Amber Demure Draws the Awkward Moments in Life and That’s Why She’s So Awesome

I guess you could say that I meet a lot of awesome people. At least I like to think that’s the case. I meet them online, I meet them on a bus I meet them because they’re sleeping on the stairs outside of the building that’s across the street. Why do I do it? That’s a great question. I just seem to genuinely have an interest in all different types of people. I love their quirks, their interests and the stories that they have to tell. I love to listen to everything they have to say and just soak it all in. Sometimes I’m meeting them one minute and leaving their lives the next, but other times they stick around in my life a little bit longer. You never know and that’s all part of the fun.

Like I said, the stories that these people have are awesome and I’m going to start sharing them here on my blog so that more people can hear their stories, too. These stories will be completely different from one person to the next, but I think you’ll realize just like I did that they’re all worth hearing about.

Meet Amber Demure

The first of many awesome people I’m going to introduce you to is Amber Demure who I met through my job at isocket. She has an awesome blog that she uses to display some of the more interesting and inappropriate stories of her life and she does it all through drawings that she scribbles on everything from Post-It notes to napkins (more on that later). When I first visited her blog I was instantly sucked into her storytelling and the amount of transparency that she lets us all see through her daily drawings. From the bad drunk decisions she makes to her lack of junk in her trunk – it’s all out there and there’s no holding back.

I was so intrigued with Amber’s life I wanted to do an interview with her so see what’s really going on in that head of hers. Here’s what I found out.

When I sent Amber an email asking her what she was doing, this is how she responded.

[box]1. So I just realized I’m interviewing you and I don’t really know anything about you besides the fact that you a blog with awesome cartoons on it. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?[/box]I got nervous about the interview and decided to get drunk at Whole Foods (I do that a lot). My co-worker Josh is sitting next to me and he says I’m a cross between Lucille Ball and Holly Golightly. I think I’m a pudgy drunk with a fear of commitment.

In all seriousness…

I’m a closet-Cajun that grew up in Southeast Texas and never looked back. I don’t have much of a family but my whole host of misfit friends gets me by. I practically live at Whole Foods and bike everywhere. I regret choosing so colorful a bike because when I fake-sick at work they know it’s me parked outside of whatever bar I’m at. I really enjoy characters like Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development, Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, and Bernard Black from Black Books. I relate to pompous, alcoholic villains. I like to see myself as one, but friends always correct me that my intentions are all good. They’re playing into my plan.

[box]2. OK, enough of that — back to the important stuff. Holy crap your cartoons are awesome. I mean, like really awesome. What made you first start drawing these things and how long have you been posting them to your blog?[/box]It’s been about a year…

I was always the kid getting in trouble for drawing all the time (and also distributing my own version of the school newspaper) and wow. It’s weird to think that I’ve been doing this all along, my entire life – I just didn’t have the internet.

A lot of what I make is born out of frustration. I’m really hard on myself which is a terrible thing when you consider just how much I get drunk and make absolutely painful mistakes, but in drawing down the hilarious parts of the situation I put myself as a sort of 3rd party and laugh at my own antics. I didn’t realize so many other people would jump on board and relate to my life, but that’s best part. The lighter side of that frustration I mention has to do with my desk job. It get’s really boring at times and it’s nice to have a place to make a really good joke about a co-worker and share the link with everyone, “Look what Taylor said! She used the term ‘tenurecy.’ WTF does that even mean? I’m going to draw the scene in the meeting when she busts out with that stuff trying to sound impressive to our manager.”

[box]3. Do you have some history with artsy stuff? Meaning, did you go for school for art or have any other type of training or experience?[/box]In all seriousness, people growing up called me, “the girl that draws.” My Granny made me swear to her I’d study art in college before she died. I swore it. She died. I didn’t. I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough and the corporate world was the only way to survive.

The fun thing is: I find the more I accept myself, the more other people do. It’s like I’m publicly learning how to be comfortable in my own skin.

[box]4. You live in Austin and I’ve been there for a few SXSW adventures. I eat a lot of meat when I’m there and then usually end up drinking way too much. Is this pretty much what everyone does in Austin or is there more to the city than what my light-weight self has experienced?[/box]You’re way off man, we have vegans. But yeah… We got #1 drinking city in America by Forbes a few years back, and just recently we were named 1 of the top 10 cities to go bar-hopping in. I know that everything pretty much involves drinking and you can’t expect people to show up to anything unless there’s a bar. As my friend from Toronto put it, “People there think mimosas are breakfast smoothies!” And they are.

We have the music scene which is world famous and a lot of fun, but people miss out on the natural beauty of my town. We have a spring just minutes from downtown that’s cold year-round. Some of the best days of my life have been spent laying on blankets with friends playing acoustic guitars and harmonizing. There’s the always something to do, and there’s always someone to do it with; there is never a dull moment in Austin.

On a lighter note, everything revolves around breakfast tacos, food trucks, bicycle rides, shopping locally, and everyone has dated everyone else. It is the most incestuous of places, and for such a large city, we all know each other’s dirty secrets. I like how one friend put it, “Austin is the world’s slowest moving orgy.” It’s not uncommon to find your best friend is now dating your ex from 2 years ago, and people here are okay with that.

[box]5. You seem to draw on random stuff with different pencils, pens, crayons and who knows what else. I’m curious to hear about how you go from figuring out what you’re going to draw, to drawing something and then to posting the drawings up on your blog. Can you give me a quick run down of how you do all of that?[/box]I get a bit miserable at day job and whatever is sitting next to me gets used. I’m a messy, sloppy person and it shows. Recently I spilled marinara sauce in my purse (hence coating my sketchbook) and those comics still went up. As my friend Jillian puts it, “First draft = final draft.”

I mostly use legal pads and “discreet stuff” so my corporate overlords don’t catch on to the fact that what I’m writing is not even remotely work-related, but now and then I bust out my Japanese stationary. Writing letters has been a hobby of mine for years and I go all out. I actually spent Thanksgiving this past year with a girl from Nashville that got to know me as a pen pal. We met for the first time the day before Thanksgiving! She stayed here and I don’t even have a couch. I was like, “Hey Maggie. You’ll be sharing my bed with me, nice to meet you. This is not awkward at all.”

[box]6. If you had the chance to hang out with one person who’s alive at this very moment, who would it be and what would you do if you had a weekend together?[/box]Is Hunter S. Thompson still kicking, because I think we’d fuck some shit up. I can only imagine…

Who has the most impressive Champagne cellar? That’s what I’m asking, because 90% of my answer is based on that alone.

Yeah, she likes champagne (just a little bit).

[box]7. Name an awesome person who you would you recommend me to interview and why (preferably someone who you know personally and would actually answer my random questions).[/box]I think Tolly Mosely would be fantastic. She’s so engaging, and I mean that in the real way; not in the twitter/CRM/social media/whatever-they-call-it-now way.

Or The Glitoris. He has no filter; he is hilarious.

[box]8. Anything else you want to add? Now’s your chance — do it.[/box]

I think I went on a date with a high schooler the other day. That’s weirding me out. My frieds sussed it out, “That guy does NOT seem 24.” Also? A homeless transvestite that regularly wears a cheerleader skirt and thong was almost the mayor of Austin. This city is cool in ways you can’t even imagine despite my constant attempts to escape it and live in Stockholm.

Yep, that’s me and the homeless transvestite that Amber is talking about. Awesome.


Suit And High Tops

Even the lawyers have style in San Francisco. This was taken in the Hall of Justice while I was checking in for jury duty. This guys kicks caught my eye, so I had to snap a quick pic. It’s not every day you see high tops teamed up with a suit. Personally, I felt like the guy pulled it off well.

Editing on the photo was done in Picnik.

How Taking The Sticks Out Of Kebabs Equals Good Product Development

Something hit me today when Stephanie and I went and had dinner at a place called Mediterranean Kebab near my office in Burlingame, CA. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it’s the type of thing that I notice and appreciate as a customer. I’m guessing that most people who stop in to grab some kebabs don’t think about it, but I sure did.

After we ordered Stephanie and I took our number, sat down and chatted for a bit about our days at work while we munched on some pita bread and hummus (one of my all-time favs). A few minutes later our food was brought to our table and we were ready to get our grub on. Once our food was on the table I noticed something that was a little different than I’ve seen at other Mediterranean restaurants — the kebabs didn’t have any sticks in them. For the first time in my life I was looking at a stickless kebab!

So why did I notice this little detail? Mostly because I’m a dork like that. But other than that I noticed because instead of taking the time to pull off the pieces of chicken, peppers and onions off of the kebab, getting my hands all messy and pushing half of the meal off my plate in the process I went straight to eating. The cooks had taken out a simple, yet sometimes complicated step out of my meal, had saved me time and effort and had still gotten me to the point to where I could get straight to business (aka ‘getting my grub on’).

If you think about it 100% of people have to pull all of the delicious goodies off of a stick before they can get to eating their kebab. It’s what I would call an unnecessary step to get to what I really want, which is eating the meat and veggies that are cooked so perfectly together.

Of course, there are always exceptions and apparently Stephanie is one of them. When she saw that I was writing about this she quickly said “I actually like to pull the stuff off of the kebab…”, which I guess I can understand, but can’t agree with. This got me wondering how many people would actually prefer to have the sticks vs. would rather just have it without them. If I were to guess I would say that most people like not having to deal with the sticks and that the Stephanie’s of the kebab world are the minority. But, just like with any educated guess doing some type of survey or stats on what people really want and what they don’t would be the only way to know the real truth.

Before taking the sticks out of the kebabs I would hope that the cooks would have done a little bit of research, but who knows. Sometimes going with your gut and natural instincts can work pretty well, too. But, the good thing is that even if 30-40% of people really liked the sticks, removing them is making the process more efficient and no matter what this change to the product flow isn’t making the end result any better or worse. Once they give enough people exposure to the stickless kebabs no one will ever even remember what they used to be like anyways.

Do you remember what Facebook was like before the newsfeed that so many people initially complained about? I didn’t think so.

Thinking about this type of thing might not seem that important, but it’s small details like this and decisions that are made around customer experiences that make a product the best possible thing that it can be. I might not deal with kebabs on a daily basis at isocket, but I do make decisions all of the time that have an impact on the product that our customers use on a daily basis. Add a button here, remove a step there — it’s all about getting the product down to the things that are necessary and adding real value (even if some of your customers might disagree).

Taking out steps that don’t matter and making it easier for people to get to what they want is the name of the game when it comes to good product development and taking the sticks out of the kebabs is just another way to do it. It might not be that sexy, but hey — it works.



Getting On A Training Schedule And Enjoying My Long Runs

Long runs in San Francisco are kinda like the bomb

As you’ve probably noticed, I have been running a lot lately. It’s been getting me up early in the morning and it’s something that I really look forward to. Since college I’ve always enjoyed runs but for some reason I’m now liking them more than ever and I think that’s pretty cool.

When I first started to get more serious about running (which wasn’t very long ago) one thing that I made sure to do was to get on a set training schedule so that I knew what I was supposed to run and when. Just like with anything else you’re going to participate in and manage over time getting yourself on a schedule and into some sort of routine is a big part of sticking with it and eventually seeing the results you’re expecting.

I say this because it’s nearly impossible to make any real progress and to feel like you have any control over what you’re trying to accomplish if you don’t set up some type of schedule. Without one you’re just making guesses and going by your own feelings and circumstance, which might seem like it works for a while, but in the long run is never a good way to achieve any type of goal.

I’ve mentioned this name before in other posts, but a great example of a training schedule to use when thinking about running a 5-K, 10-K, 15-K, half or full marathon or any other race you can think of is what you’ll find over at Hal Higdon’s website. He’s put together all kinds of training schedules that will get you ready for the race you’re wanting to run and he even goes as far to break up the training schedules into novice, intermediate and expert levels so that you can find the training level that’s right for your specific situation. If you ever plan to run a race and you don’t know where to start, Hal Higdon is always a great place to start.

No matter what you use, the one common thing among most training schedules for running is that during the week you will do shorter, but progressively longer runs as you get closer to the day of your race and on the weekend you’ll do a long run. For example, when I was using Hal Higdon’s training schedule for a half marathon (novice), the most that I would run during the week would be 5 miles, but I would get up to a 10 mile long run on the weekend.

These long runs can be pretty scary sometimes and even though the goal isn’t to push yourself to the max when you’re doing a long run, most of the time you’re running farther than you even have in your life. No matter what kind of shape you’re in, going on for a run that lasts longer than an hour (or more) can be intimidating at times, but once you knock one out you feel great about knocking it out. You’re usually exhausted, but you still fee great about knocking it out.

I bring all of this up because I’m now getting some training help from one of my best friends of all time, Jason Smith (who I’ll call ‘Smitty’ from here on out), who is what I like to call a freak of nature when it comes to running, biking and pretty much anything else that has to do with being in shape. He’s done so many races it would blow your mind and some of the stories he has about them are literally some of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard. He’s a freakin’ maniac and one of these days I’m going to write up a post about him so that you can better understand why.

As I have gotten more into running these past few months it only made sense for me to go to Smitty for some training advice. I figure that if I’m going to get more serious about it then I should probably talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about and since Smitty knows his stuff I asked him to write me up a little somethin’ somethin’ so that I can get on a set routine that will continually help me run better, faster and farther.

After I asked him to hook me up with a training schedule it literally took him about an hour to have something sent back to me that was amazing. It had a running schedule and a few paragraphs of notes that helped me better understand what he was thinking and how I should go about training at the stage that I’m in. Yeah, like I said, he’s a freak.

I’ve been following the workout now for over a week and it’s been great. I even cranked out my first long run on Saturday. I ended up running right around 9 miles and I did it in about an hour, which was actually faster than I thought I was going. When I first took off for the run I was a little intimidated by the fact that I was about to run, by myself, for an hour, but it ended up being one of the best long runs I’ve ever had. There were a few killer hills, some unexpected stairs and a lot of trails on the route that I ran, but it was so much fun I didn’t even care.

I think that I’m finally getting to that magical point when my body has finally gotten used to the wear and tear that comes along with getting into shape. It’s the point when your body goes from “What are you doing to me? STOP!” to “Bring it on — is that all you got?” and it’s a great milestone whenever you’re training. Now that I’m at this point in my training I can actually start to enjoy my long runs instead of just simply making it through them, which makes running a lot more fun. Without a training schedule I would have never made it to this point and now that I have I’m really excited to see where I can go from here.

If you want to check out the long run that I ran this past weekend, you can check it out over here on MapMyRun or you can watch the cool Google Earth 3-D fly-through below. Also, speaking of enjoying the run I even stopped a few times along the way and snapped some photos so that you can see some of what I saw along the way. As you can see, San Francisco is a great place for a long run.

a nice view from Lands End Trail

some of the super-expensive houses on Lake Street

running down a trail in the median of Park Presidio Blvd.

check out my last long run

If you or someone you know would like some advice on how to get a training schedule together, let me know and I’ll be sure to help you out. Leave me a comment below and we’ll connect up so that we can talk about it.

Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Out

Can you find me? (hint: I’m wearing orange)

In life you’re usually taught to keep to yourself and never to do anything that might potentially disturb others or catch them off guard. This is a very safe way to go through life and it usually results in you hanging out somewhere in the gray area when it comes to having fun and getting to experience awesome stuff. Having this mindset means that you’ll never get in too much trouble for pushing the limits and you won’t have to deal with any majorly uncomfortable moments, but you also won’t do things that people will get excited about or that they’ll always remember.

It’s a trade-off and believe me, for every time you take the risk to stand out and do something that turns out great you’re probably have three or four other times that end up failing completely or being much harder/turning out much differently than what you initially wanted or expected.

From my experience, the people who can keep on cranking through the three or four tough ones to finally get to that one, awesome experience are the ones who get noticed and who continue to push themselves to new levels.

With me, it’s kind of funny how I now almost look forward to the tough times. The times that things don’t work out how I want them to or that require me to put more thought into making them better. That’s when I learn the most about whatever I’m trying to do and that’s definitely when I learn the most about myself.

So what I’m saying is don’t be afraid to stand out and never completely avoid things due to  fear of them not working out the way you initially expect them to. Regardless of how things end up when you take the chance to stand out you’ll surprised with how good it can feel and what all you can learn from an experience that might not turn out the way you wanted it to.

Here’s a small example of me standing out during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon that I ran a few weeks ago. See if you can find me among the rest of the crowd. Yeah, I’m sure some people thought I was crazy at the time, but I also made a lot of people laugh and feel better during a tough part of the race and I now get to watch this over and over whenever I want (which makes me crack up every, single time). Enjoy.

I’ve Been A Runner All Along

To be honest, I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to figure it out. It’s been there all along and I just chose to ignore it for some reason. All those times when I was the fastest person on my college basketball team whenever we ran our yearly two mile endurance test and the fact that I actually liked training for it on my own time. The runs during the warm Indiana Summer nights when I felt like I could go on forever. All of the miles and miles I used to run on treadmills after my daily workouts at the gym. The races that Stephanie and I have ran together since moving to California (like this one). I mean, hello — how have I not noticed this before?

I’ve been a runner all along.

Did you just hear what I just said? I’m a runner.

This might not sound that mind-blowing to you, but for me it’s something that I would have never thought I’d say. I’m a basketball player, not a runner. The only times I used to run is when I had to and I never liked it at all. But somehow, someway it’s slowly become apparent that I’m more of a runner than I ever realized and now that I know that about myself I think it’s pretty awesome.

So what finally made me realize all of this?

It all started a month or so ago when Stephanie and I decided that we were going to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon while we were home in Indiana. That’s when I started training and running consistently for the first time since my shoulder surgery. Stephanie and I followed the wise words of Hal Higdon and were feeling good about running the half marathon in Indianapolis. The key to improvement and working towards a goal is to have a set strategy that you can go by and running a half marathon is no different. After a few weeks of getting on Hal Higdon’s training schedule I was ready to take on a half marathon and was getting excited about running it.

Then, like with most things in my life, something randomly awesome happens and I end up telling my friend Ryan Mollenkopf that I would run a half marathon with him in Nashville the week before the one I was running in Indianapolis. so I had booked two half marathons on back-to-back weekends and was all about it. Some other people though that I was a little crazy, but I was excited to take on both of the races.

I ran both of those half marathons while back in Indiana and I liked them so much that I felt like I needed to run another race the next weekend so I bought a bib for Bay to Breakers, which is part 12k and part walking Mardi Gras here in San Francisco. It was the 100th running on the race, which was cool, and over 55,000 people had already registered for it. Stephanie and all of our friends were going to walk it and party with thousands of other people in costume, but I had my mind set on running it so that’s exactly what I did.

Running Bay to Breakers was even more fun that the half marathons even though I about died during the race (more on that soon) and being able to run straight through the streets of San Francisco is super cool (even if there are some serious hills involved). After Bay to Breakers I realized even more how much I really love running and these types of competitive races so I guess at this point I’m sold — I”m now officially a runner. How awesome is that?

Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m getting pretty good at this whole running thing, too. For Bay to Breakers I ended finishing right at 53 minutes for the 12k, which is about right at a 7 minutes per mile pace. Not bad for a guy who was coming off two straight half marathons and who has never really thought of himself as a runner. I can’t wait to see what I end up running next and don’t worry I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.

Don’t Ever Be Miss An Opportunity To Create A New Story

The goal of this post is to remind you to always be looking to create new stories with the people you care about. Stories are what you’re always going to remember and talk about when you’re together and they are what help build new relationships and keep old ones connected. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to create a story, especially if it’s with someone you care a lot about. Quick confession, I actually re-wrote this entire post after working on it for several days straight. I still don’t think it’s perfect, but if I waited for perfect I’d never get anything done.

A couple of weeks ago I was planning on making a trip back to Indiana with my wife Stephanie. We were heading back because Stephanie was the Matron of Honor for her best friend’s wedding (her name’s Megan) the first weekend that we were home and my sister was getting married on the second weekend. My sister actually planned it to work out that way — yeah, she’s cool like that.

While we were home we were also planning to run in the Indianapolis half marathon, otherwise known as the “Indy Mini”, that kicks off all of the Indy 500 festival stuff that goes on in Indianapolis during the month of May. The race was running the morning of my sister’s wedding, but we would have plenty of time to run it and make it back for all of the planned festivities. Of course, we were also planning on running around Indiana hanging with our friends and family while we were home, too but that’s always pretty much a given.

It was shaping up to be quite the trip home, but it was about to get just a little more complicated (in a good way).

I ended up calling one of my good friends Ryan Mollenkopf who loves in Nashville, TN and as I was telling him about my plans for going home with the weddings, running and what-not he tells me that he’s running a half marathon in Nashville the first Saturday that I’m home and that he could probably get me a free entry. Interesting.

After thinking about the logistics of the whole thing I tell him that I’ll make the five hour drive down to Nashville to run with him because it’s crazy and I haven’t seen him in forever. It just felt right and it felt exciting. Yeah, it’s a lot of driving. Yeah, I might end up being late coming back to Stephanie’s best friend’s wedding. But, it will also be an amazing trip, will create an awesome story and will give me the chance to hang out with one of my best friends who now just happens to have a 9 month old son. I was in and it was going to be epic. The stories we have with each other are what keep us close together and it had been way too long since we made one.

Mollenkopf and the best thing he’s ever made, Ryder

Now that I was going to Nashville I needed to invite some more friends. No one likes to roll solo on road trips.

Me: Yo, JD! You won’t believe what I’m doing in a couple weeks.
JD: Yes, I probably will believe you — what’s up?
Me: I’m driving down to Nashville and running a half marathon with Mellonhead.
Me: Yep, I’m flying in on a red eye, going to a rehearsal dinner then taking off straight down to Nashville. After the race I’ll have to drive straight back to Indy so that I can make it to Megan’s wedding in time. It’s going to be awesome and I wanted to see if you were up for going with me.
JD: Duh, I’m in. Let me know the details once it gets closer.
Me: Niiiiice. You need to get a hold or Marc, too and see if he wants to go. He never calls or texts me back, but that’s how Marc does things.
JD: Yep, I’ll make sure that Marc knows about it and we should invite Arone (our other buddy Aaron), too — we could pick him up on the way down.

When an idea gets created with this much energy everything else  just seems to come together — and that’s exactly what happened. I flew in, went to the rehearsal stuff, met up with JD and Marc and drove down towards Nashville. Everyone at the rehearsal thought I was nuts, but I can understand why. We picked up Aaron on the way and road tripped it the rest of the way down while cracking jokes, making fun of each other and catching up with what’s going on in our way-too-busy lives.

We made it to Mollenkopf’s around 1am and we had a couple of beers before we all fell asleep so that we could get at least a couple of hours in before getting up and running 13.1 miles. Mollenkopf and I both had an actual entry and bib for the race, JD was going to drink the whole time and Marc and Aaron were going to sneak in so that they could run with us. Sounded like a good plan to us.

We ran most of the race and talked about as much as we could during the two hours and thirty-five minutes that we were heading for the finish line. I got updated on pregnant wives, kids, jobs and stories that I unfortunately don’t get to hear enough of these days. We all lived to see the finish line and we had some valuable conversations along the way.

The road trip crew — Mollenkopf, me, Aaron and Marc

When we were done I cleaned up as fast as I could, we all said our goodbyes to Mollenkopf, his girlfriend Stephanie and their son Ryder and then hit the road back to Indianapolis. We dropped off Aaron and said our hellos to his wife Joey and then merged back on I-65 North like we stole somethin’. Time was moving fast and I needed to be back as soon as possible. During the drive we had some more great conversations that I won’t ever forget. It’s funny what you can find out about someone when you’re stuck in a car with them for over ten hours in over a day and a half. It was a haul and I loved every second if it.

Once I got back I dropped of JD and Marc, threw on my shirt and tie and headed to the wedding. I missed the entire ceremony (it was bound to happen), but I made it there in time for cocktail hour and the reception which Stephanie was OK with. The reception was rowdy how I like it and we all tore up the dance floor. It was a fantastic wedding and all of the people we met were super cool.

I was fashionably late to the wedding, but I made it

What a trip and what a story. I can’t wait to create some more.

Making Changes and Changing Up Routines

artwork credit

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

– Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror

For most of us, the older we get the more of a routine we seem to get into. You get up, you get ready, you go to work, you say hi to the same people once you get to the office, you work, you drive home, you ask the same questions to your husband/wife, you eat dinner, you watch TV, you get ready for bed and then you wake up the next day and do it all over again. I think that there’s a direct relationship between the amount of responsibility you have in your life vs. the degree to which your life has become routine. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing — a routine can build discipline, keep you on task and potentially even help you achieve a goal. These, of course, are all good things.

But, falling into routines has its downsides, too. Routines can create boredom, anxiety and probably the worst of all, complacency. Being comfortable in a routine can have it’s benefits, but if you’re not careful letting a routine get the best of you or your relationships can result in some bad, if not devastating situations.

I’m not saying that you need to remove all routine from your life, but I am suggesting that you should take a look at some of the things that have been neglected due to the fact that it’s just how you’ve always done it. Personally, I know that I allow myself time and time again to get into routines that end up losing their value over time. Whenever I notice this happening I try to mix it up a bit so that the played out routine feels more refreshed.

One routine that I’ve felt like I needed to change lately was the fact that I can literally sit in front of my computer all day cranking out emails and other work without ever getting up, moving around the office or going outside for a walk. It was easy for me to get into this routine because there’s always something else that I can be working on and after a while I feel like I’m in the zone and don’t want to stop what I’m doing. Getting more work done is obviously a good thing, but taking care of myself so that I don’t turn into a zombie after staring at my monitor for 8 hours is something that’s become even more important to me. I can tell you one thing that’s for sure — wives don’t like zombies.

To break this particular routine for the past few weeks I’ve been taking taking Frank out for a one mile walk around Burlingame every day around 11am so that I get some time to let my brain rest and Frank gets a little bit of exercise (which is always a good thing for a Pug). It’s been great for both of us and eventually I would like to find one more time towards the end of the day to do the same type of walk again.

One other great thing about the time that I’m taking to walk during the day is that I’ve also been using that time to call friends and family that I haven’t talked to for a long time. In the world of status updates and text messages it’s great to get them on the phone for a few minutes so that we can catch up. Breaking my old routine of sitting in front of the computer all day and making some time for myself to recharge has been an awesome and something that I would highly suggest for all of you other computer geeks out there. Do it, I dare you.

This is a simple example of a routine that I changed for the better and believe me, I could list out a hundred others that I would like to change as well, but it’s hard. To make these changes it takes being intentional and aware of what you’re wanting to change and the desired end result needs to be in order to make the change stick around for good.

So what routine do you feel like changing?

p.s. As I was looking for an image to use for this post I found this awesome blog post from Eoin McKeown that includes a piece of artwork he made called “Routine”. I don’t think that I could have found anything better. Thanks, Eoin.

Praying With A Random Cab Driver in San Francisco

photo credit

A few weeks ago I had an amazing experience and I could have easily missed it. It was what I like to call a “God Moment”, which is a term that I use to describe a moment in time when God gives us an experience that is so powerful that only God could have made it happen. Some of you reading this might simply call these coincidences or chance interactions, but as a believer I don’t see them that way at all. I see them as opportunities that God interjects into my everyday life that I can first hopefully notice and second can either decide to take advantage of or not depending on my own personal choice at that particular moment. How I see it is that God puts the ball on the tee and it’s up to me whether or not I take a swing.

The important thing here to realize is that I don’t have to act on these opportunities and depending on my mood, distractions, who I’m with and a bunch of other factors unfortunately sometimes I don’t. But, a few weeks ago I was all over it and when God set the ball up there on the tee I hit the thing straight out of the park. I’m not saying this out of pride or because I feel like I’m some kind of VIP level Christian who gets to experience these moments that God has only set up for me. I’m letting you know about this story because I feel like earlier in my walk with God I can almost guarantee that I would have missed the opportunity completely and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. Read the full story below and it will all hopefully make a lot more sense.

A few weeks ago there was a conference in town I was going to, so I was planning on staying up in San Francisco for the day instead of driving down with Stephanie to Burlingame, which is where we both work during the week. She took off around 7:45am like normal and I stayed in the apartment and caught a little extra sleep before getting up and starting my day around 9am. My plan was to get up, catch up on some work stuff and then head out for a run before heading over to the conference around 11am so that I could mingle a bit before heading to a business lunch that was planned for noon. The plan sounded good and was all going smoothly until it started raining like crazy up in San Francisco. I didn’t really see this as a big deal and just kept cranking away on some work stuff and figured I could get my run in after the rain stopped. After all, it never rains for that long in SF.

After an our or so it stopped raining I headed out for an awesome post-rain run, which is one of my favorite times to go. After the run I did a few exercises for my shoulder, stretched, fed Frank some food and hopped in the shower. Once out of the shower I noticed that my time was getting cut a little short and that I was going to have to forget about the hour of mingling at the conference and go straight to the business lunch at noon. I let my co-workers know about the change in plans and at this point was starting to feel a little stressed about not getting there on time. This was mainly due to the fact that I had to take public transportation and it was going to take at least 40 minutes to get to where I needed to go. Not good.

So I’m starting to feel rushed, stressed about making it there on time and a little disappointed in myself for not getting ready earlier and for once again probably being late. For all of you who don’t know, I have quite the history of being late for things and it’s something that I’ve been working on getting better at (which only made me feel worse at this point — I thought that I had gotten better at this!?!?). I was really getting down on myself and was starting to go deep into a downward spiral of getting more and more upset for taking so long to get ready and worrying how in the heck I’m going to make it to my lunch in time. I looked at Google Maps to see when the next train was coming and it looked like I could *almost* make it to the last train in time if I booked it out of my apartment and down the street to where it picked people up. The bad thing was, even if I made it to this train I would still get to the lunch around 10 minutes late, which I wasn’t real happy with but would have to accept if I was going to make it there at all at this point.

As you can probably tell, as I’m running two blocks up a hill trying to catch a train that will just barely make me late, things weren’t going well and they were only going to get worse. When I was about a block away I saw the train go by and when it did I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that about made me feel sick. There I was, out of breath and running toward my last ditch hope to get to my lunch meeting without being too late when the train rolls past. Awesome.

All of a sudden I have about 30 minutes to get to where I need to go and the next train that takes 40 minutes to get me to where I need to go won’t be showing up for another 20 minutes. For all of you math whizzes out there that’s another 60 minutes before I could expect to be at my lunch that’s going to start in less than 30 minutes. The downward spiral continues and I start to feel even worse about the situation. I start to think about my options and the only thing that I can think of is to call a cab and hope that they can come pick me up quick enough to get me to where I need to go in time. This isn’t the best idea due to the fact that I’m in the middle of a residential area where I have never seen a cab come through before, but hey — I figured that it was worth a shot. I mean it’s not like I had a lot of other options to go with.

I have no idea what the number for Yellow Cab is so I take out my phone, Google it and give them a call. As I’m waiting for the call to connect and I look up from my phone and out of nowhere a big, bright yellow van pulls up right behind me. Amazingly enough it’s a Yellow Cab and after he tells me I can hop in I tell him that he has incredible timing as I walk around to the passenger side. I slide open the door and couldn’t help smiling as I jumped in. It looked like I might make it there on time after all. Sweet.

I said what’s up to the driver like I always do and told him where I was headed. As we start heading that way and knowing that I’m actually going to make it to my lunch on time, I decide to strike up some friendly conversation with the guy. I always like talking to cab drivers since they almost always have some awesome stories to share. Little did I know that this driver was about to share a lot more than just the average cabbie story, he was about to open up to me completely about his failed marriage and how it was completely his fault. Here’s how the conversation started:

Me: Hey man, thanks for picking me up — it’s great to see you. How’s it going?

Cab Driver: Well, to be honest things aren’t going so well. Are you married?

Me: Yep, I sure am.

Cab Driver: That’s good — how long have you been married?

Me: Almost two years.

Cab Driver: That’s great to hear, man. You need to make sure that you’re good to her. My wife left me and it was totally my fault.

Me: Your wife left you? How…ummm…why did that happen?

Cab Driver: Well, it’s pretty complicated but basically over the last year my wife did everything to love me and I didn’t give her anything back. I got comfortable, I took advantage of how great she was and I guess that she had enough if it. You ever hear of a dear John letter?

Me: Oh yeah, I’ve heard of those…

Cab Driver: yeah, well she gave me one of those. She left me a note and took off. I haven’t heard anything from her since. It’s been 39 days since I’ve heard anything from her and I don’t know what to do.

The conversation went on like this as he continued to tell me all about how he screwed up his marriage, how he really loved his wife and how he only wanted her to be happy at this point — even if that meant that she found another guy. It was one of the most open and honest conversations that I’ve ever had with someone, which is funny considering that he was just a random cab driver. He even went on to tell me about his favorite computer game and how he had been playing it too much over the past year and how it had really hurt his relationship with his wife. I did my best to give him the best advice that I could and told him that marriage is a sacred thing that should always be fought for. I also told him that he needs to make the first move when it came to getting back in contact with his wife. He was being passive about it and I feel like men are supposed to chase and make an effort to pursue, especially when they know that the problem is their own fault. I’m hoping that what I talked to him about called him into some type of action. In this type of time-sensitive situation I feel like waiting and seeing what happens is never a very good strategy.

We talked back and forth like this for about 15-20 minutes until he pulled over to drop me off for my lunch meeting. I felt like I didn’t want the conversation to be over and I wasn’t sure how to end our interaction. This guy was literally pouring his heart out to me and it was time for me to pay up and go on with my day like any other cab ride that I’ve had before. But, the fact is was that this wasn’t just another cab ride — it was the farthest thing from it.

So, as we finished up our conversation and after he told me how much I owed him I gave him my credit card, paid my bill and then decided to step out of my Christian comfort zone. As I was handing him back his receipt I went for it and quickly said, “Hey, this might sound a little weird to you right now, but can I pray with you for your marriage?” He gave me a look of confusion and then stumbled out the words “Sure, man — sure, that would be…great.” We both bowed our heads, I gave God the best 20 seconds that I could come up with and we both said Amen. He thanked me right after and looked me right in my eyes and said “Wow, man…you don’t even know me and you pray for me like that? That’s crazy…thanks, man.” I could tell he didn’t understand why I would do something like that and to be honest I wasn’t exactly sure why I decided to do it either. The experiences God gives us don’t always make sense at the time and that’s ok with me.

After that we said our goodbyes and I jumped out of the cab. After all, I had a lunch meeting to go to and somehow I made there with time to spare. How about that?