Category Archives: Coffee

September (FALL/AUTUMN) is Here, and I Couldn’t Be More Excited

Pushups for Veterans

I was challenged by friend Shon Byrum, the Mayor of Winchester, Indiana, to a Facebook challenge. I don’t typically partake in Facebook challenges, because I fail to see how they do any good, since they focus on some effort that neither raises money for, nor provides a solution to, whatever problem the challenge is supposedly addressing. This challenge, though, raises awareness about a problem that I think is particularly important.

Why is it that so many of our honorable veterans come home, only to end their lives shortly thereafter?

For the particular challenge Shon invited me to do, the acceptor of the challenge is required to do 22 pushups for 22 days in honor, or memory, of the approximately 22 veterans per day who commit suicide because of PTSD or another mental illness. I’ve done two days worth of pushups, and I’ve challenged two other people to the same challenge, which is a part of it. They are then requires to pass the challenge on, so awareness is spread via the viral nature of social media.

Starting tomorrow, I’m raising the bar on this challenge for myself. I’m putting 50¢ in a fund toward a veteran’s charity that helps with mental health care services for members of the military who are returning from war. By the end of the challenge, if my math is right, which it may not be, I’ll be donating a total of $220 to help our veterans who’ve been damaged by the effects of war. I haven’t yet decided which charity I will chose, but I’m doing research. I’m leaning toward The Soldier’s Project; my only hesitation is that their help is only available in limited parts of the country.

Starting tomorrow, I’m also going to include a different link to a different charity each day in my post. I’d love it my friends and family would also make small donations to those charities in honor of this challenge. Then, I think, I’d feel like I’m doing more than just raising awareness of a problem, but I’d also be helping to provide a solution to the problem as well.

Goals

Running: I’m doing it, and I’m enjoying it more, so I guess that’s progress. I’ve also started swimming again. Merideth and I started with a four day a week pact, but four days is a bit daunting along with running, too, so I am shooting for three days a week from here until the end of October.

Compassion: I’m struggling right now to articulate my spiritual beliefs. On the one hand, I do so love the Jesus, but on the other hand, the things I love about Jesus feel more Buddhist to me than anything, so I am reading a lot about people who have a similar struggle that I do. And there are many of us.

I’ve slipped bit on the vegan front, and I even ate a bit of meat when I was in Texas for training for work. I regretted it immediately. I wanted to breathe the life back into the cow, but I couldn’t, so I just cried instead. Into my hotel pillow. How sad.

Looking back, I’ve lumped a bunch of things into this category of compassion and the one that doesn’t seem to fit is meditation. But it does. I mentioned the other day that meditation has helped me more in my adult life than prayer has, that isn’t really true, I suppose, except that meditation is helping me become friends with myself in a new way. By focusing on my very existence—my breath—  I’m able to recognize my absolute physical impermanence, and through prayer while running, I’m able to contemplate how to use my newfound settledness, inner-peace, or contentment to love in a new way. (I’m sorry if this seems a bit scattered or not really well articulated, but I’m trying to find a way to describe some feelings that are utterly foreign to me.)

To focus my meditation, I’ve been using a mala that I made from a bunch of beads I’ve had since college, but today I ordered a new mala made of jade. Because I use beads when I pray, I find to be especially helpful—but in very different ways—to use beads when I meditate. Meditating each day for nearly a month now has helped me to empathize with people more easily, to pause and give space in conversation, to not have to talk as much, to be able to listen more, and to be able to have unbridled compassion and love.

It’s really beautiful.

Social Media and Creativity: I came back onto Facebook, because I missed some of my friends. I’m learning to balance it and my other activities, so that I am not consumed with comparison (Facebook envy), anger, and an irrational need for feedback and approval. I haven’t done any art, and I’ve done little writing. I have done quite a bit of listening to Podcasts, which are feeding my imagination and making me think differently about the world in which we live. And I’m still reading quite a bit, so I’ll call this successful for now.

Finances: I’m paying things down. Slowly but surely. Not as fast as I wanted, but it’s happening.

Pay It Forward: I’ll be in Canada during the classes for the sexual assault advocacy, and now that I really think about it, there are probably other volunteer opportunities that will suit me better, ones that won’t cause me personal distress. I’m open to suggestions of things people might see me doing, so if you think of anything, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Fall and Autumny Things

Most people know that fall is my favorite season of the four. The air is crisp, the trees are filled with color, and everything looks and feels like it might just curl up and take a nap. Fall is filled with apple cider, hot chocolate, bonfires, and pumpkins; all of which make me extremely happy. I get to have impromptu coffee and writing time with fine people like Ico, and the drive to work doesn’t feel so bad with bright red and yellow trees guiding the way. Essentially, everything is more amazing in the fall.

The two most exciting things for me this fall are that my friends Julie and Alan are coming to visit this weekend and we’re going to an apple orchard/pumpkin farm, and then a couple of weeks later, I get to vacation in Canada with my beautiful wife and my amazing little brother. What’s most awesome about our vacation is that we’ll also get to spend time with Merideth, Josh, and T-Bean in New York.

The end. 

Basically, my life feels like it is on an upswing. I’m working hard to help this be a new way of life for me,

  • one in which I have a balance between setting goals and achieving them, or not.
  • one in which I have personal health, and a healthy way of interacting with other.
  • one in which I am serious, and also feel free.
  • one in which I respect those around me, but I also respect myself.

Peace. Grace.

The Bad Waitress; Wellness Update

This morning my friend Stevi and I went to the Bad Waitress, here in Minneapolis, for breakfast. We both had the Heavy Pedal, which is a tofu scramble with whatever added ingredients the consumer desires. Stevi got some vegan sausage as a side, and I have to admit that it looked amazing. She said when she first tasted it, she thought they gave her the wrong sausage. If I can forego being humble for a moment, I am sure it tasted almost as amazing as the vegan sausage links I make. I haven’t made them for a while, but I should probably make it a point now that I’m vegan again.

I loved my meal, because it was full of good stuff like broccoli, mushrooms, curry powder, and turmeric. I also got gluten-free toast as a side and a delicious Americano to drink. Sadly, the gluten-free toast wasn’t vegan, but I ate it anyway, because it was already toasted, and I hate to waste food. Once I started eating the toast, I was pretty excited because it was the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m on a quest to find delicious gluten-free and vegan bread so I can eat toast at home sometimes. I just love toast. I mean, I really, really love toast. TOAST!

After we ate, we walked down a couple of doors to Glam Doll Donuts, where Stevi bought some vegan donuts to take home to share with her fiancé. They seriously have a dozen different vegan donuts there, and surprisingly, the guy who helped us wasn’t pretentious. I prefer Mojo Monkey Donuts, because the women who work there are all kind and helpful, it’s closer to my house since it’s in St. Paul, and I’ve never had good luck with the folks who work at Glam Doll. However, this visit really bolstered my desire to return there to get some vegan donuts, because the guy was kind, funny, and helpful. Basically, he may have saved my faith in Minneapolis donuteries. Mojo Monkey is still my favorite, though.

On our way back to our meeting point, we stopped at Mississippi Market Co-op, where Bec and I are members, to get some Shea butter and turmeric. I ended up buying organic, fair-trade bananas and a container of organic, fair-trade Shea butter for my super-dry skin. I looked at some apples, but they were all $8-14 per bag, so I decided to buy those at our regular grocery store where I can get organic apples for $6 a bag, and I decided not to get the turmeric right now, because it was also very expensive. I get paid on Friday, so I’ll go this weekend to pick some up.

I have read and been told that turmeric can help to manage inflammation, but I am not a huge fan of the taste of it, unless it’s mixed with curry powder like in my tofu scramble this morning. I thought I would buy some turmeric capsules to help keep my joints from aching and my skin from itching so much. I have to admit, that short of some dry skin, my itching “from the inside” (as I like to think about and explain how my allergic itching feels) is all but gone. I have had one hive in the past two weeks, and I haven’t been taking my allergy medicine at all.

I don’t feel tired, and I don’t have pain when I go for a long hike. I’ve hiked as far as six miles on hilly terrain with no soreness in my joints. I’m at a point where I want to start running again, and I thought I would start again once May got here,  but I’ve decided to hold off until I get back from Indiana and start running again on June 1. I’ve lost 13 pounds since March 28, which wasn’t a real goal, but I’m pleased that it has happened, since being less fat will certainly make running success come easier.

I’m feeling content with my dietary decisions, and will continue them through May 25th when I visit Indiana. I am trying to decide how to manage life with being vegan full time, and will likely compromise with vegetarianism sometimes. As for sugar, well, I am hoping to be done with it, since sugar is neither good for me, nor does it help with my mood stability, and I’m just addicted to it. Once I start eaten M&Ms, I can’t stop until the entire bag is gone. I’m also planning to remain mostly gluten-free, but I have no desire to be insistent about it. Since food is an excellent way to bring people together, the last thing I want to do is cause people to be anxious about preparing meals in which I will partake. I am, however, planning to ask for a food allergy screening at my physical this summer, just to see what things may have actually caused me to feel so yuck all winter long.

Lastly, I got a great shirt in the mail last night. It says, “Eating animals is weird.” The more I think about it, the weirder is to me, and the sadder I am that I ever went back to it. Today, while Stevi and I were talking about speciesism and Danna Hardaway’s book When Species Meet, I was thinking about when I’ve shared the 50-wing platter at the Anchor Bar with Adam or Josh. That’s 25 chickens right there. The thing about veganism, or even vegetarianism for me, is that I feel so much more at peace. More kind. More compassionate. More loving. I’m not ingesting violence. And I feel it. Call me hippie-dippy, but I seriously feel more at ease in this world when I don’t have another animals blood coursing through my veins. And, I don’t have dreams of cows, pigs, and chickens chasing me at night.

25 chickens, dead for one meal.

25 chickens.

25.

Eating animals is weird.

Hope and Goals

Hope

I received a text from my wife earlier this week that simply said, “There is hope,” to which I responded, “Always.” There is always hope if nothing else, but hope is a funny, tricky thing.

St. Thomas Aquinas describes hope in this way: “a movement or stretching forth of the appetite towards an arduous good.” And I’ve read a lot about how hope is first and foremost predicated by our eternal desires, but I know people who don’t believe in any concept of eternity, who seem to have more hope than those who do have a sense of some eternal life.

My questions to myself this week, after that text, has been what do I believe that hope is? What do I feel when I feel hope? How does hope fit in with my four guiding principles: peace, grace, love, and joy?

What is hope? I’ve meditated on this for a bit of each day, as I rest, as I read, as I drive, as I work. For me, I think hope is a bit like St. Thomas describes it, but it’s more than just “stretching the appetite forward towards an arduous good.” Hope is visualizing that good and picturing yourself as a part of that good, as if it’s already happened.

For me, hope is a bit like competing in an endurance event. I visualize myself completing the course, putting myself through the imaginary rigors, and then finishing the test in an admirable way. I revel in the fictitious completion of the event, so I can then begin the event with hope that I will finish. I’ve already owned the success of it.

Hope is much the same. I have hope in a future event or a present moment, because I’ve already visualized the success of that event, not giving room for any other outcome. I hope good things into being by imagining them as such. My hope is not always related to my spiritual life, but also it is an integral part of my corporeal reality. My body and my mind need to feel hope to make it through each day. Many of my dark days have been comprised of a lack of hope, my inability to imagine an arduous good, to taste it, to see it, to imagine it into fruition.

What do I feel when I feel hope? Well, for me hope feels like standing in a field of yellow and purple wildflowers, near some pine trees, listening to the breeze come up over the hill, hearing birds sing and the bees buzz, and knowing that everything will work out for good.

The sun is warm on my skin, and hope burns my heart.

Hope feels like owning beauty and growth and goodness, even before they are completely mine. Hope is knowing and resting in the fact that whatever happens will be worked into some good, somewhere in the world.

How does hope fit in with peace, grace, love, and joy, as my four main guiding forces in my life? Hope is what ties them all together. Hope is what help me see peace where there isn’t any. Hope is what helps me gives grace and receive grace in difficult situations. Hope inspires love, and love is, ultimately, the arduous good that is hope’s appetite. Finally, hope breeds joy. How can I not be joyful or experience joy when hope is the visualization of an arduous good?

The tricky thing about hope is exactly what St. Thomas points toward in describing the desire of hope as an “arduous good.” There is nothing worth hoping for that is easy to attain, since hope, in and of itself, implies that the object of that hope is something difficult to attain. Are peace, grace, love, and joy easy ideals to attain? If they were, each day would not be struggle to live out those values. There wouldn’t be whole volumes of spiritual and religious texts written about how to have hope, how to think positively of the future, how to live a “happy” life, how to prosper, who to not lose faith, and how to live with an eye toward the future. Even religions that focus on the present, like Buddhism, have sacred texts that refer to hope as a positive tool for life.

Today in my life I feel hope. For a better future. For loving others. For changing this tragic world. For giving grace. For my vocation. For living life forward.

Goals

Veganism This is not going so well, and, at the risk of sounding like I am making excuses, it’s because I love to have dinner with my wife. It’s incredibly difficult to cook food that suits us both, and since she cooks most of the time now, I find it rude to ask her to cook special food for me. We’re strictly vegetarian in the meals that we share, though she does eat bacon for breakfast.

Volunteerism I got an email from 360 Communities about being a sexual assault advocate , and I really want to do it, but this time around conflicts with work. I’m waiting until the next round of training in October. I am volunteering in March to help pack lunches for small children, so that will have to suffice for now.

Prayer and Meditation I am enjoying an increased level of quiet time to contemplate spiritual things. I am trying to make the St. Francis prayer a morning ritual, thereby working to commit the prayer to memory. In its entirety, the prayer goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Exercise I ran the Winter Trail Quarter Marathon again this year, and my time was awful, but I finished. I then proceeded to get sick again, and I have only run once since then. Apple’s Wellness Challenge begins tomorrow, and I don’t want to let my team down, so I’ll be exercising daily for the month of February, starting with an hour-long swim tomorrow morning.

Alcohol and Caffeine This one really isn’t difficult. I’ve had a couple of beer and a couple of coffees, but, to be honest, I’m not really even tempted by either one right now.

Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God.

 

 

Why Practice Abstinence?

I’ve read a bajillion Internet posts about how much better people feel when they give up alcohol and/or caffeine.

You can read here about Gretchen Rubin, the woman who wrote The Happiness Project, a book I read with quite a suspicious eye, and her reasons for quitting drinking. I had quite a difficult time relating to much of what she said, because I kept feeling like anyone could be happy if they had all day to hang out and write and do things to make themselves happy, instead of working 40+ hours a week outside the home, like so many of us do. I mean, I’d be happy if I could just eat, swim, trail run, write, and do art. Any agents out there willing to negotiate a contract for a fat athlete who just wants to athlete and write about it? I promise, I’ll make it a good read.

You can read here about how long it might take for you to return to “normal” after quitting drinking.

You can read here about a year-long fast from alcohol and the effects it had on the writer.

In fact, if you google “a year without alcohol,” you can read a countless number of people’s quests to live a year or more without drinking any form of alcohol. Similarly, if you google “a year without caffeine,” you can find a significant number of stories about how people exist without coffee.

After spending a bit of time googling and skimming other folks’ quests of this nature, I decided to try my own little experiment. Since October 10, I’ve not had any alcohol or caffeine, and I plan to continue this fast or abstinence at least until I go back to Indiana in January, so October 10-January 16, when I will run my favorite night time trail run. What is that? About three months?

After nine days, do I feel better? I wouldn’t say that I notice a significant difference in my body. I don’t feel necessarily peppier, or necessarily groggier. I don’t notice a difference in my habits in the morning, since I replaced coffee with a caffeine-free herbal infusion by Tiesta. In the evening, however, I have to say it’s a bit disconcerting to not have a beer with dinner or to wind down when I come home from work.

I’ve spent some time in the past year shedding some of my bigger addictions, and I feel much better for it. It’s amazing how quickly things that seem innocuous when we initially begin them can become such controlling and overwhelming forces in our lives, how they can begin to color everything we do, and how we eventually let them control how we interact with people and how we think of ourselves.

Though I wouldn’t call alcohol or caffeine, in and of themselves, addictions for me, I will say that I think I rely on them too much, so a few months without will do me well. As of now, I’m looking forward to a life of clean eating, exercise, and an eventual Ironman finish. Today, I can say I am back on track.

Choosing Life and Breathing Love

I’m sitting here in my pajamas at 10:19AM on a Saturday before I work from 1PM-10PM at the Apple Store in the Mall of America. I’m drinking expired Caribou Blend coffee that I earned by working at Caribou one day a week. I’m helping my grandchildren, the twins, put my Riley Hospital address stickers on their shirts. The address stickers are almost as cool as band-aids, probably because they get to have limitless address stickers, and we’ve had to limit them to only one band-aid per visit, ever since that visit where they used two whole boxes of band-aids in about 20 minutes. We’ve already watched Mickey Mouse Road Rally, and eaten breakfast and second breakfast. They’re now taking their Mamo to the park to play, then to the river to throw rocks into the water, then to the post office and grocery store. This is pretty much the perfect start to a day.

I’m taking advantage of an increasingly rare and special mood of my own and writing a bit. I’ve not posted anything here for almost six months, because I was trying to give myself some distance from my writing process and from sharing all the things about me, which I hadn’t (and possibly still haven’t) sorted out. Sometimes writing provides clarity, and sometimes the process just muddies the waters in a way that isn’t the least bit helpful. I also read back through a lot of my blogs, and realized that I was on a wild cyclic path, one I hadn’t been dealing with, and one I wasn’t sure I could deal with. The cyber-trail here indicates a lot of swinging from really good moments to really deep, sad, depressed moments.

And, being more honest than I am comfortable with, some of my darkest times aren’t even recorded here, because I was embarrassed that I had no control over my feelings, because I didn’t want to burden people I love, and because I didn’t want the stigma of being so sad I’d contemplated taking my own life. Many times in my life, I just wanted it all to end. My darkest moments were the 18 to 24 months surrounding my move to Minnesota, from March of 2013 until January of 2015.

I needed to move in order to really see how sad I’d been. I needed to move to get a new lease on life. No one was at fault for these moments, and most of you didn’t even know I was having a hard time. I hid it well.

Some of us, for whatever reason, are just prone to depression, suicidal ideations, sadness, loneliness, or the like. For some of us, this can happen even when it seems as if everything is going amazingly well for us. I’ve struggled with this since I was about 12-13 years old. For me, there are a string of reasons—none of which I am ready to divulge to the general public—for my depression. For me, my depression is coupled with addictions or obsessions of various sorts, loneliness even in crowds of people, feeling misunderstood or not good enough, feeling like no one will ever really understand me, and simply not wanting to walk outside of my house to face the world.

But something keeps me going.

A glimpse of hope?

A bit of grace?

A kind word?

A tattoo that says, “Give me hope in the darkness”?

I’d like to say that I am in a place where I will never have to struggle with any of this again, but I can’t be certain. I can say that I haven’t had a suicidal thought since early last spring, but I can’t say I never will again. I am learning to take each day one day at a time, and I am learning to set reasonable and attainable goals to keep myself focused on the joys of living.

Here are some of my long-term goals: to be alcohol abstinent for a while, to run three times a week and swim three times a week, to go hiking once a week, to find the joy in small things, to not allow the bad things in the world overtake me, to write more, to remain vegetarian, to find a therapist and work through some of this, and to tell someone if I start to feel sad, overwhelmed, or otherwise not right.

I know deep down that living can be a joyful and beautiful thing.

At my best moments, I love life. I love to have fun. I love feeling on top of the world. I love running, hiking, swimming, biking, disc golf, and the simplicity of a walk. I love the fine arts. I love rivers, lakes, and the ocean. I love crunching fall leaves under my feet. I love humanitarianism. I love sacred beauty. I love secular beauty. I love my family. I love my friends. I love a nice blue sky. I love people and their idiosyncratic behaviors. I love watching life be beautiful.

I love all of this.

When I can.

As hard as I can.

Because, in those moments, I recognize the joy, the hope, the grace, the beauty, the love.