Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Great Way to End

Today is my last day of work before my wedding and honeymoon.  I’ll be off work for three weeks.

The last couple of hours have been transition meetings with both my auditors and my boss since my boss will be carrying the majority of my workload while I’m gone.  I’ve been killing it here to get this to as smooth of a hand-off as possible.  I have a folder of several instruction Word documents to guide him through each of my daily and weekly duties.

My boss just paid me the biggest stream of compliments on both my overall performance but also on how I prepared everything for him in my upcoming absence.

  • I am everything he wanted in a Controller.
  • He knows he doesn’t say it often enough, but I’m doing a great job.
  • Everything I prepared for him is clean, organized and easy to follow.
  • I made great progress on the audit even though it isn’t done yet.
  • If we did performance reviews as often as we should, mine would be all positive.
  • I’ve come a long way since I first started and he’s very happy.

We’ll see if he still says that after covering for me for three weeks.

This kind of affirmation goes a long way.  Totally makes it worth the crazy hours I’ve been putting in the last couple of months, even more so the last couple of weeks.

Okay, back to work.  Two more reports to hammer out and then I'm shutting it down and going home.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Men's Retreat 2013

I was really looking forward to going this year because I’ve been missing all the guy friends I have at CBC.  If not for my audit at work being delayed another week, I might not have been able to go.

Javad and I rode up and back with Bryan.  When they picked me up at work, they were a little stunned at the security guard knowing me by name, and by me having a reserved parking spot with my name on it.

We picked accountability & skill partners for the weekend and from there were put into four teams.  I was sitting next to Robert T., so we decided to partner up, and we went on the green team.

The speaker was Michael Pouliot, a football player from Montana who started his own men’s ministry called BattleZone.  Kenton went through it and now it seems like the whole program is coming to Campus.  Michael was a good speaker, very intense, but also very intentional.  His big plug was on relational discipleship, and creating multiple generations of discipleship from the idea of 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul discipled Timothy, who disciple faithful men to disciple others.

A couple exercises focused on teaching us things to later teach our partner (who wasn’t in the room learning it firsthand with us).  First was a dollar-bill trick to automatically link two paper clips together.  Later it was more serious stuff: 1) a PRAYERS acronym for daily praying that follows the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. 2) a “C-4” technique of emergency defense against temptations that get thrown at us.  The emphasis was heavy on learning each skill well enough to pass that knowledge on.

The food was amazing as always.  The only thing that disappointed was the cookies on Saturday night.  This year they weren’t on warmers (so they were hard instead of soft) and there was no milk.  Epic fail, but at least it helped me to stop after eating only three of them.

Friday night Spades tournament, I partnered with Josh B.  For round 1, we went up against Tim P. & Kyle L.  Tim went nil every hand, but only got it three times, and we still beat them.  Round 2, we lost by six points to Jon D. & Matt S.  I should have counted the points potential (I was last to bid on the last hand) and bid one more trick.

The weekend activity was “top shot.”  The four teams rotated through stations of 3D archery, throwing knives, tomahawks, and slingshot.  Lots of fun.  I wasn’t terrible, but I was not skilled at it.  During competition, though, I was only of only three guys on our team to break a bottle with the slingshot.  Daniel Y. was so thrilled that someone finally broke one for our team that he ran in and picked me up.  Marc (who is blind) and Chapman were the only other guys to break bottles (Chapman broke two).

A great weekend with encouraging conversations and fellowship.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Marathon #2

It’s hard to encapsulate all my thoughts from this marathon.  The most persistent thought is “Praise God, it’s finally over!”  Both the training to prepare for the race and the pain during the race just made me want to be DONE.

It was very difficult to make time get all those long training runs in.  I wasn’t getting up early without a running partner, so if I was doing solo runs (which was often), they were LATE at night.  Heidi and I were both noticing how stressful running was becoming for me trying to schedule these runs around seminary, church, work, wedding planning, travel and us-time.  Running shouldn’t be stressful, it’s where I want to go to unload stress.

This race was so much a team effort.  It feels so cliché to write that when I was the one who physically ran those 26.2 miles, but I couldn’t have mentally or physically done it without my unofficial support team:

·         Heidi and her parents, who came out to cheer me on from two different locations, thereby seeing me four times throughout the race.  Three of those times, I dropped or picked up gear or sustenance.  The change in temperature from standing still at the start line an hour pre-race at 6 a.m. to high heart-rate only an hour-and-a-half later is extreme, so I was glad to have someone to give my gloves to at mile 4, and be able to change my shirt and hat at mile 12.
·         My running group Sunday Runners.  I wouldn’t have upgraded to the full marathon from my plan to just run the half-marathon if not for this new group of friends that motivated me to get up and run almost every Sunday morning 8-12 miles before church.  Shannon, Jennifer, Janet and I were in the marathon group, and there were even more in the half-marathon group.  Laura, who did the half, finished her race and then got on her bike supplied with gu, water and Gatorade, and rode the last few miles in with the three of us (Shannon had to walk earlier than I did and got separated from us).  They kept me going when I was screaming from the pain in my feet, ankles and stomach.
·         My other three non-racing running partners.  Adam, Alicia, and Cole (who is only 9!) each did one or more training runs with me at some point along my training plan.  Sometimes it’s nice to run alone and just go through some solo therapy to unwind stress, or to embrace some music (passing cars must get a kick of my conducting efforts with my arms as I run with some really emotive music).  But other times, it’s really nice to have someone to talk to.
·         My county-wide aid stations for my long late-night training runs: Heidi in Fresno, Phil & Sandy in North Fresno, Larry & Angela in Clovis, Javad & Kimberly in Clovis, Bryan & Cory in Fresno, and Amy in Fresno.
·         My fellow runners and walkers at the race yesterday morning.  It’s exhilarating to run with three thousand other people at the same time.  Especially when I’m privileged to know so many of them!
·         The spectators.  I say it to educate the masses: it sounds crazy, but a stranger standing along the race course ringing a cowbell can bring me to tears.  It HURTS to run this far, and that someone (especially someone I don’t know) would smile, hold a funny sign, shout encouragement, hand me pretzels/gummy bears/oreos, and/or ring a cowbell is the nicest thing in the world anyone could ever do in that moment.  So it doesn’t matter whether you know the person or not, if you’re out there, you don’t stand silently waiting for the ONE person you know, you make some noise.

My goal for this race was to be under 10-minute miles and to run the whole way.  I came in just shy on both goals, but had so much improvement compared to three years ago that I was very content.  Three years ago, I had to run/walk the last five or so miles and finished in 4h:28m:33s.  This year, I made it 24 miles of non-stop running and only had to run/walk the last 2.2.  Finish time was 3 minutes faster at 4h:24m:50s (10m7s-miles).

I broke down sobbing after I crossed the finish line just from the relief of it finally being over.  I didn’t have my phone, but thankfully Jennifer did so I got in a few post-race pictures.  The medals went through a redesign this year, and I really like them.  The sweatshirts were good before but are even better this year.  The food was amazing, but then again, what doesn’t taste good after running a marathon?  I devoured a bowl of ice cream, a plate of breakfast, almost a dozen orange slices, and several fruit cups.  I signed up for a post-race massage.  Usually I don’t wait through the line for them, but it helped so much after the Wascally in September that I decided to try it.  They were pretty organized and the wait wasn’t long.  Eric was my masseur (there were about 20-25 of them) and he didn’t really seem to be able to loosen me up that much, but oh well.  The free beer wasn’t worth the cacophony of noise coming from the band on stage in the finisher’s area.

As I was walking to my car after the race, I started talking to a couple that was leaving at the same time.  Rex and his wife Shelley walked the half for their first time.  Rex is an attorney, and they are Christians.  I found out that they used to live on my street, only a block east of me!  They were a neat couple to get to talk to, albeit briefly.

It’s hard to say what my racing future will look like.  I don’t think I’ll do the Two Cities full again.  I’m glad to have improved, but I don’t feel like this race is conducive to me performing at my best.  In November, I need to do my long training runs as the days are getting shorter and as the weather is getting colder.  Miles 16 through 24 of this race are the hardest for spectators to reach, making them a pretty demoralizing stretch.  And finally, as my wise friend Katie pointed out last year, most of our friends have gone home by the time the marathoners finish, so there aren’t as many people to reunite with when we’re finally done.  So I’ll probably stick with the Clovis route for the half marathon.  But then again, merely doing the Clovis half last year made me jealous of all the full marathoners and motivated me to do the full this year.  I would like to consider an occasional marathon in the future, but I’ll probably travel for it.  After I’ve recovered and forgotten about how tight all my leg muscles are.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Proposal

Okay, everyone's been begging for this story, so I finally wrote it all out.  Enjoy everyone!
**A couple updates in the FAQ as of 9/25/2013**
I had been planning this for about a month, with it really ramping up in the last couple of weeks.

I had three goals for the proposal: 1) to completely surprise her, and 2) to propose in a way that she’d love & remember, and 3) to give us a fun story to tell our family and friends.  I toyed with a grandiose public proposal, but ultimately decided that wasn’t right for us and our personalities.

We have seriously discussed that our relationship is heading toward marriage, but my policy is not to discuss dates until a ring is on her finger.  To do otherwise puts the cart before the horse—in my opinion—and can seriously impede goal #1 (above) if there’s a deadline by which I have to get the proposal done.  She was very respectful of that desire, and let me chart the timeline of us and our relationship.

All the same, I kind of went a little soft on the serious/future talks in the couple of weeks leading up to the proposal just so it wouldn’t be on the forefront of her mind as to “this could be any day.”  I didn’t pull a Chandler Bing and stupidly try to convince her I would never want to get married, I just didn’t initiate as many deep conversations as I had previously (because we had talked about everything that I needed to know, enough that I knew I wanted to marry her).

My good friend Josh B. helped me brainstorm and set this all up.  He was the one who really helped identify goal #3.  I knew I wanted something a little cutesy/goofy because I knew that would meet goals #2 and #3.  I had decided to acquire/build a huge cardboard box that I would hide inside to make me a gift for her.  Josh’s sister Christie hooked me up with several boxes from Foster’s Freeze where she works as store manager.  On Friday night, Josh helped me duct tape them all together and then wrap the box with white butcher paper.  I bought some teal ribbon from Michael’s to finish off the gift box with a huge bow.  We were up past 1 a.m. prepping this and loading it in pieces into my car.

All Heidi knew in advance was that we were going kayaking at Millerton for the day.  I wanted something that would be a big enough chunk of time that I wouldn’t have to worry about her scheduling anything else.  The evening before, I offered to pick her up earlier than planned so we could also go out to breakfast.

On Saturday morning, Josh met me at Heidi’s apartment complex and we did final construction of the box in the parking lot, because it was over 27 cubic feet to fit me inside.  It had no base, so it was designed to be placed on top of me and subsequently lifted off.  I was wearing a blue dress shirt and tie.  Josh didn’t think that he could pull that look off with jeans, referencing another guy Rob we know who does.  I told him it was because he has hair, whereas Rob and I don’t.

Final assembly had taken a little longer than planned (it was 8:40, and I had told Heidi that I’d arrive between 8a and 8:30, so I sent Heidi a text message to apologize for being late, saying that I was on my way.  Sometimes she’ll be waiting in her living room and hear me coming up the steps, and even open the door to greet me in advance of me knocking.

We practiced on one of her neighbor’s porches placing it, because I was worried the rustling of all the paper and our footsteps would get her to come out and investigate before we were set up.  Then we stealthily carried it up the staircase to her apartment, I ducked down into position (on one knee, of course), and Josh placed it on top of me.  He put down the “Hint: Lift box from down here” sign with arrows directing her to handholds.  Then he knocked on Heidi’s door and ran.

She opened the door and I heard her exclaim “What?!?” and then she followed the instructions to lift the box off of me.  She got out “Hi!” as she came into my line of sight, and then her hand clamped over her mouth as she was taking it all in.  (Heidi’s perspective—When I saw the box I was certainly surprised but couldn’t even think behind “Oh my gosh…He’s proposing! Pay attention to what he’s saying…Don’t interrupt him with your answer…Don’t cry…Oh man, he made me cry…it’s ok…oh, wow”) 

I had written up a list of some of the many things I love about her.  I had the foresight to actually tape it to my leg.  My hands were shaking so badly from sleep deprivation over multiple nights and nerves trying to get this all out.  I read her the letter, and finished with asking her to do me the incredible honor of becoming my wife as I pulled out the ring I had purchased.  By that time she was crying and got out a tear-filled yes.  I got up and hugged her.  Her next words to me were, “Now it’s so okay that you’re late.”

I had planned to put the box in her apartment, but after final construction efforts, it couldn’t fit through her door, so it’s still on her patio.  She shared the news with her roommate Rachel, who had been hiding in her bedroom to give us some privacy.  Rachel had been helping me keep tabs on Heidi leading up to this and had even insisted earlier in the week on doing Heidi’s nails so they’d be nice for ring-on-the-hand pictures that Heidi had always hoped for.

From there, I took her to breakfast at BJ’s Kountry Kitchen, her favorite breakfast place.  She had even warned me that they have the best coffee, so that when we go there, I need to be on notice that she would be ordering coffee (for those who may not know, I detest both the smell and taste of coffee).  But I loved her that much that I was willing to put up with her, flaws and all.  She loved me enough that she didn’t even order it (or was in a blind state of euphoria that she forgot).  Or maybe she didn’t want to discourage me from kissing her later throughout the day. .

We told our waitress our good news, and she oohed and aahed over us and the ring.  Then she proceeded to tell other waitresses, who each came over to congratulate us and chat with us.  It was so much fun.  The food was delicious too!  We both were just still in shock, her in tears and my just exhaling in laughter.  The waitresses also took pictures for us.  Heidi wanted pictures of me in a tie because she knows that it does not happen often.

We then drove up to Millerton for kayaking.  On the way we started calling friends and family.  Many screamed, and they all heartily congratulated us.  Many insisted on the story, others quickly shooed us off the phone knowing we had more calls to make.  Notably, we didn’t call her sister Holly, the sibling of hers that I have been able to get to know the best thus far.  I told her that we could stop by and tell Holly in person.  Heidi sent Holly a text message to casually ask if we could stop by later on.  Holly replied that they’d be having a date night but would be back by 9.  More on that later.

We started talking about specifics of the wedding right out there on the lake: attendants, location, dates, etc.  I had been thinking of a December wedding and was so relieved to finally be able to discuss it with her (see policy above).  Thankfully she thought that was feasible.

We paddled back to shore to stretch our legs for a bit.  My kayak is barely designed for two adults, but we don’t mind being squished next each other.  Neither of us was hungry yet because of our big breakfasts.  But I grabbed the jello salad dessert I had packed in our picnic lunch and we walked out to the edge of the dock to sit with our feet in the water.  We ate and talked some more, and then I pulled out a gift I had bought for her: two Christmas ornaments, a red “H” and “K” with the date of our engagement written on the back.  They are our first Christmas ornaments as a couple.

After sitting for awhile, we took the kayak out again and then decided to switch over to swimming.  By then we were ready for food, so I pulled out the sandwich fixings I had packed for us.  We used that time to call some more family and friends.  More screaming, more congratulations.  Heidi kept telling me that I needed to call and tell one of my best friends Amy M., because Amy had specifically told us a few weeks prior that she did not want to find out via Facebook.  I kept dodging it; telling her I had it covered.

We also carved out time to call some of our pastors.  I arranged for three of our collective five churches to announce the news.  We would be at Riverpark Bible Church (Heidi’s church) the next morning where they’d be putting it on a slide in the announcements.  Campus Bible Church (where I used to go and where Heidi’s parents now attend) and Westminster Foursquare Church (my parents’ church) would both announce it from the pulpit and I arranged to have it videotaped at both places.  Palm Avenue Community Church (my current church) would announce it the next Sunday when we would be there, and Village Bible Church (my Orange County church) will announce it when we’re down on September 15.

From there, we went to the house of our friends Javad and Kimberly, where they were hosting a birthday party for their three-year-old son with a few more of our friends, Bryan, Cory and Dawn and their respective kids.  I had asked Kimberly if we could stop by but hadn’t told them about the planned engagement notice.  And I didn’t tell Heidi about this part of the day until we pulled up to the house.  So we walked in and gave the announcement.  The reactions were awesome!  We spent a few hours there playing with the kids and talking to the adults about the day thus far.  So yes, I commandeered a three-year-old’s birthday party for our first engagement party.  Yes, first.

On our way to the next surprise destination, I gave her another gift.  The advice columnist Dear Abby compiled a few books based on frequent topics of the letters she received.  I grew up reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers (and even had a letter published in Dear Abby when I was 13), and always knew I might need the “plan your wedding” book that would occasionally be mentioned at the end of her column.  So when Heidi and I started getting serious, I tracked it down on Amazon.  It was last published in 1985.  So I wrapped it up for her as another gift, this one a little more practical than the others.  I made sure that this was the only “homework”-type gift I gave her.

We then arrived at our friend Michael’s house.  Michael, Josh, myself and a few other friends are in a Spades group together, where we rotate houses to do a potluck night and play the card game Spades.  I had arranged for him to host it that night, but hadn’t told Heidi about Spades or Michael about our planned engagement.  She had asked a couple times earlier in the month if Spades had been scheduled because she loves playing, and I kept dodging the question.  As we pulled up to the house, I clued her in to the fact that we were having Spades.  She was pretty confused, because normally we have to bring something for the dinner, and she wondered how we’d get done in time to go see Holly at 9.  I told her I had it covered.

We walked in and cue second engagement party!  We gave the big announcement again and all our friends cheered, including Heidi’s roommate Rachel and sister Holly and brother-in-law Dan, all of whom I had arranged to come to Spades as guest players.  It was perfect, she was so excited.  Josh and I had gone shopping the night before and he brought all the stuff I had signed up to bring food-wise for Spades.  I had also arranged the night before for my friend Amy to come to Spades to officially hear the news, even though I had told her last night when I went over to get my hair cut for today.
We had a wonderful evening laughing with friends, retelling the story, and playing Spades.  By the time we left at 11 p.m., we were exhausted.

The next morning was a blast announcing it to two Sunday School classes at RBC (Heidi’s original one and the couples-based one we were trying out).  Then we went back to her apartment and published the news on Facebook.  We had tried to get ahold of everyone that we could think of, that needed to know in advance, and that was a long list.  Watching the firestorm and fielding the phone calls and texts was hilarious!  It was so much fun to just sit back and enjoy.  Our phones were buzzing for hours.  Then we watched Two Weeks’ Notice and Heidi made us a delicious shrimp and edamame stir-fry.
And that is the story of our engagement weekend.

FAQ (because many questions have been asked with great frequency)

Q: When and where did you meet?
A: We met at Riverpark Bible Church on January 27, 2013.  I was looking for a new church and tried out RBC that morning, attending the same Sunday School class she was in.  She was the last to arrive because of singing in the service with the choir.  I remember she had a black blouse and skirt on, and had one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen.  If not for her smile, with her ensemble and dark hair, I’d have pegged her for a Goth.  I eventually picked Palm Avenue Community Church as my new church, but kept attending RBC’s midweek Bible Study for career-age young adults.  That’s how Heidi and I continued to get to know each other.

Q: How long have you been dating?
A: Our first date (I paid for both of us, and there were no other people invited along) was May 15, 2013. We went to see a movie King’s Faith.  We had a few more dates shortly thereafter and I asked her to be my girlfriend on May 26, 2013 on our way to have dinner with a former client of mine.

Q: Did Karl ask her dad in advance?
A: Of course!  I pulled him aside at Heidi’s niece Ava’s 2-year-old birthday party.  Since I work in Fowler, logistics of secretly (from Heidi, remember goal #1) arranging to meet with him was getting pretty difficult.  He readily gave his blessing.

Q: What are the details on the ring?
A: White gold, with a round brilliant cut diamond in a low (almost bezel) tension setting.  There is also a tiny diamond and bit of filigree on each side of the ring.  It has some elements of (but not complete) axial and point symmetry.  Heidi’s sister Holly set me up with a ring designer.  Heidi and I had gone out and looked at rings twice in jewelry stores, so I had an idea of what she wanted, but I took creative control from there.  Again, refer to goal #1, if she had picked the exact ring, she’d know it was coming sooner rather than later.  She loves the ring.  Phew!

Q: What was in the letter/list of things you loved about her?
A: Well, that’s gettin’ a little personal, don’tcha think?  ;-)  I referenced her love for God, her respect for me as the leader of us as a couple, how I love her singing voice, and many other important things.

Q: When is the wedding?
A: We’re planning a wedding and dessert reception on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at RBC at 7 p.m., and a separate soup & salad reception for all our Orange County friends at Village Bible Church on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 4 p.m.

Q: Why a Thursday wedding?
A: This was the only date we could find that allowed all of our siblings in three states to be here with us to celebrate.

Q: Who will perform the ceremony?
A: Mike Bohr, the worship pastor at RBC.  Heidi has been in the choir at RBC for several years.

Q: Who are your attendants?
A: We have decided not to have a specific maid/matron of honor or best man, but will rather ask our attendants to cover specific parts of those heavier duties as they have the skills and availability.
Holly Ashjian (sister of the bride)
Rachel James (friend of bride)
Joy Strube (sister of the groom)
Rachel Strube (sister of the groom)
Heather Wiser (sister of the bride)
Misty Wiser (sister of the bride)
Jacob Ailes (friend of the groom)
Dan Ashjian (brother of the bride)
Josh Belden (friend of the groom)
Chris Peters (friend of the groom)
Troy Wiser (brother of the bride)
Daniel Zaninovich (friend of the groom)

Q: Where will you live?
A: Heidi will move into Karl’s house at Palm/Shields after the wedding.  We have no plans to leave Fresno at this time, but we are both open to wherever God leads us as a couple in the future.

Q: Has Heidi seen Karl’s furniture, and has anything been tossed yet?
A: Yes to the first question, and shockingly, no to the second.  But he knows some changes are coming.

Q: You attend separate churches.  Where you both be attending and serving together?
A: We prayed about this for a long time and tried out each of our current churches together for a few months, seeking counsel and evaluating opportunities to serve.  We'll be attending Palm Avenue Community Church and are very excited to see what God has in store for us there.

Q: Where are you going on your honeymoon?
A: We haven't gotten to that stage of the planning yet.