Lent 2015

I don’t have a lot of traditions but Lent seems to be a consistent one that I uphold. For me it’s a journey of both sacrifice and growth. I give something up to experience the sacrifice inherent to the original Lent and I try to find something creative to do each day as a way of growing. Last year, I chose to write a blog post every day. That wasn’t only a growth goal, it turned out to be quite a sacrifice as it takes a lot of dedication and time to write even a banal few paragraphs. Towards the end, I resorted several times to haikus or complaints about how hard it is to write every day. I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of the goal.

This year, we have a family Lenten sacrifice. We have struggled some over the last year or so with financial issues from a “we’re in a new relationship and there are some things to hammer out” view, from a “we’re spending too much money on bowel movements and hangovers” view and not to mention from a “we had a really awesome wedding in Savannah” view. Some of these were conscious choices we made. I wouldn’t trade the wedding for anything. Others were habit, the habit of just pulling out a card. Paying for some average food and a couple of drinks with a card is painless. Paying for average food and a few drinks with a $50 bill isn’t so painless. If you read any of the mainstream “no-debt” resources, almost all of them advocate paying with cash to make you aware of your spending, painfully aware in some cases. From this awesome post at Get Rich Slowly

  • Paying in cash forces you to consider the real purchase price – No matter what you’re buying, the fact that you’re paying in cash turns it into an entirely different experience. That’s because you have no choice but to consider how much money you’re paying overall, and not just what you’ll have to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • Paying in cash might help you spend less – When you force yourself to pay in cash, big ticket items start to lose their appeal. Try walking into a dealership with the intention of paying $15,000 or $20,000 for a newer car. All of a sudden, the prospect of keeping your old paid-off junker becomes an incredibly attractive option. Am I wrong?
  • Paying in cash keeps you out of debt – The best thing about refusing to finance things is that it keeps you out of debt in the first place. We all know what a slippery slope that can be. There are so many benefits to being debt-free, including the option to save more of your income, less stress, and of course, the feeling of not really being beholden to anyone. It’s a freeing feeling, and it’s one that I will never, ever surrender without a fight.

Dave Ramsey says much the same thing. The powers that be tricked us when when they gave us all credit and debit cards and taught us that we could afford anything. Anytime something is easier, it should immediately arouse suspicion especially when it comes to spending money. So we’re embarking on a Lenten journey of paying cash for everything outside of bills and auto fuel. I’m toying with shutting down even the bills and sending in actual checks like people in the Stone Ages did (no offense, Mom). The upside of all of this is that come April 1st, we won’t have to listen to the sucking sound of a $1000 or more black hole coming from the bank account as our credit cards swallow money.

For a positive family Lenten challenge, we’re going to spend one night a week dedicated to just us. We’ll have dinner and then play a game or read a common book. The goal is for it to be interactive, to avoid the passivity of the computer or the TV. I’ve been wanting to learn Go for a long time so if we just trade off every week between that and Rummikub, maybe I’ll only get my tail kicked every other week.

On a personal side, I’m going to repeat last year’s sacrifice of sugar. I started this year with some new personal record blood work (where the personal record is cholesterol through the roof). I have some personal ideas about carbohydrate intake and cholesterol that are, umm, not mainstream. Last year, I had my LDL levels down to 164 which is pretty good for me. In January, they were back up to 245. Obviously, that’s a heart attack waiting to happen according to the mainstream medical media. I’m pretty sure it’s a result of 4 months of eating like I was getting married and next to zero exercise. That 164 value came in May last year when I was eating well, had just come off of giving up sugar for Lent and was exercising a reasonable amount. I don’t think that’s a fluke. To really kick things off with a bang, I’m going to do my longest fast ever, 48 hours. There is a wealth of information out there in support of regular and intermittent fasting as a healthy practice. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (food intake only between 12 and 8ish) for a couple of weeks. But the health benefits of a 48 hour fast are hard to ignore so I’d like to start integrating that into my eating. So starting today, until Thursday night, it’s water and coffee and tea only.

On the growth side, I’m going to think about it some today but I’m leaning towards something similar to last year as well when I wrote every day. If I did that, I’d expand it out to “write, draw or play the saxophone/piano” every day. On the upside, I miss those right brain creative type things. On the down side, I have some goals for 2015 that would likely suffer because there are only so many hours in the day. Things like Spanish and reading would go to the backburner. I have ways to mitigate this because I have a 2 hour train ride each day. But writing more personal code or exercising would be harder and harder to fit in. So that’s going to be a mediation for today to try and identify what I really want to focus on and what’s important.

Fasting Resources for those so inclined:

Lent 2014

I’ve had several things on my mind for Lent this year. As I mentioned in my 2012 Lenten explanation, I don’t have a lot to give up this year. I’ve quit drinking coffee, my diet has been mostly clean and my alcohol intake is fairly limited. However, after watching the three lectures by Dr. Richard Johnson on the dangers of sugar, I’ve decided to give it up including all sweeteners. I had no idea but in the metabolism of sugar, the body actually loses ATP because the fructose metabolism requires ATP. We are starting to see more and more research that confirms sugar to be major contributor to inflammation, chronic disease, obesity, diabetes and more. Our bodies aren’t designed to ingest the quantities of sugar, especially calorically dense simple sugars like high fructose corn syrup. Long story short, while I don’t eat a lot of sugar these days, I have cheat days and I’d like to see what it’s like to do without completely.

I’m hoping to get a blood panel done by WellnessFX so that I can measure any changes over the course of the 40 days of Lent. My current physician isn’t that interested in actually figuring out the biology behind why certain markers (like low thyroid) are happening. She’d much prefer to give me a pill and while I’ve been doing that for several years, I’d like to try a more biological approach through diet and nutrition. WellnessFX is a startup that provides blood panels at a decent cost that look more deeply into the results than just the topical numbers. I learned about it from Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD. Kelly is a pretty credible source in the CrossFit and physiology communities so I’m going to give it a try.

On the non-giving up, self improvement, improve the world side of Lent, I’ve been thinking of several things. The first is to not buy anything that isn’t made in America. Obviously, this would have to come with some caveats as everything we buy these days is cheap Chinese crap. But I’m not planning on buying much at all for the next few weeks so not sure this would have the daily impact that is in the spirit of Lent. The second is to not use anything a single time. Our culture has become a throwaway culture. Everything is trash immediately from the styrofoam our Big Macs come in to the plastic spoon we use to stir our coffee at work to the commodity consumer items like TVs and electronics. This would be a daily sacrifice which would mean I would either have to start being really creative with the styrofoam containers from the downstairs deli or bring my lunch every day. Finally, tonight I thought about committing to a single hobby for the entire 40 days. By committing I mean do it every day. In the list to choose from would be writing, practicing the piano, practicing the sax, taking a picture and working on learning a language.

I think I’m going to go with a blog post every day for Lent. Assuming all goes well, I can move on to the rest of the list after that, a “new habit every 40 days” kind of thing. Wish me luck, I may need it.