Lean Gardening

The photo above was from my first roll of home-processed color film last year, and I’m looking forward to the summer this year.  Even though this was a mild winter, I am realizing as the first good weekends of spring roll around that once again i struggled with some version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – the Winter Blues.   I have got to find a way to combat the feelings of “Blah!” during the winter.

As i wrote about last June, this happens to me every year.   Common themes:  I take less photos, I’m less active, I drink too much and watch soccer, movies, and listen to music instead of being active.   But after a couple weekends of being outside and working in the yard and playing golf, I’m feeling refreshed and motivated.   Ironic that it happened right around Easter, the season of renewal and rebirth.

One of the things that has me outside this spring is another attempt at gardening.  The first couple years we lived in this house, we planted tomatoes and peppers, but the chipmunks and deer enjoyed them more than we did.  The deer also devoured most of our ornamental flowers as well, including deer-resistant plants like rhododendron.

Last year, I was finally able to deter the deer in the yard, and I made progress on the chipmunks and will continue that battle, so I decided to give gardening another attempt.  A deciding factor was the price of certain greens last year.  For example, I really like rapini, or broccoli rabe.  It was selling for $7 a bunch last year, and the quality of the flavor was disappointing.  So why not try to grow my own?

I didn’t want to put in a garden plot, I don’t have a roto-tiller, and I don’t like pulling weeds.  So I started applying my Lean process-improvement mindset to having a vegetable garden.  I remembered having a book years ago called Square Foot Gardening, so I tracked down a new copy.  After reading through the book, I believe that Square Foot Gardening, or SFG, could accurately be described as Lean Gardening.

SFG uses 80% less space, has little to no weeds, and allows you to grow a lot more types of plants in that smaller space.    As Mrs. Outspoken and I started discussing what plants we’d want to grow, I had a very long list of candidates.  So we ranked them from 1 to 5 in priority, and planted all of the top priority plants, either hers or mine (otherwise, beets and radishes wouldn’t have made the cut), and then planted the top scoring remaining plants.

When all was said and done, there were 31 seed packets on the dining room table.   “You’re never going to have room for all those” was the Mrs.’ response.  But that’s the amazing thing about SFG – not only do we have the space, I already had it planned out, and we probably have 2-3 years worth of seeds.

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My dining room – in garden planting mode

We installed one  3’x6’x14″ and two 2’x12’x7″ raised beds.  Those beds provide us the opportunity to plant 66 squares, with each square possible of providing three harvests per year.  So after laying out our plants, I had room for eight additional plants, which will be comprised of tomatoes and herbs.   Here’s what our garden layout looks like on paper:

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I planted 14 squares in a little over an hour last Sunday morning, and five more on Monday night.  Of those 14, I think 11 have a second square to be planted, but I want to stagger those so the crops ripen in a staggered fashion.  For example, there are 16 carrots in a square, and I plan to plant 3 varieties of carrots, 2 squares each.   If I planted all of them this weekend, they would likely all be ready around the same time.   I wouldn’t need 96 carrots at one time!

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Our Raised beds for Square Foot Gardening

This is also very Lean in it’s concept: produce only what is needed when it is needed.  So I planted three squares to start with, but then will plant one square per week of carrots for the next three weeks.  Even that may be too much, but I’m just in my first “do” phase of this round of gardening.  I’ll check the results and make adjustments as needed.

Likewise, I’ll be staggering the beets.  I’m the only one who eats them, so having 4 squares of beets, each producing 9 beets, becoming ready for harvest simultaneously makes no sense.  But this is how we’ve traditionally planted gardens.   Part of that is probably because way back in the old days, people canned all the excess.   So having waves of crops ripen actually smoothed out the canning process, because you needed some volume of veggies to can, and also, everything was getting canned, so it probably made sense to just keep the harvest flowing to maximize the canning process.

An interesting part of this was that it seems like the hardest and most time consuming aspect so far – other than perhaps deciding what to plant and where to buy my seeds (the whole “Plan” part of Lean and PDCA), was the actual process of preparing the soil.   I also find this interesting, because in real life we often don’t spend enough time preparing the soil – preparing for change and growth.  In Lean, this is often referred to as “nemawashi” – which literally translates to “going around the roots”, as in placing new soil around the roots of a plant to prepare it for transplanting.  Mixing up 42 cubic feet of peat moss, vermiculite, and 5 different compost blends took me all of three hours, and a lot of sweat.  That’s after probably 5-6 hours of rounding up all the ingredients.

The soil mixture I was using – which is defined in the SFG book as “Mel’s Mix” – is apparently so uncommon in my area, that I had to special order the vermiculite.  Anywhere I asked for it, when the asked me what i was doing, tried to steer me to “something that will work great” – but they didn’t stock what i wanted.  Lack of demand or too large of a minimum buy (which translates back to lack of demand) was the primary reason.

So I’ve spent weeks planning and thinking about how to do this project.  Probably a couple days  actually building the foundations of the garden – the raised beds and the soil.  I’ll spend what appears to be hours planting seeds.  Then I’ll spend probably an equal amount of hours building trellises to support the plants once they’re growing.  All to reap a semi-continuous harvest of organic vegetables well into fall – if all goes well.

Five days later: We had our first sprouts!  Radishes, Rapini, Mizuna, and Arugula all started pushing through!  It may sound silly, but I was really excited to see my first “crops” start growing!

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And the great thing is – most of the hard work done to lay the foundation this year makes next spring’s garden even easier.  I see applying Lean in my workplace, and in my life, in much the same light.  Do the hard work up front, do it right, and there’s a steady stream of rewards.  Prepare the soil, then as the work progresses, build a support system to continue the growth.  After all the hard work, you just need to keep up with the harvest and sustain, at least until it’s time to make another improvement.

So do the right thing early in the process; do the hard work, and prepare the soil.  Have the tough discussions, and don’t settle for the easier, more readily available alternatives.  Be different, and dare to be great.

In work, life, and love, getting your hands dirty and preparing the soil will usually yield a bountiful harvest.

 

 

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March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

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9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.

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It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:

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A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.

 

 

Another load of vinyl

After making it through December buying “only” about 140 albums, I’ve once again picked up a large collection to enjoy searching through to find some hidden gems.

Here’s what the car looked like when I pulled into the driveway:

All together it was 31 postal crates of 12″ singles and LP’s from primarily the 1980’s and 1990’s, all loaded into one large American sedan.  In this situation, and old “boat” of a car still has some practical value.

What’s really cool to me is that this collection is from when the popularity of  vinyl started to fade, so there could be some real gems in here.  Once I got it into the house, it looked a little more manageable:

Once i get it sorted, I fully intend to return the US Postal crates.  I expect I will find several additions to my personal collection, a lot of good value for resale, and still  be able to sell the remains for more than what I paid for the original 31 crates.

It was billed as 2000 records, but my initial samples average about 80 per crate, so it might be closer to 2500 records.  My random samples at the sellers location indicated the records are in very good condition, most showing no visible wear on the vinyl, while the covers have some wear and some labels, as it was part of a club DJ’s collection who worked int he 80’s and 90’s.

So while a lot of it isn’t going to be what I typically buy, for the price I couldn’t pass it up.  I got everything for $150.   I was very quickly able to find that much of value in things I could resell in just a few crates, so it was worth it.  Essentially I expect to get everything I want to sell and keep for free, and flip the rest for a couple hundred dollars.

I started looking through the first crate, plus a few that were stacked on top of it.  Totally random, it was just the one sitting next to me at my laptop.  In the first 50 albums, I found 10 that combined are worth $150.   Here’s the first 10 that should pay for the entire lot:

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Not exactly my cup of tea, but they should sell relatively quickly.  At that pace of finding ‘winners’, assuming 2,000 albums, I have potentially $6,000 worth of vinyl (before taxes, shipping, fees, etc), and that’s just the first pass at the things I can define value.  I think a lot of this dance music and singles have a market, I just need to find it.

So there’s perhaps $3600 profit to be had from 20% of the collection.  Not a bad return on $150.  And that doesn’t count selling the other 80% for what I paid for it originally, or probably a little more.  As i finished the first crate, I’m at about $220 of value, time 31 is  close to $7k, so I’m excited about this buy.  Even if I’m half wrong, it’s a great return on $150, and it’s great entertainment.  I’m excited to play some of the singles of songs from my youth.

The seller had many people contact him, but I was the only one to commit to purchasing under the condition that the collection was what he described it as being.  I was confident that a large lot of 1980’s and 90’s pop and rock vinyl would have some real gems, and i probably couldn’t go wrong.  When you know what your objective, be confident and take a few risks.

This sort of makes up for the lot in December which was largely in poor condition, but also had a ton of 45’s as part of the deal.  I’ll still make some money on that deal, but not every buy is going to be as good as this one.  And it may not pan out as great as the initial sample, but that’s OK.

Keep your eyes open, work hard, and you can create some luck.

 

Small changes

I wrapped up 2016 on vacation from work, but unfortunately I’ve also been battling a cold almost the entire time.  Since December 27th, cold-induced bronchitis has limited my activity.  My wife jokes that every time I take a winter vacation I get sick, and it’s hard for me to remember one when I didn’t.  Last year. I worked through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, and I didn’t get sick.  This year, I’ve been sick twice: After Thanksgiving, and after Christmas.

So while that may seem convincing to some, I think there’s another factor:  consumption of alcohol. Both of these rounds of colds were preceded by drinking a little too much the night before.   There seems to be some research to suggest heavy drinking can affect our immune system’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours.   Maybe it’s common sense that I just had never considered…

After I factor in the expense of drinking, I have decided I’m going to curtail my drinking for both health and financial reasons.  There’s probably at least $1,500 annually (and maybe upwards of $2,500 when I consider all spending) I can cut from my spending on alcohol, which when I think about it is a lot of alcohol.  I have slightly expensive tastes, though, so it’s not like I’m pounding cases of Milwaukee’s Best every weekend.  Of the things I buy, bourbon is $30-$50+ a bottle, craft beer is $30-$60 a case, and wine is about $10-$12 a bottle.  And drinking at a restaurant or bar is just crazy expensive, even the few times a month I do that.

So since I’ve spent a majority of the Winter Holidays not drinking,  I might as well continue the trend.  I think it will have a very positive impact on my overall life.  Having a drink after work or with dinner often relaxes me and leads to an evening of not getting stuff done.  If I’m going to ramp up the side hustles this year, I’ll need to be more productive in the evenings.

I think the benefits from reducing alcohol consumption may also carry over into my real job as well.  I’ll be more active, which should improve my overall health.  More activity in the evenings should lead to better sleep, which will make me better rested for the next day.  It might even lead to more “real” exercise.   So overall, it seems like a good idea, and deep down I’ve been feeling like I drink a little too much some nights, so it’s time for a change.

It’s less a New Year’s resolution and more of a product of having  11 days to think about ways to improve my life and the ability to realize our financial goals.   Regarding the finances, it’s not about the money directly, but more about what the money represents: freedom.  If reducing my alcohol consumption affects that realization of freedom on so many levels, it would be foolish not to change my ways.

In December, I added a Habit Tracker to my notebook.  It looks like this:

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December Habit Tracker

I found it useful and enlightening, and I plan to continue it’s use over the coming months.  If you’re working on creating some new habits in 2017, perhaps a similar tool will be helpful to you.  Whether it’s in a notebook, on a piece of paper posted on your wall, or maybe even on a chalkboard in your kitchen, visually tracking your adherence to your targeted habits can be very beneficial in cementing the change.

Whatever you choose to use, find a visual way to track your goals and progress towards them.  If you do, I bet you’ll find you hit more of your targets in 2017.

 

 

End of year update on the Sailing Dream

Step by step, we’re getting closer to realizing our dream.  We just made our last mortgage payment of 2016.  Since refinancing late this spring, we’ve made enough progress to be at the three year mark of our amortization schedule.  So that’s 3 years of a 15 year mortgage paid in 6 months.  In respect to our 5 year plan to get it paid off, we’re already 6 months ahead of schedule.  If we maintain this pace, the house is paid off in December 2018 – two years from today!

And as if that’s not motivation enough, I stumbled across a Craigslist posting for a CAL35 sailboat.

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Picture from the Craigslist post for a 1983 CAL35 sailboat

The CAL35 was on the shortlist of potential affordable sailboats for us to live on as part of the dream when it was first defined.  We’re in good enough financial shape that we could buy this one right now if we wanted.  I mentioned I saw it to Mrs. Outspoken, and she seemed a little excited too, then responded that she’d rather get the house paid off first. I agree.  Plus, we can’t use a boat this size around Pittsburgh due to the mast height not clearing many of the bridges in the city.  It’s more of a coastal/Great Lakes/Carribbean cruiser.

We have decided to take the vinyl/book selling and try to ramp it up next year, focusing more on the vinyl.  I’m making about 3x the profit on records, although it requires a little more work to clean and grade them.  As long as it stays relatively fun, the work won’t be so bad.  Hopefully we can make a little extra as insurance to getting the house paid off by the end of 2018.

Then what?  We’ll we’ve started down a path of gradually transforming our lifestyle.  We decided that buying a canoe is a good first step to start creating more of a focus on spending time on or around water when we can in 2017.  We’ve saved up some money from our Christmas budget and gifts to fund the purchase.

The next step would probably be those sailing lessons in 2018.  After the house is paid off, we probably would need to take some extended charters in a couple locations we’re dreaming of visiting via sailboat.

We’re not entirely ready from a financial perspective to retire.  Getting the house paid off would relieve much (almost all?) of our financial pressure, and then we’d have to decide where to invest over the coming years to reach financial independence to support a potential sailing lifestyle.   My retirement calculator at work says I’m good to go at age 50, but it will come down to what else is happening in our lives at that time.

I’m also going to really take a look at my spending on alcohol.  I enjoy decent wine and whisky, as well as craft beer, but some months I spend way too much.  Also, the only two times I’ve been sick in the last year (both this month) were after a night of drinking a bit too much.   So for my personal health as well as our financial health, I need to cut back, and cutting the spending by 50-75% should make that happen.

As i discussed in an earlier post, we could cut back a little more.  But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of changing our future outlook.  Sure we could get there (wherever there is) a little faster by doing some extreme things, but I can’t say it would be worth it.  But I do wish I’d started this sooner, which is why I gave a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover to my niece last year at Christmas, and to her brother this year.  I’m also probably going to send them a few tweets in the coming weeks about Mr. Money Mustache.  If I can get one or both of them to see a different possibility for their future, that would be more satisfying than me getting to my destination of Financial Independence a few months earlier.

Whatever it is you want to do, it’s very likely you can do it if you put a clear plan in place.  Start with the “Why”, as in “why do we want to do this, to make these sacrifices or changes?” Then create a vivid visualization of what it would look and feel like to achieve that “Why”.   Next identify what needs to happen to get there, then lay out the simple, often very small steps to make it happen.  For example, why would we buy a canoe if our dream is to sail the Caribbean, Great Lakes, and maybe even the European coastlines?  Because it’s the next small step.

As 2016 comes to a close, take the next step.  Whatever it is, just commit to the next step on your path to achieving your dream.  Every great journey starts with taking the first step.  Where will that first step take you?

 

 

Americans can be lazy and disrespectful

While I was out shopping for a few gifts for my wife on the Saturday before Christmas, I became aware of an alarming trend.  Everywhere I went, there were people that were parking curbside and waiting.  Usually someone was in the car, but sometimes not.  I saw this perhaps a dozen times in a four hour window of shopping, and I did not once see someone getting into or out of a car – so they weren’t just stopping to pick someone up or drop them off.

My first reaction was just an amazement at how lazy these people might be.  I usually intentionally park a little farther away to do some extra walking.  The passengers in the curbside-parkers (maybe I’ll just call them curbers) are clearly doing a lot of walking while shopping.  Can they seriously not walk the extra 50 yards to a true parking spot?  I noticed no handicap parking tags, plus often the handicap spot was literally just steps away and open.

Parking away from the other cars also minimizes the chance of some hitting my car or putting a door ding in it.   Not a big concern, but it just takes away some risk of a bad driver or someone not paying attention swinging their newish SUV into a spot or a kid in daddy’s car  on the phone or otherwise distracted hitting my car.  Blame my Aunt Nancy on this one, as her vintage Volvo daily driver still looks nearly new, and I learned this tip from her.

As i thought about it more, I became a little more disappointed, because these curbers are also really disrespectful to the thousands of other people shopping in at least two ways.   First, they’re stopping and parking in what is essentially one lane of two lane traffic.  So all the others drivers must go around them, driving out into the other lane of traffic to get around the curber.

When they pull up and stop, any other vehicles behind them are potentially initially delayed as they try to figure out what in the world they curber doing.  I actually witnessed this twice, and neither time was a turn signal used – so everyone else sat there for an extended pause before realizing there was nothing blocking the way – these people were just stopping for no apparent reason and had no plans to move.  I’m sure it sucks a little Christmas cheer out of some people when they realize they’ve been stuck behind a curber who has just claimed a new spot to wait.

A second way it is really disrespectful is to the shoppers on foot.  Now, to get to the store or back to their car, they must cross what was a two lane area of traffic either in front of or behind the curber.  Drivers coming from either direction already have to figure out what the yahoo is doing just sitting there, and they also now have limited visibility to pedestrians on top of this extra distraction.  So Curbers are putting others at risk purely for their own personal convenience.

Then it gets worse.  We’re fighting an obesity epidemic in this country.  Curbers are a prime example of the cultural reasons why.   People are too friggin’ lazy to even walk to their cars!  More importantly, somebody else is happier to just sit in the car and diddle away on their phone while a (presumed) loved one is shopping.  GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GO WITH THEM!  YOU NEED THE EXERCISE!

Then there’s the whole fuel economy thing, because it was a cold day so every car was sitting there idling.  One was definitely there for almost 30 minutes, because I went into three stores and shopped around, and waited in line at two of them, and the car was still there running when i came back to my car.  These are probably the same people that will complain about fuel costs and that they have no money to invest in retirement or whatever.  It’s because you’re sitting there burning off $2 worth of fuel every hour going nowhere.  It’s not the $2, it’s the mentality that accepts the wasteful use of money and time that leads to having no money.

Obviously our local police departments don’t need money – because these people are clearly parking in a no parking and fire zone.   An officer could just walk the beat and write dozens of tickets in an afternoon, keeping people safer and encouraging others to be just a little healthier at the same time.  There’s probably multiple violations that could cited in most of these cases.

While it aggravates me, overall it just makes me sad.   It’s probably a little piece of why people in other countries often thought I was either Canadian or British.  They said I was too nice and too friendly to be an American.  I didn’t expect everyone to speak English, so how can I be an American?  I talked to others, and tried to fit in with local behaviors as much as I could, including walking.  10,000 steps?  Try 25,000 to 30,000 on a typical weekend day in Italy, France, or Belgium.

Curbers are just one example of the entitlement and disrespectful attitude that many Americans exhibit.  My question is how do we save ourselves?  How do we reverse the trend as a society?  It’s obviously not an easy answer, except for one part of it:  All of us can save ourselves.   Take responsibility for your life, your health, your financial future, and for how you treat others.  Maybe we can’t fix the United States as a whole (and don’t expect any government to fix it either), but we can make an impact in our part of it; we can make an impact in our lives.

We really should be thinking more about others than ourselves this time of year, but often when we think of others, we get so many good things for ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

 

Drinking Whisky and Feeding Kids

Due to my recent involvement with Leadership Washington County (LWC), I’ve also had the pleasure of working to raise money for a program called Blessings in a Backpack.  Blessings provides food on the weekend to children that are fed during the week by government programs.  Without this support, many of them wouldn’t eat for the entire weekend.  “Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement” according to the Blessings website.

This makes perfect sense, and while I’d rather figure out how to impact the true root causes of this problem, the kids that benefit from the program are in their circumstances now.  So a small group of us from LWC were put together in a team to raise money for the local Blessings program.

Our initial brainstorming session had a common theme: alcohol.  Eventually we landed on a handful of options, and once we visited Mingo Creek Distillery we thought we had a good location for  an upscale event.  As we continue the planning, there’s some concern we’re dreaming too big for our upcoming February event.

The distillery is a small venue, but their spirits are relatively high end.  Their Rye is $47 a bottle; their Bourbon is around $55.  Our event is planned to coincide with the release of their next batch of Bourbon.  There will be 4 or 5 tables in different rooms of the distillery which pair upscale food with craft cocktails.  There’s about $20 of drinks in each ticket, and tickets will be limited to a max of 50.  We’re calling it the “Winter Warmer.”

Our intended price is $150 per ticket, shooting for $100 to Blessings for each attendee.  Essentially, every ticket would feed a child for the entire year of weekends.   With bourbon and craft distilling being so hot, paired with an exclusive event and some great food, I don’t think the ticket price is too steep.  We’d offer a $25 discount on a pair of tickets.  Others think we’re severely overpriced.

I think the kind of people who buy $50 bottles and $14 cocktails would be willing to pay up for a release event that feeds children too.  “A little less guilt for your guilty pleasure.”    We’ll see how it pans out, but I will say the act of getting involved in supporting this program has been very personally rewarding.

Giving doesn’t always need to be monetary.  In Romans 12: 5-8, Paul talks about all of us having various gifts.  Too often people think of giving as a monetary thing.  But often, giving of your time and talents in service to others is more personally fulfilling, and frankly might cause a greater financial impact in the end.

If you have some time off around the holidays, think about some ways to give of yourself rather than just of your money to help some other people.  It might be the greatest gift you can give yourself, and them too.