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Writing is a lot like sex. At first you do it because you like it. Then you find yourself doing it for a few close friends and people you like. But if you're any good at all...you end up doing it for money. -- Unknown
Over the past several months, I've worked on a project in my spare time. Here are some screenshots of the almost-final web site, with the name of my business partner blurred out for now. Their marketing brochures get printed in the two weeks. These are the teaser images - unblurred, of course - that will go into the brochure.
Back in July, I told myself I could not pick up a brush until I finished this project, and now that I am just about there, every part of me craves the relief of switching gears and using my somewhat-neglected right-brain.
In mentally preparing myself for that wonderful wonderful day, I've been thinking...
Do I like this approach?
Or do I like this approach?
The first is an early table-setting sketch. Took about 15 minutes.
The second is my final pass after a few days of very detailed work.
I like both, but in truth, I kind of prefer the rougher version. It has more emotion for me.
So in getting back into it, I think I might just do a bunch of rough pieces to reorient myself to that way of seeing (because painting is not so much about what I do with my hands as what I do with my eyes).
Part of me keeps asking from the back seat, "Are we there yet??"
My high school friend, Rik Schwinden, took this photo in a park in Des Moines when we reconnected several years after high school. I've since lost track of him somwhere in Minnesota.
This is what I looked like when he knew me in high school.
That picture was taken by Mike Langley, high school friend and a musician from Sioux City, Iowa, when we were hanging at his parents' house. I traded a few email with Mike a couple of years ago. He had a web site, but that appears to no longer be active. He still Googles though...
Funny how we lose track of people through the years, and then occasionally intersect.
My habit is to wake up each day and check the news, and to then our reconcile our checking account to our budget.
I woke up this morning to see that we were about $1,000 less than what I expected to see. Scanning the details of it, I saw that Sprint, my cell phone provider, took out my payment. I have autopay with them, so I go to my Sprint account online and find this:
They took out a payment of $1,197.23.
I had called yesterday, as is my habit, to ensure that I knew what the payment amount due is. It was $148.85.
If you look at the image above, you'll see that my account now has a credit (circled in red) of $1,048.38.
That's a gross error.
I'm now on the phone in the customer service queue - 20 minutes thus far - with Sprint. I'm obviously not the only one affected by this.
Nice little Christmas trick. I hope I have no problem getting my money refunded.
ETC: I get through to customer service, and they tell me that they have to create a "case" for my refund. That process takes 3 - 5 business days, and then they issue me a check, so I have to then wait for the mail to arrive.
I'm now on hold to see if I can cancel my Sprint account without paying $200 per phone to get out of my contract.
I hate this company.
MORE ETC: I finally got through to someone who cared, a guy named Sam. He will personally track this to ensure that I get a resolution ASAP. He promises daily contact with me to keep me updated. Cool.
He also explained that they can't do an immediate refund to our bank account because the error is over $1,000 and some department has to determine that this is not an effort to defraud Sprint.
I remember back when I was a Christian, it always struck me odd that people say "The devil is in the details." I get what they're saying, but the Christian in me wanted to correct that with "No, God is in the details." I can look at the works of man and the closer I look, the more imperfections I see. But I can look at the works of God, and the closer I look, the more beauty and wonder lie therein. God is all about details, evidently.
Back when I started my window washing business in the 80's, I learned quickly that windows are clear, and that imperfections are not unnoticed. Smudges from my shammy, a missed spot in a tall window, water accidentally left standing on a window sill... I didn't think back then that washing windows would become an effort in perfection, but because I was self-employed and doing residential windows, I had to push myself into the effort. It doesn't come naturally. There's always that little voice that whispers, "Don't worry. It won't matter. No one will notice." At first, I took the lazy way out. But later, another voice competed for my attention.
"You can do better. Do it right."
The more I had to live with my lack of diligence, the more I paid for it later. It sometimes meant a poor reference and the absence of much-needed word of mouth for a hungry would-be entrepreneur. It's not that I wasn't a good worker. It's that I wasn't the worker I could have been.
Every job is important. Every detail matters.
I say this because today I find that more mature voice in my head, spotlighting every detail and analyzing every scenario with the web site that I'm finishing. I'm very close to finishing the core work, and all that will be left is clean-up, testing, and then client feedback and tweaking before we go "live." A small part of me wants to whistle past things that no one else might notice. But I know better. The details matter. The success of my enterprise hinges, in no small part, on my ability to consider every detail I can before we open the doors to it. And so I obsess until 2 AM some nights to wrestle the smallest of code into what I expect it to be for my own standards.
But frankly, I'm getting tired and I'm itching to pick up my paintbrush and get back to regular schedule.
Don't get me wrong - I'm excited as I can be doing this. This has the potential to do well for my family. I just miss my normal life. But even that won't deter me from obsessing about the details.
Every line of code is important. Every detail matters.
...psst... on a cool note, a guy recently found my web site and sent me this picture.
Sometime in the next week, I should finish my work on the big project. The time off work (yayy for PTO!) will give me the space to complete it. I told myself that I can't paint until I finish that, and I'm quite eager to get back to painting.
I've trotted out my work on the web site to a few friends and colleagues to show them what it does and how it can be re-used for other companies than the one with which I'm partnering on this. I've learned through the years to take such feedback with a grain of salt because if it sucks, people generally sugarcoat those comments, but in this case, the people to whom I spoke are always honest with me, and the comments are all very positive. It seems that I have the beginning of something good here, and so the next step after development is to figure out how to make the most of it.
Will the enterprise make money? Will my effort pay off? I'll soon find out.
This past week also saw Tamara and I grow a lot together in our marriage. Every day we know each other more deeply, and I find myself exceptionally grateful. It's an immense pleasure to have chosen so well.
Today, I drove my daughter to her job and we talked and reminisced a bit on the way. To be so close to her life to see her grow and change and make decisions and turn out to be a really sparkling, good person is a treat.
Our other children are doing ridiculously well. Tyler, Nick, and Aaron - who live with us - bring so much happiness and laughter to our home. Jacob and Austin are here this weekend and Aaron and Austin are playing Guitar Hero together and Cub bounced with simple joy at the chocolate fudge GoTarts I brought home for him. He's sunshine, that boy is. Tess called last night just to share some love... and Tate is grooving along.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we have family coming in. Tamara's sister and her family will be here. Around our big table we'll eat great food and be thankful for everything we have, and I have to say, if today was my last day on the planet, life rocks and I'd go out in bliss. Does it get any better than that?
I'm thankful. For my beautiful wife, my amazing children, an interesting life filled with good family and friends, work that challenges me...
The only thing that I need to change in the midst of all of that is my eating habits, which went astray sometime earlier this year. As a result, I've gained over 20 pounds of the 60 I'd lost. So I make the decision again to change my diet-gone-wild. I owe that to myself and to my family. Thankfully, I'm in a good place to do it.
Think of all that you did yesterday... from getting up in the morning and getting ready for the day, to the chores and things you did, to the people you met and the conversations you had, to the things you wrote and said and thought... so much gets packed into a day.
I've lived 15,705 of those.
I am incredibly grateful.
I live in the best nation that's ever graced the earth. I'm free to say what I like, work in the job that I choose, go home to the family I love... thank God for this United States of America.
I have the best wife, who loves me and cares for me in ways that heal me from previous hurt I've endured - some self-inflicted and some inflicted by others. I'm grateful that relatively little of it was inflicted out of malice.
I'm grateful that my children are the amazing people they are and that I have the privilege of knowing them and being close to their lives as I am.
I'm thankful for the work that I get to do and for my boss, a genuinely good man.
Somehow, I got the gene for big time persistence, and so I get to work on entrepreneurial side projects. Not everyone is wired that way and you can't do that in some places on the planet, but I can. How wonderful to do this...
Where I live is a wonderful place, surrounded by good neighbors and trees and bike paths and a park nearby. Sitting on my back deck and playing cribbage with Tamara is my every evening's joy, diggin' the scenery and laughing.
Every day is worth so much. I pray that I never waste one day, and that I work to make the most of each precious day.
And thank you... to everyone who has touched my life in the way you have.
Finally, a big thank you to all of the people who've visited this web site, for whatever reason. I hope you got something from it that made it worthwhile.
ETC: Mom got me a perfect present - it's what I'm wearing below: