Learning Guitar as an Adult

To say I’m musically challenged is similar to saying my dog is intelligence challenged. Dum-Dum has her moments, but she doesn’t get her name from how smart she is. Just like I don’t consider myself a musician in any real sense of the word. Yet I know how to play guitar. A little.

Less than 10% of people play guitar in the U.S. (numbers vary, but Almanac of American Recreational Preferences, 2008 edition state about 7.5%, and the total number of alleged U.S. guitar players divided by U.S. population is 6.5% so that “under 10%” seems like a safe number and seems about right in my anecdotal experiences). If you play you are automatically part of the top 10%. Now unlike my kids who are learning guitar and can read music at newly aged 7 and 9 respectively, I didn’t take music as a kid. I played trombone for one year in 6th grade and that was enough. At least until I got “the itch” after I graduated college. One of my post-college friends in NJ played in a band as a guitarist and that must have been the seed that was planted. 

When we moved back to the midwest and I simply decided I wanted to learn guitar. I bought a $150 Yamaha 335 which for me was a good starter guitar and the only acoustic I’ve owned (and still own today).

Besides purchasing a chord book and guitar “Fake Book” (essentially a tablature book of guitar songs that are written so that even if you can’t read music you can play the song) I started taking lessons. Once a week I struggled to expand and learn basic musical theory and general ability with a real musician. It was with a dude who played in a ska/rock band I loved in college (this was early 2000′s), who played in about three bands (jazz, rock, irish rock like the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys), plus was a classically trained musician and music major at a Big10 school. I learned about 12 bar blues and some Johnny Cash songs. I learned basic musical theory and how different strumming patterns. It was all totally new and enlightening and I couldn’t get enough.

I wasn’t looking to do much, just learn a how to play for fun, and spent a lot of time in our extra bedroom (pre-kids) practicing. Learning power chords, and getting comfortable enough with my playing to be able to do it so automatically that I could sing on top of my guitaring. Shit like Green Day’s “Time of your life” and Pogues “Sally MacLennane” and “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” Not exactly Eddie Van Halen or Stevie Ray Vaughn. But camp fire songs. Stuff that people could sing along with or had some audience participation. That’s all you really need to go for. I will say, that even as a non-musician it is damn fun to play guitar and sing with your friends.

Less than a year after buying that first guitar, I learned enough music theory (seriously elementary level stuff here people), and had just enough creativity that I could make my own songs. I bought a computer 8-track recorder computer software with fake drum-track ability and recorded some truly awful songs. The one good one that came out of this was a surprise song that I dropped on our family and friends (and soon-to-be wife) at our rehearsal dinner (that we had at our house). It was an accoustic, silly song that told our story and had references to The Simpsons among other events, with a few main chords and a few picked strings from basic chords. Despite not playing very frequently today, I can still knock out that song on a whim.

Today, when I do break out the guitar, it’s more to entertain the kids with made up songs, or what distortion sounds like on an electric (another post perhaps, but I took a very rough 1965 Fender Mustang I got for cheap and refinished/modded it, and that’s my only electric guitar I still own today), or let them play around with it.

Whether you’re a single guy or married, having a musical ability is a great skill to have. Women find guitarists sexier than regular blokes, which shouldn’t be a surprise. And being able to play with your kids’ new-found musical abilities is another feather in your cap.

Rock on fellow dudes. It’s never too late to start guitar. And the power of a made-up song to your woman can be enormous.

You can’t go wrong with Irish drinking songs (3 chord song, kicks ass too! Have your audience echo “in the rain” and “on the train” along with the refrain for extra fun)

 

 

Visualization is Powerful

Your body doesn’t realize the difference between reality and visualization or imagination. If I asked you to close your eyes and imagine:

  • that you are standing on top of the tallest building of the world, the wind is howling and you’re standing there without a safety rail. One wrong move and you’re toast. You feel the top swaying from the wind and when you look down, it seems like a million miles down

on top of tallest building in world

 

  • that you are in a work meeting, in front of your company president and your most important client. you’re presenting the new approach to streamlining widgets. All eyes are on you and your presentation flops. You can tell your boss if fuming and the client won’t even look you in the eye.

If you performed these exercises as described, your heart would probably have started beating faster, maybe you would have started sweating, breathing harder and seen your cortisol rise. Alternatively, if you visualized yourself relaxing in a warm floating cloud, light as a feather and feeling the positive energy all around you, you would come away both relaxed and energized. I’ve done some guided visualization activities (in person, by audio and video) and always come away feeling amazing.

Visualization is very powerful, and your body can’t tell the difference between it and reality. Many people unconsciously create and visualize life scenarios in a negative manner. My presentation is going to suck. Swimsuit shopping later today is going to suck and I’ll look bad in everything. That design I did is going to be scrutinized and my boss or client will find flaws. You get the idea. Negative self talk and negative images are toxic. The thing about visualization is that it is in many ways reality, and at a minimum is  a tool to get your head in the proper place and become happier now. Or you can use it as a tool to be unhappy, that’s your choice.

I’ve talked before about my vision board, which is one tool to employ. Actor Jim Carrey used to park every day on Muholland Drive envisioning what a huge star he would become. He wrote himself a 5-year post dated check for 5 million dollars for future acting services to be rendered. After becoming somewhat successful with In Living Color and earlier works that paved the way (Ace Ventura and the Mask) he hit his goal with Dumb and Dumber. Oprah reflects back on Jim Carrey’s visualization story and what she learned

For those that don’t watch, the key points he says: I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.

When you visualize, imagine you’ve already achieved your goal. Involve your senses – what does it smell like in the garden of your dreams? What sort of emotions are you feeling after you’ve won your age group in the race? What do you see from your kitchen window in your rural farmstead you’ve been dreaming of? It’s much more powerful to imagine you’ve already achieved your goal. Self talk also helps “I’m so happy and satisfied that I’ve succeeded in starting my own business.” or whatever.

When you start to think and visualize and achieve (at least in your own head) your dreams and goals, and you make some sort of steps off the beaten path, your subconscious will also become involved. As the book/movie (on Netflix)  The Secret says over and over: don’t worry about the path to your goal, that is out of your hands in some ways, just focus on the goal itself and just. do. something. to start the journey. Start the snowball rolling and it will find a way.

I know some of you don’t come here for metaphysical, self-help ramblings, but this stuff works. Our family went hiking and swimming at a state park last weekend. In the lodge lunch area, they had a gift shop. Birdsnest has been making up hiking sticks with various instruments at home for a couple of weeks now, and REALLY wanted one of the aluminum hiking sticks in the gift shop, so much so that she said she would use her allowance to pay us back (they were about $17). We didn’t commit one way or the other, but said we would revisit the issue after swimming. While she was changing into her swimming suit a few minutes later, she found a $20 bill on the floor of the bathroom. She can now be seen walking around the neighborhood with her new aluminum hiking stick.

Even if visualization doesn’t always work exactly that literally, it does create positive energy and a sense of well-being, and lays open potential paths where anything can happen.

Anyways, so much of the internet and news and Facebook is so mean-spirited and negative. Endless debates on feminism and narcissism and bros and the like are making my eyes and ears bleed.  People and marriages are at different spots on their journey, and I can recognize the need to cast a large net to bring society into the light on some of these topics, and I will continue to write about them as well. However, occasionally there needs to be simple, positive, life affirming messages that are lighthearted instead of so dang heavy. Life isn’t meant to be a grind, it’s meant to be loved and enjoyed. Some basic work (holding down a job,  gaining skills, exercise, life maintenance stuff) may be necessary to lay the foundation for this enjoyment, but satisfaction can even be obtained from those activities by a job well done. I’d like to try and incorporate more of that feeling into my messages as best I can.

Mr. Money Mustache says it pretty succinctly:

“Life is not a contest to see who can accomplish the most. It’s simply a series of days where your goal is to wake up, have a great time, and go to bed even happier than when you woke up.”

 

A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away….

 

 

 

long time agoThis post starts in the past and ends in the present, sort of zigs then zags. Bear with the discontinuity as I try to jam a few things together.

I was not my wife’s first love, nor her mine. A long time ago, we might have discussed where we were in our “counts” but it has long since been forgotten, mainly because in the scheme of things, it didn’t matter. We were both in each others’ ballpark, that is, we were plus or minus one or two in a low number count.  It didn’t matter really.  We don’t really talk about it that much, since even though both our counts are low, it isn’t a good thing to compare your husband or wife to anyone else and incur jealousy. Hopefully you’ve all let any of those thoughts remain buried and don’t poke at that more than you have to. It’s not easy (for either side) thinking about your partner’s past lovers, since you know that there’s secret memories of those times buried in a locked chest in their mind and heart and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nor should you unlock those chests in your own mind very often.

I was recently watching one of my favorite shows (How I Met Your Mother) and saw the episode where Ted is finally letting Robin go (complete with her floating away).  We’ve all been there, finally letting our past go so that we can be with the person we are now with.  Great clip about letting go of someone that was once special and moving on…

Holly was engaged  prior to when I met her. I might as well have been (in an on-off-on relationship for ~3 years), but circumstances never worked out. What happened with both of us is in our past. It doesn’t really matter today. She doesn’t have Alpha Widowness and I left my thoughts for past loves long ago. These past actions simply have no relevance in our current life. It doesn’t mean I don’t mate guard either myself or her, especially when in the outermost orbits of our lives people that could ignite a fire in us or our spouse are around (friends of friends, clients, that type of thing). That stuff doesn’t matter in today’s world, and we’re evenly matched in most ways. We’ve left the past behind, and do what we can to be the moon and stars and gravity to each other’s world, leaving little room for others to enter except as memories of who we were in the past.

I would be much more worried if I weighed 50# more than I should, or my wife’s ex-boyfriends were local, making regular contact with her and I wasn’t so awesome. Having a nice physique, being awesome in life and with your spouse leaves little opportunity to be much more than a great husband or wife. You can’t get complacent though, and it is so easy to settle into a rhythm of just chilling or zoning out after a hard day’s work, or not flirting with your husband and wife due to the noise of life and kids. Minor sine waves of ups and downs are expected, but when you get into a neutral or down position and flat-line that dopamine fix you essentially become roommates.

Does it take more effort to try and keep excitement in the marriage? Absolutely. Being cocky-funny at the neighborhood pool and talking about how your wife wants to ride your noodle (as the kids are playing with those pool noodles) may not be comfortable for the guy who who isn’t used to pushing these boundaries, but at worst she’ll play punch you and say”you’re bad.” Putting the kids to bed early in the summer (a small dose of melatonin helps us, like last night) and going at it like teenagers in a hot sweaty bedroom is a great way to connect.

Don’t let the summer heat sap your energy to get the sheets even sweatier. Enjoy an ice cold margarita and rekindle that summer romance. Build new memories so that when you’re old and gray, living in a retirement villa in Florida, you’ll fondly recall these days when you were young, the kids young and in high spirits, and the life and experiences you shared together. This will be the galaxy far, far away that will be the touchstone of the past. But just remember the past is the past, live in today and build for tomorrow.

 

Motivation Inspiration

I started doing some pseudo personal training with an acquaintance of mine. The story is a semi-familiar one: once in-shape dude succumbs to the stresses of family life and gets fat. In the span of the last three years, guy has been working a high stress job, had a second kid, lived with and then moved from his in-laws into a new house they built, and started his dissertation for PhD that will be wrapping up next year. Prior to this, he was running marathons and was in pretty good shape. So take these stresses, add a somewhat BSC wife (trust me here) and you have the typical coping mechanisms to get through a day – food and beer. I don’t know exactly how much weight he put on, but I would guess somewhere between 50-70 lbs.

Sow we’re catching up at a social function, and while drinking down a tall-boy beer, he said he’s finally ready to drop some pounds and get back in shape. “Great!” I say, and invite him over to my home gym, knowing that the likelihood of him just giving lip service to this improvement is high. But low and behold, but he contacts me and we set up a time this last weekend to meet up and do a workout.

Really, this guy doesn’t need me, but what I am is another motivational factor in his journey. He’s got other friends he runs with apparently, but to accelerate his weight loss goal, he knows he needs more. I’ll hold him accountable and keep him on the right track provided he holds up his end of the donkey. It’s so much easier to work out with others than it is alone, and that is probably the key part of how CrossFit got so popular, and why “boot camp” style workouts continue to have success. 

We didn’t do anything too fancy, and I worked out right alongside him (as did daughter Birdsnest). Introduced him to a few basic movements, rowed a little on our Concept 2 rowing machine, and did a mostly bodyweight workout – start to finish it took 20 minutes even with rest intervals (one I put in my book). I scaled up with weighted vest, he and Birdsnest scaled accordingly, we were all left sweaty and spent at the end of it, and his sense of accomplishment was obvious (and a sweat angel similar to below showed his effort). He did very well, was obviously pretty strong still, and while winded, kept working hard throughout. He is just fat, which impacts his flexibility and tires him out quicker since he has to move more bodyweight around.sweat angel

He also asked about eating better, and he had already done a little research on Paleo and Marks Daily Apple. I basically told him the basics of diet in one sentence: no soda (of any sort, even diet), no bread, and no flour products, and you’ll be well on your way to dropping the weight. 

As long as this guy stays motivated (easy at first, but motivation wanes after awhile), he’ll slowly start to lose weight and get fit again. For me, I enjoy providing that catalyst to improved health, and possibly to a better marriage (though the wife makes the long-term viability of this one a wild-card at best). And working out with others provides me motivation to stay on top of my own workouts and eating properly as an example to others. At one point in my life, I was thinking about doing triathlon coaching on the side. Here, I know enough to train a relative newbie back into shape safely and won’t be moving too fast as he comes up to speed. I’ve seen a few times coaches who just want to crush newbs as an initiation. Not me. Taking the long-game is almost always a better approach in any endeavor .

The Squatty Potty (and poop)

I married a 12 year old boy trapped in a good looking woman’s body. My wife thinks poop may very well be the best topic on the planet. Both hilarious and poignant that poop topic is, and she will talk about it to anyone. A few stories that have become legend in our circles are the “poop monster” (a story for another time) and the “coke can poop” that my lovely life produced herself (the diameter of a coke can, according to legend), that could only be flushed after breaking it up with a metal coat hanger.  A proper bride I did not marry.

Anyway, Miss Holly has, to some laughs amongst our friends, introduced us all to the Squatty Potty. Apparently this concept has been getting some traction. Our western toilets are too high, and with that comes long poop times, constipation, poops that aren’t optimized, and other maladies. Now me, I’m a fast pooper with good poops, and haven’t ever thought my life was missing something like this. But my wife (and her dad, brothers, and other friends) take their sweet ass time in there. My theory is they either like the alone time, or are knitting some cock socks (this one is only $1.67 – a great gag gift if nothing else).

Anyway, Squatty Potty is a real thing. I love squatting, major part of my workout regimen, and have even pooped in the woods a few times. They do go together (sorry for the res, you’ll have to click to read):

squat

This following infographic should explain everything. Essentially, we’ve been pooping all wrong all these years. But now you can correct your errors. I’m only half joking here. If you read the following reviews from long-suffering poopers, maybe you will be convinced that a Squatty Potty (or as we know it in our house, a “stool”) may work for you.

squatty potty

From the reviews:

  • From the Paleo Mom:

    There’s also some really convincing scientific studies supporting squatting as a healthier way to poop (of course, scientific studies use more technical terms than “poop”).  For example, this study compared the Iranian-style toilet (squatting style) to the European-style toilet (what you are probably used to) and concluded:

    “Use of the Iranian-style toilet seems to be a more comfortable and efficient method of bowel evacuation than the European style. Further studies are needed to ascertain the optimal approximation of the measurements to standard height of toilets for ordinary use.”

    And this study concluded:

    “The results of the present study suggest that the greater the hip flexion achieved by squatting, the straighter the rectoanal canal will be, and accordingly, less strain will be required for defecation.”

    And this is my favorite study, which concludes:

    “The present study confirmed that sensation of satisfactory bowel emptying in sitting defecation posture necessitates excessive expulsive effort compared to the squatting posture.”

  • And from Delicious ObsessionsThe benefits of squatting include: Alleviation or elimination of constipation problems, prevention and elimination of hemorrhoids, potential prevention of colon cancer and other colon diseases, strengthening of the pelvic floor, more effective and complete bowel movements, eliminates the need to push or strain, and helps with colitis.  This simple solution has literally changed our lives. We can’t imagine not having one, and hubby and I both agree that things seem to move faster, are cleaner, and more comfortable when using a Squatty Potty. We are completely sold on the product and the science behind it.
  • Even Robb Wolf has talked about it on his Podcast (my wife’s lover, if ever given the opportunity, at least according to her infatuation with him). From the transcript: Robb Wolf: “the dude that made this squatty potty thing sent me one of their testers and I use it dutifully every day.”

Mrs. AMD uses a 6″ step stool instead of a real Squatty Potty but still sings the praises. She’s LOVES to talk about her poops (I hate it, sooo much), and the new approach to the poop process has left her very happy. As she states, and I quote, “nice long turds.” So there you have it folks. If you have problems pooping, use a stool (or the squatty potty, whatever floats your boat). Or eat proper, that may take care of it instead.

I stayed above the fray here, as I could have delved into poop jokes galore. But while researching this brief post, I did see these awesome articles of poopness: the Shitten. You’re welcome.

[Edited to add, for commenter Rob, a photo of the best outhouse in the world, with my friend Chuckie V]

View from the top

View from the top

America’s Debt and the World’s Precarious Position

We interrupt this blog to discuss America’s economic situation. If you don’t think this concerns you, think again. I’m a simpeton on the subject of economics, and am concerned.

I’m reading a book right now called While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis. Essentially it goes into the details of how social welfare obligations resulted in damaging greatly the companies and public since the Unions had them/us by the balls, sometimes to the point of bankruptcy, by leveraging high future pension obligations. GM workers in the mid 2000′s were making equivalent of over $80/hr when factoring in all benefits. When workers at MTA or GM could retire before 50 (after 25-30 years of service) and take a high pension for another 25-30 years due to expanded lifespan (and less duration on the job – past generations worked maybe 40 years and were only alive 10 years longer), this unsustainable approach finally came to a head, though many public agencies are still digging out of this mess (and have underfunded pensions that the public is ultimately on the hook for since they are usually guaranteed by state constitutions).

Even if you haven’t been paying too much attention, social welfare obligations of the United States are heading down the same path. Social Security will need to be modified at some point (and it’s tough to plan for retirement if you don’t exactly know how, many say to plan for half to 75% of the current benefit structure, but no one knows what will happen – they may abolish future benefits completely). And these social welfare programs is just part of our debt obligation as a country. I’m no economist, but this big picture is concerning to me as a simpleton, and others who understand this so much better such as Keoni and Cappy constantly write about The Decline. This shows up on my radar as a regular dude, and I’m making small prepping steps should things go bad. Anyway, from this CNN/Money article from earlier this week: Despite dropping deficits, debt picture a concern:

While there has been a sharp decline in annual deficits in the past few years, and spending on many programs are on track to reach the lowest level in more than 70 years, the next 25 years will worsen the overall debt picture considerably if tax and spending policies don’t change.

Federal debt held by the public – which is essentially an accumulation of deficits over the years — is already at 74% of GDP, far higher than the historical average of 39%. If current policies remain unchanged, it will top 100% in 25 years, the CBO estimates. And that doesn’t include the debt owed to government trust funds such as Social Security.

The crux of the debt problem: A large and growing gap between the money the federal government spends and the money it takes in.

The jump in spending is due largely to an aging population, rising health costs and an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, the CBO said. Spending on the entitlement programs, including Social Security, is on track to rise to 14% of GDP, double its historical average of 7%.

Pew Research had some interesting bits in it’s article National Debt things you should know:

In fiscal 2013, which ended Sept. 30, net interest payments on the debt totaled $222.75 billion, or 6.23% of all federal outlays

Now this alone isn’t a huge deal as debt service in the 1990s was nearly 15%, but the fact that this dollar amount outlay is that high, despite interest rates being at historic lows is a concern because outlays themselves are up nearly 40% over the last decade. Remember this article about how 49% of the population receives some form of government benefits? I expect that to get even higher as more and more boomers end up on Social Security and federal health programs. If interest rates go up, the debt payment obligation increases as well. Our total debt as a nation (as of August 27, 2013) is 100% of gross domestic product (in 2013, this was $16.8 trillion, meaning we owe, as a nation, about $45,000 for every man, woman, and child). The Clinton era had dropped this percentage to below 59% of GDP (around year 2000), at which point it’s steadily increased, with big jumps in the meltdown era circa-2008 as bailouts and such were happening left and right (where did you think this money came from?).

So what does that mean to you? Investopedia had this succinct summary:

First, as the national debt per capita increases, the likelihood of the government defaulting on its debt service obligation increases, and therefore the Treasury Department will have to raise the yield on newly issued treasury securities in order to attract new investors. This reduces the amount of tax revenue available to spend on other governmental services, because more tax revenue will have to be paid out as interest on the national debt. Over time, this shift in expenditures will cause people to experience a lower standard of living, as borrowing for economic enhancement projects becomes more difficult.

Second, as the rate offered on treasury securities increases, corporations operating in America will be viewed as riskier, also necessitating an increase in the yield on newly issued bonds. This in turn will require corporations to raise the price of their products and services in order to meet the increased cost of their debt service obligation. Over time, this will cause people to pay more for goods and services, resulting in inflation.

Third, as the yield offered on treasury securities increases, the cost of borrowing money to purchase a home will also increase, because the cost of money in the mortgage lending market is directly tied to the short-term interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, and the yield offered on treasury securities issued by the Treasury Department. Given this established interrelationship, an increase in interest rates will push home prices down [AMD Note: Something Captain Power has been saying for awhile now though for different rationale - primarily the supply side increasing], because prospective home buyers will no longer qualify for as large of a mortgage loan, since they will have to pay more of their money to cover the interest expense on the loan that they receive. The result will be more downward pressure on the value of homes, which in turn will reduce the net worth of all home owners.

Fourth, since the yield on U.S. Treasury securities is currently considered a risk-free rate of return and as the yield on these securities increases, risky investments such as corporate debt and equity investments will lose appeal. This phenomenon is a direct result of the fact that it will be more difficult for corporations to generate enough pre-tax income to offer a high enough risk premium on their bonds and stock dividends to justify investing in their company. This dilemma is known as the crowding out effect, and tends to encourage the growth in the size of the government, and the simultaneous reduction in the size of the private sector.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, as the risk of a country defaulting on its debt service obligation increases, the country loses its social, economic and political power. This in turn makes the national debt level a national security issue.

U.S. isn’t the only one in this situation, Japan has been close to a similar crisis (with debt to their GDP at 240%, see, makes our 100% look not that bad) and article here, and such a change will impact global economy. I’ve talked before about Neftlix movie The End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless. Swiss-based financial watchdog Bank for International Settlements warned just a couple days ago how the world is just as vulnerable to a financial crisis as it was in 2007.

“Overall, it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally,” it said.

Mr Caruana declined to be drawn on when the bubble will burst. “As Keynes said, markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” he said.

I have no idea what this means for us, but it is a scary thought. Hopefully those politicians in charge can look beyond their few year terms and can make those tough economic decisions and get our debt house in order, just like we regular folks have to do, so that we as a country can be financially sound. Me, I’m not sure they can. Guess it’s time for us to invest in the key long-hold investements: Guns, Gold, Silver. I’m not sure, but I’ll be slowly prepping a little each year.

I’ll leave you with the final scene from Fight Club, with the Pixies in the soundtrack, where we watch the collapse of the financial district of the Megopolis, about to upheave the economies of the world.

Sex Sells

Topics are constantly varied on this site, and I know I could probably focus on one area, and subsets of that area, and expand readership. Mr. Money Mustache and Get Rich Slowly did that with much success on the personal finance side. Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson (Mark’s Daily Apple) do that on the health side, with many following in their footsteps. And Athol Kay was able to turn married sex into a business that allowed both him and his wife to quit their job and help others (and expanding their services to coaching and general life improvement guidance in the process).  Blog roller Dick and Jane also make some income on the married sex side, though on a different extreme than the Kay’s. Me, I generally try to write what I know about, and don’t really want to be pigeoned holed into one area. Our married lives are complex with many overlapping areas and I feel my message should reflect that. With that said, sex sells.

During the infrequent times I look at my site stats, a few main posts seem to constantly draw in readers. I’m guessing most don’t stay long, but it’s apparent to me that some more married sex discussion would boost my stats. Most probably don’t realize it, but I had a previous blogspot blog where I got much more graphic about our sex life. I still have those archived and private, and sometimes draw some parts of posts from them, but have decided that being that forthright was not what I wanted to do. During that blog phase, I was testing the waters a little, and doing it on the sly without my wife’s knowledge. It started become a burden on my conscious, despite some of the positive feedback I was receiving about being so open and raw. So I shut that down, brought my wife on board with the concept of a scaled down version of that blog, and here we are today.

It is apparent though that people like to read about sex, especially sex of their peers. If you have open friends who you share your sex life, it is somewhat thrilling and voyeuristic to share and hear about intimate details in the bedroom. That is why erotica authors sell so much: sex is fun and exhilarating, even if you’re just reading about it you are still triggering that dopamine response.  The 50 Shades movement spiced things up in the bedroom nationwide for a short while. Blogs that talk about sex and find their niche usually do well too. For me, sex will always be part of what I write about, but usually not in the “I took my thrusting member and penetrated deeply into her squish mitten” sort of way.

So though most of you have probably seen them, my most consistently viewed sex posts are:

12 Types of Sex For Married Couples

Adult Movies for Couples  (this one is interesting, and have talked to Porn Guru Ian Ironwood about a sponsorship since it is apparent many people are trying to spice up their sex lives. I don’t watch porn alone, but maybe a handful of times a year Holly and I will have something playing in the background as part of the foreplay process. I’ve found what works and doesn’t work is very individual and hit or miss. It would be interesting to do more of these types of movie reviews and for us have a 100% correlation rate with getting busy. By the way, parody Batman XXX [like the Adam West Batman] was a total flop in our house.)

Paleo-ish Sex Talk: Coconut Oil as Lube

11 Tips to woo your wife and have more sex – a tongue in cheek post of what not to do

Underwear - Ok, this isn’t a top-viewed post but one I like, so I threw it in there as a bonus.

So while married sex will always be a topic here, and I’ll have some fun with the topic from time to time instead of being just a straight man, it’s not going to dominate here like it does other places. It is fun to peak behind someone else’s curtain to compare notes, and I hope to continue to provide that type of service.

12 Things I Learned Writing a Book

Writing a book was like having a baby.  Sexy in conception, took a while to incubate, birthing was difficult.  Not knowing much about it before I began writing, I went in with blinders on, which was probably just as good.  Taking writing from blogging to an actual book, with organized thoughts, a wholesale strategy and presenting it in a manner that people could understand was something entirely new.  Bite sized, train-of-thought stuff is pretty easy and gets pushed out the door complete with blemishes (grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes) quickly.  These deficiencies are a small impact in the grand scheme of things.  Publishing something like 270+ pages long, I wanted it of the highest quality I could muster, which meant changing how I do things.  Even still, I know there are various turds in the finished document (my apologies to those who buy/have bought it who stumble up on these stinkers). I’m hoping the overall content makes up for the occasional sentence that goes off the reservation or atrocious punctuation. While there are a number of great resources, Joe Konrath’s blog was one I read a lot and spent a fair amount of time lurking on the Kboards writer’s forum.

Here’s the top 12 things I learned writing a book.

1) Writing takes a long time – I started my book back in 2012, and it took over 18 months to get it onto the street.  Admittedly, I put it down for 8 months or so, but the actual content was mostly filled out in about 3-4 months. What took the longest was adding to the ongoing addition to content, fleshing out paths that weren’t as strong as I would have liked, editing, and rewriting. Even still, I could have expanded extensively, but due to having 4 main subjects I was trying to cover, I had to draw the line somewhere.

2) I learned a lot about copyright issues – I researched various copyright laws and interpretations on presentation of data and charts is ok, fair use practices, use of images.  I even contacted a few authors and copyright holders about using selected items to make sure I was complying with laws to cover my bases.

3) Formatting is important – use headings, subheadings and so forth to generate a Table of Contents. I ended up purchasing a template for Word and e-books from Book Design Templates and see a huge need for this product for self-published authors. Matt Forney even discussed the importance of appearance and TOC in his recent post How to Publish a Book. This was one of the most important things I did in that I wanted a professional looking book, but had no desire to pay someone to make it look good nor did I want to pay for or learn Adobe InDesign software (the software some of the book Pros use). So I compromised, and while it won’t pass the sniff test with those in the industry, I felt the final result was very good on appearance. Now Kindle and EPub formats are simply more limited in what they can do, depending on your reader. I made them look as best I could given the software I had. (If any readers have issues with how the e-books look, please let me know).

4) The editing and review process took way longer than I expected too – self-editing, then outside editing and copy proofing, more self-editing, then beta-readers, then final self-editing and final copy-reading.  Quality was important.  Does this mean my book is perfect?  No, admittedly at the end of the process there are still a few minor things that couldn’t figure out how to make it work and am sure I missed a few punctuation items and left some confusing or run on sentences.  Editing helped, but a few blemishes remain that hopefully only I notice.  I’ve already updated the files once over the weekend, so early purchasers are going to notice a few more turds in there than I intended (and caught early). But this process took many hours and months to actually happen. What it looked like at the beginning and what it looked like at the end was like a block of wood compared to an intricate carving – night and day. While obviously I took most of the effort in making the final product, my wife had some great suggestions, my beta readers helped a lot as well (including one that has had employment within the publishing industry and the generous Ian Ironwood who wrote my Foreword). Each step of the way improved the final product. However, I was on a small budget, and I would have preferred to pay more for this end of the production. Maybe I can make that happen for the second edition.

5) Research, research, research – While I wrote a non-fiction, self-improvement book, it took a lot of research to supplement my own thoughts.  I don’t have a PhD or run a medical practice, so how does that qualify me as an expert?  According to Four Hour Workweek Author Tim Ferriss, you just need to read three books on any subject and you’re more of an expert on the subject than nearly every common person.  On each of my main subject matter (intergender relationships/marriage, health and wellness, personal finance for regular people, and parenting) I probably read between 5-20 books per topic, along with a bunch of other articles and other books on supplementary topics.  I think it made for a much stronger final product. Even up to the end, I was going through my hundreds of pages of notes, mining them for some nugget I could still add that I hadn’t covered yet. If you find those subjects fascinating yourself, you likely won’t get a whole lot of new information out of Average Married Dad’s Guide to Health, Wealth, and a Sexy Marriage: For 30- to 40-Somethings, but if you’re like me, I hope to uncover a few unknown gems even for the veterans.

6) Cover design matters – What I knew at the start was A) I wanted a cover to look good and professional and B) Knew that I couldn’t do that task. So I did what any good project manager does – outsource your weakness.  I evaluated a number of options, from StreetLightGraphics to covers by Author Support to 99Designs.  I eventually settled on Glendon at Streetlight Graphics, for which he prepared a number of different cover versions (for POD and ebooks).  Cost for this was about $400.

7) Registering my Copyright – Besides being automatically copyright protected by my writing, I did pay $35 to be registered and protected with the Library of Congress.

8) Electronic upload requirements versus Print on Demand – This was somewhat time consuming, but the template purchased from Book Design Templates had both a POD type format and one more suitable for e-books. What I found though is with a little saavy, you can easily convert your word styles to ones that work better with Kindle (fonts and size). The ePub file version was also different, so I ended up having three different files: one for Hard Copy, one for Kindle and one for the other readers. You can also pay someone to do this for you, as StreetLightGraphics, and others will assist for a fee.

9) Writers don’t make much – While I hope this book will sells a lot of copies (tell your friends), the reality is most writers don’t sell very many books and thus don’t make much money.  I’ve researched this quite a bit, and the reality is most writers have other jobs and to strike it big is rare. Personally, I write because I think the message that we are trying to put out there needs to be yelled from the rooftops.I hope I end up in the black, and this writing thing catches on, but who knows.

10) I really like writing – While I sort of liked writing before starting this process, I sort of fell in love with it going from a blog to a book. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever be very good at this craft (respectable, maybe; great? probably not), but I really like taking the block of wood that are the key ideas, and whittling away at the story and then finally polishing it up at the end.  It really is like birthing, and while sometimes it is work, it is work that is easy to like. And the result is something that can touch others lives. It’s powerful stuff when it works properly.

11) Zig when everyone zags – I believe most self-published books (and certainly most of the best selling self-published books) are fiction, perhaps because people want to escape.  However, I did the opposite and went non-fiction as that’s what I know. There seems to be fewer in this category.  Find a niche that works for you and isn’t like the masses. While I didn’t really think of that until near the end of the process, I sort of embraced that thought that I was going against the grain. Add to the fact that most self-published non-fiction is biographies or cook books or stuff like that, and I’m in an even smaller percent. I tried to find stats on fiction vs. non-fiction self-publishing, but couldn’t. After spending countless hours researching writing and self-publishing topics, my gut tells me 75% of self-published books are fiction (reading kboards writers forum, nearly every poster is fiction), but I could be way off. It’s easy to make stuff up in the land of fiction. It’s hard to actually research something (too much like school), or become so much of an expert at something you can write about your experiences, and most people are too lazy or don’t have a good concept or simply don’t know enough about anything.

12) Writing is a solitary, isolating activity and can slowly drive you mad – Remember in the movie The Shining, where you finally glimpse Jack Nicholson’s manuscript (hundreds of pages long) and all it says on every page is “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”?  I totally get that now. That first draft copy you put together, with all your heart and soul poured onto the page, is only seen by you.  You may have a masterpiece or you may have a steaming pile of shit. It is very difficult to be critical of our own work, and until you put it out there for review, it could literally be a a Baboon Fart Odyssey (with Fart stated over and over 100,000 times- a funny read).  I spent a lot of lonely time in my own world crafting my writing (if you want to call it that), and it was pretty tough some days going to such an isolated place. Finally, when you do put it out there, self-doubt can consume you. Writing and publishing is not for the feint of heart.

Asshole Neighbors, Maybe I am One

I’m a recovering nice guy, in a neighborhood of non-apologetic, total blue pill, nice guys. I still have nice guy tendencies, like avoiding confrontation as well as addressing conflicts head on. And like many, I have a long, tolerant, and patient fuse for perceived injustices.

However, once a line has been crossed, that proverbial straw that breaks a camel’s back, I will go all five point palm exploding heart technique on your ass and won’t look back.  An example from my past: my girlfriend at the time was slowly pissing me off (and living on borrowed time anyway, after cheating on me earlier in our relationship, but that’s another story). I was on a recreational walk with her, scuffing my sandals like I typically did, and she got on my ass about it. At that point, I severed the frayed cord of our relationship, said it was over, and left in my car as soon as we got back to her house, never looking back. That page of my life wasn’t just turned, but that book was slammed shut and burned. Asshole move to break up over scuffing my sandles? Maybe, but sometimes enough is just enough.

So this story will surely go down as whiny, first world suburban dad problems, but it is what it is. Now I live in one of the smallest houses in our suburban development, and I live next to probably the largest. My next door neighbor is the developer of our neighborhood, and has lived there since it was established. They are nice enough, 60-ish (+/-) couple, but as the developer, carry an entitled attitude to what they can or can’t do regarding home owner association or neighborhood or city rules (that carries down to their grown kids as well). As the developer, they still have a segment of the neighborhood that is undeveloped, and must own large construction equipment for various upcoming or on-going projects. He parks said construction equipment (skid steers, trucks and trailers, dump trucks, and so forth) on our cul de sac residential street. Most times he parks these vehicles/equipment adjacent to, and in front of, my house/property.

Now everyone else on the cul de sac HATES that they park these things on the street. It may not be every day that there’s some piece of stuff on the street, but maybe 15-25% of the time. Way too often. And overnight on occasion. When another neighbor’s teen kids parks on the other side, there is barely enough room to drive past. We have about 215 kids on our street and they are always running, on bikes or scooters, not paying attention, and generally being kids (aged 5-9). These commercial construction equipment/vehicles make visibility and driveability very difficult and subsequently is a hazard considering the neighborhood situation and a major liability to them should an accident or injury occur. Couple that with the fact that this behavior goes against city ordinances and development covenants (that likely this guy helped developed) and it further supports the hypothesis that they think the rules don’t apply to them.

I’m pretty neighborly, and like I said, have a long fuse and appreciate (to at least some degree) neighborhood politics and the need to keep the peace. I don’t say a peep when my other across the street neighbor goes all Cousin Eddie on us and parks this eyesore in front of my house about 4-6 days a year as he is getting it ready to go on camping trips (or cleaning it on his return). But it’s usually gone at the end of the day, and comes in a couple of spurts and in a pattern we’re prepared to deal with at this point.

Cousin eddie

So there’s your long setup to the being an asshole part. Now, this displeasure on the whole equipment/trucks on the street thing has been slowly simmering for awhile. Last summer was a large, red dump truck that came and went, but when it was here, it stood right in front of my house. It was usually gone most nights, so I accepted the fate, suffering silently – that’s my fault for not saying something right away, and something I regret doing. This summer I don’t remember too many major pieces that showed up thus far, until Wednesday when this fucking thing was parked by my driveway:

snow plowNow I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he’d move it the next day. Nope, he had it there to “get it ready for sale.” Apparently that meant not doing anything and letting it sit there. Seeing that it was going to be there yet another night, and realizing they were gone for the evening, I had finally had enough and called the police, siting the ordinance they were violating, and asked that the police address the situation. Now this was probably my only mistake (and even hesitate to call it that, sometimes the only way to wake up a douche is the hard way), in that, instead of letting this frustration at the situation build up and never talk to the causation of the angst like normal people do, I let it get to a boiling point. I should have told them to move it directly. But that’s all water under the bridge and I’m taking that lesson to heart in future interactions with them or others.

Apparently, the morning of the third day the police must have finally made contact, since these individuals were notably perturbed/upset about the situation as they now had to move this fucking snow plow into their own driveway (LOL, where it looks ridiculous – I am guessing here that they would have had I not made my move, the snow plow would have been on the street for a couple more days at least – fuck that). Somehow they found out I was the rat, and Holly was NOT happy. While she agreed with everything I wrote about above (safety, etc.), she thought I acted half-cocked in calling the police, so hence I was the bad guy, the neighborhood asshole. A role I was ready to embrace, since it allowed all the other Nice Guy neighbors to save face and me to be the fall guy. I don’t really care for these people anyway, but appreciate my wife’s desire to keep the peace with the next door neighbors, and my own desire to not have my wife be pissed at me (even if I disagreed completely with her reasoning). Also, she made a good point that without an olive branch, there could potentially be retribution in the form of noise complaints while we’re having our semi-regular summer campfires.

So the day after this all went down, I went over and apologized for the lack of judgement in how I handled the situation… that I should have 100% went to them first and expressed my displeasures instead of being passive-aggressive about it. It was sort of a dick move to call the cops on my neighbors, I see that now.  So for that I had my hat in my hand. Then I told them it was my fault for not venting my displeasure with the situation sooner, and handed them a copy of the specific ordinance that explicitly stated that what they were doing wasn’t allowed, and why it was especially not good given our situation of 287 kids on our street and a 90 year old neighbor who sometimes bikes. I told them I wasn’t looking to bust their chops on any of this, would give them the benefit of the doubt, and if I was upset about something in the future (like parking a 20 ton snow plow in front of my house), would let them know first. But also made it known they needed to not push the boundaries on this topic — there is a reason construction equipment isn’t allowed on residential streets.

So we’ll see. Maybe I shouldn’t have to call the cops on my neighbors, but I’m not really that sorry for it. Good neighbors use good judgement, and despite the fact that their shit don’t stink, they need to follow general good practice, which they haven’t. Maybe I overreacted like my wife says, and the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Me, I think it was fine, and am expecting having the Po Po there put it front and center on their radar screen and they subsequently gave it the due attention it deserved. I know everyone else in the neighborhood will be happy if they change their entitled ways (and stop this unsafe behavior) so at the end of the day, I’m ok being an asshole neighbor for the betterment of a larger group.

 

AMD’s Guide to Health, Wealth, and a Sexy Marriage – Book now live

After what seems like forever, my book Average Married Dad’s Guide to Health, Wealth, and a Sexy Marriage: For 30- to 40-Somethings is now live.

You can find the Kindle link here, and the hard copy book link here. Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble editions should be out shortly as well. The hard copy proof turned out great and overall I think the book turned out very well and has a lot to offer. A big thanks to those that helped through the process, especially my wife Holly for her patience and input, and much thanks to Ian Ironwood for advanced readings and providing the book’s Foreword.

Here’s the back cover blurb for those interested. I plan to do a more extensive post on this topic later, but I’m excited to finally go live with this project. It turned out pretty legit. For those that end up purchasing it, enjoy! And feedback or reviews on Amazon help me out, but do what you want to do in that regard. Back to work.

When your relationship, life, and finances aren’t what you’d hoped, it is easy to despair. No one knows this more than author Alex Peck, who was struggling to breathe passion back into his life and marriage post-kids. Average Married Dad’s Guide to Health, Wealth and a Sexy Marriage: For 30- and 40-somethings is packed full of information to help you get out of your rut and become the person you were meant to be. A few of the topics this guide covers include:

  • Marital relationships – Identifying key pitfalls that plague marriages and some key things you can do to improve yours and possibly save it from divorce
  • Sex – How and why sex has taken a backseat in so many marriages, and exactly what you can do to achieve the sex life you desire
  • Health – Why the standard American diet is a complete and utter disaster and what you can do about it. A comprehensive strength program is provided to get you on the right track to a sexy body
  • Money – An easily implemented approach to personal finances to eliminate debt, increase savings, and create sustainable long-term wealth
  • Parenting – How to modify today’s child-centric mentality in your family,  strategies on raising successful children at various ages, and wisdom we need to pass on to our sons and daughters so they can succeed as adults

Average Married Dad’s Guide to Health, Wealth and a Sexy Marriage: For 30- and 40-somethings is a no-nonsense, must-have, Swiss army knife of knowledge and tools for any married father who is looking to improve upon any of these life areas, and become the family leader and man he’s intended to be.