Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writers gotta write...

This is going to be on of those "forcing myself to write" kind of posts.
That means that it will be a random collection of thoughts that have been running through my head for some time and manage to make their way to the forefront of my pea-brain during this forced writing session.

Feel free to move along to your next site.

It is a beautiful, mild day for the end of June and I'm able to sit out on my deck with a nice Dominican cigar and a cool drink while I type away on the ol' keyboard. I have to check, but I'm thinking that next month will be our summer board meeting for our Christian writers' club. I should probably make sure that it gets on the calendar. I miss the monthly meetings for their regular reminder (and encouragement) to write.

As far as what's on my mind...

Retirement is never far from the forefront of what I'm thinking about. I'm waiting for some numbers from the FAA to see how it will be if I go in early 2015. I can't go much farther than that as they will force my retirement from air traffic at the end of June 2016. One of the many reasons that I hate to wait until they force me out is that I know a number of controllers that held on until the last possible moment and then went kicking and screaming only to find failing health or other life circumstances that prevented them from enjoying their retirement. I'd like to go while I'm still young enough and healthy enough to be able to enjoy retirement. Working for another 12 or 18 months isn't going to give me a great financial advantage, so I think I'd like to go earlier rather than later.

Besides, I'm growing weary of going to work every day.

Don't get me wrong; I really like my job.
And I'm hoping for a great career in air traffic for my daughter.
It's just that I'm really getting tired of the negativity that seems to have overtaken the work place.

As much as I enjoy the work that I do, I'm not enjoying the people I work with as much as I used to. Our sense of entitlement and our selfish attitudes are really starting to wear me out. And yes, I said our. I include myself since I am as much a part of the overall problem as anybody.

I don't want to be the grumpy old man that needs to retire, and there are starting to be quite a few days that I feel that is the case.

So, let's say I do retire.
Then what?
More magic?
More ministry?

I was thinking along those lines, but...
...what if that's not it?

What if more magic and more ministry just means more travel and time away from home? I guess I'll always have control over my schedule to the degree that I can always say, "no." But too many times saying no usually ends up with fewer invitations and fewer opportunities. I guess I'll need to find the balance.

Weighing out the need to fulfill a calling (or perceived calling) with the need to tend to personal needs and responsibilities is always tricky. Air traffic controllers are well aware of the balance between crazy, demanding schedules that provide a good income and family needs. Far too many of my ATC friends have had to deal with divorce and other family issues because of our work. Balance can be difficult.

One thing that I am looking forward to is having more time to write.

I have several ideas on things to write about--have even started writing a couple of them out--but not having the schedule (and the discipline) to be regular about sitting and writing makes working to completion difficult. Perhaps when I can consider writing to be a JOB I'll be able to get something accomplished.

The same is true for magic. Lots of things that I'd like to work on; not a lot of time to spend working on them.

At least I have this problem.
Too many people will not have the options that I have and will not have many choices when they reach retirement...or may never be able to retire.
I am blessed.

If you've managed to stick it out to this point, thanks for listening to my rant. Maybe my retirement travels will bring me to your neck of the woods and I can say "thanks" in person.

John <><

Sunday, June 22, 2014


It's an old song, but one that I think of every year as summer begins.

I love the words used to describe the early morning mist that hovers above the water and I often see this displayed as I drive home after a mid-shift and drive over the James River at Springfield Lake or the Finley River in Ozark.

Enjoy the song.
Enjoy your summer.

John <><

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Reflections

It's Saturday evening and another beautiful day in the Ozarks!

We spent the day on Table Rock Lake with friends and had a nice dinner out. Hannah and her boyfriend bailed on the dinner portion of the day, opting for a nicer venue and less crowded table to celebrate their one-year dating anniversary. Kids!

I'm sitting on the deck with a cool drink, nice cigar and my laptop. The light is quickly fading from the sky and I think that life is pretty doggone good!

I ate fairly well today so it's not too big of a deal that I went for the hand breaded, deep fried tenderloin tonight. Mmmm! It was pretty tasty. I did skip the side fries that normally goes with the fried sandwich, figuring that one fried food per day is plenty. I also determined that the ciabatta bun was okay since I skipped the bread at lunch and loaded my tuna salad into halves of an Anaheim green chili pepper (also quite tasty!).

I think that I'm going to start setting aside time for writing.

I haven't yet determined if it will be everyday or days when my schedule is better for setting aside blocks of time. I have determined that the only way to actually be regular about writing is to set aside the time for it. I'm thinking of about three days/week that are generally good for me. It may be more, but I may just start with those days and times and go from there.

Of course, then I need to figure out what I'm going to write about!

I may go back to the idea of writing about Characters. It's a label that I started some time back but only wrote a few posts. You can check them out here and tell me if you think it would be worth spending some time on.

The real danger in regular writing is making sure that the filters in my head are set correctly so that I don't just go on a rant and start offending people at random. Maybe write one day, read it the next would be a good practice before publishing...

Have a great Sunday!

John <><

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Blog

Hey, Out of My Hat readers (both of you),
I just wanted to let you know that I've started a new blog called Healthy Living (by an unhealthy guy).
You can find it here.

I figured that I'd spare you the boring details of my struggle to better health and let only those few that want to read about it or be encouraged to live a more healthful lifestyle make their way to that subject matter.

I'm certain that I'll still find issues and time to post here, although I'm finding that it's becoming easier (and safer) to keep my thoughts to myself these days. I've always hated the negative person in the room and I'm finding that person to be me more often than I care to admit. I'm not sure why I seem to be growing more weary of people's general selfish attitudes and lack of common courtesy, but day by day I'm finding that I like being around people less and less. To be fair, people are probably feeling the same about being around me.

Although the FAA has provided me with a great career and I genuinely like my job, on most days I can usually think of at least one other place that I'd rather be. And although I still like coming to work, I like it less and less each passing day. Coming to work every day wouldn't be so bad if they didn't expect me to stay for eight hours! I'm ready to move on.

Anyways, I hope to see you over at Healthy Living from time to time.

John <><

Sunday, June 15, 2014


From time to time, I get the urge to de-socialize and remove myself from the world of social networking.
The reality is: I don't really want to completely de-socialize, I just want to severely limit my social interactions. I think that "un-friending" can be a little extreme but have definitely unsubscribed to a number of contacts.

I'm pretty good about ignoring the posts I find offensive and can move on without having to leave a comment. It's more difficult to move on when they leave an offensive comment on one of my posts. I've noticed more rude behavior on Facebook than on other social networks and I'm considering a Facebook diet--more like a Facebook fast, really. I'm pretty sure that I'll still check in once in a while, but I'll be pretty invisible, for the most part. I'll still link when I post at Out of My Hat but little else.

My Run Keeper updates, Four Square check-ins and LinkedIn posts all go through my Twitter account. I've disconnected the Twitter link to Facebook. If you'd like to follow me on Twitter I'm @magicianary. I'm also on Google+ and will be spending more time over there.

John <><

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Trip Around the Sun

In just a few hours I'll complete my fifty-fourth trip around the sun and begin another year long journey through space.

This year I'm treating myself to a day at the ballpark. I'll grab a few hours of sleep after the mid and then pick up a friend and make the afternoon drive to St. Louis for the evening game.

I'm giving myself permission to indulge in a few off diet entrees and realize that seven hours in the car will yield very little exercise! I'll try to get some work in before making the drive and I'm sure there will be a little walking downtown, too.

However you choose to do it, I hope that you enjoy my birthday!

Another good day to be...
John Hill <><

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Return to ONE-derland

Okay, so I know that you're probably tired of reading about diet, health and weight loss.
If that's the case, move along, there's nothing to see here.

At the age of 26, I hit 197 pounds. I said that I wasn't going to go over 200 pounds. I quit drinking regular sodas and started eating five or six smaller meals per day. That's it. I hadn't read anything about metabolism. I hadn't learned anything about weight management. I just did a couple of things that seemed to make sense to me. In a few months I was back down to 174 pounds.

I don't remember how long it took me to top the 200 pound mark, maybe a year or so. The event passed with little fanfare and the last time that I actually remember weighing less than 200 was I weighed that 174...

...until yesterday.

Yesterday (and again today) the scale puts me at less than 200 pounds! Yesterday 198.6. This morning 199.4.
Back in the land of the one hundreds...ONE-derland.

I know that I've said I generally wait three days to claim a weight, but I'm just too pleased with this to wait another day! I know that I may drift above 200 as my weight loss does vary on its general downward trend, but for today, I am well pleased.

Friday, the 13th I'll turn 54. I can't say that I'm in the best shape of my life, but I am in better shape than I've been in for a very long time. I feel great and would encourage anybody that is struggling with weight or just being badly out of shape to do something...anything. Eat a little less, move a little more. Just get started.

I know, I know... it took me a decade or two of poor habits to get my head right and get back on the right track. It's like that for all of us. I just want to encourage you to start much sooner than I did. You will sleep better, have more energy and feel better. You will spend fewer days sick and more days doing the things that you wish to do.

And you'll spend less money on health care!

You don't need any special equipjment (other than a decent pair of shoes) to walk. You don't need any special training (you're already an experienced walker) and you can usually manage to find a few minutes (30 or so) for a walk.

You also don't really need any special diet advice. Just eat more fruits and vegetables and less crap foods. I've only been to a fast food place a handful of times in the past year and try to make the best choices when forced to eat away from home. We eat very few "boxed" foods now and much less fried stuff.

I do watch what I eat and know what foods will do to my metabolism but I also indulge in "bad" foods from time to time. I have the occasional soft serve ice cream cone, still enjoy a ballpark hot dog or brat and will be making a White Castle stop on my trip to St. Louis this weekend. I love fried hot wings but know that the calories add up more more quickly than I fill up on them.

I'm thinking about starting a different blog to deal with health and diet and letting Out of My Hat get back to the posts that you're more familiar with...or maybe not. We'll see.

John <><

Monday, June 09, 2014

Summertime Fun

I thought that I was going to try to spend a little more time writing this summer; so far, that hasn't worked out so very well.
On the one hand, summer hasn't really started yet. On the other hand, I don't see that I'm going to have any more time in a week or so when it does officially begin.

Ministry stuff has kept me busy during the early part of June. The 1st found me at a weekend Children's camp where the keep asking me back as camp pastor (something like 15 years, now). That camp wrapped up on Sunday evening and then I was back to the same location to share a little message in magic with another children's camp on Monday.

Saturday (7th) I was in Neosho MO for New Salem Baptist Church's Carnival Day. It's been a few years since I've been there and it is always a pleasure to be invited back to a place! I'm impressed with this small country church. It is in a very rural location and yet seems to be doing very well. The young bi-vocational pastor and his wife seem like they genuinely care about the community and I sense that God is going to use them to reach the rural area with His message of love and grace.

On Sunday I traveled to our neighboring community of Nixa and shared the Salvation story at North Nixa Baptist Church on their Children's Day. It was a grand day!
I'm always amazed that God has chosen me to share His story in the ways that He has allowed me to do it. It's hard to understand why He would choose mere men and women to tell this grand story when our tendency is to mess things up very badly and on a pretty regular basis.

And yet, He does.
And they keep coming.
They keep coming to make professions of faith.
They keep coming to testify of their belief by following in baptism.
They keep coming to work and serve Him by serving those that come in need.

It's a pretty good gig that God has given me. I hope that I never grow tired of serving and that the blessings never get old. I'm looking forward to the day that I can do more in the way of sharing His Word through preaching and magic!

This week will be a different kind of busy. There is a lot of work to be done around the house before this weekend's open house for Hannah's college graduation. If you're in the area and want to offer her your congratulations, please stop by on Saturday between 5-8 in the evening.

I need to get things done before Friday. Friday the 13th is my birthday and I've decided to treat myself to a St Louis Cardinals baseball game. I'll get a couple of hours sleep after working the mid-shift on Friday morning and make the drive to St Louis for the evening game.

Yep, it's going to be a busy week!
(I need to shed this ATC thing that takes up like 40 hours every week!)
Soon enough...

Better get busy.

John <><

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Catching Up: camp, health, work and other stuff

It's been a busy week!
I shortened my work week last week by a day for Hopedale's kids' camp. It was supposed to storm Friday night and Saturday, but God smiled on us and provided us with beautiful weather.

Our camp was the smallest that I remember but we had great kids, the most incredible workers and an awesome weekend.

I was back at the camp on Monday to perform a little magic for the Tri-county Baptist Association kids' camp.

I'll continue to be busy this week with a performance in Neosho on Saturday and church in Nixa on Sunday.

Tonight will be a timeout night and Chris and I will take in a concert and listen to a band from the distant past--The Marshall Tucker Band.

June is here and the 1st came over camp weekend so I missed my weigh-in. I gave myself a correction day and skipped the 2nd for my one year check. On the 3rd I weighed the same as last week's weigh in, 202.0!

I end the year at minus 56 pounds and figure I'll still lose another 5-10. While keeping the good eating habits, I'll start to focus more on the exercise, strength and conditioning. It's been half a lifetime since I've been below 200 pounds...maybe by my birthday on the 13th. We'll see.

Work is kind of crazy. A couple of medical disqualifications, retirements, temporary assignments and vacations are leaving us pretty short on most days. Overtime is being used regularly and spot leave is scarce. I think it's like this everywhere.

On the 14th, we will have an open house to celebrate Hannah's graduation! She is one of about 1500 (out of about 29,000 initial applicants) waiting on a date for the FAA Academy in OKC to take her place in the grand profession of air traffic control!

I was at the Academy when Hannah was just a few weeks old. Now she'll be there as I'm winding down my career. Makes me smile.

I am blessed.

John <><