Category Archives: Life

Kneeling – WWJD edition

First. I believe it is entirely possible to resent the players kneeling WITHOUT being racist. Many service men and women believe the flag is so much more than a symbol. And when the flag is “disrespected”, they may feel their service is disrespected. This is an extremely unfortunate side-effect of the protest, and I have never heard any of the players say otherwise.

As for us who respect the flag/anthem more than we respect these men for protesting in something they believe this strongly in… I just urge you to think about that. Is the flag and anthem more important than the ideologies the flag and anthem represent? The ideologies of freedom, and equality? The freedom to kneel during the anthem is ABSOLUTELY WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT.

I should mention, It is almost shocking to me by how much apparent (or willing) confusion there is on what the protests are actually about. Many believe the NFL folks are actually protesting the flag, or the anthem, or the USA, or literally any other thing besides what this is about. Still others, attempting to be supportive, make this simply about the right of free speech.

But specifically – they are protesting the long-standing (and proven, like, by real studies/sources, like the FBI) bias against the black community, from the police community (generally). Police brutality against the black community – that’s what it’s about.

If you’re understanding of the protests align with any of the misunderstandings outlined above, you’re certainly not alone, but I would hope you’re willing to rethink things in light of what the protests are intended to shine a light on. To miss the point is to miss the whole reason any of this matters.

Shannon Sharpe talks about this same confusion:

And Nick Wright (gets extra amazing at 3:57):

I believe the kneeling angers “us” partly because the issue is not real enough to us as white people, and so it’s easy to make this into a “bigger” thing. Each time one of “them” gets shot, we don’t feel it as if one of our own was shot. You may believe you are not racist, but if you cannot “kneel” in solidarity with “them”, or even grant empathy to the kneeling, then it is a possibility that racism is latent. Racism is not simply hatred for another race, it can also manifest in our underlying “otherism” (which I definitely struggle with). “They” should be treated as “us”.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. If we were to do that, we would not need this to be a “bigger” issue. The issue is already big enough!

You may argue that there are better ways to handle this. I’d rather not, but my stance is that I don’t believe there is a more visible way for someone like Kaepernick to protest without worse consequences (e.g. violence, e.g. Charlottesville). The point of a protest is to draw attention to an issue. Argue all you want about the method, but the protest, by that definition, is extremely effective, even with the conflation that followed. Thanks to Kaepernick, and the men who kneel, and the ensuing drama, anger, and incension, I have never thought harder about the issue of police brutality towards minorities, and for the first time, I’ve allowed myself to mentally step into their shoes. And it’s a painful and scary place to be. Maybe they’re all making it up. Maybe they all “deserved it” (really?!). Maybe it’s a big media conspiracy, or generationally poor mental fortitude.

Or maybe there’s just too many witnesses, and too many anecdotes, and believe it or not, too much evidence. And maybe “them” is “us”.

And finally, to believers. Jesus is so much bigger than any nation. While he was here, he told us the two greatest commands. Surprisingly, they were not “respect the flag, stand during the anthem”.

They were 1) love God, 2) love people.

I cannot imagine a Jesus being here on earth and agreeing with our anger over the kneeling. I also cannot imagine him agreeing with the way we have equated God with USA. What I absolutely CAN imagine is Jesus walking over next to Kaepernick and kneeling with him. Because Jesus loves people, even the dark ones, even the young ones, even the disrespectful and wayward ones, even the ghetto ones. Even the self-righteous ones, even the silver-spooned ones, even the nationalists, even the liberals, even the conservatives. Even the Russians, and the North Koreans, and the Trumps, and the Clintons.

The ones Jesus most often left alone (or had the harshest words for) were those who felt strongly in the rightness of themselves. The self-righteous.

The ones commended? Those who stand for others. Or in this case, kneel.

I love our country. What those players are doing on the field make me love our country even more. FREEDOM is an incredible and sometimes unwieldy thing.

Bunk Bed for Joseph

I built Joseph a bunkbed for his 4th(!) birthday. I don’t have much for gratuitous making-of photos, but here are a few of the finished product. Let me know if you’re interested in more detailed pictures (up close, joints, connections, that kind of thing).

Update: I made a video when I built a bunk bed for Joseph’s cousin, Bella.

One messy garage later, we have a Bunkbed for Jo-man.

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A bunk bed befitting the boy

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The wood is top choice white pine, which you can find at your local Lowes/Home Depot.

I knew staining it would be a bad idea as Joseph would likely end up denting and marring it (he’s rough, and pine is soft), so I kept it the natural look, which I like quite a bit. And to help protect against fingerprints and such, I used this Minwax water-based Poly.

Goals, Shmoals

Howdy! Pardon me while I clear out the cobwebs in the blogging corner of this site.

Recently I’ve started following the work of James Clear. He seems to be (at least trying to be) a 21st century version of Stephen Covey or maybe John Maxwell. Coincidentally, today I came across this tweet:

This post by James Clear, as you can imagine, talks about the possible overvaluing of goals. As with Brad, I’ve often been uncomfortable with the ever-present concept of goals-setting.

Why is that? I’m not a slouch with no vision for my future. While I am no Covey, Maxwell or Clear, I consider myself to be a very driven, and most of the time, effective person. But to me, the idea of goals has always felt a bit too much like a prison, or more, a chastising schoolmarm. When I think of goals, often my impatience kicks in. I just don’t have time or mental capacity (I am notoriously bad at multitasking) to worry about that possible future which may never materialize.

But I’m no dummy. I recognize you cannot get to where you want to go unless you know where that is.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

a common, but maybe slightly-out-of-context quote by Wayne Gretzky ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Several years ago, a group I was in read the book, “The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Andy Stanley. In that book, Andy makes the simple case that the best way to get to that future destination (your “goal”) is to get on the path and start walking. And that at any point, we can look down at our feet. If they are not on the path (or pointing the right direction), then we need to “recalculate”, and get back on the path.

This is my favorite way to look at goals. Because one thing I can definitely do is to take the next step in front of me. And trust that somewhere down the line, I will arrive at my destination. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that I am involved in many things with this same driving principle. My church‘s motto is “helping you take your next step”. The ministry I am heavily involved with, Celebrate Recovery, is a steps-based recovery program with a key motto, “one step at a time”.

Even with with learning new things… about 8 years ago, I started to learn the guitar. My primary encouragement was the comfort in knowing that even though it was harder than I thought it would be, and I was worse (longer) than I thought I would be, if I just kept playing, I could only keep improving until I die. Depending on how long I lived, I might eventually be decent. :)

This definitely also applies to my job and learning new things in programming (Vue/React anyone?). If I just keep writing/reading/doing, I won’t suck at it forever, and eventually, I’ll even be good at it.

And James Clear’s article resonates with that same principle. He states the case that Systems are often more valuable and productive than setting goals.

Because whether you call it systems, habits, or steps,

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

But just like the principle of the path, where you need to know where the path should lead, you cannot build a system if you do not know what that system should accomplish. So as much as I dislike setting goals, they are still an integral part to becoming effective. The difference to me is that goals should not be the… goal… but rather a way to orient us on our paths and provide a structure to our systems.

Monitor Stand (made from Pallet wood)

Thanks to this Ugmonk post where he talks about building his own monitor stand, I was inspired to build my own. I used my (free) wood of choice, pallets.

As you can see from the detail pictures, the pallet wood is far from perfect, but I appreciate all the little knots and saw marks. Because this is the desk of a working man! 😝

This was pretty simple to make. The most difficult part (as is always the case when making anything near furniture grade with pallette wood) was the intense sanding that was required to get the boards smooth.

I opted not to finish this with anything at this point, but I may eventually apply some Tung oil. For now, I just wanted to get it on my desk to see how it works. I’m super happy with it!

Side-note: if you’re curious about my desk, you can read about that here, and if you’re curious about some of the things on my desk (monitor, speakers, mug… etc), or even how I made my desk, check out the “my favorites” page.

The Treehouse Adventures

In late February, thanks to some nudging from my kids (and a slight case of Spring Fever), we decided it was high-time our backyard had a tree house. Our yard has a large number of tree-house-ready trees, so we actually struggled over which location would be best.

In the end, we decided the best place would be nestled between a live oak and willow oak, just inside the fence. Not only is the location perfect, with 3 large trunks/branches to support it, but being within the fence line, it helps prevent neighbor kids from coming over and hanging out on the tree house. Not that I wouldn’t be happy about that, but there’s a certain liability that comes along with that prospect.

Building this has been one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things I’ve built (I’ve built a few things). If you’re contemplating doing something similar, my advice is go for it, because you (and your kids) only live once!

To get started, I read a lot about some of the basics of building a tree house. E.g. what size boards should be used depending on the distance being spanned, what type of fasteners to use, how to make things level against an organic surface, etc. I also bought this handy little book. It’s full of awesome little tidbits and illustrations. While not meant to be a complete how-to, it provided plenty of light bulb moments and inspiration. Highly recommended.

I started construction February 25 (2017), and after a weekend and some help from friends/family, I had a basic platform installed with floor joists.

Hard to go inside when the treehouse project is waiting for me.

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Another angle on that treehouse while I wait for Saturday to get here.

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Since I am a web developer by day, it feels super good to get outside and work with my hands (and some power tools!).

Oh yeah. #treehousemaster #rockstarmanofmine

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As much as possible throughout this project, I tried to use reclaimed wood. In that platform, the joists are all new pressure treated 2x6s and hung with joist hangers, and the longest span (in the picture above) is a new pressure treated 2×10. But the other side’s 2×10 is a leftover from our old water-bed (yep, you heard me right), and the two side 2x6s are leftover frames from an old bunk bed that we never used for the kids that we got from some garage sale.

To fasten the boards to the tree, I used 4 or 5 inch lag screws and washers.

The next weekend was spent working out some details, like corner braces, angle braces, and corner beams for the eventual hand-rails.

All. Day. Long. #buildinghisoffice #treehouse #thekidswillhavetoshare

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Much of the braces are boards from pallets that we scrounged up (the final project probably has about 5-8 pallets in it), and the corner 4x4s were used to hold up an old lattice divider in the yard (the lattice has been gone/destroyed for quite a while).

Here’s a redneck stunt I pulled to get some of those pallets:

(I need a truck!)

By the end of weekend 2, we had half a floor!

We've got half a floor! Just need to find some more pallets.

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As you can see, we also used boards from pallets for the tree house floor.

The next weekend, the first order of business was to finish the floor so the kids could come up and check it out. 😁

And they are up there! #mommycantlook #treehouse

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Time was limited that weekend, so I had to wait another week before I could start adding the hand-rail. Took me a bit to sort out how I wanted that to look. I didn’t want to have too many boards to obstruct the views (I wanted the tree house to feel open), so I left about a 6 inch gap between each board.

Well, it turns out my son can fit his head through that gap, and so Meagan was having none of that. So, back to the drawing board, and I had to add some lateral boards to make sure nobody was gonna be squeezing out. As you can see below, we took this opportunity to add a little flair and make it look like an authentic kid-built tree house (I mean.. I am just a big kid, so it’s pretty accurate).

We let our kids, their cousins, and some of their friends paint their names and other things on a few boards, and nailed ’em on!

Friends make a treehouse a home.

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#happyface #treehouse #myohmia

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Boys working hard. #treehousemasters #gettingsoclose

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Another end to a successful weekend.

The next weekend, we finalized the other 2 sides (minus the door). We got a little creative with those sides to try and work with the trees’ structures.

All sides are up! Now… how to get up there… 🌳🏗

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This is the point where I consider the top “habitable” and began working from the tree house.

Of course, some people had fun with this.

The next step was to build the door/gate. I used a gate latch and built a crude rope/pulley mechanism that allows the kids to open the latch from below the door. I posted a video at the end where you can get a general idea.

Once that floor was complete, it was time to begin construction of the first level, half-way up. I wasn’t sure I was going to go that route, but once the main part was complete, it just seemed like the best way to go.. It would provide a bit of a safety net on the side where the kids would climbing in/out of the top, and allow them to have multiple levels to their “tree condo”.

Multi-level tree condominium 😜

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At first, I attempted build the platform without adding the additional 4×4 supports on the outer corners, hoping the angle braces would be enough. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide enough structural shear-strength, so I had to dig some holes, pour some cement and install some ground-rated 4x4s. Once those were in place, the platform structure was as solid as a rock.

We then got the sides built:

About ready for some summer adventures.

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At this point, the only thing missing is the ladders. Surprisingly, building these was some of the most difficult work in the whole process.

I like to think this place is a little magical. Also, final ladder is complete.

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Phew! This has been a ton of (fun!) work. Happy to see it come together. Here’s a quick video tour:

Turbo Treehouse Tour

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You might be wondering, “what’s next”. Well, the grandparents purchased a tube slide as an early birthday/Christmas type of gift (ssshhh they don’t know yet), so we’ll see about installing that once it gets in (we got it installed! Scroll down to see). 😁 The adventure never ends! Thanks for hanging with me this far. If you’re interested, page 2 of this post is a big gallery of images from the process. Hope you enjoyed!

Update 5-14-17 we got the slide installed!

Pallet shelf with coat and key hooks

Another pallet venture. This is modified from some pictures we found on Pinterest. In those pictures, the ones that had coat hooks had them attached to the front piece of wood, but that won’t work for us since the door would open into them. Instead, we got some celing hooks to attach underneath, and a couple standard coat hooks to serve as decorative “key hooks”.