When I think back to the activities my dad and I shared, I remember playing catch with the baseball in the front yard after dinner. I remember biking to the baseball field by the elementary school playground, and my dad hitting grounders and flyballs to me. After a while, it was my turn for batting practice. Those were glorious evenings in the spring and summer.
It’s four days into 2016, so I’m due to offer some reflections on 2015. I’m grateful for so many wonderful memories I made over those 365 days. The year was significant for me in several ways, some of which I’ll be sharing here, some of which I’ll be sharing over at altarwork.com (where I’m now blogging every Friday). In the latter venue, I’ve already written about my most important day of the year.
But now, in lieu of a more cohesive post, I’ll share some random “tops” and “favorites” of the year.
Favorite New Album: Shockwave Supernova, by Joe Satriani
Other Favorite New Albums: Hand. Cannot. Erase. by Steven Wilson.
Love, Fear, and the Time Machine, by Riverside.
Helios / Erebus, by God Is An Astronaut.
A Head Full of Dreams, by Coldplay
Most Important Book: Life Without Ed, by Jenni Schaefer
Favorite Book: The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Other Favorite Books: Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather.
Beyond the Bedroom Wall, by Larry Woiwode.
The Geography of Memory, by Jeanne Murray Walker
Love’s Labors, by Brent Newsom
Favorite Concert: The Choir (playing the full Circle Slide album)
Favorite Movie: The Peanuts Movie
Favorite Weekend Activity: playing keys and singing bgvs at Vista Community Church
Favorite “Athletic” Moments: running a 10k and two 5ks
Favorite Celebrity Meeting: Monty Colvin, bass player/vocalist in Galactic Cowboys, guitarist/vocalist for Crunchy.
Favorite Interesting Experience: sitting in on a Sunday-school class taught by Oklahoma Poet Laureate, Benjamin Myers @
Favorite Teaching Moment(s): My summer Religion and Literature course (with works by Bret Lott, Tania Runyan, Gina Ochsner, Brent Newsom, Addie Zierman, Larry Woiwode, Jeanne Murray Walker, and Benjamin Myers).
Fun Trip Destinations: Minneapolis, Galveston Island, Kansas City, Lake Michigan, rural Minnesota
Favorite Publication: “The North-Central Iowa Spring Break Blizzard Tour” (published in The Cresset)
Favorite Photo I Took:
I’m looking forward to a good 2016, filled with good books and music, lots of writing, good classes to teach, and supportive friends and family.
With the exception of my teenage years and early college years, I’ve always had a preference for the early morning hours. When I began running (again) when I was first married, my wife and I would get up early to run on treadmills at a fitness center, rather than brave the sub-zero Northwestern Minnesota temperatures. Now, sleeping until 6:30 is a luxury; sleeping until 7 is an un-achievable feat, even if I’ve had a late night. (Part of that inability results from two young children, both of whom are early risers themselves.)
Over the years I’ve used those early-hours to train for marathons, for 10ks, for 5ks; to work on graduate coursework; to read; to work on various writing projects and assignments. Whether inside or outside the house during those dawn and pre-dawn times, I’ve found them to be some of the most fulfilling and productive minutes of my days. And for me as an introvert, those times alone are crucial to my emotional well-being.
Over a month ago after I returned from an academic conference, I decided to write for a half hour before breakfast, before I did anything else. Just roll out of bed at 6, everyone else still asleep, and slip into the home office. In this time span, I’ve established a wonderful writing rhythm, those 30 minutes to myself and my words a jump start to my day, whatever responsibilities await.
My brain is so much sharper at this hour than if I tried to write once my children are both asleep (ideally before 8). At that hour, I have little mental focus, all of it used up during my job as a professor. I’ve tried to write during space from 8-9 p.m., but I’ve found that what I can accomplish in that time, I can accomplish in a half hour in the early morning.
I did take this morning off, it being Thanksgiving, but of the many things for which I am grateful (my family, my friends, my job, my church, my home, etc.) writing and reading are two of the most precious. To be able to communicate and to be able to understand the ideas and stories of others are gifts I do not take for granted. And having done the former (I trust), I will now spend part of this rainy afternoon doing the latter.