In defense of silly

Stop taking yourself so seriously. Every now and then, you have to just let yourself go.

2015-03-15 07.08.30A few weeks ago I did a 5k. It went fine. It's been a tumultuous six months, and I'd only just recently had the opportunity to start getting back into a running and general fitness routine. It went better than fine, really; I figured I'd come in at 38 minutes or so, and then I added in a costume and a Camelbak full of water, so maybe closer to 42 minutes. But it was 36 minutes, even all decked out.

Oh, and all decked out I was! Check out that photo! Green* fu manchu! Giant glass of green beer on my head! Suspenders! Shamrock shades!

To some extent, I think I'd become grumpy old guy. Maybe it was the severe Syracuse skies as winter approached again. Maybe it was working nights. I don't know. But I'd been taking myself way too seriously for a while.

Given the new setting, and the fact that I knew pretty much no one, I figured I'd go a little nuts. And it felt good to get high-fived and have strangers ask for photos. No need of deep conversation, no judgment, just a bit of old-fashioned silliness.

See the team photo at the previous post.


*The green "dye" was green food coloring and an aloe lotion. It came right out of my beard, off my hands, off the shirt and out of the dish. Use an aloe gel instead; it'll probably actually dry and set, which this never did.

How to publish an ebook on Amazon

Something I did recently was this. I compiled some of my blog posts, edited them a bit, and put them together in an ebook to sell on Amazon. It's called Resolutions for the Rest of the Year, and is meant to give you the tools to set and accomplish goals now that most people have given up their New Year's resolution.

Almost as important to me as putting the book together (it's short; go ahead and give it a shot, why not?) was the process. Let me tell you how I did it, so that you can do it, too.

First, I redeemed a coupon I had for Scrivener, an amazing $40 piece of software (that's without the coupon). It makes it really easy to organize a book, and will help you compile it for pretty much any format — Kindle, iBooks, hard cover, soft cover, PDF — and provides you with a bunch of tools for proofing and organizing research and putting together keywords to embed in electronic versions.

Next, because it's such a complete piece of software, I took advantage of a special on a Udemy course on Scrivener (at this writing there's not a special, but almost 20 hours, it's still a deal at $169 for Mac or Windows).

Then I put the actual product together. If you're going to try this, be honest with your self and understand that the software's easy enough to learn, putting the product together is the hardest work.

I did some searching for royalty-free art to turn into a cover (feel free to pay for some, too), put the cover together, spelled a word wrong, went back and did the cover again, and thanked my eyes for catching that.

Next, I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's Kindle publishing platform. It's a fairly simple process (it took about 15 minutes) to upload the book and cover, add some keywords, price it, confirm that I own the copyright on the book and click the submit button (which is the scariest part, but that was the goal of the whole project — pressing that submit button).

I sent that on a lunch break, about 2 a.m., and by the time I woke up about 10 a.m., I had a book on Amazon.

Your turn. Go!

Find your relax

beach

It's been 32 days since we pulled out of New York and 14 days since I felt like a passed-out cat. We've learned a bit about our new city, some about our neighborhood, and it took us 10 days to figure out all our utilities, the last of which was the garbage, which has been piling up a bit.

The landlord told us she'd notify the HOA when she got our paperwork. The paperwork is at the listing agent's. The listing agent's firm doesn't handle anything outside of the paperwork. The neighbors we've met largely take their trash to work, where they have dumpsters.

The listing agent then told us to call the people who handle our water – they would handle our trash, unless they didn't.

They don't.

The other day, I saw some barrels out, and they were stamped with the name Savannah Waste and a phone number.

Turns out they're a small, locally owned private hauler, and that the city (who handles our water) doesn't go beyond a certain point. Our first recycling load will be picked up sometime today; we can finally get rid of some trash on Monday.

On top of that, we've now had stuff like furniture and boxes full of our belongings for three days. So, we're unpacking on top of everything else.

We're both working full time, too.

feetWe're also figuring out where to find some relaxation, and one of those places, it turns out, is Tybee Island, a half hour drive away, with restaurants and beaches and restaurants and beaches.

It's exactly what you'd expect from a beach community. Really expensive housing with the occasional tiny bungalow or trailer park thrown in. Nice restaurants that look shabby because the salt air has messed with the paint and the wood.

We took two hours at brunch on Sunday, then walked over to the beach, where we hung out for another couple of hours. The water was chilly, and I guess the air was too cold for the locals; it was really sparse out there.

But it was beautiful, and relaxing, and even though I had a tough night ahead at work (busy and short-staffed), everything felt right.

Onward we march, until we bury our feet in the sand.

Rest, recover


This is how I feel today. [credit]

Those of you who know me personally know it has been a wild-n-crazy month for the Shear family.

On the night of Nov. 4, tenants signed a lease on our house in Central New York under the condition that they could take possession at 4 a.m. on Nov. 17, which means we had to be out Nov 16. That means we had to pack up and clean a house, plan movers and find a place to go in 11 days (they signed after 8 p.m. and we were going to have leave early on the 16th, so we didn't even get that 12th day).

We got a 24-foot rental truck and a trailer for one of our cars. I drove the truck, Jenny drove my minivan behind. We pulled out at 11 a.m. on the 16th, drove to a hotel in Harrisburg, Pa., that night, where I worked a full shift, met some folks from work in the morning (we all work from our various residences, so it's always cool when we get to meet each other), and then hit the road again for a 10-hour drive to Charlotte. The next day, we pulled into my parents' place in CHarleston, S.C., and promptly collapsed before waking up and heading to Savannah to unload all our stuff into a storage unit.

That was Nov. 19, and the next day, we rested.

On Nov. 21, we began our search for housing, keeping in mind we had a 2-hour commute each way from Charleston and I had to be at work at 6 p.m. We made the trip six times in eight days leading up to Thanksgiving.

On Monday of this week (Dec. 1), we signed a lease on a house in the Georgetown section of Savannah. On Tuesday, the electricity went on and yesterday they turned on the water. We're hoping to only have to take another trip or two down before we won't have to return to Charleston except to visit.

We're blessed and grateful to have the kind of family that says, "Hey, you need to take over a small room in the house for a few weeks? Go ahead!" We're also really happy to be able to settle into our own space and start putting the house back together soon.

But today, we rest. It's really important, actually. Your body wasn't meant to go hard 16-20 hours a day for weeks on end. It was designed to do some work, recover, do more work, recover, do some more work, and recover.

Over the next couple of months, as we get embedded into a new community and, let's face it, a new culture, expect there to be some community-building posts and some stuff I discover about the city, which has a very interesting history.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all

As I noted last week, we're in the deep South. Charleston, South Carolina, right now, to be exact, where we're staying with my parents while we apartment hunt a couple of hours away in Savannah, Georgia.

I can't really list everything or everyone I'm thankful for. That seems too obvious a Thanksgiving post, anyway.

Though one thing for sure I'm grateful for is the ability to do this once in a while:

2014-11-20 10.51.37

I know not everybody can relax and take some downtime. And even though I'm working today, I'm doing so barefoot, seated in a chair with ample coffee, clean water, and a family creating tumult while making a large meal that we'll probably eat for three days. Maybe five. We're used to doing this for 22 people, but there are only five of us.

That seems like a lot to be thankful for.

I guess what I'd really like to do is say, hey, look around you. I don't care how badly you think you have it, if you have a way to be reading some guy's post on the Internet, how lucky are you? Find some gratitude.

Not goodbye, see you later: A note to Syracuse

10678730_10152905733974923_4826912665878023069_n

By the miracle of WordPress scheduling, as this writing publishes, I'm spending my birthday unloading a giant truck into a storage unit in Savannah, Georgia.

Many of our friends know we've been eyeing Savannah for a long time. We expected we'd be down here sooner, and we expected we'd have more time to say our goodbyes.

Our house didn't sell, but we got a lot of rental interest from a Craigslist ad. And the couple who wanted to rent from us had to be out of their house in Kentucky on Nov. 13. That was too quick for us, but we signed the lease Nov. 4 and told them we'd be out the door by Nov. 17.

In the world of packing up a house, reserving a truck, getting a driving route, booking hotels and still figuring out where I'm going to be able to work, since they need me, too, this is not a very long time. It's barely even enough time. In fact, we're unloading into a storage unit because we had to be out of the house before we were able to scout out places to live.


I came to Syracuse in 2003. While I had some built-in connections in my grad program, it was a very specific group of people and we had a lot of work to do. There was very little socializing, and no one knew anything about the city.

So I went out and I found communities. One person I befriended, who eventually left town, had grown up in Syracuse and thought there was nothing to do.

As a gay black man, maybe that was true until he was an adult in mainstream society. Until I walked into his cafe, he didn't know there were brewpubs in town. He had never sat in the bleachers at a Chiefs game.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to show the lifers what's going on.

I got involved in a lot of stuff. A poetry reading, 40 Below, CNY SPaRC, the Future Fund, Alchemical Nursery, SyracuseFirst, some recreational sports leagues. Probably a few other things I'm missing. Someone nominated me for and I won a 40 Under 40 award.

I've made a lot of friends, who are all very much my local family, with my blood relatives scattered throughout Massachusetts, South Carolina and Texas, and wherever else all the distant cousins went.

I became a Freemason in Central New York, something which has provided me with some amazing friends as well as a sense of focus and purpose I didn't have before.

Central New York and I have given each other 11 years. It's hard to say how much of each other we've taken, though I am removing with me my lovely wife, so either way I'm the winner there.

Her family is all in the Syracuse area, so we will, surely, be back several times a year. It's not goodbye, just see you later.


What's in Savannah? We don't know, really. We've met some people already. We've seen the city; it's lovely. Palm trees, live oaks, beaches. People who are generous, friendly and still somewhat guarded about themselves and their city, but welcoming anyway.

There are lots of people our age starting things, there's an art and design school, there's a TEDx contingent. There's a tech movement and a maker movement. There are lots and lots and lots of parks.

We're hedging our bets a little, going down to rent, figuring if we end up not liking it, it'll be easy enough to pack up and move on without dealing with trying to sell another house. And we're already done with the wedding, so planning that is off our plates, too.

I'm sure over the next month or two there will be a lot of posts in this space, some of them dealing with culture shock, some of them dealing with things we've discovered. Maybe some photo essays.

Here's to new starts.

Introducing The Bearded Brain

in-the-earsYou may have seen me, over the past couple of weeks, posting on social media about The Bearded Brain, a new email newsletter I've put together.

Just a little bit about it: It's a collection of some interesting stuff I've seen, listened to, and, sometimes, discussed with friends throughout the week.

It's free, it's weekly (I send it on Tuesday), and I think you'll find it interesting.

You can see an issue here, so you know what to expect.

It's off to a good start, and I'd appreciate you trying it out for a couple of issues. I use a third party tool, so you can do your subscribing through them, and later unsubscribe with them if you wish, so there's no awkward, "Uh, Josh, I think I'm good" moment if you don't like it.

You can sign up here.

Thanks for checking it out!

End-of-summer to Thanksgiving challenge: Week 2

I thought I was actually going to put on a couple of pounds this week. I've been having some major food issues — notably not eating enough calories during the day, then back-loading on high-sugar foods at midnight or later to catch up.

2014-weight-loss-002But I listened to Steve Austin's podcast (auto-plays, NSFW), and someone asked about his diet, since he's trying to lean out for some upcoming TV shows. He's eating a lot of protein (350g) and calories (over 3,000), which is way more than I need, but he's also filling some of his meals out with oatmeal and potatoes and rice.

So I picked up some of those dense starches to take the place of things like, oh, peanut butter cups and cookies. And even in just a couple of days, it worked wonders. So, that's going to be part of the plan for the fall, I think. Not whole meals of piles of rice, of course, but a couple of fistfuls of oatmeal in my protein shake in the morning means it will stick a little longer. In fact, the first time I did it, it was 30g of whey protein, a banana, a serving of peanut butter and a little bit of oatmeal, and I had enough fuel for a three-mile run three hours after I drank it, on what was supposed to be a rest day (I just had some energy I needed to get out).

Anyway. It was also a pushups and pull-ups day. My two-minute max pushups was up almost 15%; my pull-ups increased twice that.

Here's the updated tracker sheet.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

Saying thanks: Wedding vendors

It's now under three months until my wedding. We've been blessed in this process by having talented friends and family who we love and who love us. Only our flower vendor (whom I'll also mention here) was a stranger at the start of our process. As you plan your events, we recommend everybody here. Tell them we sent you!

Flowers: Backyard Garden. I really wanted no part of the flower plans. If I can't eat it, I'm not interested in learning how to grow it, and if I need an allergy pill to pin it to my lapel, I'd rather just skip it. But Nino took us through the shop and into his consultation room, which basically looks like a dining room with a big TV on the wall. He offered us coffee, asked some questions, picked up a remote and showed us some slides. He's followed up with us on colors exactly on the schedule he outlined, and we're looking forward to the final product.

Photos: Kelvin Ringold, Custom Photogenics. Kelvin is one of my oldest friends, and he's part of that group of people we were both friends with before we started dating, so he's known us and our relationship the whole time. Kelvin's a talented human, not just photographer. He writes newsletters, he's a public speaker, he's a life coach. Kelvin and I eat lunch together about twice a month, share our lives and how we're improving ourselves. Send him some business, if you would.

DJ: Geoff "Deaf Geoff" Herbert. Geoff is a friend I made on Twitter back in 2009, when Syracuse was first starting to use the paltform to build a community, before the university embraced it. He's a multi-talented pop culture observer. He's an entertainment producer, disc jockey and former on-air talent. And he's deaf. He speaks not only to students who want to be in radio, but also to groups of deaf young people to show them what's possible for them, to expand their horizons.

Favors: Simmons Ink & Stitch. Reggie and his wife Lysa are a new business. I used to play racquetball with Reggie, who has the sort of laugh you can hear for a quarter mile, and that's how I learned he was doing this for work. I was walking through a mall to see a friend at an art shop, and I thought I heard Reggie laughing, so I wandered in that direction, and there he was. They spent an hour with me showing me what was possible, and we found something that we truly loved, and, by letting us do some of our own craftwork, they helped us keep within our budget.

Venue and food: The Ridge. The Ridge is a lovely 9-hole golf course with a tavern that some of Jen's cousins bought and remodeled. The course has some great views, and the food at the tavern is fantastic, as is the atmosphere. They love bourbons and beer, always keeping a couple of special craft selections around. Make the trip out there. In fact, get in touch and we'll make plans to go play and eat.

Officiant: Frank D'Agostino. Frank is one of the funniest people we both know, another friend I made on Twitter alongside Geoff. He's a goofball, but he's a grown-up, in that he knows when to be serious. He may be a Yankees fan, but he's one of the best people in my life, and his family and ours have certainly been mutually supportive. He got a license when we asked him to marry us, so he can marry you, too.

Focus

I was scrolling through my blog archives a bit and noticing that you can really tell what's going on in my life by what I'm writing. I know that sounds common, but I rarely use this space to diarize. Instead, I've used the space to give myself motivation by attempting to give you motivation. Those times when I tell you to go out and create? I'm feeling creatively stifled and am really telling myself to go out and create.

So this week, I'm passing along some steps to help you get focused. To help me get focused.

I've been feeling a little...unsettled lately. For the past five weeks, we've been trying to squeeze in some naps as we get the house on the market, get a little outside time, do the work to be raised in Freemasonry, and to continue to grow. Oh yeah, and we're planning that wedding thing, too. Sheesh.

I haven't even picked up a book in almost a month.

Things are finally settling down a touch. We're able to reconnect with the people who matter to us (we even wound up having an impromptu barbecue the other night, with no stressful preparation or cleanup). We're able to get back to activities that matter to us, and to really find a little more time to focus on things like laundry and holding hands, instead of things like painting ceilings and moving beds.