What I’m Into These Days

Outside of talking to my closest friends, books, podcasts, TV shows, and movies are the tools that help me slow down and process my life. It’s not that they help me escape my life, but rather quite the opposite. They help me work through my own story and narrative with more clarity and insight.

Here are some of the resources that have helped me recently:

  1. The Robcast
    Hands down the most helpful resource I turn to in my life is Rob Bell’s podcast. Just a few years ago if I would be afraid to say such a thing. The circles that I have come from view him as a heretic and dangerous. I heard so much about Rob Bell when I was in seminary. I made the mistake back then of hearing about Rob Bell rather than hearing from Rob Bell.His podcast is life-giving to me. His attitude and personality are so encouraging to me. His interviews and insights are insightful. His sermons bring clarity to my sometimes fuzzy faith.
    There was a recent documentary that came out about him that I liked called “The Heretic.” It’s on iTunes and Amazon if you want to watch it.
  2. Tell me More
    This book by Kelly Corrigan was one of the most truly authentic books I’ve ever read. It had an incredible balance of being vulnerable and honest about the messes while also not coming off smug about being vulnerable and authentic. It’s a fine line, and Kelly is incredible at telling her stories of struggle and mishaps in a way that doesn’t come off as “Oh look at how authentic I’m being by telling you this messy element of my life and personality!”
    I found her book incredibly validating and helpful as I’m processing through a number of things myself.
  3. Frederick Buechner
    Another author whose transparency is life-giving. I’ve read a couple of his books, and am currently reading another. He reflects on his life a lot, but how he handles the events of his life impacting his thoughts about faith and God are extremely honest and helpful. He challenges me to truly be honest about my own faith.
  4. Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) 
    I’m not a fan of empty platitudes. And neither is Kate Bowler, the author of this book I read in one day. A day in which I was extremely stressed and upset about my children destroying my kitchen one morning. It was timely and helpful in my processing of the elements of my life these days, and how I process God’s involvement and goodness.
  5. Lady Bird 
    I’ve now seen this movie twice. Once in the theater, and once with my wife a few days before the Oscars. Living with teenage girls, this was a fun one to watch, yet it was hard to see how her mom talked with her. It seems very similar to many of the moms of our girls that we work with.
  6. Sci-Fi shows
    For whatever reason I’ve been really into sci-fi shows and a few movies recently. And there seems to be more and more coming out. I must not be the only one. Sci-fi shows are usually dark, though. It must resonate with the elements in my psyche that maybe can’t deal with the fact that Donald Trump is our president and I don’t really understand the world around me that would continue to defend his behaviors.
  7. Love
    This show on Netflix is funny and frustrating. But Sarah and I just binged the final season this week. And it’s sad to say goodbye to characters I’ve learned to frustratingly root for. But I love a story which makes you root for people, and Love definitely capitalized on that. The show is now done, and I already miss it.


I graduated high school at 120 pounds. I’m pretty sure my forearms had a greater circumference than my upper arms. It took a week for facial hair to show up on my lip after shaving. At the time I felt insecure about my body because people were always commenting on how skinny I was. I tried to play if off by using self-deprecating humor, but at the end of the day I felt very self-conscious about my weight and my “baby face.”

Over time things slowly began to change. I was able to gain some muscle mass in my shoulders and arms over the next couple years. By the time I was a junior I had put on 30 pounds, most of it good healthy weight. Between the summer of my junior and senior year I put on another 15 pounds or so. It felt so sudden, too. I hadn’t changed my eating habits or my diet, but all of a sudden I had a little bit of a belly. And then I went from feeling insecure about being too skinny to feeling like I was getting fat and putting on weight too easily.

The trend continued. Weight was easier to gain, harder to lose. By my first year in grad school I was 175 or so. That next summer I got married and had put on another five pounds. I was active all the time, too, but my body’s metabolism had changed as I got older.

For the last three years or so I’ve hovered right around 200 pounds, a weight I never ever thought I’d be. And although I’m fairly active and I don’t eat a ton of junk food, it feels like I haven’t been able to lose any weight.

But as I’ve been making lots of changes in my life recently, I knew that addressing this part of my life would need to happen as well. I keep telling myself that I want to start losing weight soon, but I never really follow through. It takes a lot of thought, intentionality, planning, and the ability to say no to myself consistently.

I’m not the type of person to try a completely different lifestyle of going to the gym regularly or trying a new fad diet. I know that I can lose weight by making simple and small changes in my daily life. Cut out junky snack foods. Watch my portions. Don’t drink soda and beer very often. Stay active. Get outside. Ride my bike when I can.

If I stay consistent with those simple changes, then I know I can lose weight. I have a goal that if I’m able to get back to about 175-180 lbs, which I think is a fairly healthy place for me to be, I’ll get a nice tattoo. That’s 25 pounds. I think it’s manageable. I’ll take it slow and steady.

But I’ve been establishing good daily routines in my life recently, and this will fit in nicely. I just have to stay motivated and committed.



I feel like I notice the comfort of my dog the most when I’m feeling emotionally down.

Today as I sat in my office chair I felt lonely. My little dog Missy came walking into my office timidly, scanning my face.

In a subtle, yet sing-songy voice I said, “Hi Missy!”

Immediately she came and sat at my feet.

As soon as I started to say her name with more enthusiasm, with the intent of telling her to jump into my lap, she leaped up into me with overwhelming excitement. It’s like she had been waiting all day for me to call her up into my lap.

And in my moment of aloneness, Missy helped me to feel gratitude more deeply. Because I am thankful for this little animal which/who is constantly a reminder to me of the mystery of life and of science and of our universe.




Remembering the Journeys

Usually our girls are allowed to sleep in on Saturdays until about 10:30 am. Sometimes however, they get to go home for the weekend or for most of a day to spend time with their families. When this happens, they usually get up before 10:30, which means that I get some rare one on one time with them as they make breakfast and get ready to get picked up for their visit.

These times are special to me because I often get to have very real conversations with them. Yesterday was a prime example of that for me.

As one of my girls was waiting for her mom to come pick her up for the day she told me much of her mom’s story, and therefore much of her own. I can’t provide revealing details publicly, but I can say that her life’s story was full of struggle and perseverance.

I hope one day she is able to publicly tell her story. It’s a powerful one, and she’s a great storyteller.

But her story was a very good reminder of the stories and the journeys these girls carry with them each day. We have high expectations for each one of our girls, as we should, but sometimes it’s good to remember where they’s come from and how they got here.

Finally Friday


Tomorrow Sarah and I have our weekend off. (We get one weekend off a month.) It’s felt like a very long month, so we are really looking forward to tomorrow. On top of that, my mom is going to watch our boys for the weekend so that Sarah and I can have a nice weekend with each other without having to worry about the boys.

Our best friends here at Boys Town also have the weekend off, so we are going to get together on Saturday evening for a double date night out. This is the first time we’ve been able to do this, so it should be pretty nice!


One of my goals since starting to wake up with the boys and writing is that I’ll also take time to write letters or postcards to friends and family. I am not too bad at writing letters to people. But for whatever reason, I am horrible at making sure I get the letter or postcard into the mail.

So my goal should not simply be writing letters, but making sure to get the letter in the mail within 24 hours. I have a letter a wrote a dear friend of mine who was about to have a baby. It was a letter of encouragement as she prepares for her little one to arrive. And I didn’t get the letter in the mail. Time went by and she had the baby! And I didn’t get the letter in the mail in time.

I’ll still send the old letter, but I need to make sure to write a follow up to her and her family as well.


Today is our citizenship ceremony on campus. It’s the time when the new youth on campus swear in as “citizens of Boys Town.” They talk about behaviors they plan to work on and improve on campus and about what they are like about Boys Town thus far. It’s kind of a neat thing for them because they get provided lunch and after the ceremony they get to go into the gift shop to choose a Boys Town shirt or sweatshirt to be able to wear to various events or activities.

Two of our girls are swearing in today. So they’ll get dressed up and we’ll get dressed up to hear them swear in. After the ceremony they’ll also receive a certificate that we frame and put up next to their rooms in our home.


Today is the second Friday of lent, which means no meat. Cooking is sometimes a hassle on lenten Fridays, so a number of the girls’ houses get together on Fridays for a potluck. They play games. They all hang out together. It’s a fun time for everyone, and it makes each Friday during lent go very quickly and something for the girls to look forward to rather than being bummed their not eating any meat.


Every Friday I take the girls who had a good week to a late night trip to Taco Bell. That means they had to complete every homework assignment, they couldn’t have had any major behavioral problems at home or at school. This works as a surprisingly good motivator for our girls. In fact, one of our newest girls talks about it constantly as a reason why she wants to have a good week.

During lent it isn’t as much fun because they can’t have any meat, but I like to joke that they could still have anything on the menu because whatever Taco Bell uses isn’t truly meat.

Marathon Days

Yesterday was a marathon day. Once a month each girl in our home has a team meeting. A team meeting is where we meet with a girl and all her supports – her family, her PO, her GAL, her therapist, our consultant, and any other supports that might be involved in her life.

Yesterday we had five of those meetings.

Also, the girls didn’t have school because of their conferences. So I met with each one of their teachers and talked about their behaviors in class and about their effort and grades.

I met with a lot of teachers.

Micah has been throwing progressively worse and worse tantrums each day when he has to get dressed for school. Yesterday’s was so bad that Sarah didn’t know if she was even going to be able to get him dressed in time to get on the bus. It took me coming home in a rush from the conferences and practically forcing clothes on Micah to be able to get him dressed. And even then he kept saying over and over that he didn’t want to go to school.

He eventually got on the bus and got to school. But it was a struggle and a half.

With the girls home from school we had to feed them lunch and have tasks and work for the girls who were in trouble and had lost their privileges for the day.

That actually takes up a good amount of energy.

We were down a good amount of ingredients for the house, and so Sarah took all the girls as well as our assistant to go to the store. I stayed home with the boys. It takes a while to go shopping for a family of 13 (if you count our assistant).

One fun thing about the day is that my cheap little lens adapter for my Fuji camera came in today. So I can now use my favorite 50mm F1.7 manual lens from my Pentax on my Fuji. Really makes it fun to shoot with my manual lens again.

I went out last night with my friend Jeff after a long day. It is so nice to have a friend to go out with every week to debrief and unwind. It makes me better at my job and it makes  me a better person.

Asking for Help

Even though we work with teenagers that struggle with their behaviors, and it is literally or job to help teach them how to change their behaviors and make good decisions, I still believe the hardest part of our job is knowing how to raise our own two boys.

Their behaviors recently have sometimes even seemed unmanageable. If we take our attention off of them for even the time it takes to go to the bathroom, they either make a huge mess or break something. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Micah, our five year old, has a genetic syndrome called Kabuki Syndrome. And some of his behaviors can be accounted for because of this. Ezra, his younger brother, seems to get joy from destroying things.

It feels overwhelming for a number of reasons.

For one, my wife and are I family-teachers, which our boss loves to tell people is being “professional parents.” So when we feel we are unable to manage our own kids, the shame feels multiplied.

Another reason is that many of the parents we know do not have this struggle with their kids on a constant basis. Yes, some kids have their moments. But it’s not a constant issue like it is for us.

Another reason is that it seems we are able to teach and help teenagers fairly well, but our own toddlers seem to be eluding our parenting and teaching.

So we’ve had to ask for help. A skill that we teach our girls on a daily basis.

We began seeing a behavioral therapist quite a few months ago to help with Micah’s behaviors. The strategies we would be using would be coming from the same model we use for our teenagers, but just adapted to younger kids.

And in many ways it has helped give us strategies with how to deal with Micah and Ezra, but it also has given us permission to address some behaviors in a way that I didn’t know to go about initially.

One issue we’ve been trying to address is when they wake up. They get up near 5:30 most days. And it’s tiring. They come out of their room and get into mischief. So our therapist suggested we get an alarm clock that has a red light and a green light. And you can set the time for the green light to go off, which tells them they are allowed to come out of their room. If the light is red, they are not to get out of bed or their room.

I set it for 6:15 this morning, and although Ezra and Micah had gotten up earlier to go to the bathroom, they both went back to their room and only came back out at 6:15 when the green light turned on.

I am thankful when strategies like this work out, even if only in the short term.

Big Wooden Desk

When I was a little, before my brother was born, my dad’s office was the bedroom next to mine. I remember waking up early, probably around 5:30 or so, to see the light in the office on. Often I’d wake up and shuffle over to my dad’s office door. I’d carefully crack open the door to see my dad sitting at his computer working on something. To me, the computer just looked like a black screen with lots of letters and words on it, and his keyboard click and clacked loudly. There was often the smell of coffee wafting through the room. A smell that I grew to associate with my dad. I would quietly walk in and ask if I could sit next to him. He would always say I could sit next to him if I was quiet. And so I would pull up an old chair and simply sit next to him as he typed away on his computer. I just wanted to be close to my dad. It didn’t matter if I knew what he was doing.

He worked at a large wooden desk that he had always had, as far I as knew. Over the years the computers changed, but the desk they sat on remained. The desk made it through moves from various homes in Nebraska to two different homes in Indiana. I have no idea the brand or even the quality, but I remember it being big. When you opened the side door of the cabinet, it had a distinctive wood smell about it on the inside. I can smell it even now as I think about it.

No matter where the desk was, my dad hung many of the same photos and art above it. A couple baby pictures of me. A poster of Pete Townshend (that always kind of creeped me out), and a photo of my dad’s dad smoking a pipe in front of a back-lit window. An iconic Seaman family photo.


I always liked being with my dad in his various offices. It’s clear even in the time before I have memories I spent a lot of time with my dad at his desk. When I went through my family photo album quite a few years ago I found a number of photos of me with him at that desk.

So it’s unsurprising to me that as an adult I’ve had a deep-seated desire to have an office of my own with a nice big, wooden desk.


Yesterday, Sarah the boys and I went out to Nebraska Furniture Mart to look at desks. There were a few that stood out to me. I went there knowing that I wanted one made of wood. Not that cheap particle board stuff that might look nice for a few minutes before it disintegrates after a couple months of use.

I looked at a number of great desks. But one stood out to me from the beginning. I remember thinking that it reminded me of my sister’s desk that she had gotten quite a few years ago. It’s a sturdy oak desk with drawers on both sides. Not too big. Not too small. Just right. The goldilocks desk.

Sarah and I determined we would not make any decisions that day and come back another time before we were to purchase it. After we returned home I texted my sister and asked her to send me a picture of her desk. Sure enough, the desk that I caught my attention at the furniture store is the same desk that my sister has.

That seems fitting for many reasons. The beds that my sons sleep on were my set of bunk beds when I was a kid. They’re sturdy Ethan Allen oak bunk beds, clearly built to last. My brother used them for much of his childhood, and then my sister used them when she moved out of the house. And now my own children have them.

Me, sitting in my bunk beds on my sixth birthday.

My sister also has the same Amish-made oak side table that my dad got us when we were kids. We both still have them (although I’ve had to glue the drawer back together because my sons are destructive forces of nature).

Sarah and I determined we’d hold off on getting the desk for now even though I’m very sure it’s the desk I want because we can’t really afford it at the moment. But when we can, we will. There’s something about that having that desk seems extremely peace-giving to me. The idea of finally having an office with a nice big wooden desk where I work and type on my computer at 5:30 am seems to complete an unfinished circle for me.


Giving up or Giving in?

This past Saturday my two boys, age 3 and 5, made a mess of epic proportions in our kitchen. There are no words to describe the apocalyptic level of desecration and destruction that occurred. This is what I was referencing in my previous post as “the adventure.” But I still cannot describe the event because, well, I just can’t. Emotionally. I just can’t.

But what the adventure has triggered is a number of resolutions of life changes.

In general recently I have been more reflective. I’ve been reading a number of books. I’ve been listening to a lot of great podcasts. I’ve been journaling more. I’ve been trying to be present throughout the moments of my days.

I am a person who enjoys ritual. Honestly, not religious ritual all that much, but like rituals that become almost religious (because everything is spiritual). Things like making coffee. Or showering at a certain time. Or journaling. Or making a certain type of breakfast. I like those sorts of morning rituals. But I’ve convinced myself that I like my fake sort of sleep/rest in the morning where I wake up at 5:30 when my boys do, and then go between checking my phone every few minutes and trying to get a few minutes of sleep in. But it’s not restful and the posts I read aren’t insightful or helpful to my health in any way. I’ve made a ritual out of this, but it’s not life giving at all.

I’m already up for the most part by 5:30. There’s no reason to stay in bed and look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over and over while drifting asleep when the boys are in the next room playing or getting into mischief.

So I give up. Or is it that I give in?

I am giving up on the social media morning routine and deciding to make my ritual more life-giving and helpful to my overall health. I’m already up. I might as well make use of that time to be reflective and productive.

I’m always thinking about writing. Always trying to notice the metaphors and parables around me. But I rarely take the time to write, and it’s really too bad.

So as of the last two days I’ve started the new routine and ritual of getting up and being with my boys as I either write or read. Not Facebook or Instagram, but an actual book. An actual journal.

For some reason I have it in my head that I won’t fully be able to do this until I have a desk at which to write. Currently I have a table that has my computer on it. And my pens and things. But it’s not a desk made of solid wood. Something warm and inviting. Something that makes me want to write.

I am giving in to the desires of my heart to be thoughtful and to write. To make my morning rituals meaningful.

I am giving up on trying to protect my image or the perception of who I am. I avoid confrontation most of the time with nearly anyone, especially in the professional setting. I avoid telling certain stories that perhaps makes me look not the greatest. I am constantly thinking about what other people think of me. But I’m kind of done with doing that. It takes too much energy. And it’s not good for me in the long run. It makes it so I slow down my own personal growth.

When I feel happy or joyful about something, I’ll say so.
When I feel sad or angry about something, I’ll say so.
When I feel miserable or worn out about something, I’ll say so.

Today I think I’ll head over to the furniture store to look at some desks. Maybe even a futon. I spent all day organizing and cleaning out a room that we had been using for storage so that it can now serve as a reading room, an office, and a second guest bedroom. That room is going to be my sacred space for morning ritual and reflection.

First Morning After the Adventure

Right now I am sitting at an octagonal table in my living room. The table sits next to a set of four windows lined with about fourteen pots of variety of cacti and succulents. Sarah and I really like houseplants. There’s more succulents scattered around the house. Our senior assistant seems to think them to be a bit excessive. The first time she came into our home she grumbled, “You guys have a lot of plants.” She clearly did not approve.

It’s supposed to unseasonably warm today, but I can tell that it is quite windy outside. And looking out my window now, it looks colder than it probably is. The sun looks to be fighting to make an appearance. But I see no blue in the sky. Only a grey ceiling of clouds.

I sit here in silence. Sarah took the girls to church and dropped off the boys to a lenten Sunday School class. She let me stay home and be by myself. Which was nice and unexpected.

I’ve been up since about 5:40 this morning. I first heard the fan turn on in the bathroom and then a loud door slam. “Probably Ezra,” I thought to myself. After a few moments of silence I started to wonder what was actually going on behind that door. I got up and went into the bathroom to see Ezra just finishing up and flushing the toilet.

He scurried back to his room through our living room and again slammed the door. I opened it quickly to see him jump into bed and get under the covers.

“Stay in bed, you two.”

Micah, who had been sitting up waiting for his brother to return from the bathroom, laid back down and I closed their door to hopefully get a few more moments of rest before having to watch them while Sarah continued to rest.

I got about twenty minutes before I heard Ezra come out of his room for the morning. It was about 6:00. Sarah and I have now established some new routines. Today is their beginnings. One of the biggest and most important elements of the new routines is that I am the one to get up with the boys every morning until it’s time for me to work with the girls at 7:20 am or so during the week. On the weekends it’s a bit later.

I got up this morning and took a couple pillows and my comforter off the bed to go rest out in the living room while the boys played with each other. I threw the pillows down in front of our door, and laid down with my blanket. I didn’t want them sneaking a chair over to the door to unlock it again, and we don’t have a long enough couch for me to lay down on, so it was the most logical place to rest.

The boys played fairly well with each other. There was some bickering and some pushing here and there. Another recent change is that if the boys fight over a toy, the toy gets taken for a time until they will be able to earn it back. I didn’t have to take away a toy because after my one prompt of them needing to share with each other or else it would be taken, they figured out a system of borrowing that appeased them both, at least for the time being.

It’s Sunday, and eventually when 8:00 rolled around I turned on CBS to watch Sunday Morning. Ezra borrowed my phone to play a game and Micah played with toy cars.

Sarah eventually got up and made a plan for church. I had forgotten about the boys having Sunday School, so we had to start the battle with Micah about getting dressed. It’s been horrible recently, and has been progressively getting worse. He refuses to put on pants and shirts because they “mess with him.” He doesn’t like tags or seams. He has given up on wearing jeans altogether. Every day it is now a battle just to get clothes on him.

Eventually we got them both dressed, but even walking out the door Micah was still complaining about his pants, threatening to take them off at any moment.

Sarah is going to have to go to the store to pick up brunch foods. We didn’t have the ingredients to cook brunch this morning. The reason why we don’t have the ingredients for brunch this morning is a story that goes back to yesterday’s adventure. An adventure I still am unsure I have the words to address quite yet. But I will soon.