Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Unexpected Peace of Mind After The Orlando Attacks

Right before leaving for church about 6:45am, I checked CNN on my iPhone.  There was the main story of a shooting on the home page and the Breaking News banner across the top has a number that just jumped out at me. “50.”  That was a big number.  The headline said “shooter” not “shooters” and I just thought “how could one guy kill 50 people before being stopped?”   A soft target like a club combined with a distracting environment and intoxicated individuals only magnified the chaos for those trying to escape. 

Terrorism and active shooters are now an ever present reality in my mind.  From my years working in restaurants, to being a parent, to doing so much traveling in recent years, my mind now has been conditioned to scan my environments and identify potential threats, potential escape routes, and potential weapons.  When Mindy and I go to movies, I carry a bright flashlight to blind a shooter and perhaps use as a weapon in the event it’s needed.  Sporting Events, malls, and church.  All are soft Targets and I’m aware of suspicious individuals.  I’m always conscious of my children.  After every terrorist attack, there’s a general sense of uneasiness that sits with me.

Some might say “you’re letting the terrorists win” if you alter your mindset or peace of mind.  Well, unfortunately, as a husband and father– my concern is not myself as much as my children and my wife. I don’t fear for myself but for them.  My soon to be 3 children can’t defend themselves from a Terrorist.  They can’t reason with them.  They can’t “win them over with love.”  They can’t fight back.  That’s my job as a parent to protect them.

But I was surprised to find my emotional reaction was different after this attack than every other event before. I had fewer feelings of stress and anxiety.  My mind was not rushed with any fear or concern over other attacks, but a peace of mind that things would be okay.  So why was this attack different?  Well, the attack wasn’t different.  I was different.

12 hours before the shooting, I was walking out of the Cabela’s in Glendale, Arizona with the very first firearm that I have ever owned.  I’ve lived in armed homes and shot firearms pretty well for the last 9 years or so, but hadn’t purchased one simply because of all the different laws in different states and my travel with Chick-fil-A.  But now that I’m settled and figured out what would work best for either Mindy or myself – I had made my purchase.  A powerful defense weapon that’s also extremely concealable.    I haven’t taken Mindy shooting yet, but after the kids had went to bed, I had showed Mindy the specs on the pistol, the different rounds, the different mags, and where it’s kept. 

The reason I felt more at ease after this terrorist attack, is because I now felt that I could defend myself, my family, or others in the event the same thing happened where I was at.  If I never have to use it, then the peace of mind and lack of anxiety is enough to make it worth it.  If I do have to use it – then the shots I fire will at least slow the assailant enough to save a life – if not stop him completely. 

Filling out the paperwork to make the purchase was more or less clicking buttons on a computer screen that said “No, I’m not a drug user or have a history of violence.”  They obviously run a background check and partly depend on the buyer being honest about their mental state and their behaviors.  The Orlando shooter bought his guns legally.  He had went through the same process I did but only days earlier. 

I have many friends and family who favor gun control.  I mean, we all favor gun control to some degree.  But for most people who want stricter gun laws, they’re saying “I’m a responsible person and I don’t trust others to be responsible with guns.”  So my question to them is – “If you truly believe that irresponsible people are currently purchasing unnecessarily dangerous firearms with the intent to harm you, and you’re a responsible person, wouldn’t it make the most sense to arm yourself along with the other 99% of responsible people to prevent the 1% from doing harm?”

Because if 1 man can kill 50 people and injure another 50 – he’s the 1% that controlled the 99%.

Don’t be a victim.  Your loved ones might need you one day to stop 1 guilty person from  injuring or killing 100 innocent people.   

Sunday, March 06, 2016

From Chicken to Church - Leaving Chick-fil-A and Joining CCV

As a precursor to this blog - it's a bit lengthy and written less with the intent to entertain or educate a broader audience like so many of my blogs before.  Its key intent is to inform those who are close to me or my story and know me a little more intimately, while also acting as a "journal."  

My Faceboook mini-feed is filled with friends posting their photos ringing a cow bell and smiling, standing alongside their spouses.  "Operator" is on a simple, silver, Chick-fil-A nametag and is their new profile picture.  Photos from dozens of friends fill my mini-feed as they celebrate Seminar in Orlando, Florida.  Friends are having their dream jobs fulfilled.  They couldn't be happier and I couldn't be happier for them.

And though I love the company, the brand, and the people, I couldn't be happier that I'm no longer a part of it. 

Chick-fil-A was pushing $7 Billion in sales in 2015.  It's leading its industry in so many areas, and ultimately it's the place to be to own your own business or be a part of a major corporation.  For 13 years, I had worked for the company and the last 7 years I had pursued owning my own Chick-fil-A.  So what would make me want to walk away from such a tremendous opportunity? 

Simply put - Mark 8:36 - "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, but lose their own soul?"

I had pursued Chick-fil-A Operator because I knew it would give me the opportunity to do what I loved - leading, serving, loving, and being a part of the community.  I had always wanted to own my own business and be my own boss.  I loved looking in the mirror every day knowing that ultimately, it was up to me and my decisions on whether or not I failed or succeeded.  But when I was sitting in that chair that 25,000 people were dying to sit in - that chair to interview to get my own Chick-fil-A restaurant - I had just lost all excitement over it.  I knew deep down it wasn't the best fit for my family.  My soul, for some reason, wasn't going to be in it.

Owning your own business can take its toll.  Just a couple weeks after making my announcement about leaving Chick-fil-A, I had someone reach out to Mindy to get the wife's perspective.  This person knew two Chick-fil-A Operators who were having trouble with their marriages.  One marriage was already broken and separated and the other marriage was on the fritz.  Simply put, the business had taken control of the lives of those Operators, and they couldn't stop it and it had done some serious damage.

In order to own your own business, you have to be "all in."  You gotta burn those ships.  But going "all in" also means you have the chance of losing it all, as well.  That's just a risk I wasn't willing to take right now.  Let me be clear.  Mindy and I never really struggled in our marriage.  But we just don't want our marriage to survive.  We want it to thrive.  Being an Operator was never the most important thing to us.  Our family was.  If I was going to be an Operator - it had to fit with our family's passions and desires.  Unfortunately, nothing was a good fit, and I didn't want to force it.

My wife and I recently took the 5 Love Languages test for the first time since our first year of marriage.  The 5 Love Languages are:
  1. Gifts
  2. Time Spent
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Physical Touch
  5. Acts of Service
Out of 60 questions where you chose one preferred act of love over another, "Gifts" was the answer only 3 out of 60 times for us combined.  Mindy had 0 and I had 3.  Basically, gifts (or materialistic things) don't mean very much to us in our marriage.  Mindy's #1 way for me to show her I loved her was Time Spent with her.  #2 was Acts of Service.  When I'm working an erratic, 60-80 hr/week schedule at a restaurant, it's very difficult for me to demonstrate my love for her.

A week after I made my decision about Operator, I got a phone call.  It was Christ's Church of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ calling me to let me know about a position they had available and were looking to fill.  This position happened to be two miles from my first Interim Manager assignment with Chick-fil-A.  Christ's Church of the Valley is to Churches what Chick-fil-A is to the restaurant industry.  Averaging 25,000+ attendees/week, state of the art programming for children, youth, and worship, and 6 campuses - you couldn't get much more successful when it comes to churches.  Is CCV perfect?  No way.  Neither is Chick-fil-A.  The key to success with CCV is so similar to Chick-fil-A- Great Leadership.  CCV knows its mission and pursues it with a relentless effort.  Everything I was passionate about before - leading, serving, loving, and being part of the community - I could still do.  Would I make less money than in the business world?  Absolutely.  No doubt.  Are there more important things than money?  Absolutely.  No doubt.  
At CCV, I can make my own schedule for the most part.  It may be erratic, but there are very few surprises like in a restaurant.  We can plan around it.  I am loving the people I am working with, the volunteers I am serving beside, and the purpose we drive for.  The first 2 months have been better than I had hoped.  

Mindy just started back with Phoenix Children's Hospital.  She would never say it out loud or publicly, but Mindy is very proud of the work she does with patients dealing with cancer.  When she came home from work last week, I saw in her a smile and a spirit that I hadn't seen since our first year of marriage when she last worked with the oncology/hematology department.  Mindy put her passions on hold for 5 years so we could pursue Operator, and now God has rewarded her with allowing her to get back involved serving and loving those children like her heart so passionately desires alongside some of the best friends she's ever had.  

Ultimately I don't know what the long term future holds for me.  One day, when my kids are older, and my wife and I grow into a different stage of our lives, we may pursue our own business once again.  But right now, we know that God was clear that He didn't want us to be an Operator.  In our obedience to pass on the opportunity that we wanted,  He opened up the perfect opportunity that we needed. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Funny Things I See - Vol. 3 - Chick-fil-A Application Edition

A few months back, I had a college student turn in an application.  They filled out their availability and it was 3 hrs/day, 4 days/week.  They asked for a minimum of 40 hrs/week.  I showed them the application, and confirmed the times they were available and how many hours week they were available and the minimum (I even said "fewest" for them) number of hours they needed to work.  This was an able bodied, regular college student, whom I am sure will vote for Bernie Sanders while you pay for their education.

As a manager of a Chick-fil-A, I loved my job.  I loved my team.  I loved my staff.  However, I also saw a high volume of applicants ranging in all ages, experience levels, and skill sets.  The following photos are all responses to questions on applications that I have received over the years.  This is in no way a representation of the type of talent that Chick-fil-A attracts, just perhaps a few moments where applicants should have taken a little more time to fill out their application.  :)  Most of these are older that I kept for one day when I could share them and it not get taken the wrong way. I didn't save a lot of the more recent ones, but for your viewing pleasure:

I feel like I should know morse code with this one.
Not sure that's what they meant.

I guess a good trait to have when wanting people to pick you among other candidates.

Talk about customer service!
I won't disagree.  Clean bathrooms are important.
I couldn't count the number of diapers I changed while volunteering for my kids.

I guess they give out awards for everything now.

Fair Enough.

I'm not a calculus professor but I'm guessing this has to do with imaginary numbers.

I guess lurning to spell hasn't come quick.

Once again, just 10 curious applications out of the 1,000s I received over the years.  It always pays to double check your work, folks.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Year in Review - 2015

Another year down, another 12 months of wonderful memories for the Morgan Family. This will be the 5th year in a row that I've done the "Year in Review" and it's turn into something with a lot more details and a lot more photos than it used to be.    

2015 certainly had its fair share of challenges, but fair share of blessings.  It's now starting to become bittersweet to look back on the past years as we grow older and some fun times are gone, but so many great things are ahead!  

But without further adieu, let's get to the good stuff of 2015! 


And a wind chill of -26.  
A forecast of -15 degrees
We began the new year living in Milwaukee, WI, and as of January 1st, this was our  10 day forecast.  But, it gave me plenty of opportunities for science experiences of throwing boiling water into sub-zero temperatures. For the most part, Everett and Natalie just played inside all day.

This is how I dressed when I had to walk 3 blocks to my car every morning.

And this is how I found my car when I got there every morning.


February 1st was Super Bowl Sunday and we had 12" of snow fall overnight.  Though we had seen snow for the last few months, nothing like this.  We spent a lot of time in the clubhouse of our apartment complex playing with trains, drinking hot chocolate, and watching cars get stuck.  For Mindy's birthday, we celebrated at a local brewery a few blocks away downtown.  With the weather being pretty miserable, Natalie, Everett, and Duke found ways to stay busy indoors most of the month.  However, one unique challenge for our home was the unfortunate layout of our 2 story apartment which resulted in our living room and kitchen never getting above 59 degrees even with the heater running as hard as it could (and our bedrooms upstairs at about 80 degrees).  So in the morning, I would turn on the oven, build a safety feature, and Everett would cover himself completely with a heated blanket.  We don't miss Milwaukee very much.  
Super Bowl Sunday we hangout in the apartment clubhouse to watch the snow

and of course to build train tracks

Mindy's Birthday Dinner... I mean... dessert after her dinner

This was the regular temperature in our living room
This was what I tried to warm up our apartment. 
Everett did this to keep warm (he has the iPad underneath)

These two just loved hanging out together!


In March we made our move to Cheyenne, WY.  There were certainly some adjustments - the biggest being that Duke could no longer live with us.  The apartment complex that we had to stay in would not allow dogs over 35 pounds, but we were so lucky in finding Mike and Ashley to care for Duke.  He fit right in with their other Boxers, Abby and Bella.   He was only a few minutes drive away from me at all times, and Everett loved coming with me to visit all 3 of the dogs.     

I spent the first few weeks in Cheyenne while Mindy took the kids to visit family in Phoenix.  It was a time of transition and a much needed break for Mindy and the kids after a long winter of being stuck indoors with a 3 year old and a newborn. However, spring was finally here and we were loving our outdoor time!

Duke found a new (temporary) home with Bella and Abby

Natalie decided to soak up some Arizona sun rays

And Everett decided to join in on the fun.

Why do women always love dressing kids up in the same outfit?

Mindy and the kids said "See ya, Phoenix!"

And "Hello, Denver! Cheyenne, here we come!"

We didn't have a changing table so we improvised...

Threw on a cover...

Problem solved.


In April we got to spend Easter with dear Chick-fil-A Friends.  We grilled out and had a relaxing day of church, food, and naps!   Later that week, I was able to have my next round of interviews with Chick-fil-A for Operator.  These interviews were specifically for the West Region. I worked about 73 hours/week in April, so Mindy and the kids found plenty of opportunities to explore and play, but I still had the majority of my Sunday's to cuddle with my daughter.
Easter Sunday with Chick-fil-A Friends!

Easter Family Photo!

Father/Daughter Photo!
Everett working on his Easter eggs!

My study session before my next interview for Operator

I loved Chick-fil-A for its fun culture.  The day I had interviews,
the ping-pong championship was happening in the main building.

Everett loved helping me when we visited the dogs.

Time for Natty/Daddy cuddles!

Everett and Benton found a park...

...then they found a lake!


The month of May was full of blessings.  Mark and Joyce came for a brief visit in Cheyenne at the beginning of the month and shortly thereafter we had yet another snowstorm.  Everett would "graduate" from Little Lambs preschool this month.  About midway through month, I was finally working less than 70 hrs/week. Thanks to Brian and Jaclyn Hogan, I was able to get away to Georgia for a few days to see family at the end of the month.  

Natalie joined Mindy at work and just LOVED it!

Brian and Jaclyn Hogan joined me at the hospital
for a team member who had a medical emergency.
Yes, that's 12:15 AM in the background (they would stay until 2AM)

The kid's faces when we told them Mimi and Papa were coming.

Mark, Everett & Joyce

Mindy, Natalie, Everett, and Mark

Everett's graduation at Little Lamb's preschool
Duke came to visit the family!

Getting Ready to leave Denver to see Nana and Grandaddy!

On the plane on the way to Atlanta!
On the train... almost to Nana and Grandaddy!

Looks like we found Nana and Grandaddy!

Aunt Megan gave Natalie a motorcycle ride

And Aunt Nicole gave her an Ice Cream cone.  


We began June in Georgia, and Everett and Natalie were loving their time with their Nana, Granddaddy, aunts, uncle, and cousin.  Later that month, we spent a couple weekends in Estes Park, CO - first with Brian and Jaclyn and then with Joyce and Aunt Faith.  You can't get much better weather than summer time in Wyoming and Colorado! 
Picking berries at Adam's Farms

And it looks like they found some for Aunt Nicole's pie!
Everett playing with Grandaddy
We spent a little time at Truett's Luau while at home.
Any GOS or Interim Manager knows this feeling...
Just out kicking it at Vedauwoo State Park
Stopping for a break

It's all fun and games at the beginning

But then it's time to get serious and competitive (Jaclyn in the background)

But then it got fun, again.

3 Generations!

Beautiful gal's pic in Estes Park, CO

The guys' turn to pose for a picture

Mindy had done a little office work prior,
but this was her first day serving guests!

One of the few runs we've had a chance to do together!

Cleaning cow outfits at home - part of the IM Life!

Not bad for a 3 1/2 year old!

Can't get a much better life than this after the kids go to bed!


The month of July continued the great times of Summer.  Everett started Karate, Frontier Days came to Cheyenne, and Aunt Nicole came to visit.  We even spent time in Colorado Springs, CO.  This very well could have been one of the best months of the year for us!

Cow Appreciation Day 2015!
A view from the top of the ferris wheel during Frontier Days

Having a blast at Frontier Days

This was a VERY long line for the pancake breakfast,
but it moved so fast! They got it down!

At the Rodeo!

They used a cement mixer to mix the pancakes,
and would literally flip pancakes over the wagon
as others would catch them on a giant tray.

Yee-Ha at the Rodeo

Family Selfie at Garden of the Gods
Perhaps the best photo I've ever taken.

Mindy feeding a giraffe at the zoo

Chick-fil-A Frontier Mall Team Outing

Everett Started Karate Classes on Friday Nights

Just the boys hanging out while Duke was on a visit

I think Nicole nailed the look


As summertime wound down, Mindy took the kids for another visit to Arizona to see family.  Work started to pick up a lot more and required more of my time.  However, the kids still found plenty of ways to stay busy!

You neve know what you'll find at a yard sale.
Everett found some old glasses at Mimi's house!

These two were loving some swing time!

What parent hasn't seen this before?

The kids hanging out in the dojo after a karate lesson

Everett's First day of Preschool, Fall 2015

Looks like he's ready to go!


This is the month of birthdays in the Morgan family.  Natalie turned 1 on September 10th and Everett turned 4 on September 27th.  Grandaddy and Nana made their first trip to Cheyenne for Natalie's party, and once again, Aunt Nicole made another visit to Cheyenne this month.  She just couldn't get enough of her niece and nephew!    Everett decided he wanted to play miniature golf for his birthday and we were lucky in that his birthday was the final day of the season for the golf place to be open.  Another big goal that was met in this month was our family finally OFFICIALLY became debt free.  For quite some time, we had been "debt free" on paper - which meant we had the cash to cover any debt we had.  But this was the month that we officially paid off any bills or debt and didn't own anyone a dime.  Felt pretty good.  Thank you, Dave Ramsey.  
Every day Wyoming had another beautiful view to offer

Of course, we showed our Georgia spirit whenever possible.

Everett felt sick one night
and this is how I found him when I went to his room
Grandaddy came to visit to read to Everett

And to help me out in the restaurant
on a Saturday morning just like the old days.
And Mindy and I would do a "date" at the
restaurant on Sundays!
This little girl turned 1 on September 10th.

Nana and Grandaddy were both out to celebrate!

I can totally see the resemblance.
3 generations!

Couldn't get much prissier.
After a long day, she was tuckered out.
The Paw Patrol threw Everett a great party!
He was loving it!

Gotta love those paw prints in the cupcakes!
Everett Chose to play miniature golf for his 4th birthday
GREAT family outing to celebrate!

October was arguably the biggest month of our Family's life up until that point.  In October, I had my last round of interviews with Chick-fil-A to become a Franchisee Owner/Operator.  On October 22nd, I interviewed for a restaurant in Utah.  However, just days after the interview, I informed Chick-fil-A that I no longer wanted to be an Operator. I withdrew my name from consideration and Mindy and I decided that career just wasn't the right one for me and our family at this time in our lives.  We knew that very soon our Chick-fil-A journey might come to an end.  As for our family, we began to prepare for our life after Chick-fil-A, and just enjoy Cheyenne while we still could.  That also included visits from Mindy's Uncle Dan, her brother Reggie, and her parents.  

Everett got to start sparring in Karate.
It's about the cutest thing ever.
Another Sunday at Chick-fil-A putting up marketing materials.
The box was surprisingly sufficient for corralling Natalie while we worked.

This is what Uncle Dan and Reggie did when they came to visit.

This carabiner had held my Chick-fil-A work keys since I started pursuing Operator in 2007.
The week I announced I would not pursue Operator any longer, it finally broke.
It gave me a sort of "confirmation" that I had made the right decision and it was time to move on.

November was my last month at Chick-fil-A (And Cheyenne), we spent it with family and preparing for whatever came next. A 3rd and final trip to Estes Park was very different in the winter time.  Quiet streets and lots of parking. Nicole came out one final time to visit us during Thanksgiving week and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with sparkling, beautiful snow and everything!  It was this month that I also applied for a position with Christ's Church of the Valley (CCV) to fill an opening for Operations Coordinator - a position my brother in law Reggie Rice told me about after we had told our family about not pursing Operator.  On the last day of the month, Duke had to say goodbye to his friends and family of the last 9 months and come back home to us!  

My ladies!

The kids helping with chores.
Aunt Nicole came out the last week of November for Thanksgiving
and was treated to a lot of snow!

Our quiet apartment complex on Thanksgiving day.

That's legit snow for November.

I couldn't get a great picture, but every tree in town was a
gorgeous white.  It was beautiful.
Thanksgiving Family Photo 2015!
We got to pick up Duke and he said goodbye to his Cheyenne family,
Ashley, Abby, Mike, and Bella.
A perfectly captured candid photo on my final day of Chick-fil-A -
me being able to put my phone down and cuddle with  my kids.  

On December 1st, Nicole and I drove to Arizona from Wyoming while Mindy, Everett, and Natalie flew.  It was beautiful driving through the ski country of the Rockies in Colorado and down through Arches National Park.  The first full week of December I interviewed with CCV and not too long after, I was offered the job.  I was very blessed to have chosen to leave a career and then less than a month later find a new job.  God certainly provided.  With a job now set for 2016 and beyond, we had a few weeks to just enjoy family both in Arizona and in Georgia. We spent the final 9 days of 2015 on vacation in Georgia with my family and on the beach in Hilton Head Island.  We wrapped up 2015 celebrating my mother's 55th birthday.  
Nicole and Duke ready for the road trip!

Our sunrise departure from Denver

Our beautiful drive through the Rockies 
Our sunset trip to Arches National Park
Everett cleaning the sand, snow, and salt from our car once we got to Arizona
It's good to have Duke back in the family.

Family time!  Making Cookies!
This one photo sums up why we wanted to leave Chick-fil-a to be near family.
"Christmas" Morning at Mimi and Papa's
Duke rarely leaves her side.
Christmas morning at Nana and Granddaddy's
Natalie and Everett loved the way Grandaddy decorated his head.
Photo with Grandpa Ray!
Everett and Grandaddy!
Everett and Nana!
Being Goofy on the beach
Me and the love of my life.
Natalie wasn't sure what to think of all the sand
We pretty much had the beach to ourselves.
Perfectly sums up our children.  Everett plays it safe and wants to stay
close to "home."  Natalie just bolts whenever she can.
Watching the sunrise to a new beginning in 2016.
Happy Birthday, Nana!

2015 went nothing like we thought it would.  I suppose that's how life normally is.  We made so many more great friends and saw so many more great things.  But more than ever we are excited for what's coming next and the blessings that God will provide.  2016 will be sure to be another big year for the Morgan family!