Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Cycling is often an overlooked sport. People see guys in spandex and think it's sort of a wimpy sport. How tough could a sport be when guys where outfits like that? Here's an example. This guy was riding along when a car bumped into his group and he ended up in the ditch.

Oh, and after the ditch he went over the handlebars into a barbed wire fence. While traveling at 20+ mph. Wearing typical football gear. OK, no he wasn't, he was wearing nothing but a thin layer of spandex. The guy got up, got on a new bike (original bike was wrapped around a fence pole) and finished the race. At the finish line he received a couple of big awards that he had earned earlier in the race before going to the hospital and receiving 30 stitches. And he woke up today, got on his bike and raced again.

When is the last time that you saw a professional athlete go through an injury like this and continue? Real men wear spandex... and shave their legs.

(I'm posting a couple of graphic photos below from velogogo, continue at your own risk, but they're really not that bad.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New blog

I started a new blog. I wanted a place where I could write very specifically about my efforts to live sustainably. It's sort of instructional, sort of experimental and it just has a different tone than this blog has. I also put in ads and things so that I could potentially make money from sales of stuff (mostly books). I think I'll still write here on occasion, but I'm writing almost daily over at my other home. Check it out here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One sided equation

Yesterday I went on one of the most beautiful bike rides of my life. From Olympia to Brooklyn. I got off the beaten path and onto a road that wound through the hills of the area. Eventually the road turned to dirt and it started going up.

I need to take a step back and describe Brooklyn. For decades I have driven to my grandparents house and gone the long way around this massive void where there is nothing. Actually, there isn't 'nothing', that is where Brooklyn is. It just seems that while there are three roads that lead to Brooklyn, only one of them is paved. And the paved road doesn't go toward my grandparents' house. I had always seen the signs to Brooklyn, but never thought much about it since they seem to lead to nowhere. As I'm thinking of riding my bike to my grandparents' house, I found a shortcut through Brooklyn. It just seems that it takes a bunch of logging roads through Brooklyn. Yesterday I went to see how bad the logging roads were.

Pretty soon I'm going to move onto the point that I want to make. On the logging road to Brooklyn, there are no telephone poles, no road signs and only the occasional white post to indicate where the side of the road is. Not only that, but there was virtually no litter. Over the 11 miles to Brooklyn, I found one empty bottle of brake fluid. I'm glad that I wasn't on the road while the logging truck with no brakes was there.

I came to a couple of overlooks and I could look out over miles and miles of hills and not see a single power line, cell tower or anything that appears to be man made. Well, there didn't seem to be anything man made except for vast expanses of clear cuts. Come to think of it, the only reason there were overlooks was because I was in the middle of an area that had recently been clear cut.

I got to thinking about how I found the great beauty in being away from the pollution created by man, but I hardly noticed the devastation in the clear cuts. Looking out over the hills of trees at different stages of growth (or destruction) looked like rolling hills in the Midwest that grow corn and soybeans. You could see the outline of crops being harvested and it made the Midwest seem so small.

As I rode along, I thought of things that are similar to my recognition of the beauty while overlooking the devastation of the clear cut. I thought of finances of most American families. Most people focus on making more money. If we aren't happy or if we don't have everything that you want, it is because we don't make enough money. We look at making more money as the solution. Like on my bike ride, I was originally just looking at the lack of pollution, most people in their finances only look at their lack of resources.

When you take a step back, you can see that maybe it's not all about making money, but rather being content with what you have or changing what you buy (or don't buy) so that you don't have to make as much money. Despite the fact that there were very few things that I saw that looked like pollution, pollution also appeared in the form of things that men tore down. Despite the fact that people are feeling the crunch, they could buy less instead of making more. There is more than one side to each equation, make sure that you see them.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have read a couple of books recently that have made me think a lot. The first book I read was about a group of eco-terrorists that started by pulling up survey stakes and ended up blowing up bridges and trying to blow up a major dam. It was interesting that I could easily relate with the characters at the beginning of the book, and I could see how the characters kept getting pulled in to more and more serious crimes. Don't get me wrong, I will never blow up bridges or dams, no matter how bad they may be for the environment, but I could see how well intentioned people could end up there. ( I should point out that this was a work of fiction)

The other book that I am currently reading is about religious extremism. The book talks of well intentioned believers who find some odd teachings that they take to an extreme. After a series of events the people in the book become more extreme until God tells them to kill people. And they do. It is unbelievably disturbing how people who truly feel like they are doing what is right can end up killing innocent people. I'm a good person. I believe in God. I don't believe that God would tell kill someone, but the commonalities that I have with this guy disturb me. (Unfortunately this was a true story.)

In reading these stories I think of extremist and the opposite of extremism. I figure the average Joe who goes to work every day, does his job and dreams of things that he will never have the courage to try is the opposite of extreme. Sure, there are people who chase their dreams without being dangerous extremists, but the dangerous extremists were following their true beliefs with passion. When people find those motivational quotes that they like to read, they tend to encourage people to 'think outside the box' and follow their dreams. I like those quotes. I want to follow my dreams and they aren't traditional. I would love to live on a farm without electricity growing my own food and working side by side with my children and wife. I would love to go without owning a car. I am willing to give up a lot of traditional comforts in order to pursue various dreams that I have, whether it's simply a dream to be closer to family or if it is the right time to start a farm without electricity.

I like to think of myself as a logical person and when I take a step back, my ideals seem a lot more extreme than where the 'extremists' started. Does that mean that I should make my dreams closer to mainstream? Do I need to attend a job and not ask questions? I don't think that is the case. Maybe the difference is that I can live my ideals without breaking the law. The extremists all broke the law well before they started injuring people or blowing stuff up. So as long as I don't break the law I'm fine.

That is a nice thought, but I still don't like it. Some of my greatest heroes broke the law. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Rosa Parks. They broke the law for the betterment of the world. My goal is not to break the law, but my ideal in life is to improve the world in whatever small way I can and historically that has often involved breaking the law.

My ultimate goal in life is to not live like everyone else. I want to make a difference. The worst way to do that is to live like everyone else. In order to make a big difference, you have to live a big life. You have to be extreme like MLK, Gandhi and Jesus himself. And you need to somehow make sure that you don't end up in the wrong kind of extremist group.

And I have another job interview on Friday. Unfortunately, there are many other jobs that I want more than I want that one. On some levels I'm afraid of being offered a job that I don't really want because I might take it.

And soon I'm going to start reading my next book about Buddhist monks. That way I can contemplate peace and love rather than extremists that end up doing bad things.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Last weekend we spent a lot of time attending the Mother Earth News Fair. It made me come alive. I loved being around people interested in community and putting community and nature before the rushed lifestyle that most people follow. I have really struggled to bond with people and really get to know them. On a little community garden tour I felt like I really made friends. People who were interested in the same things that interest me. People whose friends I'm interested in getting to know. I loved being in that community and the impact that those people are trying to make in the world. I want to be a part of that.

And so my job search continues. I've had some job interviews, but no job offers. I took a class that has qualified me for a slightly different line of jobs and I'm excited about an upcoming interview. At the same time, there is something missing. The jobs I've interviewed for are things that interest me, things that I'm trained in and things that I can do well at. They just aren't things that I'm REALLY passionate about. The problem is that those things that I'm REALLY passionate about are things that I don't have any experience doing and the jobs associated with them don't pay all that well. (and I'm not in an especially lucrative field anyway).

One thing that I've discovered in the last several months of being out of work is that it really doesn't take that much money to get by. Sure, we are parasites to my Sister and Brother-in-Law, but if this were not available, there are other opportunities around for free utilities, but it would drastically reduce my opportunities for real jobs. The point is that I dream of being a part of a community and doing what I am passionate about and I think that my family could thrive on less money if we do things differently... If we do things different than most people, but more similar to what we are doing now.

No matter what I do, I'm really looking forward to spending time with others who have the same passions as I do. I have let my insecurities keep me out of that group for too long (I feel that I just don't know enough about those topics, and I hate feeling like the dumb guy in the group), I will get involved no matter what kind of job I get. But ideally, I would really like to work in my areas of passion. I am positive that I would put more into a job and make a bigger difference in a job that I'm passionate about than one that I was educated to perform.

I'm really excited about my job interview later this week because it has benefits, but it is three 10 hour days instead of a full work week. That would give me time to do both pursue my passions and do something that I was educated to do. When I step back and take a look at my situation, I'm really excited that I haven't found a job yet because it forces me to pursue my passions and it disappoints me that I've been looking primarily where my education lies... It's time to pursue my dreams and let the education stuff slide a little. That's exciting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

IF YOU REALLY NEED TO BE HEARD... don't say anything

This is a weird period in my life. I'm looking for a job, but that gets old really quick. You can only look at lists of jobs that you aren't interested in or not qualified for for so long. I've also been spending time with family and that has been great. In my free time I've been reading and watching stuff. Last week I watched a TED video about a guy that found that he spent too much time trying to convince people to be environmentally friendly and not enough time listening. One day, he decided to go a day without talking; a day of silence. He ended up going 17 years without talking.

I've also been reading a book called, "The Tao of Inner Peace" and it has challenged me to do some different things. I keep thinking that I should, but not now. I thought of doing a day of silence, but I kept thinking that I needed a cause. I wanted to spend a day or week in silence to commemorate something or to make a point. I don't have anything to commemorate or points to make, so I put it off. As I continued reading my book, I kept thinking that there are a lot of things that I keep putting off for one reason or another. Therefore, I decided to be silent today just because it is what I feel I should do. Boy, I wish it had been more important, but I'm just doing it for myself.

I didn't really tell anyone I was going to do it today, but I had talked to my wife about being silent at some point. When I woke up today, I thought of it, so I haven't spoken today. It was funny, after being up for 10-15 minutes my wife looked at me and said, "Oh, I get it, you're not talking today".

While the day isn't over, I've learned TONS by doing this. The first thing is the power of silence. Normally when my kids start to fight, I tell them to knock it off. And if they continue, I would have said it louder until they stopped. Today, that wasn't an option. I saw the kids fighting, I walked up behind them and placed my hands gently on their shoulders. You should have seen the looks in their eyes. I didn't have to say a word.

I thought it was interesting how people follow my lead. I was serving breakfast and asking which piece of the oven pancake that the kids wanted by pointing. The boys would stop talking to communicate with my by pointing. they would use my language. I wonder how often my kids follow my cue and speak my language. In fact, that thought sort of frightens me sometimes.

In my home being silent was fine because people understood what I was doing. When I took one of my boys to the park, a stranger showed up with her daughter. She said Hi. I nodded. She asked how old my son was. I held up three three fingers. This conversation was getting awkward, so I just started ignoring her. That is not my style, and I felt terrible. I felt that I was being rude because I wasn't speaking to her. Then I thought for a moment. I have this terrible habit of thinking of what I'm going to say next while people are talking instead of actually listening to them. And then I spent time fuming internally as I seek for an opportunity to interject into a conversation. When I finally do get to say something I feel dumb because it should have been said a lot earlier in the conversation. I have this amazing ability to end conversations by saying something that doesn't quite fit in and causes everyone else to stop talking.

So I'm at the park feeling like I'm being rude, but thinking that in reality I am far more rude every day in my interactions with my friends. I need to learn how to really listen, but I'm always afraid that I'll be even more left out of conversations than usual. Bottom line is that I need work on my listening.

Another thing that I loved about today was the physical contact. I'm not a touchy person, but it's really hard to get someone's attention when you aren't talking. So when I needed to talk with my boys, I put a hand on them and they turned to me. When I was opening the oven and my sister-in-law was standing nearby, I put my hand on her back to let her know that I was about to burn the back of her knees. It wasn't a lot of contact, but it is a form of communication that I just don't use very often.

I did slip up a couple of times. The first one was sort of embarrassing. I was out on a bike ride and I had a hypothetical conversation that was going on in my head (please don't tell me that I'm the only one that has these conversations). The next thing I knew, I said something out loud. So if a guy who has a day of silence accidentally talks in the forest and nobody hears it, did he really talk?

This afternoon, my 3-year-old came in and started tickling my feet. I happen to be extremely ticklish, so I immediately asked him to KNOCK IT OFF and it was out loud. Then this evening, my wife was reading the boys a bed-time story and she made a comment and I started to respond.

I very much enjoyed the experience today. I don't think that I have the courage to do it regularly or on a day that I needed to work. (What would a potential employer say if you showed up and refused to talk, but rather wrote or acted out all of your responses? Next interview that I don't really want, I'm going to try it.) The video that started it all off, that guy found a job and taught college classes without speaking. He even walked from San Fransisco to Missoula to take the job and start going to school there. I wish I could do that, but I'm just not that guy.

My overall take on the experience: I missed talking to my wife. I felt rude not talking to people I encountered. I felt guilty talking to myself. I liked a lot of the silent communication with my children, but some words would have been good. I liked some physical communication.

This evening, my wife asked me what I thought of the day; how I thought it went. I gave her a thumbs up (I hate that gesture, it feels cheesy, but I used it a lot today). I then pointed at her to 'ask' what she thought. She said that she really liked it...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Decisions and money

I really don't like looking for a job. I'm not an especially competitive person and I am way too honest for the resume and interview portions of the Job Application Pageant. Another problem is that I don't know exactly what I want to do.

I've spent years in the fitness industry, and I just don't feel like I fit there. I can do it. I even think I'm fairly good at it. I'm just not a fitness kind of guy. I don't really want to help anyone look good in a swimsuit, I think there are far greater concerns in the world that I would rather be working on.

So I've applied with health departments and alternative transportation organizations, but I haven't had any success. My lack of success is probably closely related to my lack of experience in those areas.

And then there's alternative building methods that really interests me. I have absolutely no experience and very little knowledge in that area. I called up a green building company to ask if they had any openings. They asked me if I had any experience. I said no. They asked about my education. I said that I had advanced degrees in exercise physiology. They asked what I thought I could do. I didn't have any idea... So I stammered around and said that I just wanted to do something. Oddly, they weren't looking for anyone at that point. I haven't called on green builders since then. I have tried to get into volunteering somewhere, but I really haven't found anyone who is willing to take me in.

So I'm sitting here, doing nothing and it's driving me nuts. OK, I'm not really doing nothing, but I'm not satisfied with what I'm getting done. I'm doing quite a bit of reading and I enjoy that. I've also started writing a book. So far it is terrible, but I still work on it because I feel that the premise has potential and it makes me feel like I'm doing something.

Oh, and I apply for jobs. I apply for jobs that I fear getting. I apply for jobs for which I'm terribly over qualified. I apply for jobs that I'm excited about. I apply for jobs that I hope I don't get. I apply for jobs that I don't think I could do. Sometimes it feels like a game because I just keep applying for jobs. I've had seven interviews in three months, so I don't feel like it's going that poorly, but I would like to be doing something more.

Here comes the big decision that weighs on me. We have money in savings and we could continue to live like this for another year or more as I continue to put in applications to various jobs (which would drive me nuts). Or, I've thought of starting a business. I've done it before, it's not that difficult. I mean it's not difficult except the making enough money to support your family part of starting a business. Starting the business is really easy.

What business would I like to start? I could make soap (except I doubt supporting a family on that income). I could start a pedicab company in a mid-sized town somewhere, except I fear the start-up cost and the ability to make money at it. I could start an alternative building company to help build houses for the poor (that really excites me), except I have no building experience, no equipment and the poor are generally not good at paying for things.

That seems to leave starting a fitness business. I could do it, I have confidence that I could make it a good business. I have confidence that I could support my family with it. I also have confidence that it would drive me nuts on many levels because the services that I think people need, are not the same as what they think they want.

I've been sending out some more unconventional propositions asking for exchanges and different approaches to saving money, starting a business or finding a job. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about unconventional. We'll see.

But for now, I'm going back to writing my book that needs a lot of work so that I can make my millions as an author.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I just read a parable that I really liked.

A king went to a garden where he found two beautiful mango trees. One of the trees was heavily burdened with a wealth of fruit. The other tree was just as healthy and beautiful, but did not contain a single mango. The king enjoyed a mango and continued on his path.

When the people of the village saw the king eat the fruit of the mango tree, they took this as a sign that it was free for the taking. They climbed the tree and picked every piece of fruit from the tree. They tore off leaves, broke branches and otherwise pillaged the tree to make sure they removed every piece of fruit.

When the king returned to the garden, again he saw two large mango trees. The tree that had formerly born fruit was broken, unhealthy and otherwise looked scraggly. The tree that had never born fruit was still a large beautiful healthy tree.

The king empathized with the broken tree as he felt heavy laden with the burdens of the kingdom and wealth. He saw the hope in the freedom, liberty and health of the fruitless tree. The king then gave up his golden bowl of a king along with all of his other riches and power and replaced it with a clay bowl of an aesthetic monk.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What I miss

So we've been living in our trailer for nearly 3 months now. When we left we sold a whole lot of stuff. At the time I was amazed at the quantity of stuff we were getting rid of it. I wondered what I would wish I still had.

Three months into the adventure, here is my thought. I miss my compost bin. Of course it would be sort of disgusting to haul around a container of rotting food waste, but it really bothers me having to throw away something that could be made into perfectly good dirt rather than sitting in a landfill, likely breaking down anaerobically contributing to global warming. As lame as it may seem, I wish I had a way to dispose of food waste.

I miss a freezer. When we had more space in the freezer, we would often make a large quantity of beans, jam or other freezable food and use them for weeks to come. This saved us money and produced far less trash than having to prepare meal sized proportions. As eco-unfriendly as it is, I wish I had a freezer.

I miss my daily bike ride to work. While I get out and play with the kids or do other stuff, I still often feel like a slug. I miss waking up every morning, going outside and getting on my bike and riding to work. I suppose I miss having a job to go to everyday, but that will take away from time with my family that I have been thoroughly enjoying. I will have to get out on my bike more often... or running, I like running. I think it's really sad that my irregular schedule has so drastically influenced my exercise routine. I'm still fairly active, but not as much as I would like to be.

I fear that I'm going to miss some of the tools that I sold, but am also looking forward to getting higher quality than I previously had. At this point I haven't needed them, but I foresee needing them again.

The last thing that I miss is space. The basement of our home was amazing. We could send the kids down there and they would play for hours and hours. The kind of play they did in the basement cause our poor little camper to shake and bounce like you can't believe. It is also very loud. I miss the basement... but I wouldn't give up the kids' close proximity for anything, not even for peace and quiet. (not most of the time anyway).

Quite frankly, I am amazed at how much stuff there is that I don't even really remember having. I remember the size of the garage sale that we had, but what in the world did we sell? We are doing just fine without it, so why in the world did we hold onto all that stuff for so many years?

I'm excited to settle again and have space, and moderate what we bring into our house. I'm excited to live with a lot less than what we had before.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Job interview

I hate job interviews. It's not that I'm especially nervous, although I do get a little nervous. It's not that I mind sitting there being bombarded with questions. I just feel so judged. I'm talking and they are taking notes and missing half of what I say. Then I keep talking and they stop taking notes. Does that mean I'm no longer saying anything of value? And then I walk out of the interview and I think of all the things I could have said differently. And then I have the opportunity to stress over my responses and the responses that I could have given until I hear back from the prospective employer. So I'm waiting.

What really makes the waiting hard is that this is the position that I'm most excited about since I've been applying for jobs. It's in transportation instead of health. I like that idea. I like the Medford area. There is A LOT to do here. with big rivers, big mountains and all the outdoor recreation I could ever hope for. It's a bit further from family that I hoped for, but it is within a day's drive.

Here's the problem. They were interviewing 13 people for this position. That's a lot. Not that I feel that I can't compete, I really feel that I have the qualifications for the position and I feel that my interview went relatively well. So the problem isn't that I feel like there is too much competition, the problem is that the job is too desirable. There are at least 13 other people who would love to be doing this job.

I am scheduled for a job interview in Warm Springs on March 7th. Warm Springs is in Central Oregon and in the middle of nowhere. It's flat and desolate and there isn't much going on in that city. Warm Springs is 77% Native American according to citydata.com. It's really unfortunate that we chased all the natives out of this land and then went back and gave them the most hideous places in the country to call their own. That is a topic for another day. The closest city to the Warm Springs reservation is Madras. Madras is 50% white. I've never lived in a city where I was the minority (except that I'm always the minority on my bike... and the minority in other ways, but never a racial minority). On one hand, that makes me a little apprehensive, but I would also be excited to be able to experience being a minority and the culture of those around me. So, I'm not especially excited about Warm Springs as a location. It's different. I am, however excited about the job. It's working to promote healthy eating to a population in need.

Here it is, I'm finally going to get to the point that I was going to make. I was reading a book and the author (Shane Claiborne) recounted a story of a classmate of his that was chosen for a job out of 100+ people. She was excited and told one of her professors about the job that she got. The professor was disappointed and said that he really thought she would be the person who took the job that nobody else wanted. Sure it takes a lot of skills and experience to compete in the job market, but it takes a special kind of person to take those jobs that nobody really wants. I want to be that kind of person, but I often fear that I am not.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking off

We took off. After being parked in my Sister-in-law's front yard for many weeks, we hooked up the camper and left yesterday. It's a crazy feeling. I keep asking my wife, "Did we remember the ____?" (and she asks me the same sort of questions). I packed three things into the van before we left: Two bikes and a big stroller (and my kids, they came too). I've never packed so little when leaving for several days. But I guess since I'm towing my house around with me, it's all there. We didn't forget anything. If we own it, it's with us. (we did leave a few things with my sister-in-law, but they were things that we were living without anyway).

I said that we were leaving for several days, that may be true or not. We left on Tuesday and I have a job interview on Thursday in Medford (Southern Oregon). It's a little further from the Seattle area than we were originally looking, but I'm more excited about this position than I have been about most. So the job interview is tomorrow and they will also be interviewing candidates on Friday and Monday. The successful candidate will be required to attend a training on Friday March 4th.

I guess that means that I brought my family on a week long vacation to Southern Oregon. But if I get the job, that means that I moved to Southern Oregon. Oh, and This morning I received another phone call offering me an interview on Monday the 7th. If I don't get the job in Southern Oregon, we will head directly to the interview in Central Oregon. And if I get that job, maybe I left Washington to move to Central Oregon... in a very round-about way.

I feel very free. We can go anywhere. Sure, we don't have an unlimited money supply, but we haven't started filing our bankruptcy papers either. Everywhere we go, our home follows us and we can stop and be home. In some ways, my wife and I are looking forward to a place of permanence (and a little more space), but for now, we're having a good time vacationing... or moving.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spencer's book

Spencer came to me and said he wanted to write a series of books. So he dictated and I typed. This is his story verbatim. I may have added punctuation since I think the story was one sentence. Other than that, this is Spencer's Story.

The Mystery of Dragon Cove by Spencer

One day, a man walked along a road. He found a friendly dragon. He decided to train it and make it his pet. And then one day he went out to feed it and he had ran out of food, so he went to the store to buy more. And the bag was bigger than the other bag so he had more food. Twice as big. And then he went to get the fish because it’s favorite food is fish and he fed it a ton of fish every day. And every year he gave him a ton of fish. And then he gave him shrimp for ten years and then he bought fish enough for ten years and then shrimp again. And then they went to the market and bought dragon treats for good dragons. And then they had a baby dragon and it was really strong. And then it dived out of its egg and flapped its wings, but it couldn’t fly yet, so it was too young. And then the older dragon gave them a ride and then another person followed them. And then another person and then another person until the entire country did it. And the entire country is doing it right now in Cherry Island. The End.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 1

I felt like I made some renewed effort today and it really worked out quite well. I started the day with a short run. I like running. Not because I like running, but because it gives me an opportunity to think. And I like thinking while I'm running because it makes me slow down and that makes me less sore.

On my run, I thought about what I needed to do every day. I came up with a short list.

1) Play with my kids... do something with them. I especially like spending some one-on-one time with one of them because I think that is important to recognize them as an individual.

2) Serve someone. I have this free time. Sure, it would be nice to be gainfully employed, but I have time and I would really like to spend at least some of that time serving others. Today I helped my sister-in-law with some organization in the garage. I didn't get very far before I ran into a bathroom sink, cabinet and vanity that she wants installed. I think I have found my service for tomorrow as well.

3) Look for a job. My wife and I have a system for our job search. My wife does the searching, I do the applications. My wife cruises through the list of resources for finding jobs that I qualify for and that seem interesting and I fill out tedious applications and send in resumes and letters and jump through whatever hoops that particular organization wants me to jump through. I have the formal 'job search' under control, but I sometimes think of other dream jobs. I love thinking about sustainable housing and how to do that. I enjoy designing houses in my head with thoughts of reusing water, efficient heating and reusing materials to make the building. So today I decided to make one cold call each day to volunteer or ask for a job. Today I wrote to a guy who does green home design and home remodeling. I found a local company that was small and I wrote an email to the only email address provided on the website explaining that I didn't have any experience, but I was interested in a job. Or helping. Or something. The guy has actually already responded and we're working on a time next week to meet. I wonder who I will cold call tomorrow.

I don't know that I'm going to do each of those three things every day, but the idea is to fill my days with stuff rather than nothing. So far, so good. Today went really well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I've blogged a lot lately about the job search and whatnot. I don't know that anyone is really interested in that. Today I'm going to blog a little about what life is like for us.

There are six of us living in a 30 foot camper. Do a little quick math and you get that we each get 5 linear feet of space, 40 square feet. Yes, it's a busy camper. It's certainly not as roomy as our 2000 square foot house, but I'm really enjoying it. Instead of having my family spread out over the house, each doing their own thing. We are doing more things together. It's hard not to because no matter where you sit, you're sitting with others. I can hear kids laughter (or screaming)at any time. We have been playing more games... and while I really don't enjoy playing 'war', I like sitting with my boys as we each turn over 1 card at a time and I listen to commentary.

In a house, it's easy to let messes accumulate and then avoid them. If your house is 240 square feet, you need every big of space available. to live. While a little more storage would be nice, I like having limited space because it forces me to keep things cleaned up because if it isn't cleaned up there is no place to do stuff (like sit or walk).

I also like having time with family. I know that won't last forever, because I really do need to get a job, but for now I like just having time. I also wish I used it better. There is a real temptation to simply let time pass until I get a job and I've been doing too much of that. I see the opportunity to do so much, but the temptation to do nothing is awkwardly attractive.

Some of my favorite things I've done thus far have been volunteering with a local soup kitchen. I spent an evening preparing food for the local homeless people. That was a great experience, but with my uncertain future, and job interview schedule, it's hard to promise them regular times like they want me to. I also enjoy hiking with my kids. Last week, I took my oldest for a hike in the woods not far from here and we came upon a canoe sitting next to a small lake. It was in the middle of nowhere. It was a weekday when people should be at work. So we borrowed the canoe and explored the lake. It was a lot of fun.

So... in this blog, I'm going to make a point of posting what I've been doing lately with my family or to keep myself busy. This is me providing myself accountability to assure that I get out and do stuff rather than letting time pass. And this afternoon I'm going to start running.


The phone call came yesterday. I lost the competition. I didn't get the job at the Bike Alliance. I am OK with that. I have a bunch of other solid applications in that should start interviewing next week or the week after. There were a lot of things that I was skeptical about with the Bike Alliance job so that it just didn't feel right and I really felt that if I did get that job, I would turn it down.

No need to turn it down, I didn't get it.

As I apply for jobs, I find it interesting the level of effort I put into different applications. I put a lot of effort into the Bike Alliance job because it was a very desirable job for me. I have also applied for jobs that seem like something that I might enjoy, but they just aren't worth putting a bunch of time into. So I don't. Yesterday I received a call to tell me I didn't get the Bike Alliance job, I also received emails that said I did not get two other jobs. One was doing asthma prevention with the city of Portland and the other was at a community college that trained nurses teaching anatomy, physiology and nutrition. I didn't put a lot of effort into those applications because I while I was qualified for the jobs and they paid well enough, I wasn't really interested in having the jobs. Teaching in a college setting, is not my thing and I think that job would have been terrible for me. The Asthma job is along the lines of what I'm looking for doing public health type stuff at a city level. It's just that Asthma really isn't my area of expertise.

The jobs that I'm really excited coming up are with the YMCA. I have applied in Marysville (I'm the least excited about that position), Silverdale and Seattle. I enjoyed working for the Y and would like to return to that. I am very well qualified for those positions, but my fear is that they will be taken by someone internal. We'll see.

I'm also excited about jobs with Kaiser and BNSF. I don't know that they are dream jobs, but there is a lot going for them. Both of those jobs paid really well. I just don't know that I want to be in the for-profit sector. That's not really my thing... I don't think.

Oh and I applied for a job with an extension office teaching nutrition and gardening in rural Oregon. I'm REALLY excited about that job. It doesn't pay much, but I have a hunch that it doesn't cost much to live there either. I'm really excited about the job itself and the location.

So many options... It's exciting to think about the future. Until then... I need to work on taxes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I had a second interview with a job that I was interested in. I blogged a bit about this before. This being the first job interview that I've gotten, if I make it through this final round of interviews, I would still have a lot of irons in the fire if the offer comes.

As I drove up to Seattle for the interview yesterday, I was thinking that this isn't the job that I want. It deals with cycling. It pays well (although I did find that health insurance isn't covered and that cuts deeply into the pay). It's a topic that I'm passionate about and I think that it could be fun (although expensive) to live in a downtown area for a couple of years. It is also sort of nice because it is only a 2-year position... since my pattern has thus far been to move every couple of years. There is also a lot that this job would not let me do. I would not be able to commute to work by bike (Ironic, huh). We certainly wouldn't be able to put much into savings with the given salary. And I don't know that it would be the best career move.

Anyway, As I drove up yesterday, I was thinking of how I didn't think the job payed enough (I had assumed that I would have to pay for mileage, but that is reimbursed and that would make a HUGE difference). I had in my mind that I was going to sort of back out of the offer because I don't think it was the best option for me. I was going to use the excuse of costs associated with the job as a reason to back out. But it didn't turn out that way. I still think that I want to keep looking. I don't think I should take the first job offered me... and I have some other prospects that I'm really excited about (but they are far from offering me a job).

Did you really read all that? Frankly it wasn't the full truth. The reality is that I think I had to stay in the running for this job because I'm competitive. I made it to the final four. I can't pull out right before they make the final decision. I don't think it is fair to them for me to stay in with no intention of taking the position (and maybe I would take the position). Anyway... I have a fear that part of the reason that I'm still in the running is because I'm competitive and I can't quit when I really should.

I've got some other job options that I'm excited about. I would really like to stay with the Y, but those interviews don't start until mid February. And there are some government jobs that I'm excited about, but it's hard to say how long those will take.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I found this and it's been very much what I've been thinking about.

"To be whole, let yourself break.
To be straight, let yourself bend.
To be full, let yourself be empty.
To be new, let yourself wear out.
To have everything, give everything up.

Knowing others is a kind of knowledge;
knowing yourself is wisdom.
Conquering others requires strength;
conquering yourself is true power.
To realize that you have enough is true wealth.
Pushing ahead may succeed,
but staying put brings endurance.
Die without perishing, and find the eternal.

To know that you do not know is strength.
Not knowing that you do not know is a sickness.
The cure begins with the recognition of the sickness.

Knowing what is permanent: enlightenment.
Not knowing what is permanent: disaster.
Knowing what is permanent opens the mind.
Open mind, open heart.
Open heart, magnanimity."
Laozi's Tao Te Ching

Actually the poem was a response to this video, which is one of the best TED talks I've ever seen. And yet still I fear making myself vulnerable.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The hard part

There is a lot that I don't like about looking for a job, but also a lot that I like about it. I just need to get it off my chest. I can't stand that every place you apply requires you to fill out this tedious form that requires that you input your work history and job history into a form. Then they have the nerve to ask for my resume. Do they not know that all that information is on my resume? Thanks, I feel a lot better now and I'll stop complaining about the mundane things that I just don't like doing.

What I love about looking for a job is the opportunity to dream about a new future. Dream about a new direction in life and dream of great outcomes. That brings me to another part that is difficult. It's not that I don't like this aspect, it's just that it's a challenge. I struggle to think of choosing between jobs. (See, I like to dream... I dream of multiple job offers... I dream of employers fighting over me as if I was the solution to all of their problems.)

I have my first interview next week. In many aspects it's a dream job. It is a temporary position for 2 years, working on a grant to promote cycling as a form of transportation. It's a project manager type position. I would be teaching bike safety, building collaborations with other community members and working to promote cycling. I think it would be an awesome job. The pay is reasonable, except the job is in downtown Seattle. Seattle is a great city and I think that I would like the cultural opportunities for me and the kids. I would also like being involved with the cycling community. I just know that living in Seattle is expensive and while this job pays more than I previously made, I didn't used to live in Seattle.

But then I think of the other jobs that I've applied for. While I think that the job in Seattle is something I would enjoy, I don't know that it is the right step for my career. I've never done anything (career wise) in cycling. Would it be like a 2 year hiatus from my area of focus or would it provide me with new and improved skills that would expand my opportunities. I wonder.

The jobs that I've applied for with the state government, Universities or Kaiser seem to be better steps for my career. They would better put to use my knowledge of human physiology and nutrition and I think they would better prepare me for more health promotion/public health type jobs. And I think that is the direction I would like to go. These are the jobs I have been preparing for with my education and career experience. They are dream jobs, but not in my favorite hobby that I've been passionate about for years.

And then there is the pay. Some of the other jobs that I applied for pay more than the job in Seattle (some pay 70% more), and they are located in areas where the cost of living is lower than it is in Seattle. One of our goals is to be free of all debt, and that wouldn't be possible in Seattle and it might be with some of the other jobs that I applied for. When I look at it with some of my bigger picture goals and longer term goals, I seem to feel that the Seattle job is less than perfect (although still very close to my dream job in many ways).

Here comes the real hard part. If I were offered a job in Seattle, would I take it? Is it really the best opportunity? Or would it be the only position that would even offer me a job (or an interview)? All the excitement, and all the worry all rolled up into one. I'm excited to see where I end up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Selling everything

Before we moved out west, we sold just about everything we owned. We went from a 2000+ square foot house to a 8x30 trailer. Everything that we kept fit inside the trailer and the van that pulls it. With that said, I will be honest and say that we do have a few things that we removed from the van and camper and have stored temporarily in my sister-in-law's garage. We just don't want to have to trip over some stuff every day.

I tell people that we did this and they ask why, or they are 'sorry' that we had to sell our stuff. Honestly, selling our stuff was something we look forward to long before we had the big sale. I want to take the opportunity to explain what it is like.

To start, my wife and I have walked through our house on numerous occasions looking for the stuff we thought we could do without. We were sometimes able to get rid of a few things, but indefinitely we would justify most of the stuff that we had in our house because it was a convenience item or because we might need it sometime. When we decided to have a HUGE garage sale and sell most of our stuff, it was fairly easy to walk around and say that we were going to get rid of a bunch of stuff. It was easy to put prices on things and it was fairly easy to take someone's money and watch them walk away with what used to be ours. There just wasn't much that I was really attached to.

When the garage sale was over, the hard part began. There we were, mentally ready to go, but with a house full of stuff that we needed to get rid of. These were things that had value to us. These were items that we had used regularly for years. Nobody bought them at the garage sale, so it left us in a position where we either needed to try again to sell it, or give it away. That was the hard part, putting forth more effort to sell stuff or giving it away.

I'm going to take a little step back and say that it wasn't difficult to give stuff away. From the very beginning we had a pile of give away stuff. It wasn't hard to take the things we had set aside for a good cause to the homeless shelter. That actually felt really good. The hard part was the stuff that we intended to sell. These were items that were not really going to provide someone with a basic life essential. It was just stuff. Stuff people pay for. Stuff that I would now have to give to a charitable organization who would then sell it to make money. I wanted that money.

It was hard because I saw the value in stuff that I was giving away and I saw that someone else was going to reap the benefits of the value. But it was also hard because we just wanted to be through. We wanted the house to be empty and clean (and sold would be good too). We wanted to move onto the next step in the process.

When I left our house, there was still a pile of stuff in the garage for people to come and pick up. Habitat for Humanity was going to get some of it and a friend was going to take the rest. I really wish that had been taken care of long before we left rather than having to be left in the garage.

Now it's a few weeks later. I can't think of a single item that I miss. My wife regrets getting rid of The Chronicles of Narnia, but we'll be able to get those again at a library or used somewhere. I also think that we will miss our couch and love seat. It was Amish built and it was exactly what I like in living room furniture. It will be very expensive to replace (we bought it from Habitat for Humanity and got a really good deal on it). I don't think that the living room furniture can be considered a regret, because there really wasn't a way for us to keep it, but there will be a time in the future that I wish I had those back. Just like I think back at once owning a VW Thing. I wish I still had that Thing.

So far, life with less stuff has been a wonderful experience. I played Scrabble with my kids and my wife this evening. We read more often together. I think it has been really good for us. When I think of getting a new place, I am afraid of getting something too big. I like having my family close where I can be with them as they talk to themselves to sleep, I can hear them sleep. I can hear them stir. I can be the first to tell them 'good morning' when they wake up. So far, so good. I look forward to more experiences with my family. I feel richer than I have ever been. I wonder what my kids will remember when they are my age.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The job search

I am currently looking for a job. I knew that was part of leaving Kentucky, I knew that I would have to find a new job in the Northwest. I even knew that the job market wasn’t great. What I forgot to calculate into the equation is that I am over educated with a degree that can’t get you a job in any field.

My training is in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion. I chose the field because I like the approach of the discipline. Instead of specializing in part of the body, Exercise Science looks at the body as a whole. The medical world is getting more and more specialized; you have a doctor for your feet, another for your ear nose and throat, and another for your endocrine system, etc. The field of exercise science is one of the few that still looks at a body as a whole. It looks at the endocrine, renal, and thermal regulatory responses to exercise (and at rest, and fasting, and after eating, and in a diseased state, etc).

Most people, when they think of exercise science, first think of either sports or personal training. I didn’t go into the field for either reason. I am in exercise science because I like the broad base that it gives me to help people achieve health. In my studies, I branched out a little to look at overall health through the lens of civil engineering, public policy, and public health. I wanted to understand why people make the decisions that they do, and what can be done in the planning, design or prevention realm to help people be healthier.

So here I am, I have a master’s degree and have finished all but my dissertation in exercise science. While working on my PhD, I was also working toward a minor in public health. I have a very good understanding of how the body works and how to make it healthy. I have some background in public policy and civil engineering and I have a little exposure to the public process to make changes.

When I think philosophically about education, I feel that I have been very well educated and should be a top candidate for a large variety of needed positions.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. As I look at job announcements, the positions that interest me. The positions that I feel I would be really good at all require a nursing, dietetics or public health degree. I have quite a bit of education in all of those fields, but the letters that I have behind my name are BS, MS, and ABD. I don’t have an RN, RD or MPH, so I therefore don’t qualify for the jobs that interest me.

When applying for a job, they have a list of ‘required qualifications’ and if you don’t have those, they won’t consider you further. I think that there should be a way for me to submit my qualifications that would magnify my different perspective. I think that I have the experience and expertise to do well at a large variety of jobs, but my education hasn’t provided me what I need to get the jobs. I don’t have the right letters behind my name.

As I look at options, I wonder. Would it be more productive to go back to school and get an MPH, RN or PT degree? After 8 and a half years of formal education, returning to school isn’t overly appealing, but I fear that those 8.5 years have been a total waste, so a few more years might actually qualify me to get a job. The ultimate frustration is that I feel qualified to do a whole lot. I even feel qualified to do a whole lot that is greatly needed in our society, yet I don’t qualify for the available jobs.