The Day After Christmas

Well, our family successfully navigated through the Christmas holiday. of 2016. We stepped through a very busy Christmas Eve and continued a good pace through a Christmas day that included family time, church and a trip to see Sweet Wife’s family.  All in all it was a very good couple of days and we consider ourselves very blessed.

Now comes the day after Christmas.

This day will hopefully include the repackaging of all of the Christmas ornaments and decorations back into their respective boxes and the placing of those boxes back into the attic.  I’m very much looking forward to this!

But the day after Christmas also brings something else for me: a burst of renewal as I sense the arrival of a new year.  I’m not sure why this happens with me, but it tends to happen every year.  As the flipping of the calendar approaches, I just sort of get revived.  It’s a new beginning, a new start.  It’s a time to start new things and to end others.  It’s a defining moment in time that sort of naturally allows for new patterns and beginnings.

This year, for example, I decided to try to post something to this blog every day.  In years past, I’ve done things like started a project to journal every day or to read through the Bible in a year.  It just makes sense to start something like this on January 1.

This year, I don’t plan any regular activities like these.  Instead, for 2017 I just feel a general renewal type feeling.  I have complained regularly that 2016 has been hard, but what I’m ready to do in 2017 is to start again with renewed energy and apply the lessons that I’ve learned this year.  What are these lessons?  Well, that’s something that I’ll hopefully comment on in a day or two, but I am happy to have learned these lessons and I’m ready to apply them.

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Friday Night Post

Today’s post — a Friday post — is normally about a picture, but not today.  I had good intentions, but things went off-kilter pretty quickly.

The day started early and I was at the gym by five, but I carried along along a sinus headache and didn’t lose it until around lunch.  I met a friend at a local Panera for coffee and planned to upload a picture and jot a few things while I waited, but had trouble uploading a photo to WordPress.

I swung by the office for a few minutes before heading up to Guntersville for a noon meeting.  The drive up was nice and I was able to listen to a James MacDonald podcast and that definitely helped the trip.  I arrived about an hour early and was hoping to write something during that lull, but the time was filled with a visit to a business and with telephone calls.

Just before noon, I swung by J.J.’s Hamburgers to grab a couple of orders of burgers and fries and then headed off to the meeting.  The meeting went well — aided of course by the tasty burgers — and lasted about two hours and then I was back in the car headed back to Birmingham.

The ride home was filled with a couple of sports podcasts and more telephone calls, and I was back in town by around four.  I planned to hit the dusty trail for a jog, but wound up talking on the phone while the phone should have been charging, so the jog was delayed about an hour.

The jog was cut short by some unforeseen issues and after I returned I grabbed a bowl or two of cereal and kissed the wife and kids goodbye as they headed out to the homecoming football game.

So now here I sit.  The house is quiet.  Nothing is making a sound except for the clanking of the keyboard.  I already miss Sweet Wife and the kids and can’t wait until they return.

Well, that’s it.  That was my Friday.  It didn’t include a photo of anything interesting, but Lord willing, there’s always next week.

Education Week

For CPA’s in Alabama, there’s an annual requirement of 40 hours of continuing education and those training hours must be completed by September 30th of each year.  This year, I stumbled around and only completed one course before this week, so I’m spending most of this week in a class room.

There are all sorts of ways to get what we call CPE.  You can do self-study courses, you can attend webinars, go to meetings, or as I tend to do each year, pay for and attend classes sponsored by our state society of CPAs.  On average I wind up spending about $1,250 a year on these things and, of course, a week’s worth of time.  Over the course of my 26 year career, I spent at least 1,040 hours in classes and during my 16 years of basically being self-employed, I’ve spent roughly $20,000.

Ouch times two.

However, I guess the main question is whether or not my education is being furthered.  I think the answer to that is definitely yes, because I do learn some things, but I’m not sure I’ve learned $20,000 worth.

A Dude Walked a Tight Rope Between the World Trade Center Towers

One of my kids and I read a book together last night about a dude that walked a tight rope stretched between the World Trade Center Towers in New York City.

That’s right.  His name is Philippe Petit and he’s a Frenchman who is obviously crazy.  He pulled the feat off back in 1974 while the twin buildings were still under construction.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the video below.

Yeah, well, I guess they did make a motion picture about this back in 2008, but I’m a little behind the times.

What Will This Day Hold?

Back when Sweet Wife and I were expecting our first child, I was hit with the notion that I shouldn’t waste or wish our days away, so I adopted the policy of never saying, “I can’t wait until…”  I was telling myself to slow down and enjoy each moment because I knew the moments would fly by and be memories before I could blink.

That policy is being seriously tested at this point in my life.

Work has been extremely stressful this year — the kind of stress that you know puts you into an early coffin — and as the kids get older the stress related to them gets more intense.  As I sit here, I know (or at least hope a whole lot) that things at work should be better in several months.  I know that (or at least hope a whole lot) that time will allow us to digest certain issues and should be better in a few months.  But until then, the temptation is to say, “I can’t wait until January 1st!  Man, I know things will be so much better then!”

That may sound good, but there’s a lot of bad in that thought.  I need to live in today and make the moments of today count.  Sweet Wife and my kids need to me to be connected to today because they have needs and wants that need to be met in the here and now.  They don’t need a dad who is checked out until next year.

And guess what?  When January gets here, there will be stuff that pops up then too.

Today at just before noon, I’m scheduled to sit down with a business associate and I will have a very tough conversation with him.  I have practiced the conversation out and planned in my head how it should go, but the conversation still has to happen and I still have to deal with my associate’s reaction.  There’s a chance he’ll buck pretty hard and we’ll be forced to separate permanently.  There’s a chance I’ll find out some even worse news than I know.  There’s a chance his feelings will get hurt somehow and our relationship will be permanently damaged.  To sum it up, there’s a chance this will be a very bad day.  It is so tempting to wish, wish, wish this time away.

How does that happen?  Well, it get totally distracted with what’s about to happen.  No matter where I am, who I’m with or what’s going on, there’s only one thing on mind.  I also get short-tempered and I’m ready to hammer into submission whatever situation comes up.  I also just want the time to pass and the even to get here, so I usually go to bed way too early and that throws a lot of stuff out of whack.  There’s probably some other stuff too and when you add all of this stuff up, I wind up wasting my day.  I wind up under using the time God has allocated to me.

So tomorrow is a big day.  There’s no telling how it will go.  I’m focused on nothing else.  I’m wound up tighter than a cheap clock.

What should I do?

Well, this is the time to turn to God’s word.  This type of stuff is why we need Scripture.  Right now, I near to hear what God says.  I need to hear Him say don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).  I need to hear that I can cast my cares on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).  I need to hear God tell me to deny myself daily, to take up my cross and to follow Him (Luke 9:23).  There’s obviously a lot more I need to hear, but I think you get my point.

What I need now is a perspective adjustment.  I need to fix my eyes upon Jesus and get my mind right.  I need to pursue the day looking for how I can honor Christ in this mess and I need to trust that He cares for me and will help me.  Ultimately, I need to remember that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

Whew.

OK day.  Here we go.

26 Years and Rolling

Twenty-six years ago today I pulled on my suit, tied up my tie, laced up my wing tips and headed off for my first day at work as a professional.

Way back then, September 7th was on a Friday.  It was a little unusual — at least in my opinion — to start a job on a Friday, but that’s when they told me to show up so I did.  As it turns out, they had hired people before, so they had a plan.  Friday was used as a “fill-out-forms-and-find-out-where-the-bathroom-is” kind of day and we reported for two weeks of “official training” the following Monday.

All of these years later it’s still hard to believe it’s all of these years later.  They have flown by.  I can still remember the anxiety and nervousness of showing up on the 16th floor of that skyscraper in Birmingham, yet here I sit now all haggard and grayed.

Life could have hardly been better to me, though.  A couple of years after I began working, I met Sweet Wife.  We’ve been blessed to have three children and the Lord has taken care of us all through all of these years.

I can’t help but wonder what the next 26 will be like.  Will I be alive in 26 years?  Will I be somewhere in 26 years rattling on about how I started work 52 years ago on this day?  By that time, Lord willing and if He tarries, my children will be deep into their adult lives and they’ll hopefully have families.  What will the world be like and what all will we have seen? The Lord only knows, of course.

A Hug From Dad

Work hasn’t been going the best lately and that’s caused my sleeping patterns to get out of sorts.  Here lately, I’ll be so worn out from the day that I’ll hit the sack around eight-ish, which means my eyelids will crack open around one-ish.  Then I’ll lay there and start to think about work, or start to think about how hungry I am, and then I’ll start to flop.  And when I start to flop, neither Sweet Wife nor myself will get any sleep.

So, lately, when the eyes pop open, I’ll stumble into the den, plop on the couch and lay there for a while. I don’t turn on the television or read a book, I just lay there and, usually after a while, sleep will come.

Last Friday night was the same routine.  Bed early, eyes open early, stumble to the couch and lay there.  I fell back to sleep fairly easily I guess, and then there he was, my dad.

Dreams are weird.  You saunter in and out of places and situations, but because you’re in a dream, everything seems so natural.  For some reason, in this dream, I was walking along the side of the house where my parents used to live and for some reason I looked into a window.  And there he was, my dad.  In the next instant, we were locked, arms around each other, in a bear hug.  Everything was so real.  His smell.  The feel of his skin.  His breathing.   I hugged him for all I had because I knew I was hugging my dad.  But in the same instant, I knew this wasn’t real and as quickly as the encounter came, it left and I woke up sobbing with my chest heaving.

Dad’s been in heaven now for over seven years.  I guess I think about him in some way everyday.  There’s hardly a part of my life that he hasn’t touch in some way and hardly a part of my life where I don’t want to make him proud.  I loved him very much and he loved my family very much, but I hardly cried when he died and I didn’t mourn much at the time he died.  I guess there was too much going on at the time.  But I miss him very much and I’m thankful for this sweet encounter.