What I learned while growing a moustache

For the month of November, I grew (am growing) a moustache.

I haven’t had facial hair since the last time I grew a moustache, which was 3 years ago. 

There're all kinds of nuisances and annoyances of having a moustache. Those small, coarse hairs annihilate my upper lip like a band of ninjas, stabbing my face with their tiny sword-like points. And the itching…oh, how I loathe the itching. The itching is bad enough, but when I go to scratch I get attacked again from the tiny ninja squad. Oh, the woes of manhood…

But there’s something else that’s also a bit annoying. Growing this sweet ‘stache has revealed yet again, that: 

People don’t say what they actually think.

Having a moustache on one’s face can be quite provocative...especially when there’s not one normally there. I often do double-takes when passing a mirror, almost frightened by the image. Is that a cop from the 80’s or a criminal? A cop from the 80’s, of course.

As some of you may know, November (or Movember, as it’s called) is men’s health awareness month. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to things like prostate and testicular cancer. And what better way to bring awareness than growing a moustache!

But here’s the problem: I don’t talk about prostate cancer or men’s health issues unless someone brings up my moustache. Not because I don’t want to, but because I often forget the moustache is even on my face!

But I’m not sure what I’ve been more bothered by: not bringing awareness to men’s health issues or people ignoring I have a moustache.

Here’s are three different responses from people this month:
 

#1 - Pretend it doesn’t exist.

This is by far the most popular stance.

“Oh, HEY Derek! I didn’t see you there!”

Didn’t see me? I look exactly the same. I’m just exercising my facial-hair-follicle-freedom. I have rights, you know!

There’s always this brief pause before a friend or family member says hello or embraces me. It’s like they’re trying to figure out if what is on my upper lip is on purpose or not. I mean, if it weren’t, I’m SURE they’d try to help me out.

“Hey man, you’ve got a caterpillar crawling across your face or something...kind of looks like a moustache.”

No duh.

#2 - Pretend it’s the coolest thing in the world.

“Nice work, Derek! Rockin’ the moustache...I like it.”

Don’t lie to me. Seriously. I don’t even like it. If I don’t like it, surely you don’t like it. It’s kind of weird (at least at this stage...not-quite-full-grown-‘stache stage). If you had a daughter, you’d probably try to shield her for fear of me being a creeper.

I assure you, I’m not.

#3 - Pretend you’re my real friend and tell me the truth.

Only one person did this. While most avoided the obvious, and a few sprinkled on some moustache glory, one friend supported me with the truth.

He laughed out loud when he saw me.

I’m not talking about a giggle or snicker. No, no...those are way too gentle of words.

He belly laughed...for a good amount of time...before he could even speak. And when he did speak, he said...

“What is on your FACE?!”

Now that’s a true friend. Someone who will tell you like it is. Someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings, your pride, or your manhood.

Someone who tells you the truth even when you’re trying to do something for a good cause.


Why don’t people say what they really think or feel? Why do we avoid communicating what we actually want to say?
 

My theory? Lack of connection.
 

When you’re truly connected to someone, you’re vulnerable. But vulnerability poses a threat. When you’re vulnerable, you’re open to getting hurt. You’re intentionally leaving yourself open to possible harm.

But unless we become vulnerable, we’ll never truly feel connected. And if we’re not connected, we’ll never actually say or do what we think.

I tell my wife everything. Absolutely everything. All my victories and shortcomings are shared with her. She knows the best of me and the worst of me. And vice versa.

If I intentionally kept things from her, I would damage the connection. And of all the people I need to stay vulnerable with, it’s my spouse.

And the beautiful thing about vulnerability and connection is the freedom that results.

You can only be free when you’re willing to be vulnerable.

Yes, you’ll probably get hurt sometimes. But you’ll also experience the deepest, most meaningful relationships of your life.

So the next time you see someone growing a moustache or doing something different, don’t avoid it or pretend to like it. 

Instead, ask some questions. Get some clarity. You might discover deeper connection and freedom.

Posted on November 28, 2016 and filed under relationship.

Simplicity Helps You Live Longer

I value simple living.

That may already be apparent but if it wasn’t, I wanted to make it clear.

I value simple living for several reasons. When I own less stuff, there’s more space to be creative. I’m more content. I’m less anxious. My desire for more is curbed when I see how valuable it is to live with less. 

With less clutter comes more order.

But today, I want to address another reason I value simple living:
 

Toxicity.

This may seem unrelated, but by the time you’re done reading this I hope you see my point.

We all know that it takes chemicals to create and manufacture almost ALL the products we buy and use on a daily basis. But what many of us are unaware of is how toxic these chemicals can be. 

Let’s look at just one of them: formaldehyde

According to the US National Toxicology Program, formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen…which means it causes cancer. It’s been primarily used in coatings and industrial resins to help bind particle board (think IKEA). 

But formaldehyde has found its way into TONS of other products. Here’s a few:

  • Air fresheners and plug-in fragrances
  • Cleaning products
  • Paper Towels
  • Clothes
  • Bedsheets and pillows
  • Upholstered furniture and curtains
  • Skin care products
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Toothpastes
  • Perfume
  • Baby care products
  • Furniture made of manufactured wood (including beds and cribs)

I’ll stop there. 

I was appalled at the amount of products that potentially have formaldehyde in them. A known cancer-causing chemical…prevalent on the shopping shelves. 

Now, we’ve probably all heard the phrase: “It’s the dose that makes the poison.” And that’s true! Our bodies naturally produce formaldehyde at safe levels, but that dose is below .03 ppm (parts per million). When you add in all the other products we’re exposed to, the level in which we ingest this chemical quickly rises to highly toxic levels.

And we’re just talking about one harmful chemical. ONE. Don’t even get me started on BPA.

Here’s the deal: the chemical industry has largely been unregulated. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is supposed to keep us safe from harmful chemicals and products. But guess what? Until June of this year (2016), chemicals didn't have to be proven safe before they hit the market. It is only after they’ve caused damage that they were brought under investigation. And even THEN, it’s not certain that those chemicals will be removed. In 1989, the EPA issued a ban on asbestos, another known human carcinogen, and it was overturned in court 2 years later. And that is ludicrous.

However, there is hope. This past June, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This Act actually empowers the EPA to do the job it was created to do — keep us and the environment safe from harmful chemicals.

Although this is great news, we still have decades worth of products in our homes, offices, and schools that contain known harmful chemicals. 

In one study by the Environmental Working Group in 2005, they found an average of 200 chemicals in blood taken from the umbilical cords of 10 newborn babies. According to this study, “The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.” Babies are being born pre-polluted, having never been outside the womb.


This simply shouldn’t be.
 

I know this article is quite a bit different than my normal writing, but I was compelled to share this with you all in hopes that you might educate yourself on the dangers of toxic chemicals in our environments. 

Here’s some good news: when you choose to live with less, you’re exposed to fewer toxic chemicals in your home. 
 

When you decide that ‘more’ is too much and ‘less’ is enough, you’re not only removing the clutter from your physical environment, you’re also lowering the potential toxicity levels in your home. 
 

So, if you’re choosing to shop on Black Friday (which I hope you’re not…read my last post), please look for less toxic products. Support green companies and initiatives. Make small decisions like changing your shampoo, lotion, or shaving cream. Every little bit helps.

For more research (besides all the linked articles), below are two documentaries I highly recommend you watch. 

  1. The Human Experiment, available on Netflix or for purchase on iTunes, etc.
  2. The True Cost, available on Netflix or for purchase on iTunes, etc.
Posted on November 21, 2016 .

Don't Buy Gifts This Holiday Season

We live in a culture that is over-consumed, over-stimulated, and over-worked. Here in America, being busy is a badge of honor. We LOVE to tell people we're busy.


But what about "being busy" is so attractive to us?
 

I think, for many, it's a fake sign of success. If you seem to be busy then it must be important. But if you've ever been busy, you know that's just not true.

I've been busy MANY times: checking Facebook for the hundredth time, checking email for the thousandth time, browsing the web for interesting articles, or running meaninless "errands." It's all a facade. Busy work. Fake work. Meaningless work.

I'm sick of the pride that comes with being busy and I openly reject the notion that to be successful means you have to be busy.

Success takes work. Hard work. Meaningful, intentional work. But it doesn't mean you have to stay perpetually busy. Work doesn't have to include sacrificing your friends and family on the altar of success.

Maybe, at the end of the day, you're simply doing too much.

Because of that, I recommend we all take on a new definiton of success. A new mantra to live by.


Less, but better.
 

I read a book last year that changed my life. There's only a few books that I would even award that title to, but this is one of them.

Greg McKeown wrote a book called, Essentialism, and it's based on the maxim: Less, but better.

In the book, he helps the reader determine what is essential and what is not. It was liberating for me to flip through the pages and feel the freedom leaping off the paper.

In the States, it's holiday season. A time of overindulgence, selfishness and greed. It's supposed to be a time of thanks, generosity and family. But the marketing and advertising machine has twisted it. Now, instead of sitting down with family over a Thanksgiving meal, we're routing a course for Black Friday shopping or WORSE...we're shopping on Thanksgiving Day!

I think it's time to stop the madness. Our time is more valuable than cheap trinkets.

That's why I'm issuing a challenge this holiday season. If you're ready and willing, here's what I'm asking:


1. Spend time with your family and friends on Thanksgiving and DON'T go shopping on Black Friday.


Now I know what you're thinking, "But Derek, there's incredible deals on Black Friday! What if I miss out?!?"

That's valid. Sort of. But whatever you "need" to buy on Black Friday, you probably don't need at all. Your current TV probably works just fine. That gift you want to get isn't meaningful and will be replaced in the very near future by other cheap plastic stuff.

How do I know this? Because that's the situation so many families are in. We feel pressured to have the latest and greatest. We feel compelled to spend money we don't have, on stuff we barely like, to impress people we don't know. It's madness.

So please, fight the marketing machine and stay at home on Black Friday. Your family (and blood pressure) will thank you.

In the same vein...


2. Don't buy a gazillion gifts this year...if any at all.


Some of you are showing your teeth in anger. And I get it. You want to showcase your love and care for your friends and family with the gifts you give them. It's noble. No really, it is.

But think about your favorite holiday memories. Go ahead, think about it...I'll wait...

I'd be willing to bet a bunch of money that those memories don't have anything to do with gifts. Those memories are flooded with family and friends. Laughs and jokes, hugs and kisses, loving embraces. That time Uncle Joe laughed and egg nog spewed out of his nose. Or that time the cat destroyed all the ornaments on the lower portion of the Christmas tree.
 

The gifts we remember the most are experiences we have with those closest to us.


I can only name a handful of gifts I got as a kid...and I got a lot of them. But I can tell you story after story of experiencing memorable moments with family or friends. Those are the gifts that can't be returned...and you wouldn't want to anyway.

So please, when you're thinking about the gifts you want to give people this year, think a little differently about them. Try to give gifts that are experiences and not trinkets. Things like concert tickets to see their favorite band or maybe help send them on a much needed vacation. For more examples, read this blog post from The Minimalists.

I could go on and on about this, but for now all I ask is that you think about it. Think about not shopping on Black Friday, gifting experiences instead of trinkets, and spending more time with family than with big box stores. And if you're willing to join me, then leave a comment below! Or if you're not willing, leave a comment to discuss why.

Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under life design.

5 Things I've Learned About Being a Dad

Almost 2 years ago, I became a father. My daughter was born November 2014 and our lives have never been the same.

People told us things would be different. Some tried to tell us life would be extremely different. 

But I'm here to tell you, it's completely different. 

The things we think about, dream about, and talk about are all different than they were before. The items we purchase, the conversations we have...all different.

And it's a good different. 

Some people think of parenthood and picture vomit, diarrhea, and not sleeping. Those things are definitely present (in vast quantities at times), but fathering a tiny human is far more than that. 

I've learned more about myself and what it means to have the heart of a Father.

Below are 5 things I've learned since becoming a Dad:
 

#1 - I'm capable of WAY more than I thought.

Nothing spells exhaustion like getting less than 5 hours a sleep a night...for a whole month. But even when running on fumes, I was still able to wake up in the morning, go to school to work on my Master's degree, then go to my part-time job, and come home to help cook/clean/give-my-wife-a-break. I was still able to have friendships. (And boy did I value friendships during that time...thanks for the free meals friends!)

Looking back at those first few months of my entry into fatherhood, I realize that I'm capable of way more than I thought. I could actually function as a partial human being! I did say partial...


#2 - My heart can explode every day.

Seriously. This is no joke. I look at my daughter and I feel my heart pulsating with love and pride. "Look at my most bestest creation!" It's incredible to think that this beautiful little person is part-me and part-my-wife.

Being a Dad makes me say things like: 

"I just want to eat your FACE!"

"I could just squeeze you to death!"

"I wanna nibble your toes..."

And other canniballistic-type things...but I promise it's out of love, not sadistic hunger.

I have so much love for my daughter that I'm pretty sure I die once a day of an overstimulated heart.


#3 - I can experience the full range of emotions in 60 seconds.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can make me teeter on the edge of utter insanity and complete euphoria...at almost the exact same time...

Except for being a parent.

This child that I love so much can do the most absolute sweetest thing that makes me dote all over her, and then half a second later do something that makes me want to scream and throw her across the room (Is that too real? If it is...you're not a parent. I now know why you're shown a "don't shake the baby" video at the hospital.)

If you're like me, you love to take personality quizzes and tests and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some of my strengths are things like responsibility, connectedness, and learning. My weakness? I don't have enough emotion. The quizzes I've taken basically say, "Are you even human? You don't feel anything!" My wife can attest to that.

But being a Dad? I've discovered all the emotions...and can span the entire emotional spectrum in a very, VERY short amount of time. I even cry more. It's terrifying. 


#4 - My desire to love, protect, and provide is strong.

When I first entered in to marriage, I realized a lot about myself. I wanted to love, protect, and provide for this woman God gave me. And in the almost 7 years we've been married I've vowed to do just that.

But over the last two years since my daughter's been born, my desire is the strongest it's ever been. My wife is a full-grown adult who can take care of herself all on her own. She doesn't need me. 

But my daughter? If left to herself, she would die. She needs her parents to take care of her. To feed her. Clothe her. Put her to bed. Sing to her. Pray for her. And the list goes on...

The lover and protector in me are fully alive in full force. I'm constantly thinking about how to provide for my family in the best way possible. How to keep them safe. How to keep them happy and healthy.

And I wouldn't change it for the world.
 

#5 - My marriage has to come first.

When you become a parent, it's easy to get sucked into only thinking about the needs of the child. But I had to remind myself of this truth: children are a temporary assignment. Marriage is for life. 

Now hear me: my children will ALWAYS be my children. Nothing can change that. But eventually, they'll grow up, move out of the house, meet someone, and have a family of their own. 

But my wife will be the person I go to bed with every night for the rest of my life. 

As important as it is to keep our children alive and train them up in the way they should go, I cannot neglect my marriage. We long to be a good example of what a strong marriage is for our children. So that when they get married, they have an example to look up to. 

My wife is my partner. My lover. My confidant. And my best friend. She has to come first. There will be seasons (like the newborn stage) when much of our focus and attention will be on providing for that child. But we must always come back to what's most important: our relationship with each other.
 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But it definitely encapsulates a lot of what I've learned.

Being a Father is hard, but so incredibly rewarding. There's absolutely nothing like it.

Question: If you're a parent, what are some things you've learned? Please share in the comments below!

Posted on October 24, 2016 .

Why Moving is Awful (and Awesome)

Moving.

One of the top stressors in life.

And we've moved a total of 8 times in the last 7 years.

I don't know if it's because we enjoy change or just like to punish ourselves. 

It could be because we don't like our neighbors? Question mark? Nah, that can't be it. We don't stay anywhere long enough to actually get to know our neighbors. (True story.)

We're not in the military and we've only lived in 2 cities (so far). 

So why the heck do we move so much?!?

We're literally one day away from taking a moving truck from Colorado Springs to Portland, OR. It's beautiful out there and my wife's family is all out there. We've got a two-year-old and a bun in the oven, so being closer to family would be nice for the next few years. 

There are other reasons we're moving to Portland, but today I want to share with you what I've learned while moving a gazillion times. 
 

1. We have too much stuff.

Seriously?!? I don't get it. Even after moving 8 times in under a decade, we still accumulate stuff like it's going out of style...and it's definitely going out of style. Can you imagine if we had stayed in one place all those years? Actually, you probably can because that's probably you.

What is it about buying stuff that's so addictive? It's like a false high that lasts for maybe a week, then we want something new again. It's a sickness really. And I hate it. 
 

2. We don't have enough stuff.

And yet, in the midst of thinking we have too much stuff, we find a way to see all the stuff we don't have. You know, those boots, those chairs, that appliance, those clothes, that rug, that toy...and on and on it goes. 

Which leads me to the crazy realization that...
 

3. We still want more stuff!

Even after all the moving and all the dumping and all the trashing and all the donating over the last 7 years, we still say, "Ya, but I really want that new kettle..." (It's true...there's this sweet kettle I'd like to buy...)

It's madness! What amount of stuff is satisfying? Is there a secret formula? How does one find the sweet spot between having way too much and way too little? When do we have enough?

And that's also why I think moving is awesome.

When you're forced to take everything you own out of every cabinet, drawer and shelf...you have to ask yourself, "Is this worth putting in a box and moving it to another house?" 

If you pause and really think about the stuff you have, you'll begin to realize that most of it could disappear and you wouldn't even notice. 

So we get rid of stuff. Every. Time. We move. And I absolutely love it.

I feel lighter. Relieved. Empowered.

I feel in control. 

Question: Why do you think moving is awesome or awful? Leave a comment below!

Posted on October 17, 2016 .