I’ve finally sat myself down in front of the computer screen with the intent of writing a new blog post. Referencing my most recent entries like I normally do, I’m utterly astounded at how long it’s been since I last pushed an update. I started to gather a lot of steam back at the beginning of early July, and that went flying out of the window with a series of health issues that came at me through a revolving door of illness from the middle of the month to the very end. Right around that time, a new PS4 game (Bloodborne) found its way into the household. Being incapacited and convalescent, I got in the habit of ignoring my to-do list and escaping through the distraction of video games. Apparently, I’ve been in a zombie-like routine — work, commute, eat, play, sleep, repeat — for far longer than I thought. To me, it felt like only three, four weeks at most.

That loss of momentum is a real shame; I was really riding high on a motivational train, up until it derailed and crashed into the metaphorical mountainside. There have been times over the past weeks where I’ve tried to recapture that feeling, but each time, I was stared down by those old nagging questions: what is it that I’m really saying, and what is it that I even have to say? What progress is there to report, what is there worth writing out when it feels like the needle isn’t moving at all in real life? Where is the proof of that power I’ve waxed on about in recent months?

In times past, having my body break down on me and separate me from that better version of myself that regularly works out and leaving powerless in front of those sort of self-analytical questions would have left me racked with anxiety and doubt, ruminating and pining for days when things were “better”. This time around, there was no break. It simply was what it was: something to ride out and patiently convalesce through until I could get back to real work. In all areas of life, I’ve been put to the test in practicing those ideals of strength and stoicism that I covet, and I’ve been able to do so without feeling like an utter failure or an impostor pretending to be something he’s not. Putting it all into words has been the real challenge.

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s the challenge that I most need to conquer first. Every time I put mind to what it is I should be doing to bolster my marketable skill set, it all ends up taking back seat to the writing I do on this blog. It feels vain in it’s own way, placing so much priority on writing about myself than on other things that would be of real use to others (and myself, by way of income generation). But monetary success isn’t my driver, legitimate and tangible self-improvement is. Here is where I’ve plastered myself online in the most honest and self-deprecating way, and as I know I’ve written before, deleting it all or sweeping it under the rug won’t do. If I am as removed from that past self as I want to be and think I am, I should be able to write with more ease and focus, and my words should inherently reflect that personal change.

Now that all the lament and melancholy that used to pervade my entire waking day is no longer in place, it has become a lot easier to think and process things about myself, my “self”, and my life, and more importantly, to verbalize them. I am finally back in my own corner, filled with unshakable confidence and determination in all those moments in life that don’t end up a status update or in a blog post. And it feels great.

Finance For the Rest of Us – Part 1: The Importance of Records

(It’s been awhile since I last updated this blog, and while I meant to pick up where I left off a couple months back on those other topics I was writing about, I felt like composing something wherein I’m not the central subject. As a result, I ended up putting together this introductory post to a small mini-series of articles revolving around things I’ve learned and others could stand to benefit from knowing.)

When I initially started my current position, I was hired with the intention of doing part time writing to populate a website with content. Little after a week into the job, I rapidly became the full-time office and website admin. One of the biggest hurdles I faced in my initial months was being tasked with processing the accounting for the business, for various reasons:

  • I only vaguely acquainted with accounting principles, I had no idea what the actual practice of job costing entailed — I knew it only as a hazy concept.
  • The business is a sole proprietorship operating out of a home office, so the personal and business financials are interwoven and not conveniently siloed off into separate accounts.
  • Seeing no compelling reason to upgrade to a newer version (which I presently agree with), the company financials are administered using Quickbooks 2011: Contractor’s Edition.
  • Even with my lack of knowledge on the matter, I could immediately tell the previous “professional” bookkeepers that had worked on the business Quickbooks file had done a terrible job at it.

Now, in spite of ageist generalisms about seniors and technology, my boss is a pretty tech savvy gentleman. He has a NAS in his home network to centralize data across all machines in the office, and had invested in a dedicated document scanner that the old bookkeepers had at least mostly made consistent use of. However, they’d done an absolute trainwreck of a job with the digital and printed filing as they had with the Quickbooks file. Years of paperwork was scanned and either left in a single default bucket directory or spread out across the beginnings of various different filing systems on the workstations local drives and the network drive. They either had the default numeric date & time file name the scanner assigned it (YYYY_MM_DD_HH_MM.pdf), some other default generated file name (Scan001.pdf), or a generally bad manually assigned file name (invoice.pdf). The printed paper copies were out of order, in a folder structure that did not even remotely match the digital filing hierarchy.

In those first few months, I life threw me headfirst into an introductory crash course on personal & business finance/file management. In creating order out of the chaos that was the Quickbooks file, the digital archives, and the printed documents, I had two main takeaways:

  • The hands-on experience in file system architecture
  • The realization that everything I was doing at work was something I should be doing for myself

While I won’t pretend to be a master at this after having only done it once, the success I’ve had with it does leave me to believe that there’s something of value to be had in sharing what I’ve learned and done along the way. Though I can’t do it anymore, I left high school with the mathematical ability to calculate trigonometric functions and represent vectors on a cartesian plane as an equation, yet basic practical math skills such as personal accounting practices were never covered in the curriculum. Once I got a handle on this aspect of my job, a lot of it felt like things I definitely should have learned before leaving high school. This is just one in many areas in which I’ve found the public education system has failed to properly equip us for adult life.

Due to the breadth of scope in the things I’d say are critical to communicate, this is something that’ll definitely have to be done incrementally. So to start…

Finance For the Rest of Us – Part 1:
The Importance of Records

As I mentioned above, I’m no pro at this, but what I have learned by doing is that you can’t practice finance, the management and allocation of your monetary resources, without also doing accounting, which is exactly what the name implies: tracking where money is moving to and from. The key to being able to do this? Records; I called it a key, not a secret. Records is an umbrella term that basically amounts to having a copy of everything, from the doctor’s office visit to the copies of the results of the lab tests you leave with down to the receipt for the soda and pack of gum you bought at the convenience store on the way home. Many of us get by through life not fussing over every penny spent and earned, and most might find doing so to be overkill. Admittedly, even as a supporter of that practice, when it comes to actually doing it myself I have been guilty of finding it to be to unimportant relative to the time it would take to do it. Still, there’s a saying that holds some weight in inarguable truth: how you manage $100 is how you’ll manage $100,000. So, best do it right, right?

The biggest thing here is to make sure you always walk away from a transaction with a receipt. This means asking for one if necessary (convenience stores clerks have this habit of assuming you don’t want it since most people don’t bother with it), not throwing it away and putting it away in your wallet where you can find it later. If you just stuff it in your pocket,it’ll get wrinkled and become easy to lose/forget.

If you’ve seen Django Unchained*, remember Dr. Schultz in the opening scene: even when forcing the sale of a slave from a man whose brother he’d just killed and would soon after leave for dead at the hands of the other slaves he was transporting, he still took the time to produce a bill of sale for the transaction. Receipts matter!

If you’re getting that granular with receipt tracking, then you should assume that you’re going to need to be doing the same thing with bigger transactions too. Bills, bank statements, credit card statements, online purchase invoices, payment confirmations — anything that shows money moving in/out of your accounts should be saved and filed.

In an older world, this would have entailed buying a pack of folders from an office supply store and sorting your mail accordingly. In our modern-day internet support world, a considerable number of inbound records are distributed to us digitally instead of via mail. Rather than trying to manage a split digital/physical archive, we’re fortunate that technological advances have also provided us with severely decreased costs of storage memory and high quality portable image capturing devices built right into our cell phones. At the bare minimum, take good quality clear pictures of your receipts using your stock camera app. I recommend making sure of a dedicated scanning app which will quickly allow you to process, crop, and name your scan at the point of capture. On the iPhone, I’ve tried almost all of the major free apps and a few of the paid ones. From my experience, I would suggest either Scanbot (iOS / Google Play) or Scanner Pro by Readdle (iOS only). Business users will be able to get by using these applications, but depending on the size and/or volume of the business, a proper document scanner is arguably worth the few hundred dollars cost of entry.

A major rule of digital file storage is that if something only exists in one place, it may as well not exist at all. To that end, keep your paper copies of personal records if you have the space to accommodate them, but ensure that you make a digital copy of everything. Regardless of whether or not you keep your physical archive, make sure that your digital archive has a rolling backup somewhere as well, be it on a different computer, external hard drive, or in the cloud.

Now, once you get started with capturing and saving your records, ideally you’ll do whatever processing they require and get them sorted away. However, you may be pressed for time, or simply just not sure of what to do next. That’s okay — the important thing is that you have what you need available to you when the time comes to start making a system out of your accumulated records. As time goes by, you’ll gradually begin to reach the point where all of your records are stored, searchable, and readily available to you. But you can’t build something without your raw materials first, so to start, focus on collecting and keeping everything in as few different places as possible. When you get to the filing system creation, it’ll be a lot quicker to get through your backlog if you’re not having to try and locate your files in various folders.

For reference, here’s a table I formatted after poaching content from a few different articles on record keeping guidelines (whose source I can’t remember in order to cite & link):




Correspondence with Customers and Vendors

Bank Statements

Duplicate Deposit Slips

Paycheck Stubs (Reconcile With W-2)

Purchase Orders (Other than Purchasing Department Copy)

Canceled Checks

Receiving Sheets

Monthly and Quarterly Mutual Fund and Retirement Contribution Statements (Reconcile With Year-End Statement)


Stenographer’s Notebooks

Stockroom Withdrawal Forms


Employee Personnel Records (After Termination)

Credit Card Statements

Employment Applications

Medical Bills (In Case of Insurance Disputes)

Expired Insurance Policies

Utility Records

General Correspondence

Expired Insurance Policies

Internal Audit Reports

Internal Reports

Pretty Cash Vouchers

Physical Inventory Tags

Savings Bond Registration Records of Employees

Time Cards For Hourly Employees


Accident Reports, Claims

Supporting Documents for Tax Returns

Accounts Payable Ledgers and Schedules

Accident Reports and Claims

Accounts Receivable Ledgers and Schedules

Medical Bills (if tax-related)

Bank Statements and Reconsilitations

Property Records/Improvement Receipts

Cancelled Checks

Sales Receipts

Expired Contracts, Leases

Expired Option Records

Inventories of Products, Materials, Supplies

Invoices to Customers

Notes Receivable Ledgers, Schedules

Payroll Records and Summaries, Including Payment to Pensioners

Plant Cost Ledgers

Purchasing Department Copies of Purchase Orders

Sales Records

Subsidiary Ledgers

Time Books

Travel and Entertainment Records

Vouchers for Payments to Vendors, Employees, Etc.

Voucher Register, Schedules


Audit Reports from CPAs/Accountants

CPA Audit Records

Cancelled Checks for Important Payments (Especially Tax Payments)

Legal Records

Cash Books, Charts of Accounts

Important Correspondence

Contracts, Leases Currently in Effect

Income Tax Returns

Corporate Documents (Incorporation, Charter, Bylaws, Etc.)

Income Tax Payment Checks

Documents Substantiating Fixed Asset Additions

Investment Trade Confirmations


Retirement and Pension Records

Depreciation Schedules

Financial Statements (Year End)

General and Private Ledgers, Year End Trial Balances

Insurance Records, Current Accident Reports, Claims, Policies

Legal Records, Correspondence, and Other Important Matters

Minute Books of Directors and Stockholders

Mortgages, Bills of Sale

Property Appraisals by Outside Appraisers

Property Records

Retirement and Pension Records

Tax Returns and Worksheets

Trademark and Patent Registrations




Car Records

Keep Until Car is Sold

Credit Card Receipts

Keep With Credit Card Statements

Insurance Policies

Keep for the Life of the Policy


Keep 6 Years Beyond the Agreement

Pay Stubs

Keep Until Reconciled With Your W-2

Property Records/Improvement Receipts

Keep Until Property is Sold

Sales Receipts

Keep for the Life of the Warranty

Stock and Bond Records

Keep for 6 Years Beyond Selling

Warranties and Instructions

Keep for the Life of the Product

Other Bills

Keep Until Payment is Verified on the Next Bill

Depreciation Schedules and Other Capital Asset Records

Keep for 3 Years After the Tax Life of the Asset


Running for Beginners

Last month, I bookmarked an article on Lifehacker discussing how running isn’t cheap and the costs that come with taking it up as an workout routine. Thing is, unlike the Lifehacker of old, this article was just a complain piece to recommend and insert affiliate links to mentioned products, many of which aren’t necessary for beginner runners. $50 sports bras? $18 pairs of socks? A $40 hydration belt? Climate differences between my place of residence in comparison to the author’s, gear at those price points are for seasoned runners that are looking to keep pushing themselves further. While premium socks and a hydration belt would be nice to have on any run, my regular 5 mile route was mastered using regular ankle cut big-box store athletic socks and a $10 refillable plastic sports water bottle. Lifehacker of Gina Trapani’s days of yore would have posted an article with strategies and low-cost alternatives/DIY solutions. So rather than silently turn my nose up at it to myself, I decided it would be better put to use as motivation to write something myself — the piece that article should have been. Coming off a 2 month break from my old running routine, I’m finding the challenge of getting back in the habit to be not unlike how it felt when I first started running years ago at a starting weight of little over 250 lbs.

Gear Up

The Clothes

Running is just putting on clothes, shoes, and heading out the door, but those choices can make a big difference, and the cost of proper running gear can be very prohibitive. When I started running, I didn’t want to spend money on high-end running shoes and clothes because I wasn’t sure I was even going to stick with it. So, I ran in old cotton shorts and tees and whatever sneakers I had in my closet (90% of my shoe choices then were boots). It was sufficient, but unpleasant. Proper microfiber running shorts with built-in underwear and shirts ended up being a worthwhile upgrade. Rather than staying soaked and weighed down (and putting additional heavy wear on my day-to-day underwear).

Brand name apparel can be ridiculously expensive: $50+ for a pair of shorts $40+ for a shirt, $120+ for shoes. I’ve picked up some of that stuff at reasonable prices through online deals, outlets, and retail tent sales, and I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with the return on that investment. I’ve done shoes by Adidas, Nike, FILA, and Asics, clothes by Asics and Saucony.

To date, the best return on the dollar for comfort & wear has been Hanes’s Champion brand of athletic wear. Running shirts & shorts can be found at local Target stores for $20 bucks each, $13–15 if they’re on sale (and a little more if you happen to find them on clearance). Lately, I’ve found some results on Amazon, eBay, and Wish that look promising, but haven’t lured me away from just sticking with Champion stuff.

Target Champion Shorts

For the shoes, Payless Shoe Source is a handy retailer to use. I actually joined their mailing list to get additional %-off coupons when their Champion running shoes go on sale/clearance. This brings shoes down anywhere from $12–20 a pair depending on promotions at the time.

Champion Gusto Runner Shopping ListingChampion Gusto Runner Shopping Listing

Champion Gusto & Gusto Cut-Out Runners, My Go-To Shoes

So even without discounts, you’re looking at approximately $20 per item, and one pair of shorts and a shirt will not cut it if you’re running multiple times a week. Shoes should also be alternated, so you’ll want at least two pairs. I don’t wash my clothes after every run, as I don’t require them to be freshly clean before I go getting them drenched with sweat again. I let them air dry between runs, and wash them every 3 runs. This prolongs their lifespan (wash/dry cycles are hard on these things), and if you’re in CA, nets you bonus points for being drought-conscious. One thing I’ve been meaning to do myself is get a small washboard so that I can gently handwash and air dry my running clothes on my shower curtain rod. They’re not made of absorbent materials, and dryer cycles seem to put the most wear on them.

Finally, there’s socks. You can invest in luxury athletic socks if you want, but I maintain that those are only really for 10k/Marathon runners. I buy various athletic socks online if I see a deal, but by default I’ll pick up a 6-pair pack of Champion socks at my local Target.

The Accessories


If you’re going to be taking your phone with you, you’re not going to want to have to hold it the entire time you’re out running. Out of the few that I’ve tried, I’ve been most pleased with the TuneBand products available on Amazon. Not only is it a quick and low-fuss option, it also has replacement elastic bands available for purchase. Over use, those stretch and warp, and it’s nice to not have to buy a whole case altogether.

Tune Band


I’ve tried various $20–30 bluetooth headphones off of Amazon, and they’re all been consistently underwhelming. Their maximum volume isn’t high enough, audio playback occassionally stutters, their weight makes it hard for them to stay in place (even using Comply foam tips). If you’re going to go the bluetooth route, go with a pair of Jaybirds or some other big name in that space. I can’t vouch for those, but I can say the 5 star reviews the afforadble options get on Amazon are certainly generous.

I recommend sticking with wired headphones for the time being. Even then, you’re still going to have a hard time finding the option that works best for you. Here I’ve used quite a few different sports headphones — YurBuds, Sennheiser, Skullcandy, Sol Republic, and JLab, to name a few. My input here is to be wary of headphones marketed as sweat-proof; most of the time, it ends up not being the case. Headphones with good sound quality and an inline remote/mic make it easy to change tracks/volume without having to distract yourself with your phone’s screen, something that can be really hard to do when it’s strapped to your bicep at an inconvenient angle and your fingers are moist with perspiration, but they’re also the ones most prone to failure. I’m not a profuse sweater, but even so I’ve ended up returning far too many pairs of headphones due to sweat causing them to trigger pause/play and volume controls at random without any actual button presses taking place. If you can find a pair that holds up, great. I prefer to avoid the potential for failure, and stick to headphones with no mic/remote these days.

The other big issue I’ve had with headphones are fit. It’s distracting and annoying to have to constantly fiddle with earbuds and put them back into place. I’ve noticed sport headphones these days now come with stabilizing ear tips, but mileage can vary with those. The best consistent solution for me has been to buy a pair of Comply foam tips. Those expand in your ear canal after you pinch and insert them, so you get a great seal that results in firm placement and great sound quality.

Comply Foam Tips Webpage Screencap

Going with the absolute low cost option, a solid $10–15 pair of headphones and $10 for a pack of foam tips will have you covered.

JLab Jbuds 2 Shopping Listing

JLabs JBuds 2 are my current running headphones and have gone down over 50% in price since I bought mine. The supplied stabilizers don’t provide as solid a seal as some Comply foam tips would, but they’re  good enough to where I haven’t had the need to buy some.

The Maintenance Supplies

Another “hidden” cost of running is the stuff you’ll need for personal care; as a result from the conveniences and comforts of modern life, running puts certain strains on your body as it adjusts to the habit of doing what nature designed it to do, and you’re going to need a few thigs to help along the way.


If you’re running at any time of the day that isn’t dusk/night, you’ll want to make sure to apply this. It’s common sense. My skin tone and genetics don’t leave me pre-disposed to sunburns, but I still pass on the unnecessary UV damage nonetheless.


Whether it’s just petroleum jelly or a water/oil-based personal lubricant, you’re going to want something to minimize the friction on your skin. At the beginning, I had a bit of an issue with chafing due to all the fat on my thighs. After burning a lot of it off and taking up longer distances are higher frequencies, I still found it necessary to avoid a burning agitation of my nipples.

The Oatmeal Comic

(©2016 Matthew Inman)

Dracula kisses do not feel like kisses. They feel like bee stings. Be kind to your nipples. Lube ’em up if you’re going for more than a couple miles.

Salicylic Acid or Callus/Corn Shaver

Running puts a lot of pressure and friction on your feet. Despite whatever preventative measures you take, they’re going to rough up a little bit the more you do it. In order to keep your feet from looking ragged, you’re going to have to get that dead skin off. I started with salicylic acid (about $5 a vial), but as the rough patches got bigger and harder with time, I ended up needing to do multiple coats to get them off. Eventually, spent the $10 on a safety razor to just trim it off. It’s very safe and practically impossible to cut yourself with one, and takes far less time than applying salycylic acid and waiting for it to dry.

Corn Shaver


Let Your Imagination Run With You

When you’re running for an extended period of time, you run the risk of getting bored. You’re not speeding by at 60 MPH like you in a car, so the things that are off in the distance take a while to actually get to, especially when you’re starting off and haven’t developed your pace.

My workaround to this was to employ that good ol’ childhood imagination. I’d let myself pretend I was a character in one of those high-action worlds of powerful protagonists — in my case, that fell to my favorite video game franchises.

Part of my route involves crossing a long bridge that passes over a wide highway. I would recreate the Clash on the Big Bridge scene from Final Fantasy V in my head as a Hollywood calibre production, and project myself into the midst of it.

only like:

 photo Squall_Vs__Sephiroth_DISSIDIA_by_th.gif

If you decide to give that whole “power of imagination” thing above a try, then having a fitting soundtrack will really help with immersion. For the video game crowd, studios will usually publish soundtracks and remix/rearrangement albums for games. In addition, the indepedent music scene at Overclocked Remix has a treasure trove of additional tracks to make use of. I highly recommend their various Mega Man remix tracks. So explore with different things, and run yourself through your favorite movie, book, or game.

(OR Let Your Mind Work On Real Stuff Instead)

If the imagination option sounds like it’s outside your wheelhouse and not something you’d enjoy doing, real life can be just as effective an escape as fantasy; many a run of mine have doubled as a workout and a self-therapy or productivity planning session. Rather than focus on how hard it is, how tired you are, or how much longer you still have to go, plan ahead what it is you’re going to do after your run.

Get the RIght Rhythm to the Burn

Following on the theme from the talking point above, variety is important in order to keep you from losing interest in going on a run — going running shouldn’t necessarily mean putting your mind to work. Sometimes, you do just need a good music playlist to zone out to and focus on your run. Put music to your workout — hardly anything new and groundbreaking here, most everyone does this by default. Thing is, your choices can impact your performance negatively as well as positively.

By all means, listen to whatever you motivates you to get out the door. But as you start pushing your endurance and pace, give yourself that extra boost by picking something upbeat that drives you. Some people like curating playlists for themselves, and a collection of fast-tempo tracks would take a very small amount of time to make. For anyone looking for a no-fuss option, I highly reccommend Spotify’s running originals. They have adjustable BPMs, and auto-set themselves at the start by using your phone’s sensors to match your pace. Just pick a theme and go — I myself am partial to Burn, Chase, and Escape mixes.

Spotify Running Webpage

Use Apps

Another good tactic to motivate yourself would be to make a game out of your workouts. I used to use ZombiesRun as a good way to add atmosphere to my night runs and drive me to tie the laces and get out of the door, but these days I prefer to just run to music and log using an activity tracker — meeting a certain number of miles each month is game enough for me.

Searching the app stores for phones will bear no shortage of running apps. I’ve tried pretty much all of them, and would recommend anyone new to them to just skip ahead to RunKeeper. It’s the most well designed, easy to use, and integrated with other health tracking apps/services. With the more recent updates, they’ve really done a good job of integrating Spotify, so you can fire up RunKeeper, pick a Spotify running mix, and start your run without having to manually switch between apps.

Run Keeper

Bring a Buddy

I’m not really much of a social exerciser. I usually prefer to be able to move at my own pace and not have to worry about keeping up/not leaving behind others. However, the times that I have gone running with other people, it’s proved to be a delightful change of pace. The only reservation I would have about this approach is becoming too reliant on the social aspect of it and not wanting to go out for a run alone.

If you happen to know other people who run and use the same tracking app as you do (or at least cross-post to another social network you follow each other on), you can still have a social component to your running even if you’re going out alone. I’ve had a few friends pop up as recommended Runkeeper buddies, but no one seems to actively use it as much as I do.

Breathe Smart

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome when I started running regularly was the issue of breath. I was an obese smoker, and running a mile under 15 minutes was a big deal for me. As second-nature as breathing is to us, doing it optimally for physical activity is not an automatic response. Some people will run and try to breathe entirely through their noses, others with just their mouths. Some huff and puff rapidly, while others will take slow and deep long breaths between strides. While everyone’s body responds differently, what I’ve found to be best, after experimenting with the various breathing tips you can find online, is making sure that you are concurrently breathing through your nostrils and mouth with each inhalation & exhalation. It takes some getting used to doing it naturally, but it doesn’t take long.

Another problem I frequently had when I started running was the dreaded side stitch, which nobody knows to be its definitive cause. One article I read suggested slowing your pace and exhaling in step with the foot opposite the side you feel the pain on in your abdomen. I had limited and varying degrees of success with that. One thing I did find that my body responded well to was employing the Ujjayi breath of yoga at a slower pace. If you’re not familiar with it, see if a local yoga studio offers free trials. Here in San Diego, there are plenty of Core Power Yoga franchise locations that you can do a week for free at. It’s good to take up yoga not just for the breathing exercise, but as a supplemental workout you can do at home to improve your strength and endurance for running. If group activity isn’t your thing, Gaiam’s Yoga Studio app is a great way to practice from the comfort of your own home. That app worked well enough that when I went into my first heated yoga class at Core Power, most of the movements were already familiar and managable enough to perform and hold in unison with everyone else in the room.

Make it Minty

Another tactic that I found to be helpful for me was to hit myself with mint before and during my run. When I first started running, I would have a mug of hot green mint tea, and take a cold bottle of water with a few millileters of mint extract mixed in. I also would pop in a couple of sticks of mint gum (those who don’t trust their lingual kinesthetic awareness enough to not end up biting off their toungue chewing while running would be better off substituting hard mints to suck on or those dissolving breath strips). You know how deep breaths taste sweet and cool when you have mint? It makes running breathing that much more pleasant as well.


You Will Suck

If you start out as I once did, largely sedentary and extremely overweight, you are not going to perform like an athlete. You already know it, but you’ll still feel lousy for it. I would always think of middle school PE class, how target times for running a mile — 3 laps around the adjoining community park — were 6–8 minutes. The really athletic kids could do it in under six. The non-athletic under 10, and the overweight & obese like myself at 12–15 minutes. I picked up running right when activity apps started hitting the nascent App Store, and would be highly disppointed with my times still matching up with those from back when I was 50lbs heavier in grade school. It felt like no matter what I did, no matter how hard I trained, I would be the exception to the rule. I wouldn’t improve over time, I’d always be stuck in the bottom tier as an abysmal runner.

But stick with it, it gets better. I say it to people all the time: if I, overweight as I was and (still) with a smoking habit could do it, anyone else can too.

You Will Ache

Beginning running was hard not only because of the high fat-to-minimal-muscle ratio, but also because of the other stresses it puts on the body. It was not uncommon for me to feel my leg muscles ready to go for another run, but unable to do it on account of all the blisters and pains on my feet. During the intial phases, it’s a good idea to double down and wear two pairs of tighly pulled on socks. For additional protection, Johnson & Johnson makes a friction block stick that you can apply to your feet much like deodorant.

As your legs and core become used to the motions of running, you’ll build up a small degree of muscle mass. This, along with learning to moderate your breathing, will allow you to overcome (and eventually, eliminate) cramping up with a side-stitch.

You Will Quit

The ratio of phases you’ll have where you’re wanting to run versus those where you don’t are stacked in favor of the latter. You’ll think of things you have planned that you don’t want to be tired and sore for. You’ll negotiate with yourself and think you’ll eat light and make up for it later. You’ll be demotivated by how slowly you’re improving, and unwilling to deal with the muscle soreness and the blisters. And after a while, all those mental acrobatics will become just as unpalatable as the thought of exercise, and you’ll settle for just not doing it and getting back to it “later”.

This is one thing that may get easier to manage over time, but doesn’t ever really go away. And in order for it to get easier, you have to overcome it a few times and fight yourself for the victory, you have to exercise willpower and commit. I didn’t really start to get better at my running until I started planning my day around it, what else can I do in a day if I have work for 8 hours and 1.5 hours set aside afterwards for exercise? Sounds simple, but it’s not.

Myself as an adult without any pets, children, or significant other, assuming 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours at work, and 1 hour commuting to and from those points per day cycle theoretically leaves only 7 hours of the day to use for personal time — eating, using the bathroom, cleaning, bathing, getting dressed, exercise, phone/internet time, etc. Since those are spread throughout the day and not in a continous block of productive personal time and there’s real world time limitations to consider, it’s really easy to lose track of that time and not use it as productively as possible. You leave work at 5 PM and get home at 6PM. You want to running, but you also need to grab groceries and will need to cook dinner and eat it; going on a run first means you won’t be done until 7:30–8PM, and driving to the store, shopping, and driving home won’t put you in the kitchen starting on food until 9PM at the earliest. By the time you’re done, you’re eating dinner past 10 PM, left with less than two hours before a late midnight bedtime, and still have a sink full of dirty dishes to deal with. So it’s easier to tell yourself working out is something you can’t afford, go buy groceries, eat & watch TV, and go to bed.

It falls to you to take whatever measures you can to make your exercise happen for the day. In the scenario above, order groceries online during your lunch break. Get your shopping planned and done for the week during the weekend. For every problem that can get in the way of your workouts, there is a solution to be found — you just have to make the effort to find it.

In Closing

Skimming over what I’ve written, I can’t think of anything that I’ve forgotten to mention. Above are the most affordable & reliable options for running gear I’ve found, and the pitfalls and strategies I’ve come across along my journey as a runner. This is the pamphlet I would give to new runners. I never imagined I’d be able to run as long and far as I have. Adopting running as a regular part of your life isn’t as easy and simple as it sounds, but it doesn’t have to be a cost-prohibitive necessary torture session. With enough persistence and the right frame of mind, it can become something you enjoy and grow to love.


It’s hard to believe that March is almost at its end. Even though I’ve been telling myself I need to plant my ass down and write an update for “a while”, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since my last entry about that inconsequential social media block from BT. One of the main drawbacks to going so long without composing an entry is the loss of momentum — even with the blog feed pulled up on screen, I’m hard-pressed to remember what all I’ve written lately and what topics I’ve made mental notes to write about I’ve actually touched upon. It’s difficult enough to recall what it is I did just last week without having to use a point of reference like social media updates and camera roll snapshots, much less what it is I wrote about almost a whole calendar month ago. Now that I do find myself sitting in front of a text editor ready to get at least one of those talking points fleshed out and posted, it’s challenging to pick one and get to to typing — not unlike the exasperation that comes when tidying up a room that’s a catastrophic cluttered mess.

Having taken a good break after the introductory paragraph above, I’ve finally picked a thread to pull on: purpose. Late last year, I wrote an entry on the subject and concluded that it came down to “power”; specifically, how I went about trying to rediscover mine. Re-reading it now, it feels like reading something I wrote much further in the past, but the underlying idea still holds true. I know that I still have plenty more to say on that journey through my own personal hell, not to ruminate on it but to have something that may be useful to others come out of it. That said, in a fashion similar to how I looked back on 2014 in that entry and saw an entirely different state of mind, so too can I do for the ones I wrote in 2015. On this side of a new year (and another decade in age), I’ve now spent months of my life in the place of personal cohesion and fortitude that I spent years trying to obtain. Now that my “self” has been removed as an obstacle, now I’m faced with tackling the reality of my existence.

At this stage in life, I’m past the mournful remorse of needing to spend so much of my time putting together that broken individual I used to be and the setbacks it’s left me with. I browse my social media feeds these days, and see the peers I used to be adolescents with now become working professionals, homeowners, parents, and so on. Meanwhile, I’m little over a month into 30 years old, and feel like I’m at a place most people find themselves somewhere in their mid 20’s. Where in the past this used to be a demoralizing point to acknowledge, I now possess the clarity and acceptance to actually do something about it and make up for all that lost ground.

“Fear and Anxiety are what drive us to compare ourselves to others because we start deriving our sense of who we are and what our value is based on how we stand next to other people”

—Merlin Mann, Back to Work Episode 4

I’m in a good and stable place at the moment. I have a day job that I enjoy and pays moderately well. Though I regularly feel as if I do not have enough time to make the progress I’d like to, I know that I’ve got a comparative advantage over many people out there. I do not have the obligations of dependents or the considerable debts that come with educational loans that most others are working at paying off at my age. Yet, on the flip side, I’m also keenly aware of my disadvantages. My professional skill set is highly generalized. I don’t have anything by way of vocational or academic accreditation. As a matter of fact, I’m technically not even a high school graduate outside of the state of California; back in the early-mid 2000’s, the only out I had to avoid being a high school drop-out or repeating a year of general public education after the events of the home/personal life at the time took their toll on my credit requirements was to take the state’s California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) and obtain a certificate that is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.

Though I’ll abstain from going off recapping in detail, what I’ve already explored multiple times in entires past does bear repeating at this time: my life after high school that has not been the best it could have been. Despite the ups and positive experiences I’ve had along the way, I lost whatever shreds of strength and fortitude I believed myself to have. I gave up on life. I became chronically depressed, I stagnated, and over time, grew to resent myself to the point of outright hatred, disdain, and disgust. Though I’ve only admitted this next part to only a few close friends, it got so bad in 2012 that I got to the point where I wanted to die. I never took up any actively self-destructive behaviors or ran the risk of suicide, but for a good long while, I did start my days secretely hoping that some mortal tragedy would find me, getting plowed down by a runaway bus or taken out in a terrible car crash.

2005 was when things first started to spiral downward, and 2011–2013 were my darkest times.

“No one should brave the underworld alone”

— Poe, “Hello”

But I did. I didn’t have the love or support of family or close friends to guide me through or alleviate the suffering, all I had was the pain, doubt, and self-hate that goverened me. Drowned in the chaos, I finally chose the metaphorical death in lieu of the literal one. I chose to externalize and detach from my past and my emotions. I chose to accept and believe that I didn’t have anyone, and that I didn’t need anyone. I chose to let that old self die, and to build a new one of out the handful of remnants that I allowed to remain.

Which brings me to circle back to the topic of purpose. This is still about power. These days, not so much on my efforts on how to find it, but rather how I did, and more importantly, how to begin utilizing it productively. That tumultuous past I’ve endured is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but one that the Internet and current events clearly indicate others do share. I read about people, children even, who succumb to their hardships and misfortunes to where they do reach that point that I never met, where they do decide to give up completely and end it. Yet, I know first-hand that it is possible to go from losing everything, fiercely detesting one’s self, and feeling absolutely lost and hopeless to being strong, determined, and capable. But as I’ve suggested above, getting away from where you don’t want to be is only the first part of the battle — the second half, and arguably the harder part of the whole, is getting yourself to where you do want to be.

The Sting of BTrayal

So, the post title is a little on the melodramatic side, but some word plays can’t be resisted…

This past weekend, I was reading through the Twitter stream and realized that it’d been a good while since I’d seen a tweet from BT’s account. I found myself wondering if he’d given up on Twitter, since BT also happens to be the name of telecom provider in the UK, and due to the shared name, he frequently receives complaint tweets from UK Twitter users. I tapped over to his profile in my Twitter client and saw that my account was shown as not following his. I was a little perplexed, since I didn’t recall ever unfollowing him, and pushed on the button to resubscribe to his feed. That’s when I learned that I’d been blocked.


I was a little incredulous, and in a spout of denial, considered it may have just been errant behavior by my phone’s Twitter client. I fired up a web browser and navigated to his page, only to have my finding confirmed:

BT Blocked Twitter Account


At this point, I found myself dealing with two distinct reactions. The first was anxious wonder, trying to think of what could have possibly led to this. Maybe I’d been blowing up his notifications with constant tweets? A quick Twitter search ruled that one out. Perhaps something I’d said? Re-reading the content of the tweets in that search result, I saw nothing but my usual praise and support for the man & his work. And as I was running through the possibilities in my mind, the second reaction started to really take hold: frustration with myself, a freshly-turned-30 year-old man giving something as trivial as social media more importance that it should receive.

The thing is, it really did matter to me that much. Over the years, my passion for music has waned considerably. Where my teenage self had so many musicians and bands that I felt so passionately about, BT was one of the handful of artists whose output still managed to illicit a strong and legitimate engagement from me. So much that instead of just streaming, I actually bought his music:

As much utter disdain as I have for Los Angeles, I once happily made the trip out to catch one of his shows and waited until 2:30 AM for his set to start:

And while I don’t have a hard calculated statistic, I would guess that 1 out of every 10 tweets would get engagement from him via either reply or being favorited (which as of recent is now a Twitter “like”).

IMG_1124-2 IMG_0525-2


(I used to screen cap all of them, but those were the only two I could readily find and seemed sufficient to illustrate my point here.)

Just the other week, I had a friend that I’d turned onto BT’s body of work tell me that he thought A Song Across Wires was pretty much the best album ever, that listening to it consistently made him feel like being out in the desert out with all of his friends and blissfully dancing the night away. He is just one of the many to whom I’ve preached the gospel of BT over the recent years.

So, yeah, it’s “just the Internet”, but those interactions were my own slice of the upside-to-social-media pie, the direct engagement between artist and fan that I passively had with one of the few music artists that I still really cared about. Going from occasional reply/favorite to flat out blocked without any identifiable cause has left me (annoyingly) feeling somewhat like a teenage girl/gay wondering why the guy hasn’t called/isn’t returning texts.



Substitute “Friendship” with “Support” and this meme feels pretty on point.

Buuuuuutttt…all that said, my adult self recognizes that in the pre-mobile internet days I grew up in, this would have never even happened. Maybe it was an unintentional block, maybe he had a reason for it, who knows. Aside from the fact that I do admittedly feel less inclined to promote his work word-of-mouth, it doesn’t change my enjoyment or respect for the man and his work — A Song Across Wires is still easily sits towards the top of the “best albums I’ve ever heard” list.

10 Over 30

Ten days ago, I hit the big 30 milestone. To celebrate, I got taken to Arizona by my best friend to make my first ever visit to the Grand Canyon, a trip long overdue that had been promised as a 29th birthday present. All good things are worth waiting for, they say, and this was no exception. We both took Friday the 12th and Monday the 15th off from work to have a four day weekend for our trip. It turned out to be a very insightful and transformative experience. As much as I feel the need to expound upon that in a longform entry, I’m believe I summed it up effectively in the Instagram-to-Facebook cross-post I composed after our return:

My favorite snapshot from this weekend. All my thanks to Chris for giving me a perfect 30th birthday. I came back from Arizona feeling like I found important things there (and not a day over 29).

Out there, hiking down what felt like the edge of the world with just him, everything else in my life/past ceased to matter completely; I was whole, and I was happy. The family and past loves I’m missing in my life leave me lacking nothing — I’ve got Finneas, and he’s way better than any blood relative or boyfriend could ever be.

Today I turned 30. Spent it on an adventure & having the perfect day with my favorite person.

A photo posted by Jimmie Lew (@the.chexican) on

Prior to heading out on the trip, there were a few entries that I wanted to draft and get out of the way before turning a new decade in age. That didn’t happen, and the same can be said for my plans to compose those entires in the time since I got back from that trip. For the past five years that I’ve been posting on this blog, I’ve been through so many ups and downs, finding my way and putting myself together. In the 203 entries (70 unpublished & archived). LIttle over 200 entries over the course of 1,825 days, many of them repeating myself trying to find the perfect way to communicate what it is that got me to that dark place I used to be in and finding my way out of it. As I know I’ve mentioned before, my output on that front has been so limited because I’ve felt actual progress has been so minimal. In these past five years, I’ve remained married to that melancholy, feeling trapped and unable to move forward, an impostor and a hopeless fraud. While there has been the occassional entry at times in which I have found empowerment and momentum, the feelings have always been temporary and fleeting. At the end of each day, I’ve still seen myself as a tragically flawed and broken individual, unworthy of the expectation for a good happy life, resigned to fighting an unending battle of self-improvement to make myself, at best, marginally worthwhile.

Yet, for those four days that I can think of no other way to describe other than “magical”, I truly was free of all of that. I simply was, and I was happy. I had no tragic past. I had no remorse over the family I used to have and lost when I decided I needed to turn my back on them in order to start truly healing. That self-prescribed total emotional shut down of recent years didn’t exist. All I had was that present moment, one in which being happy and thankful to be alive was once again second-nature.

10 days later and counting, I still haven’t let that slip away from me again.

False Start

In what feels like the blink of an eye, January 2016 is already about to be over, and the past 30 days haven’t exactly been the best for me. I ended 2015 on a high and optimistic note, but in the weeks since then, I’ve been dealing with what has felt like systematic physiological failure. I can’t recall the exact order and/or duration, but off the top of my head, this month I’ve had:

  • Bronchitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Persisting knee joint pain
  • Soreness on the balls of my feet
  • Oral inflammation
  • Dental pain (I think those wisdom teeth are now effectively on borrowed time)

It seems that fall last December was just the tip of the iceberg, and continuous wave of physical illnesses — along with the early nights and cold winter weather — knocked the fight out of me. As soon as I felt good to go and over one thing, the next one would kick in. Rather than getting bummed out and depressed about it, I ended up mentally checking out, using a fair amount of marijuana to mitigate the pain & discomfort and shifting my diet to one where I’d eat whatever the hell I wanted to.

To say to myself (and write publicly online) about this big push to make with the coming new year only to find myself betrayed by my body and incapable of following through…old, broken, hopeless…those are the types of thoughts I was frequently visited by. Even though I didn’t let the feelings take hold and get to me, it didn’t make the thoughts I was thinking throughout this time any less tiresome to process and push out of mind.

All of this is “the latest”, the reality that I have as a material for an update, and it’s obviously not the entry I would have wanted to find myself composing one month into the new year. In addition to being something I’d rather not have to think/talk/write about, doing so would then require doing something about it, which the past weeks have left me doubtful about being able to do.

Even now, this cloudy & windy Sunday afternoon, I’m not feeling anywhere near 100%. Honestly, it feels like my max has lowered and 80% is as good as I can get. Still, looking back on where my thought processes and general outlook has been this month, I’ve been contradicting my personal philosophy and resilient self-perception. Best to put a stop to it now rather than let it become the precedent for the remaining 11 months.