Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Book

For those who read my blog last week, you might remember I gave an advertisement for today's blog. If you don't remember or didn't read last week's blog, go back and read my blog from last week!
Over the past ten months or so I have been working on a project. It has been quite challenging, enjoyable, discouraging, encouraging, insightful, and more all rolled into one. Since late January I have been trying to write a book and I hope to finish the initial writing stage in the next month and a half.
I have always enjoyed writing. In college I much rather preferred a paper to a test. Gathering the materials, doing the research and compiling it into a paper excited me. Additionally writing provides me a way to get out my emotions, and to organize my thoughts. As odd as it may sound writing is a way in which for me to express myself artistically. Put a paintbrush in my hand and I will struggle to make something that comes close to resembling a stick-figure. Give me a piece of paper and pen, and I feel as though I can paint my emotions using words. If you were to look through my room you would find numerous journals, all with their unique purpose, yet all containing my writing. At any given time I am writing in three or four different journals. Some, more often than others.
Throughout college I began getting the urge to write a book. I thought it would be a great challenge and something I would really enjoy. With my love of studying history I always envisioned I would write about a historical event/figure (I've always wanted to write about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). After spending a few years in Germany I had a few people encouraging me to entertain the idea of writing a book about my journey here in Germany. The thought was exciting and I felt as though I would have plenty of material to go off of. However I felt as though one of the biggest requirements for writing a book was time. Something I had very little of. Therefore in my mind I kept saying to myself, "When I leave Germany I will have more time and at that point will sit down to write a book." I was excited writing a book was still in my vision, yet relieved I could push it off for a little bit.
Right before Christmas break last year (December 2010) I received a Christmas card from a former student. In previous conversations I had expressed my interest in writing, and she had always encouraged me to do so. Yet within those conversations I talked of how I felt time was an issue and later would be a more opportune time. Within her Christmas card she wrote to me, "You should write now. You will never be less busy. If you always think you will have more time somewhere down the line, you won't. Do it now or you never will." I really took those words to heart, and I decided to act on my desire to write.

With that as a long introduction, what is the book actually about?
The book is going to be a devotional based off of running a marathon. While there is a huge running emphasis, it is my hope the book will appeal to runners and non-runners alike.
It is my belief that running is such a phenomenal parallel to life. Many of the things you learn and experience while running (especially a marathon) easily parallel/translate to life.
So the basis of the book is a marathon, 26.2 miles long. Therefore the book is going to be 26.2 chapters long. Each chapter represents one mile in the race. I have chosen 26 words that I think accurately describe a specific mile of the race. For each mile I talk with a "running hat" talking about what that mile will look like, what to expect, how to train for it, etc. I take the "word of the chapter" and talk about how it applies to running. But I also talk about how that word translates from running into life. For each chapter I have chosen a biblical character who epitomizes that particular word/emotion. Using the biblical account of their life I show an individual who has lived out that word/emotion and I talk about how we can be encouraged and challenged to practically implement that word/emotion/characteristic into our own lives.
Words for my miles include; courage, discipline, patience, trust, pain, loneliness, worship, freedom.

As I mentioned above, I am hoping to have everything written by Christmas. I currently have 19 chapters completely written, so only a few more to go! After Christmas I hope to spend a few months editing the chapters, with the goal of having everything finished by March. The BFA soccer season starts March 5, so I am hoping to have everything finished and published by the start of soccer season.

Prior to this post there were a small handful of people who knew about the endeavor I am undertaking.
So why put a blog about it?
- I would appreciate your prayer as I continue to move forward. You obviously cannot pray for this project if you are unaware it is happening! I am unaware of how many eyes will actually read the book, but I am praying what is written will prove encouraging and beneficial to those who do read.
- Making a "public announcement" and openly talking about it now, adds some accountability. I have stated what I hope to do, and the time in which I hope to do it. I have personally had the goals for a while but now I invite you to share them with me, and keep me accountable to them. Feel free to check in on my progress, send encouragement, or send a slap in the back of the head if I am slacking.
- Recently as the depth of my schedule has increased my energy to write has decreased. I am hoping this will help jumpstart me again and give me the energy to write the final chapters.

When sharing my idea with those who have already heard about this project,, I have been asked a few of the same questions repeatedly; how are you publishing the book? Will you make money off the book? How many pages will the book be? What is the book going to be called?
1. I have a friend who might be able to give a manuscript to an editor at a publishing company. While that would be phenomenal, I am not holding my breath over it. My current plan is to self-publish via an online company.
2. Since I am self-publishing there is a cost for me to do so. Honestly, my goal is to have a minimal cost, or to simply break even. If I can break even I will be delighted, my ultimate goal in this has nothing to do with finances.
3. My original thought was to write 100-125 pages. I felt this was a respectable amount, and a good goal, especially for someone who has never attempted such a project before. After finishing the 18th chapter I have somewhere around 150 pages written, with seven more chapters to write! Knowing I will definitely edit a number of pages out, I think my sights are now between 150-200 pages.
4. I don't have any idea what the title will be. If you have any suggestions please feel free to share them. I would love for you to offer suggestions and to be involved with it.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to let me know. I would love to dialogue with you more about it if you want.
Thank you for your interest, and thank you for your prayers.

Tommy

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why I do what I do

The other day I sat down to type a few more pages in a book I am in the process of writing. After letting what I wrote sit for a few days, I went back to it and felt as though it would make for a great blog.
If you read the first sentence of this blog and said, "Wait. What? He's doing what?" Check my blog out next week and I will post more about that project.
For now, I hope you enjoy, and I hope you are encouraged.

As I’ve mentioned I recently had an opportunity to take a trip with the junior class. It was an incredible trip. However throughout the journey I did not get much sleep – I failed to get comfortable on the bus and similarly did not find a cold tile floor to bring any more comfort. One night while trying to fall asleep I was reviewing the day I had just gone through. The highs, the lows, the positives, the frustrations. As I was thinking about the day I was struck by who I had spent time with. It was a bit weird looking back because I knew that while the day was going on there was no question or no hesitation on my part. I hung out with certain students and it felt natural, it felt like an easy decision. As I lay on the cold tile floor I began chuckling to myself and whispered, “Mom, I blame you.” Now I really do not blame her in a negative way – but I realize she was extremely influential in raising me in such a way that my eyes are continually open to those students who need a friend, who need someone to come alongside them, who do not easily fit in, or may seem to get lost in the crowd. I lay there blaming my mom, when in all reality I was realizing how blessed I was to have been raised and encouraged to act in such a way. Thankful for this realization I flipped over hoping a new position would bring with it some needed rest. The other side of the pillow might be cool, but the other side of a hard tile floor, is still a hard tile floor.
Still unable to fall asleep I asked myself two questions, “Why am I the way I am?” and “Why do I do what I do?” In pondering these questions I came up with some answers I felt compelled to share.
I realized because of my mom, I see the best in people. I have a heart that wants to love the unlovable. I strive to make others feel as though they are a part of a group, and that they belong – regardless of what their peers may think or say.
I refuse to give in. I refuse to give up. I choose to persevere and keep going. I do this because Whitney has modeled for me what it is to persevere. She has demonstrated an attitude that is unwilling to settle for what others may deem impossible, and make it possible. When others say, “you can’t” she says, “I can, and I will.”
I write notes in hope of being a blessing to others. Receiving a personal hand written note has the power to change an attitude, and take you from a point of frustration to a point of happiness. I know this because after an incredible journey from Maine to Florida I received a note from Croce as we sat in the Jacksonville airport. That note has given me more strength than I can write about, as it has stayed in my wallet since the day I first read it.
I persist in wanting to truly know how people are doing, growing unsatisfied with surface level answers that do not honestly answer the question, “how are you doing?” Why do I do this? Jack. For an entire soccer season he refused my initial response to ‘how are you feeling?’ until I took off the mask I was hiding behind, and let my superman cape fall to the ground. He persisted with me – and now I do the same with others.
I grow facial hair now, because for four straight years I received ridicule from Ross because I couldn’t. Of course, it didn’t help he could daily produce a furry rug of hair – on his face, chest and back.
I seek adventure, and feel the strength to stand up for what I believe in knowing I have a brother who will always have my back regardless of where I go, or what I do.
I no longer dread saying good-bye as I once did, after seeing my friendship with Free be maintained and even strengthened, despite great distances and even greater time between being in the presence of one another.
I have chosen to make cinnamon rolls for a dorm, after waking up on many Saturday mornings after a sleepover, with the scent of bubble bread spreading throughout the house. With each bite my taste buds were awakened, causing them to dance and rejoice over the cinnamon goodness.
I have come to realize and enjoy going super deep in conversations as a result of rubbing shoulders with AJ. At the same time coming to an understanding that it is okay to go deep, especially when you have huge muscles.
I laugh and use my humor to enrich and liven situations after watching my dad use humor when skies were gray and smiles were hard to come by. Wisdom, strength, and laughter infiltrate my actions resulting from being his son.
When I play soccer I think back to playing with Bear, and the white hot rage – knowing that it is simply the only way to play.
I enjoy studying the Scriptures after having conversations with Manny and seeing the direct and powerful impact it has had on his daily life, and everyone with whom he interacts.
I enjoy meeting new people after having a random freshmen roommate who turned into a life long friend. The start of a friendship can prove to be extremely entertaining and full of adventure if your friend suddenly has a violent reaction to poison ivy within the first month of living together.
Now, the season of Fall is upon us and nothing signals Fall to me more than a soft snicker-doodle washed down by a hot glass of apple cider. This combination will always bring a smile as I remember the miles my grandparents traveled every fall in order to watch me play soccer. Along with great conversation and fellowship they brought a jug of apple cider and a coffee tin full of snicker-doodles. I plan on making these treats for some students with the hope they will be filled with love and joy – in the same way my grandparents filled me.

As I lay on the cold tile floor I got a better understanding of why I do what I do, and why I am the way I am. So many of the things I do are a direct result of what you have done in my life. The way in which Christ has shaped you and changed you, has changed me. When Christ pours out of your life, He pours into my life. For the things mentioned, both serious and entertaining, I thank you.
I stand where I am today looking back at different chapters of my life. For those who I have been with in previous chapters, your influence is just now being made evident. I am still writing the BFA chapter. I know for certain in a few years from now I will look back at those individuals with whom I am currently rubbing shoulders with, and be thankful for the way in which you have poured into my life and changed me.
Thank you.
On behalf of my friends who receive notes because of what you have written to me, thank you. For those who will roll their eyes at my jokes, and enjoy a fresh batch of snicker-doodles, thank you. You have helped shape me, mold me, and change me. I plan on passing on what you have taught to those around me.
Thank you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Extra extra read all about it...


Normally I blog every Thursday but I figured this was worthy of a random post. I wanted to tell you about what I saw when I walked into my office this morning.
Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon a few of my colleagues and a few of the guys from Sonne worked their way into my office and decided to leave me a little birthday present. Rather than giving me one or two random things to unwrap - they decided it would be great if I had to unwrap MY ENTIRE OFFICE. As you can see in the pictures everything, and I mean absolutely everything was wrapped in newspaper. My computer mouse? Covered, including the wire. My keyboard? smothered. My clocks? Wrapped with fun messages written on the newspaper. My Green Bay Packers football I throw around in my office? Wrapped. My chairs, my fan, my bookcase, all wrapped in newspaper. They even took newspaper and put it on the inside of my pictures! Apparently a few were worried I would get upset they covered up my pictures, but I actually found that to be one of the more entertaining things they did. I ended up leaving the newspaper in the picture frames all day. They went all out - including wrapping the door stop.
It was an extremely entertaining morning and I enjoyed having different co-workers come into my office at the start of the day wondering what had happened. It was also extremely entertaining waiting and watching the different students slowly approach my door throughout the day. Unaware of how I was going to react they were a bit hesitant. During the first period I knew one of the guys had a study hall, so I went to his study hall room and upon seeing him burst into laughter, gave him a big hug, and was smiling from ear to ear. He came back to my office and we hung out for a bit...until the smell of newspaper started to give me a headache, so we cleaned it up.
Scattered around the room were random notes written on the newspaper wishing me a happy birthday. My favorite was a note written on my "keyboard" saying, "we love you Tommy." By the handwriting I knew who it was - and very much appreciated it. It was definitely an entertaining start to the week, and something I truly enjoyed.
To those who helped...well done. I loved it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Normandy Trip



As mentioned in last week's post over the weekend I traveled with our Junior class on their field trip to Normandy, France. Simply put, it was phenomenal. Everything went smoothly, everything went according to plan, the weather was unbelievable and the students had a great time. There is a lot I could say about the trip but I will try to choose a few different aspects that in my opinion highlight the trip.
- The Experience -
We stayed at a campground that was literally less than a five minute walk to Utah Beach, one of the five beaches invaded on June 6, 1944. So when I say we were "right there" I literally mean we were right where everything happened. On Saturday morning I woke up at 6.30 to walk to the beach to see the sunrise (well, technically I woke up around 4.30 but that is a different story). It was refreshing and enjoyable to be on the beach watching the sunrise, yet it was an unreal experience to be on the beach knowing I was standing right where the invasion of Europe took place. There were still a few pieces of the Atlantic Wall still standing - so I walked around those while the sun was rising. The Allies landed at first light - the time at which I was walking on the beach.
In addition to Utah, we were able to visit Juno Beach (a beach invaded by troops primarily from Canada) as well as Omaha Beach. With every beach we visited we took time to be silent and reflect on where we were and what happened there a little over 65 years ago.

- The Education -
One of the main purposes of the trip was educationally based. The students were filling out a packet that led them through each stop, and informed them of the significance of where we were. We had the honor of visiting a Canadian cemetery, a German cemetery and the American cemetery. We also visited museums at Utah and Omaha beach, as well as museums dedicated to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. There were a lot of artifacts within the museums that were great to witness. Within one of the museums we were able to walk through a glider that was used to drop the paratroopers, and at several sites we toured German bunkers.

- The Bonding -
After traveling a decent distance, going on little sleep (I got 16 hours of sleep in 4 days), and being very busy you are probably going to walk away having one of two reactions; extremely disliking those you are with, or bonding with them. Thankfully the class chose the latter. Plain and simple the students had fun together. They were rowdy on the bus, laughing, singing, talking, and having a good time. They were hanging out sharing stories, and helping each other whenever possible.
One of the unique ways we were able to bond was a direct result of the amazing weather we had. The first night we were there, some students asked if it would be possible to sleep outside under the stars. After a few sponsors agreed to be outside with the students (including yours truly) we allowed a group of about 25 brave individuals to sleep outside. Nobody thought to bring a tent, so they threw their sleeping bags down on the grass and went to sleep. That night/morning I woke up around 4.30 because I was absolutely freezing. I had brought layers for my upper body, but did not really bring much for my legs. Additionally, I was not planning on sleeping outside so I brought the smallest/lightest sleeping bag I have. After trying to get warm for an hour or so, around 5.30 I found a few other guys and plopped down in between them, thinking I could use them to help protect me from the wind, and create a little more body heat. I awoke one of the guys who wasn't too happy with me, but later in the day he told me it was simply because he had no idea who I was as he didn't have his glasses on.

- The Friendships -
As I mentioned in my blog prior to going my main objective was to get to know the students better and spend time with them. Through the bus rides, the free time, the museums and everything else I definitely feel as though I accomplished this goal. Each adult had a "sponsor group" of about 10 students. Any time we traveled somewhere the students were responsible for checking in with their sponsor group. It was a quick and easy way to ensure we had all 67 students. The night we left my group decided they wanted a group name, and they came up with the name, Shakira. Additionally we decided every time they checked in they would have to perform some kind of act. At first they had to kiss "my lucky egg" aka a boiled egg I grabbed from our breakfast. After that, they had to touch "my lucky hat." Stupid? Yes. Silly? Of course. Memorable? Absolutely. The students had a great time with it.
Another great aspect to the sponsor groups was the way they were set up. Though completely random, it could not have been put together any better. As a guidance counselor my case load is divided up alphabetically - and it just so happened the 10 students in my group, were all within my alphabet range. There were definitely a few I did not know extremely well prior to the trip, but now I feel as though whenever I pass them in the hall we can stop and talk (which has actually happened since being back.)

As you can see overall it was a great trip. There are a lot of entertaining stories to share, but there just isn't space to write them all out. I have attempted to include a slideshow of pictures along with this blog post. I am awful with technology so I am not certain it will work - I hope it does. If you are having trouble viewing some of the pictures please email me and I can send them to you as an attachment.
Thanks for continually checking my blog! I really appreciate it.

Tommy