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I finally bought a domain and have another blog!

Well, I decided that I love blogging so much that I set up a real blog on my own domain. I’ll update this one for a while, but please point your browsers to my better, MUCH prettier blog at http://www.theironbuzz.com . Thanks for being awesome readers, I hope you keep reading me in the future.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

El Chris starts a business

I know. I’m terrible. I had a successful giveaway on the blog and then quit writing. I. Am. Awful. But really, guys, I can explain!

It’s been extra busy around my house. Halo 4 was recently released and it takes HUGE amounts of time to convince my friends to let me come over and play it. Mr ‘Hoda finally relented, so one night we went out and got steak and played Halo. It was totally killer.

In my other spare time, I sat in my garage, often times with some liquid encouragement. Alone. Inhaling smoke. But it wasn’t just any old smoke. It was caffeinated smoke. Cooking smoke.

It was ROASTING smoke.

I got it in my head that I could roast coffee and make a living. Back in April, a very kind client of mine taught me how to make yogurt and how to roast coffee. I got my hands on an old Home Innovations fluid bed roaster that works pretty much just like a popcorn popper. Roasting coffee in that was satisfying, making coffee with bright flavor and nice happy smells, but at 3 ounces per 15 minute roast, a pound of coffee took over an hour. Something had to give.

I made a half-joking (but hopelessly serious) plea on Facebook, asking for money to buy a new roaster. I was going to need $820 just for a new, higher-capacity roaster, plus several hundred more for a bulk bag of green coffee beans. Business fees, license fees, bag fees, supply fees… I would need a few thousand dollars to make this work.

Enter two angels: Mr Book and Mr White. Mr White sent me enough to cover my LLC registration fees. Someone had walked into his life previously and done the same, so I hope I can pass this on some day soon. Mr Book asked what I needed and ultimately funded all the hardware I would need. Holy crap, this was going to HAPPEN.

I got the idea to run this as a way to support my Boy Scouts and other youth leadership initiatives in the Twin Cities. The YMCA has WONDERFUL leadership camps that kids in the inner city can’t afford, but with a scholarship from me they can. My low-income scouting district can get some much needed funds from this as well. Once I thought of this, Good Turn Coffee was born.

At this point, I started to get a little spooked. I tried to talk myself out of doing this. Here are some reasons I felt that I shouldn’t be a professional coffee roaster:

I’m not skinny.

I don’t have tattoos.

I don’t know how to make a website.

I listen to music that most people have probably heard of.

My coffee maker is a Mr Coffee.

I never worked as a barista.

Once I killed a guy with my boot.

I don’t wear glasses.

I don’t live or work in a cool neighborhood.

I don’t have an iPad.

I have a heart condition which probably means I should take it easy on the caffeine.

I’m up against some serious pressure here. I might screw everything up, bankrupt myself, and destroy my life and my marriage.

On the other hand, here are some reasons why I SHOULD roast coffee:

I’m using some of the profits to support inner-city kids want to learn how to be leaders.

I know how to roast coffee in a cast iron skillet over a fire.

I can make espresso using 4 different types of electronic and non-electronic processes.

I can make an iced non-fat sugar-free triple caramel macchiato that will reduce a Starbucks barista to tears.

I can kill a guy with my boot.

I can roast coffee blindfolded and know exactly how the roast came out.

I can taste the difference between Folgers, Maxwell House, and my coffee.

I can make Swedish egg coffee better than your grandparents AND your church basement ladies.

As you can see, I have some SERIOUS qualifications. I also have drive, a love for underprivileged, awkward kids who want to make something of themselves, and a desire to have a job where I can make a difference. Looks like I’m getting a chance to make it all happen and make it BIG.

To buy my coffee, you can paypal me your order! Send it to paypal@goodturncoffee.com. It’s $16 for a full pound of delicious coffee, or $10 for a half pound. Shipping is $6 more dollars. Website is coming soon!

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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My Bad Heart

Heart

Some nights, I just can’t sleep. I’ll lay awake late, staring at the insides of my eyes, waiting to drift away. I’ll have taken an Ambien. I’ll have had a cup of Kava tea. I’ll have taken a Melatonin. And I’ll have laid there, awake. eyes closed. Extra aware of everything around and inside me. Nights like these may have saved my life.

“Sometimes, it just beats funny. Feel that?” I asked The Patient Girlfriend one sleepless night before she became The Patient Wife. She felt it. “Does this happen a lot?” She asked. I shrugged. “It kind of always has.”

“Uh, you should get that looked at. Promise me you will.”
I promised.

I went to the doctor, who upon hearing me reference my heart murmur that I’ve had since I was young, smacked me on the back of my head and asked why I didn’t come in sooner. I really had no answer.

After 4 weeks of halter monitors (which don’t work on cell phones so you need to shuffle to the payphone at Kwik Trip at 2 AM when the alarm is going off), scary tests, CT scans, echocardiograms, and blood draws, it came back that I had several problems with my heart.

“You have a bicuspid aortic valvethat presents moderate regurgitation along with sinus arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation.” My eyes crossed. My imperfect heart pounded. I had no idea what that meant. Was it bad? Would it kill me? How long do I have?

Apparently, the valve in my aorta is supposed to have three little leaflets that fit together to keep blood from flowing back into my heart. My heart only has two, so the blood leaks back in and the valve is very weak. In addition, it skips beats and then makes up for it by beating extra. Then, sometimes, it’ll go INSANE and beat around 200-220 times in a minute. Then it quits and everything is normal.

One day, I’ll have surgery to get a new valve put in. They might go in through an artery in my groin, but they also might open my chest. I will be lying on a table, chest open like saloon doors, heart LITERALLY in someone else’s hands. It blows my mind. Sometimes, it’s too much to think about.

To be honest, I make an effort NOT to think about it. I watch my salt intake, I watch my diet, I exercise. I don’t grunt when I lift. Other than that, I don’t think about it. I don’t think about the lifetime of blood clot risks after my surgery. I don’t think about what would happen to my lovely Patient Wife if I died. I don’t think about it every time there’s a pain in my chest or a slight tingle in my left arm. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to move. It would be impossible to get out of bed and move because I would be FROZEN in fear.

Every day, I make a CHOICE to not be afraid. I make a CHOICE to ignore the fact that my valve could fail and I could die with little warning. I choose not to let the fear control me because if it did, I would be a shriveled nothing. If I let the fear in, I would do nothing that makes life worth living. I would simply waste away, which is an even worse fate.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if I can choke out this fear and choose to be where I am, so can you. Choose to be where you want to be. Choose to go and do in SPITE of your fear, and don’t let your fear choose for you. Because even if you’re afraid, it won’t change a damn thing.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Thoughts

 

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GIVEAWAY!!! Also, cooking with cast iron is NOT scary

The BSA-licensed 10" Lodge SkilletDuring our first Christmas together, The Patient Wife and I had very little money. I had lost my management job the day we got back from our honeymoon and I was working as much as I could in a part-time job for the Boy Scouts. It KILLED me that I couldn’t make enough money to buy all the presents that I felt my new bride deserved.

Since my wife is the head chef of our house AND she has wholeheartedly supported my scouting lifestyle, I bought my wife the nicest thing I could afford: The official, licensed, Boy Scouts of America 10″ cast-iron frying pan.

Fast forward to our first Valentine’s day. The Patient Wife spent weeks planning our perfect first Valentines meal: beef tenderloin and bacon-wrapped shrimp. The shrimp and the bacon we roasted in the oven and turned out BEAUTIFULLY. The steak caught on fire, stuck to the pan, and burned.

We were now officially terrified of cast iron.

I finally bit the bullet and took a class on dutch oven cooking. That lit a fire and now I try to cook something in cast iron every day. My food tastes better, smells better, and looks better.

Here are some benefits to cooking with cast iron:

  • Your food will taste at least ten times as awesome
  • There’s no weird Teflon cancer causers in it
  • Your friends will be extra crazy impressed
  • It’s a great way to get more iron if you’re anemic.
  • Your cookware will outlive you, your kids, and your grandkids
  • It takes 7 seconds to clean and you don’t even need soap
  • It has better non-stick than teflon
  • You can cook over a stove
  • You can bake in it in the oven
  • You can throw it on coals to cook on a campfire
  • You can burn off the food to clean it

You don’t need to make anything fancy. Cook some eggs. Make a grilled cheese. Sautee some onions! Make a stir fry! Boil some water! It’s SO EASY. Cook one thing in it and you’ll be hooked. You’ll use it for everything and anything. You’ll love it so much and your kids will fight over who gets it in your will.

To get you all fired up about cooking in cast iron, I am sending one lucky reader an 8″ Lodge frying pan. For free. Yep. For free. You will use this pan and you’ll LOVE it.

All you have to do is leave me a comment (only comments with full name and e-mail address will be counted!) by 11:59 PM CST on Thursday, November 16th 2012. In your comment, tell me what your cooking experience is or isn’t with cast iron! Do you love it? Do you hate it? Have you never used it? What will you cook with it if you win? I want to know!

I’ll use random.org to pick a commenter to win, and you can’t win unless you leave a comment!

Good luck!

 Fine print: Drawing is open ONLY to Continental U.S.A. residents aged 18 and older. This blog and its author is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Lodge Manufacturing. I paid for the skillet myself and am not being compensated or reimbursed to provide this product.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in cast iron, Giveaway

 

On fear

I work with a man who has a light disability. Every week I see him and he is an absolute delight. He has a cognitive disorder, but he can recite Bible verses and still reads several versions of the bible. He is about as independent as one can be.

He and I often meet in his apartment, which is a small converted bedroom in the basement of a house near where The Patient Wife and I live. He has a simple lock on his doorknob, and that’s good enough for him. The man is completely unafraid of the giant world that could take advantage of him because, according to him, “it won’t change a thing.”

His landlord, however, is another story. The landlord owns the house and lives in the upstairs portion. I call him The Terrified Landlord because, well, the man is clearly a step beyond paranoid. He is TERRIFIED.

On the outside of his garage are two battery backup motion-sensing 150 watt floodlights linked to four different motion sensors placed around the front yard. If anybody enters the front yard or driveway, the lights turn on. If anybody blocks the perimeter sensors, then the ones built into the lights will activate.

Above the door, there is another flood light aimed at the front stoop along with a motion activated camera linked to a viewscreen inside. Beneath the viewer is a panic button which will ring a loud, bullhorn shaped alarm which is also outside, above the front door.

Inside, The Terrified Landlord keeps two VERY aggressive and trained German Shepherds. They maintain silence when I ring the doorbell and turn the knob, but as soon as I step inside they start jumping, barking, and clawing at the barrier. If I approach, they grow more hostile and will begin growling and frothing at the mouth, but they are silenced at a single command from The Terrified Landlord. They are kept behind a just-tall-enough barrier at the top of the stairs.

Upstairs, next to the television with a burned-in Fox News ticker on the screen, is the gun cabinet. On the bottom level are 6 different pistols. Above the pistols are 3 different rifles and 4 different shotguns. Ammunition is kept in separate drawers labeled by caliber. 30.06, 9mm, .40 Caliber, you get the idea.

On the bumper of his SUV, there are stickers proclaiming his hatred of non-English speakers in America, “The Socialist Agenda,” his support of restriction of voter’s rights, and his angry declarations of the desire to own assault weapons.

In his yard, there are gigantic posters supporting various fear-based political strategies, railing on those who receive government benefits, support of nuking certain middle-eastern countries, and obscure political candidates.

I’ve had a few chances to speak with The Terrified Landlord and subtly asked about the fortress defense he has. He’s surprisingly “normal” sounding, well spoken, and clean.

“I’m just protecting my home,” he says.

Upon inquiry, The Terrified Landlord says he has never been robbed, mugged, or burgled. He doesn’t hunt and rarely spends time outside of his city. He was not in the military, he’s never been in jail, and he doesn’t do drugs. In fact, he can’t even articulate what or whom he’s protecting his home FROM. He is simply AFRAID.

It must be draining to be that terrified all the time. I’ve been there with anger and fear and I tell you, hardening your heart and quaking in fear is EXHAUSTING. I imagine that it’s even more so when he has a constant reminder of his fear everywhere inside his home. There isn’t a single safe place anywhere in his part of the home.

Yes, I know there are scary things happening on the news. I know that political issues can be stressful. I even know that it can be intimidating to meet people who are new to this country. But try taking a deep breath and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Give your neighborhood a chance. Talk to someone who has a strong accent. Say “What’s that? I didn’t understand,” and realize that it really isn’t that scary. You just might be surprised.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Thoughts

 

HUGE thank you!

Holy moly, WordPress. You are too good to me I’m a relative newbie to WordPress. I started blogging as a self-righteous teen in 2001 on the “online diary site” Teenopendiary.com, which no longer exists. It was a poor excuse for attention but it had a light community, and I was hooked. I grew up a little bit, and I soon moved over to http://www.lightblog.com which had ZERO community. Then I quit writing.
A while ago, I fell in love with The Patient Girlfriend. She gently encouraged me and told me she loved my writing. After she became The Patient Wife, she continued to encourage me and hesitantly I started blogging again.

I switched to WordPress on a whim and I’ll never go to anything else. Thank you, new readers, for your extra kind words. All comments left were approved, and ALL of the comments were positive. Not ONE person took a hostile stance, and all of you encouraged me.
I hope my writing continues to inspire, and I hope you continue to let me know what you’re thinking.

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Thoughts

 

On the people we pretend not to see.

I work for the people we all pretend not to see. Most of my clients have pretty severe, obvious disabilities and the looks that people give (or try painfully and obviously hard NOT to give) are constant. The stares are very rarely hurtful, but the “I’m pretending to look at something else just over your shoulder but it’s not you” look. That’s the one that hurts. It’s never even directed at me. It hurts for the people I care about. It hurts because they’re PEOPLE.

Since I work in their homes, often times I’m in the worst of the bad neighborhoods. Public housing sure is a popular whipping post for America, but it sure is terrible. The streets around those areas are quieter than you might think, but they’re always off of a road that intersects another road and on those corners are men and women with signs saying “Anything helps.” On those corners is where I always get frozen in a terrible place between charity and stone-heartedness. Essentially, I have two sides battling inside me when I see a Person on the Corner.

Side A

Are there no workhouses?

Side A is the cynical jerk inside me. Side A whispers icily “They’re just standing there holding a sign. There’s really nothing better they could be doing?”  I know firsthand how extraordinarily difficult it is to get disconnected from state benefits once someone is enrolled. I know how easy it is to get assistance if you’re a parent. I know that you probably can’t afford that Louis Vuitton purse and those Juicy pants if you’re as destitute as you claim to be. I know that many homeless people are not THAT much overweight. Side A tells me “No, keep your money, at least you know where it’s going.”

I already give to the United Way through both my employers. We donate at church. We bring canned food to food drives and we financially support several local food shelves. Isn’t that enough? Can’t somebody else take it from here?

Side B

I should help. I shouldn’t judge. I should take them at their word and give them some money to get food and feed their kids. The only reason I’m in my nice new car and not standing in his place is dumb luck. There are over 90 verses in The Bible about giving to the poor. The Quran similarly tells its readers that good followers give a set portion of their income to the poor. What I can’t find, however, is what to do about The People on the Corners.

One thing that The Patient Wife and I are starting to do is make care bags to hand out in lieu of cash. In each bag, we will put:

  • Razors
  • Tampons
  • Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Gift cards to grocery stores
  • Pamphlets directing them to the homeless outreach at our church
  • An MRE (meal ready to eat) where you only need to add a little bit of water to get a hot, nutritious meal
  • A small blanket
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental Floss
  • Shampoo
  • Granola bars

That stare I mentioned before? I’m man enough and ashamed to admit that I do that stare to the People on the Corners. I look through them, as if eye contact would commit me to an awkward, inconvenient interaction. I may glance at their sign, but if they see me looking, then they may smile and wave. If they smile and wave and I wave back, they may come to my window for money, forcing me to stammer out “Oh, I don’t carry cash. Sorry.” While it’s true that I don’t, I always feel like a tool saying it.

Am I just supposed to take them at their word? Is there a biblical definition of “poor”? Is there a formula I should be following?

What do YOU do when you encounter The People on the Corners?

 
60 Comments

Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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