Recurring Dreams and Their Meanings

Every so often, I'm visited by a recurring dream. In it, I am booked on a flight to Australia for a vacation, but I am not really sure when it leaves and I am rather laissez-faire about finding out. On the day of travel, I go about my business, aware in the back of my mind that I need to get to the airport at some point to catch this overseas flight, but thinking I have plenty of time. Other things start happening in the dream that lead me on wild tangents pursuing various missions and tasks, until all of a sudden I realize (or I am told by another character in the dream) that the flight is leaving very soon and I am miles from the airport and fully unprepared. I then start a mad scramble to make the flight, but usually have no idea where I am relative to the airport and even after I get my bearings, I find I still have important stops to make before I can get to the airport. For example, I have to stop at home to get my two passports (American and Australian) and my house is in the wrong direction from the airport. I forego packing a bag for expediency, deciding to travel in what I am wearing and intending to buy what I need when I reach Australia, but I discover I have traveling companions who insist on packing bags and I need to wait for them before I can proceed to the airport (why they are also late for the flight I do not know, but it is usually somehow my fault). The clock keeps ticking down, to the point where there is no conceivable way I can make the flight within the boundaries set by the Laws of Physics. But, of course, it's a dream, so the Laws of Physics can be bent. I manage to arrive at the airport with very little time to spare. In the dream, I usually discover the flight has been delayed a little bit (and I have a sense that I gambled on this occurring), giving me more time to make the flight, but then the gate has been changed and the airport is a labyrinthine mess of security lines, confusing corridors, and dead ends, and nobody seems to know where I am supposed to go. At this point the dream usually peters out or I wake up. Once, I think I made it to the gate and woke up just before boarding the plane.

What is the meaning of this dream? I assume it reflects some kind of anxiety that I have about achieving my goals and succeeding at the things I pursue. I just started graduate school and there is going to be a lot of homework and deadlines to hit, so I suspect the recurrence of the dream now is related to that, perhaps my subconscious mind telling me to try to stay ahead of the workload, which I fully intend to do, and not procrastinate.

Do you have a recurring dream? What is it and how do you interpret it? Discuss it in the COMMENTS section of this post.

KEYWORDS: dreams, lucid dreams, recurring dreams, nightmares, lifestyle coaching, anxiety, stress


How Much Deep Work Should You Do Per Day?

One of my lifestyle coaching clients asked me recently what I thought was the right amount of deep work to do on any given day.

Deep work is a term coined by self-help guru Cal Newport and it refers to any work you do that is (or needs to be) focused and efficient. I coach some of my corporate clients on deep work as a strategy for "giving yourself a raise," discussed in another post.

The short answer to the question about the right amount of deep work to do is about two to three hours per day. This is the recommendation of Cal Newport and I have confirmed it in my own practice of deep work. This amount of deep work is going to yield the greatest amount of productive output per unit time (maximally efficient).

The long answer is that you can do more than two to three hours of deep work in a day, but you should try not to exceed four hours of deep work maximum per day. The human mind, like any organ, has a finite amount of stamina for work and it starts to lose some focus and efficiency after about three hours of deep work, due to mental fatigue. And for those untrained in doing deep work, it can be an even shorter amount of time. You can train yourself to be efficient at deep work for longer than four hours, but not much more.

Additionally, it is best to do your deep work in an uninterrupted block of time, to minimize disruption. When deep work is broken up by distractions, mental energy has to be expended to refocus your mind back on the deep work task, which decreases mental efficiency over time. So, if you have to do more than three hours of deep work in a day because you want to meet a deadline or you are trying to finish the last part of a big project in one mad dash, then (and only then) break the deep work up into two shorter blocks of deep work. The efficiency lost by interrupting a longer deep work session will be counterbalanced by giving your mind a rest between shorter blocks of deep work. Even so, the combined amount of deep work you do in a day should be limited to four hours maximum, if possible, just due to the limitations of human mental stamina. If the demands of your work necessitate deep work of longer than four hours per day, just be aware that some of that deep work will not be maximally efficient. Efficiency declines exponentially once your reserve of mental energy starts to become depleted. At a certain point, the return on investment of mental energy is not worth it. That's why I recommend trying to keep deep work to under four hours per day, and preferably limited to two or three hours.


School and Lifestyle and Whatnot

I started graduate school this past week and I'm officially a marriage and family therapist IN TRAINING, according to my professors. This is my full time gig now for the next two years and I am pretty geeked, albeit anxious as well because the road ahead is going to be intense.

Since the fall semester at Edgewood College began on a Wednesday, I have only had so far two of the four classes I'm enrolled in, plus a standalone half day training seminar on Saturday morning. I have the remaining, and probably* most challenging, two classes on Monday and Tuesday of next week, and I plan to pound out a bunch of studying today. But first, a little blog post procrastination.

Already I have delegated myself to be a student representative of my grad school class cohort. This was not something I chose frivolously, but only after I had asked several questions about the demands of the role and determined it would be both feasible (given my workload) and convenient (given my limited transportation options, currently). I have to attend a once monthly meeting with one of the faculty who oversees our graduate internship program and convey questions and concerns from my cohort to her, which, if important enough to warrant it, will be moved up the chain to a larger faculty meeting to be addressed. I think this will jibe well with the fact that I already volunteered myself to be the cohort social coordinator for my classmates, an unofficial role in which I attempt to gather my cohort together socially to get better acquainted and (eventually) commisserate on the intellectual stringency of this graduate program. I'm hoping to parlay the social gatherings into information gathering so that I'll have fodder to take to the student rep meetings. I'm also hoping to glean valuable information at the latter meetings from current upperclassmen student reps that I can convey back to my embryonic and probably anxious cohort members.

In non-school news...yesterday (Saturday), after the training seminar, I went on a just-shy-of-20-mile bike ride with my friends Tyler and Sherry along the Glacial Drumlin (rails to) Trail, from Deerfield to Lake Mills, where we had pie at the Sand Bar pub. On the return trip, we got rained on pretty well and also took a short detour up to the Kroghville Oasis roadhouse, about a half mile off the trail, to escape said precipitation.

Since I'd eaten pie, Saturday became my official dietary "free day" for the week and my lovely wife Deborah joined me in this endeavor after I got back from biking. We indulged in pizza for dinner, with a pre-dessert of our favorite ice cream beverages, a chocolate Oreo malt from Hubbard Street Diner for me and a Concrete Mixer shake from Culvers for Deborah. I believe dietary free days, as outlined in the Tim Ferriss book, "The 4-Hour Body," are valuable for successfully achieving certain fitness goals, in this case weight loss. The premise is that you allow yourself one day per week with no dietary restrictions whatsoever, and the other six days of the week, you strictly adhere to a whole food diet that encourages weight loss. In this way, you literally get to have your cake and eat it too. When you try to adhere to a diet that doesn't allow you to ever have treats like pizza and ice cream (no fun!), it can be a painful, depressing chore to faithfully follow the diet, if it is not a natural part of your lifestyle. Knowing that you can still enjoy hedonistic desserts at certain defined times makes eating healthy the rest of the time much more doable, as long as you are brutally disciplined about it. Although you are only allowed one free day per week, and it supposed to be a set day, I usually float either Saturday or Sunday as my free day to allow some flexibility around my weekend activities. For example, the original bike ride and pie plan for this weekend was slated for Sunday, but we moved it up a day due to weather.** If we had stuck to the original plan, Sunday would have been my free day, but I had wiggle room and utilized it. Today (Sunday) is now a grad school study and homework day, and I'll eat minimally and wholesomely. In fact, due to sleeping in this morning, it's already nearly 1 PM and I have not even eaten anything yet. I'll probably not eat until I'm done with my daily meditation, which I'm planning to do as soon as I conclude this post, which is...NOW!


*Note: This is all relative and depends on assignment load and due dates, as well as variable life circumstances.

**Note: We miscalculated this.


In Defense of a More Rational Diurnal Rhythm

I used to work corporate day jobs, for quite a long time. It wasn't natural for me. Getting ripped from a pleasant, dreamy slumber every morning at the crack of dawn and immediately thrust into often grueling labor with people I didn't have much in common with is no way to live, I eventually decided (probably much later than I should have).

I lead a much happier and more fulfilling life now. My work day usually starts about noon. I still get up at a reasonable hour of the morning, 7 or 8 AM. But I spend the hours before noon in self care and self actualization. I meditate, exercise, think, read, write, practice music, and generally do whatever the hell I want during that time. That allows my mind and body to more naturally and gradually ramp up for the start of my work day, when the hands on the clock approach zenith. I put in a solid work day on the days I work, usually going until 9 or 10 PM at night, with ample rest breaks throughout the afternoon and evening. This is a much more normal diurnal rhythm for me. Sometimes, particularly on the weekends when I have late evening music performances, my work day can be in excess of 12 hours. However, because it fits my natural diurnal rhythm, I don't get fatigued. I actually have tons more energy thanks to liberating my mornings for self care. I can sleep the @#$% in the following morning if I want to. That's my time.

Some people are morning people, ready to hit the ground running as soon as they open their eyes. Actually, I can't back that up. I don't know anyone who is really that way. Certainly not any of my lifestyle coaching clients, many of whom work 8 AM to 5 PM corporate day jobs and hate the hours, which is why they have contracted me to help them break out of their daily grind. Some people cope and adapt to the conventional hours of first shift employment better than others, but if given a choice between hard labor or soft leisure in the morning, all else held constant, most of the clients I ask would choose the latter. I certainly do.

I start my graduate school program in Marriage and Family Therapy in a little less than a week. All of my classes are on weekday evenings from 6-9 PM, synergizing perfectly with my current working diurnal rhythm. I can get most of my studying and work done in the early afternoon, then head to campus around dinner time. However, I may have to reschedule some of my corporate lifestyle coaching clients who, by the nature of their job hours, prefer appointments with me in the early evenings, after they get off work (or on weekends). As a result, I may lose a few clients, but hopefully not too many. On the up side, I still have many clients who prefer to be coached by me on the weekends. They are also some of my best clients, as evidenced by the fact that they consider my services comparable with the other self care activities they pursue on weekends, like working out, eating healthy, meditating, etc. Hopefully, I can convince some of my weekday evening clients to unlink lifestyle coaching from its strong association with their corporate work day (they come to me right from work, usually) and schedule me for weekend appointments. I will still have open availability on Wednesday evenings while I am in school, the one night I don't have classes, so hopefully some of my clients can adapt to coaching with me on that day if they can't do weekends. I have embraced the fact that I may lose some clients, but I believe many will try to stick with me if they have seen benefits in their lives due to my coaching. And if they aren't getting a benefit from me, then I am OK with them not continuing. I don't want to take anyone's money without offering a huge return that has high value in terms of happiness, fulfillment, achievement of goals, and growth of health and wealth.



I took a little hiatus from studying for grad school today, other than a brief look at the section on Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the DSM-5. Yep...the symptoms totally describe a certain occupant of the Executive Branch who shall remain unnamed. To a tee!

Harry Shearer dialogued with me personally on Twitter today. That guy is funny and sharp as a tack. I don't talk to celebrities directly that much, but he's a good one.

Today was a cool and rainy day on the lake. My folks split for Eau Claire for a few hours today, for doctors appointments. While they were gone, I vaccuumed the floors of the cottage, at my dad's request. The floors weren't that dirty, but we're having visitors this weekend. I get to see my beautiful wife Deborah too after a week apart, and our doggies. Her parents are coming up as well.

Tomorrow, the main attraction is my performance on rhythm guitar with YOUR MOM (the band) at Red's in Chetek WI. I spent some time rehearsing songs today and will give them a quick run through again tomorrow afternoon before I head down to the venue about 7 PM. I'm super solid on them. My folks are planning to spectate the show for at least a little while, and some of the band may stay overnight at the cabin so they don't have to drive back to Madison in the wee hours of pre-dawn (although, truth be told, in all honesty, I actually think that time of night is the best and only time to drive...the roads are deserted and there's a contemplative quietude about being on the open roads while the world slumbers).

I am feeling pretty strong on my schoolwork. The hard stuff starts tomorrow when I begin working on my written assignments due when classes start around August 24th. I am geeked to get into the hardcore learning, even though I am well aware that it will be intense. It's my path though. I know this deep in my heart, and passion is 85% of successful DOING. Exactly 85%. #Fact.

Off to bed.


In Meditation, Failing is Succeeding

I recommend daily meditation of 10-30 minutes to all of my lifestyle coaching clients, but interestingly, only a very small number of them commit to doing it semi-regularly, much less daily. When I ask them why they don't do it more often, I expect them to say things like "I don't have time," or "I don't have a quiet place to do it," or something along these lines. But that's hardly ever the response I get. The most common response is "I tried it a few times, but I kept failing at it" (this is a summarized aggregate response from several clients). Failing? When I ask them what they mean by failing, they say things like, "I can never seem to quiet my thoughts" or, "I can't stay focused on my breathing." I try to explain to them that this is not failure, it's actually success, or more precisely, any time you make time to attempt meditation, it's a success. It does not matter how busy or unfocused your mind is during meditation. It is the DOING that matters, or as Zen Buddhists say, the important thing is the PRACTICE of meditation (aka, DOING it). Failing at meditation is when you don't even try.

Here's the thing: You are supposed to fail at meditation, by design. That's actually kind of the whole point. It's an exercise (practice) of trying to be present and in the moment that has failure purposefully cooked right into it. You go into meditation with the goal of completely clearing your mind of extraneous thoughts while focusing on your breathing (or sometimes your five senses or even light music, but for beginners, breathing is the best thing to focus on). That's the goal, but reaching the goal does not define success. It is pretty much impossible to obtain and maintain that goal for the duration of your meditation. Everyone, I surmise, fails repeatedly to achieve this centered state continuously throughout a meditation (maybe there are Zen Buddhists somewhere who can clear their minds of all thought for 30 minutes, so I don't want to overstate the facts). The best you can hope for is to be aware (present) of when extraneous thoughts have wandered into your mind and then push them out by refocusing on your center (breath, senses, music, or whatever you have chosen to center on). That's the exercise...transcending your own thoughts so you can recenter on being in the present moment. However, many people, when they first start meditating, realize that their minds wander frequently and they view this as a failure and become discouraged. In fact, it is kind of paradoxical: The more frequently you notice your mind wandering and re-center it, the better you are at meditating, not worse.

I think this misunderstanding about meditation stems from Western culture's goal oriented collective mentality. Achieving the goal of a quiet mind, centered in the moment, is not the metric of successful meditation. It merely points you in the right direction. A good analogy is travel. When you take a trip to a cool, new place, your goal is not really just getting to the place...it's all the experiences you have during the trip. The journey, not the destination, is what matters. The destination just gives you a direction of travel, but the value lies in the act of traveling and experiencing new things. Similarly, the metric of meditation is not achieving "enlightenment" (the destination) but rather the process of trying to get there. With practice, over time, you become more attuned to your mental state and being able to quickly re-center in the moment. When I first sit or lie down to meditate, which I do almost every day, my mind is all over the place, thinking about my TO DO list, worrying about getting my school work done, thinking of things that happened yesterday or last week. I go into it knowing full well that there will be this onslaught of thoughts and I have to willfully direct my mind back to my center many times in a given meditation session. Wash, rinse, repeat. By the end of my 25 minute (usually) meditation, my mind is often still wandering some, but it is much more calm and centered as a result of the practice of meditation. That's success. The ability to re-center has practical applications in daily life too, allowing a person to better handle stress and anxiety by taking a couple deep breaths and re-centering on the fly.

So, to conclude, it is not deemed failure to be bad at meditation. Everyone is pretty bad at it, to varying degrees. Success is in the act of doing it and realizing how awful you are at being in the moment and calming your mind. Over time, you get a little better (rarely awesome) at it, which has mental health benefits in your daily life. True failure at meditation is not doing it at all.



When I'm up at the cabin, I'm far more prolific and productive. I write about twice as many blog posts and they are usually of higher quality as well, though that might be debatable. I also conquer a lot more reading material. I hypothesize that I have fewer distractions and less mental anxiety when I am up here. I wish I could channel that ability when I am at home. Sometimes I can, but I usually have to go to a neutral place like a coffee shoppe or library. In short, I need escapism to do deep work.

Speaking of escapism, in a little over a fortnight, I'll be hosting my annual Labor Day weekend bike ride, BIKE WITH JOE, up here. Everything is in place for the event. The only variable is weather. Most years we've lucked out. Occasionally it's stormy. Rarely it's cold and/or rainy. I'm ready for anything, but sunny and mild would be optimal.

I practiced guitar songs today, after meditating, in anticipation of Friday's show at Red's in Chetek WI with cover band YOUR MOM. I'll be singing a few numbers, including the Fountains of Wayne hit song "Stacy's Mom." I haven't played that tune in a while, so it was good to refresh it. I got through most of the first set of tunes and the "floaters" (songs we float into the set at random times by way of audibles). Most of them I knew well, but it never hurts to hone. I'll hit set two tomorrow and set three Friday before the show, unless I am feeling really ambitious and plow through everything tomorrow.

I am getting to the stage in my reading for grad school now where I need to start thinking about and completing the associated written assigments. I want to allow ample time to hit that before this weekend, when my lovely wife Deborah and her parents are coming up to visit for the weekend and I will have no personal time to sequester myself with school work. This is an issue I have when I'm at home, which is why I came up to the cabin this week for some focused deep work. I have been rocking it hard and hitting my goals, so I am feeling pretty fulfilled and accomplished at the moment. I know once I start classes, I will be humbled by the sheer intensity and volume of work, like having an information firehose inserted in my mouth and turned on, but for now I will wallow in the brief period of perceived contentedness.

Daily Dose

Time for a brief bout of daily diatribe (aka, journaling).

It was touch and go, but I hit my grad school reading goal again yesterday, in no small measure thanks to being sequestered up at the family cottage with minimal distraction. My parents are very low maintenance and I am easily able to work my textbook reading in around activities with them, like short bike rides and errands, and self care, like meditation and fishing (Note to self: Meditate after writing this post...). However, I was tired yesterday, due to poor sleep the previous night. It was a bit of a slog pounding through the readings and retaining the pertinent information, but I succeeded and I am starting to get a better vision of the intent and structure of Edgewood's two year Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) graduate program. I am really digging what I have gleaned so far:

1. There are several main theories underlying MFT. We will be exploring them in depth, then synthesizing our own therapeutic style based on those elements that best fit our own individual world views and personalities as therapists.

2. Personalities are categorized into nine basic types as defined by the Enneagram, which is tied into the personality dimensions of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator metric.

3. There is a strong emphasis on case conceptualization, the way in which client symptoms are defined, understood, and treated. This ties into the theoretical frameworks mentioned in #1 above, which guide all aspects of therapy.

There are other gleanings as well, but that will do for now.

I usually read the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) before bed because it is some pretty sedating stuff. My daily goal to stay on target for completing pre-assigned DSM-5 reading for my first class on this subject matter is about 10 pages per day and I've been hitting the benchmarks. However, I was worried I might not complete yesterday's allotted chunk of reading due to being tired - and mental fatigue definitely made machete-ing my way through the tangled brush of Autism Spectrum Disorder a challenge - but I made it through. Although the informational content is dense, I find it very interesting at a visceral level, and this helps to keep my eyes from slamming shut. It's also a good sign that I am cut out for this line of work. I could not imagine pursuing this new career path if I found mental disorders boring and reading about them a waste of time. Anything but...

Thus far, the other readings I have been assigned have only give high level overviews of the several theoretical frameworks that guide marriage and family therapy practice, but I find myself eager to learn the specifics as the semester progresses, also a good sign.

As tired as I was last night, I found it difficult to fall asleep after I finished my reading. However, I used my meditation practice skills to quiet my mind, and once I succumbed to sleep, it was deep and long. I had opened the windows in the back bedroom of the cottage before I went to bed, allowing the cool, northwoods air to circulate around me as I lay snug in my sleeping bag on the lower level of the bunk bed that is there.

When I got up this morning about 10 AM, my parents had already finished breakfast and were going about their day. I ate and chillaxed for a couple hours before this jaunt of journaling. After I wrap this up, I'll once again dive deep into the books. Rain is expected later today, so the siren song of the outdoor recreational activities available to me here will soon be stifled, allowing me free latitude to study without distraction. At some point between now and Friday evening, a little over two days hence, I need to refresh a number of songs on guitar for the live music show I am performing with cover band YOUR MOM that night in Chetek WI, at a venue called Red's Bar and Grill. In point of fact, I might just bust out the guitar right now for a little bit of rehearsal. If so, disregard that earlier bit about doing my reading. I am on target and can postpone that for a spell. Conversely, I might read now and practice guitar when I need a mental break from the firehose stream of learning.

But first, it's meditation time.


A Bit of Journaling 8/15/17

Happy 4 Month Wedding Anniversary to my extra special wife and soul mate Deborah!

I thought I'd journal a bit before going deep into another session of reading grad school books.

Today was a pleasant day up at the cottage by the lake. It was a little gray and overcast in the morning, but cleared up nicely as the day went on. We tend to eat pretty wholesomely up here at the cottage and in keeping with this, I had a fairly fiber rich breakfast comprising an assortment of cereals (including Bran Buds and Love Grown Power O's that are like Cheerios, but made with beans and lentils), some raw nuts, several varieties of fruit and berries, and unsweetened almond milk. Plus coffee, as always.

I spent the better part of the morning reading book chapters assigned by my grad school professors ahead of the first day of class on August 24th. I also helped my mom reset her password on an Internet site. She gets discouraged about her ability to navigate such tasks, but the hurdles really were not her fault this time. I have never seen this before except for when my mom tries to do something online...the sites literally don't behave in the logical way they are supposed to. Normally one might say, "Oh she just isn't tech savvy," and there is some truth to that. But I watched her go through the password reset steps on this site today and saw firsthand that it really didn't work like it should have. For example, after she entered her username in a pop-up box that requested it, the NEXT button that was supposed to take her to the next sequential screen was completely unresponsive. And it should not have been. I even tried it myself. So I had her call the site's tech support and they coached her through the fairly simple process. I think a big part of the problem is that my mom overthinks these things, so she expects hurdles that are not actually there, but then when there are slight unexpected hurdles, like today, it reinforces her anxiety about navigating the Internet in the future. Fear is essentially the expectation of a negative outcome based on past experiences.

About 1 PM I think, we went on a bike ride around the lake. The sun had come out and the weather was beautiful, with temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit. My mom had been anxious about getting on her bike due to some perceived balance issues, but she did great and her balance was fine, which I think was a big confidence booster for her, as it should be. We stopped briefly for lunch at the Potter's Shed Cafe on the other side of the lake, then continued on around back through town to the cottage.

After the bike ride, I took our kayak out on the lake for a brief spell, then went for a quick dip in the water. This lake has mild Native American healing powers due to being spring fed from a wholesome underground aquifer (which also makes the water very brisk!), so I always like to immerse myself in it when I can. I fished for a little while and caught nothing. At the end of the summer, anglers have pulled most of the decent fish out of the lake already (is my rationale).

My folks like to go over to my aunt and uncle's cottage, three doors down, between 6-7 PM a lot of times to watch Chris Matthews or other current events programs. So when I got done fishing and came back up to the cottage about 6:20 PM, I found it empty, except for my folks' yellow lab mix, Sunbeam. I took the quietude as an opportunity to cook up a dish for dinner, a whole wheat pasta salad with sauteed tofu and spices, as Sunbeam watched attentively for any accidental scraps. When my folks got back, my mom made a salad and finished cooking some wild rice bratwursts (I ate the former, not the latter). We dined and I washed the dishes.

Now I'm reclined on the living room couch as I conclude this bout of journaling and prepare to do some reading until I get sleepy. This post is underwritten and brought to you by...

I Should Probably Write a Post About Twin Peaks and Coffee

It occurred to me that I should probably write a blog post about Twin Peaks here, since my blog is loosely tied in to a potent theme of the quasi-sci fi mystery series: coffee.

Well, I guess now I can check that off the TO DO list.



I keep discovering awesome things about my new chosen field of study and, ultimately, work. Marriage and family therapists are big on self-care...getting lots of rest, avoiding undue stress, meditating, and even journaling (writing one's thoughts down to sort of externalize them, so that they don't weigh on a person). I like to do all those things, especially journaling. In fact, I have been journaling via this blog for years, which is probably part of why I am so happy and content with my life (along with being a free agent and self employed lifestyle coach). I have basically been using journaling, somewhat unbeknownst to me, as a catharsis, to purge my inner angst (if there is any, which is pretty rare these days). Of course, I don't publish everything on here that I write. I also keep a pen and paper journal for more personal deep thoughts. But the point being is that journaling is strongly encouraged for budding marriage and family therapists, and I am all about it.

I'm up at the family retreat/cottage in northern Wisconsin this week for some focused studying and deep work. I can't tell you exactly where because the fishing has been phenomenal here lately, and that's a secret I want to keep. I have been breaking up my study sessions by spending time with my folks, fishing, and reading other stuff indirectly related to school work. In a minute, I'm going to get back into the books, but I wanted to share this awesome revelation about journaling and M & F therapists. I am definitely cut out for this line of work.

I was fishing off our shoreline tonight about dusk. After the sun sets, a massive swarm of flying bugs takes to the sky. I googled it and I think they are called midges, small and harmless critters. There are billions of them. The cloud of insects hovers a few yards overhead and the collective sound of all their wings beating creates this strange, oscillating droning sound that grows louder as the swarm density thickens. At a certain point, the swarm starts to descend, probably just from sheer volume of bugs, and eventually they start flitting around one's head. Although they are harmless, it is a little disconcerting to have one's head inserted into the underbelly of a bug storm, so I usually quit at that point. It's usually pretty dark by then anyway.


A Day in the Lifestyle - 8/10/17

The plan, as discussed last night with Deborah, was to get up and go to the gym before noon. At ten past noon, Deborah was still sound asleep in bed. I'd gotten up about 10 AM, unable to handle anymore unbridled unconsciousness, and did some reading and admin work for school while the house was quiet. Even the dogs, Maddie and Foster, were out cold for most of the morning.

I don't recall precisely when I fell asleep last night, but I am pretty sure it was not much after midnight for two reasons. First, I had taken two Benadryl tablets when I got home last night about 11 PM from a social gathering with some members of my graduate school cohort, during which I'd also had two beers (hops, the flavoring agent in beer, is a "soporific," a fancy word for something that induces drowsiness or sleep). Second, when I got into bed, I picked up and started reading some of the Introduction section to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (5th Edition), which contains some of the most coma-inducing text ever published in the history of Psychology.

In any case, I was pretty well rested when I got up. I do my best work in the morning when my mind is relatively calm and uncluttered. About 12:30 PM, with no positive indication that Deborah had any inclinations toward getting up, I ate a late, light breakfast of Cheerios with almond milk and fruit (half a banana and some grapes cut up into the cereal). After eating, I grabbed the small bottle of dorzolamide eyedrops from the kitchen counter and went upstairs to administer a drop to my dog Foster's one remaining eye. The drops treat glaucoma, a disease my Boston terrier has a genetic predisposition for and which took Foster's other eye a couple years ago. Foster has gotten used to the drops and took the ritual with a grain of learned hopelessness before falling back to sleep.

"Is anyone getting up today?" I wondered aloud in the general direction of Deborah's inert form under the covers.

"Mmmmmrrrrmmmm," was her subdued reply.

"Alright," I said and went into my study to meditate for 30 minutes or so. It wasn't a proper meditation, because I listened to a podcast during it, but I was still very present, the general goal of meditation, focusing on the podcast content, my breathing, and being in the moment.

I must have farted around online for a while, because all of a sudden it was 2:40 PM.

Deborah was awake but still in bed, watching TV. It was her day off and she was indulging every slothful moment of it.

"I might bike to the store and get some ingredients for pesto," I said. I had noticed during breakfast that the potted basil plant on our back porch was proliferating nicely and was due for a trim. "Also I need to stop by the library to pick up a book. Is the Wunderlist up to date?" Wunderlist is the list-making app we use for our grocery list.

"Should be," Deborah said, grabbing her phone to open the app. "Yup, looks like it."

"How does the weather look?" I asked, while she still had her phone in hand. She pulled up a weather map on the Weatherbug app and showed it to me. The amorphous blobs of color on the map indicating precipitation were off to the west of our location. "I can probably beat that home," I said.

I donned my backpack and scored my bike saddlebags from the mudroom closet. After attaching the saddlebags to my bike rack, I headed for the library to pick up a book I had ordered for one of my forthcoming grad school classes. When I emerged from the library, a darkish rain cloud was hovering ominously nearby in the western sky. I made the wise decision to postpone my grocery store inclinations and high-tailed it home just in time to evade some torrential rains that moved through.

I never made it to the store for pesto fixings, but I made a simple dish of whole wheat pasta drizzled in olive oil for Deborah and me for dinner, . We watched an episode of Homeland on TV while we ate, after which I spent about an hour practicing songs on guitar for the rock show I was slated to perform with YOUR MOM* on Friday night at the Anchor Inn in Edgerton WI.

About 7:30 PM, I drove over to my friend Wendy's condo for a Mastermind accountability group meeting with her and her boyfriend Scott. We watched a webinar about eBook writing and publishing that was quasi-informative, though largely common sense stuff, and spent another hour after that discussing the webinar and progress/hurdles on our respective Mastermind goals.

After returning home, Deborah and I chatted a bit and after she went to sleep, I read some more of the weighty DSM-5 tome to induce torpor. It worked and I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of ICD-9 diagnostic codes for mental illness.

An average and generally fulfilling day.

*Note: Not your actual Mom. YOUR MOM is a popular cover band from Madison WI that I sometimes proffer my rock mercenary talents to.


A Fair Weather Day and Chili

After Deborah got home from work, we decided to go kayaking over by her folks' house. I had a pretty solid work day and I was ready to enjoy the really nice evening weather. I biked over to her folks' place to get more exercise; she drove there. We had a good long paddle out on Lake Mendota.

This morning, I hunted down a decent heavy duty shipping box to package and ship a vintage guitar amp head I sold on Ebay. Then I spent the better part of the AM figuring out how to most cost effectively get my remaining books that I need for grad school. I think there is now only one outstanding, so it mostly worked out OK. The last one is like $80 or something stupidly outrageous. There were cheaper rental copies available online a couple weeks ago, but those seem to have been snatched up. There isn't even a Kindle version of it. Lame. Digital copies ought to be all over the place in this day and age. I was industrious though. I called my local library, and even though their library system did not have a copy of this particular text in circulation, a nice reference desk lady told me over the phone how to request one via Inter-Library Loan on the Web. As far as I can tell, I should be able to land a copy this way, at least on the short term, until I can find an economical buying or renting option down the road.

After that, I took a three mile walk (round trip) over to Deborah's workplace and had lunch with her. To tell you the truth, I didn't eat much. I tried to, but the cafeteria at her workplace was lacking options. She gave me a bite of her black bean burger (she got the last one) and half of her banana.

Returning home, I read some material for my upcoming grad school classes and made a decent pot of turkey* chili. I kept it simple. I sauteed the ground turkey with onion, celery, and matchstick carrots; added spices, mainly black pepper, cumin, and garlic powder; poured in a can of diced tomatoes and brought to a simmer; topped it off with mushrooms, zucchini, peppers (poblano, yellow and green), a can of drained chick peas, and an undrained can of black beans; simmered it a bit more and called 'er done before picking up Deborah and getting out on the lake. The two bowls of chili I ate after kayaking more than made up for the meager lunch.

Solidly productive day.

*I know...I said I was going vegetarian, and I am. But I also said I was allowing some meat whilst I used up whatever remained in our freezer. It's a gradual phase in of veganism. Bear with me. Plus the turkey only makes up a small percentage of the otherwise vegetable-rich chili recipe I use. More of a flavoring agent than a protein source.


Morning Joe

It cooled down substantially up here in Shell Lake overnight, with some light rain rolling into the area as well. I remained fairly cozy and warm in my flannel lined sleeping bag, but when I got up in the morning at the cabin, I quickly proceeded to make some hot, strong coffee to warm my cockles.



This morning, I biked and plotted the route for BIKE WITH JOE 2017, my annual Labor Day weekend social bike ride. By popular request, the ride this year is from Shell Lake (SL) to Birchwood (BW) WI, an alternate route from the more common Shell Lake to Stone Lake route of many prior years. BWJ has gone this way before in its 18 year history, but not for several years now.

The 2017 SL to BW route is pretty comparable to the SL to Stone Lake route and I like it a little better. It is maybe a mile longer in total, but I believe the hilliness is a little less, though I cannot verify that 100%. But it's probably pretty much a wash.

The one way mileage came in at 24.5 miles from the start - my folks' cabin on Shell Lake - to Birchwood. At about 12 miles, the route goes through Long Lake, where there are some good rest stops. This allows for several route options: 12 (end in Long Lake and jump on sag wagon), 24-ish (round trip from Long Lake or one way to Birchwood and jump on sag wagon), 37 (one way to Birchwood, back to Long Lake and jump on sag wagon), and 49 (round trip to and from Birchwood) miles.

I discovered there is a new distillery on the route about 5 miles in (just past the first rest stop at Rummel's Tap garage bar), which has a tasting room, but I don't know if they'll be open for business on Labor Day Sunday. They'd be stupid not to be. Worth exploring as an option though. On this first leg of the ride, we'll pass the Hamms Beer Lake* on the right before the planned breakfast stop, the Roost of Sarona restaurant, at the roughly 8 mile mark, after which we hang a right on County Road M that goes into Long Lake.

In Long Lake there are a couple good rest stops and some optionals too. What had been the Hideaway Saloon is now called Woody's on Long. Nice lake view and refreshments there. Props Sports Bar is at the far end of what feels like the main drag of Long Lake. There's also a coffee shoppe called Bees n Trees right across the road from Props.

After Long Lake, it's a pretty continuous, moderate intensity 10+ mile stretch of rolling hills through very scenic Northwoods country. The likelihood of seeing a black bear is better than average through this area, part of which is through the Washburn County Forest ("Timber, Recreation, Wildlife" in that order...in other words, business first, people second, animals third...this is Trump country after all...). The Stone Lake route of prior years also has a lengthy "push" of continuous riding without stops during the second half, but I think Birchwood has more to offer when you arrive. There's the Birchwood Cafe as a lunch option. Also Papa Pete's Pizza and the Bluegill Bar. The infamous Porch ice cream shoppe appears to be defunct now. Someone ought to buy it...

As in prior years, my mom and pops will likely drive the "sag wagon," which is Deborah's and my car with a bike rack on the back. It holds 4 bikes, but hopefully that capacity will not be fully exercised (due to rider fatigue or inclement weather, etc.), though we can adapt as needed. I fully plan to ride the entire 49 mile round trip, but I'm a realist and not a seeker of suffering, so I know my limits. If any riders bail at Long Lake, there should be time to shuttle those folks back to the cabin and still arrive in Birchwood to meet the longer route riders who want to quit there.

The first few bikers who sign up to ride BWJ get to stay at my folks' cabin.** After that, additional peeps are referred to the nearby Red Barn Campground, a half mile away. Since it's Labor Day weekend, they might fill up fast, so be diligent on planning ahead. Another option, considerably farther away, is the Rolling Thunder RV Park. The ride passes this just prior to the breakfast stop, so any riders who jump on here will have a truncated ride mileage.

DISCLAIMER: If you participate in BWJ 2017, you agree that: 1. You do so solely at your own risk, recognizing that bicycling on open roads has reasonable dangers associated with it. 2. Anything bad that happens is your fault. 3. Anything good that happens is Joe's fault. 4. Joe is not liable for anything at any time during the ride. 5. You will wear a bike helmet or refer to items 1, 2, and 4.

Here are my route notes from today.

Route overview.

From the cabin, follow the dirt road (Ellwood Beach Rd) 0.42 miles and turn right on N Lake Drive.

At 0.69 miles, go left on Lake Drive Spur.

At 0.88 miles, go right on County Highway B. Note: The Red Barn Campground is right in front of you and this is where any riders staying there will join the ride.

Carefully cross Highway 253 at 2.94 miles.

At the bottom of the big hill (at 3.52 miles), on your left, is a perpetual spring called Bear Spring where you can fill your water bottle(s) with natural spring water clinically proven to have Native American healing powers.***

Carefully cross Highway 53 at 3.66 miles.

The first rest stop for "carb loading" is at Rummel's Tap. Mr. Rummel runs a bar out of his converted garage. Pretty common thing up in the Northwoods.

Possible distillery stop at 5 miles.

Look to your right at 7.7 miles and you'll see a stereotypically "Hamms Beer" looking lake. If you don't get the reference, that's OK. It's still a pretty lake.

The breakfast stop is at the Roost of Sarona, 8.59 miles in, a solid greasy spoon diner with great food and mimosas.

After breakfast, hang a right on County Road M and pound out the 3 miles or so into Long Lake, fueled by grease. (Note: The bar called Vanderhyde's in the image above is never open on Labor Day Sunday, but if perchance it is, you know what to do...).

Woody's on Long, formerly the Hideaway, is a good "carb loading" station at 11.95 miles.

Coffee option at Bees n Trees (13.9 miles). Props Sports Bar, also here, is potentially the last chance for "carb loading" before the long haul to Birchwood, unless...

...the Rut Bar at 15.65 miles is open. In any case, go left on County Road D at the corner where the Rut is located.

You'll encounter civilization again at the 24 mile mark, in the form of Papa Pete's Pizza.

Tool on into Birchwood for more replenishment options, like the Bear Tracks Bar n Grill...

...the Bluegill Bar and the Birchwood Cafe.

*Note: Unofficial.
**Note: Already at capacity.
***Note: This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. The water from this spring should not be expected to cure or treat any disease or condition, and may actually contain levels of arsenic greater than what is considered safe.

Up to the Cabin

I'm in my sleeping bag, on an air mattress, at the cabin, and I'm quite content. I'm about to read a book after I finish this post. We had a good family dinner tonight after I got back from a couple hours of (unsuccessful) fishing with my nephew Ty. My sister had no way of knowing I'd gone mostly vegan, a very recent development. My mom hinted that I should not make a fuss about my dietary preferences, but why would I? Sis didn't care that much that I didn't eat the chicken she had prepared, and there were ample veggie side dishes. I particularly enjoyed the black bean and potato one, and my dad had cooked up his delicious homemade applesauce too. There was also a salad option. Truth be told, the salad dressing contained some milk solids, but I put it on my salad anyway. My goal for going vegan was similar to the goal in meditation of excluding extraneous thoughts, except applied to diet rather than to my mind. Just as it's a challenge to exclude all extraneous thoughts during meditation, it's also hard to exclude all meat and meat by-products from one's diet all the time. But the purpose of the exercise is reduction of the undesirable thing...calming of the mental state (meditation) and optimizing of the physical state (veganism). To the extent I am able, I choose vegetable based foods. But I'm not militant about it. In fact, until the remaining meat in our freezer at home is consumed, I fully plan to eat some meat on the weekends (this is a Tuesday), primarily fish, but some poultry too. All the eggs we had have been eaten and I don't intend to buy more any time soon. I am still on the fence about paleo sources of meat, like bison. I will probably consider it on a case by case basis as my nutritional needs (such as iron, protein, and B vitamins) demand.

You may be wondering why I have so suddenly decided to go mostly vegan. You may even feel a little threatened by it or think I'm an idiot. All the answers you seek can be found HERE.

There are massive benefits to veganism, both in terms of individual and environmental health. It takes 10 times the natural resources and land to make animal based food vs plant based food and you will never find any scientific study that says eating more fruit and vegetables is unhealthy for you. None. Fact.