Dad Diary: My Lenten Letter to My Children

Paczki | DonutsYes, I had a pazcki for breakfast. Yes, I’m going to eat my favorite fast food for lunch. Yes, I’m going to have an Old Fashioned this evening, but it’s Fat Tuesday, for heaven’s sake. However, tomorrow, with the first day of Lent, it’s going to be a “first-day” of a new life where I take care of myself, my body, and my brain first in order to be a better father, husband, employee, friend, and human.

All religions talk extensively about the greatest gift we have from God is our body. Do most of us treat our body as a gift?  Ahem. My recent adventure onto a scale at my Dr.’s office suggests, no, I treat my body like a rental storage unit (and my cholesterol results suggested I’m a hoarder and that storage unit has every old magazine I ever subscribed to). I look around any mall or grocery store, or theme park, or sporting event, and looking at most people’s bodies, well, I can see most of us don’t treat our bodies like temples and gifts. I’m not breaking any ground there.

I’m going to change that. Starting tomorrow and pray for me that it’s forever.  44 years are in the books on this body I have. Let’s see if I can get 44 more, and make them healthy and fit.  And now, a letter I wrote to the people who love me. They say, if you write something down, you’re more likely to follow through. Let’s test that theory.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” -Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).



My biggest fear in life is Alzheimer’s disease. It runs in my family. It took my Grandma away from us. My Dad is involved in an ongoing study and he worries about it (and I think he shows he has a gene that makes him getting it more likely). I obsess about it. Every time I forget someone’s name, or when I can’t remember what the halls of my high school looked like, I start to think I’m suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s.

Hey. It’s my obsession. Give me this one thing (because I rarely obsess over anything …yes, that sentence was meant to be read sarcastically).

Enter the book The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow. I’ve read many self-help books in my day. I rarely read fiction or biographies, but instead I read self-help and self-improvement books, and never has a book spoke to me more directly than this book. Only 2-hours into it, and it’s like I’m sitting with a counselor/dietician/friend who “gets me.”

My early takeaways . . .

  1. Fix what I eat
  2. Fix how I sleep and exercise
  3. Make it my lifestyle

Why do I like this book? Isn’t it stuff I already know? Well, yes and no. I tend to eat in ways that are geared towards athletes or people who need to lose a massive amount of weight and the diets tend to be gimmicky and unsustainable. And I’m not obese or overweight, so eating like someone trying to lose 3o, 40, or 50 pounds is a little silly. I’m not saying to obese people they shouldn’t try silly or gimmicky diets – do everything you need to do to lose weight. My quick thought on being overweight – once I read about being 20, 30, or 40 pounds overweight and the author said, “imagine when you woke up in the morning I handed you a 25 pound bag of sand and told you to carry it around all day.”  The point was, you’d hate it. By the end of the day, your back would hurt, your knees would hurt. You would feel tired. You would want to sit down and rest. You might find yourself out of breath when walking up a flight of stairs or playing in the yard with your kids.

You see where the lesson is, right? If a person is 20+ pounds overweight, this is how they’re living every day. Most weight gain is gradual and we don’t feel much different because the weight gain came a pound or two at  a time, over many months and years, but if you’ve looked at the height-weight chart, lately, you and I both know how many bags of sand you’re carrying and what that’s doing to you.

OK. So “weight” is another thing I obsess about. Two things, OK. That’s not a problem. I could quit obsessing at any time.

I’m not here to scold anyone about their weight, but I wish anyone overweight would help themselves lose a little – obesity is as bad for you as smoking or drug use. Just my strong opinion.

Back to the “brain fog.” I’ll admit. I’ve been in a bit of a “fog” and it’s partly because of some crazy diet and eating pattern I’ve been doing.

Dumb. Well, no more!

And the point of this blog isn’t about “whoa is me”, but the main point it this – if you feel like you’re struggling a little with brain fog, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, well, I’m not a doctor, but it could be partially (and I do want to make sure you notice I used the word “partially” because I know it’s not a quick fix and one-size-fits-all solution), but it’s a part.

Eating right and exercising isn’t a revolutionary concept, but this book puts it all together and maybe, just maybe, if I was (or am) going to get Alzheimer’s, maybe I can take some steps to delay it (or avoid it all together).

Thanks for reading.


The Pomodoro Technique and My Personal Q2

In the business world, you’re measured by months and quarters. Quarterly sales numbers. Quarterly reviews. Quarterly celebrations and bonuses. Oh how we love quarters. You only need 2-cents for this bit of coolness.

Q1, for me, wasn’t my best. I sucked at my New Year’s Resolutions. I sucked at doing my #Project44. My sales sucked. My hobbies weren’t given any attention. I didn’t exercise.  I didn’t lose weight.

Disaster.I’m glad Q1 is behind me and I’m moving onto Q2 which I predict will be a good one.

I’m glad Q1 is behind me and I’m moving onto Q2 which I predict will be a good one.

I have many excuses. I wasn’t living at home (moved into temporary housing with my family while we underwent a major home renovation). I think my diet was off (I was trying long stretches of fasting and intermittent fasting). I wasn’t exercising which certainly affected my mood. My sales were off.

Again, I have a long list of excuses. I’m not going to dwell on them. I’m going to treat Me Inc. (clever, yes?) like a small business (and technically I am) and analyze my Q1 and plan for Q2.

What a ridiculously long pre-amble.

Mainly, I’m going to play around with three things.

  1. The Pomodoro Technique for increased productivity
  2. Eating better (and like a normal person) with a diet centered around serotonin boosting foods (and eating them the right way)
  3. Exercise a little (a brisk walk or two, keep up with my son and his Lent40 commitment, maybe lift some weights or swing my kettle bell)

Today will start with analyzing #1.

The Pomodoro Technique

I’m most excited about the Pomodoro Technique.  A co-worker and I were discussing our endless to-do list, the inability to accomplish things, and how distracted our jobs make us. Then another co-worker said the same thing. It’s not enough to complain about it. It must be fixed. I’m not the only guy with my job, and not the only “sales guy” with a crazy to-do list. The Pomodoro Technique might be the perfect fix. Today was day-1. It’s a bit odd. It will take some time to adjust of not answering a phone the moment it rings and not using my e-mail as my to-do list.

Tired of reading? Watch this.


Good Habits. Bad Habits.

Our lives change when our habits change. It’s time to start good habits that will take the place of, and push out, the bad habits out of my life. At least, that’s what Best Lent Ever suggests, today.

Each day, Best Lent Ever offers some guidance and reflection, but this “habit” concept was a bit of a departure from many of his thoughts and lessons. This Lent, thanks to my son, I’ve truly made prayer a part of my daily routine. He and I pray the Rosary (a decade) every night at bedtime and we dedicate the 6 or 7 minutes of prayer to someone or some thing. We’ve only missed a few nights (I worked late, he had a sleepover, etc). It’s been enlightening. It’s a good habit that has pushed out some “bad” habits.

Over the years I’ve blogged alot about time, time management, and lamented about how short life is, but also how long it is and how much time we actually have when we think about it.

Currently, and for much of the past four years, I’ve let bad habits (and bad thoughts) take up too much time in my brain and life. As these “bad” things take up more and more time and space, they’ve pushed the “good” out.

Let me be clear, the “bad” habits aren’t things like smoking or drugs, but they are things like sloth, procrastination, self-pity, laziness, and more things like that. Every time I make time to watch my favorite show, and then another favorite show, or hit the snooze bar once, twice, or four times, and each time I don’t exercise or work on my writing ideas, I let more “bad” into my life and I don’t let “good” take over.

I’m sitting here and imagining my day and what it would look like if I had sprung outta bed at 5:00 a.m. when my alarm first went off, instead of 5:36 a.m. after three snoozes and strong contemplating re-setting my alarm for 6:20 a.m. (which would give me just enough time to take my dog on a short walk so she could pee and poop). At 5:00 a.m., I would’ve been back from a vigorous walk and drinking coffee by 5:25 a.m. I would’ve been sitting at my computer by 5:30 a.m. with a full hour ahead of my to write, check my Facebook, organize my personal email, and much more.

I would’ve been attacking and owning the say, versus scrambling a bit, beating myself up for hitting the snooze three times, and sitting down to write at 6:05 a.m. and realizing I only have about 25-minutes.

Today, when I see a “bad” taking over (it’s like eating a cheeseburger and fries …it makes me feel sooooo good when I’m eating it but I feel like crap a half-hour later), I’m going to find and do more good.

A Too Long Lent Post

About this time of year, there’s never a shortage of Blogs about Lent. Like this one, detailing nineteen things you can give up for Lent that “aren’t chocolate.” I’m going to review the list daily throughout Lent, and then a buncha other stuff.

For example, I’m going to follow along with Dynamic Catholic‘s Best Lent Ever program to be my guide. And below all of this, you’ll see my own personal list.

But what really has me inspired this Lent is, well, my son. He’s twelve, and my family was sitting around talking about what we’re doing for Lent and most of us had the typical stuff. My girls were giving up candy and pop, and my older daughter actually had some pretty lofty and inspired goals, and I was listing off way-t00-many things, as I’m known to do, and my thought is always this: if I stick to 50% of the things on my list, well, I’m good.

But my son had thought hard about it. He said, “Dad …remember your #Project44 thing, well I want to do that around the number ’40’ for Lent’s 40-days. I want to do 40 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and some other stuff every day, and at night you and I should say a decade of the Rosary before I got to bed.”

Let’s just say, when he was done with his Lent list, all I could think was, “oh, snap, Lent just got real!”

What happened next was completely about my unworthiness and how a lifetime of spiritual and moral neglect might be weighing me down. “But Don,” you say. “I know you. You’re a good guy.”

How ’bout we dig into that?

The conversation turned toward Confession and I threw the random thought out there, “maybe I should go to Confession during Lent,” kinda with the same conviction I might say, “I should start flossing every day,” or, “I’ll switch to decaf.” Sounds good, but let’s face it, I ain’t flossing every day and I love my caffeine.

“Maybe I should go to Confession,” I said, and my kids all said, “we’re going to Confession Friday.” I told them I thought that was “great” and also was filled with pride about the decision to send my kids to Catholic schools. Hey, world, look at my kids. They are good and decent human beings. They will make the world a better place. And then it was like a needle was pulled across a record album and my indignation, self-satisfaction, and arrogance was ripped into pieces.

“Hey, Dad, when is the last time you went to Confession?”

I broke into a cold sweat. I panicked. I put a fork full of food in my mouth hoping the topic of conversation would change before I swallowed. What is this?!?!?! The Spanish Inquisition? I’m not on trial. You kids are like the FAKE NEWS with your gotcha questions. Everyone! Go to bed! How dare you?!?!?

Instead, three sets of eyeballs were staring at me waiting for an answer (the fourth set of eyeballs, my wife’s, was looking away, out the window, as if trying to pretend she was distracted and not part of the conversation …clever …why weren’t the kids asking her?!!?!?

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Chew. Chew. Chew. Swallow.

“Oh, um. Let me think about that. I’m sure it wasn’t that long. Um. Let’s see here. I guess it was, oh, well . . .”

My brain was begging for a large tree to fall through the roof of my house. Or a power outage. Or a ninja to fly in through the window forcing me to fight said ninja off with my fork and knife. But no such distraction came. Only three sets of eyeballs, belonging to a 10, 12, and 14 year old, were looking at me waiting for an answer.

“I guess it’s been, well, when I was 14 years old.”

“Dad,” they gasped in shocked awe. Oh, for your Catholics, it gets worse. Trust me, not for a minute did they think I was without sin in 30 years.

“Dad! You should go,” said one.

“I bet you’ve sinned alot,” said another.

“I’ll go with you so you won’t be scared,” said another child.

“Well,” I said, “it’s not like I’m really a bad person. I don’t even know what I would confess,” I continued, even though “bold face lie” to my children might be a good starting point.

My son asked, “have you broken any Commandments?”

“Probably. Maybe. Only a few, I’m sure,” I replied.

My daughter said, “well, let’s go through them.”

Suddenly I was regretting sending them to a Catholic school and regretting ever trying to be a good, Holy, and devout Catholic. Who am I kidding? I’m highly flawed. So flawed, in fact, my 30 years of avoiding Confession might be because I think I’m a lost soul and if a Priest heard my sins, he might just point at the exit sign.

“Have you lied,” my daughter asked?

“Yes. Wait. Which Commandment is that,” I asked. “Oh, right. ‘Bear false witness’ is lying.”

The kids pressed further and it was revealed I’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain, I’ve coveted neighbor’s things, I’ve skipped Church (which is how Catholics “keep holy the Sabbath” at a minimum), and I’ve dishonored my mother and father. Crap! I’ve stolen a thing or two in my day (my much younger days, I promise) and when I was all confident in that I’ve never worshiped false Gods, my son pointed out I’ve skipped Church to watch football and basketball games and, technically, that was putting Michigan State sports above God and that falls under the “false Gods” thing. My son’s kind of a jerk, don’t you think? Hey. There isn’t a Commandment about honoring your children, so get off my back.

For those keeping score, let’s just say my kids think I’m guilty of 7 out of 10, but let’s face it, if I’m guilty of coveting my neighbor’s oxen (the man has a damn fine ox), you and I both know I’d be lying if not even once in all these years I’ve never coveted something else.

But let’s just go with seven. Seven. Commandments. Broken.

Zero. Confessions. Attended.

If you throw in the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth) on top of the broken Commandments, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But it’s work I need to do, and should do, and will better for doing. Did my oldest daughter come home from school the next day and inform me I shouldn’t be taking Communion each week in my current state? Oh, yes. That happened. Nice.

Consider this Part 1 of my Lenten journey. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem.

So, during Lent, I’m going to use the six Saturday’s to attend Confession and work on forgiving myself, being forgiven, and making sure I’m a better person, now and for good.

Here’s my Lent scratch pad. I’m sure right now you’re thinking I’m a horrible person. I’m not. I just need some fixing and Lent’s a perfect time for that. Stay tuned and I’ll pray for you if you comment and if you’re working on a great Lent, too.

No Regrets

I don’t know what’s more powerful. Fear? Or regret? Or fear of regret (if that’s a thing).

It actually all kinda works together. For me, I regret some things I’ve done, but more and more, I’m regretting the things I haven’t done.

I regret every time I made my mother cry and regret I never had a chance to apologize for that, as she passed away 12 years ago. Which makes me regret not telling my Dad “thank you” for not giving up on me when I was a real asshole for a few years there. And I don’t want to regret not telling him how much I appreciate him and how lucky I am that he’s my Dad.

I regret that I haven’t been to Confession since I was 14 years old, and I walk around calling myself a good Catholic.

I regret every time I fight with my wife.

I regret I never really went all-in on my salsa business. Or my writing. Or my website, spunkybean, and that I really dropped the ball and let down the talented Myndi and EJ.

I regret that I can’t ever seem to actually stick to a diet. And not necessarily a “diet” but avoiding splurging and gorging on fast food and cookies.

I don’t want to regret telling someone I love very much that he should change his ways immediately or he’ll die too soon.

I regret that I don’t get enough sleep. I regret that I only give it about 75% effort at work. I regret that I don’t exercise and that if I don’t exercise, I’ll never play soccer again (because my lungs will never be strong enough).

And this is a problem. Because some day I’m going to regret that I never wrote the screenplay that’s in my brain and I’ll never know if it was as brilliant as I think it is, or not. I won’t ever have the book I know I can write and while it may not ever be a New York Times best-seller, it will be loved by my family.

We’re about to go into Lent, again, and I’m vowing here and now to make …it …count! I’m going to use Lent to right all the regrets I have. It’s going to be great and I can’t wait to start living life without regrets.

So Excited

I’m not going to lie … going on the Whole30 and losing all this weight hasn’t diminished my cravings in any way, shape, or form. I curse the world and the Lord above every time my kids grab a couple of Girl Scout cookies for a bedtime snack and I can’t have a few myself. I am angry when pizza and breadsticks is the quick go-to dinner on some busy evening. I want a Manhattan, sweet …dammit …I want one. Or a whisky ginger-ale.

This all ends, or has the potential to end tomorrow or Sunday if I keep being Lenty until Sunday. Then I’ll gorge on fresh bread, ham sandwiches, kielbasa, deviled eggs, deserts, and I’ll eat jelly beans and chocolate candy until I feel like I’m going to throw up. It will be glorious. And then, I have this other plan . . . Tuesday night, I’ll be home alone (my wife is taking the kids and dog outta town to see her parents for a few days) and I won’t lie …I’m going to eat an entire Hungry Howie’s cheese and pepperoni pizza and an entire box of Tag a’ Longs all by myself that night. With ranch and a big glass of milk.

Chances are, I’ll be sick to my stomach and have breathing issues that night.

Then …my goal is to keep doing what I’m doing in some modified-whole way and keep being 155 pounds and feeling great.

The question becomes …what does that next phase look like?