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Perfect Timing

Well, hello friends new and established! I’ve been off the radar for a minute, so my apologies to everyone who has been wondering what ever became of me.

I would like to kick off my blog with something awesome and profound. Matt Banner @ On Blast Blog suggests polishing the opening post and starting strong. Somewhere in his 40 tips for blogging is a quote about it never being the perfect time for anything.

However, there’s something to be said for mission accomplishment. I have been trying to find 30 min just to sign up but between driving for Uber, launching a business with my girlfriend, and chasing after two 6 year old terrors, it has evaded me. One key to getting shit done is being opportunistic with time, and right now is the perfect time to stare at my phone since life just gave me a great big slap on the sciatic nerve! Ugh, what incredible pain to suffer. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, but the last 7 hours has been relentlessly awful. Really, though, I don’t know which is worse-the actual pain or the frustration of being so incapacitated that I have to be dragged to the bathroom!

Well, considering the pen is mightier than the sword and I can’t even lift my head without agonizing pain, it is indeed the perfect time to get blogs up and other screen time efforts underway. I have a project I hope to post on IndieGoGo and events to line out for vending. I will be posting updates on all of my efforts here as well as my own ramblings. 

So, pretty as my first blog may or may not be, here it is!

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I have a lot of good stuff to fill my blog posts with, so I can roll with the ocean scene for a first. I was 18 years old on a cross country road trip when I first saw the Atlantic. Since then, I could hardly imagine living more than a couple hours from an ocean. Feeling small, so miniscule while gazing at the vastness is curiously enlightening. Few things in this world can ground you in the moment like that. Except a child’s love 🙂

Thanks for reading!

The Break

Now we’re cooking with gas!

It has taken a lot to get there, but finally the dam has broken. I have enough work lined up to last me the summer well into the school year. I have recovered my earning potential of that awful management position I left. Now, I’m hoping my work allows me to push that potential up even a bit further. 

I wish I felt as celebratory as I should. It’s been a long time since I could earn enough to cover my expenses. Honestly, since student loan payments started up, I haven’t done so even once. 

I was not doing well stressing over my bleak future. I tried to ground myself. Running, meditating, trying to take a little moment here and there to appreciate something pleasant, like all the free kombucha on tap I can drink.  

Mostly, my stomach settled down when I could stop thinking about the future. This left me in a perpetual state of absent mindedness. It’s called mindfulness, as you are supposed to have your mind entirely focused on the present, and more specifically, yourself. Not your thoughts and fears, but your physical being. Breathe in, breathe out. Think about nothing but your lungs expanding with air and releasing the tension in your muscles. 

While I continue to suppress a reservoir of rampant thoughts, I find myself flooded with emotions. Now, I’m a cerebral person, used to thinking through my issues. Define the system, identify the variables, work from the evidence back to spot the wrench in the cogs. I’m turning it off. The problem now is that I’m sitting here awash with emotion. I don’t really know what they are. My brain lights up and seeks patterns and organization. It goes forward and backward in time, investigating the cause-effect reactions. Then I stop it again. Stop thinking about the future, because that’s been the first step into madness lately. 

I hope diving headlong into work does my mental health some good. I hope that when someone presses me for my thoughts, I can come up with something that’s socially acceptable. I hope that the completion of the projects I have lined up brings enough financial relief to at least let the rest of the year be enjoyable. I hope, but nothing about my state of being is behind that hope. It’s as isolated and vulnerable as I have been feeling for a while now. 

I got what I wished for, so I guess, fanfare or not, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where I end up. 

The Connection

Physical-hormonal-mental throughput

For a while now, I suspect, much of Western medicine has been operating under a set of false assumptions. I think it may have started off with the acceptance of placebo tests as creating separation of all possible variables. 

Western medicine did acknowledge the possibility of “thinking yourself healthy” to come up with a placebo test in regards to pharmaceuticals. However, that does nothing but attempt to disqualify a subconscious reaction to at most 3 brief ‘random exposures‘ of thought per day. It creates statistical significance against the failure of drug xyz to cure whatever it claims to. Nowhere to my knowledge has western culture attempted to isolate and identify any physical response to specific patterns of thought.

So it goes that for the same reason we drive petroleum instead of peanut oil, we take Prozac instead of an hour to chill. But, this post isn’t about drawing attention to corporate a$$-fuckery, it’s about drawing attention to yourself and all the things that go on inside yourself that either enable or limit your output. 

Mindfulness, meditation, grounding. We use these to alleviate mental fatigue. However, there is so much more going on. You are what you eat and you get what you believe you will get. A healthy, balanced, and preferably seasonal diet goes a long way. So, that’s looking at things a little more holistically. A positive mindset sure helps, but here’s the thing: you just don’t always feel positive, right? Exactly how do you set your mind positive when it isn’t, and should you even force it in the first place? 

The connection? Staying active. I haven’t figured it out yet, but after this last several weeks it is clear that the physiological response to exercise is extensive. 

I’ll spare you the ugly details, but suffice to say our household was a bit out of hand. Being tight for money, I have been putting in long days again. Long days usually mean that 1, I’m not going for a run and 2, neither is Kim and 3, it probably won’t be the day after the long days are done, either. Just like that, we dropped our running routine. We didn’t sit down to do the budget for weeks. The kids were terrors. The house looked like a dump and each room was growing it’s own flavor of gagging wretched smell. I bought another pack of cigs. Kim commented on said tobacco and I snapped at her like a jerk. It got out of hand. 

We paid rent on the first, stocked the fridge, did the laundry, and Saturday I let myself have a compulsive cleaning fit. Kim did more cleaning on Sunday. Whew! I sure feel a lot better! Kim, not so much. She admitted she had been feeling extra emotional despite all the cleaning and settling up. No matter how much sleep she got, she felt constantly fatigued.

So, we are back into the running. We did a quick 3 mile there-n-back, non scenic run. It was rough, and my phone had conveniently died overnight, so I couldn’t give my brain the satisfaction of numerically defining the degree that it sucked! Aside from the expected soreness, Kim is feeling more like her normal self again. She feels more positive more often and feels other than positive less intensely and less often. 

So, there’s where we can start to recognize what exercise does for our overall system. The advice of just about every GP Kim talks to is to take it easy on the cardio. However, since taking up running, her thyroid has been doing a better job of keeping up. Every visit, her blood work shows her needing less and less supplementing. Medical ‘professionals’ are astounded. How on earth can diet and exercise possibly improve thyroid function? 

Well, western medicine practitioners, it’s time to wake up and start getting a grasp on the more subtle connection between mind and body. We have long known of the ability to think ourselves physically ill but for some odd reason we shrug off the idea of thinking ourselves into wellness. 

So we have this conundrum where we are tired, so we think we have no energy for exercise. We are less productive despite putting in more hours. We eat our emotions, then our organs pay the price. We are stressed, so we give our dopamine receptors some stimulating with whatever our personal fix is. –On a side note, I have to say I’m glad society is coming to recognize screen time and social media as addictions, and realizing that they have corroded their share of relationships.–

What to do? 

GO! 

I’m not a Nike fan, but they have the right slogan. Go running. Go swimming. Go for a walk to start. Go throw a Frisbee. Go do whatever you can tolerate doing to get your heart rate up. But Just Do It. 

Not every day is going to be warm and welcoming, and you won’t have all the motivation every time. However, that release of tension and little bit of neuro receptor simulation lies just on the other side of doing it. Those days you just aren’t feeling it, the only thing you need to expect of yourself is a scant few minutes of the day to Do It. 

Taking that first step gives you momentum you otherwise wouldn’t have. It circulates your fluids and gives your brain a fresh dose of oxygen to clear up. It alleviates the stiff, zombie like feeling your body gets after sleeping too long. Immediately after starting out, no matter how far or long you go, you can say you did it. 

To be sure, having checked one item off your daily to-do list before breakfast is a great way to kindle motivation. I do think that another part of it is that you ultimately took that time for yourself, to do something healthy and beneficial for you. Having a fitness tracker has been nice in the sense that there is data to visually verify progress. Instead of letting that German Chocolate cake pile its guilt on you, look at how many miles you’ve put in this week. Maybe you just don’t feel like pounding miles of pavement, but if you run a few sprints, you can at least give yourself 15 minutes of getting your speed up. 

So, it’s a silver lining thought pattern here. Usually, I would utilize such in a situation of reflecting on something that has already happened. However, I think the key is to minimize the threat of the task at hand. Everything seems more difficult if you generally feel less than highly ambitious. You have to bootstrap your body into that mode. Step outside, and tell yourself that you are going to keep going for however long you can because you know that on the other side of your activity, your day will be better for it. 

Most systems with an input and output require some kind of priming. That is to say that you can’t just dump input material at full throttle and expect the system to process it. Your body requires a startup process before it can turn all the food input into physical and mental output. Just like a pump requires water in the impeller, a combustion engine needs mechanical turning over, and a computer must execute a booting process, your body must be made ready to perform. 

Your body is a complex system of ongoing electrical and chemical reactions. Food and nutrition go in, hopefully your body properly processes it, and you are able to function. However, there are an overwhelming number of other inputs that affect your functioning. We know that circadian rhythms create very strong chemical reactions in our body, and not every body reacts exactly the same. We know that the amount of and spectrum of the light we receive affects our system. Completion of 90 minute sleep cycles, ambient temperature, ambient noises or sounds, amount of and quality of interaction with others, the list goes on and on. Our bodies and minds are bombarded with stimuli all our conscious day long and each one causes a unique electrical chemical reaction in your body. Furthermore, humans are given the gift and curse of meta cognition, yet another stimulus, but internal to the system rather than external. 

Thinking about thinking and thinking about feeling. It’s a marginally stable feedback mechanism at best and it primarily controls all of our final output. There is no way to maintain a high rate of ‘productivity’ for any length of time without healthy thought patterns. Dare I say, there is no way to maintain physical health for any length of time without the same. 

The phrase for this post is physical-hormonal-mental throughput, but I guess it would be more to the point to call it a well-being triangle. Each aspect has a profound effect on the others. It is difficult indeed to try to directly control or otherwise override the hormonal signals, which leaves only our mind and body to work with. As stated near the beginning, we can’t even always control our thoughts. We get stuck in a negative feedback loop of “why bother?”

Generally speaking, you always have control of your body. As such, you always have a way to trigger positive feedback via exercise. Unlike any chemical concoction you might want to Alice in Wonderland down your throat to gratify your choice of hormone receptors, exercise is a whole grain option that gives you the satisfying high along with a boost in immunity, removal of toxins, and a readiness for less than welcome stimuli in your day. The only real negative side effects are possible injury and increased caloric needs. Maybe not the latter so much, just for those of us with already hollow legs. 

So go get some fitness! No matter what the rest of the day brings, you’ve at least done that much, and it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. 

What is and What Once Was

It’s about that time of year again. The time that I round out another complete trip around the sun and reflect on the accumulating trips that came before. 

Eleven years old. I was working my first full time job, and my money was helping pay rent. I lived too far away from town to be able to hang out with friends. My boss decided I couldn’t take the day off for my birthday. Well, truthfully, I realize my parents were in on this plan of putting me to work, so it may have well been their decision. Either way, it really fucked my head that I should have to work on my birthday. I mean, not that I feel a day off on your birthday is mandatory. I just feel like an underage worker should be granted a federal holiday off work. 

My next thought is that I’ve put in 20-some odd years of working full time, when the hell do I get to retire? 

…I really try not to think of my 21st birthday. I met baby’s mamma in Sydney. I made it epic, because that was how I rolled back then… sigh

I worked my last job a full year. The last few months were the worst. I told my CEO I needed a break, but being the only one that knows what the hell is going on pigeon-holes you into being omnipresent. There is no break for the man in charge. For my birthday, I went to a place that no number of G’s of wireless service can reach. I listened to my girlfriend and kids bicker most of the time. I nursed a pretty gnarly hangover of the grade I haven’t suffered since the Corps. The highlight and savior of my trip being a couple six packs sitting in the cold creek. 

A few years ago, my very good friend treated me to a birthday extravaganza. It started with an evening of bar hopping. Not to a point of oblivion, though. Just good and loose. That was followed up by a day at the waterfront blues festival with my son. He couldn’t stop at that, though. The following day, we hung out at the beach. The best part of that experience was simply not having to drive. 

I have been in a funk for a while now, and today was certainly not an exception. I spent the majority of the weekend trying not to think about how broke I am. How much my family bickers. How much I just want to be the hell alone for a day. I wanted to plan a day to go see my best buddy in Yachats. I wanted to get in touch with my old self, to remember who I used to be. I miss my old self. 

Anyway, considering the time frame and all, I opted for a little hike. I think I might have mentioned my issue with underestimating the challenge of distance when I’m with other people in a previous blog. The last time I hiked Multnomah Falls, I was with my girl and our kids. It rained like a fire hose on us and we gave up at switchback number 2. The time before that, my son was 1 1/2 years old. I hiked a solid 8 mile loop, which included more than 5 waterfalls. All together, today we finally made it to the top of Multnomah. I still wish I could have done the long loop around. So, coming into another year on this earth, I can’t help but ponder my life now. Maybe I haven’t changed so much, or maybe I’m just resisting that change. Maybe there’s more to my life now, and I simply need to learn to apply that strength, resilience, and stamina to a new path. 

That same good friend that treated me on my birthday asked me yesterday if I was happy. I was stumped for a response. Happy? Like I have something exciting and new to report? I have to force myself to say yes. I’m content. Mostly because I can’t just be miserable about my situation forever. I am working on defining my issues and struggles. I know I have to work on myself and that my family can only be as successful as I lead them to be. I have chosen this life for myself, and given the hell I’ve been through in the past, I can’t say it’s not fair or that I have no control. 

I’m just in a funk because life isn’t fully what I expect it to be. I’m not the original me, but my life is not what it originally was. Some of the things that I had successfully escaped from my youth are creeping back into my life. I feel like my parents were in my shoes once, and I don’t fully understand what caused their fallout to avoid my own. I just want the ass kicking, name taking, me back. I want the life back where a ten mile hike was a chill afternoon. 

I try to remember why I was just slightly less than content back then so I can appreciate what I have now. Family. A loving family. A bickering, whining, fussing, booger picking, hanging on my arm, then cuddling up in my lap, loving family. I don’t know what to do with my family, but I am grateful that on my birthday, I have one. 

❤❤❤ 

🎂🎆🎇

Pp: And German Chocolate Cake!

Service Counter

Finally installed, and I really enjoyed making it. The counter top came out pretty nice, and I’m now pretty happy that I have an extra panel of oak glued up for my own enjoyment. I’m thinking a coffee table would be nice. 

Really, given the color of everything else in the room, I feel like this was a bit light. They went with it because they liked the red in this stain. 

Classic supply chain management fail right here. First, I priced out and built these doors based on ‘saloon door’ double action spring return hinges. I bought them from a local supplier who urged me to opt for gravity return hinges at about 3x the price. After those hinges sat in a bag for a week, I came around to their thinking and decided these folks would not appreciate the ‘Ka-Thunk!  Ka-thunk ka-thunk thunk thunk’ while focusing on their laptops. So, I went to install on Sunday. I live in a city, and weekends are indistinguishable from weekdays in my life, so I hadn’t thought that the store would be closed. 

No big deal, I thought. I got the girlfriend on the job of finding those hinges while I loaded everything up and made the drive to the site. She called around then finally called me to report that nobody in town that’s open on Sunday had those hinges. Fine, let’s just get these janky ones from the big box store. I opened the app, found the ones I need, confirmed they were in stock, and texted her the description, SKU, etc. 

She couldn’t find them, and Sunday I walked away from the install without doors hung. 

So, Monday I went back to the first store to swap the hinges out, pay the extra $40 and get the doors hung. I already stopped by the orange box to return what I didn’t use and spotted the hinges I had sent Kim for the day before. They were fully stocked. I looked them over real hard, then decided against purchasing them because I wasn’t sure if they would hold open as needed. It was only $7, and I had just returned $20 of stuff I purchased to ensure not running out of anything during the project. I didn’t buy them. Then later in the morning, after circling the hardware store 3 times to find parking, I am standing there in line waiting to finally get these damn hinges. The attendant was the same one, so I tell him to swap em out and I wish I would have taken his advice earlier. “Did I tell you about how I installed these hinges in my…?” he begins. I nod and he tells me all about it on our way back. He hands me two boxes and I inspect them. “Are these the hold open type?” I ask to confirm. Nope, they weren’t. The hold opens would be yet another $15 more per hinge. Ugh! Well, 4x the price pretty well blows the budget, but I want to deliver quality. I shake my head and tell him whatever, just put them in my hand so my wallet can go get sucker punched and I can get on with life. Oh, there’s only one hinge. Can I get it expedited? Sure can. For another $40. How soon? A week at best. Gah! 

I then kill an hour slogging through traffic to go to the orange box and buy their stupid hinges. They are crap. They irritate me with their blatantly careless design that makes the door just refuse to rest exactly centered. But they were fully stocked, so I threw down my seven bucks, hung the doors, got paid. 

Whew! Lesson learned, purchase absolutely all the materials at the beginning of the project, even the expensive things you don’t need until the end. 

Collecting Thoughts

Conquering the Chaos

“I just feel like my mind is racing through thoughts and I’m not in the driver’s seat.” my girlfriend tells me.

“My mind is like lightning. One brilliant flash and it’s gone.” I tell her. 

She worries about her craziness and I try to comfort her in saying we are all a little crazy in some way. I suppose the trick is to figure out what flavor of crazy you are and try to learn from others how to live with it. 

It is in thinking about the furious pace of thoughts that led me to realize something else has been missing entirely from my life. Furthermore, it closely coincides with the point in time that my finances first turned south. In the Corps, we were issued a small notebook, olive green of course, that we kept tucked into a pocket or in the small of the back. We called it a smack book for motivational purposes. These days, I manage to keep myself together in a clipboard and spiral notebook or two. 

In a time of my life when I was single, I felt I was operating at max capacity all the time. Physically and mentally, I pushed myself to my limits. I had much more space than I needed, so an extra bedroom became my office. What I really wanted was a full sized whiteboard, but I didn’t have a way to really accommodate one. Instead, I bought a can of whiteboard paint, and painted each closet door top to bottom. 

Oh, the memories of that ‘whiteboard’! Many, many drunken attempts at deriving fluid dynamics equations or balancing chemical reactions. Tutoring. Strategizing. Motivating. Budgeting. Dreaming. All of that and more happened on those doors. It captured those fleeting, golden ideas. It reminded me of problems I have already addressed and no longer need to store in my already overloaded brain. It reminded me of my priorities and plans as I went through the week. It was an anchor for my very actively wandering mind and helped immeasurably with my productivity. 

It is high time we get a giant whiteboard again, I say. Once again, I have no idea where to accommodate one, but it is needed. We already found we can barely function without the whiteboard calendar, so I don’t know fully why I wouldn’t have gone for at least another small one. 

I am not a big fan of the paint though. It is a two part resin and doesn’t actually apply like paint. I believe a foam brush is the only way to get the coat even enough to effectively write and erase, but I wouldn’t mess with it unless you consider yourself handy. 

It’s something to start with. 😁