Saturday, November 05, 2011


Nine years ago I decided to start a blog. Why? I had a lot of seemingly important things to say, a lot of time to spend writing, a lot of my friends were doing it and it was fun. There have been seasons were I kept writing when it wasn't fun; there were times when I wrote out of obligation, when I had nothing to say, I kept it going. Then I fell in love, forgot about my blog, got married, continued to forget about my blog and now here I am. These days I have very little time to write and when I do I feel like my thoughts aren't that important to share. Maybe that's the draw of Twitter.

I'm tempted just to say, "hey, we've had a good run, let's call it a day." But I can't, I just can't. It's my stubborn nature to say that I will someday resurrect this blog to the glory of its former days. Or someday I'll have kids and post cute pictures of them here. Another reason that I'm not shutting this blog down is that I believe in words. Whether it's one-hundred-and-forty characters on Twitter or run-on-paragraphs on this blog, I like words. Somehow I feel like Facebook or Google+ just don't allow for the words posted there to be read amongst the clutter of their games and ads and blah blah blah. So, for the Nth time, I'm committing to keep this blog alive, for you, for me, for my memory, for my kin.

For now I'll leave you with a life update [for the very few of you who read this and the even fewer of you who don't see me often]. I have a new job at the same law firm. I won't bore you with the details, but I push paper in their foreclosure department, it isn't great, but it's better than the warehouse. Sarah and I bought a piano last weekend. It's a beautiful instrument and fills the house with wonderful music, and it brings joy to Sarah's piano-loving heart. It prompted me to put new strings on my guitar after six or seven years of not changing them. Yikes. I ran a half-marathon and despite feeling like I was going to die, I finished it in exactly the time I expected to [2:12]. Training for it really rekindled my love for running; I'm hoping that love survives this winter. So, life is good, I love it, and maybe I'll love it enough to share it more often on this here nine-year old blog. Happy birthday blog! you have my love.

Monday, June 20, 2011

100 Days

Today, Monday June twentieth, marks the occasion of Sarah and I having been married for 100 days. So, much like the work of the President of the United States does in their first 100 days is graded, I feel these first 100 days of marriage ought to be graded as well. Let's hope this exercise doesn't get me impeached.

It all started off with the wedding of the year (no offense to the four other wonderful friend-couples who were married or are getting married this year). There was joy, sunlight, smiles, tears, an almost hyperventilating groom, a RADIANT bride, beards, mustaches, Jimmy Eat World, Star Wars, feasting, dancing, mooses, car trashing/decorating, singing, toasting and kissing. It was great. It still seems a bit surreal, but I'm pretty positive all of it actually occurred.

And then there was the honeymoon. I'll spare you most of the details, but we did go to my parents' farm. Which, sounds weird, but their house is more like a loft and it sits on some a hundred and sixty acres with not a soul around for miles. Except the occasional, awkwardly met visitor (on farm business). We had a fire going (ahem, in the wood-burning stove) the entire time, and we ate wonderful food prepared and frozen by Sarah's friend Bethany, we walked in the woods, we watched movies (including all the Star Wars in one day, and nearly the entire Lord of the Rings (extended versions!) series in another day), and we lounged around a lot. It was fantastic. Really. We did so very little, and it was perfect.

And then we went home. And once we had unpacked a bit, opened our gifts, hung out with friends, we began the real life of a married couple. And, thus far, it has been everything we expected it to be. We've had some incredibly frustrating phases, we've had incredibly amazing phases and everything in between. Marriage has presented itself to be the ultimate learning experience in dying to myself. Learning to choose something for Sarah's sake and not mine, listening and not be defense, being okay with having differing opinions, doing chores so Sarah doesn't have to, and on and on and on.

I've really enjoyed these past 100 days, and I know Sarah does too. But it really lives up to what I kept saying (and Josh said during his toast): it isn't easy, but it's good. And it's fun. And hard. And hysterical, stressful, painful, emotional, joyful, full of serving and learning and humbling yourself. But above all, it's good - after all, it is a gift from God. One that I'm truly thankful for. Love you Sarah, happy 100 days anniversary*.

Also, if you read this, let me know and I'll go ahead and count this as writing your thank you note**. you have my love.

* I believe the appropriate 100 day anniversary gift is a Dairy Queen Blizzard.
** Unfortunately this is just a joke, and we still have (literally) a gazillion thank yous to write.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The men

There are many things for me to be excited about as the day approaches. In just three days I get to be married to an amazing, beautiful woman and begin the rest of my life with her. But before that [not to kill the lovey dovey mood], I get to hang out with some of the best men in the world. I think I need some preface.

After I became a Christian I tended to be more prone to be friends with the females rather than the guys. Really that was the first time ever in my life that girls seemed interested in hanging out with me, and they were nice young ladies and Christians, so it made them easy to talk to and be friends with. And even for a while at Trinity I still really connected with my female friends way easier than with the guys. Somewhere in there, at some unknown point, I decided that I should hang out more with guys than the ladies - and whatever it was, it just clicked. [Steph, I think you had something to do with this]. And I became more of a guy... guy.

Since then I have had some incredible friendships with guys, dudes, bros and men. When it came time to pick just four guys to stand with me at my wedding, it really was a tough call. There were a couple guys that had to be in there, and about thirty other guys that could fill the remaining two spots. It did help that I got to choose three ushers on top of that. But really, I could have picked any number of guys to be part of the most important day of my life and had no regrets about them being there.

And in a few days when the guys I know join me, I think it will resemble various scenes from Tolkien's Middle Earth. The scenes of battles, when aligned armies gathered, though different [men, elves, dwarves, etc.] they were united in one purpose. The purpose on Saturday will be to celebrate, but if we get a chance to kill some orcs, well, I won't be disappointed. Anyway.

I could briefly list numerous memories and stories of great times with the awesome men in my life, but I think I'll just give you one. We Beardenzians have a ceremony in which we take a man who is about to be married out into the secret realm of New Beardenzia [I realize that this doesn't make sense to half of my readers - just know that we take the guy out into the woods] and we pray over him and talk about him and some of the married guys give advice. It's really great. We did this a few days ago, and as I was driving out to [undisclosed location] I realized, "wait, this time the trip is for me. They'll be praying for me." And I got real emotional - but didn't cry. It was a moment of realizing that these guys care for me. And if every male friend of mine that cared for me was given a chance to be there, they would have been, and we would have filled the forest. And while they weren't there in person, they were in my heart and my memories, continuing to push me forward, continuing to laugh and cry with me, continuing to bear my burdens as I bear theirs, continuing to be my brothers and friends. They're good men you know. Not safe though. you have my love.

Dedicated to the following [in somewhat chronological order]: Dad, Grandpa, Mike, Chad, Jason, Ben, Andrew, Zach, Darol, Seth, Mark, Brandon, Brandon, Ryan, Josh, Andrew, Adam, Brad, Ryan, Matt, Matt, Graham, Zach, Josh, Nate, Brandon, Kyle, Mark, Bob, Justin, Adam, Jeremy, Baugh, Stu, Austin, Jon, Andy, Dave, Chris, Ryan, Ryan, Josh, Kevin, Steve, Adam, Alan, Todd, Marty, John, Nate, Derek, Matt, Ryan, Tonio, Matt, Dean, Ben, Tyler, Jon, Pete, Ian, Dave, Jordan, Matt, and, I'm sure there are more... And Jesus - thanks be to Him who created us to be able to commune with each other.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The story

Sometime after Sarah and I got engaged I asked her to write out the story of our engagement so that I could post it on my blog. So Sarah went to work in her typical perfectionist way and she presented me with this post the other day. Enjoy!

It was the perfect day. Mild temperatures (in the upper 90’s), high humidity with a chance of higher humidity, and I was perfectly... distracted. My very best friends had come to visit for our yearly Girls Weekend and I was being hostess to nine women sharing my little house and one bathroom. We were enjoying the short time we had together catching up, eating hummus and watching Ellen’s new baby do what new babies do. My sisters were there, my best friends from forever (aka grade school and beyond) were there, and I was in a happy little place of... well, happiness. Nearly everyone I deeply loved was there. Except for Travis. You see, as near and dear to me as Travis was, this was not a “Girls-and-Travis” Weekend. This was a Girls Weekend. No Travises allowed. And he was feeling a little left out--which was why he called to see if he could steal me away for a small slice of our Saturday afternoon. At least, this was the only logical explanation I could find in the deep recesses of my mind that would explain such a thing. Why else would he take away some of the precious few hours I had to spend with the people (who had to fly and drive from all over the country to be here, mind you) that meant more to me than anything in the world? Exactly. He seemed to be pretty persistent about it, too, so I could only assume that he was feeling extra left-out. Me being crazy-head-over-heels for this man, I was not very resistant to consenting to his request. And so I told him to come pick me up at three.

When he arrived to get me, I took his hand and ran out to his car in an excited but rushed state of mind. One of those “I’m so happy to be with you but let’s please hurry and get back so I can continue with what I was doing” states of mind. Though I was truly curious as to where we were going for only an hour (“Don’t worry, I won’t keep you more than an hour,” he had told me), I was even more distracted by the activity going on back at my house that I somehow forgot to ask him what we were even doing.

As we were driving, I mentioned to him, “You do know what today is, don’t you?” Himself being even more distracted than I was (how was that even possible?), he replied, “No, what?” “It was exactly ten months ago today that you asked me out on our first date!” I exclaimed. Travis looked at me and smiled. “Oh, really? Yeah, I guess I forgot... That’s pretty cool.” Little did I know just how cool (and coincidental) that actually would turn out to be.

We continued driving, and somewhere along the jumbled conversation we had in that short trip, Travis casually mentioned that we needed to make a quick pit-stop at the Tows’ house to drop off some things for connection group that week. I had noticed some boxes in the back seat, and though now, looking back on that day, their presence should have screamed ‘out-of-the-ordinary’, I thought absolutely nothing of them at the time. I was just happy to spend some time with my man (though a bit sad that he was taking time out of our already limited hour to get an errand run when he could do it later on in the day without me).

Now this would be the part in the story where I have to pause and explain the Tows: Who they are, how much they mean to both of us, and how they have played such a huge role in our relationship--mentoring us, letting us in on their family life, and shepherding us through an amazing connection group they hosted in their home. So bear with me.

Travis and I essentially started dating because of the Tows (Ryan and Shana, who have been extremely good friends with Travis for over five years). Last summer I had decided to “live my life instead of letting my life live me” and start dating people (for real this time). I had impossibly high standards that no one--not even Jesus himself--could have met, and as a result, had only dated one person in my twenty-seven years of living. This put me in a predicament. Fortunately, God put an article--and people--in my life that changed everything. One of the things this article mentioned was that in finding someone to date (and ultimately marry), you should always take into serious, serious consideration the recommendations of parents, more mature people from church who know you well, and close friends. For some reason I decided to live religiously according to this article, so when the Tows (along with my good friend Kaci Sloss) recommended I date this friend of theirs named Travis, I listened. Because of an interesting set of events, this didn’t happen right away, but through the months that followed, their advice was always at the back of my head.

To continue explaining the significance of the Tows (and their home) to our relationship, I must also take you back to the first time Travis and I met. It was yet another blistery summer day, and the Tows were having a “breakfast-for-supper” party with me and a few close friends. Because a pajama dress code had been set, I, being the goofy-yet-fun-loving person that I am, decided to wear my new, red, sock monkey footie pajamas. (My sister had gotten them for me for Christmas... long story.) Anyways, already feeling a bit silly, I walked in through the door (the Tows have a don’t-knock-just-come-in policy)... and there, sitting at their kitchen table, was Travis. Oh, boy. Well, I thought, he’s going to see who I really am at some point. Might as well be now. He shook my hand cordially and we went on with our breakfast preparations.

Fast forward eleven and a half months to our original hot, summer day. Real time. Travis and I, in love and equally distracted by our own individual thoughts and plans, pulled into the driveway of this house that had basically become our second home. The Tows didn’t know we were coming to drop off the boxes, and as such were going about their business doing those things that families do. Ryan was working on something in the garage, Shana was off running an errand, and the kids were playing. It was the familiar atmosphere of peaceful chaos that we had come to love about the Tow house.

But my mind was not exactly there--at all. It was impatient and wanting to quickly drop the things off so we could get on to spending time together. Travis grabbed a few heavier boxes out of the back seat and headed for the front door. I, being the efficient woman that I am, stacked all of the remaining boxes in my arms (since they were surprisingly light) and followed him into the cool, air-conditioned house. By the time we got to the kitchen I realized we had no idea where to put them, so I asked Travis. He turned around and saw for the first time that I had gotten the rest of the boxes. I missed the panicked look that crossed his eyes, but followed his direction when he immediately recovered and told me to put them on the table next to him and go ask Ryan in the garage. I did, and not more than three seconds later was back in the kitchen, telling him to just leave them there.

What I came back to confused me. Somehow, in those three seconds, a bouquet of purple daisies had appeared on the table. I looked at Travis, a quizzical expression on my face. “Who are those for?” I asked, though part of me already knew the answer since purple was my favorite color. “They’re for you,” Travis replied, looking right back at me as if his face would answer all of the other questions that had suddenly appeared in my head. What he did next just added to the confusion... He grabbed my shoulders, pulled me toward himself, and quickly kissed me! Right in front of the Tow’s kids, who had been running around playing and were now staring at us! My mind raced. What is going on? Why did you just kiss me in front of the kids? What are you doing? We have to get going--my friends are waiting for me to spend time with you and we’re wasting our time--Didn’t you leave the car running? And where are we going after this, anyways? Don’t we need to get moving? Somehow I still didn’t get it.

A half-moment later, Travis’s hands started shaking along with his voice, in a way I’ve never seen him shake before. His eyes started to glisten, and then it hit me. Oh my gosh, you’re proposing to me! WHAT?? Here, now? But what about that place in the park I always thought you would do it at? And why now? What about the build-up you’re supposed to have before this? What on earth is going on? Seriously??? He got down on one knee and grabbed my hands in his shaking ones. I had never seen him so emotional--or so nervous! He opened his mouth, and said:

“Eleven and a half months ago, in this very spot, I met you for the first time. And my life has not been the same since. We’ve gotten to know each other and have grown together, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Then he turned to a mysterious black photo box that was sitting on the table next to him and flipped open the lid.

This is where I HAVE to pause the story yet again and give you a little background (I’m so sorry, but you’ll see why in just a second!). When I was young--about 10 or 11--I had a small pile of pennies that I had accumulated, and my mom told me that I should start saving them up for the day I got married. She said that after saving them for years, I would have enough to buy my wedding dress or a wedding gift with them. And so I started saving. From then on, I collected and saved every penny I came across. If I saw a coin laying on the sidewalk, I might leave it there if it were a nickle or dime, but pennies... I always picked up pennies. They made me happy. And they all went into my penny jar for that day when I would someday get married.

Okay. Back to the Tows’ kitchen and the confusing (though becoming clearer by the second) proposal that was taking place. Travis turned to the kitchen table and flipped open the lid of the black box sitting next to him. It was filled nearly to the top... with pennies! And there, in the middle of it, was a small, velvet box. And there, inside the velvet box, catching a ray of the bright summer sun and sparkling ever so beautifully, was a ring. The ring. The ring that would soon bind me to Travis. The ring that would symbolize our love that now didn’t have to be just a lovey-dovey “you are the most wonderful person I’ve ever known” feeling, but could finally be an “I am going to be by your side through thick and thin” kind of love. The ring that would be worn for the rest of my days. And it was mine.

Travis looked at me, and, taking my hands once again in his trembling ones, said, “Sarah, I love you, and it would be my joy and honor to spend the rest of my life married to you. Will you marry me?”

For some reason, I was still confused. I’m not sure why, but I was. Everything made sense now. Everything had been revealed. But for some reason, I was still in utter shock and disbelief--not to mention completely caught off-guard. This is why my reaction ended up being a little less romantic than his proposal had been. I looked at him incredulously, jaw dropped, and cried out, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?” When he laughed and said yes, I repeated, “No, for real... are you SERIOUS?!”

Oh, well. Sometimes you can’t “plan” a reaction--no matter how hard you try.

I ran at him and threw my arms around him. I continued to exclaim and question and laugh and hug. I think somewhere in there I said yes. Travis proceeded to take the sparkly ring out of the velvet box, slip off the small gold purity ring that had been holding its place for fourteen years, and put it on my finger. At least, that’s how I like to remember what happened. What really happened was that he was still shaking so badly he almost dropped the ring and I had to help him get it on. In the end, the ring was in place and we were hugging again.

About a minute or so later, Ryan came into the kitchen, looked at us, and said, “Did that seriously just happen ten seconds ago?” When we both nodded in excitement, a huge grin broke across his face. “Congratulations, you guys!” he exclaimed, then continued, “Yeah, I came in because Maddi [the youngest, five-year-old girl] came running into the garage, found me, and shouted, ‘DAD! You’re missing the WEDDING STUFF!’ I had no idea what she was talking about so I came in to find out...” We laughed and laughed. It was probably one of the best engagement announcements that has ever been made. Ever. At least that’s my opinion.

We stayed a bit longer, taking a picture or two, receiving our first engagement gift (a picture of a heart drawn by Maddi), and lamenting the absence of Shana in our special moment. Travis had wanted this to be such a surprise, he had told NO ONE--not even the Tows! On our way home, we were going to stop by Travis’s parents’ house to surprise them, but since they were gone for the weekend, we decided to go to Dairy Queen instead. Our celebratory meal was a chocolate peanut butter cup blizzard and a strawberry lemonade chiller. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When we got home we had a few minutes alone to enjoy and finally talk about what our lives would be like once we got married. We dreamed and laughed and enjoyed the thought of getting to spend our entire futures together. All too soon, our time alone was over, and the girls came back (from--get this--going bridesmaid dress shopping! Apparently the fact that Travis had asked Kathleen for Dad’s second phone number the night before had tipped them off or something..). I ran out to meet them, and as soon as I held out my left hand, there was screaming, hugging, squealing, ring viewing, more screaming, and more hugging. Once we got inside, we told them the whole story. It had been a day of excitement, confusion, unique details, and awesome community. It was, indeed, the perfect day.

you have my love

Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorites of Aught-ten

I didn't get to listen to every new album like Andrew, or see every new movie like Josh, or read many books like Monica, but I listened and saw and read some stuff that I really liked this year, so here's a brief list of my favorites of Aught-ten, in some-particular order:

Tallest Man on Earth "The Wild Hunt" - I just got this with one of my many iTunes giftcards, so it gets on the list, but low on the list. Andrew recommended it and he's a pretty tall and smart guy. So far it really is enjoyable.

Toy Story 3 - I didn't go to many movies this year, but you gotta say that TS3 was pretty great.

Belle & Sebastian "Write About Love" - I love my Scottish indie pop. I don't pay much attention to music releases anymore, but I was somewhat surprised that B&S released an album, I thought they had called it quits. But I'm glad they didn't and this album is fun and poppy and Scottish, I really do love their music.

Ender's Game complete series - I read it all. Ender's Game, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and, finally, Children of the Mind. It was long, and somewhat good - some parts better than others. I first read Ender's Game when I was in fourth or fifth grade, and I recall reading parts of the other books in middle school, but really I didn't get it. At all. Now that I'm older I wanted to reread them all, and this time I got "it" and it made me want to experience intergalactic space travel. Shortly after finishing the series someone suggested the Ender's Shadow series, but I certainly think that a long break from Ender is in order. Maybe next summer?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part one - I like HP, and I've enjoyed the movies, but this one was really well done. It stuck with the book pretty well, and the look of the movie was great.

Inception - Yep, it's really good. I wonder if in ten years I will look back at Inception and feel the way I feel about The Matrix after ten years. I suppose that depends on if they make sequels [please no].

Mumford and Sons "Sigh No More" - A British Avett Brothers, which, is really quite awesome. I hope they stick around.

Brown ale - I realize this isn't a media item like everything else. Also, I've liked brown ales for a while, but this year I think they moved to numero uno on my favorite type of beers list.

Sufjan Stevens "All Delighted People" - I know a lot of people have "Age of Adz" on top or near the top of their albums of the year list, and I realize that it's really good, but I just don't enjoy listening to it [kind of like Tom Waits]. Maybe it will grow on me. Anyway, "All Delighted People" is great. I like the departure from his previous sound [maybe this was a transition EP to prepare us for "Age of Adz"], the rockness of it is, dare I say, delightful.

The River Why - I finally finished it. I started Why a couple of years back but got distracted and then relegated it for something else. Anyway, it's great read, as seen on a previous post.

Chuck - When I lived in the Wilson House in Ames, I lived with this guy who happened to work for Geek Squad, and he watched Chuck, but I never got into it. With Lost over and BSG finished, I "needed" another show to fill my television time [other than the standards: House, 30 Rock, Community] and Chuck stepped in quite well. I'm halfway through season two and am looking forward to Chuck's super-spyness. Honorable mention in the television category: Psych, 'cause it's quite funny.

Arcade Fire "The Suburbs" - I don't think that my first full listen to "The Suburbs" was over before I had named it my favorite album of the year. I think it's great. I think a huge part of it was that shortly before it came out I had just moved from the near-heart [liver?] of Des Moines to the very western edge of West Des Moines. Down the block is a bean field that within a few years will be more tan and beige homes, just like the one I live in. I don't mean to diss Dave's house, but Arcade Fire's story of the suburban culture is one that I'm a part of, not that I necessarily enjoy being part of it - but that's where I am, and it's where I grew up. That is to say that this I resonate with the album. So, the high quality of the album and my resonation with it easily push it to number one for the year.

I'm hoping to maybe have Wilco and Radiohead albums, a Wes Anderson or Josh Overbay films on the list next year. Get it done guys. you have my love.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The best Aught yet

They said the aughts were over. Not so, I say. And I would go on to say this, "Aught-ten: best Aught yet!" Aught-ten was pretty much the best year ever [...thus far]. I mean, I've had some pretty awesome years [Aught-two, Aught-five, etc.], but this year has them beat handsdown. Handsdown! I'm sure, being avid readers, you realize why I would say that: I fell in love, kissed a girl, liked it, asked her to marry me, and started getting ready for the biggest adventure of my life so far [marriage]. So, pretty darn exciting.

Other reasons that this year was so very amazing: Beardenzia was not founded in Aught-ten, but it certainly developed a firm foundation through the deepening of my friendships with Ryan and Derek and the explorations of New Beardenzia. The weddings of Aught-ten were a ton of fun. I saw Yo La Tengo live in concert. I graduated college [again]. I've come to deeper realizations of what it means for me to be a man, and a Godly man at that - scary but important stuff. Sarah got to meet some of the 104ians. I read the entire Ender's Game series - it's really long, but I made it. I ran a couple of races; nothing like a few years back when I was really running, but it's a good start to what could be a resurgence. Some great friends had some great babies, quite a few actually.

I could go on, but honestly I'll just save myself from getting ahead of myself, because I get the feeling that Aught-eleven will be better and far more adventurous than I will ever recall Aught-ten to be. Thanks Aught-ten, you've been grand, I shall always remember you so very well. you have my love.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

David James Duncan

Most of my readers have probably not ever heard of one of my favorite authors, David James Duncan. Duncan has written just two novels, The River Why and, one of my alltime favorite books, The Brothers K. A few weeks ago I [finally] finished The River Why and I found myself wishing that Mr. Duncan would write more books.

His stories and characters live in the Pacific Northwest, a land I once, though briefly, lived in and did not explore quite well enough. Reading Duncan's books allow me to explore the Northwest in a way that I never would have been able to, had I stayed out there longer than I did. His stories allow the reader to see the top left corner of our nation through the lenses of family and friendship.

Quick synopses: Brothers K: A family of four brothers, two sisters, a Seventh Day Adventist mother, and a legendary minor league pitcher for a father; they all struggle in finding their place in their own family as they come to grips with their own faiths and lives in the midst of minor league baseball seasons and the Veitnam War. From one page to the next: I laughed, cried, repeat. River Why: A young prodigy of a fisher, Gus, is raised by two skilled fishers of two different schools [fly casting and "plunking"], Gus chooses to live life as a fishing hermit on the coast of Oregon. He follows after the understanding of life through fishing, obsession, death, the wild, philosophy and, yes, love.

And that's it. He has some other short stories and essays, but of his novels that punch me in the stomach with humor and meaning and wonder, that's it. Maybe he's at home wondering why I haven't written any novels. Perhaps someday I'll hear that he's written another novel and I'll rejoice. Until then I'll take what I can get and enjoy these two beautiful stories - Mr. Duncan, thanks for writing them. you have my love.