long.

The thing that completes the scene, though, is the stimulus to the scream. As I followed his gaze, my view was originally obstructed by a group of people walking by; moving past, they revealed the cause of this utter terror: an 8 foot tall etching of a gorilla’s face in an opaque, black, glass wall.

This poor kid, already terrorized from his tour of the gorilla exhibit, now finds himself face to face with an uncaged, GIANT version of what must have been to him a very, very scary animal. Can you imagine!

After numerous people (including the three of us) assured the kid that everything was alright and that it wasn’t real, we laughed and laughed and laughed.

And laughed.

I’m laughing now.

Really. I’m laughing.

That poor kid.

Oh, I’m laughing!

Well. That’s the story of us at the zoo. There were other things: the bird which got spooked by Sarah’s sun umbrella, the cool web-footed beaver in his den, the transfixed-by-the-color-red bobcat… but I think I’ve written enough.

That poor kid!