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A New Year, A Renewed Focus

2011 was one of those years where I found myself re-evaluating many aspects of my life. New people have entered, old ones have left. Aspirations that I once drove toward I now can’t wait to put in the rearview mirror. I’ve realized more of who I am this year than at any other point in my life. I know myself more; I realize my strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and that has made me be more honest about the paths I am on and where they are leading me. With that in mind, I’ve decided to create a declaration of the paths I am choosing to take in 2012. This is not a “resolution” for me, it is simply putting into writing the decisions I’ve made from my 2011 experiences that I will continue toward this year.

Physical
Life has a way of becoming more and more hectic as time moves on doesn’t it? Ever since graduating from college and beginning a full-time job my physical well-being has become a secondary focus. The excuse always seems to be “not enough time” after work obligations have been completed. It’s an easy excuse, and I’ve used it liberally to the point where I now find myself in an unhealthy state where I never wanted to be…again. (See childhood photos for more information) One of those aforementioned realizations I came to this year is that success, and successful people, define their lives by filling it with accomplishing what is important. If I cut out all the time I devote to pointless activities (I’m looking at you XBox) the “not enough time” excuse carries no weight. If I want to be healthy, have a clear mind and an active lifestyle, then exercise and eating right have to become important, right up there with the other pursuits I fill my day with.

2012 Physical Equation: Health=motivation+action




Mental –

Again, making sure I’m keeping my mind sharp and growing intellectually needs to be just as important as maintaining my physical well-being. There’s nothing I hate more than ignorance, and I need to make sure I do not become what I dislike most. In order to accomplish this, I need to spend less time with Xfinity and more time with Daniel Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, and Thomas Friedman. I will spend more time reading and less time XP’ing. Books over boob tube.

2012 Mental Equation: Knowledge=research+open-mindedness




Professional –

At the beginning of 2011 I made a decision that I wanted to explore beginning a career as a writer. Ever since I was young I loved to write. I had a binder filled with short stories and illustrations. My imagination was incredibly active to the point where my 4th grade teacher was concerned enough to meet with my parents about my “make-believe” scenarios with friends at recess. (cowboys and indians and having knightly duels on the playgroud was apparently too “juvenile” for an 9 year old.) I wrote for my high school newspaper and yearbook. I served as editor of my college newspaper. I teach high school journalism now. The pattern speaks for itself. I should be a writer, or at least give it a shot and have no regrets right? Since this decision I’ve begun writing a book, been published in a national magazine twice, and written articles for a major website. (see portfolio section) About three months ago I hit a wall. Life and work took over, dreams and aspirations took a backseat. That needs to change. 2012 will be the year of continued success for me as a writer. I need to give this my priority. Dreams deserve that, don’t they?

2012 Professional Equation: Dream Career=dedication+determination




Spiritual –
In college I truly decided that I wanted to be a Christian. It was the first time in my life I felt that I had come to that conclusion, not those around me. I made a promise that if I would truly become a follower of Christ, I needed to act like it. I didn’t want to be a Christian once a week, or by family association, or a Christian according to my own interpretation. Real Christianity to me was (and is) a verb. If my actions don’t have the outcome of glorifying Christ, I’m wasting my time and His. Like all Christians, my relationship has seen peaks and valleys since. 2012 is my year of action for my faith. I will involve myself in activities that let me live my faith and not just “know” it.

2012 Spiritual Equation: True Christianity=faith+action




Personal –
This one is probably the most straight-forward goal for me. I need to have a personal life again. A life outside of work, family responsibilities, and all of the obligations that occupy the day. I need to set aside time on a regular basis to cultivate my personal relationships. I love my wife more than anything else in this world. I need to show her that more. I love spending time with people and having friends in my life that are worth keeping. I need to make time for them. Relationships are not a constant. If they aren’t cultivated, they die. I need to remember to spend time with the people I want in my life and show them that they are cherished.

2012 Personal Equation: Close Relationships=spending time+making time


Here’s to 2012 everyone, a year of forward progress for all.

Water for Elephants: A Review

Wow. I just finished reading the book “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen, and…well just wow. What a great read. The story was engaging. The characters were¬†humanized to the point that I (really) loved some and (really) hated others. I’m not talking a passive kind of interest in their well-being either. I’m talking about that kind of interest level that has you cheering for the success or demise of characters after you set the book down.

The historical setting of the story was one that I knew little about and found fascinating. I admire the amount of research the author must have done to able to create the rich world she placed these characters into as well.

The story focuses on the experiences of Jacob Janikowski, a college dropout during the 1920s who, after finding himself overwhelmed by a series of traumatic events in his life, runs away from his home and lands a job working with animals for a traveling circus. He befriends and makes enemies with many interesting characters, falling in love with one along the way.

The book, in its simplest form, is a love story. To say it is just that is to sell it short though. While the story revolves around Jacob and his love interest Marlena, the author paints a magnificent picture of life for both the affluent and common man during the early years of the Great Depression. In addition to this, the author’s description of life on an early 20th century traveling circus is both beautiful and horrifying. The lives of circus animals, performers, and laborers are deeply developed as the story progresses. I found myself becoming very attached to both the humans and animals introduced in this story, hoping as I turned the page that a happy ending waited for each of them. Unfortunately, like any good story, I couldn’t count on a stereotypical feel-good conclusion for all the characters I had come to know and love while reading this story.

In short, this book is¬†an incredible work of historical fiction, and would recommend it to both the hopeless romantic and the historian, or just anyone who grew up having a love for the circus. If you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought about it, and if you were upset too that the author never said what happened to Queenie!

-Jeffrey A Lambert