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Penny Library – Jan. 2020

Portrait of a Native American

He waved her off, shook his head, and said, “No thanks. I’m fine already.”

Bella smiled and offered him her hand. “I’m Bella Squire.”

He shook her hand and said, “Pete.”

I’d also seen Pete Bowyer before. He was Native American, of the Klickatat tribe. His ex-wife was a waitress at this diner. Pete was semi-traditional, most of his family danced or drummed for a show at a casino just North of Vancouver Town, but Pete liked to hunt and fish. His other hobbies seemed to be drinking coffee and keeping tabs on his ex-wife. 

Poor Bella was chasing a branded bull with that one and her eyes narrowed when she realized it. So she turned her attention back to Mani.

Pete took a pouch out of his pocket and crumpled some tobacco from it onto a rolling paper. He licked the edge of the paper and rolled a cigarette with one hand which he stuck behind his ear.

Penny Library – Dec. 2019

Portrait of a Cowgirl

The moment Mani took his seat she left her’s and approached him.

“Is this seat taken?” she asked, resting her hand on the back of the chair to Mani’s left. When he shook his head, she sat and offered her hand, “Bella Squire.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Mani, good-naturedly.

Bella smiled. She had shoulder-length blond hair tucked up, under a cowboy hat. Her shirt bore as much filigree as the fabric might hold and her jeans were tight enough to prevent her from putting anything in her pockets, even her hands. But I knew from past encounters that she rode barrels in the rodeo for a living. I’d also seen her sing Karaoke on a few occasions and I knew that she did that as well as she rode a horse. According to the wall in the men’s room she rode everything well, but I have no reason to believe it or not.

When Michelle freshened up her coffee, Bella brought out a small flask and spiked it. She offered some to Mani and he gave her a wink.

She poured a dash in his cup as well and then turned to offer some to the man on her left.

Penny Library – Nov. 2019

Portrait of a Fighter

I parked up front and shouldered my laptop bag. It was cold, but not so cold I needed the coat I wore. As I reached the entrance, a vehicle pulled in and parked next to mine. I paused with my hand on the door handle and looked back to see who it might be. A Toyota pickup someone body-lifted three feet, twenty years ago, rolled to a stop and its owner stepped from the cab.

He wore a camouflage jacket, rugged work pants and boots. He wore his face clean-shaven and his hair short and flat. I knew him by reputation, Manual Salazar, or as they nicknamed him in the octagon Mani Scar.

I held the door open and stepped back to let him pass. He gave a short nod and crossed the foyer where he returned the favor and held the inside door for me. We both headed for the counter. I let my bag drop into a swivel seat and sat near the cash register with my back to the door. Mani removed his coat, revealing his signature tank top that bore an American flag and accentuated his bulky chest and arms. As he sat in the seat on the end, by the restrooms, I noted the tribal tattoos that began at his elbow and patterned nearly to his neck over his left shoulder. The pattern parted around an earlier tattoo that read “I bleed for my country,” and a large scar from a bullet wound.

I knew from seeing one of Mani’s MMA fights, that the shoulder facing the bathrooms bore another tattoo reading simply ‘Army Ranger.’ Outside the octagon, Mani had fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

I could stare at him no longer without being weird so I took in the next patron, already seated at a booth in what had once been the smoking section.

Penny Library – Oct. 2019

General Prologue

In the Pacific Northwest, April marks the sixth consecutive month of rain. In a few weeks though, spring might start and the anticipation of sun builds in the bones of man and beast alike.

This is the time of year when insomnia creeps into bedrooms around city and town, and prods its sleepless victims to seek out the company of strangers.

The drinkers seek out a bar and the hoppy brew that may soon lure them to sleep. The working poor and entrepreneur seek extra shifts at work. But a small, odd group of disenfranchised non-drinkers, already drunks, bleary-eyed students, urchins, and the occasional stray mundane find their way to an all-night diner.

So afflicted, I sought out the warm glow of a diner downtown in the center of Vancouver Town, and watched the motley cadre of regulars assemble.

Having sought such company of strangers before, I can tell you these were no stranger than usual. Still, to distract my spent brain, I began to record all I saw and heard. Ennui plagued many of us and conversation broke out to fill the void, soon shifting the group from strangers to acquaintances.

However, before I rudely leave the reader in the dark, let me briefly describe the diner and the group of people who’ve joined me. Together let us pass the night and if the sunrise tomorrow is visible through the clouds may we glimpse it together before driving home.

Journey Plan: Healthy Balance

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(Note: This season physical health journey will focus on balancing my endocrine system through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Other Journeys this season include True-Up/Sharp Ax and the Eve & AM Journey. )

Welcome…

I’m excited to start this journey. A little history: I’ve always been pudgy but I wasn’t really unhealthy until I got a high-stress job about ten years ago. About the time I needed to start focusing on my health because of age I let it go almost entirely. It’s been an uphill climb since.

The reality is, even if you don’t struggle with your weight, our western diet and lifestyle don’t lend to health. We fight a two-front battle with our own bad habits/lack of knowledge and our culture’s lack of nutrition and physical activity. In truth, I’m not the only reason I’m fat, but if I don’t take on responsibility then I’m not empowered to change it.

My Goal…

I’m not a fan of traditional goal setting. I don’t find it innately motivating the way some people do. That may come as a shock given that I’m in the self-improvement arena with this blog and the books that are coming. I just know that goals can take my focus off what I really want (abundant life) and make it about one thin aspect of that (dropping x lbs. in x amount of time).

I do find goals helpful as benchmarks to make sure I’m not doing something unhealthy and that I’m still on track.

I’ve lost 70lbs in that last 5 years, then hit a plateau. Last year I broke through and lost another 15 lbs, hurrah! Which I gained back over winter, boo! So my first goal this season is to drop 5lbs a month for June, July, & August.

I can tell you what has worked:

Thrive by Level helped a lot, but was pricey, so I’m searching a for good replacement for it (probiotic/prebiotic/metabolism boost). I focused heavily on the gut when I lost pounds last time and will again.

Sitting less. I was able to add more activity throughout the day, which I will again. I love to “ponder walk” now, and whenever I hit a roadblock at the laptop I get up and walk around the block. I come back with answers and better health.

I worked out in the gym 3 times a week. Again that got expensive and after my initial boost, it leveled off effectiveness. I shifted to home workouts and that’s the direction I’m going to stick with this time. I read somewhere that 7 out of 10 people who lost weight and kept it off worked out at home or within a block of home.

I got sick…by that I mean I literally came down with the flu, pneumonia, then bronchitis during the winter of 2017. It shrank my stomach and I didn’t stretch it out again until the holidays. I’ve been really healthy this year even though my wife and daughter got sick this last winter. I’m going to use portion control & intermittent fasting techniques, described below, to reproduce a smaller appetite.

My Conclusions from Last Years Experiment

It may seem like a disappointing list but I learned two valuable things. First that some of the most significant things we do for our health can be quite simple and obvious. The other thing I learned is that there are saboteurs in the mix that cause failure no matter how hard you try. I think I identified that saboteur.

Although recently you’d think that fad diets were equal to men and women, for decades mainly they were aimed at women. I don’t think we get quite the right balance of nutrition while trying to eliminate everything that could or does cause problems. That combined with our current load of chemicals, stress, and sedentary lifestyle creates a hidden logjam guaranteed to derail our health efforts by running us out of willpower.

My Plan at this Time:

I’ve been pouring over research and testing ideas on myself for the last couple years and we need a two-pronged approach. First, self-control is actually part of God’s nature. It’s listed among the fruits of the Spirit… (Gal 5:22 & 23)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 

So we can’t divorce our Spiritual walk from our efforts to become healthy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need a plan. My friend Chriss Skaggs once said, “God supplies everything you need, like salvation, but if you want something in this world you’ll need to fight for it.

So step two is an effective plan. That means we need a flow of actions that address a wide variety of physical, emotional, and lifestyle needs.

In the past I’ve looked at the areas I need to cover as Sub-Categories:

  1. Diet – What to eat/not eat
  2. Exercise – strength training, aerobic
  3. Lifestyle – Sleep, active habits, etc

It can be helpful to list my research that way since it’s the widely accepted way to do it. I’ll include both my own experience/research and also what I’m learning from Ben Levi’s course on building testosterone without supplements.

  • Diet – What to eat/not eat
    • Basically paleo (+ legumes & relume grains)
    • Eat Brazil nuts before bed
    • Supplements: Creatine & Magnesium (Probiotics, Prebiotics & Digestive Enzymes)
  • Exercise – strength training, aerobic
    • Basically CrossFit (eventually)
    • Starting with Home workouts, resistance, and isometrics
  • Lifestyle – healthy habits
    • Sleep,
    • Active habits, (Don’t sit so much)
    • Stretching, balanced (tai chi)
    • Stress reduction

I have a new take on the categories this time based on a balanced approach. Since I’m amazed by the mileage I’ve gotten from simple changes, I believe we need to conquer this incrementally. So I’m going to break things up into stages as you’ll see below.

 

The List So Far:

Lifestyle – Start here if you want to have success

Sleep – when your body repairs and builds hormones

Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room. (Red light okay, Blue light is bad). Eliminate electronics an hour before bed. Get at least four 90-minute increments (6 hrs) 7.5 hours is best. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning (even weekends). Train your body.

Ponder walking – (Stop being sedentary)

Get up and move, look into standing desks, park farther from the door, find a fun activity like hiking, swimming, or bike riding that you can do with friends and family. Get one of those watches that reminds you to get up and move.

Stretching – Not what you’re thinking

We need a full range of motion. Static stretching is good too, and I will start doing it every night before bed. But the big need here is activities that require us to work the support muscles. I’m eager to find a good tai chi (or hsing ha), teacher. This way I can de-stress at the same time.

Stress Reduction – Live inside out, and loved

We need to a balanced approach to handling both the urgent needs of the day and making progress toward our life goals. I’m writing a book later this summer on ways to be more organized.

Frankly, there are seasons in life when we need to just survive, or work our way out of a corner. This doesn’t mean we aren’t loved by God. I’m writing a book to address this concept right now.

For the purposes of this journey plan, we need daily devotionals before bed and first thing in the morning. I recommend Graham Cooke’s audio teaching on rest and the Daily Battle section of my book, “Primacy of God.”

Drinking – (Reduce liquid calories, add water)

Increase water intake by having some on hand at all times. I’m allowing bullet coffee every morning (occasional red wine in the evening).

I’m supplementing my food with a morning smoothie of almond milk, protein powder cinnamon & turmeric. I’ll add more on this later.

Things in moderation: Alcohol (Mainly red wine) & caffeine (coffee once a day, never pop).

Eating – (Basic diet is my take on Paleo which I call the caveman diet)

Portion Control – The toughest thing I’m going to do by far. I’m going to eat from a smaller plate, take home half of any restaurant meal, reduce protein size and add veggies to lunch & dinner.

What I don’t eat: No processed sugar or artificial sweetener, pre-prepared foods with more than five ingredients, gluten, MSG, or things I’ve learned I’m sensitive to (milk). For now, I’m giving up mint (anti-testosterone).

I can’t worry about everything all the time, so I’m not stressing about sodium or fats.

What I do now eat: I’m not strictly low carb; to paleo, I add,  dried fruits until lunch, rye bread or ancient grains or steel cut oats during breakfast okay.

I specifically try to eat fish & avocado! Salads or veggies with lunch & dinner. Eat more garlic, onions & basil. Brazil Nuts before bed snack! (Contains selenium, vital, but only eat 3 or 4 nuts)

I take supplemental vitamin D3/K2, Creatine, Magnesium,

Things in moderation: Dark chocolate.

Core – Balanced Health begins in the gut

Diet –

I’m supplementing my food with probiotics (kombucha/kevita/pills/fermented foods). Digestive enzymes capsules.

Work out –

Squats (Ti Lo Han), Sit-ups, Push-ups, front & mule kicks (while balancing)

Intensity – (to be added in phase three)

Diet – supplement with EGCG (green tea extract) sometimes.

The big add here is intermittent fasting. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the method I favor is skipping breakfast a few times part of the week. There’s good research to support the benefits of fasting on insulin sensitivity, but the big goal here is to shrink my stomach and keep my body in it’s place.

I’m going to skip breakfast on Tuesday/Thursday.

Work out- Break a sweat and lose your breath

In addition to the other maintenance workouts I’m doing, I need to break a sweat at least three times a week. Rip a little muscle and raise your heart rate. This triggers my metabolism to burn and my endocrine system to balance. It’s also true that having more muscle results in burning more fat. Men need to labor, it’s in our DNA.

I’m going to try to find productive ways to get this workout Monday/Wednesday/Friday, like yard work, but I’m willing to hit a gym sometimes with a focus on my arms and shoulders.

Cheat Days –

Might sound crazy to include this here instead of the lifestyle section, but really it’s just dealers choice. The idea here is to increase willpower by giving yourself a break once in a while.

I’m going to combine this with a weekly date night. Want to reduce the feeling of being deprived by knowing there is a day when I can enjoy what I’m craving. It’s not gone forever, it just has to wait until I decide to do it.

An added bonus here is that if I screw up early in the week, I simply need to count that as my cheat day. The other big advantage here is we often discover that eating that thing you thought you wanted wasn’t worth it compared to how your body feels later.

 

 

Any resources I’m leaning on God to help with

All of it! I wish I had someone to tackle this with me, but I’ll manage.

Specific places I predict challenge (prayer requests)

I’m concerned because when I take on something big like this it often derails something else I’m working on…and I can’t let the other journey’s I’m on fall off my plate. I’m trusting that if I go moment by moment God is faithful to take care of things.

Estimated Start Date: June 10th (the day after my birthday)

 

Journey Plan: True-Up/Sharp Ax

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(Note: This Journey Plan addresses this Seasons plan to clean up loose ends and gain effectiveness. )

Welcome…

Not unlike the HouseFix Journey, this will list a lot of things I need to do. I’m also hoping that by explaining my reasoning you might get insight into my organizing system, which will be a subject of a journey and ebook in 2019. Sharp Ax/True-Up might seem a strange name for a journey, but it’s one of those cool combined action efforts, like the Eve & AM Journey. It’s actually short for four concepts that fit together so interconnectedly that it’s easier to track them together.

Sub-Categories:

  1. Sharp Ax – things I do to automate or improve efficiency
  2. LEARN – seeking out more understanding, more skills, better ways
  3. True-Up – Leftover or undone items needed to finish a project
  4. Finish Strong – The other 1/5th of the project that’s hard to do

What it is:

We can’t just do things to improve our lives, we need to also improve our methods of improving ourselves. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying something like, “if I had three hours to chop down a tree I’d spend the first two hours sharpening my ax.” That’s what inspired the name of that sub-category. If you take a course on speed reading, for example, you’d save time on everything you do every day, especially the process of learning. (I intend to take a course by Ben Levi on Udemy called, Become a Super Learner very soon.)

LEARN is actually one of my strengths and also a lifelong addiction of mine. I simply don’t feel right if I’m not ingesting new information.

The Big Difference between True-Up and Strong Finish…is nuanced. True-up is something God has put on my heart this season. I tend to get frustrated with a lack of progress and complain to God that I’m not making progress. God asks if I’m really out of actions I can take. It’s humbling to realize that I’m begging God for step 5 and 6, actually throwing a tantrum and refusing to take steps 1 thru 4 until He shows me the whole plan. Well, this category is for things the steps I can take.

Strong Finish relates to a core concept/desire I have for the Cleric Path. It’s something Mike Q. Pink calls spontaneous wealth. Most creative types get what I’m about to say, but I’ll try to explain. When you get a flash of brilliance that transcends what you could do in your own power. Most of us live our lives in a way that is too busy to even record those epiphanies much less take action on them. I call them Blessons, (Blessings + lessons) and I’m determined to take advantage of them.

What I’ve learned in trying to set aside time for these Blessons is that I tend to capture and use about 80% (4/5ths) of it before life rends me away. Finish strong is about being faithful to complete the remaining 1/5th in order to really receive what God is handing out.

 

The List So Far:

Sharp Ax – things I do to automate or improve efficiency

Laptop Clean up (renew virus protection, clean up junk files, esp pics in DBox etc)

Mobile office: incorporate my tablet so office/writing functions are more portable

LEARN – seeking out more understanding, more skills, better ways

Udemy class on balancing the endocrine system – current (link for more info)

 

True-Up – Leftover or undone items needed to finish a project

Laptop Clean up, delete old desktop notes & add new–(mission/vision/values/battle/message, etc. )

Finish Strong – The other 1/5th of the project that’s hard to do

Pea Gravel project in the backyard

Water heater run off

Make Daughter’s tablet kid-friendly

 

More to come…

 

Edited this far

Steps I’ll take and What I’m hoping God will do

While watching a kids show with my daughter, I heard a character mention mechanical advantage as connected to incremental efforts. It hit me like a rhino at full speed. Part of the reason change is difficult for us is that we need to know we’re working on grand things, but we’re seldom able to do more than just crawl to the next line. We’ve lost sight, well, I’ve lost sight, of the nobility inherent to surviving against all odds.

It’s not just the knight in shining armor who makes victory in a battle. It’s usually the human cockroach who knows how to keep himself and his friends alive through impossible odds that end up doing all the fighting on the front line.

My point here is that most of my victories didn’t result from my excellence as much as my obstinance. Most of the finish lines I’ve crossed in life weren’t danced across, they were crawled across or stumbled over.

I want that leverage that comes from focusing on the next step. I believe that one thing that will help is celebrating the ugly wins. Getting excited over the tiny victories. The same God who can give me peace in a storm can give me joy over the underwhelming successes.

 

Any resources I’m leaning on God to help with

God’s got to come through with joy.

Specific places I predict challenge (prayer requests)

I’ve got to remember that there is no negativity in God and no matter how busy I am, nothing is more important than fighting the battle over my attitude.

Estimated Start Date: Underway.

This Season Plan (Spring 2018)

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(Note: for more about This Season Plans, including how I produce them and why see the explanation at this link. )

This Season Spring 2018 Plan:

New Season Spring 2018

May 2018

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”— Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 (NIV)

Current Situation:

I’m fearing that I’ll arrive at the end of the summer in the exact situation I’ve been in for the last two years. I don’t see the chess pieces God is moving to back my desire to monetize my calling. My wife and I have a secret adventure planned for this fall and I don’t feel progress toward it.

Seasons Recap:

2012 God clarified my glory: bringing life to dry bones. 2013 God simplified my life through shameless humbling/shaking the agreements from me, like my craving/fearing my heart’s desire to be recognized for my talent. 2014 God reframed my understanding of risk and hardship. I needed to embrace that God was pushing me out of comfort to explore shameless humility: my deep water. 2015 God showed me that finding my deep water (what I pull up short of doing) was the key to finding my calling and that my resistance to that indicated disparity between my flesh and the new man. 2016 I spent trying to apply “The secret to abiding in Christ as a cleric”–living in dependency and wonder (I worship what I fear), externalized obligations (in the light), and imagination (my unique gift). 2017 God refined the topic of applying my calling to helping others and earning a living, then He began healing my boldness. 2018 God lead me to find focus (single purpose) on my calling/mission/message etc. He also healed my fear of public humiliation, pushed me to launch unprepared, and declare my desires as His plan for me.

Bringing it all Together:

If I boldly believed my current project is going to be successful, I would rise early and work on it before anything else. I would do anything I needed to get rest each night and I’d approach my day rested in the knowledge that I can do all things in Christ. I’d stop believing that I need to figure out how to make the project successful and remember that only God knows the outcome He wants for it. I should just finish it!

Daily Battle:

  1. Choose the light side of the paradox.
    I trust God to catch me if I fall and would rather die serving my purpose than live a slave to fear.
  2. Declare who God says I am.
    I’m an adventure writer pursuing wisdom as I adventure. I believe Jesus came that we would have life abundant. My mission is to wake the walking dead Christians who waste the gift of life trying to be safe.
  3. List 3 – 5 things I can do, even if I can’t see how they’ll fix things.
    Skip all TV, bed by 8:30 pm & up by 4:30 am, be intentional about everything I do (eat or say).

Who is God being for me this season? I’m built in his image, what part of His Glory is He restoring in me this season? If I reimagine my circumstances as part of a redemptive plan, what’s God trying to accomplish with them? Is there a theme to it all? What gift or superpower would result from me being healed?

God wants to restore in me his image as a Providor and Giver of Good Gifts.

The New Season:

A) Looking at the crossroads of my answers above, what do I feel God is saying right now about this season?

He wants me to stay the course. He wants to show me that I’m doing more than I think and He can be trusted to come through at the appropriate time.

B) What outliers did I think of during this process? What things did God speak to that I wanted to ignore because I couldn’t see where they fit in?

God wants me to work on receiving supernatural rest, physical health and fitness, & cleaning up unfinished projects so I’m ready to move when things change.