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Entries in exercise (6)

Friday
Apr122013

self controlitude

In my reading and studying over the past couple of days, one of the topics that has bubbled to the top is "self control."

Oy.

I have not been the most reserved, self-controlled person in the past. I like to "reward" myself for a job well done or for being "diligent" about something. You know what I'm talking about here? "I've done pretty well on this diet, so it's OK if I eat this entire carton of ice cream in one sitting." Or maybe "I've been pretty good about sticking to my budget, so it's OK if I over-spend on this pair of shoes." Guys ... this isn't just a woman thing. I've been known to drop some chunky cash on a pair of Chucks. Ladies ... I'm not going to let guys pick on you for your shoes. Feet have to look and feel good. Solidarity.

Self control is one of those things that we know ... we KNOW ... we have to develop, and yet we can't seem to get past stage one. We can't seem to make self control a dominating habit in our lives.

I have this theory that it's because we are looking at it from too far out.

"You mean I can NEVER HAVE ICE CREAM AGAIN?!?"

"I can NEVER BUY ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES?!?"

"I have to exercise MORE THAN TEN MINUTES PER WEEK?!?" Ok, that one is probably more of a Kevin thing.

And no, none of that is true. It's not even the goal. It's the thing our brain screams when we start projecting outward, looking into the future that we can't know, extrapolating from the present moment that "this is how life is now." 

Developing good habits takes time and effort, but we tend to get bogged down by the sheer volume and weight of it. It's too much! It's too overwhelming! No one can bear up under that kind of burden!

True.

What, you were expecting a pep talk? Words of encouragement? "Keep going! Keep pushing! Keep doing!" Nah, that's for suckers. Everyone knows that you can't overcome obesity or debt or potty mouth or lack of education. Impossible!

Right?

But we do know that these things can be done. We see examples every day of people who have accomplished the very thing we want to accomplish. We see folks who have dropped all the extra weight, who have paid off the debt, who have cleaned up their language, who have gone back to school and earned an advanced degree. Did they do that over a weekend?

No. They did it one bite, one dollar, one swear jar, one class at a time. 

The key to developing self control is repetition. Do the small things, the smallest chunk, over and over, and eventually that becomes your habit.

The usual analogy is eating an elephant.

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time!"

I don't eat a lot of elephants. What I understand easier is books.

How do you write a book? One page at a time!

Maybe you're better with LEGO. 

How do you build the LEGO Death Star? One brick at a time!

Big stuff is made of small stuff.

Let that soak in for a second. Big stuff, no matter how big it is, will always, always, always be made of lots of small stuff. Your car is made of thousands of small parts. Your house is made of small bricks and bits of plaster and wood and tile. The whole UNIVERSE is made of teensy, tiny little atomssuckers are everywhere.

And habits, like self control? They're made of small stuff too.

You decide to take a bag lunch every day instead of buying lunch at a restaurant. That's self control, and it helps you control your calories and your budget.

You decide to take a course on household accounting at your local junior college. One class, once per week, for nine weeks, and suddenly you have more knowledge, more friends, and a firmer grasp on how to manage your household budget.

You decide to lose weight. You change one small thing at a time, take it day by day and week by week, and suddenly this massive goal turns into a whole bunch of tiny little goals that you can manage.

Losing 100 pounds sound daunting? How about doing 10 sit ups today? Now, maybe 10 more tomorrow? 

Paying off $50K in debt got you worried? Can you put ten bucks into a savings account? Can you do that once per week?

Eating an elephant looking a little tough to swallow? Don't eat an elephant. What are you thinking? That's not good for either of you.

Take a look at the big, scary thing you're facing, and ask yourself, "What is the smallest action I can take, right this minute, that could start chipping away at this?"

I remember hearing a story about someone asking Michelangelo how he carved his David out of marble. He replied, "I looked the marble, then chipped away all the parts that were not David." Chip, chip, chip. One chip at a time, until the huge block of formless marble becomes one of the most recognizable pieces of artwork in the world. Can you handle a chip at a time?

Self control is about repeating good habits. It's about committing to asking God and yourself what is right, and then doing that. Chances are, if you're questioning whether or not a choice you're making is the right choice, it isn't. So ask yourself, "What's the right thing to do?"

Tempted by chocolate? Me too. That's why I let myself eat a small piece of dark chocolate every evening, after dinner. It's also why I eat as much chocolate as I want during the weekends. Hey, don't give me that look. I have to wait all week for that chocolate! And frankly, by the time the weekend gets here I'm so stuck on the idea of skipping chocolate I tend not to even think about it. It helps, too, that I don't keep much of it in the house any more. Easy to avoid temptation when there isn't anything to be tempted about!

Set up some kind of automated process to help keep you honest. It's not cheating! It's winning! It's OK to park at the very end of the parking lot to force yourself to get in a little extra exercise. It's OK to set up an automatic draft on your paycheck to put money into savings each month. It's OK to give someone else your shopping list and money to do your shopping, to keep you from grabbing stuff that isn't on the list. It's OK to build some backup into your plan. That's self control, too.

Self control is a tough habit to develop. It only comes when you start using it. Kind of like faith, huh? It's there, waiting for you to start before it really kicks in. So the only real self control you need is just enough to make that first decision, to take that first step. Then you just need enough to take the next step. And then enough to take the next step. And enough to take the next step.

So really, on the whole, all you need is enough self control to do one small thing right. And repeat.

 

Thursday
Mar282013

wisdomification

I'm 40 years old, and I'm pretty sure I haven't done my best at being a steward of the gifts I was given. Some, yes, maybe. I've definitely nurtured skills such as writing, marketing and strategy, self improvement, knowledge about innovation and technology and leadership thought. My education in those areas isn't "complete." There's always more to learn and more ways to grow, but that's true of any field of expertise. I spend a lot of time growing in these areas.

I've fallen short in a couple of major areas, though. Money ... that's a big one. I had a lot of wrong-headed thinking about money, all through my 20s and 30s, and that has lead me to be deep in debt, with nothing put back for rainy days or long winters. I'm changing that now, growing in my financial education and developing the long-abused self discipline I need to be better with my finances, and to build a better future.

I've also fallen short on my health. I'm actually pretty "healthy," in that I'm not suffering from anything debilitating or inhibiting. I do have a pacemaker, but that's actually improved my health and physical stamina, rather than be a debit to my health account. Where I've fallen short is in diet and exercise, of course. I'm about 70 pounds overweight. I get winded walking from my truck to my office, or taking small flights of stairs. I'm chronically fatigued a lot of the time. I suffer from indigestion and other digestive irritations. In general, my energy and my stamina are low, and the way I look actually impacts my self esteem. I'm working to change these facts, too, by changing the way I approach food and by taking opportunities to move more, any chance I get. 

In both of those areas I have a ways to go. I have miles and years of damage and abuse to undo. Maybe some of it will never be undone, but I don't think that's true. I think that if I turn to the source of my strength, if I trust and rely on God's strength instead of my own, I'll be able to accomplish anything that brings good and joy into my life, and the lives of others.

The other area where I see need for change is my ego. I am utterly self-centered and selfish, much of the time. I know that my focus should be on loving and helping others, as often as possible. This is my mission from God, the commandment I can't avoid whenever I open my Bible or simply look around me. If I'm going to glorify God in all I do, I have to start with the one indomitable command He's given. I have to love others as I love myself. I have to help others the way I would want others to help me.

If I concentrate on that, it's possible ... more than possible, likely ... that the other areas of my life will fall in line, and even with all the work I'll have to put into it, they'll seem easy to me. 

This morning I started reading Proverbs (actually, I started listening to it from the Bible Gateway app ... worthy). I've read through it before, but this morning I approached it with new focus. I had read about Solomon, who was told by God that he could have any one thing he asked for. He could have asked for long life, or for all the earth to come under his command, or for more gold or more power, or for any number of things that might be attractive to anyone, even a king. But what he asked for was wisdom.

The result of that wisdom, beyond becoming a ruler who has become the benchmark for wise rulers throughout history, was the book of Proverbs. It's a treatise of Solomon's wisdom. It's written in simple language that, somehow, hides more truth than it reveals, and that can only be dug up through repeated reading and study. It's a guide for anyone who wants to improve his or her life, to get on a path that leads to greater life, to better health, the increased wealth. Looking for the ultimate self-help book? It was written a few thousand years ago, in the format of a letter from father to son. 

In Becoming a Millionaire God's Way, Dr. C. Thomas Anderson writes that if you want to improve your life in every avenue, if you do nothing else, read, study, and dwell upon Proverbs. Follow the wisdom there and you'll start seeing positive results in your life. I already am.

It's not all about money, obviously. Money is just a tool for reaching goals, helping others, serving God. It's not all about health, either. We need strong health to have the energy and physical reserves to do what's good for us and for others and for God. Really it's all about gaining wisdom, and using that wisdom to glorify God.

Pray for wisdom. Ask for it right now. I pray this prayer throughout the day:

Lord, change me. Give me wisdom. Increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Show me how to glorify you in all I do. Amen.

Pray. Study. Pray and study. 

And it's not just about the Bible. Solomon studied the literature and wisdom of Egypt and other nations. He wrote about it all extensively, along with his insights and interpretations and ideas. He used what I call the REAL Word of God.

According to John 1:1-5 The Word was with God in the beginning. It was God. Ultimately, the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus, the Christ. So the Word is more than just the Bible. It has existed, exists, and will exist in all of creation and eternity. Which means you can find the Word, and wisdom, anywhere you look. So look broad and wide. Think about what you're seeing, consider it through the lens of your faith, and suddenly Wisdom starts to show herself.

Wisdom is the path to wealth, health, long life, and happiness. Wisdom is the road to God's kingdom. Trade everything for it. Forget feeling low about the failures of your life. Learn from them, grow from them, use them to cultivate a nice crop of wisdom. Every garden needs fertilizer.

I'm working on those rough patches in my life. I'm praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and that I wil receive increased faith and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And ya know, I can see it happening. I'm making a lot of progress, every minute of the day. I'm already well beyond the man I was just a couple of months ago. I'm grateful for God's touch on my heart and my life. I feel sorrow for those times I let Him down, and grieve the Holy Spirit, but I feel joy in His mercy and grace, and in the wisdom I'm seeing build slowly in me.

Wealth, health, and happiness come from love, righteousness, and wisdom. God wants us to seek all three, and he wants us to help each other in the search. I'll help you walk if you help me walk. We'll make the trip together.

Monday
Mar252013

stressicity

Last Wednesday I attended the first of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. One down, eight weeks and a sizeable chunk of debt to go. And judging by the sheer volume of resistance I've already met from friends and family, not to mention my own stubborn tendency to want to keep doing things my way, I'm guessing I'm already on the right track.

That's how that works. Have you noticed? The thing that does you the most good takes the most sacrifice, the most sweat, the most stress. If something is going to build you up, first you have to be torn down.

For a large chunk of my life I've lived with the belief that my biggest enemy, the guy who stands in my way most often, the fella who tears me down most without bothering to pick up the pieces—yeah, that guy is me. I could say it was Satan or sin or the nature of evil that tears me down. But the truth is that Satan, sin, and evil have only the tools I give them to work with. I've busily handed over custom-made Kevin-manipulating tools, and then raged at Satan's efficiency in mucking up my life. And all the while asking, "Why, God, why?!?"

A sure sign that you're doing something good for yourself is to guage how uncomfortable you feel. There's actually a word for that, though one you may not have heard before.

You've heard of stress. It's that thing you suffer when bills are due, when the car breaks down, when you have a test you haven 't prepared for. Have you heard of eustress

Eustress literally means "good stress." This is stress that builds you up instead of tearing you down. It's the stress of putting money into a savings account every month, even if money is a little tight. It's the stress of taking your car in for regular maintenance even though you're strapped for cash and/or time. It's the stress of studying for a test ahead of time, doing the assignments, asking for help in advance when you don't understand something.

Think of exercise. Nothing is more stressful than that first time you lace up and hit the street to get some miles under you and some pounds off of you. Your  muscles tense up. You sweat. You breathe heavy. Your lungs burn and your stomach churns and you end up feeling like complete garbage. And then there's the aftermath! Strained muscles, weariness, headaches.

And the time! Holy hourglasses, exercise takes up so much time! Changing into workout clothes takes time. Stretching takes time. Stopping to drink water takes time. Doing a cool-down takes time. Just showing up, day after day, to do this thing that isn't always all that much fun, and almost always hurts, takes time.

But when you keep at it for a few weeks, suddenly that time doesn't seem so big a cost. Muscles loosen. Breathing becomes regular. Sweat becomes less unpleasant. Pounds start to burn away as muscle starts to grow. Energy starts to increase. And the time suddenly isn't such a high cost any more.

Eustress is that stress that's ultimately good for you. Working out gives you benefits that outweigh the suffering. So the suffering, the stress, is building you up instead of tearing you down. 

That's the key to understanding the resistance I'm dealing with, both externally and internally, when it comes to getting my finances under control. I lack a financial education, so I have to pursue one. I lack self discipline, so I have to develop it. I lack a wealth mindset, so I have to build one. I have to work for it. I have to use muscles I haven't yet used. And that hurts. And it takes time. And it causes stress and headaches and nausea and tight feelings in my chest and stomach. 

But if I keep at it, if I keep carrying on, then I will eventually get past those pains. I'll cut debt down to nothing. I'll have money in the bank to support me and Kara if something goes wrong. I'll use money as it was intended to be used, to grow and support and promote and prosper me, but also to glorify God. I'll have true wealth. Wealth that isn't defined or limited to a number on a bank account. True wealth is freedom. It's controlling my resources—time and money—instead of letting them control me. 

So I'll take some flack from friends and family. I'll be laughed at because I'm forced to do some things I blatantly said I'd never do, like sell something I like that costs me a fortune to keep. I'll  have to eat a little crow, soak up a little humility, and suffer through a little indignity. That's stressful. But it's good stress. Eustress. It builds me up instead of tearing me down. 

So for that, I'm grateful.

Thursday
Sep292011

35 beats per minute

About a year-and-a-half ago I went into a doctor's office thinking I had a bad chest cold.

The thing is, I'm not the "go to the doctor" type. In fact, I pretty much never see a doctor unless something is hanging off of me that would better serve me by being attached, or copious amounts of "inside fluids" are suddenly becoming "outside fluids." So for me to even consider going in for a chest cold should tell you that I had more than the sniffles and a bit of congestion. Think in terms of absolute lethargy, an inability to exert myself for more than a few minutes at a time, and an impending sense of doom.

The big surprise for me was when they checked my pulse and found that it was around 35 beats per minute.

"Yeah, my heart rate has always been low," I said, nonchalantly-in-complete-and-utter-denial.

"Are you an Olympic-class athlete?" my doctor asked.

"Not unless fried chicken is an competitive event."

"Then we have a problem, Mr. Tumlinson."

"Please," I said, "call me Ishmael."

OK, no, I didn't say that. I may have thought it, though. But at that moment, I think I was more focused on the "problem." An excruciating bit of worry started to chew at my insides. But on the plus side, my heart rate and blood pressure "shot up" to near normal levels. Now all I'd have to do is live under complete and continuous stress and I'd have a perfectly healthy amount of energy and vigor. Clearly no harm there.

The short version of this story is this: After some stress tests, EKGs, ultrasounds and blood work it was determined that I was absolutely, positively fine. Except for the heretofore undiagnosed congenital heart defect which was causing an ever-worsening bradycardia (gradual slowing of the heart) as I aged, and would eventually lead to my death, probably within the next few months.

The solution was for me, at 37 years old, to go under the knife and have a pacemaker installed. I was apparently "batteries not included."

For the next year or so I recovered from the surgery and started to get my strength and stamina up. It was a slow process, and in many ways it is still ongoing. But I did manage, in that time, to drop about 30 pounds, to stop wheezing when I took a flight of stairs, and to actually become a bit more active and energetic. Times were gettin' good.

More energy is great. A bit of weight loss is great. But I still have moments where I feel a bit exhausted and lethargic, and I still have a good 20 or 30 pounds of extra "me" hanging over my belt. I'm not as "out of the woods" as I'd really like to be. So that's why I've started being more active.

I do not do gyms. They're a blatant rip-off, frankly. Most want you to sign some ridiculous contract that auto-renews with or without your permission, obligating you to an auto-draft of an exorbitant monthly rate for the occasional use of their facilities, which are nice and clean and sometimes very modern, but still a place you have to force yourself to attend. Most  gyms, as well, require you to have a credit card on file, with or without a contract. I still don't get the "give me your credit card, we have no contract" gyms. I have the sneaky suspicion that they are paying for porn while I'm sweating and grunting in another room. And that just ain't fair. I can't compete with that.

I prefer to get my workout from things I actually find fun and engaging. Or at the very least the activities have to make some kind of sense to me.

If I'm going to run, I want to get some place and maybe see a bit of nature and God's creation sprawling out around me, as opposed to running on a treadmill for an hour watching a sub-titled soap opera on a hanging television screen. If I'm going to ride a bike, I want to have the reward of zipping past joggers and people working in their lawns and dodging the spray of lawn sprinklers, as opposed to dodging the rain of sweat flinging from the grunting guy on the treadmill next to me. And if I'm going to lift weights, I'd rather hoist my own hefty butt up the side of a rock wall or over a boulder, as opposed to laying in a pool of some other guy's funk while I push a metal bar up and down, over and over, mostly praying it doesn't slip and crush my windpipe.

Call me a radical hippie.

The thing is, even though I've always liked the whole "the world is my gym" attitude, I've been stupidly lax about actually getting out there and using it. Until now.

Recently I've started taking on some new challenges. I've started rock climbing. I bought a bike and I ride most mornings. I've started walking and sprinting. I'm slowly adding more and more actual activity to my lifestyle.

It is kicking my butt. I may need some kind of intervention.

The truth is, I'm enjoying the things I'm getting into, and I'm seeing some positive results. I'm not getting the svelte, slender body I was hoping for, but then I'm not as consistent as I should be, I tend to fall off the wagon on keeping my calorie intake low, and I've only been doing this for a couple of months. Lifestyle changes ... they're so friggin' slow.

One thing that annoys me is when people say, "It took you 38 years to get into the condition you're in now. Just think about it that way."

This is an invitation for a savage beating.

OK, maybe not. I do understand that these folks mean well, and they're trying to be encouraging. And I do my best to take it that way. But the truth is, this being fat and lazy thing didn't happen to me over a span of decades. I was actually in very good shape right up until my late 20s. Which, perhaps coincidentally, is about the time my doctors think my heart started slowing to the point of causing me some issues. So the reality of my life is that in a relatively short period of time I went from slim and fit to fat and lazy. I'd say the responsibility for that was 60% heart, 30% fried chicken, and 10% natural-born laziness.

No excuses.

I'm working on lifestyle changes these days. I learn things, I try things, I succeed, I fail, I try again. I'm looking for activities and relationships that get me out there in the world, staying fit by having a blast. I'm looking at getting to the point where I play so hard I don't even recognize it as exercise anymore.

So, in a lot of ways, getting a pacemaker is the best thing that ever happened to me. I have a second chance. And the only requirement, the only responsibility I have to live up to, is "do something."

I can do that.

Thursday
Aug252011

Sticks, Rocks & Fried Chicken

Exercise and me, we've never been toasting good friends. Sure, when I was in my early 20s I ran two to three miles per day. I would jog along the back roads near where I grew up, or bounce around the track that rings the Sweeny High School football field. Sometimes I might give the winding, tree-lined walking trail a try. I had a good rhythm for it, and it paid dividends in the form a buttocks that could crush walnuts, and brought unsolicited compliments from female friends and acquaintances. Yes, yes.

Somewhere along the way my heart started working against me. The bradycardia I developed as a result of some undiagnosed birth defect started dragging me down. My heart was literally skipping a beat, and the intervals were getting bigger, so oxygen was starting to become a scarce commodity in Kevinopolis. My energy levels were starting to suffer. So was my waist line. In the span of just five years I went from a trim physique to a bulbous mass. Of course, I can't blame all of that on the bradycardia. There was fried chicken involved. Oh so much fried chicken.

Then, in 2010, when my condition was diagnosed and a nifty new pacemaker was installed, I started my long road to recovery. Long, mostly because I took my time getting on it. Once the stitches had been removed and I had gotten an OK from my cardiologist, I was free to change my deep-fried ways and get my behind on a treadmill. I declined.

I continued to decline for the next year, gleefully stuffing my gullet with every fattening fried food I could find. I had newfound energy, you see. My heart was working better, and now I could approach food with all new vigor.

I did this until I was told I had shockingly high blood pressure, and my doctor put me on meds.

That would not do.

Blood pressure medication has always been a symbol for me. Sure, I had pacemaker now. And sure, I was overweight, and my joints ached, and I was slowing down in nearly every conceivable way. There was a vague notion in the back of my mind that I was "getting old." At 38, I think this was a bit premature. But one accepts such things. One suffers on.

But blood pressure meds? Suddenly the message did a tsunami rush from the back of my mind to my frontal lobe. "Holy crap I'm getting old," I thought. "I have to do something about that."

There is nothing wrong with taking blood pressure medication. Some people absolutely must take it. It helps keep them alive. But c'mon. We all know ... I knew ... what was causing my BP to skyrocket. It wasn't a genetic pre-disposition or a side effect of something I had no control over. It was buckets of fried chicken for every meal. It was limiting my exercise to shifting my fat ass around in my chair while I watched TV. It was any number of really bad decisions on my part. And that, my brain finally accepted, simply would not do.

I determined I would get off of the meds. And I figured the best way to do that would be to lose a whole bunch of weight. So I went on a severely low-calorie diet, limiting my calories to about 1,500 calories per day. I increased my intake of vegetables by a factor of a billion (easy to do from zero). I started walking each day, hitting the treadmill when it was raining, and even using some resistance bands and free weights. I started taking vitamins and drinking lots and lots and lots of water (and some apple cider vinegar).

It worked. Beautifully. After about three months I was already seeing significant weight loss. I was also feeling better. Loads better. Much more energetic, much happier, much more fit. I was doing great. And people were starting to notice. But best of all, I was able to ween myself off of the blood pressure meds. I win.

When we bought our house and I started renovating I changed my diet a bit. I started eating fast food again, but I tried to keep it to light stuff. I made good choices -- as good as possible, anyway. But despite that, I did start gaining again. Not much. A few pounds. But it was enough to scare me, so I stepped up my exercise.

In the past couple of months, I've started going off the beaten path. Every morning I get up and go for a walk in the park near my neighborhood. I eschew the gravel-laden walking path, which takes me in a wide but predictable circuit around a couple of soccer fields. That's fine for someone who needs a bit of guidance, but it simply won't do for a warrior on his path to greatness. Instead, I cut across fields, follow bayous and drainage ditches the run behind fenced in back yards, and push my way through brush and bramble and thick growth. I am an explorer. I am a lone survivor in a post apocalyptic world.

I am afraid of snakes and rabid possums.

Luckily I haven't encountered either of those on my journeys so far (I've seen possums, but they seem blissfully rabies free). But it wouldn't matter. I push on regardless, knowing that such dangers exist but determined to stay my course. I am an explorer, after all. A roaming warrior.

These walks are great cathartic experiences for me. I work through a lot of "stuff" while I'm pushing through high grass and stepping over soggy patches of ground in the deep darkness of pre-dawn. Deadlines, petty comments from petty people, stressful encounters with upset clients ... all of this fades away when you're trying to figure out the best way to cross a marshy gully in the dark.

Earlier in the week I came across a playground that has a couple of "climbing boulders." I've taken to scaling these on their toughest faces, and I have to say I do it very well. I study the ascent, I choose my route, I mull over every Jon Krakauer book I've ever read. It's all big-boy pretending, I know, but it has awoken a passion in me. I've decided to look deeper into this rock climbing idea ... you'll be the first to know when I take it on, believe me.

To add some variety to the whole thing, this morning I carried with me my Jo staff (or jyo staff). It's been a while since I've practiced any sort of martial arts, but the staff was something I always enjoyed. And I always thought it would be the most practical weapon to learn, honestly. In a post apocalyptic world, there is sure to be no shortage of sticks.

I carried the staff walking-stick style as I made my away through rugged terrain, and practiced a few forms in the middle-of-friggin-nowhere. Then I made my way back to the park, where the climbing boulders beckoned.

When I came to the boulders, Jo staff in hand, I thought, 'I bet I could climb these boulders with the Jo staff tucked into my belt." An idea worth exploring, thought I! And so I ran the staff down the back of my T-shirt and through my belt, just to the side of one of my belt loops. Then I sized up the first bolder, picked the toughest route I could find (it's only about seven feet tall, so it's not like I'm scaling Everest here), and then started my "ascent."

Success! I reached the top of the boulder and stood proud, "unsheathing" my staff and waving it in victory. The double entendre symbolism is not lost on me.

Now, having mastered the ascent, I resheathed my staff and scaled my way down, again doing brilliantly. I am a master of rocks and sticks, what can I say?

For those of you disappointed with the positive and successful spin on this tale, and for those who were expecting a story ending with my bloody and broken body at the bottom of a boulder, I can give you only this: In daylight, it becomes blaring obvious that these boulders are considered a public toilet by every bird that flies over. This fact can be unsettling to a man who, as a celebration of his pre-dawn, low-light scaling of the mighty boulder, has decided that he will drink copious amounts of water from a nearby, dirty water fountain by cupping the water into his hands and drinking as if he were pulling it from a fresh mountain stream.

You're welcome.

I will probably keep up this kind of workout (adding gloves). The world is my gym now, and I refuse to wipe down the equipment after I've used it. And I may go ahead and join some kind of rock climbing program (if anyone has suggestions, send them to me). I have a monkey-like frame, well-suited to climbing, and I think I would be good at that sort of thing.

Fitness ... who knew I could actually enjoy it? I'm actually looking forward to incorporating more of it into my life.

Because the more calories I burn each morning, the more fried chicken I can eat at lunch.

Learning life lessons is fun.