Into The Woods.

This weekend me and 4 of my church buddies ventured into the woods. Destination: Lincoln Park Parrish. Ruston Louisiana.

There is just something about being out in nature staring at a campfire for hours on end. It’s relaxing. It’s good for my soul. It’s therapeutic. I really think that I am going to have to increase my time out in God’s creation this year. We enjoyed gourmet campfire food and endless coffee thanks to my buddy’s generous and never-ending supply of Keurig k-cups. What? You don’t have a Keurig coffee machine with you when you go camping?

We left Friday afternoon for the 2.5 hours drive East, setup camp in the headlights of our vehicles and started the fire. When the coals were hot, we grilled some steaks and fire-baked some potatoes. Some late night coffee and caramel yummies from a gracious wife topped off our evening. Conversations grew until our sleeping bags’ calls grew louder.

First night was a bit louder than expected. I am a light sleeper since the birth of Addison. That daddy sense coupled with my audio “ear” wakes to just about any out-of-the-ordinary noise. Like my tent-mates SNORNING! Around 7 am, our camp was awakened by a crazy loon outside our tent squawking with the joy of the Lord. The new day was thankfully dry, for now at least. I was able to get the fire revived with a little “breath air” and then our breakfast burrito factory cranked up. Ashed bacon and eggs are bomb! Really though anything with cheese in a tortilla is just fantastic.

After breakfast and a devotional which encouraged a “day of prayer” we broke off into some solitary times with our Creator. After about 15 minutes of walking around in exploration mode, the rain that we had been hoping was only speculation showed up on the scene, and in full force. Thankfully I was able to take refuge under a random RV awning to wait out the storm which I monitored with my iPhone’s Weather Channel Ap. What? You don’t have 3G service when you go camping?This allowed me to be still and read John 13-15. Great stuff.

A few hours later the clouds broke, the skies opened and we were able to proceed with our day and lunch. My buddy in charge of lunch for the day had a grip of ingredients available for us to make our own campfire stew. Burger meat, onions, peppers, potatoes, spices and BBQ sauce wrapped into individual aluminum foil packets created to cook on the hot coals of our fire. Bomb. Some delish cookies his kind wife sent along followed the lunch. I love cookies!

Shortly after lunch 1/2 of our crew had to head back to the real world. Temps dropped in response to the day’s rainfall. Dinner Saturday was some great chili doused with more great meaningful conversation. Ear-plugged this time, I snuggled into my mummy sleeping bag, pulled the draw string tight around my chest and fell fast asleep.

Sunday morning brought more coffee, more breakfast burritos and a 5 mile run around the park’s lake…4 laps. Not a huge fan of laps no matter how scenic the surroundings. My mental state just becomes dull as my inner ear invokes dizziness. The temps were perfect. The companionship with God on my run was just what I needed. Some comfort from my heavenly Father. The other 2 guys that remained got some valued time in too. One fished in the picturesque lake. Another biked on the famous mountain bike trails. Camp was broken down, the SUV was loaded and before we knew it we were on the road home.

I LOVE CAMPING! The smells, the foods, the sounds, the smoke in my eyes, all of it. They seem to awaken memories of great camping experiences in the past. One in particular with my brother-in-laws and my father-in-law in the mountains of Ruidoso New Mexico many years ago. Still though my favorite part of this trip was that it was knitted with conversational thread of God from the moment we met, ’til we parted ways. From how we can serve Him to what He’s been teaching us recently. How we can work to be better men and servants in our families and how important it is to sometimes just sit at our Savior’s feet and listen. It is so great to have other men from different backgrounds unified in Christ to gain from and share with. Everyone has something to contribute. This weekend was exactly what I needed. A great time with my brothers in Christ strengthening relationships only deepened through adventures like this. A great time to feel alive again. A great time to think, refocus and return with motivation. A fantastic journey into the woods. It does make sense though why trips like this are so valuable. We are in fact, Wild at Heart.

Home Studio Acoustics 101. Section 2. Isolation.

ISOLATION

Isolation is a big need and frankly one of the hardest things to achieve in a home studio. Basically you want to keep all unwanted noise out. Recording an intimate vocal or acoustic guitar while the trash truck outside of your house beating the trashcans into submission isn’t so desirable in your recording. Dogs barking and old hill-billy East Texas trucks aren’t welcome either.

Mass is a key to isolation. The more dense your construction materials the better because sound is more impervious to dense materials. This has to do with the molecular structure of the materials themselves. Not going there.

If you have the opportunity to have separate mix and recording rooms do it. This “isolates” the element being recorded from other noise producing elements such as computers, monitor speakers, engineers, etc. Typically these separate spaces are divided by a wall or two and sometimes include a double, non-parallel paned window for visual communication. Here is a pic of a studio I was blessed to help build the acoustics for in Lubbock. This is an example of the one of the isolated recording spaces.

In my case, I have not had the luxury of having 2 permanent separate rooms setup for recording purposes. Right now I rock a single room that I use for both recording and mixing. When in the same space as the musician, I monitor the recordings with headphones and try my best not to move and create chair and floor noises. I do use some home-made tube traps (more on this later) to create a “wall” around the instrument or vocal to help with isolation. Moveable walls called “Gobos” are easy to construct and can incorporate sound absorbing materials and diffusion as well.

If possible the desired construction of a space suitable for recording consists with the concept of double-wall construction. Essentially, a room within a room. This is actually 2 walls, doors, or window panes is with a small space between them. The purpose of this is that when one is hit with the sound and then travels through, the vibrations from the first wall are not passed on to the next because they are not touching. Also, this air space helps dissipate the passed sound by reflecting back and forth within the gap. In some cases the walls are purposefully not parallel to reduce resonance. Expensive noise isolating double-wall construction, doors and windows are not really an option in most home studio budgets. Commercial studios actually spend millions on construction dollars into creative ways to reduce potential problems from unwanted noise.

Most of the places I’ve used for recording have in been temporary and rented facilities. For me, it’s all about what I can to do to minimize the small things that are within my control. The outside door to my studio and windows both rattle at lower frequencies if not tamed with some inexpensive weather stripping from Lowes or Home Depot to fill these gaps. The doors in my space have weather stripping to help seal the room as much as possible too.

Another equally annoying noise is the heating and air conditioning units and the air they push through vents. Many suggest over adequate air handlers that super cool or heat the studio air with quick bursts. These units are placed at a distance for the recording space to help eliminate the mechanical noises associated with them. My favorite and obviously less expensive alternative is the handy “OFF” option on our HVAC system. When we are recording, I set it to OFF and when we are breaking or listening I move it back to the on position. Ask any small/home studio engineer and they’ll agree this is very common.

Distance from the source of the noise is great too and make off the road, out of the city studios desirable. The best way for me to avoid outside nuisances is to plan recording sessions during quite times. In the strip mall space we had for Studio Java/Dixon Productions a few years ago, this was in the evenings typically after 7. Then and on weekends. Fortunately, this is also some of the best hours for musicians. In my space now (our house) this is great time as well except for the noises that permeate from the adjacent rooms, my girls. I do my best to plan sessions when they can leave for a few hours or over night. Seems to never fail though that when I do plan sessions time at off-peak hours, turn off the HVAC system, etc… dogs that I’ve never heard before in my life seem to have barking competitions and birds outside our windows chirp with excessive joy.

Isolation is a beast to conquer correctly in a home studio environment. For me it’s all about the small things I can do such as weather stripping and planning sessions at quieter times of the day. Many times ABSORPTION is a great solution to help minimize “leakage”. Thick curtains is a great example of reducing and therefor helping isolate the outside world.

ABSORPTION will be covered in section 3.

Livestrong Austin Half: Recap

This past weekend was fast and furious! I’m still recovering. We left Tyler Saturday morning first thing, kid-free & caffeinated. Along the way, we met up with our friends Mike & Ame who were also on their way to the ATX. Ame had decided several months ago that she wanted to complete a half marathon before she turns the big 3-0. Well, she turns 30 in March, so she picked the Austin Half to be her goal. Awesome! I love it when my friends decide to take up running. In fact, some other friends are running their first half in April and I hosted an official “half-marathon training” meeting at my house several weeks ago – am I a nerd or what?!

We followed speed racer Mike & Ame the rest of the way and of course had to make a pit stop at Chuy’s before we could do anything else. I mean, nothing says pre-race food better than chips, creamy jalapeno, and spicy tacos, right? Then, we all headed downtown to the race expo. Oh my word, it was packed OUT downtown! So much traffic and so many peeps. We finally found a place to park in some neighborhood on some street and headed in for our packets. I know I’ve said this before, but I heart race expos. They always make me feel like an actual, real, legit runner. Such great energy at these events. Being around other people that enjoy the same hobby as you as you all prepare to embark upon another challenge together – I don’t know how to explain it really. It’s refreshing and inspiring! Check out our swag… (don’t mind the blurry photo, time to upgrade to iPhone 4)

After loading up on protein bars, organic cereal samples, and Greek yogurt, we headed back to our car. Then, on to watch my niece play basketball! We had such a great time catching up with my brother and his family. We laughed A LOT. Not sure if we were all just really tired or what, but everything was funny. I’d share stories, but you wouldn’t think they were funny, trust me. Definitely a had to be there kind of thing. Good times. That night, we headed back to their house and cooked spaghetti to carb-up. Enjoyed a glass of wine as we tried to rest and relax and head to bed as early as possible. The alarm was set for 4:15 a.m. – YIKES.

I don’t know about you, but waking up before 6 is really hard for me. Well, waking up before 5 is just plain ridiculous. It’s the middle of the night for crying out loud! We threw on our race day attire, pinned on our bibs, drank some coffee, ate a Cliff bar and headed out the door as quietly as possible. We met our friends at their hotel and proceeded downtown to the starting line. Austin is such a cool city. Gotta love a race that starts in front of the state capitol building! National anthem was sung, introductions of all the race big wigs were made, and then it was announced that Lance Armstrong himself was there and running in the half marathon with us. Neato! I never actually saw him, but knowing that he was running was a cool thought.

The race itself was a lot of fun. Hilly, but fun. I decided to run with Ame, I wanted to be with her as she accomplished this pre-30 feat! The route was neat…running down Congress Avenue through downtown and by Lady Bird Lake. There was an insanely steep hill around mile 12. But, we conquered it and finished under her goal time! She did awesome. I was very proud of her. Ryan beat us, of course. I think he finished right behind Lance. ;)

After the race, we went back to Mike & Ame’s hotel to shower. Do you know how bad one stinks after one runs 13.1 miles? Peeeew weeee! I was craving a cheeseburger, so Ryan & I Stopped at Saltgrass on our way back to Tyler for this plate of deliciousness…

Crazy, but very good weekend. My hips were sore from climbing all of the hills! We’ve taken several days off from running, but I’m already itching to get back out on the road. Next up…Tyler Azalea 10k in March. H52S!

Home Studio Acoustics 101. Section 1. The Basics.

I realize that this post series might not interest many of our usual readers but I’ve been thinking about writing this for quite some time and I will keep it light. Acoustics is a science and there are actual degrees awarded in the subject. A lot of what is spoken of here is heightened to higher levels in commercial studios. This series of posts however is intended to give general advice for the ever growing home studio environment and I am no means an expert on the topic. Enjoy!

Most do not understand what makes a “recording studio” suitable for recording. Obviously to most there is the equipment such as microphones, cables and recorders (computers and software programs these days), but one of the most important elements (besides a great band) to a great sounding recording is a great sounding room.

What does that mean? Well, that means that the “room acoustics” or the way a room responds to the sound within the room is pleasing and or controlled. When you open your closet door and talk, it sounds different. When you are in a large room with hard floors, walls and ceilings, you can hear more of the “room” and it’s largeness. Your brain was created to be able to recognize the basic size of a room without you having to see it. Pretty cool huh!

BASIC CONCEPTS OF SOUND

“Sound is a result of the pushing and pulling of air molecules.” The audio spectrum is broken up into measurable frequencies from 20Hz (very, very low) to 20,000Hz (very, very high) and everything we humans hear resides in this range.

The fundamental or root frequency producing the “boom” of a kick drum sound is around 75Hz. The “shick” of a shaker is about 4,000Hz. That annoying tone you hear in the Emergency Broadcasting Tests is pure tone of 1000Hz (or 1KHz). These frequencies and their associated waveforms push and pull air molecules while interacting with their harmonic frequencies (multiples of the fundamental) and the room on a path to your ears. Your ears contain frequency specific tiny hair-like receptors (cilia) that then take that acoustical energy and transduce (or change) that energy into electrical impulses that your brain perceives as “sound”. Amazing huh?

Ever wonder why it’s really only the bass you hear from the car behind you at the red light? Bass (low) frequencies are physically longer that those higher in our audible spectrum. The length of the frequency (wavelength) is derived by taking the speed of sound (1130 feet per second at 68 degrees) and dividing it by the cycles (positive “push” and negative “pull”) per second. This means that the physical wavelength a low frequency such as 100Hz is nearly 11.5 feet long! A very high frequency like 10,000Hz (or 10KHz) is less that 1.5 inches. You hear the bass frequencies further than their counterparts because they are physically longer  and therefore travel further. In the same sense, the intimacy of a whisper is identified by the detailed high frequency “spit” noises that accompany the proximity of another’s mouth. Moving further from the whisper loses that detail. Cool huh?

In a studio it’s imperative to control the sound to help “clean up” whatever you are trying to record or hear. Due to the physicality of sound and its behavior in a room or “the acoustics”, this can be tricky to accomplish. Ever notice that in some spaces like a standup shower, that some notes you sing resonate with more intensity than others? This is due to the physical length of the frequency and the physical dimensions of that space “fitting” together. Drums along with the tuning of their heads are intentionally designed with specific dimensions to make these resonant frequencies accomplish the desired tone. Sometimes this interaction is negative (null), sometimes its positive (node). While entertaining in concept, these interactions can really mess up recording or listening space.

Some of these issues can be avoided in construction. Non-parallel surfaces (wall to wall and ceiling to floor) help eliminate the inherent “standing waves” or resonant frequencies of the room because the waveform is reflected off at a different angle and path than which it traveled. Most commercial studios are engineered and designed in this manner. For the home studio/listening room or theater, the best way this is achieve a good sounding room is to control the way the sound interacts within the space you have. This can be achieved by using physics to our advantage by making surfaces non-reflective or at least non-reflective on the same plane. This introduces the concepts of absorption and diffusion. But before we go there though, lets talk about ISOLATION, a key element to a quite space.

The Simple Things.

I love coming home from work. Like most (all) of us peasant workers it’s one of the best times of the day. Time to “clock out”, drive home and begin my favorite part of the day, “family time”.

With the onset of better weather, life is awakened. The birds sing more frequently. The trees turn from that drab brown hue to the colors of active life. Then comes the ability to spend extended time outside. Yard work however cumbersome and mundane is enjoyable just by being out. Cooking on the grill is a must and can be accomplished without bundling up. The breaths that you take have some kind of mystical molecule that…. anywho, back to the subject.

The other day when coming home I pulled into the driveway to see this.

I’ve heard it said recently that God has given us so many things in this life for our enjoyment. Sex, food, good wine, and the company of friends are just a few of the things He created for us to enjoy. These sacred things should never be the focus of our attention, time and passion but point us to the One who created them. That’s all by design. To lead us into worship. I worship and praise Him for those simple things that make life so awesome. To God be the glory for the simple things. What simple things urge you to praise Him?

Today Is The Day. VIDEO.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted a video, so here you go. This song has been inspired by Mr. Jon Jenz, our worship pastor at Grace. Have we ever mentioned that our girls love to sing?! Enjoy!

colored pages for sale.

Addi mentioned to us that she was coloring pages “to sell to people for money” so I decided to announce this to The World. She did mention that “Easton’s mom” was going to buy one. Please let Addi know if you’re interested. She’s selling these for “3 dollars to people”. Animals and aliens need not ask. I guess she’s trying to save up for her plot to take over the world or maybe invest in some new coloring books. Not sure really.

The middle miles.

Central Park, New York City

There is usually a point in distance running where you reach a pleasant plateau. The time when you have found your rhythm, your breathing is regulated, you are in the groove. Usually for me, this takes a good 3-4 miles. The first few miles on a long run are usually always tough for me. Thoughts flood my mind about what I have to do that day, how far I still have to run, how I wish I could get rid of that darn back fat that I’ve acquired from having two babies, etc. But after I crank up the music and start to relax and get in a rhythm, I am in a zone. My happy place. Then for several miles, I feel great, like I could run forever like Mr. Gump. This doesn’t happen every time, some runs are hard the entire time. Usually during a half marathon, I am in this zone from about mile 3 until close to mile 8 or 9. Then, the last few tend to be challenging…maybe because you know the end is near and reality sets in that you’ve run nearly 10 miles? Regardless, this is how I endure the long runs- the middle miles make it enjoyable.

I love these middle miles, they remind me why I love to run. During this time I can think clearly, I enjoy the time to myself doing something for myself, I pray, I think of my Dad, I think of all that God has blessed me with, and a lot of times I set new goals. Some of my best worship experiences have happened on long runs through the beauty of nature. This time has also been like therapy for me through the grief process. It’s good stuff. Good for me emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Because of this “me” time, I feel I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I seriously get cranky when I don’t run, just ask Ryan!

I hope you have something like this that you do just for you. Something that challenges you, pushes you, strengthens you, encourages you, calms you, relieves stress, gives you time to process and think. Whatever it might be, it obviously doesn’t have to be running. Although I always recommend it! I know as a mom, it’s hard to find any time for alone time. Trust me, I understand. But I think it’s truly important. So if you don’t do something like this already, I would encourage you to find those “middle miles” and set aside time to do it regularly!

Come Home.


Sunday at church Addi and Kam were taught the story of the prodigal son. For those who are not familiar with this parable of Christ in Luke 15, Jesus, by way of His story, teaches us of the never-ending mercy and welcome from our Heavenly Father.

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

This story relates to my life in so many way as I’m sure it may yours too. Often we choose to “do it our own way” and quickly find out that way leads to being lost and in shambles. My reality has lead me to my asking for help, receiving that help and me then feeling shame, guilt and defeat in my actions. Even in receiving His mercy and love I tend to drown myself in pity.

When we picked Addi up from her class Sunday morning she exclaimed “We had a party!!! The prodigal son came home!!!” She continued to tell the people we ran into that day this thing. “We had a party!!! The prodigal son came home!!!”

Growing up listening to the story and even participating in my own version of it, it’s easy to gravitate to the details of the trouble. He took all his money and wasted it. He lost sight of his way and didn’t have focus. He struggled through this period of his life in shame which grew into disaster. He realized he was wrong and was ashamed. He hoped his dad would still welcome him and accept him, even as a servant doing grunt work. Surprisingly to the son, he came home to a steak dinner party and plate full of caring, nurturing, forgiving, and merciful goodness. A party! A celebration!

It’s sad how I often tend to look at the negative side of situations. For me it’s easy to recall the bad in the story of the prodigal son. The squandering for “wild” living, the pigs, the shame, the ruin. I quickly glance through the part of the return and open armed embrace the son and Father share upon their reunion and don’t relish in that positive side of the story. Why is it like this? Am I just so tuned in to trajedy and negative drama that I often overlook the positive successes?

It’s amazing what you can learn from your children. They reveal the simple truths time and time again. “We had a party!!! The prodical son came home!!!” needs to be our attitude. Joy and thankfulness. Positive and jubuliant attitude. Maybe this is part of sanctification (growing to become more like Christ) as I know it is not natural for me to be this way. I really do want to be thought of as a positive person. I truly am grateful for all the mercy that has been extended to me and all the steak parties the Father has thrown in my honor.

Friday night we had the opportunity to attend a concert here in Tyler. Traci and I love concerts and have since the beginnings of our relationship. The band we went to see has a popular song on Christian radio now called “Come Home”. The band is Luminate and they live on our street. :) [Side note: I really want to take them cookies and introduce myself but I think that might be considered creepy.] Anyways, I wanted to share this video and song with you from Friday’s concert (thanks to the camera phone videographer) to maybe encourage you that that Father is always forgiving, always compassionate, always pleading with us to “come home”.  No matter where you’ve been or where you are now, He is right there waiting patiently for us to reach out to Him. Waiting to throw a party! Rejoice!

Thursday’s Awkward Swimming Experience.

In search for some cross-training to complement my running I decided to give swimming a shot.

Thursday morning I woke up, got suited and headed out the door to try my hand at swimming at the TJC  pool. I walked into the large indoor pool room and began to assess the situation. This pool is huge! Broken in half with 4 lanes on one side and open on the other with a diving board and shallow area.  The 4 lanes were occupied by swimmers that knew what they were doing with no one else in the pool. It almost felt comforting that this huge pool was so vacant.

I, like many others, am a bit intimidated by new adventures, especially if it means being half naked in front of strangers. It’s that “not really sure if I’m doing this right” feeling that I am uncomfortable with. Never-the-less I was set out to overcome and explore this activity. I love swimming so why not?

The water was warm enough to be a relief to the outside temps of about 40 degrees. Nice! I began to paddle around and get accustomed to those movements that I haven’t felt since last summer’s family vacation. Man this is cool I thought as I gently swam the distance to the deep end of the pool. Upon my return to the shallow end my attention was requested by the lifeguard.

“Sir,”she said “this side of the pool is for water aerobics. If you’re going to swim you need to get in a lane.”

Confused and bewildered I looked around to see no one besides myself in the “water aerobics” side of the pool and 4 people in the 4 lanes used for laps.

“Huh?” I thought out-loud.

“If you want to swim you’ll have to share a lane with someone.” The lifeguard continued.

I couldn’t help but add a smirk and chuckle to the conversation as I began to think of how to process this information. Already intimidated by the new adventure to get up and go swim, now I have been thrown into a new challenge of “sharing a lane with someone”. I don’t even know what this looks like. Do we take turns? Do I have to talk to this guy and plan out a strategy? “You’re it!” What? So with no confidence at all I swim under the lane dividing ropes and enter the “swimming zone”.

I know how to swim. I spent many summer hours in a pool since I was young but not olympic style stroke swimming like I’ve seen Michael Phelps doing on TV or the guy I’m now sharing a lane with is doing. You know, the kind of lap swimming that the swimmer has perfect hand over hand form. My new lane buddy doesn’t even seem to take breaths and effortlessly does that underwater-flip-and-push-off-thing at the ends of the pool to maintain his vigorous pace. Fantastic.

Psychologically defeated, I begin to do my varied form of a dog paddle to the end of the pool and back, mindful of my new lane partner. Most of the time I was concerned I’d bump into him and throw off his workout. That was the last thing I was wanting for sure! I continued this timid and graceless swimming style for about 30 minutes before I’d had enough of this claustrophobic embarrassment. Out of the water to my paper thin towel in attempt to sop up a bit of wetness, I look over to the “water aerobics” side of the massive pool (which I was violently expelled from) to see 1 person bobbing around in one of it’s corners. 1 person! Maybe next time, I’ll give water aerobics a try.

Wow. What an awkward experience. I couldn’t help but think of this skit from Saturday Night Live. An awkward experience indeed!

{click to view this skit}

Saturday’s Emotional 8 Miles in Quitman.

One of our favorite things about the 2 years we lived in Quitman was the running. The scenery there and the “slower” traffic is a nice combination. As with most places we live, (have lived) we have a few set routes for whatever milage you are wanting to accomplish. From just a few to 10 or more. Country roads with horses and cows, open fields seeded with grains, decreped barns and it’s vacant downtown adorn this East Texas route. Hilly at times, thankfully flat at others. Here is an old post showing some pics of these hot spots.

Deciding to run there on Saturday, Traci and I wanted to revisit some of our favorite scenes. In effort to plan out our 8 mile quota, I stumbled upon a great resource called  mapmyrun.com. This site allows you to mark your start then draw the route you want to run on a Google Map. When you design your route, it automatically displays mile markers. Once you are finished making the route, editing and tweaking, it shows the elevation and you have the option to see a 3D fly through thanks to Google Earth. Super cool! Here is the route we planned.

We arrived at the much adored “grandma’s house!” around 10 am, said hello and as the girls began to play, Traci and I walked out the door to start at the back of the property. The sun was shining and our muscles were shivering. My playlist included a Matt Carter message on the God’s ability to do the impossible followed by some old school hip-hop. 45 degrees and breezy we pressed start and began our tour.

This place invokes so many emotions. Most may not know of our “Quitman life” and the ups and downs we faced. Joy with the birth of Kamryn, depression with job struggles, thankfulness in the hospitality of Traci’s family and desperation as I struggled with the guilt of feeling unsuccessful. We passed 2 houses we lived in for brief times. One we miraculously and quickly sold in a flat market shortly after a layoff, and then another we lived in for only 3 days. We ran past houses of friends, former colleagues and family who care about our little family and still reminisce of our little coffee shop.

At mile 2.5 we continued past the funeral home that we were forced to enter last June. Seems only yesterday we were running these very roads with Kip. He and I often spoke of how it was motivational for us to run past the town’s cemetery, nursing homes and ironically that same funeral home.

Mile 3 started our ascension of “Cate’s Mountain” to be visited by a familiar big dog that Traci often speaks of. Then we crossed HWY 154 close to dad’s wood shop where he created and felt “alive”. Addi’s beautiful baby bed was born there. Artfully cut and chipped away from large ruff planks of cherry and walnut woods. I was able to “work” there on occasion building studio acoustic panels for fun, and when I was between jobs, building cabinets for money he generously paid.

Mile 4 and onto a great country road with cows and naked trees; the sun shinning on them almost picture like. A major road and some Saturday traffic forced us to dodge a few cars, all the while with my beautiful bride right beside me. An exchange of thumbs up tells me she’s feeling ok.

We winded our way around the corner past the basketball gym where Traci’s sister Jen became a local hero and brother Jeff just graduated high school (2 years ago!). The graduation ceremony where the valedictorian’s speech included a reference to the “great times at the coffee shop after football games.”

Mile 6.5 and past 2 local churches and I thought of a blogsite I designed for a youth group. How that paid invoice and the one for designing the “Experience Quitman” light-pole banners provided yet another month of food and fuel in a time of unemployed and uncertain struggles. He has always provided. He promises He always will.

We continued through the lifeless downtown with thoughts of unreached potential. Past a building Kip and I dreamed of having for my studio reminded me to never back down from a challenge. This road took us into the park that was a part of a charity run our running group put together to raise money for a local 4 year old girl named Sophie with a stubborn brain tumor. How proud I was for the efforts there and how grateful we are for God’s mercy on her healthy life today.

As we passed the “fried food air” of Dairy Queen, 8 miles were complete. Success. With the milage complete we began our cool down walk; just a bit further to grandma’s. As we walked, we talked about the emotional roller-coaster-of-a-run we both just separately experienced.

“His fingerprints are all over this town. You know?” Traci said in reference to her dad with a tear induced, broken voice.

Indeed. Floods of emotions and stories swallowed us as we passed each significant and personal landmark. This town resonates from his influence. We discussed the buildings, the efforts, the struggles, the triumps and ultimately the memories that were just shaken awake on this hour long jaunt.

We turned left onto Meadowbrook Lane to view yet another house we lived in for nearly a year. Number 115, the red brick Clark house on the hill. The weight of that site still heavy with all its memories. The sacrifices that were made for us to feel at home there are still echoing. Lives were rearranged to get us there, rooms rearranged to make it “home”. Footsteps down the long hallway of this house along with voices were lightend to keep our babies from waking when they slept in their cribs. Awesome meals were provided when we had nothing to contribute and rooms and closets were built when we had to return after moving to an unknowingly unfit duplex.

Up the driveway and into the house we were cheerfully greeted by our precious girls hiding under blankets, eager to surprise. Happiness overwhelms my heart with the site of these crazy little women. When we made our decision to move East from Lubbock, we unanimously agree that it would be for the good of our children. Despite the struggles we faced, we are so thankful they brought us here.

Life has been drastically changed by our time in Quitman Texas. So hard. So good. So emotional. Thank you God. It’s been said that “life is a sum of our experiences.” That chapter has added no less than total trust for us. What an incredible route on this path of life. What an incredible 8 miles.

So now we continue on. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Remain faithful.

The Search for God and Guinness.

I recently  finished a great book titled The Search for God and Guinness. It was recommended (thanks Jordan!) to me as a great look into the history of beer and the faith and generosity of the Guinness family. I love both topics (obviously God more than beer) and to find them both in the same title, I had to check it out.

Stephen Mansfield’s (author) primary objective was to explore Arthur Guinness, the Guinness family tree and what motivated their philanthropic tendencies. With 3 main branches of this family, broken down by profession, brewing, banking, and ministry, he expands on how they made such significant impacts on their world and circle of influence. In a nutshell, the Guinness family were faith driven, very giving and sensitive to the needs that they saw in their peers, their country (Ireland), and ultimately their world. Doers of the Word, not just hearers. Really it’s an amazing story of overcoming overwhelming adversity by going above and beyond to selflessly help those in need for now over two and one-half centuries. Read it! Be inspired.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book, and the point of this post, was the history of beer and it’s support by the church.

Hold on, WHAT?!

Yes, beer, it’s brewing and social celebration was supported throughout history by Christian people! I don’t remember any flannel-graph beer mugs in my Sunday school lessons! Mind you, drunkenness was not nor has been supported in scripture, but the responsible consumption of fermented goodness, yes. Really, not until the 1920’s and America’s short vindication of all alcohol with the act of prohibition, did the church begin it’s no tolerance mission. Much changed in the church during this and the preceding decades in the way of legalism and is still suffering through this sickness today. Not enough room to go there in this post.

From it’s beginnings in ancient Egypt, to the early church, the reformation and beyond, beer has been an integral part of the social scene for God’s people. Jesus’ first miracle was in creating 180 gallons (900 bottles) of the best wine ever, out of water, for the attendees of a wedding TO ENJOY. Um, hello?

Many famous godly men including the legendary Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and other spiritual giants of the past were advocates for beer. In fact, they constantly thanked God for the provision of the frothy brew and likened it to one of His richest blessings. Pints were shared in taverns while discussing theology and the mercy of God. Kegs of beer were sent as gifts and stipends to preachers of the Word.

When questioned for his freedom in Christ displayed in his acceptance of beer and wine by the strict rulers in the Roman Catholic faith, Martin Luther (who by-the-way is one of the sole reasons you and I have a Bible today) responded, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then abolish and prohibit women?” Love it! Christ did not save us for a life of religious regulations, He saved us from a life of religious regulations.

So much more to the book than this, so much. Get it already! Read it! Be inspired.

The Spirit of God, some end-of-year self-motivation and this book have inspired me in so many ways; here are three.

1. One of our goals this year is to be more philanthropic (giving) of our time and resources. It’s a shame to fathom the amount of time and money we waste on ourselves and I’m burdened by this reality in our own lives. The Guinness brewery was the highest paying employer in Dublin in times of the countries greatest depressions. Their company benefits out-weighed what Google, Microsoft, and Apple can provide to their employees today without doubt. With the generous support of the Guinness board and the vision of the brewery’s doctor to eradicate sub-par living conditions, they were successful in providing healthy dwellings, education, and quality social activities for not only the thousands of Guinness workers but changed the whole city for the good. All with the heart of a servant for the betterment of humanity. As Jesus states in Luke 12, “To whom much has been given, much is required.” I have been given TONS (not financially per se) and it’s my turn.

2. I am impressed by how Arthur’s family was so missional minded. He began, his children followed, many lives were changed as a result. Modeled behavior at its finest. One of the greatest evangelists in history was Henry Guinness (a grandson of Arthur), who influenced more great men like Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody and William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army). I have been blessed with great Christian legacies and intend to pass that on as far as my influence goes. Both Traci and I come from grandfathers then fathers in ministry. Radically, I want to fan this flame and inspire others for Christ. I am blessed to lead my family in this quest. Now more than ever, radical is right.

3. I enjoy great beer and wine and am saddened by the dark stigma that surrounds the topic. To be grouped into the “drinkers” category in reference to those who abuse it, saddens me. I am free in Christ and am so thankful for ALL of His blessings. All things God creates are sacred. I love Dr. Pepper but only drink it on occasion, mainly because as they have so many empty calories. Likewise, beer is a special and restricted treat. [Side-note, dark beer has been proven over and over again that it’s actually great for your health “Guinness is good for you.” when consumed in moderation, Dr. Pepper however isn’t.] From this point forward, “Ryan drinks beer and wine.” is not a secret. By the way, I homebrew and am looking into hosting fellowship opportunities involving deep Bible studies and brewing. ;) To God be the glory.

In celebration of finishing the book and the revelations gained, there was only one thing that had to be done to properly finalize the impartation. I got out a tall glass. Rinsed it with cold water. Pried open a Guinness Extra Stout. Poured the beautiful, rich, dark-stout-goodness into the glass and let the micro-bubble carbonation rise while forming the tan colored, cream-textured head at the top. I brought the glass of Guinness to my mouth, parted my lips, tilted it and partook. Yum! Espresso and dark chocolate flavors accompanied by berry like bitterness from the English hops surround my tongue with a touch of dust-like dryness that developed through the swallow [smile]. All in honor my great Creator, his man, his faith, his likeminded family and their amazing influence.

Cheers to my God and to Guinness!

The Last 2 Weeks.

My 2 week Christmas break is officially over and man has it been great. Not due to any fabulous vacation or life changing events but just because. The time I’ve had to just chill and read and tickle and love have been fantastic. I look forward to this time of year and huge benefit to working in education since last years break. It always seems to go so fast. Fortunately I still have the weekend before Monday’s return to the workforce.

The first week flew by with mostly loafing. I really can’t remember anything significant about the week other than some great loafing. Then a trip to Georgetown for Christmas with my bro-in-law and his kind family last Thursday thru Sunday. The girls had a blast spending time with their cousin Kendrick and are still enjoying the fruits of giving friends and family. Christmas was great as usual minus the giant vacant spot at this years festivities. Makes me feel more mortal and family like.

This week has been different than the previous. My miles have picked back up and soreness has returned to my legs. Reading has taken a huge emphasis this week. I am about to finish a book that I started last Friday. More on this in future posts. We have cleaned house and rearranged. Early Spring cleaning? I have had a list of self declared projects that I have been wanting to accomplish during this year’s break. On the list were: leaves, oil change, replace bathroom cabinet door hinges and replace garage security light. Of these, all of them were accomplished. I’ve been working on the vast and overwhelming leaf removal project for about 2 months now. My West Texas friends have no idea what this even means. Man it feels great scratching even the littlest tasks off a to-do list. Makes me feel more handy and man like.

Most of all though, the time with my little family has been priceless. It really is amazing how the consecutive days with this much interaction with them makes me want to be around them even more. I am so blessed with this gift. Sure there are days when bed time cannot come any quicker but for the most part it was a great as my mom-in-law’s chocolate cake. The hugs and giggles are golden as I try to pause the moments in hope of somehow slowing down time. Time that’s quickly escaping like an opening handful of dry sand. A few nights this week at the close of our night time routine, Addi has asked with her eyebrows slightly raised in her face’s expression of excitement, “Daddy, is tomorrow another family day?” With much joy my answer has been a pause-less “YES!”. Questions of, “Can you tickle me?”, “Can we dance?” have been answered likewise. Moments like this make the whole break of great value. Makes me feel more fulfilled and daddy like.

It’s neat to see how they are developing physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Traci and I are really working on leading our precious girls by example. Teaching as we go and acting how we are wanting our kids to act. Fortunately we are about to start a parenting series in our Grace Community group as we could use so much help on aisle 10. We have began implementing a small “for girls” devotional with a story, verses, application and some questions. Still yet to see if it’s doing much at this age but really it’s about establishing a good habit/routine. One thing I want to impress on my family this upcoming year is to be more philanthropic. More giving of time and resources. More on this in future posts. Really when life comes down to final weight of worth, that’s what it’s all about. Adding value to others. Extending the grace that’s been so freely given to me. Fulfilling purpose. Makes me feel more humble and servant like.

Legs Full Of Happiness.

I am fairly tall. 6 foot, 2 inches to be exact. Pretty darn lanky and awkward if you ask me or anyone who has seen me try to play basketball. Embarrassing in fact. It’s difficult to find pants that fit. The waste measurement is easy, not-so-much with the leg length. 31/32 waist by 34 leg length pants or jeans are kind of rare. My long legs give me quite a bit of trouble in the common-people-section on air planes, back seats of compact cars and Chinese movie theaters (especially the ones on Chow Avenue). However; the many uncomfortable, bumped-knee troubles are easily over looked by the biggest positive of them all. I have room on these mamma-jammas for 2 sweet giggle inducing sweetie-pies! Bonus!

My Silver Telly Award.

Back about a handful of years ago, I was blessed to be able to participate in a local startup show called Story Tellers & Music Makers. This show highlighted West Texas musicians and how they became who they are and aired on PBS. I was the audio engineer on this project and handled both the recording and post production work. Good times. Anyway, the show actually won an award! A Silver Telly award which is the highest level in the Telly line.

Well, I never was able to get the award because you actually have to pay for them and had a tuff time justifying the cost! Fast forward to last week and I was surprised with a box on my porch. Inside was my Telly award. Yay! My name on it and all. Thanks to my dad and his sneaky scheming he was able to arrange the paperwork, money and jump through other hoops to make it a resident in my studio. What a great gift. Thanks Dad! And my heavy little shiney trophy is evidence that I have actually worked on something that someone likes!

White Rock 1/2 Marathon. Number 3 of 3.

Today we conquered our last half of this season. White Rock 1/2 Marathon. Number 3 of 3.

Traci and I headed to Dallas yesterday to pick up our race packet (bib, t-shirt, other schwag) from the new location for the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Starting this year, the expo and the start and finish were located at Fair Park in Dallas. The same location as the famous Cotton Bowl. After pickup we headed to our hotel then to dinner at Bucca Di Peppo Italian restaurant for some tasty carbs. After dinner we (the food nerds we are) headed to Central Market to check out their awesome selection including more Ben and Jerry’s flavors than we have here in little old Tyler. Bed by 10pm.

We woke this morning to 3 separate alarms, brewed some hotel room coffee, woke to showers, got our running gear on and headed out by 6:00 am. Out into the COLD! Usually long sleeve running shirts are not my preference but it I erred on the side of warmth as the temps according to my Weather Channel Ap said it wouldn’t get above 50 by noon. Our car thermometer read 37 degrees. Onto the dark and barren interstate for about 12 miles to Fair Park. We followed the leader to the parking lots, parked, got our gear together and stepped out. Out into the COLD!

If you know anything about me I have a problem with direction. There. Also, I am quick to make a decision about directions and commit without really thinking it through. We headed out of the parking lot, crossed the street and then proceeded to find the Colosseum where we were told there was warmth and bathrooms to accompany our wait time. Apparently I went the wrong way (shocker!) and we ended up making a huge U as we hustled though the maze of Fair Park. It took about 3 times longer than it should’ve. Joy! We did finally make it to our destination. With about one and a half hours to wait, we did just that in hopes of seeing some of our friends we knew were going to be running the race too. We did find our great friend Lauren and had some time to catch up before heading out. Out into the COLD!

About 10 minutes till 8:00 am (stated race start time) we moved out to join the growing swarms. With 23,000 runners this race like many other big ones starts the crazies in waves based on estimated time of finish. When we registered I stated my run time around my usual pace of about 7:45 per mile which put me in the second wave – B. Traci was set for wave J and our friend Lauren, whom we were still hanging out with was in H. She was running her first ever MARATHON to which we are so proud.

Announcements began and continued past 8:00 all the while we all kept shivering. Like violently shivering. We recently ran in a Manchester New Hampshire 1/2 marathon. The temps were about the same but today was different. Windy, dry and cold. My upper quads and hip tendons were tighter than I have ever felt them due to the cold and my rocking back an forth trying to keep warm. I quickly talked myself into staying with this mid wave as I was scared to run my usual pace. I chickened out and was completely fine with that. I was hurting and we hadn’t even begun! About 8:30 am (that’s 40 minutes of blood thinning coldness), when it was our waves turn to start, we walked towards the starting line, the announcer counted down from 10 and said go. With that and some random pyrotechnics we were off.

One step at a time we began our jaunt. My teeth were chattering as I cautiously took my first few handful of steps. Literally chattering. My muscles felt like tight rubber bands, stretched to their limits. Not good.

This year, along with the new location for the race, the route was different. Having run this exact 1/2 marathon 3 previous years, I was super skeptical of this new location and route. Last year was just plain awesome and took us along some of my favorite running spots in big D. This route took us out of Fair Park, thru the adjacent ghetto hoods, down to the outskirts of down town, thru the hip uptown, the mansions of Highland Park and then back to Fair Park for the finish. This brought about the sites of old run downs, sky scrapers, pampered creeks adorned with covet inducing houses and good ol’ Dallas freeways.

After about 2 miles my legs were loose and my form was semi-normal. My breathing and pace were good, side by side with my beautiful running partner for the day. I was enjoying the downtown sites and as we crossed Woodall Rogers Freeway (I-35) around mile 3 my iPod died. Ironically, I was thinking to myself only minutes prior to this that I was really digging having some Damien Marley motivating my run. I rolled up my earbuds and clipped it back onto my shorts. Once again Traci began singing to me as to help with my recent loss.

About a 9:30 pace and mile 6 my left knee and ankle began to feel tweaked. Not good. Also, I for whatever stupid reason wore some thicker than normal socks which made my shoes tighter and tighter as they continued to swell thru the run. Not good at all. Typically my joints feel a bit more tender with the cold but this was different. Within my stride, I tried to bend and stretch (not bend and snap) these problem areas to keep them happy. My left knee and ankle have seemed to be trouble these days. Time for new shoes as I’ve exceeded the life expectancy of both my long distance pairs.

My pains did not subside. Time to grin and bare it and count down the miles as we passed the white markers. Traci did great with her usual consistent pace and seemed to be showing very small signs of fatigue. Mile 9, mile 10. Man my feet were hurting! “3 more!” I said to myself which at this point is internal yells of motivation. Mile 11, mile 12. “One more!” we started to see Fair Park in the distance and the end was immanent and boy was I looking forward to it. We crossed the street into the Park and rounded the barricade chute on our way to the goal. We finished! Thank the sweet Lord Jesus!

We headed into a building, received our customary metal, another “I finished!” shirt, some snack bars, bagel bites and out to our car for our iced down, post run chocolate milk we picked up at Central Market. A quick change and back to Quitman for lunch at mom’s and a viewing of the terrible Redskins game.

Our friend Lauren was successful and finished her first full marathon today too. 4 hours and 45 minutes of running! That’s determination and a whole lot of running.

Overall the experience for us was OK. Not my favorite 1/2 marathon of our running season due to the extreme cold and I am still pondering the new location and route. A bit too spread out and cheap feeling to me. I am however so thankful for the opportunity and the health to do it. My knee is still sore as of 9:30 tonight and am hoping it get back to norm ASAP.

Next up, Austin 1/2 marathon February 20th.

New BLOG Home!

Well we figured we’d combine our efforts and have 1 home for all things Dixon. You may want to update any bookmarks you have for Traci’s [tracidixon.com] or [tracidixon.wordpress.com] or my [ryanmarcdixon.com] to this one.

http://thedixonblog.com.

“Me and you, Ryan Dixon, Traci Clark. Better together than ever apart.”

Enjoy!

ABOUT: The Dixon Family

The Dixon family was established in 2003 and what an adventure it was been!

We met in Lubbock Texas while in college. After 3 years of marriage we were blessed with our first daughter, Addison Kate. With the quick news of another on the way (Kamryn Jane), a move to East Texas was in order to be closer to family. Addi and Kam are the joy of our lives and we love being parent to these adorable and sweet girls.

We now reside in Tyler and absolutely love our community. We attend Grace Community Church and have established great relationships there. We feel very blessed to have such amazing friends and family!

We enjoy running, cooking, traveling, and making memories as a family. This blog is simply a place for us to share pics, stories about our cool kids, training info for our upcoming races, sharing recipes, and anything else about our crazy life.

ABOUT: Ryan & Traci

Best friends. This is how our relationship began and this is how it remains after being married for 8 years! We love doing life together and share so many passions. We love the outdoors, running, cooking, traveling, and coffee among SO many others.

Our biggest desire in life: To embrace it.

Our biggest hero:  Jesus Christ, the creator and healer of our souls.

Our next off-the-wall ambition:  Get tattoos in honor of Traci’s father Kip.

Fun fact: We despise high, poofy pillows.

ABOUT: Addison & Kamryn

We have very unique personalities and are really complete opposites, but that makes it even more fun for our Mommy & Daddy! We love each other but sure do fight a lot lately. We LOVE to play dress up, watch movies, dance, go on stroller rides at the trails, sing Bible songs, eat snacks and blow bubbles. Our favorite place in the world is Grandma’s house! Mommy takes a lot of pics of us, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing us a lot on this blog!