Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bucket Accomplished

One movie that had an impact on my life is the movie Bucket List.  That movie made me start thinking about all of the things I wanted to accomplish before I "kicked the bucket".  Shortly after watching the movie I started working on creating a list of 100 things I wanted to do.  I still have not completed that list, but I did start working on accomplishing some of the things that I wrote down.

Here are a few of those items:
  • Coach William - I was able to accomplish this in April/May of 2010 when I had the privilege of helping coach his Bam-Bam team.  I enjoyed showing William one of my passions and being able to help him and other kids have fun. 
  • Throw out a first pitch - I accomplished this in June 2010 at an Iowa Cubs game.  It was DMEA night and I enjoyed bringing William out on the field and throwing out a pitch along with some other DMEA leaders. 
  • Go to Disney World - We were not able to take this vacation when I was a kid, but was thrilled to be able to go as a parent.  We took my mom with us and had a blast.  It was fun seeing William's facial expressions throughout our trip. 
  • Go to Europe - I was able to take this trip with Anna to visit friends who lived in Italy.  I would love to go back and explore other areas too. Two other things that were on my list that I accomplished while there in March of 2012 were climbing the leaning tower of Pisa and touring the Roman Colosseum. 
  • Attend a Presidential Inauguration - I had the privilege of doing this in January of 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn into office.  It was excited to see history happen and witness the first non-white male sworn in as President of the United States in person.
  • Pay off my Student Loans - I was able to be debt free other than my mortgage on August 27th, 2012 when we paid off my final student loan.  It was a great feeling.  While going to Dave Ramsey's office to scream "WE"RE DEBT FREE" is on my bucket list, we have chosen to check that one off after we eliminate our mortgage too.
  • Run a 1/2 Marathon - On October 21st, 2012 I accomplished this goal in 1 hour, 48 minutes and 33 seconds which was under my 2 hour goal.  I am glad I was able to do this and hope to complete a full marathon some day. 
Later this month I will share some of the things that are still waiting to be done on my list.  What are some things that are on your bucket list?  What have you already accomplished?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

March on Washington

I had the privilege of joining thousands of other citizens in Washington, D.C. for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  During our time we listened to many speakers that spoke about equality and justice.  

As a teacher, I know that equity is one of the cornerstones of America’s public education system.  At this time of rapid change in our nation and the world, the need to ensure equity in education has never been greater. All students, including students who come from high poverty communities, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of color need meaningful educational opportunity. 

I am committed to participate in discussions and action that help treat all of our students as equals. Students learn when they are treated with respect and know they are cared for.  Here are a few pictures from the event. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to School Disappointment

The beginning of the school year can lead to many mixed emotions from sadness of the end of summer to excitement about what another year can bring.  One of the things that is making going back to school this year less exciting for educators across our country is that elected officials and other leaders are aggressively working to pass laws that help corporate America and hurt our nation's students and schools.

Students shouldn't have to worry about whether or not their teachers will have enough time to help to help them with their individual needs because there are too many students in a class.  Class size, adequate tools and resources, and safe and modern school environments are grown-up worries.

As teachers and parents we must work together to insist that our elected leaders work for our students and not against them.  In several states around the country, politicians only stop by for a photo op while making decisions about public education.  Although many of them talk a good game about making children a priority their actions tell an entirely different story.  Instead of investing in America's future they are cashing in on our children.  The make shortsighted trade-offs that jeopardize the promise of an excellent public education for all of our children to create high profits for corporations.

It is time for parents and educators to stand up to bullies like ALEC and do what is right for our children.  The main purpose of public education is to level the playing field and provide opportunities for all children.  Schools are assets, and they can and should be the heart of a community.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Scout Is...

This year scouting will be different for our family.  William moves from being a Tiger scout up to the Wolf den.  In addition, Anna and I have agreed to help lead William's den.  This is one way to for us to spend time with William while having an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other children in our community too.  I am an Eagle Scout and am looking forward to sharing some of the values of scouting with my son and other boys.  Here are those values:
As teachers, we will work on creatively interweaving these values into each meeting in a way that will be fun for the members of our den.  One of the goals of Cub Scouts is for the boys to know, commit and practice these 12 core values.  I believe if every kid in America would know, commit and practice these 12 core values the future of our country would be bright.  Anna and I will do our part to help teach, model and help the boys under our care to grow in these areas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recommitting to Fitness

I have recommitted to myself and my family to refocus on my personal health and fitness again.  My new physical wellness goal is to get back to my pre-broken foot weight by the end of the year, which at this point would mean losing another 41 pounds.  In order to do this I have broken my goal into more manageable monthly goals.  This month I need to lose at least 6 more pounds to stay on track.  How am I going to do this?  As I mentioned on Sunday, I am participating in the START Experiment and have committed to working out 6 times a week and watching what I am eating each day. 

One of our assignments for the experiment was not only to create a "risk" but to create actionable steps on how we are going to START! Here are a few of mine:
  • I have created a weekly schedule for my workouts each day and posted it on my refrigerator.  This guarantees I will see it to be reminded. It is also intentionally in a public place so my wife can ask me about it and help keep me accountable.  I mixed up the workouts in order to focuses on my whole body and keep working out fun for me.  I have included kickboxing, running, cycling, some core workouts, etc.
  • I am tracking everything I put in my body again using My Fitness Pal so that I can make sure that I am eating enough calories but not also staying on track to be able to lose some weight. 
  • I am sharing my progress on social media through the START Experiment group and my personal facebook and twitter accounts.
It is important that if you are going to set goals that you also create action steps so that they can become a reality.  What actions do you need to take today to accomplish your goals?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Time to START

After reading START by Jon Acuff earlier this year I have made a few subtle changes into my life, but haven't really done anything "risky".  This all changes starting tomorrow.  I am participating in a START Experiment in which I choose some "risks" to make public and allow others to hold me accountable to.  Part of what is risky is publicly announcing my goals making myself vulnerable by allow others to hold me accountable and ask me how I am doing. 

In addition to the community that I joined, I would love for you to ask from time to time how I am doing too.

Here are the risks I have created for myself for the next 24 days.
  • Personally, I am STARTing to get back in shape by watching what I am eating and working out at least 6 times per week.  Since I broke my foot in February I have gained a lot of weight and need to get myself refocused.
  • For this blog, I am going to lay out potential topics for the year and begin the writing process on several of them.  My goal is to write a new post at least twice a week.  I am attempting to post every Sunday and Wednesday.   In addition, I am going to reflect on what the purpose of the blog will be which may lead to a name change and a move to a self-hosted platform.  Please share with me what you like about the blog which will help me as I reflect.
What risks do you need to take to get STARTed moving toward your dreams/goals? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Debt Story

One of my motivators this year for focusing on eliminating debt was participating in The Debt Movement.  This week I was announced a winner of one of their Debt Scholarships to help eliminate even more debt.  I would like to thank The Debt Movement and CarOne Services, Inc. for sponsoring the scholarship I won.  During the first 90 days of 2013 I completed several surveys and at the conclusion submitted a debt free story. 

Here is my story that is also posted on The Debt Movement Blog

“Tell me a story, Dad,” my six-year old son, William begs as I tuck him in for bed.

“What would you like to hear about tonight?”  I ask.  “A story about dragons or superheroes?  A story about battles or ghosts?”

“No,” he whispers.  “Tell me a true story.  Tell me a story about you.  What were you like when you were six?”

“Well . . .” I laugh, “In some ways, I was a lot like you.  I liked to run and play and imagine all kinds of things.  But my family was very different than ours.  Even as a six-year old, I had to help take care of my little brothers.  Your Uncle Eric was four then and your Uncle James was 2.  Uncle Bob was in Grandma’s belly and she was always busy working to take care of us.”

“My parents never really got along well.  It was tough because my mom and dad would fight a lot.  They also worried about money.  My dad had to work at night and then would sleep during the day when it was his turn to take care of us.  When I was 13, they got a divorce and moved to separate houses.  My brothers and I lived with my mom.  My dad gave her some money, but she had to work two jobs in order to have enough.  She also took classes to get a better job.  She was very busy, but I saw that she was working so hard because she loved us.”

“I know Grandma loves you,” William interjects with a grin.  “But you know, she says that now I’m her favorite!”

“That’s probably true.”  I laugh.  “I’ve learned a lot from her.  I especially learned how to work hard.  I also learned how to sacrifice for my family.  I never asked for new basketball shoes or a tuxedo for prom because I knew my mom wouldn’t say no, but couldn’t really afford it.”

“I also started working to earn my own money as soon as I was 14.  I worked a lot of hours making pizza.  It was fun to have my own money.  Usually I would spend it all right away.  As a teenager, I didn’t learn how to save.”

“I also didn’t realize how debt could hurt a person.  I was the first person in my family to go to college right after high school.  I decided to go to Simpson College, a private school and graduated with 65,000 dollars that I had to pay back.”

“Wow!  That’s a lot of money!”  William exclaimed.

“I know.  Your mom and I have been working really hard lately to pay back all of the money we owe to our different debts.  Ever since we got married, we knew we wanted to make smart choices with our money.  At first, we just did what we felt was right, but sometimes we made wrong choices like buying brand new cars and a big house.  Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to help our family make smarter choices with our money.  I began listening to podcasts by financial experts like Dave Ramsey.  I read lots of books and blogs about how to make good choices with money.  Mommy and I went to Financial Peace University classes and we got you the Financial Peace Junior kit.”

“Yep.”  William replied.  “I have lots of money in MY ‘save’ envelope!”

“You sure do!  I’m really proud of you!  I’m still trying to learn new things though.  This year I joined a program called the ‘debt movement.’  It was a group of people who were trying to work together to pay off 10 million dollars in debt in 90 days.”

“Wow!”  William responded.

“The challenge inspired me to try to help as much as I could.  Our family paid off $48,836.97 during 2013 so far.   The debt movement also got me connected with a tool called ‘Ready for Zero.’  I used the program to make a chart for how long it will take our family to pay off the rest of our house mortgage.  The graph is connected to our accounts and I can see our progress as the bar moves when we make payments.  It helps me see how far we’ve come and how close we’re getting to our goal of having zero debt.  I can’t wait until the day when you and me and mommy get to scream, ‘We’re debt free!’  That will feel really good!”

“Dad?” William asked seriously.  “Why do you think it’s so important for us to get out of debt?”

“I’ve learned a lot in the last few years.  I used to think that debt was just a way of life.  I thought that I should be able to get the things I wanted whenever I wanted them and I didn’t worry about borrowing money if I didn’t have enough to pay for things.   I didn’t realize that I was being tricked.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, when you borrow money, you have to pay back the amount that you borrow plus some extra.  That extra money is called interest.  As time goes by, you end up paying a lot more money than you would have paid if you saved up for something before buying it.  I realized that I would rather have that money and use it for fun or to help people than give it to the bank.  I think that debt really gets in the way of people reaching their dreams and being able to do nice things for themselves and others.”

“So, how do you think we can get out of debt faster?”

“Mommy and I are working really hard to earn extra money.  We’re also making some sacrifices by not buying things that are too expensive.   Sometimes we have to say no to ourselves when we think we want something new.  We also like to look for good deals at the store and use coupons.  We buy a lot of our clothes and your toys from garage sales where we can find really good things for really good prices.”

“I know.  Remember when I got that Imaginext dinosaur at a garage sale for $3!  At the store I would have had to save $30 to buy it.”

“Yes!  I think even after we are debt free we will still have fun hunting for good deals.  We’ve really changed our way of life.  Most importantly, we’re looking forward to a time when we can have extra money to give to people in need.  Right now we’re living happily and paying a lot of money for our house.  Once we are debt free, we will be able to use all of the money we currently pay to the bank to go on special vacations, get special things, and give to special causes.  Instead of giving money to the bank, we can give to people who need help.  That will be way more special!  We’re looking forward to sharing good things with you so that you can have a bright future.  I really want to change my family tree by giving you more opportunities than I had.”

“Thanks, Dad,” my sleepy son whispers as he cuddles up and closes his eyes.  I know that my hard work will be worth it so I can help make his dreams come true.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Back to School Tips

As we prepare to get ready for a new school year, I wanted to share some ideas of how to strengthen your relationship with your kids.

  • Be involved in your child's education either by volunteering, visiting for lunch, etc. 
  • Cook a special breakfast for your child before school. 
  • Share your funniest memory from school. 
  • Make sure all school events end up on your calendar (activities, conferences, etc.)
  • Pray for your child's success in school. 
  • Help your child with homework or in reviewing for tests at home. 
  • Keep lines of communication open with your child's teachers. 
  • Make sure to set time aside after school to play with your kids. 
  • Spend some time to read together each night. 
  • Write a note to go in your child's lunchbox or backpack. 
  • Talk with your child on the way to school or let them pick the music. 
  • Host your child and a few of their friends for a fun activity. 
  • Remember to tell your child that you love them. 
What are ways that you will make sure to continue to help your relationship thrive when the school year begins in a couple weeks?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Goal Update After A Crazy Month

We made it through July.  It was a crazy time with NEA RA, a family vacation, RAGBRAI, a training in DC and then ISEA Summer Conference.  It is now over and I can see a few days in my future that I may get to relax, spend time with friends and family and prepare for the upcoming school year.  I did make some progress toward some of my goals in July so I want to update you where I am.

Financial Wellness 
By the end of 2013, we would like to pay off over 20% of the current outstanding debt on our house.  To do this Anna and I will continue to work together with our finances  find more opportunities to earn and save more money.  We have also considered looking at selling our house, since we probably have a larger house then we really need. 

UPDATE:  Anna and I are still on pace to surpass this goal in 2013.  We have knocked another month off our debt free date and are now on pace to be debt free no later than June 1st, 2016!  Which means we will be debt free in 1035 or less days.  I am looking forward to seeing that date be less than 1000 soon! 
Physical Wellness 
By the end of 2013 I would like to be back at my pre-broken foot weight. 
UPDATE: As of today I am 46 pounds away from this goal.  In order to meet this goal I will need to lose at least 9.2 pounds each month this year.  Since the first month will likely be the easiest my goal is to be no more than 35 pounds away from this goal by the end of August. 
Intellectual Wellness 
My goal for 2013 is to read at least 100.  As Charlie Jones said, "Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet."  I want to read some good books, so that I can be a better person five years from now. 
UPDATE:  I have currently read 57 books in 2013 and am working on several other ones.  Even though I read a lot while on vacation I didn't get much reading accomplished during my meetings, trainings or RAGBRAI.  I am currently one book behind pace to make my goal and will need to do a lot of reading these next few weeks before school begins to have a chance to meet this goal. 
Emotional Wellness 
I will continue to blog about my throughs and feelings at least once a week throughout 2013. I will also post additional content on my blog's facebook page 
A friend shared a great idea on facebook that our family has decided to put into action in 2013.  We will be keeping a "Good News Jar" to write notes of all the good things happening this year to open up and read on December 31st, 2013.   
UPDATE:  Now that I have taken the month of July off my blog I will be back at it starting now!
Spiritual Wellness 
After finishing reading the Bible again in 2012, I plan on starting over in 2013.  In addition to reading the Bible, I will be using Tony Dungy's The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge for my personal quiet time in 2013.  Another spiritual wellness goal of mine for 2013 is to begin weekly devotionals as a family at least 5 days a week using Bruce Wilkinson's Family Walk.
UPDATE:  I have continued with my personal devotional time it has been harder to schedule the family ones while traveling so much in July.  We will be working to recommit to those this month.