Pre-Marital Counseling

April 1, 2009 at 8:48 PM (Books, Family, Inspirational, Movie Reviews, Movies, Relationships, Wedding)

Ben and I have been undergoing our self-designed version of pre-marital counseling for the past 2 weeks.  We wanted to focus on strengthening our relationship even more and developing new skills since our wedding is 53 days away.  So far is has been a very rewarding process.  We started by watching the movie Fireproof based on the recommendation of a co-worker.  The movie has religious components, but even if you aren’t religious we both recommend the movie.  In fact, we believe that every single couple and individual should watch this movie.  It will affect you in ways you can’t predict.  On a negative note, the movie is overly dramatic at times.  However, anyone can relate to the issues and emotions in the movie.  Watch this movie with a friend or significant other.  You won’t regret it!

The second portion of our pre-marital counseling is the longest.  As an undergrad at High Point University, I took a class called Close Relationships.  In the class, I read and studied emperical research about a variety of close relationships.  My professors (there were 2) spoke highly of research by Julie and John Gottman, Ph.Ds.  The Gottman’s run The Gottman Institute in Seattle where they scientifically study couples.  They have written numerous scientific articles as well as popular press books (e.g. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert and The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships).  I’ve always admired them and respected their work and thought of them immediately when we considered pre-marital counseling.

The Gottmans host 4 marriage workshops each year in Seattle called The Art and and Science of Love.  Much to our dismay, the workshop costs $725 plus airfare, hotel, meals, etc.  We were ecstatic to find the DVD version of their workshop for much cheaper. We ordered the workshop materials and started working on it last week.  The workshop takes about 12 hours to complete and consists of lectures and hands on exercises.  We just completed Part 2 of the workshop.  So far it has been insightful and a lot of fun.  It has also strengthened our beliefs in our relationship (i.e. we are doing a lot of things right).

Rather than writing on the materials that came with the workshop, we have been using our own paper in case any of our friends want to borrow it. 😉 The workshop is for couples at any stage in their relationship.

What have you done lately to improve your personal/relationship skills?

We hope you are having a great week!

– Stephanie


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Who Is This Guy?

March 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM (Books, Career, Food, Friends, Gaming, Healthy Living, Humor, Politics, Relationships, Wedding, Weight Loss)

Hi folks!

I know I haven’t posted in a while but it’s been busy!  Stephanie’s been doing a great job keeping the site updated while she’s had me slaving away at various home projects.  By slaving away, I mean asking me to do something that I do easily enough followed by me watching a movie.  I’m going to attempt to get everyone caught up, although this is really more about me trying to write enough to make up for being inconsistent with my posting in the past.  This one is going to bounce all over the place, so fasten your seat belts.

If I were to dig into our reader email, or more specifically, the phone calls I’ve had with those of you who read our blog, the overwhelming question is “Ben, why the heck haven’t you been posting your weight?”  Well, there is a good answer to that.  No, wait.  There isn’t.  I’ve just been really slack about it.  I’ve made a number of positive changes to my diet.  I know I’m eating better than I was but the big change has been in portion control.  I’m starting to get that where it needs to be.  As an example, I forgot my lunch this week and was forced to forage for myself in the wilds of Atlanta.  I went to a McDonald’s and, instead of getting my usual combo with an extra sandwich (usually a Big Mac combo with a Filet O Fish), I just got two double cheeseburgers and drank water at the office.  Kudos to Stephanie for helping me take more fruit with me to work for snacks.  So will I be posting my weight changes in the future?  I don’t know.  I doubt my weight will change much more before the wedding and I’ve already been measured for my tuxedo, so I don’t have a whole lot of short term motivation.  However, a lot of the changes we’ve made to the way that we handle our food intake are good for the long term and I’m sure that we will see those dividends.

Speaking of tuxedos, our wedding is almost here.  On May 24th of this year Stephanie and I will be on a glacier in Alaska exchanging our vows.  A lot of people seem to be making a big deal out of this and I get the “So, are you nervous?” question a lot.  To be honest, I’m more excited than nervous.  For me the really nervous portion of our relationship was me deciding that I wanted Stephanie to marry me and that it was the right time and the right decision.  Once that part was done, I was over the nervousness.  Besides actually getting married, I think the part I’m most excited about is the helicopter flight to the top of the glacier.  That will be totally awesome!

I’m officially a music/rhythm game junkie.  Our friends Jen and Jesse own both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour and have been nice enough to come over and let me jam.  Now Stephanie and I have discussed me owning one of these games come November, but I’m super torn.  Here are some pros and cons that I’ve been weighing.  Feel free to chime in with your opinions.

  • I like the guitar for Rock Band 2 a lot.  The “fret” buttons are big enough to cover the entire section of the fret area, so you have a lot more leeway to hit the bigger button.  With the Guitar Hero: World Tour’s guitar, the buttons are smaller but spaced so they fill the same space.  Basically the Rock Band 2 guitar is a lot more forgiving, overall.  Advantage: Rock Band 2.
  • My favorite instrument so far is the drums.  So far, the Guitar Hero: World Tour drums are the winner.  Not only do I get 3 drums and 2 cymbals in a more “real” playing form, but the sections are more rubbery and silent when you hit them.  The Rock Band 2 drums make a loud plastic thwack every time you hit them and each of the 4 drum surfaces (no cymbals) is surrounded by a hard plastic ring that makes an even louder unattractive noise when accidentally hit.  Easy pick here.  Advantage: Guitar Hero: World Tour.
  • I haven’t yet tried to use the microphone for either game and probably won’t any time in the near future.  We’ll leave those out of the discussion for now.
  • Rock Band 2 has been out longer than Guitar Hero: World Tour and has a much larger library of downloadable songs.  It appears that both products are adding 2 or 3 songs a week, so eventually the difference won’t be nearly as apparent but right now you can get a lot more music instantly with Rock Band 2.  Advantage:  Rock Band 2.
  • Let’s talk expansions and limited/exclusive content.  Other than downloadable content, Rock Band 2 doesn’t really have anything else.  However, Guitar Hero released a special Aerosmith edition of their game.  Big deal.  I don’t like Aerosmith much anyways.  The real dilemma exists with the upcoming Guitar Hero: Metallica release.  That one really gets me excited.  My favorite Metallica song is One and I have verified its inclusion on the set list.  Additionally, this special release won’t have a whole bunch of Metallica’s newer, crappier music (essentially anything that came after the Black Album).  Oh no.  It’s going to have some of the good stuff that made most of us like Metallica in the first place.  Good times!  Big Advantage: Guitar Hero: World Tour.

I suppose those are the big things that I’m weighing right now.  Were my entertainment budget limitless I’d just go out and buy both games along with all of their accessories.  Sadly, that just isn’t possible.  Also, come November, who wants to come over and be a part of my band?  I’ll probably be playing the drums, but you guys can have your pick of the remaining 3 spots.  These two games are probably the best group games I’ve played in a while.  They’re a lot of fun no matter the skill level.  There is always a lot of laughter and fun when these guys come out during the course of an evening.

Here are some random tidbits that have crossed my mind recently:

  • I still think Chinese restaurants are awesome, even though I haven’t been visiting them with the frequency I used to.  Chicken on a stick, cheesey wontons, crab legs, different kinds of meats that you can pick without any vegetables.  I mean, where else can you go and come back to the table with a plate full of…brown?  It rocks!
  • I’ve decided that the next time I happen upon some person driving outrageously slow in the left lane (and he isn’t trying to make a left turn), I’m going to run him off of the road.  Or perhaps into oncoming traffic.  I haven’t decided yet.  Either way, it isn’t going to be pretty for him.
  • I don’t really like getting up super early in the morning, but boy I love the fact that there are very few cars on the road when I go to work.  To give you some idea of the difference: my morning drive is 25-30 minutes, my evening drive is 45-60 minutes.
  • I’m really nervous about the economy.  I know, join the club, right?  We just bought our house last summer, and I hate the way it’s lost so much value already.
  • I think AIG is full of crap.  Contractual obligations or not, how can you pay bonuses to the people who ran your company into the ground?  I think they shouldn’t have been paid and AIG should have let itself be sued.  Sure it would have broken its contracts with those particular employees and they would most likely seek restitution from the company, but with the government, the taxpayers, and the overwhelmingly messed up economic climate on their side I think that those contractual obligations could have been lessened through litigation.  Paying $100 million in bonuses would still be better than $165 million, I think.
  • Despite a lot of the complaints folks have about our government and some of the decisions that have been made to fight the financial depression that we are living through right now, I’m still happy to be here.  Allow me to list some countries that have governments that I’m sure none of us would want to live under:
    • China
    • Pakistan
    • Burma/Myanmar
    • Any country on the African continent
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Israel
    • Mexico
    • Venezuela
    • I hope that makes some of you feel at least a little better about our current situation.

I finally got my first books that will allow me to work towards my Microsoft certifications.  Yes, I know it is long overdue.  I’m excited to finally get started.  The books we bought are for Microsoft exams 70-640, 70-642, and 70-646.  Each book represents a single exam and the completion of one of them would allow me to claim an MCTS certification on my resume.  The end result, after completing all three exams, will be my completion of the MCITP Windows Server 2008 Admin certification.  That’s what I’m really after.  I don’t know how long this will take me and the upcoming wedding and everything that goes with it kind of throws a kink in my possible timetable.  I’ve read of very experienced people prepping for a single exam over the course of 2 or 3 weeks.  I don’t think I fall into this category.  I’ve also read of people with very little experience taking several months to be ready for a single exam.  I’m not here, either.  I fall somewhere in the middle, and I think that once we get through the wedding that I’ll be able to knock each exam out in 6-8 weeks or so.  Keep in mind that I’ve never tried to get any sort of certification with Microsoft before, so I’m really just guessing here.  Still though, I think it is a realistic time table.

I’m fully caught up on Heroes, now, for those of you who also follow the show.  I’ve been discussing the evolution of Season 3 with my friend Jason for a while now, and I wanted to let you all know that I totally called Micah weeks ago as the person playing Rebel.  Damn, I rock!  Feel free to discuss this if you want.  I love talking about this show.

I’ve also made it through the final season of The Office on Netflix.  I can not wait for the next season to become available!  I totally want to see what continues to happen with Jim and Pam and also what turns out of the new Michael/Jan/New HR Lady thing.  Of course we’re all rooting for Dwight, too, right?  Good times!

For the most part, I’m not a special person when it comes to picking out clothes and my wardrobe is certainly not complicated.  When I got to work I just pick out a pair of khaki pants, a shirt, and a sports coat.  Simple enough.  However, there are two items that I like a lot that Stephanie absolutely loathes.  Suspenders and cardigans.  For some reason these two items have a special place in my fashion heart and for some other equally odd reason they have become targets of Stephanie’s unending ire.  I was given a pair of suspenders as a gag gift from Stephanie’s best friend, Blair, last Christmas.  I’ve only worn them 2 or 3 times since, and only on weekends (never to work) and every time that I wear them I can see the little veins his Stephanie’s forehead pop out a bit.  I used to own several cardigans, but somehow between us going through our clothes and pairing down what we didn’t need anymore and the actual move to Georgia, I no longer have any more button-up cardigans.  I have two sweaters with zippers, but I don’t think they count.  Are cardigans and suspenders really as bad as Stephanie thinks they are?

While I try not to talk about work much on our blog because I don’t want to think about work on the weekends and there is always the off chance that a superior at work could see what you wrote and posted for the whole internet to see and then fire you for it, I would like to take this moment to give a shout out to two of my coworkers.  Over the course of this past week, Kevin Burdett and Keith Torbert have greatly assisted me in getting some stuff done that I would not have been able to do in a timely fashion or at all without their help.  Thanks guys!

Also, a shout out for my friend Charles, a.k.a Porkchop, for introducing me to  It’s REALLY funny, but be forewarned; this guy cusses a lot.  So if you don’t mind a lot of foul language, visit this site.  If you aren’t laughing out loud as you read it, then something is obviously very wrong with you.  His bio on Nikola Tesla is one of my favorites.  I’ve taken the liberty of adding this site to my favorites on the right side of the screen.  Enjoy!

Well, I think I’ve danced around enough topics for this entry.  As I said last time, and obviously failed miserably at, I’ll try to post more often in the future if only to prevent you wonderful folks from having to read a small novel every time you visit.

– Ben

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February 1, 2009 at 9:26 AM (Books, Inspirational, Pets)

My best friend, Blair, bought me a book called Dewey for my birthday.  I just finished it this morning.  It’s a great, touching, and true story about a cat named Dewey Readmore Books who lived in a small town library, in Spencer, Iowa, for 19 years.


The book showcases the influence of Dewey and the changes in people’s lives that took place after his rescue and subsequent integration into the library.  This is a great book especially if you are an animal lover.  The story is inspirational and heart warming.  You can read more about Dewey here.

Thanks for a great book, Blair.

– Stephanie

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2009 Action Plan: Free Download

January 8, 2009 at 8:56 PM (Books, Saving Money)

Up until January 15, 2009 you can download Suze Orman’s newest book 2009 Action Plan from  Suze Orman is a well respected personal finance expert.  I downloaded it tonight.  It promises to be an insightful read.  Give it a try!

– Stephanie

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