An Experiment in Scotch

"I write to discover what I believe." Michael Lopp on Twitter

Tag: discovery

Lent 2015

I don’t have a lot of tra­di­tions but Lent seems to be a con­sis­tent one that I uphold. For me it’s a jour­ney of both sac­ri­fice and growth. I give some­thing up to expe­ri­ence the sac­ri­fice inher­ent to the orig­i­nal Lent and I try to find some­thing cre­ative to do each day as a way of grow­ing. Last year, I chose to write a blog post every day. That wasn’t only a growth goal, it turned out to be quite a sac­ri­fice as it takes a lot of ded­i­ca­tion and time to write even a banal few para­graphs. Towards the end, I resorted sev­eral times to haikus or com­plaints about how hard it is to write every day. I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of the goal.

This year, we have a fam­ily Lenten sac­ri­fice. We have strug­gled some over the last year or so with finan­cial issues from a “we’re in a new rela­tion­ship and there are some things to ham­mer out” view, from a “we’re spend­ing too much money on bowel move­ments and hang­overs” view and not to men­tion from a “we had a really awe­some wed­ding in Savan­nah” view. Some of these were con­scious choices we made. I wouldn’t trade the wed­ding for any­thing. Oth­ers were habit, the habit of just pulling out a card. Pay­ing for some aver­age food and a cou­ple of drinks with a card is pain­less. Pay­ing for aver­age food and a few drinks with a $50 bill isn’t so pain­less. If you read any of the main­stream “no-debt” resources, almost all of them advo­cate pay­ing with cash to make you aware of your spend­ing, painfully aware in some cases. From this awe­some post at Get Rich Slowly

  • Pay­ing in cash forces you to con­sider the real pur­chase price — No mat­ter what you’re buy­ing, the fact that you’re pay­ing in cash turns it into an entirely dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. That’s because you have no choice but to con­sider how much money you’re pay­ing over­all, and not just what you’ll have to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • Pay­ing in cash might help you spend less – When you force your­self to pay in cash, big ticket items start to lose their appeal. Try walk­ing into a deal­er­ship with the inten­tion of pay­ing $15,000 or $20,000 for a newer car. All of a sud­den, the prospect of keep­ing your old paid-off junker becomes an incred­i­bly attrac­tive option. Am I wrong?
  • Pay­ing in cash keeps you out of debt — The best thing about refus­ing to finance things is that it keeps you out of debt in the first place. We all know what a slip­pery slope that can be. There are so many ben­e­fits to being debt-free, includ­ing the option to save more of your income, less stress, and of course, the feel­ing of not really being beholden to any­one. It’s a free­ing feel­ing, and it’s one that I will never, ever sur­ren­der with­out a fight.

Dave Ram­sey says much the same thing. The pow­ers that be tricked us when when they gave us all credit and debit cards and taught us that we could afford any­thing. Any­time some­thing is eas­ier, it should imme­di­ately arouse sus­pi­cion espe­cially when it comes to spend­ing money. So we’re embark­ing on a Lenten jour­ney of pay­ing cash for every­thing out­side of bills and auto fuel. I’m toy­ing with shut­ting down even the bills and send­ing in actual checks like peo­ple in the Stone Ages did (no offense, Mom). The upside of all of this is that come April 1st, we won’t have to lis­ten to the suck­ing sound of a $1000 or more black hole com­ing from the bank account as our credit cards swal­low money.

For a pos­i­tive fam­ily Lenten chal­lenge, we’re going to spend one night a week ded­i­cated to just us. We’ll have din­ner and then play a game or read a com­mon book. The goal is for it to be inter­ac­tive, to avoid the pas­siv­ity of the com­puter or the TV. I’ve been want­ing to learn Go for a long time so if we just trade off every week between that and Rum­mikub, maybe I’ll only get my tail kicked every other week.

On a per­sonal side, I’m going to repeat last year’s sac­ri­fice of sugar. I started this year with some new per­sonal record blood work (where the per­sonal record is cho­les­terol through the roof). I have some per­sonal ideas about car­bo­hy­drate intake and cho­les­terol that are, umm, not main­stream. Last year, I had my LDL lev­els down to 164 which is pretty good for me. In Jan­u­ary, they were back up to 245. Obvi­ously, that’s a heart attack wait­ing to hap­pen accord­ing to the main­stream med­ical media. I’m pretty sure it’s a result of 4 months of eat­ing like I was get­ting mar­ried and next to zero exer­cise. That 164 value came in May last year when I was eat­ing well, had just come off of giv­ing up sugar for Lent and was exer­cis­ing a rea­son­able amount. I don’t think that’s a fluke. To really kick things off with a bang, I’m going to do my longest fast ever, 48 hours. There is a wealth of infor­ma­tion out there in sup­port of reg­u­lar and inter­mit­tent fast­ing as a healthy prac­tice. I’ve been doing inter­mit­tent fast­ing (food intake only between 12 and 8ish) for a cou­ple of weeks. But the health ben­e­fits of a 48 hour fast are hard to ignore so I’d like to start inte­grat­ing that into my eat­ing. So start­ing today, until Thurs­day night, it’s water and cof­fee and tea only.

On the growth side, I’m going to think about it some today but I’m lean­ing towards some­thing sim­i­lar to last year as well when I wrote every day. If I did that, I’d expand it out to “write, draw or play the saxophone/piano” every day. On the upside, I miss those right brain cre­ative type things. On the down side, I have some goals for 2015 that would likely suf­fer because there are only so many hours in the day. Things like Span­ish and read­ing would go to the back­burner. I have ways to mit­i­gate this because I have a 2 hour train ride each day. But writ­ing more per­sonal code or exer­cis­ing would be harder and harder to fit in. So that’s going to be a medi­a­tion for today to try and iden­tify what I really want to focus on and what’s important.

Fast­ing Resources for those so inclined:

Escaping The Cozy

Not too long ago, I went out to my veg­etable gar­den to fer­til­ize all the plants. I have events on my phone’s cal­en­dar that reminds me when it is time to fer­til­izer par­tic­u­lar things in our yard. After I was done, I left the bag of fer­til­izer on the grill shelf out­side because I knew I was going to have to fer­til­ize again soon. Or maybe I was being lazy. Either way, the bag got left there. I use fer­til­izer from Gar­dens Alive and it comes in a heavy duty brown paper bag that sits upright. About a month ago, we went out onto the patio and were greeted by an explo­sion of brown feath­ers pour­ing out of the bag of fer­til­izer streak­ing towards the creek call­ing us hor­ri­ble names as it went.

Turns out, a Car­olina Wren had taken up res­i­dence in the bag, built quite a cozy nest and laid her eggs there. Our book on Texas birds notes that Car­olina Wrens are noto­ri­ous for nest­ing in odd places like car bumpers and mail­boxes. I guess this one decided the small bag of fer­til­izer was perfect.

Over the next few weeks, we’ve watched mom and dad come and go. Scooter seems to be bliss­fully unaware of the pro­ceed­ings thank­fully as that was my biggest worry, that he’d start to inves­ti­gate. His inves­ti­ga­tions with most wildlife aren’t of the harm­less curi­ous sort and he has a way with keep­ing the pop­u­la­tion of all sorts of things low in our back­yard. Last week, K noticed chirp­ing noises com­ing from the bag and mom and dad started bring­ing var­i­ous insects back home. Now the biggest issue was man­ag­ing to keep Scooter occu­pied some­how when the chicks made their vir­gin flight. Luck­ily, he went to board­ing last week for a vaca­tion which seemed to coin­cide perfectly.

On Tues­day morn­ing, one of the par­ent birds was sit­ting on a tiki torch mak­ing a par­tic­u­lar call over and over again. I quickly fig­ured out that he was try­ing to coax his off­spring to come out of the bag and fly around with him. I’m not sure how this nor­mally works but I expected it to be a rea­son­ably quick pro­ce­dure. How­ever, when I came home last night, there he was, still in the same spot doing the same thing. Appar­ently, it’s dark and cozy in that lit­tle bag of fer­til­izer and the out­side world is noisy and scary. As of this morn­ing, no chicks had come out yet even though both mom and dad had joined the effort, hold­ing bugs in their mouths while they made that same noise over and over again. Tonight, after almost 36 hours of coax­ing, they were gone.

It’s easy to find your­self doing the rou­tine, liv­ing in a com­fort zone. I feel like I’ve been liv­ing in that bag for quite awhile myself. Not in the same sense as rely­ing on my par­ents to bring me grasshop­pers to eat mind you. Def­i­nitely in the sense that it’s dark and cozy and doing things dif­fer­ently from what I’m used to is scary. My com­fort zone in all sorts of things hasn’t mea­sur­ably been expanded since well…I don’t know when exactly. I’ve been doing the same things in my career, in my hob­bies and in my per­sonal life for years. It’s resulted in some great suc­cesses but it’s also kept me from grow­ing. That lack of growth is start­ing to haunt me, both fig­u­ra­tively and literally.

I’m ter­ri­fied of risk. I’ve always been cau­tious but the con­stant rein­force­ment of not tak­ing any risks has cre­ated a mon­ster inside of me, one that is uncom­fort­able in all but the most com­fort­able sit­u­a­tions. It’s become dys­func­tional. Unfor­tu­nately, my instinc­tual way to fix it is do some­thing extreme, totally change some­thing in a dras­tic man­ner. That’s prob­a­bly not good on any level. You’d never want some­one who hadn’t exer­cised in years to sud­denly run a marathon. What I need to do instead is insti­gate a plan for get­ting to the point where I can run a marathon. Right now, that plan is lim­ited to a daily med­i­ta­tion but I’m hop­ing to expand it as my com­fort zone gets wider.

Even­tu­ally, if you want to be happy, you have to take things into your own hands. You can’t keep think­ing how things ought to be unless you’re will­ing to do what it takes to ensure they are. For a long time I’ve been afraid of the risks involved in mak­ing things how they ought to be. I’m try­ing to fight through those fears and start doing things.