Category Archives: Adventures

A Tribute to Money

Picture this:

Two college friends reunite one evening at a hole-in-the-wall bar. Their stories flow of the past and present as they catch up over beers. Life had taken them on separate routes, but that night, it seemed like no years had passed since so long ago when they were younger and used to hang out at bars with their cares only being about homework, romances, and dreams of their future rather than families, mortgages, and the problems that come with age. One of the friends glances over and saw a dart board. Soon enough, a challenge is issued, and a game of 501 begins. It had been ages since either had played but after the first round, their aims became better as they laughed about the times they used to play. The challenge is then upped with some money placed on the table for the winner – a single dollar bill – the same amount they used to bet when they were poor and in their early twenties. There it sat among their two glasses of beer with George Washington watching on as the darts hit the board until one guy made it to 129 and the other 132.

The first guy goes to the line with his darts in hand. His eyes focus, and his arm goes back before the first dart is released through the air. It lands in a 19. He turns around and smiles at his friend as he holds up his beer as a toast. Then the focus goes back at the dart board. The second dart flies through the air right into a triple 20, and then the last and final dart goes in the double bullseye for a win. “Looks like that dollar is mine,” he says as he heads back to the table to claim his winnings. “No so fast. Let’s give me a chance just like old times,” his buddy says as they think back to how they had always gotten into the habit of letting the second person go just to see if they too could get to zero.

He took a deep breath and threw the first dart. It lands on a Triple 19. He hears a “Nice” from his buddy. His second plants itself in a single bullseye, and then after one more deep breath, the third and final dart is launched, landing right in the middle of the board for a double bullseye. He turns around with a smile at his friend and knows, just like it was many years ago, they both get to throw one dart for the win. The high score gets the dollar and the bragging rights. His buddy laughs, grabs a dart, and steadies himself at the line. He turns around and makes some small talk about how the dollar was going to be his before he launches the dart right into the double bullseye. “Beat that,” he says as he goes back to his beer, the table, and the dollar.

“I will do my best,” his buddy says as he grabs a dart and takes aim. He does his best to block out his friend behind him making noise to do his best to serve as a distraction. With one dart to win, he focuses on his options that would give him more points. He takes aim and launches as the dart flows through the air right into the triple 20. His buddy gives him a high five and they laugh some more about the game they just had before one takes a pen out to celebrate the win and their great night together on that dollar bill.

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More than likely, how that note ended on the dollar that eventually found its way into my hands didn’t exactly go down in that manner, but still, it is the story my mind has created and continues to replay when I see those words and numbers written to the left of George Washington. It is also a reminder of how nifty money really is.

I know the love of the money is the root of all evil so they say, and given past experiences of seeing greed at play, I could see it as true, so this tribute is not in that fashion. It is more about the money itself, for when it comes down to it, money is truly a fascinating thing when one thinks about it. In all honesty, money, whether it be bills or coins, is nothing more than cloth (75% cotton and 25% linen) and shiny metal. We then place an added value to them as a society, and that value can easily disappear quickly. When I was growing up, that point was hit home with an episode of the TV show Ducktales where they traveled to the Land of Trala La and bottle caps become a currency that eventually tears apart a peaceful society. The book Sapiens also has a good part about how societies create a standardized monetary system to allow for an easier transfer of goods.

Don’t get me wrong – that is all extremely fascinating and then places a whole other level on money really being worthless beyond the intrinsic value we have placed upon it. What has been more on my mind lately is closer to the five-dollar bill in the film Serendipity. For those who haven’t seen it or need a refresher, a guy and a girl have an extremely romantic night and before parting they go to exchange their information. When the wind catches the piece of paper with her number, a back-up plan is thrown out as a way for them to meet again – his contact information is placed on a five-dollar bill and hers is written in a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. Needless to say given this is a Hollywood romantic film, the five-dollar bill passes from one person to another until its fated destination.

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And that is where from where this fascination and tribute to money is coming – how it can play a story in our lives and then a different one in others. Its history is rich (pun intended), and for most bills and coins, it is largely unknown. Sure, there are some downsides of money being passed from one person to another, including its potentially carrying bacteria and viruses from one to another as well as potentially traces of cocaine. Even with my bordering on being a hypochondriac at times, I still find it fascinating to think about the journey a bill or a coin has made until it had finally made it into my hands for a brief amount of time before heading on to its next owner. This same fascination is what likely led to such things like the Where’s George bill tracking website (and yep, I definitely do enter the marked bills whenever one comes into my possession and I have ever since I was a youngster).

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An example of a Where’s George bill. Photo is from this NPR article about the website. 


However, stop and think about how either a bill or coin has played a role in your life. It could be that twenty-dollar bill you earned well before legal working age for a chore or job you just finished. It could have been that quarter you had to get something nifty out of one of those machines in the front of a store. It could be that lucky penny you found one day that indeed seemed to have made everything from then on great. Then there may be a twenty dollar bill you used to pay for dinner for the first date with a person that would then become the love of your life (yep, the hopeless romantic in me continues), or it may have been that five dollars you found in a coat pocket at moment when you felt like you had nothing at all to your name. Even in my life, I can think of so many times when a coin or a bill played a very important supporting character in a great story that led to some fantastic memories that were made. However, with their transfer, they left for other story lines with other people.

This, though, is where the digital age is then changing things even more so. So many people I know rarely carry cash and instead use a plastic card to pay for anything and everything. Not only have studies shown people are more likely to spend more with a card than cash. Sure, I am likely being nostalgic and all, but there seems to be something lost with these transactions too that cash and coins brought to the situation. An electronic gift card from Amazon is nice and all, but it doesn’t see to carry that same value as that single dollar bill my Great Aunt Brittie would always place in my birthday cards when I was growing up. Then having a framed receipt of the first electronic dollar earned for a new business also doesn’t seem to have the same effect of an actual dollar bill from that first transaction.

Once again, these feelings likely all come from a place of nostalgia. However, some psychological studies could also be considered. A 2016 article from Psychology Today about the difference of paying with cash or credit card discussed a few of these, including how one study found a purchase made with cash can be more painful and how another study showed paying with cash can lead to a better relationship with the purchased product. These studies do seem to signal paying with bills and coins do indeed affect the story with the purchases we make.

Then the final thing that has been on my mind is how money can ultimately connect us when we really think about it. An interesting study I would to see is the actual journey of a dollar bill or even a penny that tracks demographics of its different owners including things like age, race, sexual identity, economic background, religion, political affiliation, and anything else that some may see as making one person different from another. More than likely what would be shown is a great mix of people have all handled that coin or bill at one time or another. People who normally may never have talked to each other are all connected thanks to that transfer of a piece of cloth or shiny metal from one person to another. In a way, thinking about money in that light seems like it could more unite than divide us.

Simply put, the object of money is something to be contemplated, especially as we move towards having it become something of the past. Sure, those two dart-playing friends could have exchanged a dollar via Paypal and Venmo, but what would have been lost if they would have (besides the inspiration for this entire blog post). Then think also the next time you slide a card to purchase something how different that experience may have been if you would have handed the cashier some cash and coins instead. You may have just avoided getting a bacteria-covered bill, but there is so much more and so many better things that could have been gained as well. According to studies, the overall experience would have had a little more of an emotional pull and you would have ultimately enjoyed your purchase just a little more. Plus, you just missed out on being a chapter in the story of that bill or coin before passing them on to their next temporary owner.

 

 

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My 2018 So Far

And just like that, it is almost April. So far, 2018 has been a good year with some great adventures thrown into the mix. Some of these I am hoping to write about in the future while others will be no more than a quick reference here before they join other memories in the past.

There was a great hike at Kanopolis that led to some fantastic sights to be seen.

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My fifth blood donation since last June.

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Another adventure as a playwright for the 24 Hour Play Festival

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A 5K 650 feet underground at Strataca

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My comprehensive exams for my grad work

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And there were a few other things along the way. Mainly, though, this year has been spent with the usual trio of work, homework, and community work. While a few of the New Year’s Resolutions have been going well overall (sending a handwritten card each week and building/sticking to a financial budget), there are others that are still in need of a kick start (working on the novel and also my learning Spanish). The monthly challenges have led to some great reflection as well, and today’s post is dedicated to them as a method of playing catch up for radio silence over the last three months.

January 2018 – Play the Violin Every Day

Although I picked up a violin back in 2013, it really wasn’t until my first year of New Year’s Resolutions in 2014. That year I set as a goal to be able to play a song, and it was achieved quickly, which led to the goal of learning how to play “Moon River.” Thanks to a great friend not only being the one who brought the violin into my life but also helping me learn how to play, this great instrument has become one of my joys. Sure, I may have been inspired to learn from an episode of Sherlock and, even after four years, my skills are pretty basic, playing is still a good break for my mind.

Then last spring, my violin I had bought for $20 from Kim broke beyond repair (well, it may been repairable, but the money would be better spent on a new violin). A very expensive year for tuition and other things left me at one point of the year with only $47 to my name but also unable to quickly replace it. Plus, I was trying to learn how to play the guitar (that effort still remains). Then a last- minute decision based upon weather to cancel a road trip over winter break to see family and check out another national park happened, and the extra money that had been set aside led to bringing a violin back into my life.

As a way to start 2018, I decided I would play a couple songs on the violin every day for the first month, and every day it happened. Although the plan to do this was just to make use of my new violin, there was a lot more that came along with it. Here are just a four of the many lessons learned:

  1. Practice Is Indeed Extremely Important

Although some other songs came in and out of the playlist, the main ones were “Auld Lang Syne” and “Simple Gifts.” Despite my being able to play both a year before, my first time through for each was rough to say the least; however, every day of playing led to my getting better with my overcoming the notes that were tricky at first. Sure, mistakes were made even at the end of the month, but my skills greatly improved with each day of playing. It was a good reminder if a person dedicates even five minutes a day to something, great gains can happen overtime.

  1. Mornings are the best time to tackle a goal

My violin playing happened first thing in the morning the majority of the days; however, there were a few times that I was running late and told myself I would play later on. One thing would lead to another, and before I knew it, I would be in bed when it would hit me I never played that day, so soon the comforts of warm covers were left to have me sitting in the dining room, playing a few songs before calling it a night. This just proved again what many others have said about how mornings can be magical when it comes to achieving goals.

  1. A Healthy Amount of Confidence Is Important

Bow speed and pressure are two key things one must keep in mind when it comes to playing a violin. Too slow or too fast as well as too light or too hard can lead to sounds no one wants to hear and were also sounds heard often near the beginning of the month. Hesitancy led to my bow creating that unpleasant noise, and extreme pride did the same. It was all about walking that fine line of perfect or near perfect balance of speed and pressure to play the notes I was after, and this too was a good reminder about how to live life.

  1. Attention Is Key

My mind wanders often, and playing the violin was a good reminder about the importance of focusing on one task at a time. My attention would leave the sheet music, and soon the wrong fingering would happen or I would lose my place in the song, thus bringing my focus back to the task at hand. While there are a few people in the world who truly can multitask, I am definitely not one of them. The best way then to succeed is to put full attention to what is happening at that moment rather than tackle it with only part of the mind.
While youngsters would still easily outperform my violin playing, the month was a good way to kick off 2018 with many lessons learned that could help set up the year.
February 2018 – Taking on the DASH Diet

For last February, I played vegetarian. Then in October, it was Whole 30. When the DASH Diet was once again ranked the best diet overall by U.S. News and World Report in January, I was instantly intrigued because, to be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the DASH Diet at all. I also learned many times in February I was not the only one who wasn’t aware of  this award-winning diet. When most people asked what I was doing that month for the theme, I would smile and say, “I’m taking on the DASH Diet.” Most often, they would answer with something like, “That’s great! What’s the DASH Diet?” Then I would smile again and say, “Well, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet has been ranked as the top diet for 8 years in a row, and it is the only diet backed by the government thanks to its being developed and promoted by the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to help lower blood pressure. Plus, it lets me eat bread, cheese, and many other tasty things thanks to its being all about moderation.” Usually by then, their eyes would have glazed over, but for those who were still interested, I would talk about how studies have shown it to lower the risk of kidney stones, heart disease, strokes, heart failure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer before I would pull out my phone and show the following photo:

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Sometimes I would pull up the official DASH Diet website to show the following plan:

Type of food

Number of servings for 1600 – 3100 Calorie diets Servings on a 2000 Calorie diet

Grains and grain products
(include at least 3 whole grain foods each day)

6 – 12

7 – 8

Fruits

4 – 6

4 – 5

Vegetables

4 – 6

4 – 5

Low fat or non fat dairy foods

2 – 4

2 – 3

Lean meats, fish, poultry

1.5 – 2.5

2 or less

Nuts, seeds, and legumes

3 – 6 per week

4 – 5 per week

Fats and sweets

2 – 4

limited

My discussion would continue on until it would hit me I had become one of those crazy dieters who talked about their diet in more depth than anyone would care to hear.

So keeping that in mind and in the interest of time, here are my quick take aways from my adventure with the DASH Diet:

  1. Eating tons of fruits, vegetables, and grains is amazing. To say I love carbohydrates would be an understatement.
  2. Having 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy a day was also fantastic too. Cheese is tasty, and the same goes for milk.
  3. The diet was harder for me to follow than Whole 30 or playing a vegetarian for a month because it is all about moderation. As others have pointed out, people tend either to be an abstainer or a moderator. I am easily an abstainer, so this whole moderation thing was tricky for me, and my failure at times with the DASH Diet helped inspire the next month’s theme.

March 2018 – Try to become a moderator while also learning how to focus and conquer one thing at a time.

Abstaining from something is easy for me to do. The last time I had McDonald’s was in February 2005 which happened to also be the first time I presented at an academic conference as a graduate student and the day I met one of my best friends, Jon in Marquette. I had McDonald’s for lunch (a salad with candied almonds). While I was walking back to the conference, I thought to myself, “I wonder how long I can go without having McDonald’s.” Well, it has now been 13 years. Don’t worry – I have had a lot of other fast food since then. It just has not been McDonald’s although I have driven people through the drive through to pick up food and had a meeting at one once.

Another example would be last May when I decided I would stop drinking alcohol for really no reason. Even with my going to a bar to hang out most Saturday nights with the Social Saturday crew, I am not even tempted to grab a beer. Rather, I get a class of water and give Debbie, the owner and bartender, the money I would have spent on alcohol instead.

Moderation, on the other hand, is a different story. I tell myself I will have just one bowl of tortilla chips, but the bag will soon be empty before the night is over. I tell myself I will have one spoonful of peanut butter, but the large container is gone in a few days. The list can continue on, so it seemed like a good idea to try to see if I could pick up some moderating habits.

The first attempt was with tortilla chips, and the first two bags did not lead to any success, but by the third, I was able to go with just a bowl of chips in one setting and put the rest back. The same achievement happened with chocolate too with my enjoying just one piece a day. I even picked up an Easter bunny that previously would have been devoured entirely in the car between the store and my house (it is really a wonder I am not heavier than I am), cut it into four pieces, and then enjoyed only one piece a day of the tasty chocolate and peanut butter goodness.

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While I cannot say I have completely become a moderator, there has been some progress thanks to my trying to tell my brain moderation is simply a form of abstaining (i.e. after having that piece of chocolate, I could have no more). That seemed to work in a way. With that said, having just one bowl of popcorn still has yet to happen.

Success of learning how to focus on one thing and conquer is a different story. Although there were some times when I found a good flow while working on my comp exam essays, so often shiny things and my wandering mind would get the better of me; however, some good techniques have been practiced and discovered. These would include turning off all notifications on my computer, having a small paper notebook next to my computer to write down anything my wandering mind wants to tackle before getting back to the task on hand, and simply doing my best to divert my thoughts back to the project when the temptations of the instant gratification monkey hit. Baby steps have been taken, and the progress is very small, but it still gives me hope that perhaps this New Year’s Resolution can be achieved by then end of the year.

And with that hope for the future leads to wrapping up this long update for the year so far. Let me know how your 2018 has been and stay tune for more regular postings.

As always, thank you for reading this. It actually makes my day whenever I learn someone has.

Take care and talk to you soon,

Ryan

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Seriously, why is there cane sugar in chicken broth?
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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).

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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.

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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.
“True.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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An Amazing Adventure 650 Feet Underground and Surrounded by Salt

Back in 1887, Ben Blanchard, a land developer from Indiana, set out on a mission to find oil on his land southwest of Hutchinson with hopes he would make a fortune from land sales. However, rather than something black coming from his discovery, his drilling led to the discovery of one of the largest salt deposits in the world, which has since shaped Hutchinson in so many ways. The town itself has the nickname of Salt City, and Hutchinson High School’s mascot is the Salt Hawk. From the Salt City Bowl, an NJCAA football bowl, to Salt City Splash, the aquatic park here in town, to many other businesses and places that have the word in their title, salt is a big thing here in Central Kansas, and it is also here in Hutchinson where people can take a 90 second elevator ride 650 feet underground and see the fascinating world of Strataca, an amazing underground salt museum that is part of a still very much active salt mine.

Around the same time I arrived in Hutchinson a little over ten years ago was when Strataca opened to the public. To say it is extremely nifty would be an understatement. My living in Hutchinson has led to being able to easily make it to some of the many great events they have offered over the years. Some of my favorites have been watching a free screening of the documentary Happy underground and the Hunt for Red Rock-tober which involved their taking a group to another part of the mine where beautiful pieces of salt with red hues can be found (and we were able to fill a bucket with as much salt as we would like to take home with us). Plus, the fact it is always an extremely comfortable 68 degrees makes it a great escape from the extreme heat during the summer months and extreme cold during Kansas winters. One of their events I have been wanting to do for the last couple of years is the Tour de Salt, the only bike ride of its kind in North America where cyclists get to explore the salty terrain of the mined caverns and see areas not normally part of the regular Strataca tours.

For the previous years, commitments took me out of town the day of those bike rides. While my calendar had me in Hutchinson for Tour de Salt this year, my UNL tuition payments had managed to get the better of my disposable income once again, so it had looked like it would be another year for the event to pass me by; however, an invite from a great fellow cyclist to serve as one of the group leaders for this year’s ride led to some more fantastic memories being made underground.

Despite my having visited Strataca multiple times, I had no idea what to expect from the bike ride, but I will simply say any of my expectations were blown away and then some. As part of training for the guides, we brought our bikes to Strataca last Sunday morning to get a feel for the ride. A mix of excitement and nervousness was with me as I rode the double-decker elevator down to the starting line while holding on tightly to my mountain bike that had taken me on some great adventures in the Flint Hills back during my Emporia days long before the Dirty Kanza was a thing.

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It took a few trips for the elevator before the group of volunteers and staff were all together for the training to begin. As we stood there with our bikes in anticipation for what awaited us in the mine, we learned about the blue rope on the ground we would follow and the fantastic reflective arrows carefully placed along the route, both of which would keep us safe from getting lost in the 160 miles of tunnels. Each leader would also have a Strataca expert who would talk about different parts of the salt mine at the different stops along the way.

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The 2017 Group Leaders for Tour de Salt

That excitement and nervousness stayed with me all through that first ride of the route. To put that bike ride into words is really beyond me besides its being a magical experience of sorts. My bike light would catch the salt all around is, leading to parts of the floor, ceiling, and walls to sparkle at times as we traveled over smooth and bumpy sections and through large and narrow passage ways. The loose salt in certain parts caught me a bit off-guard at first and inspired my buddy Jason, who was also serving as another group leader, and me to make plans along that first ride for codes we would share with our riders on the day of Tour de Salt.

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Jason and Me during one of the stops

The first ride finished with everyone coming together for a recap of what we experienced with the Strataca crew to make sure the ride was the best it could be for the next weekend’s riders. The crew of group leaders, led by the Fontaine brothers who had served as lead riders before, talked more about ways to alert our groups to the loose spots, railroad tracks, and anything else that could be a bit tricky for those who would be joining us for Tour de Salt. And then we were off for a second and then a third ride, so we could continue to get a great feel for the route. Each of us took turns in the lead to get an idea what it would be like the following Saturday to cycle, armed with only with a small but mighty light, into pitch darkness.

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I left that day amazed and thrilled for the coming Saturday morning. Throughout the week, that excitement only grew as I talked to some of the other group leaders, Terry, Daniel, and Jason, about adjustments we were making and our quest to find the best lights (and back up lights) to take with us. Each of us were excited for the adventure but also nervous as well as we hoped for safe and smooth rides for all of our cyclists. We were all worried about what we would do if a flat tire would happen or if someone were to fall, for a scrape would literally be salt in the wound. Thankfully, Tour de Salt did not disappoint. The whole morning itself flew by with our arriving before the sun even started to rise so we could head down to take a safety lap and get a good feel for the route one last time before the groups started arriving at 8:00 AM.

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Fortune had once again smiled upon me with my getting paired with Galen, who was fantastic and an expert on everything related to the salt mine and museum.  We kicked off our first group at 8:30 before taking our second group out at 10:00 and finishing with our third group at 11:30.

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People came from all over to take on the adventure underground. A huge group drove down from Minnesota just for the event, and Galen and I had cyclists in our groups from the Hutchinson area, Wichita, Winfield, Topeka, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Dallas. For some, it was their second or third time to take on the ride, and for all, we left amazed at what we saw from this surreal experience of cycling far below earth’s surface. At each stop and with each pedal forward, there was a sense of wonder unlike any I have had before as my mind tried to wrap around the very idea of where we were. This was even more so when I heard from some of our riders about the crazy rainstorm that was happening far above all while the weather conditions stayed perfect for us far below.

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We rode by floor heaves, empty dynamite boxes, train tracks, a beautiful crystal pod, a trash pile complete with a calendar in perfect condition from 1953, wheel tracks and footprints from over 60 years ago that looked like they were made just the day before, and so much more as we too became part of the fantastic history of this great treasure in the heart of Kansas.

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After finding salt rather oil, Blanchard left Hutchinson, upset, disillusioned, and broke. His whole focus on getting rich quick led to his not seeing his discovery as something amazing but rather as a failure. It was that “failure” though that has led to a series of fortunate events that have transformed the lives of so many in Salt City for the better through the creation of many jobs through the multi-million-dollar industry of salt mining and through the experiences one can have in Strataca, the only museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere where one can have great adventures, as I just had this last weekend, 650 feet underground and surrounded by salt.

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In Defense of Mondays

Today’s post is going to likely going to be one of my most controversial to date. In fact, yesterday when I was having lunch with my good friend Laura, she even told mE while she has agreed with me time and again with what I have written, this subject was one where we didn’t see eye to eye. Regardless, the time has come to defend Monday.

Mondays – the poor, innocent day of the week has developed quite the bad rap. We’ve all heard it sometime or another, especially in the United States. The expression, “It’s a Monday,” carries connotations all in itself that could never compare to someone saying, “It’s a Wednesday.” They say misery loves company, which leads to many seeing Monday as a bonding force. Then, pop culture has definitely not been kind to Mondays. It’s rainy days and Mondays that always get the Carpenters down:

Meanwhile, the Mamas & the Papas say while every other day is fine, Mondays leave them cryin’ all the time and you you can’t trust the day:

And, of course, the Bangles paint Mondays as a manic disturber of great dreams and they doesn’t begin to compare to Sundays which is their fun days:

Even Garfield, a cartoon cat who doesn’t even have a job, despises Mondays.

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Comic from this site

It doesn’t take a genius for one to put the pieces together of why Mondays are targeted the way that they are. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be fun and free where the schedules are often flexible and people are doing what they want to do; however, when the weekend has come to an end, Mondays come calling most people back to a routine schedule of the work week.

That association of work then becomes a big detractor for Mondays, for many don’t like their jobs. Forbes reported back in 2011 that, based upon a Gallup survey, 71% of workers are not a fan of what they do. Then this last March, based upon findings from a Gallup study once again, CBS News reported, “51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum” and “[a]nother 16 percent are “actively disengaged” — they resent their jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale as a result.”  The reasons for this vary greatly, and here are two different top ten lists of why people tend to hate their work: one from Forbes and another from Inc.

I fear things are only going to get worse with all of this “Follow your passion” advice, which I am right there with Cal Newport about how this is bad advice, for it increases self-centeredness (and probably aids nonsermitis while at it). Instead, as Newport writes, paraphrasing Steve Jobs, “Instead of asking what the world can offer you, he suggests, you should instead ask what you can offer the world. The goal is not to love every minute of your job, or to identify your one true passion, but is instead to put a dent in the universe.”

And unfortunately, Monday gets dragged into all of these feelings about work.

Before making a claim for why Mondays are actually a good thing, let’s go for some background tidbits about them. First, as reported by Today I Found Out ( which is also a fantastic Youtube channel by the way), while Sunday, of course, refers to day of the sun, with this going back to Egyptian times and eventually becoming the Middle English word “sone(n)day.” Mondays get their name after the moon, with the English word going back to Old English word mon(an)dæg. Also, although many calendars in the United States have Sunday as the first day of the week, it is actually Mondays, according to the International Organization for Standardization, that begins everything.

Mondays as something new is where their magic truly lies. After all, we love beginnings. First, of course, New Year’s Day is celebrated in so many ways with our looking at it as the start of a year of possibilities. Then there are the stories about how couples met that captivate us. So many romantic comedies and fairy tales are all about the starting point of a relationship rather than the middle or the end of their time together. Plus, there are birthdays, another date we honor as a starting point of sorts.

Mondays really are no different from any of these other dates in our lives. They too are temporal landmarks, which, as Gino discussed in Scientific American, “signal the start of a new, distinct time period — making us feel we can start from a clean slate.” Just think about how different the beginning of the week would be if we were to look at Mondays in a positive light rather than something horrible and blue. That ability is in us too, for as Viktor Frankl pointed out in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms [is] to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If we were to look Mondays going into them as a day starting a week full of potential rather than headaches, so much could change in many different fronts, for just like that, there would be that feeling of adventure, regardless of what a person is doing, rather than regret as we begin yet another week where we are fortunate to be alive and have the chance improve the world, even in the smallest of ways, for the better.

Most importantly though, we need to never take any day for granted. If we only think TGIF and wish away our week, we end up wishing away our life, and any day truly can be special and change our lives in unknown ways. The thing really we don’t know how much time we truly have, so rather than killing it or wishing we were sometime either in the future or past, we might as well enjoy where we are right now regardless of what day of the week it may be. Plus, as Shawn Achor points out in The Happiness Advantage, we have a tendency of thinking we will be happy when we get to a certain destination when in reality the happiness should come along the way, so rather than thinking “I will be so happy when it’s the weekend,” it should be taking in everything now.

When this next Monday hits, I challenge you to hold back any of the negative thoughts and perceptions about the day itself and instead think of the magic it can possess as you begin what I hope is another amazing chapter in your life.

Plus, one more thing going for Monday is the fact the moon is quite pretty too and you can stare at its beauty without going blind.

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