Friday, January 5, 2018

Resolutions 5: Commencement

We are finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer and in some way more important to the world and ourselves. Too often, the way taken is the wrong way, with too much emphasis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become
-Louis L’Amour-

Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and we often cannot understand the importance that our resolutions do or do not carry until we are looking back on them. All of us should take time as the deadlines of our resolutions draw near to us to do some introspection and ask ourselves a few questions.

Why did I set this resolution for myself?
Why did I fall short?
What allowed me to accomplish this goal?
What did this add to my life?

All to often my only analysis of my resolutions is binary: pass or fail. Today’s quote reminds me that the process is often more valuable than being able to put a check mark in the win column. Some of our goals simply add to the pile of stuff that will languish in our literal or metaphorical attics until they loose all value to us and are either given to consignment shops or decay. The goals that true matter are the ones that make us better for having endeavored to accomplish them. Then the lost weight, new skills, and finish line medals will all be bonuses.

So, see you at the finish line.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Resolutions 4: Crisis
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with a strong and active faith.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt-

Doubt is sometimes called a crisis of faith and it haunts me in just about everything that I do. Whether I’m doing household chores or setting resolutions, I constantly question whether I am doing the right things and if I’m doing them in the right order. I’m also consistently worried that my past actions are mistakes that will prove fatal to my hopes for the future.

These fears became painfully apparent during the process of being my home this last year and during my first 6 months of being a home-owner. I was racked with doubt and fear on a daily basis. I convinced myself that I had made a bad investment and one day, upon returning from work, I would find my home in flames and/or my basement flooded.

FDR’s quote hits close to home for me and provides a lot of encouragement. He wrote it as the last line of an address to the citizens of the United States on Jefferson’s Birthday. The words are not written lightly or with naive idealism. He was to address a nation waging war against the Japanese in the Pacific and against the Germans and Italians in Europe. In addition, he was battling acute congestive heart failure after years of being disabled by polio. These words were formed in a great mind and forged by decades of resilience in the face of hardship and failure. In fact, he never delivered the address because he died of a brain hemorrhage soon after writing his last edit.

His life and writings define faith not as the opposite of doubt, but rather it’s result. They also remind us that faith can only become strong and active when it is put under the great pressure of trying circumstance.

So, Don’t Stop…Believing…Hold on to that feeling.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Resolutions 3: Conflict  
A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it
-Albert Einstein-

When does contentment become apathy?
When does ambition turn into insatiable greed?

Over the past year, I’ve been faced with these two questions while endeavoring to attain the resolutions I had made for my 30th year. My answers have seemed to be precariously balanced on the fulcrum of the present.

I recently found myself extremely off-balance in my pursuits of dating and romance. Another prospect, that I had been extremely hopeful about and invested in greatly, had ended abruptly. As a result I leaned heavily toward apathy, to the point of hopelessness. I was restless in my pursuit of a romantic relationship and had become discouraged by the fact that my efforts seemed to matter very little in bringing about the success that I had been hoping for. The cost of continuing on seemed too great without any evidence of reward. The imbalance wasn’t contained to the arena of romance; it spread to all areas of my life and even brought a cloud of gloom and grumpiness over my holiday season.

Today, I feel as though I’ve (mostly) recovered, but the balance I have found seems tentative and feeble. I’ve found no satisfactory answer to those two questions I’ve been asking myself for months. In writing this, I almost feel obligated to apologize for the anticlimax.

So, without anything else to say:
Keep it simple my friends, but never settle.
(That’s the best I’ve gotten so far)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resolutions 2: Consequence Nothing the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
-Theodore Roosevelt-

A coworker of mine has a joke that she likes to tell every year during the last week of December. When asked if she has any New Year’s resolutions she’ll quip, “Yeah, the same one I make and achieve every year: to make no resolutions”. Admittedly, it’s a good joke and it sure does get some laughs from our customers and vendors, it also serves as a good counter-point to today’s quote.

As I mentioned yesterday, I can only hope to accomplish 10 or 12 of the 30 resolutions that I had made for myself on the day that I turned 30. I told this to the men’s Bible study I am a part of on Wednesday night and received unexpected applause. “That’s a failing grade,” I contested, honestly wanting some sympathy instead of congratulations. My friend Brian quickly replied, “Yeah, but you’d be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

There is a temptation to set more easily attainable resolutions and goals for the coming year in the hopes of boosting our stats and morale. Unfortunately two losses happen when we set resolutions that are too small for us. The first is that those accomplishments will seem petty to our us and we will not value them nor be enriched by achieving them. The second is that easy resolutions will also seem petty to the people in our lives: our fans, critics, and co-laborers. Petty achievements will do nothing but cause disappointment in the hearts of our spectators; those who stand outside the stage of our lives, watching what transpires, hoping, on some level, to be inspired to greatness of their own by what they are witnessing.

So, dream big and carry a big stick, my friends.

Resolutions 1: The Cost

Happy New Year!
One of my resolutions for 2018 is simply to "write more" so, in attempt to start making good on that commitment I'm starting the year with a short series called the 5 C's of New Year's Resolutions where I'll be taking a great quote that I read this last year and giving you my thoughts about how it relates to the making (and keeping) of New Year's resolutions. So here we go...

Day 1: The Cost

 Resolutions of great substance generally require heavy lifting and an extended attention to detail.
-Michael Perry-

Last night, at midnight there were countdowns, cheers, champagne toasts and kisses between lovers. We threw out our old calendars and planners in order to make room for the new ones we had waiting.

Many of us, including myself, enjoy making a big deal out of milestones. We get excited to put the 100,000th or 200,00th mile on a vehicle, even though both are just another 5,280 feet. In a similar way, we get excited about January 1st. We like to imagine this 24 hours as the beginning of a new journey or a a benchmark in a much greater one that is already unfolding before us. We use the first day of the calendar year as a time to make resolutions, plans, and commitments for the future and, by gosh, it’s all very exciting.

During last night’s anticipatory celebration my friend Sam asked me if I had made any resolutions. I explained to him that I use the time from January 1 until my birthday at the end of February as a trail period for my yearly resolutions. I turned 30 in 2017, and made a list of 30 goals for myself, of which I will feasibly accomplish 12. As my 30th year is coming to it’s end, Sam’s looms over the horizon, just a few short days away. He asked for advice on turning 30. So, I shared a piece of wisdom that had been shared with me about a year ago: “On your 30th birthday you’ll wake up and nothing will have changed”. I did, however, add the hopeful caveat “But everything can”.

Today’s quote reminds me that it is much easier, and far more romantic, to SAY that we’re going to do something than it is to put in the hard work and long hours that will enable us to put a check mark next to our resolutions. We all get 24 hours in a day, we all have strengths and weaknesses, and we all are given the choice of how we use what we have been given to bring about the change we desire to see in ourselves and the world that surrounds us.

So, have at it. But, be ready for some blisters.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

YES and NO

Commitment and integrity have been on the forefront of my mind recently. This is mostly due to the fact I’m in the process of buying a home and the idea of a 30-year financial commitment has caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Not to mention, I’m now responsible for home maintenance and repair, taxes, and insurance! 

Two other things also occurred in quick succession that fine-tuned my focus on these subjects. The first thing happened while I was at church doing announcements with a fluffy green puppet that is my sidekick and comic relief. We had a “Verse of the Day” which was Matthew 5:37 which states, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil”. This verse’s implication, for me, is that we should strive to be people of integrity who do not need to swear on our lives, our mother’s grave, or ‘to god’ so that people believe our statements. Rather, we should consistently follow through with what we said we would do or would not do to the point where people take us at our word. A few days later it was April 28th; a mile-marker on my commitment to achieve 30 goals that I set for myself during the 30th year of my life. I saw that I’m 2 months in and I didn’t have a proportionate number of goals completed and that I had already failed at a few. I got pretty down on myself for a few days. I felt like I was a failure, that my “yes” and “no” carried no meaning, and convinced myself that it was foolish to make commitments in the first place.

Luckily, I was reminded of the text we had gone through that Sunday during the sermon. (2 Corinthians 1, specifically verses 12-23). In this passage Paul talks about his change of plans to visit Corinth. This is Paul, the Apostle, oppressor turned proponent. He was the guy who would do anything and endure everything to continue traveling and telling people about Jesus. He was beat up multiple times, shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, lied about, imprisoned, put in danger, and went without food or water for long periods of time. Despite all those hardships, he kept doing what he said he was going to do: spreading the good news that Jesus of Nazareth was anointed to be the Savior King.

So, seeing that even Paul had to change his plans every once in a while allowed me to give myself grace. I realized that saying “yes” to buying a home takes a lot of time and energy and delays my response to other commitments. I was also able to catch a glimpse of how saying “yes” to the house will enable and facilitate more of my goals (like 30 new recipes and 30 acts of self-reliance). I learned that integrity doesn’t vacillate as far or as fast as circumstances can, and just because I can’t say “Yes” right now, it doesn’t mean that I’m saying “No”.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Why I Ride: 2017 Scenic Shores 150 (and beyond)

I’m often asked why I choose to ride my bicycle long distances. The simple response is “Because it’s fun”, but I often add the caveat, “It’s a weird kind of fun.”, and make some joke about wearing spandex and getting sweaty. When I have the time and the intuition to explain further, I can’t help but mention my father’s fight against lymphoma…

In 2012 I bought a used aluminum-framed Raleigh 500 road bike from a now defunct bike shop. I bought it for transportation, but I chose that particular bike because I liked the look of its drop bars and candy red paint. Soon after, I began to use that bike for exercise as well and became enthralled with the speeds and distances I could accomplish on that machine. 

Then I built a fixed gear from a bike I got for free.
After that I bought a mountain bike.
Then I learned what a chamois was (for cycling).
Then I started researching and developing training schedules.
That Fall I competed in a local Alley Cat (a rolling party, basically an excuse to drink beer and ride bikes around your hometown).
I was hooked; I had become a full-blown cycling junkie in the span of a few short months.

Early in the spring 2013 I was encouraged by my friend and mentor Perry Polnaszek to look into signing up for a “century”, a 100-mile bicycle ride. It was a feat that seemed impossible to my novice mind and legs.  After doing some searching on the internet I chose the Door County Century, because of it’s relative proximity to where I lived, the time it would allow me to train, and the probability of having my parents come along to cheer me on and pay for the hotel room.

A few weeks later, while visiting my parents at their home, my dad pulled me aside and showed me a lump on his neck. He explained that it was lymphoma and (being he a physician) the probability of it being fatal. I was stunned to say the least, quite literally unable to fathom the severity of what he was telling me.   

After that my training rides took on a whole new purpose. They were no longer just preparation for an endurance event, but rather a meditative escape. I used the hours spent riding to reflect on the mortality of my father (and myself), my faith in God, the ugliness of cancer, the wonders of modern medicine, Top-40 music, and life in general. By the end of the summer I was well prepared for the century physically. But, as I was soon to find out, I wasn’t prepared emotionally and, really, there’s no way I could have been.

My parents were able to come along as support (dad took sick leave from work, which freed up his schedule greatly). The day I picked them up to continue on to Sturgeon Bay (the ride’s start point) was the first time in my life that I saw my father without a mustache. Chemo had culled the majority of his upper-lip fur and that morning he decided to shave off what little remained. Not only had cancer treatment accelerated the loss of hair on the top of his head (a hereditary Writz trait) but it had also taken what I thought was a permanent facial feature away from my dad. I was shaken to say the least.

I don’t remember the majority of the ride itself: pit stops and difficult hills are vague highlights and I have a general recollection of the beauty of the route I was on for around 8 hours. The memories that have retained their crystal-clarity all happened in the last 10 miles.  As a solo rider I ended up riding and talking with several different groups throughout the day because of my pace and the time I took to rest and eat at designated stops. The cyclists in the last group I approached on the road were all adorned with purple and white jerseys. As a rode close enough to converse and read their jerseys I came to find out that they were members of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I spent the remainder of the ride with this group, holding back tears, absorbing the sense of accomplishment, and simply enjoying the scenery.

As I approached the finish line, I could hear my parents cheering for me, and navigated the last few hundred feet overwhelmed by emotions and tears. I put my bike on a nearby rack, hugged my parents, posed for pictures, and inhaled a pasta dinner while watching the Packers play the Chiefs, conversing with a couple from Milwaukee who had done the ride on a tandem.

  (Dad, mom, and me at the finish line)

Dad’s been in remission since that Fall (a detail I always forget to include when I’m telling this story, because I know he’s ok). This July he turns 60 and I can’t think of a better gift to give him than riding the Scenic Shores 150 in his honor and as a celebration of his life before and after cancer.

If you're interested in supporting me financially on this ride please visit my donation page: