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My dear (mostly Facebook but also recognizable in public) friend, Chris Ferguson, compared blogging to screaming on a street corner. It’s the perfect metaphor for blogging. Throwing something out there are hoping it sticks with someone. Anyone really. It got me thinking about my little blog. This space started as a place that I wanted to use to collect stories for Lita. Something to show her when she gets older. Another kid and a few posts later, I categorize myself as a half-ass mommy blogger who mostly uses Instagram/Facebook to showcase my collection of thoughts and stories, my version of screaming on the street corner.

 So what WOULD I scream from a street corner? What ideas or notions do I want to send into the world and hope “stick” to those around me?

First, I live my life believing that I am worthy of love and belonging (my homegirl Brene Brown taught me this. It is a fundamental idea I live by and also a position I mother and wife [those are verbs now-it’s fine] from). I believe you are worthy of love and belonging too.

Second, I believe everyone deserves grace. Lots and lots of grace. As human beings we’re constantly running the rat race. Running (read: trampling) over one another, trying to get to the top of the heap. It’s all a little ridiculous really. People need grace. They need to know that wherever they are in life is OK.

Thirdly, forgiveness or just frickin letting it go. This certainly hasn’t come easy to me and it will continue to be a struggle throughout my entire life, I’m certain of it. I sat down with the rockstar Pastor from Awaken Community Church a couple years ago. I sat down with him to tell him how much I was struggling with still being angry with someone who wronged me several years ago. I hated this person and held so much resentment for how they were continuing on with their life never to even be tripped up it seemed. And guess what Rockstar Pastor told me? He told me plain and simple- you may hate him but he is not your burden to deal with. Leave that burden to God (non-Christians, don’t lose me here, simply swap out for what you believe in. More and more I find myself swapping God out with Universe).

Mic drop, folks.

It’s simply not my issue to deal with how this person continues to live his life. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to hear that this person was simply not my burden. It seems like such a simple concept but we’re all guilty of getting lost in the resentment, hate, bitterness of those who’ve wronged us. Forgiveness might not be the right word for this. I don’t believe I forgave this individual (and that’s OK, grace remember?). Rather, I choose not to overwhelm or burnden myself with thinking about it. It takes practice but through enough self care and talking yourself through it you can get here.  This would be a lot to shout from a street corner. So how do I wrap it up in a pretty little bow?

Friends. You are worthy of love and belonging. You deserve grace from yourself and those around you. The people who deserve to be in your life will give you grace. And finally, release the burden you’ve been carrying. The person who wronged you, they are not your burden. Leave it to whatever powers you believe in. Practice this and it will get easier. These three thing, while relatively simple in theory, have changed the way I mother, wife, friend, colleague,daughter. They’ve helped me learn to roll with the punches a bit more and not take life too seriously because spoiler alert, we’ve only got one life to live and it’s pretty damn short.

Xoxo Casey

Instagram: @caseyspeaker

Blog: lovenotesforlita


When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher handed out a “No Excuses, No Mercy” list of words that every eighth grader should be able to use correctly in context. She wasn’t asking a lot, mainly the correct use of there/their/they’re, your/you’re, to/two/too, and the fact that “a lot” is two words, not one. The consequence of violating the list was something like a reduced score on the assignment no matter how you cried or how loudly your parents yelled. I remember being surprised that enough kids were making these mistakes that she needed to make a list for us. “These guys have been in class with me since first grade,” I thought, “how did they get this far without learning this??”

The list shortly disappeared into the black hole that was my backpack and I never gave it a second glance. The idea stuck with me long into adulthood, however. I’m finally motivated enough to make my own, so here is the official El Chris No Excuses, No Mercy List for Life.

Be an adult and go to the dentist.

SURPRISE! Nobody likes the dentist. Again, you’re not special. You’re normal. But for serious. Quit complaining and go to the dentist. Floss your teeth, brush them, then mouthwash. In that order. Then see your dentist once a year. If you do that then you’ll likely not have the same problem as the Ke$ha fan in this comic. Go. To. The. Dentist.

 Chew with your mouth closed.

This is why you’re single and will never find love. This is why everybody in your break room hates you. These malignant masticators who chew with their mouths open are the same ones who use the office microwave to reheat Tuesday’s garlic sriracha fish fillet and stink the place up. Hell, it’s the guy you chewing gum with his mouth open on the bus in the morning. You know, the guy still using hair gel and wearing Under Armor as going-out clothes. That guy. Don’t be that guy. Close your fucking mouth.

Grow a pair and get your bloodwork and shots.

Whoopee doo. You don’t like needles. That doesn’t make you special, that makes you normal. The people who LIKE needles are the ones you need to worry about. Go the doctor, get your physical, and get your shots. And don’t try with your anti-vax garbage. Thimerosol isn’t even in most vaccines and even if it were, you know what’s scarier than being too stupid to understand the difference between ethylmercury & methylmercury? Fucking measles. Stop being stupid and get your shots.

Back up your damn photos

Yeah no but really. You know people who lost all their photos. You’ve lost all your photos. Your phone broke/got stolen/had some magical glitch when you were drunk. This is not a surprise. This happens and odds are it WILL happen. Back them up on your computer AND in the cloud. I use Google Photos to sync my photos with my work phone, my personal phone, and my external hard drive on my computer. I can access them all in an instant and if my house burns down, I’ll still have my photos. If you don’t like Google, you can use Amazon drive for free unlimited storage if you’re a prime member.
You can sign up for a free Dropbox account, or you can use Flickr’s insane free TERABYTE of storage. At this point, the only excuse you have for losing all your photos and contacts is laziness.

Know your damn passwords

This one is especially infuriating because people who don’t bother to remember their passwords are WAY more likely to ask me to “fix” their phone. Well, if I can’t log in to ANYTHING then I can’t tell you why you can’t get into Farmville or help you delete all the spam you get or really do much of anything at all unless you know your passwords. Write down a list and keep it in a safe place. Make a secure password that you can remember. Do SOMETHING.

Remember Christmas

I mean for Pete’s sake here. It’s on the SAME DAY every year, and every year I see people scrambling at the last second and act like it’s a complete surprise that it’s Christmas and the doctor’s office/post office/bank is closed. How do you function?

Stop being surprised that it’s Monday

Just like Christmas, it’s the same day every week. Monday is the day that follows Sunday. Generally, you have to work Monday. I see people online posting things like “Nothing is worse than being hungover on a Monday” or “I didn’t get enough sleep last night because I slept until noon” or some other damn thing you’d think was an ironic joke from Cathy but nope. It’s real life. It happens every week, so SURPRISE it’ll happen again. Do. Better.

I’ll own it. I stopped blogging. I got lazy and a little chubby and a little busy. I stopped taking care of myself and fell off track with my weight loss journey. Since I’m the most important and interesting person in your life and you totally care, I’ll summarize everything that happened between my last post & today.

May 2015: My daughter Harriet June is born. We are consumed by the best thing to ever happen to us.

beard man bearded man holds baby harriet

 

June 2015: The Patient Wife teaches me the magic of babywearing. Harriet and I take many walks with her strapped to me in the Moby. We also mow the lawn together.

El Chris beard babywearing Moby bearded man wearing baby El Chris wears Harriet to the local grocery co-op for the first time.

 

July 2015: After depleting all my paid time off for parental leave, my appendix failed & I was whisked away for surgery. I was pulled from work until I healed. Harriet’s godparents started a GoFundMe so we could pay the bills. The generosity of friends & strangers alike kept food in our mouths & our bills paid.

El Chris beard bearded man in hospital bed with infant beard man baby emesis bag

 

August 2015: I had an inguinal hernia repair to fix the hernia I got during my appendectomy. Still off work. I had to go six full weeks without lifting my daughter since she weighed more than five pounds. Roaster Joe snagged me a signed copy of Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers .

gumption nick offerman ron swanson autographed book signed hardcover book signed book

 

September 2015: I finally returned to work. The Patient Wife & I started attending a new church.

covenant church saint paul st paul Awaken Community Minnesota 651

 

October 2015: I get a nasty cough. The Patient Wife, Harriet, and I take a family trip to visit great aunt Varda in Fergus Falls. Nobody sleeps because every time I cough, Harriet wakes up and cries. The Patient Wife makes Harriet a gnome costume by hand for Halloween.

El Chris Harriet June Ferguson gnome costume handmade gnome costume gnome outfit

 

November 2015: The cough gets worse. I got an ear infection. Harriet started eating food in addition to breast milk. She was unsure.  Harriet decided she didn’t like leaves.

Harriet June Ferguson baby in leaves baby unhappy in leaves

 

December 2015: Harriet’s first Christmas! I still have a horrible cough, I still have an ear infection.  She’s enchanted by Christmas lights. She got pinkeye on Christmas morning so the patient wife & I ordered Chinese food, cancelled our plans, & watched movies all day. Side note, did you that breast milk can cure pink eye? With nothing but anecdotal evidence, I can assure you it totally works.

Harriet June Ferguson christmas lights baby natural light baby ambient lighting

 

January 2016: I still have a terrible cough. I still have an ear infection. No amount of inhalers, antibiotics, or codeine will make it go away. We head back to Fergus Falls, this time with my sister Girl With Blog and her family. We pile babies on to Great Aunt Varda. Adorable ensues. Varda is thrilled.

Great Aunt Varda and all of her great grand nieces and nephews

 

February 2016: Our 115 year old clay sewer main collapsed on Valentine’s day. The Patient Wife & I got to stay in a surprisingly nice hotel over Valentine’s day week & we feast at the Valentine’s day buffet. Then The Patient Wife’s gall bladder collapsed. It was removed and once again, everyone we love and friends we hadn’t even made yet brought us groceries and meals. I had the stomach flu the day that she was released from the hospital. My ear infection and cough have finally gone away.

El Chris feeds Harriet June her first Valentines dessert

 

March 2016: Harriet June discovers the magic of buttered toast with jam.

Harriet Eats Buttered Toast With Jam

Harriet also gets her first Easter basket. At 5 AM because she woke up and decided everyone should wake up.

April 2016: The Patient Wife and I breathe and take advantage of some well-earned boredom. I have a birthday. Harriet pretends to be a superhero.

Harriet June Ferguson Pretends to be a superhero girl superhero female superhero bearded guy holding baby

 

May 2016: HARRIET’S FIRST BIRTHDAY! Neighbor Mike hooked us up with beer because we all know that first birthdays are for the parents, not the kids. El Chris holds Harriet June at her first birthday party

Then, Mister Necker flew me and Mister Hoda to Seattle to help him move home. I ate a special “Legal In Washington” candy bar & got so sick that I couldn’t eat the whole pizza I ordered. I went to bed early that night.

El Chris Beard El Chris at snoqualmie falls

The Patient Wife, Girl With Blog, Wanderfit and I  also took a final visit to Fergus Falls to attend Great Aunt Varda’s funeral. She lived a good, long life and got to meet Harriet and her cousins. Harriet got to visit the church where her great grandparents met and sit under the tree her great great grandpa planted in memoriam of her great uncles.

Harriet June Ferguson sitting underneath pine tree fergus falls dane prairie mn minnesota pine tree girl in sailor suit

June 2016: I get to work at camp and get PAID. I also have several panic attacks while at camp. I have crazy, irrational thoughts and chest-clutching tightness for hours on end. I hide it, don’t tell anyone, & just grit my teeth and bear it. I also got to meet Dusty. We live three blocks apart but each had to drive 4 hours to meet each other. He makes neat hats.

Dusty Thune El Chris Steampunk Hats beards dudes with beards wearing steampunk hats

I’m a fantastic actor. I took this picture of myself (and of Dusty) in the middle of one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had.

 

July 2016: I have more panic attacks. I go to the doctor for anxiety. I get a psychiatry referral. Get a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. Start taking magic pills. Start losing weight. I refer to “the Prozac diet” and get some chuckles. Decide to keep using that joke.

I get in a car wreck. Anxiety worsens.

Accident damage to my Kia soul

 

August 2016: The magic pills are working. I lose more weight. My panic attacks decrease steadily, my motivation increases, & I can plan out complex projects. I plan a huge undertaking for The Patient Wife’s birthday, including planting two trees for her. Friends and neighbors come over to help and do a week’s worth of work in a day. I wear the baby while I dig.

51437

 

September 2016: Harriet starts walking. WE’RE PREGNANT! The Patient Wife is too sick to hide it. We tell the world. She’s a machine & takes on three additional jobs to help save for baby.

Pregnancy Announcement

 

October 2016: Harriet decides she’s cool with leaves now. I jump back into film photography and scanning grandpa’s old slides. The Patient Wife gets sicker. She’s nauseated all the time & vomits at least once a day. We go to the ER when she goes a full 24 hours without keeping down water. They run fluids, spank her on the bottom, and send us home.

Harriet Happy in the leaves

 

November 2016:  My sister Girl With Blog publishes a real hold-in-your-hands book! The Patient Wife and I go to the ER  twice more for fluids.  Her doctor decides she needs a PICC line so she can get IV fluids at home. Also so she doesn’t die. We get in-home nursing, The Patient Wife is put on medical leave. We go back to the ER again because of a possible infection at her PICC insertion site. My doctor friend from my gym gets called in for a consult! Once again, friends, loved ones, and friends we haven’t even made yet offered to come help me with projects, chase the wee baby Harriet, and fill our fridge and freezer.

December 2016: Who even knows.

 

The last two years have been crazy. Some people hear about it and look at us with pity. Some people come help clean our house. Some people say “I don’t know how you three got through this.” But we are. We’re getting through it. Our hair is a little grayer. Our skin has a few more wrinkles. But honestly? Once we’re through it, we don’t want to take it back.

In the past 18 months, we’ve learned so much about how to love people. We learned what it means to pick up the phone, send a pizza, or sit with someone in comfortable silence just knowing that you’re not alone. And the wrinkles? We’ll keep them.

The pregnancy announcement created by El Chris and The Patient Wife

The funny thing about getting married is that within an hour of saying “I do,” your sex life becomes public interest number one. Before we even said our vows, there were not-so-subtle whispers of us having a hidden, secret pregnancy because we moved our wedding date up. In reality, we just didn’t want to wait until January to get married, so we moved the wedding to September. According to some in our social network, my lovely wife has been secretly pregnant for almost five years. At our wedding reception, we were asked several times about not if, but WHEN we would have a baby.

As time passed, the interest in my wife’s uterus failed to wane. Most people could be offset by my moderately profane response of “For you, we’ll make one tonight!” if they asked when we were having a baby. But some would press even after that. They NEEDED to know. They felt they DESERVED to know. And every damn time they asked us when we were having kids, it hurt. We were well aware that we didn’t have kids, but many people felt the need to point it out, as if my wife and I somehow forgot that we were childless.

At the very beginning of our marriage, I lost my job managing a gas station. I was told that I could take a 40% pay cut and be a cashier, or quit. We put off buying a house and definitely put off having a baby. If we couldn’t afford to insure a child and pay for daycare then we sure weren’t about to MAKE one.

Even through this financial turmoil, we were bombarded with messages from all sides about how we should have a baby. The pressure was constant. It was especially fun hearing a Catholic priest declare that we were no family without children. Did you know that there are people who believe that? They believe that you and your husband or wife are NOT a family without children. It was despicable. And it hurt every time.

This spring, The Patient Wife and I finally decided it was time. We started trying. One night in August, she took a pregnancy test and it was FAINTLY positive. I decided that I would take one as a control. It was not positive. A week, five pregnancy tests, and a midwife meeting later, it was confirmed. My wife is pregnant!

Now that we’re confirmed pregnant, we’re anxiously awaiting the hysterical, awkward things that people say to us. Now that we’re done collecting the rudeness of people pointing out that we are indeed childless, we’ll begin collecting weird, awful, hysterical, and stupid things that people say to me and my wife now that we’re expecting. This should be fun.

At this point, we’re simply thrilled. Oh yeah, and terrified. Mostly that. Mostly terrified. You can call in sick to work. You can mess up and recover. But you don’t get a do-over with a kid, and you sure as hell don’t get a sick day. But at this point, it’s a dream come true. All those jobs I worked at the same time, all those times I felt inadequate because I couldn’t provide an environment for a child, that’s behind us. Now all we have left is the giddy, ecstatic terror that comes with awaiting your first child.

 

I can’t wait.

Freshly roasted beans cooling in my roaster

Freshly roasted beans cooling in my roaster

What a year. The business I started is chugging along slowly but consistently. I’ve slowly reduced the amount of jobs I’m working from four to two. I set my goals and followed them, but I didn’t get the results I hoped for. I’ll update all of you on this soon.

Two full years ago, a guy out west named Jack read my blog. He was intrigued that I was roasting coffee and whipping up sass way up here in the frozen north, so he reached out and told me he liked my moxie and what I was doing. He also told me he liked food. He and I were a match made in Heaven. He asked if I would somehow get a video of myself roasting coffee, and of course I said yes! Then I realized that I’m an idiot with video. Sure, I’ve made a sex tape or two in my day, but a polished, fully clothed, edited video? I had no idea what to do.

Enter Mr Joe. A man I knew from middle school and high school knew what to do. He owns a successful media company that could do exactly what I needed. I hated that I couldn’t afford to pay him what he was worth, but he graciously accepted an offensively small amount of money to shoot this video. He shot it, he polished it up, and he sent it off. Done.

Now this didn’t happen without a hitch here and there. When Jack contacted me, it was January. Due to the amount of smoke generated when coffee is roasted, we would need a LOT of light to get a good video. Bright studio lights would make a nice haze in all that smoke. To vent the smoke, we would have needed to open the garage door. When it’s 20° below zero outside, that’s just not an option.

Spring came late that year. We had record snowfall in Minnesota as late as May 1st, and it was cold ALL. OF. THE. TIME. It wasn’t until mid-may until we could shoot, but thanks to Joe’s kindness and patience, we pulled it off. And God in Heaven was it terrifying.

I can feed off of an audience. I LIKE speaking in front of groups. But a camera? A camera doesn’t react. A camera doesn’t give you a helpful YOU SUCK when you don’t nail a punchline. The camera just stares. Thank God Joe was kind enough to feed me a courtesy chuckle or two as I talked.

I’ve posted the video below. I really hope you like it. I have since cut my hair and shaved my beard, grown both out again, and cut each again. Many people are mystified by the process of roasting coffee, and I hope that this is a nice, introduction. I hope you learn something, and I hope you keep reading.

 

 

the patient wife el chris fergie rehab home buying 101 diy rehab

El Chris and The Patient Wife had to take some precautions when sanding their hardwood floor.

The other day, my sister, Girl with Blog, was reading her daily e-mail from The Writer’s Almanac. She sent me the poem that made her think of me and The Patient Wife. I couldn’t agree more. The Patient Wife and I, along with Mr and Mrs ‘Hoda, Mr Corn, and a host of others, ripped out walls, sanded floors, smashed up plaster, and shredded carpet when we bought our house. We drank wine and whiskey out of paper cups. We ordered delicious, unhealthy food. We were woefully unprepared and undertrained. We tore at our hair, we bit our fingernails, and we drank a LOT of whiskey. As you can see above, we even had to wear breathing masks to keep things safe. But we came through and made this old house beautiful again. Here’s the poem.

Cleaning House

by Scott Owens

Pulling the house down piece by piece,
we see each other at our worst
before we’ve even had our first date,
my face itching with black insulation,
yours covered with white dust of sheetrock.

We scrape off paint and paper, buff out
spots, old glue, unexplained
stains, remove tacky paneling
revealing forgotten charm, original
beadboard, hard woods, solid ceilings.

We’re woefully unprepared, untrained,
undertooled, cutting off pipes
with hacksaws, filling holes with toothpicks,
brillo pads, good wood pulled
up from where it wouldn’t be seen.

An odd sort of courting really,
hammer and nails instead of flowers,
microwaved Hot Pockets for meals,
red wine in paper cups, all glasses
still mysteriously packed away.

Ripping out rotted casements of windows,
hollow doors, seven layers of floor,
we sweat together, swear together,
bend in unison towards the necessary
destruction that always precedes renewal.

“Cleaning House” by Scott Owens from Eye of the Beholder.

crossfit dogs scrawny skinny fit

A year ago today, I declared that I, El Chris, would become a douchebag. I declared that I would refuse food that didn’t conform to my specific diet. I declared that I would commit to a fitness plan and drink the Kool Aid. I also declared that I would cease my inaction and apathy toward my health. In case you weren’t glued to my blog on January 22nd, 2013, here’s a synopsis:

I went to my cardiologist for my annual heart scan to monitor my defective heart. At the follow up, I tipped the scale at just under 260 pounds. My cardiologist had good and bad news for me.

“Your heart is in great shape, at least for now. You can keep doing what you’re doing and get your heart valve replaced in two years, or you can drop the weight and put off the surgery for another twenty. Your choice.”

So I made my choice. I would diet. I would exercise. I would lose the weight. I would do whatever it took lose that weight.

So here I am. A year later. What’s changed? More importantly, what have I learned?

1. Feeling guilty about what I eat doesn’t change the fact that I ate it in the first place.

A year ago, I would eat a meal. Then I would have seconds and possibly thirds. Then I would feel guilty for eating so much. Then I would feel ashamed for eating so much. Then the cycle would repeat as I did nothing about it and my waistline grew. Once my gym challenged us to follow the paleo diet, I jumped in headfirst and didn’t look back. Once I quit eating crap, my food guilt went away.

2. Whining about being overweight doesn’t do a damn thing.

For more than a year before I changed my diet and started exercising, I complained about being overweight and out of shape. You might be surprised, but this accomplished nothing. I told everyone I knew that my doctors said I had to lose weight, but I didn’t actually DO anything. It wasn’t until my cardiologist told me how dire the situation was that I actually DID something about it.

3. Your diet matters just as much as how hard you exercise.

I learned the hard way that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. I would run ten miles and then eat third and fourth helpings of pasta and bread. I ate triple-layer peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches on leg day, but “just for the protein.” I drank two or three diet sodas with each meal because they didn’t have any calories! After all that, I couldn’t figure out why I was gaining weight.

4. Exercising matters just as much as your diet.

Dieting works wonders, but if you want to get in shape, you need to exercise.

5. No matter how hard you work, there is always someone stronger, faster, and better than you.

I exercise with athletes who compete on a national level. Some are years younger than I am and built like gods and goddesses. They don’t think twice before putting on a snug t-shirt or exercising three times in a day. I, on the other hand, have to pep myself up to get out of bed and exercise. I still hate wearing t-shirts and pants fresh from the dryer, and watching me do burpees is like watching someone slap a full water balloon on a table. But I don’t quit.

6. Taking three weeks off from the gym and going back is WAY harder than just making the time to go.

I thought I was prioritizing and saving my sanity when I took the time between Thanksgiving and New Years off from the gym. Instead, I got psyched out thinking about returning. I got weaker. I got chubbier. My pants got tighter. I was sore for a week when I finally returned. Taking that time off was a dumb move that I won’t repeat.

7. Committing to a diet is infinitely easier with support.

My lovely, patient wife could not have been more supportive. She has embraced this lifestyle with me wholeheartedly, finding recipes for exciting new food, and encouraging me. This would have been an awful year without her support.

8. People are dicks when they find out you’re on a diet.

While LOTS of people are incredibly supportive, many people get personally offended when they find out I’m on a diet. Sometimes I’m met with downright hostility. I’m sure vegetarians can sympathize with me on this. It’s funny how someone who eats a box of Cheez-its for lunch will lecture me on how unhealthy my diet is. At times, it’s clear how threatened many folks feel when encountering someone making healthy changes.

9. Sometimes you have to change your goals.

My goal was to lose 80 pounds in a year. I’m only about halfway there. Sometimes, life truly DOES get in the way. Most of my summer was dedicated to moving into our new house and rehabbing it to be livable. Between three jobs and the work in the house, my goals had to be put on hold. But I didn’t abandon them. Instead, I’ve hit them again with renewed vigor. I’m well on track to achieve my target of an eighty pound weight loss, but I had to adjust my timeframe.

10. This is hard, and that’s okay.

Breaking my relationship with food was hard. Getting out of a warm bed and heading to a cold gym is hard. Turning down drinks and pizza with my friends is hard. Inviting my friends over and cooking them delicious food that I won’t eat is hard. But I do it.

 

It hasn’t been an easy year. It hasn’t been an easy path. But it’s been worth it. Here’s to another healthy year full of personal records.

6fnoOb8

 

A few years back, I went through one of the most intense, polished, and well-executed leadership courses I’ve ever been to. Called Woodbadge, it changed how I lead. It changed how I follow. It changed how I interact in a group, and it changed how I set goals, professionally and otherwise. Since completing my final project for Woodbadge, I’ve seen many, many people set goals who are destined to fail. While I rarely step in to offer condescending advice, I get frustrated watching otherwise successful friends fail.

Now that we’re on the verge of a new year, I see a lot of folks on Facebook and Twitter  who are setting goals. Before you lock in on setting some New Year’s resolutions, consider re-making your goals so they fit the S.M.A.R.T. goal standards so you have a better shot at fulfilling them. Trust me, you’ll have a MUCH better shot at achieving your goals.

Before we dig down and I enthrall you with what each step entails, here’s what each letter stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Reasonable

Timely

Let’s start with specific. Vague goals lead to failure every single time. During the whole ” Occupy Wall Street” debacle, I got unreasonably irritated when I heard participants give answers to “What are you trying to accomplish?” Inevitably, the answers given were always vague. “We want to reduce corporate greed, man!” “We want CEO’s to be ethical and quit building their careers on our backs!” Well that’s just dandy. How will you know when that’s done? When do you want it to happen? Is what you want even reasonable? No wonder the movement fizzled and nothing changed, except the folks camping out finally took showers. Getting back to our resolutions, try this. Instead of “I’m going to get in shape,” say “I’m going to run three times per week so that I can run 50 miles without stopping.”

Once you’ve made your goal specific, you need to make it measurable. Let’s go back to our fitness goal. “I’m going to get in shape” is neither specific nor measurable and therefore doomed to fail. How does one measure “in shape?” Not tired all the time? Not quite as pudgy? Hmmm. No way to tell, really. “I’m going to run three times per week so that I can run 50 miles without stopping,” is great and measurable, but it’s not quite complete.

Now that your goal is specific and measurable, we need to make it attainable. Can a human run 50 miles at a time? Yes. It’s hard, but it’s possible. “I’m going to run three times per week so that I can run 50 miles without stopping,” is technically attainable, but it’s not very reasonable, so let’s move on to the next step.

Our goal is now specific, measurable, and attainable. Now let’s make it reasonable. Has anyone else ever run 50 miles without stopping? Yes, but everybody who has done it had to start somewhere. They didn’t wake up, lace up their shoes, and run. Let’s assume you’re out of shape. You’re not a veteran runner. You’ve never run before in your LIFE. But gosh dangit, you’re going to run. How about changing the goal a little bit? Considering your shape and experience, let’s change from 50 miles to three miles. You’re trying to get stronger and healthier, not kill yourself.

Now we have a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, and reasonable. Now, let’s make it timely. Give yourself an end date. It’s great that you want to run three miles without stopping, but how long until you get there? Will it take you a full year? It’ll feel like that at first, but in all likelihood, it probably won’t take that long. I would say “I’m going to exercise three times a week so that I can run three miles without stopping by April 15th.”  It’s long enough to achieve your goal, but it’s short enough so that you don’t lose interest.

Let’s run that through S.M.A.R.T. Is it specific? Yep. Exercise three times a week so you can run three miles without stopping by tax day. Is it measurable? Yes. You can measure every step of the goal. Is it attainable? Yes. Other people can run three miles without stopping. Is it reasonable? It is! Is it timely? Yes! It’s just long enough to be reasonable, but it’s short enough to keep me interested.

Now that we know how to make solid, achievable resolutions, here are two examples. These are the resolutions I have set for myself for 2014. I feel that two goals are reasonable an the timelines are appropriate.

1. I will achieve my target weight of 180 pounds by July 1st by following my diet and attending my gym 4 times per week.

2. I will pursue a higher paying position with my employer by exploring three different career advancement opportunities offered by next January.

 

What goals will YOU set for yourself this year? Leave your resolutions in a comment. I’ll post the best ones in their own entry.

 

toilet emergency toilet buzzfeed camping stupid milk crate toilet seat bucket

We’ve all seen these “Life Hack” posts on Facebook about “Borderline Genius.” Most are lukewarm ideas, but some are just downright stupid. Here are my rebuttals to the REALLY stupid ones that I just read from 41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius. The bold is what was written on the website. My brain hurts from some of the stupid.

#1. Use foam floor tiles for a softer, more comfortable tent floor.

Really? Foam tiles underneath an air mattress, as pictured, will magically make the air mattress squishier and “more comfortable?” Come on. Buy a mat like the rest of the sensible world.

#3. Also: Mountain Dew + baking soda + peroxide = lantern.

No, it’s a popular and debunked urban legend. Peroxide and Mountain Dew do nothing. If you add baking soda, as suggested, and then cap the bottle, as the picture indicates, you might get an explosive reaction. Stupid and completely not true.

#7. Glue sandpaper to the top of your match holder.

Sandpaper won’t ignite a match. Go ahead, try it. The matches pictured have an entirely red head. These are considered “Strike on Box” or safety matches. The head of a safety match is made of sulfur, glass powder, and an oxidizing agent. It needs to combine with another oxidizing agent, which is present on ONLY the striking surface on the box of matches, to ignite. You can always just buy matches that say “Strike anywhere” because they have the oxidizing agent built right in and they can be struck anywhere. Get it? The sandpaper MIGHT work with strike anywhere matches, which usually have a white tip, but sandpaper is generally much too rough and will usually just rip the head of the match off.

*   EDIT   * Apparently someone got to them before I did. They added “Be sure to buy strike-anywhere matches.”

#14.  Make travel coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss. Really? In the name of convenience, you’re going to use an entire coffee filter (which can make almost a gallon of coffee) and some dental floss to make a 12 ounce cup of coffee? And then what?  Oh, right, you’re going to throw the filter away.  Really? That’s stupid and horribly wasteful. Why not use a moka pot to make some strong, tasty coffee? The filter is reusable, and the coffee is WAY better.

#15. Need your coffee? Bring a few of these. The picture is of a few packets of instant coffee.These are stupid. You’re going to go camping and appreciate the wilderness and outdoors but you need your joe, so you’re going to bring single use, plastic-based, disposable crappy coffee? Gosh, you must really love nature. They don’t even taste good! Why not whip up a batch of Swedish Egg Coffee while you’re camping? EVERYTHING used in that recipe is biodegradable! Don’t be stupid.

#21. Pack a mini first-aid kit into an old prescription bottle or Altoids tin. Right. Golly. A pill-bottle sized first aid kit. I bet a few band-aids and some ointment would be super helpful in ANY first aid emergency. “You just hold on Jim, you might have nicked an artery, but don’t you worry! I have an emergency first-aid kit in my old Valium bottle! Gosh, you just hang on buddy, I got this.”

#23. Put a battery-powered votive candle into an empty peanut butter container to make portable lanterns.  ARRRRGHHH. This is the first lesson of camping. Don’t keep food containers in your tent. Even if you’ve washed them. Even if you’ve bleached them. DON’T KEEP FOOD IN YOUR DAMN TENT. You DO know that nothing will attract bears like the scent of peanut butter, right? Wait, you know what? Please. Do this. Put this in your tent. Let’s let natural selection play a hand.

#24. Make a portable washing machine with a plunger and a bucket. You’re camping and you’re concerned because your clothes are dirty? Play in a freaking lake. They’ll clean right up.

#26. Doritos are great for kindling if you can’t find any. Yeah, I bet you totally can’t find ANY kindling ANYWHERE. If you need to burn Doritos because you’re too stupid to start a fire any other way, then go back home. You don’t belong outdoors.

#27. Make pocket-sized oil lamps out of travel-size or hotel toiletry shampoo bottles.  Are you stupid? You DO know that oil melts plastic, right? Just like heat. Yes. Heat MELTS plastic. Heat that comes from flames. When the plastic melts, the oil starts to leak out. And oil will burn with or without a wick. People doing stupid crap like making flame “lamps” are the reason that we have building fires. Don’t do this.

#34. If you’re going to be hiking, use this biodegradable trail-marking tape. If you go hiking and you’re so stupid that you need to tie orange tape around a tree to follow a PATH back to where you started, then you shouldn’t be camping. If you tie this to a tree while you’re hiking, I will come and take a dump in your tent. A nice, greasy dump.

#36. Use a bucket and a milk crate as an emergency toilet. How is that in any way an emergency toilet? You can’t shit in a hole? THAT’S an emergency toilet. A bucket, a toilet seat, and a milk crate is hardly a response to an emergency. Instead,  it’s a poorly planned disaster. What are you going to do with the bucket when it’s time to leave? Are you going to empty it into a trash can? Will you dig a 12″ deep hole 500 feet from a trail, empty it, fill it with water, stir it, and then mark it with a stick so nobody else digs there? Didn’t think so. Poop in the bathroom like everybody else. You’re not a special snowflake because you think they smell bad.

peanut butter and jelly peanut butter pb&j peanut lunch school lunch bag lunch

As far back as I can remember, I’ve thought that learning higher math was stupid. Maybe it’s for the same reason that I hate football: I’m not good at it. I remember sitting for HOURS as a kid with my math homework, frustrated and angry. My grandpa’s brother was an engineer, and when I was in sixth grade, we had to call him for help and he had no idea what kind of math I was doing. I’m not sure how well ten-year-old me conveyed the assignment, but it didn’t teach me much except that I thought it was stupid.

In middle school and high school, my aunt, a licensed math and music teacher, came over every week to tutor me in math. Minnesota passed a law that briefly declare that if you didn’t pass this math test in eighth and tenth grade, you couldn’t graduate. Never mind that I read at a college graduate level since age 12, if I couldn’t add letters together then I would destined to flip burgers for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I passed thanks to her.

In seventh grade, I rebelled against the establishment by refusing to do my math homework. I thought it was stupid, and I had SO MANY BETTER THINGS to do than math homework. That habit started to carry over to other classes, so it ended pretty quickly, but I still hated math.

In high school, I was placed in the slow learners class, which amounted to me and three other relatively normal kids, and 29 other absolute burnouts. It was less a class and more a period of “sit down and be babysat.” I could get away with reading since I was quiet and well behaved, and my teacher even let me listen to Miles Davis while we worked on our assignment, even though headphones weren’t allowed.

By the time I got to my senior year, I was done with math. I KNEW that I would never be in a position where I HAD to do complex equations without any sort of assistance, and I was DONE. I didn’t care. While I was eventually allowed to drop math to skip a year of French (since I was a language nerd) I had to sit through one quarter of math. Our teacher tasked us with writing technical instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I wasn’t sure why we had to do it, but I knew what she was getting at and I wouldn’t have it. I knew she’d take things literally to teach us a lesson, so I wrote things very, very specifically. Needless to say, it was my final stab against  math. Here’s what I wrote. Take that, mathematics!

Find an old car with gas in it.

Crack open the plastic around the keyhole that turns the car on. Find the two wires that are the same color, and cross them. Hear that engine roar.

Drive to the nearest supermarket, buy a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter (crunchy OR creamy, it matters not which) and a jar of jam or jelly of any flavor.

Drive back to school after purchasing aforementioned supplies.

Ditch the car after pouring gasoline in the tailpipe and watching flames shoot out.

Giggle a little. But just a little.

Return to classroom and discover a loaf of bread already there waiting for you.

Obtain two slices of bread which are of approximately the same mass, size, and shape from bag, by any means your twisted soul desires.

Obtain peanut butter (crunchy OR creamy, it matters not which) and jelly or jam of your choice.

Make sure you have a knife.

Remove lid from the peanut butter jar by grasping the lid with one hand and the jar with another hand and twisting the lid and jar in opposite directions.

Repeat previous step to open jelly/jam jar.

Using adult supervision, place the blade (that’s the sharp part of the knife) into gelatinous of peanut butter approximately 3 ¾” into the peanut butter (Editor’s note: make sure it’s 3 ¾” inches into the peanut butter, not just the jar itself) and using a scooping motion, retrieve the glob of yumminess out of the jar, being oh-so-obscenely-careful not to spill any precious peanut goo on the table.

Place the contents of the knife onto bread. Carefully spread contents back and forth on the bread, utilizing leverage by moving the knife with your hand on the handle (the not sharp part of the knife” and smear on of the flat sides of the bread.

Repeat steps six and seven for the jelly, using the other slice of bread.

To complete sandwich, place the two pieces of bread together so that the peanut butter and the bread are touching each other in a neat and tidy sort of way.

Open mouth. Take sandwich and cram as much of it into your mouth as you can.

Go and sin no more.