Archive for the ‘ life ’ Category


We’re halfway through our annual family Christmas world-tour week, having already stopped in Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, with Wisconsin next on the hit list. Trip odometer on the car is about to roll over 2,000 miles. Eli has made it emphatically clear that he refuses to ride in a car-seat anymore. Sorry big guy… 987 miles left.

So something new and wonderful happened prior to Christmas dinner in Nebraska. With the arrival of Eli this year, our little nuclear family – Steph, Eli and myself – have been upgraded. Growing up, as Grandpa and Grandma determined appropriate seating assignments for Christmas dinner, I was rolled into the collective bunch of “the kids”. As in, “let’s have the kids sit down here at this table”, and all five grandkids would crowd around a square little table set off to the side of the big dining room table. You think this post is about big table versus little table don’t you? It’s not.

Then when I got married I graduated from “the kids” to Matt & Steph. We were our own unit now. Not quite adult yet, but slightly separate from “the kids”; not better than “the kids”, and really still one of them, but somehow worthy of a different title. But now, with the arrival of a child, we have been upgraded with the official stamp of adulthood.

On my mom’s side of the family, the bloodline relative and their collective kin are referred to in the possessive plural. For instance, my mom, dad and their children are “Linda’s”. When asking when my uncle Dennis, his wife, and their children are going to arrive, you would inquire, “When will Dennis’s be here?”

And now we too, under executive order of Grandma Zimmerman herself, are now henceforth no longer “Matt & Steph”, but officially and irrevocably, “Matt’s”. I would like to take this moment to welcome myself to my family.

country music marathon and 35,000 little cups

I suppose after 11 years of living in Nashville it’s about time I participated in the Country Music Marathon.

No, I did not run it.

But I had two rockin’ friends that DID run it and ran it in style. Congrats to Josh and Dave (first marathon props!!) for taking on the hills of Music City! And to everyone else who braved the pavement, you’re awesome.

Me? I worked the water table. Steph, Jess, Kristen and a handful of others from Grace Community manned the Servpro Hydration Station at mile 3. Mile 3 is far enough in to a marathon where people are starting to get thirsty, but not so far in that those who ultimately don’t make it have given up yet. Plus it’s also close enough to the start line that people are still pretty well grouped together and come at you en masse – 35,000 people en masse. Basically this means in the course of a 30 minute period you witness the entire range of human emotions, from energized enthusiasm to homicidal desperation.

It was our job to serve all these people – both the enthused and the desperate – water and Cytomax, a drink commonly known amongst seasoned runners as foul-tasting rip-off Gatorade. This was a difficult job.

Things started off with a bang. The Kenyans blew by us, sprinting through the water station hardly batting an eye. The rest of the leaders followed closely behind, and we got into the rhythm of grabbing handfuls of Cytomax cups from our beautifully stacked hydration table. Let’s pause a moment and recognize the architectural wonder that was our hydration table. They said it couldn’t be done, but we successfully stacked tiny cups of Cytomax four levels high on a folding table, giving us about 750 pre-filled cups at the start of the race. Pretty sure everyone else topped out at three levels.

Things started to get interesting about 20 minutes in when it was clear our slow pace at resupplying the table was drastically under-performing our ability to quickly give out Cytomax cups. As we cleared the last layer of pre-filled cups we decided to cut our losses and redirect energy towards re-filling.

As a side note, runners of Nashville, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but Cytomax is created by mixing measured portions of Cytomax powder in giant coolers of water. The water is sourced via garden hose from nearby fire hydrants. The resulting Cytomax solution is dumped into a 45 gallon garbage barrel lined with two heavy-duty black garbage bags and secured with a hefty portion of duct tape. I cannot comment as to whether this is a sterile process or not.

At 40 minutes into the race we were at a complete loss. A long-lost lecture in macroeconomics came to mind, recalling that some professor somewhere told us that supply equals demand. Except this was false, as our supply had reached zero and demand had skyrocketed through the roof. I’m sure the professor had addressed this situation as well, but it was simply impossible to keep up.

The efforts of our team changed dramatically at that point. At the beginning of the race we had three people giving out Cytomax and one person refilling. A little later we switched to two people refilling and two handing out cups. But now we had three people refilling and one person frantically waving their arms in front of our table yelling, “We’re empty! We’re empty! Keep going up! Keep going up!”

“Keep going up” is the last thing a homicidal desperate person wants to hear after they’ve run a mile uphill and can see that the incline only continues in front of them for the foreseeable future.

We all took turns at delivering the depressing news to the runners, but Steph’s performance was the most interesting. It went something like this:

“We’re empty! We’re empty! Keep going up!”

The runners keep coming at her.

“We don’t have anything! We’re completely out! Keep moving!

They keep coming. At this point she tries to have a logical discussion.

“I PROMISE they have more up ahead of you!! Don’t stop. Our cups are empty!”

They keep coming.


We call this an exercise in futility. This continued for about an hour and a half. She may have been hitting runners, I’m not sure.

And they never did listen. They would grab empty cups off our table and then give us a scowling, disgusted look as they threw the cup at the curb. We had considered shouting demeaning insults at them. Things like, “Well if you had run a little faster you wouldn’t be in this predicament would you?” Or, “Maybe you should have thought about the fact you were thirsty before you took off sprinting down the street!”  But let’s face it, they were the ones actually out there running the race, and that’s something in itself.

At one point a wide-eyed middle-aged lady came up to us speaking in a panicked British accent, “Can you tell me where the bathrooms are?” And I think Steph responded, “They’re just up the hill a little bit, about half a block more.” And she said, “I can’t wait that long.” And Steph said, “You’re almost there – it’s literally just a few feet more.” And she said, “I can’t do it. I have already got the poop in my pants.” And, well, the conversation went downhill from there. What do you do with that? I’m sorry ma’am but all we’ve got here are empty cups and a fire hydrant. We can hose you down if you want.

Thankfully, the crazed and peculiar encounters were the minority. We had a blast, and all in all successfully served at least 80 gallons of Cytomax and water to runners on Saturday. And most everyone was very grateful for the volunteers and it was a lot of fun cheering everyone along. So, with the exception of the few of you that scowled and threw empty cups in our faces, congrats to everyone who ran the race!

eli: arrival, pictures, video

Elijah Cash Burns is here and well! Born January 26th in a speeding hurry. Unlikely that this is news to you by now, but in case you need to play catch up…

And that is all. Happy day to you.

mistake (?)

I am not a runner. And so I do not run.

Yet all of my friends run.

About a year and a half ago I decided I was going to try running. I probably guilted myself into it because all of my friends run. And so I went and bought my first pair of running shoes, and some running shorts, and socks to wear with my running shoes. Then I started running.

I stink at running.

I’m going to blame it on the church. We live in this townhome development that is not very conducive to running. We have one sidewalk that starts at the top of our neighborhood by our house and then goes straight down for half a mile where it empties out into a highway. And that’s no fun. So naturally, when I run I go to the parking lot of the church next door. It’s one of those mega-churches (so to speak) with a huge parking lot – one in which they have a shuttle service to get churchgoers from the back of the parking lot to the church doors. It’s slightly less hilly than our neighborhood.

I should say it looks slightly less hilly.

When I ran it for the first time and made the turn onto the “big hill” that goes straight up for about 7 miles I nearly died.

That’s a lie. My body would never live long enough to run 7 miles.

For some reason I got the crazy idea in my head this year that I want to run a 5k. I’ve been avoiding this calling for a long time, and by “calling” I mean enduring all of my star-athlete running friends who love to run pestering me every other week to join them for a leisurely marathon.

For reasons still unknown I felt compelled to share this desire to run a 5k with some of my star-athlete running friends last night. Good gosh what have I done?

So, here I am, documenting for posterity the fact that this year, 2011, I’m going to be a runner.

…………… oooh boy……..

merry christmas from nashville!!

Well, it’s our last Christmas “alone”. And with the baby’s due date just around the corner we decided not to make the annual marathon across the Midwest this year and instead hunker down close to home. So it’s been a quiet Christmas, and surprisingly a white Christmas! We’ve been getting the baby room ready, spending time with friends, and appreciating the fact that life will be changing soon for us. Here’s a few photos from Christmas Eve – we made a little turkey dinner and had a celebration for ourselves. Wishing you a wonderfully Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever you might be reading this from this year!

the mosque

140 characters isn’t enough room to have this discussion. @jonarnold noted today:

Love this Bloomberg speech in reference to the NYC Mosque at Ground Zero. Incredible job. Bravo:

Honestly, it’s a good speech that Bloomberg gave. I don’t disagree with the sentiment that we are called to live amongst our neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. I try to do that, to the degree that I can without compromising what I believe to be truth.

Those who support the mosque point to this debate being a freedom of religion issue, and that to deny the building of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York City would be to undermine the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Freedom of religion is crucial. I don’t want to see it undermined. I don’t want it undermined for Jews and Muslims just as much as I don’t want it undermined for me as a Christian.

But I don’t think the core issue here is freedom of religion. To me this is an issue of respect. Extremist Muslims bent on jihad destroyed the World Trade Center and killed 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.

To turn around and build a 13-story Islamic mosque right next door feels like a slap in the face. It feels like a monument to “success”. It feels like rubbing salt in the wound.

I haven’t heard anyone who is opposed to the building of this mosque say that Muslims should not build a mosque anywhere in New York City. Why does it have to be mere feet from Ground Zero? So close in fact that the existing building actually sustained damage from the Trade Center’s collapse! Build it 10 blocks away, or a mile away… but really, next door?

There are millions of “peace loving Muslims” in the world. I would think their first order of business ought to be to take a bold stance against their Muslim brothers who do not stand for peace and kindness and decry the acts of violence against humanity that continue in the world today as a result of their extremist religious views.

But as it stands, the first notable public act of “peace loving Muslims” in the last 10 years is to build a monument at Ground Zero to the religion for which the date of 9/11 will always be attributed to.

And that feels wrong to me.

[And yes Jon, we do respect each other. Absolutely.]

the nashville flood

Click here if you can’t see the video.

Also, photo gallery of flood images here.

time it takes me to install a light fixture

6 Minutes: Fumbling around in the fuse box trying to figure out which breaker cuts power to the kitchen.

3 Minutes: Fumbling around in the dark because I flipped the wrong breaker.

10 Minutes: Digging through the closet looking for an extension cord to run a light to the kitchen so I can see what I’m working on.

5 Minutes: Emptying out the contents of the light fixture box onto the living room floor.

20 Minutes: Pulling down the old light fixture.

3 Minutes: Yelling at the old light fixture because it won’t come down.

2 Minutes: Yelling at myself because I cut the source wires too close to the junction box, thereby complicating the rest of my evening.

12 Minutes: Staring at the instructions trying to comprehend Figure B(1)-ii

1 Minute: Deciding I can do this without the instructions.

43 Minutes: Trying to wrestle the new fixture into place.

2 Minutes: Realizing I probably should have read the instructions.

5 Minutes: Stripping wires with a razor blade.

15 Minutes: Waiting for my finger to stop bleeding.

2 Minutes: “Oh, I have to drill a hole in the ceiling?”

7 Minutes: Waiting for my cordless drill to charge.

12 Minutes: “Steph? Can you help me for a minute?”

18 Minutes: Arms over head. More wrestling.

3 Minutes: Letting the blood rush back into my arms.

2 Minutes: Steph letting the blood rush back into her arms.

4 Minutes: “Were light-bulbs included in the box?”

show and tell

TRUE FACT #1: I enjoy cooking from time to time. Which comes in handy because I tend to get hungry about 3 times a day.

TRUE FACT #2: The ‘Rigatoni D’ at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant is the best pasta dish ever.

That said, I set out this weekend with one goal in mind: to recreate Maggiano’s Rigatoni D to exacting standards and relish in wonderful Italian food. Actually I just Googled for a Maggiano’s Rigatoni D recipe, found one, and threw all of the ingredients in the same pot.

I was incredibly pleased with the result. It tasted amazing! News flash for any of you other Rigatoni D fans though… not the healthiest dish on the planet. There’s a half stick of butter and a 1/2 quart of heavy cream in there. Edible heart-attack. Tastes good though.

a year in review v2.09

So for the first time in my life I made New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of 2009 and actually stayed focused on them throughout the year. There were three of them – here’s what they were:

  • Read 24 Books In 2009
  • Do A Physical Activity For At Least 5 Minutes Each Day
  • Go On A Mission Trip

Well, I didn’t accomplish everything 100%, but I was pretty happy with how things panned out.

Starting with the books, I read or listened to the following books throughout the year:

  1. William P. Young – The Shack
  2. J.I. Packer – Knowing God
  3. Charles Fishman – The WalMart Effect
  4. Bob Woodward – The War Within
  5. Stu Weber – Four Pillars Of A Man’s Heart
  6. Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers
  7. Doris Kearns Goodwin – Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln
  8. Jack Coughlin – Shooter
  9. Malcolm Gladwell – The Tipping Point
  10. John Bunyan – John Brown
  11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Life Together
  12. Greg Mortenson w/ David Oliver Relin – Three Cups Of Tea
  13. David Ignatius – Body Of Lies
  14. Donald Whitney – Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life

Not quite 24… I got hung up on some really long ones midway through the year. There were some winner books in there, and some that were just a waste of time. I wrote about The WalMart Effect earlier in the year, which I thought was really fascinating. Other highlights were the Abraham Lincoln biography, Outliers, Life Together. Body Of Lies was a waste, and so was Shooter.

Three Cups Of Tea by Greg Mortenson was a particular standout title. This book captured the life of Mortenson, from his early days as a climbing aficionado to his life-threatening K2 summit attempt. Following that ill-fated debacle, Mortenson was saved by a remote village of alpine Pakistani’s who nursed the climber back to health. Endeared to the villagers, Mortenson grew to know them in a way no other Westerner has before, and through this close relationship realized what a dramatic detrimental effect the lack of proper education has on the people of Pakistan. Greg dedicated the next decades of his life running the Central Asia Institute, a non-profit foundation that builds schools (which educate both boys and girls) in the remote towns of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It becomes apparent throughout the book how critical proper, non-biased education is to these people, not only for the well being of the citizens, but because the lack of education can be linked directly to the rise of terrorism and jihad-schools in these areas. Mortenson believes that the ONLY way to end terrorism in the Middle East is through education, and the importance of what he continues to do through the CAI is apparent in this book.

I started running this year! That was a first, because, well, I hate running. But Steph and I tried to run regularly, especially throughout the spring and summer this year. I stayed pretty consistent on doing something physical most days of the week, but it’s an area I need to continue to improve on. Ongoing goal for next year I guess.

And finally, we made it to Greece this year on a mission trip supporting the International Mission Board for the Baptist Church. I wrote about this at earlier in the year as well right here. It was a fantastic trip and a life changing experience!