Saturday, February 28, 2015


It has been a pleasure journeying with you all on this blog. When I started this blog in 2008 I was a 23-year-old introducing you all into a transition into post-college adulthood. I have written quite a bit about Pittsburgh, God, Christianity, and simply being a twentysomething in the millennial generation.

Blogging peaked in 2011 as I finished graduate school and moved to Tacoma. It fizzled and all but ended in recent years as I've focused less on blogging and more on people (and tweeting, to be honest). My last post here was about turning 30 and this seems like the right time for a transition.

In short, I'm starting a new blog about living in Tacoma as someone born and raised in Pittsburgh. It's not anything profound; just a sort of ongoing memoir of one person's life experience in one place having been shaped in another. I will halt details here as a synopsis can be found in my first post on the new blog.

Find my new blogging home on Medium. Read the introduction and start following. I hope you enjoy my experiences in Tacoma as much as I do.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Last week I turned 30 years old. I must say that this week does not feel much different from last week, but that's because age really is just a number. It can influence who you are if you want, or it could not. 

As time progresses, our priorities change and so, therefore, do our actions. There is no stereotypical way to live once you turn a certain age, but there, instead, exist an evolution that comes with maturity (sometimes against our will!).

Here, I suppose, is a non-exhaustive list of things that are definitely different in my life as a result of getting older and, hopefully, wiser:

1. I place far more value on a good night's sleep.

I have needed more sleep than most people my entire life. From an early age I have demonstrated a particular crabby demeanor any time I have not had enough sleep. This never really changed, but from age 18 to about 27 I simply pushed through it and valued fun over sleep.

Around 27 I settled into my 40-hour 9-to-5 job and realized that life was significantly better when I got 7.5-9 hours of sleep a night. Late nights got earlier. Weekday shows in Seattle became less enticing. A 10pm curfew was less a chore and more a pleasure. This has far more to do with waking up for work by 7 every day than my escalating age, but those things tend to correlate.

2. I care about my career.

Upon completion of graduate school, I got into the specific area of career services in higher ed with some sort of mantra that for being in career services I was not particularly career-focused. I never wanted to be the guy that took his job too seriously or put hobbies on the back burner in favor work.

Nothing monumental happened to change this mindset. In short, I kept doing my job, learning more, and gradually realized that I enjoyed the work quite a bit. I have a subscription to Fast Company, follow The Economist and the Wall Street Journal on Twitter, and find a lot of my conversations heading in the direction of careers. This was a natural progression that also came with getting into the work and doing it 40 hours a week. If I didn't like it, I'd probably move on to something else.

3. I want to buy a house.

This is a fairly recent development that I would encourage you to take at face value. When I say I want to buy a house, I mean that as opposed to generally saying that in my life I do not want to buy a house, which has generally been my level of interest in the subject until this year.

My job is feeling good and stable enough to keep me around a few more years and buying a house is generally a sound investment. If you know me at all, you know that I love practical investments, so this should not come as a huge surprise. It's take a while to get over the cost of housing outside of Pittsburgh, but I am realizing now that owning a house comes with stability and a sense of home that I have not had since going off to college 12 years ago.

4. I look forward to marriage.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I've been dating a wonderful girl for 2 years. Anyone who knows me well knows that 2 years is approximately 1 year and 8 months longer than any prior relationship, so yes, we are talking about getting married.

The cool thing is that we have taken time to consider the good and challenging parts of marriage resulting in feeling even better about it. We know it will be great most of the time and challenging other times, but that it will still be good in the challenging times. 

More on this in the near future, I'm sure.

5. I have had a nutritious eating and exercise revival to a healthy degree.

When we were in college we ate pretty much whatever we wanted and I didn't gain a pound. I didn't drink until I was 21, so I'm sure that helped, but even once I started added alcohol to my diet the weight and my health never changed. Part of that was because we were young and walked everywhere at Pitt; part of it was because we also hauled up the hill to life weights or play basketball about 5 days a week.

Recently I have gotten back into a 2-3 times a week exercise regimen that I plan to add to with basketball, but my body is getting a bit too weathered to process my old diet. Quality organic meats and cheeses, fresh organic vegetables, and a low amount of carbs make up what appears to be the 2015 diet and I am on board with it. Not only that, I am going through another wave of generally getting interested in cooking and cooking well. 

Top Chef certainly helps; although I use about 40% of the ingredients they use on the show and have not heard of about 15% of them!

I could go on, but these things are standing out most. Before I move on from how I have seen change happen, I'd like to share a short list things I am happy to have accomplished by the time I turned 30 and can think of off the top of my head:

1. Recording an album, 2014
2. Traveling to other countries. Jamaica, 2003, and Ecuador, 2008.
3. Driving across the country by myself, 2011.
4. Moving across the country, 2011.
5. Staying 2500 miles from home for more than a year, 2011-Present.
6. Receiving accolades from my peers for my work, 2013ish-Present.
7. Being a near-original member of the Pittsburgh Curling Club, 2002.
8. Proving that I had the work ethic and guts to play high school football for a year, 2000.
9. Enjoying an entire stress-free summer of unemployment before starting my career, 2011.
10. Seeing the Pirates make the playoffs twice, 2013-2014.
11. Seeing a Pirates playoff game in PNC Park, 2013.
12. Seeing the Steelers win two Super Bowls, 2006 and 2009.
13. Seeing the Penguins win the Stanley Cup once, 2009, and sorta twice more, 1991 and 1992.
14. Finishing two degrees from Pitt, BA, 2007, MEd, 2011.
15. Living at the beach for a summer (Ocean City, NJ), 2007.
16. Seeing 7 different ballparks in different cities, Fenway Park, old Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Safeco Field, Progressive Field (Jacobs Field), Three Rivers Stadium, PNC Park.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Reflections From Camp

This weekend I took a trip to the Washington Family Ranch Young Life camp in Antelope, OR, to visit friends with whom Aly worked as an intern several years ago. It was great to meet her friends, Cara and Adam, plus their two beautiful girls, Olive and Gillian, as well as to see a place that's had such an effect on her life. It reminded me quite a bit of my own experiences with Suncrest Camp in Rochester, PA, which is where I accepted Jesus for the first time and felt my life change completely, just like many others before and after.

Thinking about those teenagers who are experiencing Jesus for the first time this week got me thinking about a lot of things. Should I be working in ministry? How much does the work I do really matter? Should I be leading a Young Life group or something like it? Should I just pack up and move to the Ranch? How can I answer God's call for my life in my current job?

One of the thoughts I had this weekend is that it's tough to have full, meaningful interactions with people who have different beliefs than you do. From my perspective, Jesus Christ is the basis of everything in my life. I believe in His death and resurrection, which was the person of God coming to earth to wash away our sins and provide eternal life to His people. This belief provides perspective for everything I do, how I do my job, and what my priorities are.

Frankly, it's hard to work with people who do not have the same fundamental motivations as I do. I love my neighbors and do my job well because there's no way to work with people who have identical beliefs with me all the time, but I find that other people have different focuses or agendas that don't make sense to me. Building up students into future leaders or just future people is hard when I can't just share the gospel with them. Maybe I can, but I haven't chosen to on a regular basis.

When a student is getting discouraged about their job search, I want to tell them to pray. There is simply no better option than to put your life in the hands of God. This is not for the purpose of God creating some opportunity for them to get a better job, but rather for them to be calm and know that God has already provided all they need. As Tim Keller addresses in his "Meeting the Real Jesus" sermon, Jesus isn't going to help us get a job or be a better lawyer (or whatever). That's not the point. The point is that Jesus has saved us from death; a death that we all deserve fully. Whatever happens on top of that is icing.

This thought arose because I was thinking about how it can be easier to be a youth camp leader and talk about Jesus than it is in other circumstances. When a teenager chooses to be at a church camp, their heart is open to the gospel. This doesn't happen as obviously at work or anywhere else, for that matter. Teenagers are open to ideas, especially if you can get the "cool" kids into it. Adults tend to be wrapped up in their own logic and in providing for themselves, while teenagers know they are not fully responsible for their own destiny.

Keller points out in the aforementioned sermon that the "educated" people, of whom I tend to surround myself, basically tend to be interested in creating their own fortune and destiny. The middle- to upper-class like to take the teachings of Jesus, but leave behind the doctrine that dictates the power of God. Rarely does someone tell me that they are into the death and resurrection of Jesus, but not as much into the "love your neighbor" teaching. Take anyone from any background and they are likely to be totally on board with Jesus' teachings of loving your neighbor and doing good.

The poor, on the other hand, see the gospel as just that; Good News! This IS the gospel (Good News in Greek). The death and resurrection and washing away of sins and loving your neighbor is all a part of it.

Educated folks rely on themselves quite a bit. The idea of there being a God who is in control or who has already determined that your sins are forgiven and you can't do anything to make Him love you more or less is something that is hard to wrap your mind around.

The key word there being "mind"; it's faith, not intellect. Christianity requires faith. Relying completely on what I can experience with my five senses is not an option. We cannot wrap our minds around God; if we could, how powerful of a God would that be?

This is just one thought that seems generally unfinished. I hope to continue this conversation with many of you soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

March 18, 1993 was the greatest sick day of my life. It was the first time that being sick actually felt like a blessing. It was the day when my sports fandom went from "why watch SportsCenter every day?" to "why is there only ONE 24/7 sports network?". On March 18, 1993, I stayed home sick from school and watched my first NCAA basketball tournament.

The NCAA basketball tournament is a 68-team (formerly 64-team) single-elimination tournament of conference winners and the top teams in college basketball. Due to it's one-and-done nature, it is nerve-racking for all teams and fans. The tournament is unique because household names like Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA are matched up with teams they never play from smaller schools without basketball history like Santa Clara, Florida Gulf Coast, and George Mason. These small schools have little to lose, so they play without reservation while their top-seeded counterparts often play wary of what could happen if they lose.

I remember certain details of that first day, but not all. I can recall the blue quilt that my dad and I spread out on the brown shag family room floor and his first explanation that this tournament would be happening all day, all weekend. Why had no one told me about this before? All of my sports memories started around autumn 1992 with Sid Bream crossing home plate and ending the Pirates' competitive baseball for 20 years, so maybe it was natural that spring of 1993 would be my first exposure.

St. John's beat Texas Tech in that first game. Then, it just kept going, all day, culminating with me falling asleep while Pitt got run out of the gym by Utah, 86-65.

Why do I remember some of these things? Well, to start, most of my childhood memories have something to do with sports. I remember my first Pirates game, my first Steelers game (1993 NFL playoff loss vs Buffalo), and my first Penguins game (generally, 1993 Stanley Cup vs Chicago).

On top of that, the NCAA tournament has just become a part of my life in ways other things have not.

Over the years, I've had a few different plastic/rubber basketball hoops for the kitchen that was probably my favorite toy growing up. That 1992 tournament was played in my kitchen almost as much as in arenas around the country.

The 1993 tournament was the first bracket I picked, incorrectly predicting the first 16-seed (Navy) to beat a 1-seed (Missouri).

In junior high, my social studies teacher and basketball coach, Mr. Wellendorf, had a TV in his room that he'd tune to games.

Come high school, they may as well have not scheduled classes in the afternoon. Any teacher that had a TV tuned to games would be signing hall passes to students who wanted to watch instead of learn. During senior year, my day ended with a few class periods or study halls in the video production room, so I recall sitting there and watching games with my good friend, Brandon. I distinctly remember that tournament because the day it started, March 20, 2003, was also the first day of invasion in the Iraq War.

If it weren't for memories, things like this tournament would not stick. I could go on and on with these thoughts, as I haven't even gotten into college yet. I will simply say that there was nothing more exciting than going to a college like Pitt that was a consistent top contender in this tournament, despite constant underachievement. The things we enjoy most are associated with our favorite memories for a reason; we want to keep living those moments over and over again.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Losing Sight of the Good Stuff

To a certain extent, I've removed a lot of the fun from my life on purpose. I don't mean that to say that I don't have fun or don't have an enjoyable life, but I spend a lot of my time focusing on "productive" activities and what's an efficient or effective use of my time instead of simply enjoying whatever it is I'm doing. If something is not productive in some way, then it's a waste of time. That's been my frame of mind in my adult life and it's been slowly hurting me.

When I first moved to Tacoma, I was faced with a new realization that my adult life and "grown-up" job leaves me a lot less time than graduate school did. After work, I have 5 hours of usable time before I am in bed preparing for the next day. Compared to my previous 16 hours of usable time when I was in graduate school and not occupied by a set work schedule, this was a huge change of pace.

I find myself now wanting to spend the majority of my time being productive. This could mean either exercising, practicing music, or in a faith-development scenario. These are all good things, even great things, but they're not always fun. Forcing myself to practice or exercise takes it from the realm of being a fun activity to being a chore.

I'd compare this shift to the deconstruction of a smoothie. When you are making a healthy smoothie at home, the most popular ingredients are not only spinach and kale for green leafy vegetables, but also any sort of berry, bananas, and yogurt to make it not only healthy but tasty. When you start breaking these things down, yogurt and berries are still good, but not even as good as the vegetables. Have you tasted kale by itself, though? It's not necessarily my favorite food, unless I'm really in the mood for construction paper.

What's happened in my life is a deconstruction of this smoothie. I force myself to eat nothing but kale and spinach because that's what the "healthy" choice is. If it weren't for the berries, though, or the pizza or the french fries in our lives, we may not enjoy eating at all. In the same sense, I've removed "unproductive" things from my life, like watching movies, because they seem like an inefficient use of time. If I'm watching a movie, I'm not reading or practicing or exercising, so it must be a waste of quality time. But how am I supposed to enjoy LIVING if I'm not indulging in the berries and yogurt that makes the spinach palatable?

It's time to get selfish, take time to myself, watch movies, have an interesting conversation with a friend, or just read an article about sports. Either way, it's time to bring back the imagination that's been missing from my real world life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One Awesome Thing: Music Release Days

It's been over 6 months since my last blog, so it's high time to pick up the habit again. There's so much attention given to satire, negativity, or passive mocking that it's hard for millennials, like myself, to find encouraging daily reads, so I'm hoping to get back into providing these One Awesome Thing posts on a regular basis again.

When I was in high school, I was introduced to the music "scene". To this point, my main source of quality music was The X (or The Force, if you remember that far back), which was the only modern alternative station in Pittsburgh and played a heavy dose of Green Day, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Throw in some Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit on MTV and you have me at 13.

My good friend, Brandon (who is now co-executive producer for Travel Channel's Dangerous Grounds, introduced me to music that was not on the radio in 10th grade (after establishing POD as my favorite band the year before). He gave me albums from MxPx, Value Pac, and Ninety Pound Wuss. These Tooth and Nail staples introduced me to wholesome Christian punk and, more importantly, the fact that there was great music that was NOT on the radio!

Over the next few years, learning about bands and listening to music became my main source of entertainment. When you are constantly entertained by what's new and hip, your favorite day becomes record release day. In high school and into college, Best Buy offered new release for 10 bucks, so this was where you'd find me on Tuesdays.

Well, times have changed. My love for new music still exists, but the Internet has changed everything. Albums started leaking online several years ago, so now bands put them online for us before the album release. More attention is given to having an album release show so fans can pay SOMETHING to see the artist instead of just listening for free online.

Today's One Awesome Thing is record release days, or, more specifically, Noah Gundersen's debut full-length album, Ledges, which is out today via Dualtone Records (The Lumineers, Delta Spirit). This album is beautiful. I've had the pleasure of seeing Noah play his own stuff 3 times since moving to Seattle, in some of the most unique settings (house show, Timber!, Triple Door) and look forward to seeing him a 4th time at the Neptune Theater for his release show this Saturday. I could go on and on about Noah Gundersen's unique songwriting ability, but I'll let my friend, Greg Jones, at Ear to the Ground do that instead.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Yesterday I listened to an episode of This American Life from a week back called "The View From In Here". In Act One, we hear about the story of an inmate and corrections officer who had sat down together to share a real conversation for the first time. This was put together after the inmates watched a documentary called "The House I Live In", which talks about, among other things, how the war on drugs has perpetuated a vicious cycle of locking away drug offenders for relatively short stints that render them unable to earn an honest dollar because they are turned away from jobs and college grants due to their record.

Much like all of us, in a way, these offenders have to do whatever it takes to make a dollar. As a result of their situation, they choose selling drugs or theft to line their pockets. If I were them, I'd probably do the same thing.

There are a lot of things I could write about today, like most days. Last night my car was broken into for the third time since I moved to Tacoma. Like the first time, I did myself no favors by parking in an empty Foss High School parking lot instead of paying the measly five bucks for parking at Cheney Stadium for the Rainiers game. In my defense, crowds have been so thick for the only two other games I've been to that parking here seemed like a natural and popular choice. Regardless, this was not the case tonight and I ended up with a rock through my window and down a stereo face plate and iPod again.

Thanks in part to the comforting presence of Aly, I reacted more calmly than the last two times. There was not much I could do after the fact and knew this was an avoidable situation. If we'd have biked there or parked in the stadium lot I'd still have a passenger side window. If I'd have brought my valuables instead of leaving them in the glove compartment then I'd still have them. Nothing to do but clean up the mess and replace what I'd lost.

The One Awesome Thing today is that I can do that. I have the money and ability to replace my window, stereo, and iPod if I want to. I live in a house with a garage to keep my windowless car safe until the missing one is replaced.

Who knows what the story is of the man or woman who busted my window to earn themselves a hundred bucks for my old stuff. What I do know is that my story is different. It is one of privilege. I came from a family that raised me well and provided for me. I learned the value of a dollar and have done what it's taken to earn the dollars I have. I came from a family of resourcefulness, which has resulted in the privilege I've provided for myself to be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle. For this I am forever thankful to God for providing.

It's easy to get down on yourself or others when something awful like this happens. How often we forget how much God has blessed us in these times. Bad things happen to good people all the time, but we are quick to forget that good things happen to good and bad people all the same.

Let us thank God for the blessings He has provided today. The sins of my assailant and myself have been washed away with the blood of Christ. Neither of us deserve it, so we've already received far more than we shall ever need.