G’day, Ryan,

Welcome to 2018, which marks your fifth letter from your 2022 self. Similar to the first, second, third, and fourth letters over the past years, this one is going to give you another set of New Year’s Resolutions to serve as your guide for the coming year as you work towards becoming the man I am now. In honor of this being the fifth year, there is a bit of twist, but we will get to that in due time.

First, of course, is a recap of the 2017 New Year’s Resolutions.

This last year was really quite the year for you, and I think it would be easy to say you accomplished your first resolution to live a better story. Let’s see – you peered into a deep canyon, hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, climbed a tower in a castle, walked through a palace, viewed a solar eclipse surrounded by many great people, strolled through groves of giant trees, listened to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, gazed at the waterfalls of Yosemite, explored a lost coast, watched a sunset on Lake Tahoe, cycled the hills of San Francisco, investigated a lava tube cave by flashlight, was hit by a snowball thrown by your mother with the peak of the largest plug dome volcano in the world right behind you, made friends with very nifty people from all over the world, stopped a young, brilliant guy from killing himself, helped start Social Saturday that brought many great people together, repelled down Hutchinson’s First National Bank Building, led bike tours 650 feet underground at Strataca, created and launched, gave a Talk20 about your New Year’s Resolutions, donated blood four times, saved the lives of eight baby opossums, and had many other adventures along the way. It was indeed a fantastic year.

As far as the other resolutions go, you had some great successes, some failures, and some that landed somewhere in between. Overall, you did indeed do rather than only read with your putting into practice self-help ideas that you had encountered in the past as well as share some great sources with others to help them along the way. Many books tempted you, but you resisted the urge after thumbing through them to see, as was pointed out in the last letter, there was nothing new to be learned in them. With that said, Dalio’s Principles was an excellent purchase, and you should set your own principles after you finish it in the next few days.

Other wins would include writing often pieces that were read by others as well as creating and carrying out monthly themes/challenges. Your Personalized Progress Log was updated the majority of the time too.

Although you did work on your drawing skills, that wasn’t quite the success as it should have been. Being in the now rather than in the phone was mixed too, but you are heading in the right direction. The same goes with improving your timeliness (good job turning in your last assignments for your fall classes 24 hours before they were due). The resolution to perform four songs for at least four people this year via a mix of violin and guitar didn’t happen although you did learn some chords on the guitar, and you will continue learn more. It was a bit unfair of me to throw the violin on that list given yours broke during the first few months of the year, and you were not able to get a replacement until a week ago. However, you will get there.

Finally, getting in the best shape of your life definitely did not happen with your probably being in the worst shape in your life right now. That though will also be changing as you head towards a much better direction this year, and this year you will do it. As far what you learned goes, you saw how fad diets don’t work for the long run unless they become lifestyle choices. Therefore, it is much better to alter your ways rather than rely solely on quick fixes.

Introspection was definitely a big thing for you this year. Some of the monthly challenges, particularly the Art of Manliness 30 Day Challenge (Part I and Part II) and No Shame November, greatly helped with that. Then there were the things outside your control that also led to a lot of contemplation, particularly about you and relationships of any kind. You will keep growing, and the key thing is to learn, adjust, and move forward as well as continue to keep Ruiz’s The Four Agreements in mind. There was definitely some hurt that came your way this last year, but you did the right thing of moving forward and trying to handle the situations the best way you could.

That was 2017, and now for the game plan for 2018. The twist this time is in honor of this being the fifth year of seriously tackling New Year’s Resolutions.  You will be revisiting resolutions from the past four years that either are still in need of attention or can help you grow some more. Now, without any further ado, here is your list for 2018.

  1.     From 2014 and 2015, carry on a 15 minute conversation in Spanish
    You made it through this resolution in 2015 technically speaking; however, you can and will do better this time around (basically, the majority of the conversation cannot be “¿Cómo se dice en español?” (How do you say in Spanish)). Being a reader again for the Critical Language Scholarship was inspiring, and everything you need to better improve your skills with the language are around you. You just need to actually use them.
  1.     From 2015, finish a readable second draft of the novel
    You have worked on the infamous novel some since you finished the first draft in September 2014, but seriously, it’s time to get this project completed and ready for the eyes of others to see it. That way you can move onto your next big writing project.
  1.     From both 2015 and 2016, mail at least one physical card/letter/postcard/note each week
    You have tried this two different years, and you haven’t managed to succeed yet, but third time’s a charm, right? Plus, with your not completing a good enough sketch for your Christmas cards, you will be able to start this resolution off strong with the New Year’s cards you will be sending out after the Downtown Hutch business finishes printing them.
  1.     From 2015 and 2016, build and stick to a financial budget
    This is another you have tried two different years and failed both times. This last year was a wake up call when you had pretty much only $47 of money to your name back in September after all of your bills were paid and such. Never again should that happen to you, and things will be easier once you finish your doctorate; however, until then, master your living on a financial budget. Doing so will help you out for the rest of your life in so many different ways and open the doors to many great opportunities.
  1.     2017 – Create and Carry Out Monthly Themes/Challenges
    Without a doubt, this was last year’s fan favorite, and taking on this resolution for another year will lead to some more great adventures to say the least.
  1.     Learn to be able to focus on one thing by taming the wandering mind
    Tim Ferriss calls it the “monkey mind,” and you definitely have it. Your thoughts are all over the place, and your attention, unfortunately, has greatly dwindled with your easily getting distracted and jumping from one thing or thought to another to then another. Modern society doesn’t help with this thanks to placing so many shiny things all over the place to grab one’s attention; however, you will need to rework your mind this year and learn to focus and conquer one thing at time. As science now says after years of growing up hearing otherwise, the majority of people truly do not have the ability to be great multitaskers. Needless to say, you are not part of the minority that can multitask and achieve great things, so don’t kid yourself by thinking otherwise.
  1.     Improve your interactions with others (watch out for shaming people, improve your dating skills, and stop wasting time on people who don’t deserve it)
    As mentioned, No Shame November was a great wake-up call. While you should always hold people accountable, you can definitely work on your delivery. Then to say you are extremely socially awkward when it comes to dating would be an understatement. I know your original plan was to just take a year break from dating, but Bailey is right – you shouldn’t do that. Rather, just work on getting better at this. Then last but definitely not least, remember time is extremely valuable, and you need to use it wisely. If people don’t appreciate the time you are willing to dedicate to a relationship of any kind, they don’t deserve it. Never will they suddenly gain a great appreciation for you and change their ways by your always being there and trying to be the person you would like them to be. Then if they are nonsermitis sufferers, don’t even bother unless you have to because of the situation. Life is too short for that.
  1.     No buying a new book unless two currently owned books have been read
    You could stock a small library with the amount of books you own, and so many of them are fantastic as well as unread by you. Rather than reading them, you usually just end up buying more to add to your collection. To turn this around a bit, you have to read at least two books, although you should try for three, before a new book can be purchased by you to add to your collect (unless, of course, the books are for school, for those do not count).
  1.     Improve Your Follow Through
    During the presentation of the 2017 Patty Carey Star Award at the Cosmosphere’s Everything Under the Stars amazing event, one piece of much praise about this year’s recipient, the late John Neal, was about how if he said was going to do something, he would always see it through. That stuck with you, and it should, for this too is extremely important. Sure, there are certain things that are okay to abandon; however, being a man of your word is vital to who you need to become. You are not too bad at this now, but there is a lot of room for improvement. For an example, there was no reason for you to take over four months to get your sister the photos from your nephew’s birthday party to her, and that only happened because she reminded you about your telling her you were going to send them. We have already addressed how you dropped the ball last year for the campaign for positive campaigns. Don’t do that again with the Hutch Calendar or your other obligations. Regardless of how big or small the task may be, if you say you are going to do it, get it done.
  1.  Get in the best shape of your life
    a. Continue to strive for at least 7 hours of sleep
    b. Meditate at least three times a week
    c. Improve your eating habits
    d. Work towards getting your body fat percentage to 10% or below
    As warned, this is going to be a standard resolution every year with some tweaks happening to it here and there. This time be sure it is on the list of successes when you get the sixth letter from me a year from now.

Extra Credit: Continue your work on becoming a Renaissance man (play music, write, investigate the sciences, work with mathematics, draw, etc.)
Your time may be limited thanks to work, community work, and homework, but these different tasks can easily fit into little spots of free time when you have it, and they will be much more rewarding than using all of that free time to scroll through some sort of social media app or shoot messages through a time-sucking dating app

And there you go – your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Similar to the last four years, these resolutions will serve you well not only this year but for some time to come. Things will happen this year you won’t expect, and I would like to tell you, but, as mentioned before, no spoilers are allowed. However, keep in mind two things:

First, the quotation Ray Dalio used as the opener for Principles:

“Time is like a river that carries us forward into encounters with reality that require us to make decisions. We can’t stop our movement down this river and we can’t avoid those encounters. We can only approach them in the best possible way.”

Second, never forget each second is a second that will not come again. Every interaction and experience that can and does occur will never have the opportunity come around again with the context all being the same. Remember to think about how we have around 100 10-minute blocks in each day at our disposal. Use them wisely as you build your life to how you would like it to become.

With those thoughts in mind and a new list of resolutions to conquer, that wraps up things for now. Remember what you learned from making your mother’s divinity recipe during the past two days. Failure can happen just like it did with your first, second, and third batch; however, persistence can indeed pay off just as it did with the fourth batch of that tasty, sugary goodness. Just like in previous years, failure will come with the resolutions for this year too, but just learn from those times, adapt, and not give up on that goal in mind. You got this! After all, that is how I made it to where I am now, so have fun and continue living one amazing story.

Until next year, cheers!



2017 Christmas Day Hikes: A Return to the Woods of My Youth

When I think back to my younger days, often the memories of exploring the woods behind my house come to mind. So many hours were spent covering every inch of them as my little feet made their way up and down a small dike that kept Kirk’s Lake at bay and our house safe from flooding. Those same feet would run up and down the C-shaped path on top that dike surrounded by the woods that I used to call a forest until one of my grade school teachers told me there were no such things as forests in Kansas. Then there were the adventures of eating gooseberries and climbing over fallen trees from the 1986 inland hurricane. Much time was also spent by the old abandoned stone bridge just a little off my parents’ property. There I would do my best to tiptoe across large rocks to avoid getting my shoes wet all while watching the water flow beneath me. Sometimes, I would make my way to the other side to stare at the tumbled pieces on the Southern side and think about the story my grandfather told my sister and me about an ill-fated race between two guys, a woman they both loved, and the murder of the good guy by the bad when he rammed one of the first cars in Iola into the side of a primitive vehicle causing it to take out a side of the bridge and cost the life of its driver.

That story and many others fed my imagination as I played by myself in the small stream, investigated the old ruins of Kirk’s cabin, and used long sticks to drag huge snapping turtles out of the mud holes from when Kirk’s Lake would go dry during some extremely hot summers. The woods seemed massive, and they were the best place a kid could have to cultivate a love inside him for the outdoors.

As I grew older, my time in the woods grew less; however, they still played a role in my world. In middle school, I carved out the initials of someone I was sure I was going to marry with mine all framed in a heart in the side of a tree. In high school, that same path was still traveled during my high school days for jogs in the woods as short trainings for cross country. Then some of my senior pictures were taken of me leaning against the old bridge.


After I left college, the time with the woods grew to nothing more than smiling upon seeing them when I pulled into my parents’ driveway for my short visits back home.

Then over the last five years, my visits to Iola became even less thanks to a disagreement of sorts with my father. During that time, I had decided to create my own Christmas tradition of going on a hike somewhere for that holiday. That led to exploring the Flint Hills one year, hiking the hills around Wilson Lake another, and looking out into a Christmas morning sunrise on top of Elk Mountain in Oklahoma’s beautiful Wichita Mountains for yet another.

Earlier this year, some peace came back to the household, and that led to my returning to Iola for Christmas. Wanting to keep up the tradition of hiking either on Christmas or the day before or after, I had planned on heading to Hot Springs National Park after Christmas dinner. A frightful weather forecast of ice, snow, and freezing rain led to that being canceled, and to replace it, it seemed like a good idea to explore the woods of my childhood and check out Iola’s recently developed Lehigh Portland Trail.

The first taste of the hikes came Christmas Eve when I rushed to the Lehigh Portland Trail to see the sunset across Elks Lake. I had studied the maps and realized the trailhead was just past the turn my family and I would take each Thursday night during the summer months for the weekly trap shoot that my dad helped run while my mother took care of the paperwork and sold concessions to make the $20 each night that greatly helped her barely make ends meet. Many memories of my youth were also made there with my often playing on a nearby hill, finding fossilized Crinoids in the parking lot, and playing Ghosts in the Graveyard the times there were other kids coming to the shoot with their parents too.

I would also sometimes stare across the quarry at the cliffs on the other side, wondering what it was like over there, and decades later, I finally found out as I watched the setting sun while staring and thinking about where a younger version of me had once stood. What once was so big seemed extremely small from this new perspective. Decades had gone by since whenever that last Thursday night was, and much had changed. Sure, there was a lot of distance between where I stood and the area of my youth, but the hill that seemed so steep to run up looked so small, and the same went with the whole area around the building where my mother would work that once seemed like it stretched out forever. That should have prepared me for Christmas morning when I explored the woods, but it didn’t.


After breakfast and before lunch, I threw on the warmest clothes I had and went for my hike in the woods behind the house. Similar to what had happened the night before, everything that had seemed huge seemed small now. Almost 18 years has passed since I graduated from high school, and since that time, my parents had long left parts of the path go back to nature. The southern end was pretty much lost to tall grasses and new trees that had grown quite a bit over the last decade. I made it over to look at the bridge, which still seemed to have stood the test of time thankfully.


Then it was a return to the trail I had traveled so many times before. Remnants of the path could still be seen at the southern end, but fallen trees and gooseberry bushes had largely taken over. I made my way through though despite the thorns trying to pull me back.


Soon I was standing by the remains of Kirk’s cabin. The fireplace that once towered high above me seemed so short now. A smile came across my face as memories of climbing around it came back to me.


From there, I continued to stepped over fallen trees to get to the midpoint on the dike where a path used to take me down to Kirk’s Lake. That too was no longer there, but thankfully a nifty tree whose branches grew towards the ground still was. There I sat for a bit and thought again to a little Ryan who loved hanging out there as his own secret hideout of sorts.


The path became more defined as I went further north. The next step though was to look at the tree where my initials once were. Much like that relationship I was sure would last forever, nothing was there.  The bark had grown back over the decades, and the tree had completely healed from the silly decisions of my youth.


Then there were the remnants of the fallen trees on which I had once played. One in particular had been massive, and many times it served as a tightrope of sorts as I did my best to walk up and down all while trying my best to be sure-footed and well-balanced. The years had also taken a toll on that once seeming giant with weather breaking down its once-strong structure. For a second, I thought about trying to walk across it once more, but what once held me without any problems now would have likely have broken in half if my feet would have returned to it once more.


That fallen tree had always marked the beginning of the woods, but that too had changed. The pond damn that once had been bare was now covered in small but tall trees as the woods began their claim of more land for itself. The area by the pond where many times were spent by my family was now hardly passable as nature had taken over it too.


I knew before I had gone out that morning things would have changed. The overgrowth was expected, but how small everything seemed wasn’t. Even now what once was and what now is doesn’t seem one of the same place, but rather what I had seen that morning was nothing more than a miniature version of the land that once captured much of my attention and time.

The afternoon hike led to a completely different feeling of nostalgia from being home for the holidays. My mother and I bundled up in our warmest clothes to explore parts of the Lehigh Portland Trail. We started along the Creek Side Trail that provided some majestic views on top of the rocky bluffs running along Elm Creek where I came across my new favorite spot in Iola.

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While this land was all new to me, on the other side of the creek bank I had once hiked with a good friend in high school along the land my great grandparents once owned and where my dad remembered having family picnics when he was a kid.


After some awes of the views and a few attempts of some selfies, my mother and I crossed the Backbone Trail to walk along the Mountain Goat Trail that then provided some more fantastic views but this time of Elks Lake. After that was checking out part of the South Loop before working our way back to the car, where we then saw eight deer just a little ways down the road. Through it all, my mother and I continued to be amazed with how one of our favorite places to hike in Kansas now just happens to be in the place we call home.

When I realized I would be heading home for Christmas, I knew some things would be a definite like I would be enjoying a fantastic home-cooked meal and one of my mother’s great pies for dessert; however, it didn’t hit me the power that would come with retracing past steps and exploring new spots. Both of which led to a newfound appreciation and outlook on places I thought I knew so well. Perspective really does play a huge role in our lives, and that was evident from the up-close views that happened when I was younger and now with the ones with some more distance in the mix. What I saw as a kid and what I see now both hold elements of truth to them, and more than likely, both will seem different again after another ten or fifteen years have passed as my perspective continues to change.

Change is always happening. In a way, it seemed, although I knew it shouldn’t, like things would have stood still and remained just as they were, but nature took over what once was the trail in the woods behind my parents’ house and some dedicated citizens created new paths to explore with the fantastic Lehigh Portland Trail. Change has happened with me too. That little kid who played for hours  in his forested playground and found fossils at the Thursday night trap shoots has changed much over the years. Sure, there are elements that are still the same such as the joy that came when I was out in the woods Christmas morning and when I found some fossils near the end of that afternoon’s hike, but overall, he is quite a bit different and will continue to change just like everything in the world around him does. When it comes down to it, all we can do smile as we reflect on the past and do our best as we go forward on our own paths through this thing called life.

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No Shame November

There really were no photos that go with this post, so instead, you get some of my favorite pictures I took in November.

It all started with a conversation at an October Social Saturday. There I sat with some of my close Hutchinson friends (names will be excluded for this blog entry) with a bowl of popcorn sitting in front of me, attempting to tempt me but failing thanks to the October’s New Year’s Resolution theme of Whole 30. Our conversation eventually shifted to brainstorming my November’s theme.

“You should give up shaming people,” one friend said.
“I shame people?” I genuinely asked.

And just like that, the others started pointing out past experiences. The first was the person who originally made the suggestion with his talking about my many failed attempts to get him to stop smoking and my various methods to try to do so. Then another friend added about my going on about how she killed Santa after she brought to an end a non-profit’s annual Christmas breakfast for youngsters to get to see jolly old St. Nick (It is just fun to say, “You killed Santa,” for I agree it was far from the mission of the non-profit and such, and there are tons of places to see Father Christmas). Then another talked about a guilt trip I gave to him an earlier Saturday night that encouraged him to carry his empty glass from our outside beer garden table to the bar to help out our server that night as we were getting to leave. The stories kept coming until I simply asked, “Why do you still want to hang out with me? Seriously?” They expressed their love, but that evening left me with No Shame November (a title given to the theme from the friend who originally threw out the suggestion).

So the month of November was spent with my doing my best not to shame anyone. Honestly, I don’t do it on purpose. As you can probably guess, I have high expectations for myself. Those tied to my dry sense of humor lead to my sometimes saying things that lead to guilt. Usually, I don’t purposely do it. Usually at least.

There were some successes. The one friend received a pass about my saying anything about his smoking. I worked up a blog post about Target’s upcoming departure from Hutchinson; however, it largely was a shamefest about this is what happens when people don’t shop local and rather drive to Wichita to do shopping they could do here in Hutchinson or, more often, turn to Amazon to pick up things they could have picked up at Target, so that post never saw the light of day. Then there were quite a few failures. Here are just a few of them.


Situation I
November 1 at the Honors Student Council meeting. Some of my students were signing up for events and then either backing out on the last moment or just not showing up. It was a huge problem in my eyes for two events especially, for one was a tour of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility, and the names had to be submitted beforehand for background checks, so those few people not coming wasted time and money by those there. Then another was a trip to a conference where the person backed out a few hours before our early departure for really not a great reason.

What No-Shame Ryan Should Have Said:
Remember to be sure to check your calendars before you sign up for an event. It is important with some of these we have an accurate number.

What Ryan Actually Said:
We have had a problem this year of people signing up for events and then backing out at the last minute. I understand if it is an illness, but for some, the reason for backing out was not good, including with some of you already having previous engagements you should have known about before you even signed up. Like class for an example. Your backing out cost the correctional facility time with the background checks, and if the person backing out on the conference almost at the very last minute so he could work on some homework instead led to the program losing money, and if I would have known about it earlier, I could have changed out the large van for something smaller. Remember always your name is as good as your word, and that should always, always be on the forefront when you sign up for something.

Situation II
We were on a phone call with my driving to work. My conversation partner was recounting a situation with frustrating people she had told me the night before. I had arrived at the parking lot and was needing to bring the conversation to the close.

What No-Shame Ryan Would Have Said:
I am so sorry you have to put up with that. Well, I have arrived. I hope your day is as good as it can be. Good luck and love you.

What Ryan Actually Said:
After finishing the story for her, she asked, “Did I already tell you this?”

“Yes. Last night when you called. And we had only a limited time to talk this morning, and rather than discussing something positive or something good, the time we had was spent reliving a bad situation again, and now I have arrived at work, and our conversation has to come to a close.”

I paused, “That was probably shaming, wasn’t it?”

She answered, “It was indeed.”

Situation III
A text message conversation was taking place with a buddy wanting me to drive and visit him. He threw out a passive aggressive guilt trip about my never making the time to grab dinner with him.

What No-Shame Ryan Would Have Said:
Don’t worry. My schedule is a little packed right now, but we will get something worked out over winter break.

What Ryan Actually Said/Texted:
Ryan: Do you even have a clue what has been going on in my life with all of my responsibilities?

His reply: That came out wrong. I know you are busy. I have seen some on Facebook and Instagram.

Ryan: But you don’t ask questions really. Or try to pursue any more about my world.

His reply: I am so sorry that came out so badly. I figured you were really busy and would share if you wanted to.

Ryan: But rather than ask questions, we talked all about your life. Which the assumption that you had makes it seem like you don’t care.

His reply: You always seemed like you would rather leave your life alone. I guess i missed read it. I am very interested in whats been happening in your life. Thats why i look at your fb and instagram.

Ryan’s Major Rant/Shaming: Simply looking at those don’t count. Truly taking an interest would be asking questions to find out more. If you go back and look at our conversations, the majority of the times the focus is on your world. And you do have a lot going on. There is no doubt about that. Now though I need to get to work, but I will catch you later. And sorry by the way. I am working well over 40 hours a week while also taking grad classes for my PhD while also trying to live up to my commitments here while also trying to tackle some personal projects that continue to be thrown to the back burner while also trying to financially survive. But we will get together over winter break. That I promise.

And the situations could continue. Sure, there were times that I should have held my tongue, but November’s month’s theme was much harder than anything before, and it will be something I will need to work on. Even this weekend, I fell to shaming again when someone asked if the bar where Social Saturday takes place takes cards. My answer was that it does, but given it is a local business, he should really grab some cash so the hard-working owner could keep all of the money from his purchases rather than have a percentage go to the credit card company. Guilt instantly came across his face. I added afterwards that she would gladly take a card, for any purchase is better than no purchase; however, the shaming had already happened.

With that said, I did my best to hide my thoughts and great hurt about something else that occurred this weekend, which could have turned into a huge shaming of sorts with guilt likely being felt by the parties involved. Instead, I sat there, as stoic as I could be while trying my best to hold on to Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement about not taking things personally (The Four Agreements is a fantastic book by the way for those who have not read it). All of the words that wanted to be said were held back, for the action had already been taken. I just kept thinking perhaps my previous shaming of others had led to that moment right then. That, though, is a story for a time that will never be told, for as I had mentioned to the person in Situation II, we only have a limited time when it comes down to it, and that time we spend should be focused on the good rather than dwelling on the wounds from the past. Rather, we should learn from them and forge ahead with the knowledge gained, and rather than shame, that is what I will do.

When it comes to my problem with shaming others though, where things go from here are up in the air. Ever since that conversation in October, the shaming of others has been a topic on my mind, and No Shame November made it even more apparent. Looking now at this post, I realize it is even a public shaming of myself in a way for my failures with this adventure, but the first step is to admit the problem, right? And that is what is going on now. Now the question is how things will go with that next step. Only time will tell on that one. Needless to say, this month’s theme of sketching on a regular basis has been a cakewalk compared to November.

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A Thank You Letter to Thanksgiving

Dear Thanksgiving,

Perhaps it is because a turkey almost killed me when I was two (Life Lesson 157: Don’t hit the neighbor’s evil turkey with a red plastic bat even if your older sister tells you to do so when A. it is larger than you, B. it has a history of chasing after and attacking adults, and C. your sister has already hit with a Frisbee and made it quite angry), but I love you, Thanksgiving. You are easily my favorite holiday. Sure, there is the history that leads to some of my friends calling you Genocide Day, but we are not going to focus on that for this letter. Instead, it is going to be a trip down memory lane with my expressing my gratitude for you and all that you have brought to my life.

The mere mention of your name brings a smile to my face as I think about those times of when I was a youngster and would attempt to help Mom in the kitchen as she would prepare the meal for us all. One of my jobs was always to crumble the bacon for the broccoli salad and stirring it into the tasty mix. Mom would usually have to fix more bacon after looking at my finished product to see what she made had not been enough despite her having made the salad countless times before thanks to perhaps one or three or four of the bacon strips having magically disappeared somehow from the plate to the bowl. This memory and so many more return to me each year while I am in my kitchen cooking now that I have taken over as Thanksgiving host for 11 out of the last 12 years.

With a face like that, I surely could be trusted with the bacon for the broccoli salad. 

The food you bring us, though, Thanksgiving, is one of my favorite parts, and each family has their traditional favorites. For me, it would be the turkey, Mom’s stuffing recipe (although it really is dressing thanks to its never being stuffed in the turkey itself), homemade apple pie using my grandmother’s pie crust recipe, and broccoli salad. Other tasty dishes have come in and out depending on the number of people who would be joining us that year and what we were craving. Sure, nothing is really that healthy, but everything seems to have this magical quality to warm the heart.

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Mmm healthy butter . . . 

This food you bring us is really just a means to bring us together. While Christmas tends to have people creating memories exchanging presents around a Christmas tree, it is the passing of food around the dinner table for you, Thanksgiving, and there is something pure to that. A present can be bought with love, but it still is a material thing in a way while Thanksgiving, you are all about the experience, and that is one of the reasons I am grateful for you. That Christmas present may last longer than a piece of apple pie, but the time of making pie crust while Mom prepares the Jonathan apples is worth more than anything that could ever be wrapped.

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You are also a day for us to reflect on our gratitudes. So often, we fly through life, not pausing to think about all of the great things in our world. The news unfortunately can lead us to seeing things in a negative light, but for most of us, we have so much for which we should be grateful, but you, Thanksgiving, make us stop for just a bit to let some of that gratefulness set in.

You also have become a day where we can reach out to others to say, “Happy Thanksgiving,” which in turn is saying thank you for being in our life. Those messages, of course, travel back and forth between some of our closest loved ones, but there is something magical about you, Thanksgiving, that also allows us to extend a text or a message to someone who may have been close to us at one time but, for whatever reason, that closeness had faded over the years. Thanks to you, that text offering Thanksgiving greetings can sometimes reignite what once was or at least help connect each other for even a little while.

There is no other holiday in my life that can do all of this and so much more like you do, Thanksgiving. The closest would likely be Christmas with its tasty food, cards, caroling, parties, religious celebration, and so much more, but it also has a tendency of material things becoming its focus rather than the actual Christmas spirit. You have somehow managed to stay true to yourself. Black Friday has even tried to change that with its seeping into your evening hours and brought out some craziness in people, but even then, those sales are still seen as Black Friday deals rather than Thanksgiving ones. At the end of the day, when we think about Thanksgiving, we think about our coming together around a table rather than buying a TV or something else ridiculous we merely want but do not need.

For all of the great memories you have helped create, for the family traditions you have helped start, and for so much more, I just want to take this moment to say how much I appreciate you, Thanksgiving. You are indeed the best, and I am very thankful for the magic you bring into the lives of so many.

With much love,


October’s Theme: Whole 30 AKA My Plan to Avoid Eating Tons of Halloween Candy

Let me begin this by confessing a simple truth: I love Halloween candy. Every year, I buy tons. Sure, a lot of it is for the tons of Trick or Treaters that hit my neighborhood, but a lot of it is devoured by me. This year, though, I decided to do something about it. Rather than simply be that guy who doesn’t buy candy for Trick or Treaters and hide out that night in a dark house, it seemed like trying out Whole 30 for the month of October was a better option.

I first heard about Whole 30 when a friend of mine, Elizabeth, was singing its praises. It intrigued me, but besides a mental note being made, that was about it. However, last summer, Kari, one of my best friends, took it on and was a champ. In addition to her updates about her progress, I also had the opportunity to see her make it through a lunch meeting where almost everything that was served was not Whole 30 compliant, but she did her best with the fresh fruit that was there and ate afterwards. Her discussing the benefits led to my deciding Whole 30 should be one of my monthly New Year Resolution themes. September was not an option because Kansas State Fair food was a must, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so November wouldn’t work either. Therefore, October had to be it.

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Whole 30 was created by a wife-and-husband team, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Here is a link to the program’s rules. Basically, one is to avoid having sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy during a 30 day period. Then the dieter is to slowly add these back in to see what effects, if any, the person experiences. Although popular, there are mixed views about how healthy it actually is. Many have found it life changing with their going on about how great they feel. Then places like Health magazine listed it as one of the worst health trends for 2013.

Definitely Not Whole 30 Compliant

No concrete studies have been done about the long-term effects of Whole 30 that I could find, but I figured 30 days, or in the case of October – 31 days, would be fine to give up the list of banned items and test my will power.

Without a doubt, it was a fascinating month, and here are a few takeaways.

  1. Sugar Is in Everything

Thankfully, I could eat fruits and other items containing natural sugars; however, white and brown sugar had to be avoided. The same went for anything containing them as ingredients. I was prepared to give up desserts and the such; however, I was shocked when I started reading labels and finding sugar as a listed ingredient time and again. My healthy organic low sodium chicken broth – sugar. My tasty meat tenderizer – sugar. Dried fruit – sugar. Bacon – sugar. Most things tasty – sugar. One thing after another, I would find it listed and be shocked repeatedly of wondering the simple question, “Why?” I still don’t know the answer to that besides the fact that sugar is delicious.

Seriously, why is there cane sugar in chicken broth?
Mmmm Bacon Containing Sugar That Tempted During Two Different Breakfast Meetings
  1. Eating Out Is Rough

Several times during the month, I attempted to go out to eat, and it was indeed rough. There was a date at a Mexican food restaurant (I will get to that in a bit). There were several lunch meetings. My mother came to visit for a weekend and we attempted to find places that would have something Whole 30 compliant. Looking back, there were a lot of not-so-great salads that were devoured (Hutchinson needs some great salad places on a side note). Even my go-to healthy place to eat in town had little on its menu that was Whole 30 friendly (the salad there was good though). In fact, it was harder to go out to eat and follow the Whole 30 rules than it was during February when I was playing vegetarian.

  1. Eating In Was Easy

Most of the meals (after I found a no-sugar-added-for-no-reason low-sodium vegetable broth) I make at home are Whole 30 compliant. Sure, bread was missed to go with the soup, and a tortilla shell to have tacos instead of taco salads (no tasty tortilla bowl for that either) would have been nice, but overall, I didn’t have to adjust too many of my usual recipes except for breakfast. For that meal, my cereal was replaced by eggs either in the form of scrambled, hard boiled, or omelet. They were tasty, and they have continued to start off my day.

  1. My Will Power Was Stronger Than I Thought It Would Be

I was really concerned some of the banned foods would greatly tempt me. For sugar, it was sweets of any kind. For grains, it were popcorn, tortilla chips, and fried chicken. For legumes, it was peanut butter. For soy, it was Asian food, and for dairy, it was cheese. For alcohol, well, I gave up drinking again back in May and I have no plans to restart anytime soon.

To my surprise, none of the banned foods actually were tempting at all. Early on in October, I went on a date, and he was craving Mexican food. In addition to being that guy who first struggled finding something on the menu and then finally locating a salad to only make some special requests while also trying to explain to the very nice server that I really am not that crazy diet person despite my currently being that crazy diet person, I had to resist the urge of the unlimited tortilla chips that were sitting in front of me. Usually, I will eat a basket by myself and then some. A desire to eat even one wasn’t even there.

These tempting foods continued to appear. Fried chicken tried to tempt me three different times, and each time I admired it and was okay with not eating it (even at the Volunteer Center’s Appreciation Dinner where I served as their volunteer photographer for the evening).

Fried chicken, cheesy potatoes, green beans  with ham that likely has sugar in it, and a roll = No food for Ryan at the Volunteer Center’s Appreciation Dinner

Requests two different times at work had me popping popcorn for others, and I also had to throw all of the extra away at the end of the day. Not once did I want to eat even a single piece (okay, there may have been a little bit of desire here, but I stayed strong). Cheese is everywhere, and going without was fine with me. Then on the last day, a former student of mine went over the top by sending me a gift box from Henry & David that was complete with chocolate-covered cherries, tasty looking chocolate truffles, a chocolate-covered popcorn mix, and a whole bunch of other things that were not Whole 30 compliant. Plus, there was all of the Halloween candy too. For both, I was fine with letting everything stay in their wrappers.

  1. I Lost Weight Despite Eating Tons

For the first couple of weeks, I was hungry all of the time. This is supposedly caused by the body turning to other sources of energy in our bodies rather than relying on carbs and sugar as the main energy sources. Following the guidance from the Whole 30 site, I ate more Whole 30 compliant food. Not really following the advice on the Whole 30 site, those cravings were often satisfied by more fruit, nuts, and these super tasty homemade Larabars that consisted of dates and nuts (seriously, that is it – dates and nuts and a blender or a food processor). Another part of Whole 30 is that the dieter is not allowed to weigh oneself during the 30 days, so I stayed away from the scales. Given my eating tons (although my constant hunger did go away after those first two weeks), I just figured there is no way I could have lost any weight. However, to my surprise, I was 7 pounds lighter at the end of the month with my dropping a percentage of body fat in the process. Plus, a great friend of mine commented about how I appeared to be in much better shape with my face seeming much slimmer. That actually made my day.

  1. Sugar Does Odd Things to My Mind

So after the 30 days are complete (or 31 in my case), one can slowly introduce the banned foods back into one’s life. Well, November 1 led to my experimenting with sugar. Overlooking the recommendation regarding the “slowly” part, I ate some tasty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and found out first-hand the Henry and David chocolate truffles were indeed delicious. Soon after, my mind felt extremely fuzzy and a desire to sleep came not too long after that. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke thing (aka following to the temptation of the chocolate-covered popcorn and more Halloween candy), November 2 led to my experimenting some more with sugar. The outcome of a fuzzy mind was the same. Lesson was learned for sure. All of the left-over Halloween candy was placed in the candy drawer in the Honors Lounge where it quickly disappeared soon after. While some sugar will be coming back into my life (like the sugar in the Airborne I just had or in food when eating out), the plan is to limit most refined sugar going forward.


As I continue to reflect on the Whole 30 experiment, more takeaways will surely come. It did introduce me to some tasty recipes (this one for pork carnitas especially), and the Whole 30 book has many more I am planning on trying. However, the will power found to resist the tempting foods was easily the biggest takeaway. How that will come in use in the future is yet to be seen, but like with the other months, October’s theme is sure to have some residual effects.

The Amazing and Fantastic Shakespeare on the Porch

Some nights can be magical and leave a person with a renewed faith in humanity. Last Sunday was one of those for me.

Shakespeare on the Porch first fell upon my radar during last July’s Talk20 when Suzanne McKenzie Miller gave a heartfelt, moving, funny, inspirational presentation about the birth of the Arlington Classical Theatre and an overview of what goes into the productions. I highly, highly, highly recommend your watching it:

Months flew by, and the plan was to head there with a group of friends on Friday night to see the production ourselves; however, a work obligation of taking honors students to a corn maze forced me to alter those plans. Then a great adventure with my mother and a good friend from Nebraska on Saturday (along with a potential storm that thankfully never hit) led to that night not working either.  That left Sunday as the sole possibility.

The early Sunday evening hours, though, had me at George Pyle Park in Downtown Hutchinson rather than in a car heading to Arlington. It was the evening for the Common Table, a fantastic community gathering for which my dear and clever friend Kari had masterminded.


IMG_4456.JPGEveryone in the community, on behalf of Young Professionals of Reno County, was invited to enjoy tasty food and great company as they saw friends and met new people. The weather was perfect, and the festivities started with good conversations. Although it was in the back of my mind I would attempt to escape a bit early to head to Arlington, I wasn’t quite sure if I would. However, after first Tony and Andrea telling me about how great it was when I ran into them the night before at a fantastic Halloween party and then Greg, another friend whose views I greatly trust, describing it as one of the most fun experiences he has had for quite some time (and he is always at the niftiest places and events), I was leaning much more towards the idea of adding some Shakespeare to my life. It was Bailey though who convinced me I should definitely hit the road.

Not particularly feeling social that night, I excused myself from my table to join Bailey and her efforts to catch on camera the Common Table. As she took video and I took photos, Shakespeare on the Porch came up in our conversation. The look on her face was similar to that of Greg’s, Tony’s, and Andrea’s. “You have to go and see it. Plus, you will see a great sunset, and you will want to write about it because it is that good,” she told me. And with that, I took a few more photos, told Kari congrats for a very successful event, admired the tasty-looking chili and cinnamon rolls that weren’t on my Whole 30 diet, tried to walk away to my car without anyone noticing, and drove off by myself towards a farmhouse outside of the town of Arlington, Kansas, all while leaving behind some of my best friends in Hutchinson for a place where I likely knew no one.

A beautiful sunset did keep me company along the drive to the gravel road where my car joined a long line of others parked. Grabbing a blanket and a chair, I followed some other people who had just arrived who seemed as though they knew where they were going. A smile came to my face as I saw some goats who were also enjoying the beautiful autumn evening.

IMG_7573.JPGWalking into the driveway was when I was greeted by a sign for Shakespeare on the Porch and finally saw the stage for that evening.


After finding a place for my chair, I sat for a bit until a family arrived who sat behind me. They had youngsters, and the last thing I wanted to do was block their view of the production. The mother said not to worry about it, for her kids could sit on her lap, but I went ahead and moved my chair to the very back of the seating area. Before me was an excited crowd of well-over a hundred that ranged in ages from maybe a little over to well into people in their eighties and maybe nineties. While sitting there, taking in the brisk but beautiful autumn weather, I listened to the following exchange between two nearby guys:

“I’ve heard Macbeth is quite bloody,” said one.
“Well, so is the Bible,” the other quickly replied.

It turned out I didn’t need my chair though, for ultimately, I decided to stand behind it so I could make sure not to miss a moment of the show. Previous to that night, there has only been one other Shakespearian production I have ever spent the majority of show standing, and that was for a London production of Hamlet with Jude Law playing the title character. I was able to get two of the last tickets for the show, and those tickets were solely for standing room at the back of the balcony of the Donmar Warehouse. Arlington Classical Theatre’s production of Macbeth takes that count of watching while standing a Shakespearian production up to two. Arguably speaking, I enjoyed this latter production so much more than the previously-mentioned West End production. There was an energy in that front yard that was captivating and really indescribable in words. People were laughing and having a great time as people caught up with old friends, family, and even strangers as everyone waited in anticipation for the show to begin. Then there was nothing but silence once Suzanne McKenzie Miller came onto the stage to give welcome and tell a little about the upcoming performance. Her fantastic delivery of information was just like her Talk20 – informative, clever, smile-inducing, and heartfelt. She closed things off by inviting the crowd to stay around for the cast party afterward for it was not only for the actors but also the community too. With that, the production began, and I was even more spellbound.


The next 90 minutes flew by at an unbelievably quick pace as I was both entertained and in awe of what I was seeing. The actors were all fantastic. They had their lines and timing down, and not an iambic pentameter beat was skipped.


The Shakespearian prose, as Miller had noted in her Talk20, had been modified, but the heart and content of the play were still the same. The witches were enchanting, and Lady Macbeth was perfectly maniacal with some fantastic inflections and nonverbal actions led to her being fantastically enthralling.


Macbeth himself was solid, and the rest of the cast were excellent too. Seeing Banquo with his young son, Fleance, pulled at my heartstrings thanks to my knowing such happiness of that family was soon going to be destroyed thanks to Macbeth’s lust of power. The set of the porch all worked perfectly, and the costumes transformed each of the young Kansans into Scottish men and women. The sword scenes were very nicely choreographed (so was the dancing included in parts too), and the occasional sighting of one of two cats that would at times wonder through the audience, down the center aisle, and across the stage just added to the charm.


I wasn’t the only one captivated by the performance of Macbeth either. The attention of everyone captured by the performers. When I say “everyone,” I truly mean everyone. The audience was filled with youngsters, and they didn’t stir at all. Rather, they watched it all as the tragedy filled with so many life lessons and fantastic points played out before them.

Applause erupted from the audience when the play came to a close and they actors came out for their final curtain call for this year’s production.


The audience and the actors mingled afterwards as tasty food was devoured by many (it looked extremely tasty, which means it was not Whole 30 compliant), and I did too for a while to continue to soak in the magic of the event.


The lessons that can be learned from Shakespeare on the Porch are many. As you learned from the Talk20 when you watched it, Suzanne’s working through a tragedy that no parent should ever suffer is what led to her creation of the Arlington Classical Theatre’s productions that have entertained thousands over the last eleven years. She and her husband are amazing to say the very least with what they have done to further build the community and create so many great experiences for so many.

Also, so often, media gives us little hope in humanity, especially in terms of the future generation. Arlington Classical Theatre says otherwise. First, the actors, some of which were extremely young, were brilliant. High expectations were set for them, and those rose to the challenge and then some. Then, there was the youngsters in the audience. Not a one turned to a screen of any kind to be entertained. Rather, they were right there in the present, enjoying the art that was unfolding before their eyes. They were all perfectly behaved too. None were running around or causing any craziness. Even after the show during the cast party when that may have happened, they enjoyed the company of each other as they ate the delicious-looking food.

As I walked back down that gravel road towards my car that night, I felt good about the world and life in general. I paused for a while before getting in my car to look up at the stars and listen for the howling of the coyotes that I had heard earlier at almost a perfect time during one of the scenes of the play. There is so much beauty in the world, and it is all around us, but so often we don’t know it or don’t see it. I had no idea about the Arlington Classical Theatre until the Talk20 despite its happening every year since I have lived in Hutchinson less than 30 minutes away from my house. Now I have been to one, I can’t imagine ever missing another. Suzanne and her husband, the actors, the audience, the community of Arlington, the porch itself, and everything else that makes up Shakespeare on the Porch are all perfect examples of the world at its best.



September’s Theme: A Month Free of Social Media Apps AKA the Quest to Reclaim My Thoughts and Time

My #3 New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is “Be in the Now Rather Than In the Phone,” and definitely there has been progress made, but as noted with the following photo, the habit wasn’t completely broken:
Although in a weak defense, I was trying to be a good Downtown Hutch board member by posting Third Thursday photos to Downtown Hutch’s Facebook page during a very short window I had before having to return to work for a different board meeting to attend. Still, the world was going on around me, and rather than being part of it, my screen had my attention. To try to break this, I decided to take all social media apps off my phone for the month of September. Near midnight on August 31, one by one Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a variety of dating apps disappeared (Facebook messenger was kept thanks to that being the main way of communication with some of my good friends).

To say it was an interesting monthly experiment would be an understatement. I really thought it would be easy, and when I was consciously thinking, it was. However, what was fascinating were the number of times I would find myself pulling out my phone for really no reason besides being on autopilot and my finger reaching for the nonexistent Facebook app. The notification for updates in the App Store would catch my attention, and, almost like a robot, I was opening it instead. That was when I realized checking Facebook had definitely become a habit.

Eventually, though, that habit did eventually die; however, there continued to be some interesting times throughout the month that made me realize how much social media has entered into our lives. There was the time at the Kansas State Fair when Jason asked me to go Facebook Live as he was showing a cow for the Legislative Showmanship Contest. My phone was out as an option (although I tried but failed, thanks to the Verizon system being overloaded with people and our being in a metal building, to download the Facebook app just to help him out), and that led me to try to figure out his phone with no little success. I did get some nice photos though I sent to him later.

Then there were the number of times I would be talking to someone and I would say, “Oh, she posted something about that the other day on Facebook” or “We can just check out the business’s Facebook page.” The phone would be pulled out automatically when it would hit me as I looked at its screen that access to that said Facebook profile was no longer a possibility with that device in my hand.

The disconnection with Facebook and other social media apps on my phone also led to my checking Facebook on my computer less and less as the month progressed to the point I might be on there once or twice a day (usually once in the morning to wish people a happy birthday and then once at night to check to see if any life-changing information was missed – the answer has been usually no.).

When September came to a close and I could add the apps back, I ultimately decided only Instagram would return. For the rest, it was actually quite nice not to have access to them everywhere and anywhere I was, and it seemed like a great thing after taking the month off not to develop that habit again.

Because I am the guy who has an extra-credit New Year’s Resolution added to already a list of ten of them, simply taking social media apps off my phone didn’t seem like a good enough theme for September, so a few more things were added.

First, I started leaving my phone in another room at night rather than on my night stand after being inspired to do so thanks to a talk by Mel Robbins. This too has been great for multiple reasons. First, there is no more late-night scrolling through the different apps, checking my email, or reading the news way past my bedtime. Second, hitting the snooze button also become extremely inconvenient. With the exception of when I have a guest in the guest bedroom, this practice has continued on long past September 30.

The one other item I added, or really actually took away, was having music or anything playing while I took a shower. I also opted for silence during other times as well (putting away laundry, washing the dishes, some times when I am driving, etc.). Making the most of every minute is a favorite thing of mine to do, and listening to music and podcasts would be another. In fact, there is some sort of (extremely cheap) speaker system in every room in my house. However, letting the mind just flow rather than constantly having something pumped into it has been a fantastic way for my thoughts to take on so many different things during those times of being unplugged. The jury is still out on whether it has led to better ideas being formed; however, I do know many more thoughts have been pondered thanks to this change in my life happening.

All while these experiments were going on, I kept running across Manoush Zomorodi discussing the importance of boredom. Her TED Talk was being referenced repeatedly, and she kept appearing on podcast right and left it seemed. Plus, one of my good friends brought Zomorodi’s newly-released book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, to my attention. While my definition of what it means when someone says, “I’m bored” and her definition of that same statement may differ some, she is indeed right about how so many of us today have come to a point where we seem to need to be entertained almost all of the time, and so often that entertainment comes in the form of our smart phones rather than simply sitting and letting our thoughts take charge as we enjoy our environment around us instead of turning to that shiny beckoning screen that can so often tempt us away from the world and our thoughts.

Although it seemed at first the goals for September were about being on my phone less, now looking at them afterward, they were really all about reclaiming my thoughts and my time. Now that they have been reclaimed in some ways, I really cannot imagine giving them up again. Perhaps, I will be missing out on all sorts of things by not instantly getting that Facebook notification the moment it is sent in my way; however, at the same time, I think of the other day when I paused in a place I had so often checked by phone before to take that moment to glance up at some autumn yellow leaves be caught in the wind and perform almost a dance of sorts as they traveled gracefully towards the ground. Times like that seem more what life is about rather than missing such naturally-stunning sights by looking at a screen instead.