Tag Archives: lessons

When life gives you class vi rapids…

In conversation I tend to be as direct as tact will allow.  So you’d think blogging would be even easier, right?  Not for me.  I want to write about the deep and shallow things of life, but I over the last year I have stopped short several times of actually posting, for fear I’d say too much, reveal too much or offend someone I care for.  But the real reason is that I feel like I’ve been paddling through serious white water for the last year, and blogging, journaling, or even simply taking a quiet solitary walk haven’t been on the table as serious options.

On July 6th, 2010, I was sitting in an office at the Sommet Group, in Franklin, TN.  The developers had become aware that layoffs were coming, and most – if not all – of us would be let go.  One of my fellow developers had left for an interview and texted me as he left the building: “At least a dozen FBI are headed into the building!”  I knew in my gut that they were bound for Sommet, though I couldn’t tell you why.  It turns out the our CEO had been embezzling money.  Sommet handled payroll for other small businesses, and we were apparently taking their money and instead of funding payroll taxes, IRAs, medical insurance, FSAs, etc., our CEO was using it to subsidize a failing business unit along with a lavish lifestyle.  So we weren’t just in trouble for our own company’s delinquency, but for dozens of others.  Employees from across those small businesses (including Sommet) were discovering that their retirement, medical insurance and other benefits weren’t actually being funded, though the money was being withheld from their checks.

So.  FBI *and* IRS agents raided our office that Tuesday.  They were very nice, but it was a serious situation.  I literally left my post-raid interview with the FBI and headed straight to a job interview at a consulting company in Nashville – talk about context switching!  Thank God my good friend Garry Kean was in town – I was able to talk to him at Starbucks for a few minutes prior to my job interview.

The ensuing job search was rough.  Sommet didn’t pay us the last two paychecks, and despite recruiters promising “Sure, there are plenty of senior level jobs in Nashville”, none materialized.  I secured some side work that would help keep us afloat, but it wasn’t much.  At the end of July, at the recommendation of my good friend and former Sommet co-worker, Alex, I interviewed with a company in Chattanooga, TN.  They offered me right in the range I needed – and they were the only offer I’d had since Sommet collapsed, so we were Chattanooga-bound.


It’s been interesting.  Chattanooga is a good city overall – lots of interesting things to do, great restaurants and it’s small.  We love living on Signal Mountain, and I work with some very good people.  I would never have considered the job here if Alex hadn’t recommended I interview – and getting the chance to continue working with him has truly been one of the most rewarding things about the new job. 

But I’m also not going to lie – it’s been a tough year.  Our first six months was overshadowed by an awful rental house.  My second full month on the job saw my team working loads of overtime, so I was practically gone the whole month.  If we haven’t been travelling, we’ve been sick, vice versa, and sometimes both.  Making friends has been a challenge as well.  We’re still looking for a church (thought we’d found a good one, but alas no).  Steph has met more people than I have.  I’m extremely thankful for friends like Jon – though he lives in Nashville, we’ve stayed in regular contact and have managed some visits as well, and Alan.  You don’t replace the network of family and friends that was built across 15 years very easily, if at all.


I’m thankful for a good job – and one that continually challenges me to step up in my skills.  There’s still the interesting dynamic, though, of working alongside people who wanted to move to Chattanooga and plan to retire here, whereas I would’ve never considered it outside the events of last summer.  In the words of Gomez, “I’m just as lost as you are” – especially when it comes to what lies ahead.  It’s been tough having to lay aside so many things I love – writing and recording, camping, and others.  I don’t see an end to the white water just yet, but I still have the paddle in a firm grip….


EmptyCanoe What exactly is disappearing?  Time.  In one of the great ironies of life, you simply never realize how much time you waste as a kid until you’re an adult, or as a single person until you’re married, or as a married person until you have kids.  A closely related cruel irony of life is that my interests seem to grow in an inverse proportion to the time which I have to indulge them.

We’re at that point in life where we simply have to accept that certain things we want aren’t going to happen” – a good friend of mine said that the other day, and he’s right.  This isn’t about depressed defeatism.  Actually, it’s about focus, tenacity, clarity & purpose.  While I may wax nostalgic about the seemingly endless hours I had available when I was 23, I have so much more now – where it counts – than I did then.  I’ve lived long enough to be fooled by my desires, and that has given me discernment.  I’ve had enough successes to know I can hold out for what matters, and enough failures (far more, it seems!) to stir the pot of healthy discontent.  I’ve experienced enough heart ache to know that hearts mend when they’re planted in the right place.  I’ve seen enough of the reward of deep friendships to know that relationships trump ‘tasks’ and ambitions, period.

But – among all the things I’ve learned – there is one thing I simply do NOT do well: taking a break.  I’ve neglected the important ritual of at least one family vacation each year with my wife and kids.  We’ve taken trips, don’t get me wrong, but something gets in the way all too often.  I’m even worse about personal time by myself – to unplug, take a walk, think, pray, stare at the clouds.   Somehow I’ve missed the importance of the discipline of vacation.  That’s right, I said discipline.  More often than not, I’ve avoided vacation simply because we’ve not been disciplined in managing our time or money in order to afford it.  It’s fallen too low on the list of priorities – below the dinners at Olive Garden & the mind-numbing “I’m exhausted after work and mistakenly think a night of TV-vegging will relax my mind”.  Not having a regular habit of solitude and vacation has robbed me, I believe, of the critical perspective of the benefits involved.  I too easily forget how rested (oddly enough) I can feel after a vigorous canoe trip; I quickly forget the clarity and focus that comes as a result of spending several days in a new place with my wife.  Instead, I’ve gravitated towards the dangerous icon of the “reluctant martyr”.  “Gotta suck it up and keep  moving forward”; “{insert name, job, or church here} can’t afford for me to be away right now”; “I’m too busy to relax.”

The last few months have changed all that.  A perfect storm of both family-related and work-related hardships quickly proved that I can’t expect to be resilient and bounce back from tough schedules (physically and mentally) if I’m not going to give my body, my mind and my family what they need.  I used to be good at burying it, but I think the birth of my second son tipped the scales towards the “don’t even think you can hide this anymore” direction.  The discipline of vacation and solitude in my life has finally begun moving towards its proper place.  I need the time personally, to think, dream, clear my mind from daily demands & distractions and come back with clarity of purpose and focus.  My wife and I need the time to break out of the typical mold of the daily grind.  We need the weekend getaways & the nights reading at the coffee shop.  Our kids need the focused time with us, and we – as a family – need the week-long excursions to see old friends & family, & to explore new places.

In a couple of weeks, I will begin practicing what I preach when I disappear into the woods of Tennessee and Kentucky with a close friend and a canoe loaded with camping gear…