Bullet Journal – Monthly Setup

Remember that post a few weeks ago where I said my subjects were going to be a bit random? You do? Oh, good!

I’ve been working with organizational systems for almost ten years now.   I’ve been through a ton of them!  It’s been a quest of mine to find one flexible enough to work for all the different things I need, both with varied projects I work with and some of the struggles I have with my TBIs (traumatic brain injuries.)  I’ve found something which is working quite well and it’s called a Bullet Journal.

I’m writing up a longer post that goes into more detail as to the TBIs, other issues and why I Bullet Journal. However, that post has managed to be quite revealing, personal as well as cathartic and, of course, taking a bit more time than I thought it would. As part of it, I wanted to include my monthly bullet journal organization for March and talk a bit more about my current process. Time has once again slid by, it’s the first of March, and, instead of waiting, I’ve decided to just make two posts.

For now, here is my March monthly spread and some of the other pages that make up what I do each month.  I’ve picked all of these up from looking over Instagram, Facebook, blogs and websites.  I’ll put a few at the bottom of the post and a larger list on the other post coming out soon.

monthly
For each month, a regular bullet journal will have simply the page on the left for the calendar items, dates indexed down the left hand side. What I found, however, is that I needed to widen things out and create a separate spread for my work dates. After some playing around I opted to go this route to see how it works out. This way, when planning, I have my personal dates as well as my work dates all in one glance.

You could easily switch out something else for “Work” to adapt the system if you needed a secondary calendar of any sort. In addition, on the far right, I put a section for “future stuff” that might come up for April or May as well as general goals I might have for the month itself. The Future Items may be too small but we’ll see how it goes.

gratitudeNext up is something I began last month as a test and it has become a major player for daily improvement.  To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for the subtle impact it would have on me.  The Gratitude Journal has two lines for each day which are filled out, hopefully, at the end of the day.  Gratitude journals sometimes have three, others have five.  Two seemed to be a perfect number for me and so I adopted it here.

Sitting down to focus on two things in gratitude from the day has helped me to shift a mindset that’s been stuck for several decades.  Some days I forget but when I go to do my daily review in the morning, I always go back and fill in the gap.  This takes no more than five minutes and the mental/emotional rewards are worth every second.

memoriesFinally, another investment I started near the end of February; a memories page.  Again, this was something I did as a test and within a week realized I loved it.  At the end of February I was quite pleased with my little page that summed up all the fun, memorable things which occurred during the month.  It also gives me a chance to make doodles, sketches and to flex my creative muscles a bit.

So, I’ve added it as well for March.

The rest of the journal is either old or new collections (pages marked specifically for different subjects or projects) or my daily pages which list what was needed to be done, what got done and other things about the day I might want to remember.

More to come and the larger bullet journal post is right around the corner!

Resources:

There are a TON of resources, articles, images, Pins on Pinterest, etc if you want to spend numerous hours digesting all the ways you can modify the bullet journal.  Below is a handful, in my opinion, of the best!

 

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The Oak Gall Ink Project

oakgallsDuring the hike over the weekend we found a large collection of oak galls.  I decided to baggie up what we could find so I could attempt to make some oak gall ink. With my re-found love of quill pens, fountain pens and lettering (see my Instagram account for that wackiness),  I figured combining some outdoors foraging with making ink might be a fun thing to do.

One of the most intriguing things I found in researching the ink was that not only are the galls made by wasps but that the ink created from them has recorded most of European history.  Stop and think about that for a moment and let that perspective sink in.  Tiny little wasp.  Most of written history before 1800’s.  All because of how a tree forms around some wasp eggs?  Yeah…

After researching on the net, I found a few recipes I liked and decided two things about the entire process.  1.) There were numerous and varied ways to make oak gall ink, from simple to complex.  2.) I was going to take all I read and just make up my own.  I wanted the fun of experimentation and not a rote process.  I’m not entirely sure I’ll be successful but that’s part of the suspense, right?  The recipe I came up with is a bit slapdash and we’ll see how it all goes.  At the bottom of this page I’ll link a few sites that were good resources for me.  I encourage everyone to do your own searching, however.  Do a couple of searches and lose a few hours in research.  It’s fun!

My first step was to take the galls and with my “highly specialized equipment” break them down.  I used an old towel to keep the remains all in one place on the concrete.  I placed these in a spare glass jar for storage while I could get the rest of the recipe sorted out.

hammergalls

Most of the recipes I could find were based in large quantities and I failed at the math involved.  (I warned you: slapdash.)  At first I had assumed clean water and heat would be used and I was right on my first skim of websites.  However, I started digging a bit deeper and I found information for fermenting the galls and it seems the older recipes also called for using white wine or even beer.   Being a past brewer I liked the idea of my ink fermenting in some white wine.   In proper slapdash fashion I found an unused bottle of cooking wine in our cabinet and figured out the proportions of what I would use.  This is what I came up with.

1  cup of crushed Oak Gall
1  cup of clean water (I used bottled drinking water.)
1 1/2 cups of white cooking wine

I poured this all in an empty jar, covered it with seran wrap and then placed on the lid.

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The plan moving forward is this.  I’ll let the container sit for approximately 12 – 14 days.  I’ll shake the container once a day.  (Some recipes called for the mixture to sit for 2 months and although I do want to try that angle, I want things a little faster for the first time.)

At the end of the 2 weeks I’ll reassess and if things look dark enough, I will draw off the liquid and give it a solid boil, condensing things a bit.  I’ll add in the iron sulfate and the gum arabic that all the recipes I could find called for using and, well, play with things from there.

One of my initial concerns is that the galls we found were very hollow with very thin walls.  They smashed quite easily.  I’m guessing they were quite old and perhaps do not have the full amount of tannins I would get from a more solid, fresh gall?  All part of the experiment and as I find fresh galls this year we may just try this all over again!

Here is how things look after 5 days.  Not much change!

5days

After looking at the two pics, I’m thinking I’ll add what’s left of the crushed galls (about 1/2 cup) to see if I can’t get the solution to darken further. I may also add about 1/4 more water as it appears the galls have soaked up some of the liquid.  On the other hand, things might change once the iron is added and the solution is cooked down a bit.

I’ll post an update as things go along!

If anyone has any thoughts or experience with this don’t hesitate to chime in on the comments.

 

Resources:

Iron Gall Ink Website – http://irongallink.org/igi_indexd7ce.html

California Live Oak Iron Gall Ink Recipe –– http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/234759-california-live-oak-iron-gall-ink-recipe/

Travelling Scriptorium – Iron Gall Ink – http://travelingscriptorium.library.yale.edu/2013/03/21/iron-gall-ink/

A very nice SCA related site for Iron Gall Ink by Ian – https://sites.google.com/site/ianthegreen01/ian’sinkmakingpage

First Trail of 2016

FirstpicWith the February weather opening a nice window of sunny Spring-like weather over the weekend I took my wife and daughter on a long hike into the Hoosier National Forest along Lake Monroe.  This was a particularly special event for me.  All my life I’ve typically gone into the woods alone.  Due to my wife’s past fitness level, she had never been able to go with me this far down a trail.  This year was different because several months ago my wife started a fitness/weight loss program and stuck with it.  The result? I was getting to share my hiking and nature experiences and knowledge with her.  For the first time in our relationship, we were going on a day long hike.

Besides completing the trip, we had three goals. I wanted to have more than just a small hike. I wanted an afternoon and into the evening kind of day on the trail. It had been since December that I had gotten into the woods and I wanted a full day to reset my nature batteries! The first goal was to stop at mid-point, have lunch and just settle down for a bit to enjoy the energy. Since we were in a National forest we were going for a quick fire, some high quality hot-dogs and s’mores. A classic choice for sure.

The second was to try out our hammocks. My wife had purchased an ENO Singlenest for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Though comfortable, it was not well suited for my height. At Valentine’s Day, she surprised me with a Doublenest hammock and then gleefully claimed the Singlenest as her own. For this trip I’d be showing her how to set the Singlenest up with the straps and she would get her first chance to try it out. I would try out my Doublenest and maybe catch a nap!

Finally, several Bald Eagles had been seen in the area we would be in and so our third and final goal was to hopefully see one of those majestic birds once we got to the lake’s edge.  Not much else we could do there except put ourselves in the right spot and keep our fingers crossed.

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As The Muse Commands

I’m not sure why I’m writing this.

My muse has been quite certain about the fact I’m supposed to write something here and has been very annoyed I’ve not been listening.  You can tell your muse is annoyed when the idea she’s sent you becomes a constant, nagging and repetitive thought in your mind no matter how much you try to ignore it.  Matter of fact, the more you ignore it, the worse it gets!  At this point, I’m only really writing this in the hopes of getting some sleep.  (Don’t tell my muse!)

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A New Picture Snapper

I recently upgraded my phone. Is it sad that, as a photographer with no real camera, my main interest was about getting something with a good camera that was not just set to Automatic all the time?  I’ve been without my SLR for a year or so now and I miss it, especially the ability to use a good telephoto.

Regardless, a new phone was acquired and with it a pretty good little camera. The added bonus is I let go of my Windows phone and joined the Android ranks thus giving me access to a WordPress app that doesn’t suck.  I normally just post my shots to Instagram but I figured it couldn’t hurt to put them here as well more often. These are from a recent woodland wall yesterday afternoon in near perfect, October weather.  Enjoy!

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Ectomorph Blues

My program from Next Generation Personal Training is now three weeks underway. It’s funny for me to admit this but the scariest part is not the workouts or the personal training session.  It’s the meal plan!

You see, I am an ectomorph.

Even more so, I’m a 40+ year old, 6’8″ ectomorph.

There.  I said it.

I don’t like the term  because it makes me sound like an extra for either an episode of Star Trek, Dr. Who or the sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  “Cue the Ectomorph!  No.  No!  Cut!!  We need someone with skinnier arms!”

 

ectomorph

A more recent term I stumbled upon, which soothes my ego a bit more, is Hard Gainer.  That’s more like it!  I can growl as I say it and sound like a pro wrestler!  (You can’t do it with “ectomporph.”  It just isn’t the same effect.  At best I just sound like a new character for a Mortal Combat game.)

What this all means is that I have a very hard time gaining weight and mass.  I’ve had this issue my entire life.  You can’t imagine how frustrating it is as a young man to work your ass off and see very little in gains.  All your friends are making it happen.   I’d workout.  I was active.  I did everything from martial arts to Ultimate frisbee.   Yet, nothing would really change.  In those days, I was 6’8″ and 180 lbs.  Most of this is due not to a lack of exercise but my intake of protein and calories.  In my 30’s, things changed up a bit and I climbed upward into the 200 or 210 range.  I still remember how happy I was the day I pegged 200.  It wasn’t really “healthy” weight but I was happy it was going up.  Yet, no matter what, I couldn’t gain any healthy mass.

It was because of one particular thing I was completely underestimating.

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You’re Still Here

When I find myself worn at the end of the day and still looking an hour long workout in the face, a blank word processing screen or maybe just frustrated with the job and or ignorance and hatred around me, I like to watch short motivational interviews.  While watching one a week or so ago, I heard a quote from motivational speaker, Les Brown.

“Oh no, there is no guarantee you will show up tomorrow. There are a lot of people who were here yesterday, but they’re not here today. There are a lot of opportunities that were around yesterday; they’re not here today.”

When I heard those words they stuck with me.  Maybe it was because of my own recent experience.  My mind rolled it around and around and then I came up with a slight variation.  It’s my mantra.  I try to carry it with me into and through every workout, every day going into work, every time I sit down to write, every night as I go to sleep.  Sometimes I forget but, lately, it seems to have a memory of it’s own, popping into my head like a helpful genie.  It goes like this.

“There were people around yesterday that wanted to be here today.  They’re not here.  You might be the one that doesn’t show up tomorrow.  You have today.  You have right now. “

I’ve said it to myself so much it’s not really the words anymore.  It’s the essence behind them.  The key is taking the time to really sink into the concept that, really, you may not be here tomorrow.  What does that look like?  How does it feel?  What immaterial things disappear?  What dreams for the day come to the fore?

I’m no stranger to history and philosophy and I was struck with the similarity it carried with all manner of ancient thought regarding the concept of Death and “Not being here tomorrow.”  There is a massive amount of literature and internet links out there on the concept of carrying Death with you.  It’s not my intent to go deeply into all of them.  However, I did want to present some of what I found.

First, I thought it was very similar to the Hagakure, the 18th century  treatise on the Samurai code.  That simple idea that by acknowledging Death daily you fully experience Life.  I did a bit of digging and found this little gem written by Daidoji Yuzan, an Edo samurai.

“One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind…the fact that he has to die. If he is always mindful of this, he will be able to live in accordance with the paths of loyalty and filial duty, will avoid myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free of disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life.”

And the unstated, “If things don’t go well and you accidentally step in front of a bus, at least you were at peace with your impermanence!”

I also found a reference that I was unable to validate to an original source.  I have no idea which “masters of old” he is referring.  Regardless, I thought it was pretty good.  It came from Philip Kapleau and “The Zen of Living and Dying

“Masters of old advise, ‘Stick the word Death on your forehead and keep it there.”

Finally, while bouncing around the web, I found a great piece by the Dali Lama.  If you want a more in-depth read I highly recommend it.  I’ll leave you with this part of it.

“Our present lives, however, are not forever. But to think: “Death is the enemy” is totally wrong. Death is part of our lives. Of course, from the Buddhist viewpoint, this body is in some sense an enemy. In order to develop genuine desire for moksha – liberation – then we do need that kind of attitude: that this very birth, this body, its very nature is suffering and so we want to cease that. But this attitude can create a lot of problems. If you consider death is the enemy, then this body is also the enemy, and life as a whole is the enemy. That’s going a little bit too far.”

Dalai Lama’s Reflections on the Realistic Approach of Buddhism… Part One: Advice on Death and Dying

I’m far from any kind of guru or samurai and I think sticking Death on your forehead would make for a very weird tattoo.  It would probably, depending on the job, cut down on job interviews.  Would maybe a post-it note work? It would probably fall off a lot.  I think it might also get you a visit from your office Human Resources.

Joking aside, I’ve simply found a nugget of old wisdom, a phrase that works for me and which, oddly enough,  brings me peace with a daily thought process and routine.   I feel blessed to have stumbled upon it.  It’s a helpful reminder and it brings me focus about what is important.  I share it in hopes it helps someone else down the road.

 

 

What Are You Going to Do With It? Part Three

So, this is my final post in this particular series.  As  I mentioned in Part One, and with a direct reference to the amazing movie “Hook”, back in June I had a bit of an apostrophe.

 

 

The first goal that came out of that was to be stronger and more healthy than I had ever been before in my life.  The second goal was to get in shape and to run obstacle races.  Those are now in full swing.  Now, it’s time for me to go over the third, and possibly the most important, goal which came through that little “lightning to the top of my brain” experience.

I’m returning to being a writer.

You see, Life came around a little while ago and I kind of forgot I was a writer.   Like Peter in Hook, I got spun around in the world and forgot.  In this world of finances and internet and fun computer games and laundry and hiking and children and, well, all of that, it’s an easy thing to do.  I think it happens to all of us.  You forget your passion.  Like anything else, you get your hands full with everything else and, in haste, you set it down and forget it.

It seems odd you would treat your passion with such abandon but we do it, don’t we?  Your passion is important!  It’s what makes you YOU.  But, it’s easy to do.  We all have done it for one reason or another.  We do it out of Love, out of Survival and, yes, out of fear.  (I think it happens mostly out of fear but we’ll talk about that later.)

You passion comes whispering back to you in quiet moments.  For me it is always, “Hey, this would be a fun story.” or “You know that epic fantasy story you’ve had in your head.  You want to get back to that sometime?  If so, here’s a cool scene to write out.”

They come in during the half-asleep times or when I’m running or in the shower.  (My creative muse, for some reason, lives in the shower.  I really need her to show up more while I’m running…)  They come back and you wave your hand at them, sending them away.  “Not now!  I’ve got this THING to do.”

And they flitter away, flying off into the bushes.  But…

“Listen to us,” they pleadingly whisper.  “You’re supposed to do this, you know?”

They always come back.

I actually made the decision to do this back in July.  However, I wanted to have a month or so to get focused on my workouts, on being with family as we got through a transitional August and I wanted to get the rest of my RPG rules written.  However, I quietly made a very fierce goal with myself.  September.  Regardless of anything else going on, I’m starting this in September.

And so, I am.

Today.

I have several goals in this but most important is just the simple one of focus.  Like my workouts, I started slow.  I’ll start by looking at a few old stories of mine and starting edits.  I’ll start small batch writing on projects that interest me.  I’m not worried about the fire coming back and pounding out 3000 words.  That will come of it’s own.

I’m just going to, every day, turn my head to the writer’s block.

I know the momentum will build from there because that is what happens when you listen to your Passion.

Investing in Yourself

In my last post I mentioned the commitment and investment of working out and getting healthy.

What I’m spending financially in September on my health goals and personal training, once it’s all said and done, could do a lot of things.  It could get our family a new television, a new computer.  It could buy a new set of winter clothes.  It could help get our old car ready for winter.  I had to get my brain around spending that money on myself in order to get healthy, especially with the fact that I am not overweight or in poor health to begin with!

I wanted to discuss it further here because I think the idea it’s ok to invest money on our health while we are healthy is something which is not thought about or supported in our culture.   We are taught to consume and to play and to have fun, to spend millions of dollars on items we are told we “need.”  It’s even alright to spend money on fixing ourselves AFTER we have consumed too much; IE – food, movies, video games, etc.  Yet, when it comes time to spend that money on ourselves and improve ourselves, when there is no “obvious” reason why we should do it, the mind (and the minds of your friends and family) seem to take a stutter-step.  At least this is what I found mine doing.  Why is that?  What is it about our culture that teaches us to hesitate on our goals like this?

I latched onto the idea of an investment.  This is my investment to myself.  However, it is also an investment for my family, for my wife.  By getting healthy I am insuring I am able to help carry items in my son’s move, to pick my daughter up for a hug, to go for a long, adventurous hike with my wife to see beautiful wilderness or to help my mother as she gets older to help keep up her house with outdoor maintenance chores.  When I go to volunteer, as I did last weekend for a food drive, I could carry more bags of food to the waiting car.  I could stand longer on the concrete and hand out flyers without my back or feet hurting.  The amount the investment will return on itself is incalculable because it does not focus entirely on dollars and cents.  It has a much higher payout down the road.

On the fifth week of my Spartan workout (my second 4th week because I repeated it) I had to do my workout later in the evening.  It was close to 9:00 PM, going on 9:30.   I had a full day under my belt and not much food in my belly.  I was tired.  When I took a breather I muttered, “Why am I doing this again?”  I laughed because the answer came to mind immediately.

Because, right now, I’m building the body I will grow old in.  As time goes by, do I want it to be strong and healthy or weak and problematic?

As I looked at our budget and what my wife and I are doing for ourselves, I shared this thought with her and she agreed.  Our souls may be fiery meteors of energy and life but our bodies are infinite and will, eventually, decline.  We, right now, are building those bodies as strong as we can so we can, hopefully, grow old in them.

And that, hands down, beats any kind of new television, clothes, laptop.  Besides, when I get in better shape I won’t need a car in winter, right?

I’ll just super leap over to my job!    Problem solved!

 

Was That Just 30 Days?

What a month it has been!  New job position, GenCon, my son off to college and finishing my Couch to Spartan plan.  As August comes to a close it feels like I can finally come up for a bit of air.  Let me catch up and get things to the present!

GenCon – WOW!  What a great weekend!  I’ll hopefully put something up on the game blog this weekend.  Personally, it was a huge success.  Having four days with my son, surrounded by gamers, games and old friends.  Well, it was like coming home.

Old Pals

           Ran into some old pals at GenCon.

Despite what Life and the REALLY creepy hotel threw at us, our workouts went off without a hitch!  The hotel, which was run-down and scary, informed us that the workout room which had been promised was “under construction” and we could have a free pass to Cardinal Fitness just down the road a few miles.  I asked calmly if they would be open at 5 AM or at 12 AM for me to do my workout.  With a sign, the clerk muttered, “Uhm, no.’

It was road work for us then and definitely a challenge to pack it all in.  The typical schedule ended up being all day at the Con where we walked about 3 – 5 miles then back to the hotel by 11PM.  Up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM to do a workout (except for Sunday morning.  I got in a workout after I got home that evening.) and then breakfast, shower and then back to the Con to find a parking spot by 7:30 A.M.   I was very proud of my son who, being new to this exercise stuff, ran it like a champ!  His diet was very restrictive and so he took portions of appropriate food with him in his backpack and ate on schedule throughout the time at the Con.  It was hardcore but it showed me that you really CAN get through a 4 day convention on $40 of pre-purchased food.  (More money for buying games, right?!?!?)

Workouts – Once GenCon was finished I came back to four very intense work weeks and to finish up my Couch to Spartan plan.  The workouts ramped up in intensity and the summer heat decided to do the same.  I was undaunted and pressed through a couple of 95 degree days.  During Week 4 I made a pretty crucial decision.  I decided to repeat the week.  This decision was different than before which had it’s roots in wanting to take it easy and not pushing.  The decision to repeat came from the simple fact my form was off and sloppy when it came to the exercises.  I opted to repeat the week, work on the form and then power into the final weeks.  It worked like a charm!  My form improved and so did my strength and I finished the plan strong and feeling good.

During this time I also decided to research what I needed to do for more bulk and discovered that, for my height and size, I was eating way too little in protein.  I changed that up one night by eating three hamburgers (no bun) and a huge portion of vegetables.  The next day, I felt amazing.  It seemed to activate some long lost, dormant metabolic rate within me and I feel that was when I started to REALLY see improvement.   Our grocery budget will, undoubtedly, suffer for it.

The Success – Last weekend my wife and I went zip-lining at a place called Go Ape in Eagle Creek Park as part of a birthday celebration for her sister.  Being nervous about heights I was apprehensive but decided I wanted to do it.  What I didn’t know was that it was not JUST climbing up and then zip-lining down.  No, it was climbing up a rope ladder and then going through an obstacle course hanging in the trees 40 feet off the ground! (You’re attached the whole time.)  The zip-lining was the easy part.

The success came from having the strength to do the entire course without any real issue.  Though my nerves were a bit shot at the end I was delighted I had been able to do it all and feel strong throughout.  My wife felt the same way and we both agreed that 6 weeks ago we would not have been able to do it at all.   She would not have had the strength and my weak and injured shoulder would not have allowed it.  This was a realization for us.  It showed us that there is a world of adventure waiting for us out there to explore as we grow in strength and conditioning!

The Marvel Zone – I finished the Spartan program about ten days ago.  My wife had spoken with a few of her weight-loss trainers about my situation and what I was training towards.  They had suggested I come in and have a consult with the owner who was an obstacle race veteran and who had regularly worked with people who were trying to gain weight and strength.  I thought it was a nice way to transition out of the previous series of workouts and I took them up on the offer.  Last Monday, I began my free week with Next Generation Personal Fitness and went to my consultation.  After a great meeting where we both admitted to being superhero fans he began calling my plan “The Marvel Zone.”   How can I go wrong with a plan name like that?  (Though I’m still using the hashtag #bigdamnwookie)

hulkfitnessThe Plan = Starting on Monday I begin a nutrition plan for muscle and weight gain for 4 weeks.  It’s a daily plan with accountability.  I know quite a bit about eating healthy and even eating for weight loss.  I know very little about the concept of eating for healthy weight gain so I’m looking forward to it.  Along with the nutrition,  I’ll be working with a personal trainer to help me focus in on crushing any obstacle race that gets in my way next year!  In addition to my ongoing road/trail running I’ll also be hitting 2-3 fitness classes a week.

No, it’s not cheap but it’s a commitment.  It’s a commitment to myself and to my family.  It’s a chance to take it to the next level and really move forward on some goals I’ve had my entire life.  More on this later as this post has already grown longish.

I can’t wait.  More to come as things begin to settle down and I move forward.  Fall is right around the corner which means a lot more trail running and outdoor workouts to come!