I’m no bleeding heart. Empathy and compassion are difficult for me. I see the world and other people differently, I think, from some. For example, I see nothing wrong with one-word reply to a question. It’s efficient, direct, and fast. I was wrong about that this week.

I work for a non-profit that provides behavioral health and substance abuse assistance to those who need it the most. We are the safety net. I had other opportunities out of grad school. Many in my class thought I chose poorly. Different strokes and all that, I suppose.

I grew up poor. I lived in the poorest county in Washington state. My father was a police officer; my mother was a teacher’s aide. It was a humble life but we were fortunate to always have what we needed. I never went hungry.

After I was born, my parents found out that they could not have children. When I was six years old, they adopted a boy. A few months later, my parents received a call asking if they’d like to adopt his sister as well. My parents said yes.

The subsequent course of events changed my family forever. The girl is dead; the boy is in prison (unrelated). It tore my family apart. My parents divorced and my mother went on an unhealthy tear. I do not speak to either.

I was lucky. My maternal grandparents, not wealthy people at all, set aside their retirement plans to take me in and provide me with a chance. I had teachers who cared and saw potential. I grew up in a house, while untraditional, embraced music and books and the outdoors. They supported me as I studied, worked, and grew up. My grandmother is dead. My grandfather still supports me.

I was the first person in the family to go to college and then to graduate school. I make more money than anyone in my family ever has — albeit it’s not all that much. I briefly flirted with self-destruction in college but I got lucky once again. I met some amazing people, found my faith, and my footing. I met my wife, started my family, bought my house, and found contentment in life because I was lucky.

I work for this non-profit because I was lucky and others weren’t. I like to think that maybe if this place existed in the poor, podunk town where I grew up, there’s a small chance that my family wouldn’t have imploded. I’ve heard it said that it’s the goal of every parent to try to improve their children’s life compared to their own by at least 50%. I’m working on that. Any goodness or success that my children may find will be a testament to their mother and in spite of myself.


I’m thinking of going back to school. In fact, I’m admitted, registered, and all set – but I don’t think I’m going to go.

Increasingly, I feel as if I’m going back for the wrong reasons. Perhaps I’m running from something or view another Masters degree as a panacea to resolve whatever issue I might need to overcome. Unfortunately, I do not believe it’s that simple.

I turned 30 on the same day I graduated with my MBA. I think that’s enough. With another kid on the way, I’m thinking more about the future. It’s time to make some money, clean up some messes, and begin to plan for the long haul.

Getting Out of the Way

When I tell people in my MBA class that I do tech support, I can get some interesting looks. It’s not like it seems, I say as I try to not sound like a self-absorbed fool. I’m not sure if I’m successful there.

I help manage the development and implementation of the electronic health record for a large company in SLC. It’s an interesting business to be in. There’s lots of change and our users come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstance.

I have two ladies that are my favorite, however. They call a lot but I don’t mind. Others will cuss and complain when they call but I just tell them to send the call over. I’ll take them any day. They’re simple, polite, and dedicated to their cause. I respect that.

These ladies date back to the days of paper health records. They often tell me how they wish they could go back; frankly, there are days I wish we could throw the whole system out myself. But the commitment to their craft is contagious. I have a lot of respect for someone who has spent that much time helping folks in need. I do what I can to support that. Even though my system may lie in the way of their work, I do my best to keep them going.

Simple Satisfaction

No one could accuse my family of living a raucous life. My childhood was relatively simple and while we always had plenty to eat, clean clothing and a roof over our head – it wasn’t exactly a lavish experience. It was simple. 

I grew up ~60 miles from the nearest “big” town: Portland, Oregon. We’d make the trip, perhaps once a month, when we needed something that the small shops and box stores nearby couldn’t provide. Of course, now with Amazon Prime, those shopping trips are much fewer in number. 

As a child, the trip to town always took forever. I never really appreciated the beauty of the surroundings that we were blessed with as there were far more pressing concerns such as having to go to the bathroom or being hungry. On the way home, however, it was usually a different story. I’d usually save up whatever few dollars I could find or work for to blow on my grand purchase. It could be a new Nintendo 64 video game or a filter for my camera (I was very in to photography in those days) but it was usually simple. I’d spend the hour on the ride home reading whatever pamphlet or instructional manual that came with it – often holding the booklet up above my head to glean the light of the headlights behind us to make out the text in the dark. 

Like nearly anything in my childhood, I look back with the benefit of hindsight and think how foolish I was. But childhood is a time for foolish things. I remember reading the small quarter sheet that came along with a pocket knife, wishing that they had only printed in english such that the text would be a few times more. I don’t know what I wanted them to say, something profound I suppose. 

Years ago, I became intrigued with the idea of personal productivity. I listened to podcasts, read books, and spent a small fortune on Mac and iOS apps that were all promised to make me the second incarnation of David Allen. I bet I spent thousands of hours on that endeavor. Whatever benefit that I squeezed out of that phase of life will take many more years to pay off, I’m sure. 

Over time, my podcast feed has shrunk. I follow fewer people on Twitter. My RSS reader is nearly blank. While my interests remain the same, the frequency and amplitude of my desires has been severely curtailed. I think it’s a sign of maturity, although my wife might disagree. It’s a focus on the practical and less on the abstract. I used to dream about how efficient my life would become. In someways, I was right. In others, I don’t care to even measure. 

I haven’t yet decided if this a good thing. At times, I feel as if I’m accepting mediocrity. Other times, it’s as if I’ve simply accepted my constraints. I don’t know what is better or preferred. The recent transition from single to married life, from married life to parenthood, and from work to school to work is interesting. My life has changed many  times over in a couple dozen months. The steady state equilibrium that I have longed to find seems further than ever before. 


Every story has a beginning. This one starts in December of 2010 when I became aware of my CEO’s penchant for stating “rebel with a mortgage.” In the context it was applied, it was the most offensive term I’d ever heard.

I don’t know if it was ever used to describe me but I decided to wear it. Like all constraints, it must be embraced and not feared. Thanks “I can’t believe it’s not Dr. Campbell.”