My Dry Erase Board Addiction

Well, it happened again. Just last week, I had resisted the urge, but the temptation was too great this week as another good intention led to yet another dry erase board coming into my possession. A faculty member had agreed to host one of the faculty development round tables during a session I was coordinating for work. She asked if there would be any way possible she could have a dry erase board so it could be interactive. Using my own money, I secured one for her. Her session worked out great with her discussion about flipping the classroom being a hit. Plus, afterwards, the dry erase board I was wanting but had convinced myself I didn’t need the week before was now in my possession. After writing about my self-help addiction last year, it seemed like a good idea to tackle yet another addiction this year – my addiction to dry erase boards*.

Throughout my entire house, dry erase boards can be found everywhere. My refrigerator alone is home to many. Every year, a new one is added to my collection and filled with that year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions. Sure, common sense should tell me only one would be needed, but sort of like my habit with never deleting photos off an SD card, certain writings on my dry erase boards become permanent as they serve as reminders of the past to help me move forward towards my future.

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However, I also use them for their intended purpose too. The one acquired just a few days ago will be updated weekly (in theory) with my featured resolution of the week, weekly goals, reminders about upcoming activities/events, weekly meal plan, weekly quotation to contemplate, and a reminder of the Four Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book of the same name (thank you once again, Patrick, for that recommendation).

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When attempting to become focused for the day, there is another dry erase board to map out my schedule (although the Personalized Progress Log has largely taken over this board’s role). And another is around to create some lines of music to practice on the violin.

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Then there is a little guy I like to use to outline papers I have to write.

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At my office, there are even more. One sits next to my computer and is updated on a daily basis with the tasks to tackle for that day, and there is a huge one on my wall for brainstorming activities.

And then there are more that scattered here and there. I am guessing you get the picture – I love dry erase boards.

Who exactly created the dry erase boards is a little up in the air. According to one account, it was photographer and Korean War veteran, Martin Heit, who by accident marked a photographic negative and found the ink wiped off easily which led to his creating the first one. He later sold the patent to Dri-Mark. Another account puts Albert Stallion into the creator role with his realizing enameled steel could becoming a writing surface. He eventually created his own whiteboard production company, MagiBoards.

In either case, whiteboards started to appear in the 1960s, and the dry-erase markers came onto the scene in 1975. It wasn’t until the 1990s that their popularity grew as they replaced chalkboards as a way to avoid allergies to chalk dust, complications dust may have on computers, and the general messiness that comes with the former standard in classrooms everywhere.

Dry erase markers themselves have a silicone polymer that keeps the colored pigment from actually coming into direct contact with the surface, hence the reason why the writing can be wiped off a non-porous surface so easily. Plus, there is a solvent that leads to the ink drying quickly.

What led to this great love of mine for dry erase boards is not entirely known. It may be caused by my fear of commitments, or it may be the practical nature these boards and markers can serve with this also being tied to my ongoing pursuit of becoming organized and setting goals/resolutions/resolves for myself. There is also my remembering how special they seemed when they started to appear in classrooms during my middle school years and onward.

There is also the fact I still find them somewhat magical in that childlike way of wonder, for unlike my bedroom wall as I found out when I was three and had an orange crayon in my possession, any marks can just simply disappear.

But perhaps it is something more. So much that happens in our lives can seem so permanent. Past relationships can leave scars that can haunt a person for the rest of his/her life. Class assignments add up to leave unchangeable grades on transcripts. Words spoken and actions taken in unwise haste can create barriers that unfortunately can never be torn down. It is almost refreshing that there is something in this world where mistakes can easily disappear and a clean start can happen so easily.

Whatever it may be, dry erase boards have definitely found a way into my life and heart. The good news is my instant gratification monkey kept telling me I needed to buy another in honor of the blog post alone and that urge was resisted, so that may just be a step in the right direction. Then again, while looking into the history of dry erase boards, I did come across this Lifehacker article about how I could cover an entire wall with a giant whiteboard for under $15. Whether that does eventually happen is up in the air, but if it does, needless to say, there will be a smile on my face as that task is written on one or several of my many dry erase boards scattered all over in my world.

*Addiction is, of course, a serious thing, and I don’t want to make light of truly serious addictions, so no offense is meant by this post.

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Becoming a Cornhusker

For the last couple of years, when people asked me where I went to school, I would chime back with Emporia State University and the University of Melbourne. The Melbourne one would catch their attention which would lead to a perplexed look before asking either “Where is that?” or “Australia?.” The conversation would continue for a bit about my days in the land down under and just as the topic would start to conclude, I would add, “Oh yeah, I am also going to the University of Nebraska. Forgot about that one.”

That was the case time and again. Despite the majority of my disposable income and time being sent north of me, my being a UNL student would honestly slip my mind. I am not really sure why. It may be caused by my program (a PhD in Educational Studies – Educational Leadership and Higher Education) being largely online. Sure, since January 2015, there have been a couple of visits to the campus to meet my advisor as well attend a one-day conference for the program, but a bond really had not formed. However, last week happened, everything changed, and I became a Cornhusker.

Online classes are a fascinating development in higher education. For quite a few years, I taught one, and repeatedly, my mission was to try to build a community during that semester. The students mastered the material, wrote great papers, and had great discussions; however, there was no place for the spontaneous conversations to take place. I even made a discussion forum for random topics; most semesters, it was untouched. The students had a mission, which was earn the credit and the learn the material. Many did, but it led to my often telling people that one will never meet a best friend in an online class.

While my statement about meeting a best friend was proven wrong last fall when the amazing Mary came into my life thanks to a group project in our online class (we met in person though thanks to her being in Kansas for a work project), the bond with UNL still hadn’t happened. Then summer I took on the first half of my residency requirement for the program, which led to my spending last week in Lincoln.

Leading up to that week set the stage of what I had decided would be my own adult summer camp. In the spring, I made my second friend in the program, Adam from Boston, in another class during what first began with questions regarding an assignment and later developed into long chats in Google Hangouts after we both realized we had greatly incorrectly stereotyped each other (I thought Adam was a super religious, super conservative Marine, and he thought I was a Palin/Trump Loving Diehard Kansas Tea Party conservative). While trying to figure out our summer schedule, we decided to take the summer research course from our advisor, Dr. Hatch-Tocaimaza.

The rest of the class, with the exception of Boh from Atlantic City, were familiar faces. There was Erika from Salt Lake City who was in the same spring class Adam and I took, and her posts were always top notch and some of the first ones I would read. Then there was Aprí from Santa Cruz, who was another person I had greatly admired over the years thanks to her fantastic discussion posts I always admire in several courses we previously had together. Finally, there was Miles from Longview, Texas. He and I had been group partners before in another class, and we shared some common connections thanks to the honors world.

Although our paths had crossed sometimes repeatedly, connections hadn’t really formed. That all changed with this class. First, the class had live sessions starting back in May, so that gave us a chance to see each other on a regular basis. Then what started as a simple email to ask for clarification led to Erika and I forming a fantastic friendship as we got to know each other via electronic missives. By when it was time to head to Lincoln, I was excited for a vacation that would have me staying in the residence halls and bringing a bike to explore the area.

From my many conversations with Adam and Erika, I knew it was going to be a good week, but I didn’t realize how much. The class itself was great with Dr. Hatch-Tocaimaza bringing in many guest speakers to give us a variety of ideas about how to approach research. The best part, though, was being on campus. There is just something about being in a physical classroom, and it was something I had been missing. Sure enough, spontaneous conversations happened and ideas built upon each other.

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Our class also took the opportunity to get to know each other better too. There were the conversations before class, during breaks, at lunch in the Willa Cather Dining Hall, and then afterwards when Adam, Erika, Aprí, Miles, and I would grab dinner each night and then find ice cream (motivated by to Adam’s love for it).

I look back at the week, and so many memories were made beyond those in the classroom itself: meeting Erika and then Adam at the Omaha airport – welcoming both, of course, to Nebraska with a sign before giving them a ride to Lincoln; sitting outside Memorial Stadium with my great friend Rob and hearing about the energy at Cornhusker football games and the day he was crowned homecoming king; walking around Sunken Gardens.

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Exploring the stunning capitol building and taking the nifty elevator to some amazing views of the city; watching Aprí and Erika see lightning bugs for the first time; tasting the greatness of sweet corn ice cream from East Campus’s Dairy Store.

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Walking in a massive downpour with Adam to retrieve my car so we could pick up the rest of our crew after class to save them from getting drenched; going bowling with Dr. Hatch-Tocaimaza and his adorable son; the heated bowling competition and Aprí sneaking right past Adam and me to win the gold.

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Waking up early to explore the bike trails to first Holmes Lake and then to Pioneers Park; Adam (sort of) saving my life; getting a huge hug from Mary when she joined us for our Thursday night adventures; the night of karaoke and finding out Miles is one amazing singer (Mary, Aprí, and Erika were great too)

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The late night conversations with Adam in our residence hall room; searching campus for a UNL drawstring bag Adam and I were wanting for running and biking adventures (a huge thanks to the College of Business Administration once again!); strolling down the department’s hallway and office to meet others we knew by name and electronic correspondence but little more; getting a challenge coin; taking a long lunch so we could see the largest urinal west of the Mississippi that just happens to be on UNL’s campus

Hearing about Aprí’s “grandparents” at her Airbnb; a late-night search for the perfect UNL water bottle with Erika and Adam and finding shirts and hats instead; a drive by the community gardens at East Campus and then soon after seeing a herd of deer that seem to live in the middle of Lincoln; seeing the look of happiness on Miles’ face as he showed pictures of his son; the great conversations with Erika when either picking her up or dropping her off at her apartment for the week; and many, many more.

People and memories are what make a place, and both of these came together last week in Lincoln. Going forward, I will be looking at my grad program in a completely different light. Sure enough, I was definitely wrong and one can make fantastic friends in an online program, something I didn’t really see happening when I started the PhD work. Needless to say, I am so glad I was wrong. Now and forever into the future, I will be holding these amazing people and my times in Nebraska close to my heart while also embracing the fact I am indeed a Cornhusker.

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A Technical Glitch (A Very Short One-Act Play)

For the last two years, I have been a last-minute substitute playwright for Hutchinson Community College’s 24 Hour Plays. The concept is quite nifty with everyone involved meeting at the college at 9:00 PM. We all introduce ourselves to each other by telling one talent we possess and a little about a prop and costume piece we brought as potential items that could be used in one of the plays. Then all leave but the playwrights who select a cast and then each write a 7 to 10 minute one-act play. After that, the playwrights go home during the early morning hours, and the actors and directors begin their work soon after. At 7:30 PM, the plays are performed, and all wraps up by 9:00 PM.

A friend and I were talking about my play from this year’s show. It is easy to see it was inspired by topics that became blog posts (and also a New Year’s Resolution) I was pondering around that time (see here and here). Rather than to let the play hang out on my computer for the rest of its life, I figured I could try something different with this blog for this week and post it here for others to read. A quick warning – it was written between the hours of 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM. 

 

A Technical Glitch

The Characters
All three are charming and clever college students.

Eliza – A quick-witted female college student
Darcy – A charismatic male college student
James – A quirky male college student

Setting
The hallway of a college building. All three students are sitting on different benches and on their phones. Their heads are down staring at their screens. For about thirty seconds or so, the students just stare and type away at their phones when the lights flash and then the students start to look at their phones perplexedly before starting to look at each other somewhat shyly.

Darcy: turning to Eliza. Hi, uh, hey.

Eliza briefly glances at him before going back to fidgeting with her phone.

Darcy: turning now to James. Hey. Um, is your phone working?

James: Pauses a bit. No, it’s dead. Just like that. I just charged it too.

Darcy: Mine too. This is strange. What do you think it means?

James: I don’t know.

Darcy: Miss. Is your phone working?

Eliza: Annoyed and with some disdain. No.

Darcy: So yours too, then?

Eliza: Yes.  

James: What if all phones are dead?

Darcy: They can’t be.

All three continue to fidget with their phones as they try to get them to turn back on.

Eliza: Seriously. Mine won’t turn back on.

James: Same here.

Eliza: Argh. I needed to respond to that text.

James: And I was in the middle of reading about quantum mechanics.

Darcy: It was Instagram for me.

Collective sigh heard from all three.

Darcy: Progressively more dramatic. We may actually have to have face-to-face conversations. I know – The horror. The dread. How are we going to ever do such a thing?!

James and Eliza both look at Darcy. Darcy first has a deadpan expression before a smile breaks.

Darcy: Oh come on. We may be Millennials, but we are not idiots. So what class are you two waiting for?

James: Philosophy.

Eliza: Slightly more amused by Darcy. Marriage and Family. And you?

Darcy: Public Speaking. I even have a speech today.

Eliza: Fun.

Darcy: Sure.

A little awkward silence as the three look back at their phones before Eliza and Darcy each finally put them aside or away.

James: Do you think there is a deeper meaning behind this?

Darcy: Well, you are the philosopher among us, so you would know.

James: Maybe we are emerging from Plato’s cave?

Eliza: Or maybe there was just a huge technical glitch?

Darcy: And maybe you are a buzz kill?

Darcy and Eliza trade looks for a second. Darcy is amused and Eliza has a death glare. Then Darcy returns to being serious. 

Darcy: Maybe it’s the first step of war? First wipe out our phones and then next the people?

James: starts going through his backpack before pulling out a gas mask. I have a gas mask!

Eliza: Why do you have a gas mask?

Darcy: Why shouldn’t he have a gas mask?

James: I also have a jester’s hat. Pulling out a jester’s hat.

Darcy: And jesters know all.

James: Putting on the jester’s hat and smiling. So meaning or no meaning? Frankl or Sarte?

Eliza: No meaning.

Darcy moves to sit by Eliza while James continues to contemplate the situation with his phone.

Darcy: Hi.

Eliza: Sighs. Hi.

Darcy: So come here often?

Eliza: Well, this is a college, and my class is just down the hall, and we are in the middle of the semester, so you could say I do. Well, at least three times a week.

Darcy: Funny. I don’t think I have ever seen you here before.

Eliza: Funny indeed.

James: Looking now directly at his phone. Maybe it’s Descarte. I think; therefore, I am! I think; therefore, you work! . . . Hmm, you don’t work.

Eliza: On a side note, what kind of line is “So come here often?” anyway?

Darcy: A classic one.

Eliza just looks at him.

Darcy: Fine. It’s a cheesy line, but I’m a cheesy guy. What should I ask instead? How’s your day? I could, but you would say, “Fine.” And we would be back to where we are now.

James: Truth! But what is truth? Erich Fromm, I look to you.

Eliza: Fine. Pauses. Do you come here often?

Darcy: Funny enough, about three days a week.

Eliza: And yet, I never have seen you. Small world.

James: Disney? Nah. It’s not Disney.

More silence as Darcy and Eliza look around a bit more.

Eliza: So what is your speech about?

Darcy: Well, it’s  — Pauses for just a bit. It’s cheesy.

Eliza: I’m noticing a theme, but cheese can be good.

Darcy: Especially smoked gouda. Anyway, it’s our show and tell speech so we were supposed to bring something meaningful to share with the class.

Eliza: With a slight smile. And you brought cheese?

Darcy: I should have. I’m kind of hungry right now. Instead, I uh. Just a second, Runs over to get his bag, pulls out a baseball, and holds it up. I brought this.

Eliza: Oh, you’re a baseball player. Let me guess. You hit a home run that won the game, and that’s the ball.

Darcy: Not exactly . . . or at all.

James: Perhaps Aristotle knows the answer. He pulls out a book and starts looking through it.

Eliza: So what’s the story, Babe Ruth?

Darcy: Did you just call me, “Babe”?

Eliza: Not in that way, so don’t get your hopes up. What’s the true story behind the ball?

James: Truth once again! Is there ever such a thing? One truth or multiple? Or alternates?

Darcy: Well, my dad and I used to always go down to the park when I was a kid. One time I found this ball outside of the ball diamond long after a game was over. I still remember it just sitting there in the grass. Well, I picked it up and it’s been with me ever since. That day, he and I started to use it to play catch. It would go back and forth between us just like the conversations we would have. He lightly tosses the ball to Eliza who catches it. So this ball just represents all of those times he and I would play catch, and, in his own way, be there for me.

Eliza: That’s a nice story. She tosses the ball back to him. He catches it before he sits down next to her.

Darcy: Thanks. So what are you covering in Marriage and Family today?

Eliza pulls out her notebook and Darcy looks down towards the pages.

Eliza: Are you familiar with the 36 questions that lead to love?

Darcy: I am guessing “Come here often?” is not one of them.

Eliza: You guess right. Anyway, these questions supposedly can lead two people to fall in love with each other if they spend the time answering them and time looking into each other’s eyes.

Eliza and Darcy both pause as they look into each other’s eyes for a second before realizing what happened and looking away.

Darcy: Wow! That sounds fascinating.

Eliza: It really is.

Darcy: What’s an example of one of the questions?

Eliza: When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Darcy: That’s embarrassing.

Eliza: That’s the question.

Darcy: Well, on my way to school this morning, Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” may have been on the radio, and I may have broken into song, and there may have been witnesses.

Eliza: And you may have thrown your hands up because they were playing your song. Butterflies fly away.

Darcy: I’m noddin’ my head like, ‘yeah.’ I’m movn’ my hips like, yeah.

Darcy and Eliza sort of singing: I got my hands up, they’re playing my song. I know I’m gonna be okay. Yeah, it’s a party in the U.S.A. It’s a party in the U.S.A.

Eliza and Darcy are laughing now together. James is still looking through the book.

James: So Aristotle, is it fate or is it freewill?

Darcy: So what’s one of your talents besides getting people to admit to singing Miley.

Eliza: That’s the big one.

Darcy: What’s a bigger one?

Eliza: I can say the alphabet backwards?

Darcy: You can?

Eliza: I can.

Darcy: Prove it.

Eliza: Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R, Q, P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, B, A

Darcy: Wow!

Eliza: Smiling and proud of herself. Thanks! What’s one of your talents?

Darcy: I can click my heels.

Eliza: Like a leprechaun?

Darcy: Sure, like uh leprechaun.

Eliza: Prove it.

Darcy gets up and proves it. Eliza claps.

Eliza: Bravo. Bravo.

Darcy: This is going to be forward, but your boyfriend is a very lucky guy.

Eliza: I don’t have a boyfriend.

Darcy: So you may be free for a date on Valentine’s Day?

Eliza: Maybe.

Darcy: Maybe.

Darcy and Eliza continue to smile at each other while James has picked up the pace and intensity with his reading.

Darcy: So what is another one of those questions to fall in love?

Eliza: Why? Are you wanting to fall in love?

Darcy: Maybe.

Eliza: Maybe.

James: Extremely fascinating! It’s multiple.

Darcy: So another question?

Eliza: Let’s see. Looks at her notebook. How about what is your most treasured memory?

Darcy: That’s easy. Playing catch with my dad.

Eliza: Out of all of your memories?

Darcy: Without a doubt.

Eliza: Why is that?

Darcy: It was just simpler times . . . and he was still here.

Eliza: Oh, I’m sorry. I uh –

Darcy: So, uh, what’s, uh, what’s your most treasured memory?

Eliza: Well, I am definitely becoming quite fond of this one.

Both Eliza and Darcy look at each other and smile.

James: Jumps up. Except this one never happened.

Darcy: Huh?

James: Never happened. It’s all a parallel world. I just was reading all about it. The quantum mechanics article. It all makes sense now.

Darcy: What about quantum mechanics?

James: It gets into multiverses. There was a glitch, and we were thrown into one I think, but you can feel the energy throwing us back to where we always were.

Eliza: But we are here.

James: And not here. Phones don’t just die. They disconnected because of the glitch. For a second, we jumped to another multiverse, but we didn’t belong.

Darcy: So they never died, but rather they just never connected.

James: Exactly. You are actually right back there. Pointing to Darcy’s original bench. Darcy taking all of his things seems pulled back to where he was all while looking at Eliza.

Eliza: But I liked him here.

Darcy: And I liked being there.

James: But that wasn’t the way our world actually worked.

Darcy: But I remember everything.

Eliza: He clicked his heels.

Darcy: She said the alphabet backwards.

Eliza and Darcy: We sang Miley.

James: You don’t get it. It was a taste of what might have been. None of it happened.

Darcy: Why do I want to get my phone out?

Eliza: Why do I want to do the same?

James: We can’t fight it.

Eliza: And jesters know all.

Darcy: Looking at Eliza. I don’t even know your name.

Eliza: It’s –

Eliza and Darcy go back to looking at their phones just as they were doing before. James puts his jester hat back in the bag and resumes his position on the bench as his phone returns to both hands.

James: It was just all a small break into another universe, and now we are back to how it always was.

James then goes back to looking at his phone and the lights flash again. All three of them are back to being glued to their phone. Then James gets up and walks away looking at his phone. Darcy still glued to his phone stands up next. He gets the ball out of his bag and has it in one hand while his phone remains in the other. Meanwhile, Eliza has stood up, still looking at her phone. Darcy’s ball slips from his grip and rolls right toward Eliza. She looks up from her phone and stops the ball with her foot before picking it up.

Eliza: Here you go.

Darcy: Thanks.

He reaches out for the ball and their hands touch with both pausing for a second as their eyes lock.

Darcy: Do I know you?

Eliza: I don’t think so but –

And then the dinging of text messages happen. Both look at each other one last time before looking back at their phones and walking away in different directions with their eyes glued to the screens.   

My Time as a Talk20 Presenter

The eighth edition of Talk20 Hutch is going to be on July 21 at 7:00 PM at the Hutchinson Public Library. The line up looks like it will be another stellar night as 9 Reno County residents share their stories by presenting 20 images and talking for 20 second about each one. There will also be a tribute to Patsy too.

What Kari Mailloux and Patsy Terrell created with the help of Gregg Wamsley is something truly magical. The powerful energy that forms is unreal and leads long into the night. If you haven’t been to one and will be in the Hutchinson area that evening, definitely don’t miss it, but be sure to get there early for over 300 people usually attend with even a line forming before the library doors open.

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Talk20 is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things that takes place in Hutchinson (and was the subject of one of my first entries for this blog too). Ever since the first Talk20 back in 2014, I have been in awe of it, and each one after has been amazing. Happening twice a year (January and July), the Talk20 talks have ranged all over the place from autographed handkerchiefs (one of my all-time favorites) to extrovert problems (by the great Bailey!) to an adventure as a male model to writing an editorial that went viral (a shout out to the great writing of Jason Probst) to so many other fascinating topics.

With the exception of one thanks to a previously planned trip to see my bucket-list destination of Banff National Park, I have attended all of them. Last January, I even had the chance to go from attendee to presenter. I have been meaning to write about my Talk20 experience for quite some time, but time managed to get away from me last spring, so in honor of the next one coming up, let’s jump back to December when Kari and I had the following text conversation that started it all:

Kari: Are you in for Talk20 on Jan. 27 to tell the story about your resolutions? Or to use resolutions to tell your story?
Ryan: About being a failure with my resolutions?
Kari: About setting resolutions and the process of keeping them or not.
Ryan: One year of success and two years of failure?
Kari: Yes
Ryan: And presenting myself to 300 people as a failure. Yay for self-deprecation.
Kari: You’re not a failure! You set the resolutions for yourself!
Ryan: How was the rest of your day? True. I only failed myself.
Kari: The fact is you set these high expectations for yourself. Not just in resolutions but in everything. The process around that is the story, I think.
Ryan: And I do need a story for my life. A new story. Reading all about it now.
Kari: You said so just today. 😊

And it was true. I had thanks to my reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. The end of the year was also nearing, and all I could think about was all of the resolutions that never happened, so I did what I guess I may normally do as I sent the next text:

Ryan: So the rest of your day?
Kari: You’re so good at deflecting from questions about you. How was your vacation day?
Ryan: There seems to be deflection taking place there too.

For the next fourteen days, the thought of giving a Talk20 bounced around my head as I did my best with a few resolutions from 2016 that were yet to be accomplished like learning how to draw. Then finally, I sent a text to Kari letting her know I would do it unless, of course, she had found someone else; she hadn’t, and just like that, my fate was sealed. Soon after the beginning of the year, an email arrived with a welcome to Talk20 Hutch that included a few notes and deadlines, thus making it official.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I hunted through photos and read through previous blog posts to try to find a way to assemble a story out of the New Year’s Resolutions all while constantly looking back at the email Kari had sent me and reading over Tim Urban’s take on doing a TED Talk for pointers. Photos were found and then discarded. Then there were repeated practice run-throughs again and again to make sure I was keeping everything within 20 seconds.

The night of the Talk20 was a blur, and I remember taking in a deep breath while listening to Patsy’s introduction, looking out into the audience to see my proud mother who had driven several hours just to be there to hear me, and then walking up to the podium extremely nervous about what was about to happen. Through it all, my hands shook as they held onto my notes, and they were still shaking long after I had finished and worked my way back to my seat in the audience. Then came the really nifty part after the final presentation had been given when others shared with me resolutions they had set through the years. There was a neat passion that lit up their eyes, and I saw a passion even brighter at the after-party at Carl’s Bar in the eyes of Patsy as we talked for quite some time about her first experiences as a legislator. That night was filled with so many memories that I will continue to hold very close to my heart.

Now as a way to wrap this up, let’s go with five take-aways from my Talk20 Experience:

1. Reflection Is Important
As you likely caught through the text message exchanges, my view about my New Year’s Resolutions at the end of 2016 was not a positive one. All I could think about were my failed attempts with time management and my not carrying on Positive Campaigns for really no reason besides bad time management and follow through. Post-election, that haunted me greatly, and my focus were solely on those failed resolutions. Everything else vanished from my mind until I started to revisit the other resolutions. The draft of the novel sure enough was finished, and the second readable draft is well on its way. The 15 minute (phone) conversation in Spanish with John on a late night drive to Lincoln brought a smile to my face, another check in a box and a good memory. The 10% body fat goal has continued to evade me, but the Million Meter t-shirt from that accomplishment gives me an extra boost of confidence whenever I wear it. There ultimately have been more wins than losses, but before reflecting upon it, my mind focused more on the latter.

I also realized the first year’s theme was unconsciously tackling past relationship hang ups/issues. That probably should have been noticeable as I sat alone on that New Year’s Eve and crafting the first set of resolutions, but it wasn’t. However, as I was putting together the Talk20 slides, it became clear the origin of many of the resolutions were my exes and complaints they had made about me at one time or another, and the 2014 New Year’s Resolutions were all about my heart recovering while also trying my best to become a better man so my bad habits wouldn’t sabotage future relationships.

2. The More Measurable the Resolution, the More Likely for Its Success
Without a doubt, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a person’s best friend when setting New Year’s Resolutions. Some of the hardest of the resolutions were the ones that didn’t really lead to something tangible.

3. A Lot Can Happen in 20 Seconds
Sure, a couple of the previous Talk20 presenters said, “Wow! 20 seconds is much longer than I thought.” For me, I had trouble staying within that boundary, but it was also eye-opening about how much can actually be packed into a 20 second segment. Sure, we often think about hours or days, but truly, we should not underestimate the power of a series of seconds and what can be done during them.

4. New Year’s Resolutions Changed My Life and Continue to Do So
Sure, I figured the resolutions had some impact on my life, but the Talk20 actually led to my realizing the great power they had. The eye-opening moment was when I was showing Bailey my slides and mentioned one of the photos with some of the OKC crew was on my birthday at a Dolly Parton concert. She, whose love for Dolly Parton is so great that her adorable puppy is named Dolly Parton Stiggins, had no idea I had gone to the concert, and that was when I realized it was because of the resolutions she and I really became such great friends thanks to my forcing myself to move away from island mode. I had been so nervous to ask her if she would be willing to take on dance lessons with me. Now, she is one of my best friends, and I cannot imagine my life without her in it.

So many other life changes have come from the annual New Year’s Resolutions. New friends, new things I have learned, even this blog are all results of them, and it was actually the Talk20 presentation that led to my starting to appreciate them on a whole other level. This realization also has helped give another boost of motivation to keep them going.

5. The Dreams and Actions of a Few Can Impact the Lives of So Many
When Kari and Patsy first came together and discussed the idea of Talk20 and when Gregg jumped on board by offering the library as its home, I don’t think the trio had any idea about the far-reaching impact it would have. The sharing of the stories through each presentation is just the start too for the magic of each night. Another thing I love most about the Talk20s is how it brings together people from all different backgrounds and ages to one place. It is extremely nifty to see the interaction before, during intermission, and afterwards as new connections are made and even more stories are shared thanks to those presentations created a shared space to help build a stronger community.

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This coming Friday is going to be extremely strange not having Patsy there. I already know it’s going to be another time of my eyes looking all over the place for her because her no longer being here still hasn’t sunk in and I don’t know if it ever will. I also know the magic that she, Kari, and Gregg have created through the Talk20’s will once again fill the library as the presenters share their stories and a community comes together to laugh, cry, be inspired in so many ways, and continue the conversation long after the night itself has come to a close.

And in case you are interested, here is my Talk20 on Resolving to Resolve:

Bursting Our Bubbles

Whenever I ride my bike to work, I find myself looking at each of the drivers passing by on 17th Street. This habit likely started out of safety, but it then quickly moved over to a fascination, for the majority of the times, I don’t recognize a single driver. This shouldn’t be a big deal given Hutchinson has over 41,000 people living here, but the place never seems that large. Rather, it has a small-town feel thanks to bumping into the same people at the grocery store, parks, concerts, theatre productions, Third Thursday, Young Professional events, and so forth. Then everyone seems connected too; however, these people driving by are a reminder Hutchinson is much larger than it feels, and they are also a reminder about the bubble in which I live.

The concept of living in a bubble has been on my mind a lot lately, and it has only seemed to grow over the last month thanks to two podcasts. However, before I get to those, let’s talk about bubbles. They can be pretty, safe, and comfortable, but they can be quite the opposite as well. It really all depends on what happens to make up a person’s own world. A lot of this can be indirectly caused by where one lives thanks to the stores and places he/she would tend to go. There are also direct causes that can help thicken the bubble’s walls, and in today’s world, it is so easy to do that by keeping only like-minded people in one’s social media network, watching/reading the news that lines up best with one’s beliefs, and surrounding oneself with friends who all share the same thoughts. Suggestions from websites only feed to this too with things like Google News analyzing the articles one tends to read, plugging this data into an algorithm, and the suggesting future news stories accordingly. Online music streaming sites, YouTube, and Amazon all do something similar with their recommendations that keep people in a nice, safe world rather than branching out. Although this is no doubt helpful in a way, it also leads to it being so much easier to get trapped in a bubble.

The trick, though, is breaking free.

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NPR’s Invisibilia had a recent episode all about the reality we create thanks to bubbles, and one of the two people featured really intrigued me. Max Hawkins, a computer developer, decided to use technology in his favor by findings ways to hack/develop different apps that would allow for him to live a more random life. For an example, one such app searches all public Facebook events and randomly selects one for him to attend, and he goes. This has led to going to gatherings of all sorts that he never would have ever gone before with his meeting people whose paths his likely never would have crossed, which has led to new experiences, interesting conversations, and even new friends. His story led to my wondering how exactly I could do that with my own life with my now planning on making a more conscious decision to look at different things taking place in the area and picking one I likely never would have thought about tending before and going to it.

Invisibilia has been in my podcast subscription list for quite some time, so it’s definitely within my bubble. In fact, everything about me likely places me smack dab in the middle of the demographic in which it is aimed. Conversations with Bill Kristol, though, is definitely not.

Before we get into this second podcast that changed my life, let’s get into a little bit about my political bubble as a preface. I will say that I try my best to listen to people from all across the political spectrums, and this could be backed by stories in the Hutchinson News alone. Back in December 2015, a photo of me appeared having a great conversation (and it truly was a great conversation) with members of the Hutchinson Tea Party who were part of a Young Professionals Political Panel. Last year, my name came up as one of many who were collecting signatures for a Republican state senator candidate to be placed on the ballot. Then last June, my name appeared again in a story about a meeting of the Reno County Democrats where I stood up and spoke on behalf of Jason Probst regarding his interest in House of Representatives’ seat that became vacant after the tragic passing of the amazing Patsy Terrell. Then there would be quite a few stories about my non-partisan efforts chairing/co-chairing Kids Voting Reno County for the last three November elections.

I really do try my best honestly. However, with that said, there is an involuntary cringe that happens that I try very hard to hide when I find out someone I am talking to attends one of the churches in town that promote ideas that are not in favor of women and LGBT equality issues. That same cringe even happens when someone professes his/her love for Chick-fil-A despite my knowing about the good the restaurant chain has done as well (with that said, I still won’t eat there though). And while I will sometimes click on a Google News article from a source like Fox News, it is not often, and my favorite episodes of Fox & Friends would be Saturday Night Live’s, especially because of the list of corrections from the fact checkers at the end of each episode.

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A similar cringe happened when I started listening to the interview with Nebraska’s Senator Ben Sasse on Conversations with Bill Kristol. I do want to be clear that the cringe doesn’t come from Sasse and Kristol being labeled as conservatives or Republicans. It was more about me preparing myself for another uber-conservative talk radio show of sorts that I have a tendency to listen to, especially the super religious ones, when I am on solo road trips (don’t ask why because I don’t know the answer either). The podcast wasn’t something I stumbled upon either. Rather, a friend of mine, who leans more toward the Libertarian side of the political spectrum, had referenced the podcast during a recent conversation, and based upon his and my discussion, I was intrigued to hear Sasse’s views on American society, especially regarding the Millennials. Both Sasse and Kristol had been on my radar from time to time but never for any length, nor were they ever a focus.

I listened on though, and much to my surprise in all honesty, the words of Sasse continually grabbed my attention with many of the things he said echoing similar thoughts and ideas I have attempted to express before during various conversations with friends, students, and anyone else who would listen. The biggest difference was Sasse is much more eloquent with his discussions about a society that is consuming life (or being consumed) via screens rather than “thinking about the habits of travel, of literacy, about learning to work, about the dangers of gluttony.” Many people I know from all different political spectrums would also agree with him when he says, “I think we want our kids to be curious. We want them to have a habit of reading. We want them to have a reading list of stuff they want to read. We want them to have the eyes that come from new travel.”

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This great fascination with Ben Sasse has continued with my listening to the podcast a second time while in Colorado with my mother trapped in the passenger seat. Then soon I was following him on Twitter and watching his other interviews. Of course, his well-written book was also quickly purchased, and it was a great read with many great points. Just ask anyone who has been around me for any length of time, and they will tell you about my often now making references to Sasse, for more often than not, Sasse and I are on the same page with our overall beliefs even down to his not being able to conceive of the idea of being bored (I seriously don’t understand the concept. Sasse also made the fantastic point curiosity is the cure for boredom, which has led to my adding “incurious” to my often stated line that only boring people get bored).

Another shared point that became obvious in the interviews and his book was Sasse’s concerned about this growingly polarized bubbled world that seems to be forming. In fact, one of the main missions of his book was to fight that with the desire to bring people from all different sides together to strengthen the younger generation to the point the country will be in great hands when it comes their time to lead. Take this passage by Sasse from Conversations with Tyler:

One of the fundamental challenges of the moment we’re at is that we believe that the digital moment will necessarily expose us to more and more diverse things, and I think what’s actually going to happen is that we’re going to become more and more siloed. And there’s a real danger of tribalism and being able to at the moment that media is going to disintermediate. We’re not going to have big common channels anymore. We’re going to have more and more niche channels. It will be possible to surround yourself only with people who already believe what you believe.

In that world where you can create echo chambers and when advertisers and marketers and Russians are going to try to surround you with echo chambers to only believe what you already believe, it’s not going to be easy to develop empathy. It’s going to be really easy to demonize the other and come to believe that the deep problems of my soul and the deep problems of my mortality could maybe just be solved if I could vanquish those other really bad people from the field. That’s not true, and we’re going to have to, as a people, develop the maturity and the habits of empathy-creation, and that requires going other times and places both physically and in a literary sense.

Sasse captures the problems with bubbles. We become trapped and disconnected with others around us. It also doesn’t take long in the time in which we are living that ethnocentrism seeps in and blinds us either. Rather than empathy, a quick rejection can occur, and along with it can come quickly jumping to conclusions and reinforcing the bubble’s barriers.

The question then becomes how do we break free from a bubble. First, we need to recognize our bubble’s boundaries and reach beyond by getting out of our comfort zone. This can be something as simple as finding a public event, store, place, or even a restaurant we would never have gone to before and then going to it with an open mind. Also, while doing this, be sure not to bring one’s own prejudices to the experience. Rather, take with you a curiosity that leads to looking deeper into the experience. That can be the start. Of course, remember the power of conversation with others and avoiding nonsermitis. Even if a person may seem completely different on paper, similarities surely abound with all of us striving to have a better life. Here once again comes the importance of taking the time to listen to others rather than putting them in a box and brushing them off. I could have done that with Kristol and Sasse, but thankfully, that didn’t happen, and because it didn’t, so many ideas are now floating around in my head that are giving me hope for the future of our country.

One such idea is our political arena could be so much better if on a weekly basis during session, many of the politicians from the different parties would come together for dinner and a social hour following where they were not allowed to talk about politics at all. Rather, they could talk about their lives back home, their families, things about their districts that make them proud, their life histories, positive current events, travels, and all sorts of other things that groups of people getting to know each other would discuss. It couldn’t be a one-time thing either, but rather, it should be ongoing. In theory, through these outings, the fracture among the parties could start to mend as they would start to see people from the other party not as enemies but rather as friends who may differ in terms of some ideas but have same desire to improve society for all.

After all, we need to remember we are citizens of the United States of America. Unfortunately, that united part is showing quite a few fractures these days. Never will we all agree on something, and nor should we. It is through respectful substantial conversations and civil debates growth can occur. Carrying on these rather than quickly rejecting the other side could do so much good for us all. Plus, when it comes down to it, one of essential benefits of getting out of our bubbles is to grow not only as people but also as a society and a community.

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Without a doubt, driving to work is much easier than riding my bike. Although tires on both travel the same route most of the time, the experience is very different. In addition to all of those people I mentioned earlier that I don’t recognize, there are also so many other things that come along with pedaling down 17th. Sure, not everything is always great, especially on one of those humid Kansas summer days, and you will be hard-pressed to find me riding to work during a frigid winter morning or when a hard rain is pummeling the ground. But then there are the times of that cool autumn breeze brushing against my face and also that delight that comes from a whiff of sweet flowers that had just started to bloom. Regardless of the season, the waves of neighbors and the grade school kids serving as crosswalk guards are always pleasant ways to begin the day. By staying comfortable in the confines of my vehicle, never would those little delights happen in my life. Plus, the pedaling helps burn off calories so I can devour more peanut butter too.

In all seriousness though, when it comes down to it, truly living our lives is all about putting ourselves out there. As John Donne wrote and as I found out as one of my first New Year’s Resolutions, no man (or woman) is an island. We should also avoid becoming islands of all like-minded people who never really grow. Rather, we should connect, or otherwise, we become, just like the bubbles in all of these photos scattered throughout this post, surrounded by beauty but never truly part of it.

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June’s Theme: Morning (and Evening) Routines Revisited

Pretty much the majority, if not all, sources on productivity will at some time or another praise morning routines as being crucial to a productive day. So many books, podcasts, articles, blog posts, and videos have gone on about how that time before the working day begins can change one’s life depending on how the minutes are used. Hal Elrod alone has made a huge career with The Miracle Morning. Given my addiction to self-help sources, I have read about morning routines over and over. One of my favorites pieces done on them would be this recent video by Thomas Frank, who is the man behind of one of my favorite YouTube channels/websites, College Info Geek:

Despite my love for mornings, my routine definitely does stray, so it seemed like a good idea after ending the month of May with a birthday, to bring the morning routine back into focus to help accomplish my goals for not only the rest of the year but also my life. Mornings alone didn’t seem like enough for a monthly theme given this was a New Year’s Resolution last year, so an evening routine was thrown into the mix too (in part inspired by Frank’s point about them and in other part because it made sense).

I sat down on the evening of May 31, tried to listen to Thomas Frank’s advice to start small, and set my desired schedule for a morning. The four essential pieces I set to begin the day were jogging (or a cardio workout of some sort), a weight workout, yoga, and meditation (breakfast and the other morning prep work were just a given).

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My Morning Yoga Routine (along with my personal mission statement and some of my general resolves for life)

Then for the evening, they were updating my Personalized Progress Log, going over my schedule and goals for the next day, and getting my work clothes ready for the morning. Additional parts thrown into the different routines as the month progressed (that were also some of the first to be cut out too) were writing, reading, playing the guitar, and drawing.

Looking back on the month of June, I cannot quite say it was a success; however, it wasn’t quite a failure either. Rather, it was more the start of some good habits although some days were indeed missed with only one or sometimes unfortunately none of the essentials happening. Also, now likely making excuses, the month of June wasn’t exactly filled with my most typical days. Two different weeks had me going into work at 6:45 AM to open the office thanks to a colleague being on vacation. Although I told myself I could wake up earlier to accomplish everything, I didn’t listen well to that advice. Then another week had me in Topeka for a couple of days for work, and the one other week entailed my taking my mother to visit one of her high school classmates in Colorado with our then taking the long way home to check out some national parks (the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is amazing!) I had yet to visit and see some other nifty places in the state that continues to steal my heart.

Even with the failures, there were some great takeaways though. When I accomplished at least my set of four morning routine essentials, I felt great. Plus, ironing my clothes the night before will now for sure become a habit thanks to its eliminating my previous habit of triple-checking and sometimes quadruple-checking to make sure my iron was unplugged before I left for work (and sometimes even driving back to my house after I had left to be sure about that). Then the stretching from the yoga routine always felt wonderful, and updating my Personalized Progress Log each night led to great reflection about the day as well as helped me accomplish another one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

The regular jogging, although never very long, was also a good addition to my life too with my still imagining those daily steps are being done with my imaginary mentor created back in April. There were also some fantastic sunrises spotted during those early morning outings. Although most places where we stayed during the Colorado adventure were not necessarily outdoor-jogging friendly, I did have a great run in Buena Vista and another after we left Pagosa Springs that led me to the bridge view of Treasure Falls.

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Treasure Falls, Colorado – A great place to prove I was definitely not in shape for jogging at a higher elevation

Without a doubt, it’s going to take much longer than a month for my morning and evening routines to become a constant in my life, but some good steps were taken in June by bringing both into focus. With July’s theme involving at least fifteen minutes of reading for pleasure and at least fifteen minutes of writing for pleasure being part of each day, I have a feeling those routines starting and ending each day are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Tips for Setting Up Morning and Evening Routines

  • Start small and slowly add to them if you so desire.
  • Know the reason why you want to make each part of the routine a habit and have a good reason. This will increase motivation.
  • Track each day (a checklist works well. I put each of the tasks in my Personalized Progress Log which is in an Excel document, so I am able to keep track of them there. Also, marking off each day you stay with your routines on a paper calendar would work too).
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the morning and evening to accomplish your routines. If your schedule is thrown off, try for at least one of the tasks you have as an essential.
  • Make things easy for you by having the morning and evening routines complement each other. There is power in synergy.
  • If you should miss a day, simply start again after reflecting upon why you missed them.
  • Reflect upon how the routines have changed your life for the better. Doing so will help with your motivation to keep them going.

 

Post Script
Starting at the beginning of June, I also gave up drinking alcohol. More on that later though.

Going Over the Edge for Reno County’s United Way

There I was dangling from a rope. My feet had lost their footing for a second, and adrenaline pumped through my system as I tried my best to get them back to the stone wall. The sound of music and voice of Lisa Gleason, Executive Director of the United Way of Reno County, echoed from down below on Main Street while the shade of the First National Bank building protected me from the sweltering late afternoon summer heat. It was my first time to rappel, and I could not think of a better place to do it than from off one of the tallest buildings in Downtown Hutchinson. Still, the thought of how I ended up where I was kept running through my mind.

I first learned about the idea of United Way of Reno County’s Over the Edge last August when I was picking up t-shirts for my honors students who were taking part in our annual clean up of Carey Park for the United Way’s Day of Service. Tona Turner, the former executive director, asked me my thoughts of a fundraiser that involved people like me rappelling off the First National Bank building on at the next summer’s Third Thursday. As she described the event to me, thoughts of previous events throughout Downtown’s history ran through my mind. There was, of course, Spot the horse and his rider on top of the Wiley Building in 1941 as well as all sorts of other images and memories of events that have taken place on Main Street both in my life and before.

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Without a doubt, I could see what Tona described as becoming a part of Hutch’s history. The First National Bank of Hutchinson alone has played a large role in the history of both the city of Hutchinson and my life. For Hutchinson itself, First National Bank came to that location back in 1876. It transformed into Hutchinson’s first skyscraper in 1911 based upon designs by Daniel Burnham, the same Chicago architect who designed New York City’s Flatiron Building and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, and many other iconic buildings throughout the country. The building was then expanded in 1957 and again in 1972-1974 to its current state.

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It was this building that grabbed my attention when I first moved here back in 2007 and was looking for a local bank. It was also here I spent a summer as an intern for the Hutchinson Community Foundation when I cleaned their storage room to transform it into my summer office where I would arrive each morning to look out their fifth-floor windows towards the east side of Main Street and all of the land beyond, including the grain elevator that once had the claim of fame of being the world’s longest (it’s second now). A few years later, I then began spending many more hours on that floor as a board member for that same amazing organization and eventually the chair of their grants committee. Plus, there were many memories of breakfasts and lunches at Downtown Sampler, the tasty restaurant on the second floor, and then there were the times meeting John on top of the parking garage to bring him something or another when he was working evenings there when he was going back to school. Plus, it is on Main Street, and to say I have a great love for Downtown Hutchinson would be an understatement.

On top of the location, the event also had the pull of being a fundraiser for the United Way of Reno County, which has changed the lives of so many through the money they raise during their annual campaign that goes to support many of the fantastic non-profits here in the area including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Reno County, Boys & Girls Club, Hospice of Reno County, Interfaith Housing Services, New Beginnings, Salvation Army, Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center, The Volunteer Center of Reno County, and many more working hard to improve living conditions for our local population. Then they also have greatly helped with early childhood education here in the community too, something that is very dear to my heart, and have partnered with Hutchinson Recreation Commission, Reno County Health Department, and the City of Hutchinson with the Southwest Bricktown Neighborhood Initiative which has led to many wonderful things as well.

So thanks to the history of the building, the great work the United Way does, and my New Year’s Resolution #1 for this year to live a better story, I couldn’t resist signing up back in February to be one of the people to rappel down the side of the building. Each person though was to meet a financial goal of $1000 in order to go over the edge of the First National Bank building. This is where once again I was reminded I am horrible at fundraising. I would craft Facebook posts and emails to share with others, but then not hit either the submit or send button at the last moment. I was going to write a blog post back in March about the upcoming event, but well, you can see that didn’t happen. My plan, though, was to fund, as I tend to try to do with fundraisers, most of it myself, but a $1600 vet bill for Callie in April and another extremely large sum of money for summer graduate courses led to that plan failing too. By the end of May, I had given up on reaching the goal and getting a chance to be part of this piece of Hutchinson history.

However, the kind hearts of those at the United Way decided to let those who had signed up but had not reach the financial goal still rappel and let us still try to raise money throughout the rest of the month of June (if you would like to donate, please do so by going here) as well as have us be able to talk about the amazing experience that it was so even more people will want to sign up the next time they do this. When I received this email on Tuesday, I was thrilled to say the least, and soon I had one of the last scheduled times so I wouldn’t miss out on meeting with new honors students at the Enrollment Day at work.

After changing out my dress shoes into hiking boots (I figured they had the best traction out of anything I owned), I drove quickly downtown yesterday afternoon still wearing a pair of dress pants and my standard white button-up shirt (the tie and jacket were left behind though) to experience something new. Throughout the day, I had caught a few pics, videos, and Snapchats of some of my other friends going down the building, and with each, I became both a little more excited and a little more nervous. I won’t lie and say there was not a brief moment of hesitation when I climbed out of my car and saw the building before me. Stopping for a second, I looked up at its top, took in a huge breath, told myself all will be well, and then walked forward to find the always amazing and wonderful Bailey to capture a few shots of my rappel on the camera I had brought. Then it was to the Downtown Sampler area on the second floor to get geared up before going to the top of the building.

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My group that traveled to the roof together.

My arrival was at the same time as a few others as well, and we chatted as we were decked out in our harnesses and gloves with everything being checked time and again. Then a friendly face of a friend of mine, Adam, greeted us in the hallway to take us up to the roof where we went through a thorough training session to go over the gear and how to rappel down the side of a building. I tried to pay as much attention as possible to the lever that would ease us down and all of the safety mechanisms as my mind raced in many different directions especially towards the recurring thought of what if I am the first one that day to get stuck going down and would need to be saved somehow. Then afterwards, it was waiting for our turn to go. Jon, another guy getting ready to go through this experience, and I took in the sights from the top of the building. The sky was unbelievable clear as we looked out upon the tree-filled city we call home. To say the view was stunning would be an understatement. I took in another deep breath and then went towards my destination.

The first step is a doozy was what I was told earlier, and as I stood there on the ledge, I could easily see why. Here were these two ropes that were keeping me from fall seven stories to the land below. I made small talk with the guy helping me take that first step, which I may or may not have been delaying. He was from Chattanooga and was very nice. I smiled at my friends, Cory, Chelsea, and Adam, who were also on top of the building and then took that doozy of a step.

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The first step

The feeling was indescribable. It was this sort of mix of fear, excitement, happiness, and awe with each step I took down the side of the building. I could hear Lisa down below being a fantastic emcee as she talked about different things I had done in the community while getting the crowd to cheer me on. I could see so much as my eyes would shift from the wall in front of me where I tried to slowly take each step to the world around me. The windows on both sides of me were the biggest surprise, for they provided this great reflection of the city of Hutchinson. I was also trying to count each floor so I could stop and wave at my Hutchinson Community Foundation friends (It turns out I waved tons at the sixth floor instead of the fifth though). Even when I would lose my footing, it would only be for a second as my thoughts went right back to the detailed training Mike had shared with us. Mainly, though, I was smiling because it was an experience like nothing I had ever had before and may never have again.


Although it seemed like it took me quite some time to get down, I had made it back to the second level landing spot to be helped by some local volunteers. My heart was still racing a bit as I thanked everyone for letting me have this truly amazing experience before I found my way to next to Bailey on the street. More friends were soon by my side, and text messages were coming with photos and videos taken by many from all different places and heights. Everything was both a blur and clear at the same time. And I just kept looking up at the tall building before me, thinking how grateful I was to the United Way for giving me this experience that will be relived every time I see this skyscraper in the heart of Hutchinson, Kansas.

As always, thank you for reading this post. If you would like to help the United Way of Reno County with the great work they do, please do not hesitate to make a donation by using this link that will help me get closer to my financial goal.

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