It is Thomn with an H and an N: A Story of Self Authorship





It is Thomn with an H and an N: A Story of Self Authorship

Thomn Bell

Colorado State University

“sometimes you have to hang with the Buddha to find your soul” (T. Bell)

            Kegan (1994) defined self-authorship as a concept whereby the individual develops beliefs, relates abstractions, invents values, and acts on interpersonal loyalties as well as intrapersonal states (as cited by Baxter Magolda, 2008). For me, this began unknowingly at the age of 13 with a small act of defiance. It began by the addition of two letters to my name. From that point on, I began spelling Tom, T-h-o-m-n. It was not meant as disrespect to my namesake, as both my father and grandfather share the same name. Rather it was an opportunity to begin to express my own identity. This particular act was symbolic in nature as I still followed the path my parents provided and acted compliant with other authority figures. In reflection I like to believe this was one of two major building blocks that laid the foundation for me to build my character and identity.
The second major pre-college moment resembled more of an internal shift. I grew up Catholic and was very involved in the church. At one point I thought maybe I would make a decent priest. Being a member of the church community helped me develop a sense of belonging, and a foundation of beliefs about life at a young age. At the age of 17 however, things began to shift. I read the book Siddhartha by Herman Hess. This led to a process of attempting to understand how different religions, theological expressions, and philosophical foundations of life vary across the world. The impact was profound. I began to question how people could believe salvation could only come from one particular religion or belief system. This sense of attempting to understand piqued my interest in areas of justice as well. I also struggled with the concept of a capital T approach to truth, as it seemed that truth was somewhat relative. I was in no position to act, but I did make the conscious decision to walk away from Catholic teachings and begin to embrace a more spiritual and soulful approach to life.
These two events, while early in my personal development, represent significant shifts in external identity and internal belief structures. Throughout this paper, I will explore five years of my undergraduate experience and analyze my own development using Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship. Baxter Magolda (2001) discusses the concept of self-authorship as a practice for understanding the construction of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal elements (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010). Baxter Magolda’s work include four phases of self-authorship which include: following formulas, the Crossroads, becoming the author of one’s life, and internal foundation (Baxter Magolda, 2012). In addition to highlighting my experience, I will be using music lyrics and song to help tell my story. Music has been an integral part of my life experience. I have always felt a strong connection to both playing and listening to music, so I figured it would be interesting to integrate songs by various artists to help tell my story.

Following the plan
“Once there was a time where I could control myself”(Pearl Jam, 1991), “Sideways falling all will be revealed my friend” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2002), “in your fathers steps, just do what is done unto you” (Guster, 2000)

            From a very young age I was told that I will go to college and get a good job. This path was ingrained in my upbringing, and it was one I never questioned. Neither of my parents completed a four year degree, however they valued what they believed a college education could bring, a good paying job. After high school I did not understand there were other options beyond college. Although my parents were very supportive of me attending college, neither completed a degree which led to lack of preparation and understanding of the undergraduate experience. I applied to only one university, which happened to be far enough away from where I grew up to get away, but not too far in that I could not drive home. I never visited the institution, and did not know much about the university, but I was following the path laid out for me.

My first year at university was somewhat successful. I went to class, most of the time, and did relatively well, aside for a C+ in a survey theatre course. I even got involved in student government. While in high school, I started to see the need for advocacy, and this translated to my involvement on campus. However, at this point I did not quite understand advocacy needed to be for those that had limited access.
Even though I was going to college, I would often find myself limiting authentic engagement with peers and going home on the weekends. I was dating a woman who still lived in my hometown, so it made sense at the time to go home most weekends. In reflection, I missed out on a great deal of opportunities to engage and interact with peers because I was focused on trying to sustain a life at college and at home. My stepmom challenged me at one point and asked, what do you consider to be home? She was attempting to engage in a conversation about why I was not planting new roots and not staying at school over the weekends. I did not pay much attention to her, and instead of reflecting on the question, ignored her and kept on acting the same way I had.
I moved home for the summer and when my second year began, I found that I was not really spending much time examining my life or career trajectory. Instead, I was simply following the same routine of going to class during the week, and then spending most of the weekends away from campus. I was involved on campus but I had not yet started to internalize or comprehend my interactions with others.
I was still relying on authority and the external world to assist in my meaning making experiences. While I was able to internalize some elements and connection to others, most of my actions reflected very little awareness to how I was actually interpreting life. Using Baxter Magolda’s theory, I was in the early portion of the continuum of self-authorship or in Phase 1 (Baxter Magolda, 2012). According to Kegan I was “uncritically accepting values, beliefs, [and] interpersonal loyalties” (as cited by Baxter Magolda, 2012). In examining the three elements: the cognitive, intrapersonal, interpersonal (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010), it seemed my main focus at the time was the cognitive understanding of how do I know. Most of this was spent “getting” information from faculty and not internalizing the information, but rather storing the information to later be regurgitated when the time was appropriate. Freire (1968) refers to this as the banking method. Essentially, I was not yet an active part of my learning experience. I was defining myself by the activities rather than who I was. For example, I was a member of the student government, but I spent little time understanding how my identities projected to others. Finally, I did not spend much time understanding the construct of relationships, I followed guidelines, acted polite, and attempted to befriend individuals when it was convenient without going out of my way to make meaningful relationships.
I slowly started to realize, that I was not happy. I began having anxiety issues, and not meeting my own academic standards. I also found myself struggling with material and content that I previously enjoyed. I started to realize maybe I need to lose myself, fall a little sideways, and say goodbye to the person that I used to be. To put it in Baxter Magolda’s language, I was entering the Crossroads.
“How long will I slide” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1999), “Once you take a look inside that is where you will find your piece of
mind” (Formerly Known, 2001), “itwill be so much clearer once I put you in my review mirror” (Pearl Jam, 1993)

The Crossroads are a process whereby individuals begin to question external authority and process tension between internal voices and external influences Baxter Magolda (2012). I realized that not only was I not making meaning out of my experience, I was going through simplistic motions without engaging myself along the way. I started to realize that I needed to begin to own my experience.
The first step in owning my experience came when I decided not to move home over the summer. Additionally, my long-term relationship had recently ended and I began to get more intentionally involved on campus. I began to develop more personal and purposeful relationships with peers, and started to incongruence between my actions and values. Finally, I started to play to music again. This served as an outlet of expression and an opportunity to connect with others.
I attribute some of the movement through the Crossroads to taking a leadership role in student government during my second year. This provided an opportunity for me to see authority in a different light. Additionally, some of my movement through the Crossroads can also be contributed to difficult personal situations. For example, over the summer of that year, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer. My father, who I adored as child and whom I felt was invincible, was now very much mortal. We rarely ever argued nor did we ever fight, however he was not a fan of the long-term relationship I had been in. He was relieved when he learned the relationship had ended. However, for the first time in my life I went against his wishes, and began dating the same woman again within 6 months of the relationship ending.  
Looking back, this was rather foolish and lacked rational thought. However, it was an act of taking ownership and in some regard defying authority. In an attempt to solidify my relationship, I decided it was a good idea to get engaged at the ripe age of 20 years old. When I told my father about the engagement, he looked at me and said “well, I hope you are happy, goodnight” (personal communication, 2001). Much like my father predicted, the relationship fell apart within weeks, and I was again alone trying to understand who I was, how I related to others, and how to construct knowledge.
In this particular phase of my life, I began to question authority, deconstruct what I was learning in school and attempt to make meaning out of it. I solidified my interests in certain subjects, and I became increasingly aware of politics and issues of justice. There was still an egocentric focus on these issues, but I started to understand how oppression occurred at the systematic level and at times how I was a part of the various systems that perpetuated the lack of justice. I was beginning to trust my inner voice and accept my talents, but those elements often got challenged, and I often retreated back to a comfortable space. I slowly started building on the foundation I developed at the end of high school, but I was still a work in progress.
Facing a difficult breakup and dealing with my father’s cancer were not the only major events that lead my way through the Crossroads phase in my life. Three days before my engagement ended, three airplanes collided into buildings on United States soil and a fourth crashed not making it to the specified target. This event catapulted me to the other side of the crossroads, helped me understand how to start looking at difference, and put my old beliefs in the rearview mirror. Essentially, as Baxeter Magolda would say I began to “listen and interpret while cultivating my inner voice” (2012, 19).

Cultivating My Inner Voice
“Learning to walk again” Foo Fighters, 2011), “lately I am beginning to find when I drive myself my light is found” (Incubus, 2003), “You can’t be neutral on a moving train”(Zinn, 2002)

            September 11, 2001 would forever change the way in which citizens of the United States would view their safety and understanding of the world. For me it was an event that started to conjure thoughts of a draft, a never ending war, but most of all a sense of connectedness to those throughout the country. It pushed me to understand different perspectives and challenged all that I knew to be true about life.
The third phase of self-authorship is becoming the author of one’s life (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010). This phase focuses on the ability to “choose one’s beliefs and stand up for them in the face of conflicting external viewpoints” (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010, 186). Additionally, in this phase individuals begin living out their belief systems and build authentic relationships that support the belief systems (Baxter Magold, 2012).
In the wake of September 11, 2001 my best friend at the time and I began to try to make meaning out of the events. We organized opportunities for students to engage in discussions and provided campus wide outlets for individuals to connect with those directly impacted by the tragedies in Washington D.C and New York City. Throughout this experience, there seemed to be a great deal of anti-Muslim sentiment rising on our campus. I started to become grounded in my value of justice spoke and out against these acts of aggression.
In addition, I also began to attend protests related to various human rights issues. One in particular required me to stand outside of the administration building with a bag over my head to symbolize the universities contractual relationships with organizations that disallowed unions. Additionally, I began to explore issues of race and racism and felt a sense of duty to engage in these issues. At the time, Affirmative Action was being challenged, and so I along with a few others organized opportunities for students to travel to the hearings and rallies to support Affirmative Action efforts.
Using Baxter Magolda’s framework, I was starting to use my own lens in construction of knowledge, interpret the knowledge, and make meaning for myself (Baxter Magolda, 2008). Additionally, I was developing a sense of core beliefs that involved social justice, equity, and fairness for all. Additionally, I began to develop a core group of friends that supported these values. I was challenging my parents on issues we disagreed on, and instead of retreating we had discussions that were fruitful and engaging.
I realized for the first time in my life, that as Howard Zinn (1968) stated, “you cannot be neutral on moving train”. I started to take a stance on issues, and most importantly I started experience life. On a whim, I made the decision that I was going to study abroad for the summer, and experience life on a different continent. While I was in Australia I studied urban planning a concept that I had never thought about much prior to that experience. I was embracing experiences and cultivating relationships. Metaphorically speaking I learned, sometimes you just have teach yourself how to walk again and take control of the wheel and drive.
Self Authorship
“the world I love the trains I hop to be part of the wave it can’t stop” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2002), “I’m working on a dream” (Bruce Springsteen, 2010), “let me live so when it is time to die, even the reaper cries” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2010).

When I returned from Australia, I had a new sense of confidence and accomplishment. I left everything I behind for 2 months to travel with 15 strangers in another country. While studying in Australia I built relationships, studied new topics, explored a country, and went skydiving. I began my fourth year of college working as a multicultural assistant and serving as Student Body President. In addition, it was at this time I began writing my own story for life. I changed my career path and decided to apply to graduate school and study Student Affairs and Higher Education.
At first my parents were not supportive of this change in life direction. They both believed you go to college to get a job, not that you go to college to go back to college some more. I spent some time having conversations with them about my life goals, and they being supportive parents, went along with my decisions. Over the course of the next year I spent my time taking independent studies and learning about everything and anything I could. I could have graduated much sooner than I did, but I wanted learn more and try new things.
Baxter Magolda (2012), found that most people in this phase do well with ambiguity and find stability in understanding their direction. Additionally, individuals “trust their own feelings and act on them rationally” (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010, p 186). My decision to make a career change was based on multiple beliefs, but ultimately it was because I believed that working in higher education best suited my talents, skills, and ambitions. It was a rationale decision based on how I felt I could best make an impact on the world.
In addition to my career pursuits, I also started understanding what I wanted in a life partner. I met Christina, my current partner, at this time. Although dating her at the time presented some interesting complications, I trusted my instincts and pursued the relationship. Our relationship, like most, has seen high points and low points, but all in all, she is just as much part of my life story as anything else. I imagine had I met her in any other phase in my life, the relationship might not have survived.
In between my fourth and fifth year of college, I ended up in the hospital and needed to have emergency surgery. At the time, I was in significant pain as my internal organs began to shut down due to a significant infection I had in my intestines. This experience taught me that it is okay to be reliant on self, but also sometimes you have to lean on others. In addition, this helped me internalize just how precious life is. According to Baxter Magolda (2001), it is in the self-authorship phase the individuals at times find spirituality (as cited by Evans, et. al., 2010). I started to reconnect to the spirituality that began my journey four years prior with the Siddhartha book. While I did not return to my Catholic roots, I started to embrace a stronger sense of connectedness to something bigger than myself. I began to embrace that each day is a gift and I was privileged to have the opportunities and access to not simply choose a life, but to live one.
“Let your light shine, let your love show” (Mo, 2007), “We will drink and dance with one hand free” (Winwood, 1986), “does it go from east to west, a body free is a body less” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2010)

“You don’t choose a life, you live one” (Estevez, 2013), one of the many sayings that I am embrace and attempt to live by. I view every day as a journey, and an opportunity to make a difference. Since leaving college I have had many experiences that have tested every fiber of my being. The most significant being the death of my father in 2010. He was a huge and very significant influence on my life. His passing shook me to my core, and at one point I was sure that I was losing my way. It took time, a great deal of reflection, and an incredible amount of support from Christina and others to put myself back together. Ultimately, in reflection, it was being there at the moment he passed, that to this day allows me to cope with the loss. I accept the fact that I will never “get over it”, but I also accept the fact that I cannot change what has happened.
Every day I experience a continuance of self-authorship. Making the decision to apply to this program is another example of my efforts to continuously confirm and redefine my own sense of self. I enjoy embracing new challenges, and never settling for the known. In 2013, Christina and I took pilgrimage in Spain. We hiked over 300 Kilometers to Santiago De Compestela. In part, this was an individual journey, but it also was a journey that we shared together. It provided time for us to reflect on several things, such as my father’s passing, our issues with infertility, and our overall happiness and satisfaction with life. Christina and I were close before we went on this trip, but the experience helped us begin to co-author our experiences in life. We both have successful careers, and lead individual lives. However, we are connected in a way, I believe, creates a sense of co-authorship in each other’s experience. I believe that Baxter Magolda’s work, while important for the individual, misses out on one of the most important elements of self-authorship. I believe there is a process of co-authorship, in which two individuals allow themselves to become vulnerable and connect with one another on such an intimate level that the individual experiences becomes a “co-authored” shared experience. Additionally, this concept fosters healthy relationship expectations that encourage growth and support for the individual and the partnership so they are able to be as one while pursuing their own and shared life dreams and goals. In reflection, I have learned in times of great vulnerability, one becomes able to truly understand their core identity. There is a not a way in which one can reflect a more vulnerable state, than to completely share their life with someone else. I look forward to the experiences that lie ahead and in the words of fake President Jeb Bartlet, “What’s Next”.



Baxter Magolda, M. B. & King, P. M. (2012). Assessing meaning making and self

authorship: Theory, research, and application. ASHE Higher Education Report,

38(3), 1-20. Retrieved from



Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2008). Three elements of self authorship. Journal of College

Student Development, 49(4), 269-284. Retrieved from


Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Student

Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco,

CA: John Wiley & Sons

Freire, P. (1968). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum

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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


Oh Temptation

As I sat in my jeep driving home today from work, I realized that it has been 21 days since I started eating a “pescatarian” diet.  I have not been feeling all that well as I have been dealing with a sinus infection from hell, and today I really wanted to have bacon pizza.  Yes, bacon pizza! Two of my favorite things combined in a perfect union.  Instead of giving in, I decided to go with a veggie pizza and continue on my quest of the meat free lifestyle.

However, after today’s events I have decided that Wednesday will be last day of going meat free.  It is not because I cannot do it, and it is not because I am giving up, it is actually the contrary.  I have decided to adopt this lifestyle three to four days a week and really attempt to go meat free most of the time.  The whole purpose of this “challenge” was to see what components of this diet I could adapt into my life, and I have decided that being meat free is easy and I actually like it.  So, I will eat meat from time to time, but I am hoping that I can continue to make meals that focus around fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and other non red blooded beings.

So in attempt to keep it brief (Christina says that I write too much), I will give my top five meals since starting this change in diet.

5: Veggie Naan Pizza
4: eggs, black beans, salsa, tomatoes, jalapeño, cheese, hot sauce, onions, and peppers in a burrito
3:  roasted cauliflower, eggplant, carrots over rice with butter marsala sauce
2:  marinated portabella mushrooms grilled and topped with feta and cheddar cheese, avocado, onion, jalapeños, tomato, and spicy mayo on a toasted bun
1:  shrimp tacos with jalapeños, cilantro, salsa, hot sauce, cheese, and avocado

All right, that is enough for now.  HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!! Check out Christina’s post on Chinese New Year!



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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Running Down a Dream

Nothing beats getting a new piece of equipment or some new shoes to help revitalize my passion with running. I have been a consistent runner now for about 5 years, although I would say I have been doing longer distances  since 2008 when I ran my first half marathon.  Since then, I have been in training mode 11 months out of the year and completing at least one long distance race each year.  To this date I have completed one half marathon, one full marathon, and three  25Ks (15.6 miles).

MY NEW SHOES (two pairs for the price of one)

I am not a good distance runner, and considering the amount of time I spend training, I would venture to say that I am a terrible runner.  With that being said, I do enjoy running and find it to be one of the highlights of my day, even if it spending up to two hours on a treadmill in a gym staring at a wall.

In 2006 I had multiple major life changes occur in the span of 3 months.  I finished graduate school in May, Married my best friend, Christina, in June, and moved to beautiful State of Vermont in July.  It was a fantastic time in my life with a great deal of welcomed change.  In addition to all the life changes, I was grossly over-weight and my health was getting worse.  So, in November of 2006 I decided to tackle my issues and start eating better and hitting the gym on a daily basis.  It started out with one mile runs and lifting weights.  I had no clue what I was doing, but I was losing weight and feeling better.

I am not sure why I thought running was the way to go, but it seemed like something that was doable.  Growing up I watched my dad run, and from time to time I would put on some shoes and go out and run next to him, only having to turn around a half of mile in because I was far too exhausted.  So when I needed to find something to help me better my life, I turned to running, as I saw how it helped my father find balance and better his health I thought the same would happen and it did.  I would even venture to say it was just another thing dad and I could talk about.  I would tell him of my journeys, injuries, and triumphs and he would be there to give advice and listen and then tell me when it was time to take a break.

I remember the last time Dad and I went running.  It was father’s day weekend and we ran through downtown Cleveland.  We did not cover any major distance, but that did not matter as it was just taking the time and enjoying hitting the pavement together.  It was another thing we had in common and something we could share.  I could tell he was struggling but he kept moving and paced fairly well next to me.  Anytime things get hard and I want to give up, I think of my dad and think that what I am feeling could not be as bad as how he was feeling and he kept going, so I keep going.


Today I run for three main reasons.  First, I run to keep my body in strong physical shape.  I try to hit between 25 and 30 miles a week (unless I am training and need to do more) and for the most part this seems to help me  stay in decent physical shape.  Second, I run to keep my mind in a good place.  There is nothing like getting up at 4:15 in the morning in the Spring or Fall and going out for a run under a star lit sky.  I cannot tell you how many shooting stars I have seen in the morning during my ritual strolls.  Finally, I run so I can live.  I know this sounds like a cliche, but there is no other way to describe it.  Running makes me feel alive, whether it be through pain, the satisfaction of new personal record, or simply just feeling the breeze against my face it is a place where I can just let go of everything and just be.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing the race thing, but for me it is more than that.  It is not about times, splits, or PR, although I get frustrated when I do not live up to my own expectations, it is about just doing it.  That is something that I learned from my dad and I will never forget.  He was not fast, he called himself a shuffler, but he had the perspective that I think is the best for anyone that wants to be a distant runner.  It is not about the time, it is about the experience.  Just getting out there and doing it for yourself.  And I guess that is what keeps me going, getting out there and doing it.  Putting one foot in front of the other and repeat, it is that simple.

So, as I sit here this evening in anticipation of starting training for the Grand Rapids Riverbank Run 25K for the fourth consecutive year, I think that it is time to forget trying to beat my best time and just go out and have fun.  Enjoy the run for what it is, me in the open road with thousands of other runners and just be there.  Last year, I ran the race in memory of Dad and raised money for the American Cancer Society.  It was a great venture and we raised a boat load of money in tribute to my dad.  This year, while I am not running to raise money for chairity, I am dedicating the race again to my dad, but I think I will run it more dad esk this year and just go out there and do it for fun and not worry so much about finishing in a certain time.  I think it is time that I just go out and have fun damnit, because if it is not fun then what is the point??

Here is to training! CHEERS!


Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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My Dad, My Hero

“They say it’s your birthday”!  Every year on July 14th, my dad would bust into my bedroom as I was fast asleep and belt these words.  He had a goofy side, and on my birthday he let it show.  As I grew older, the Beatles tune slowly shifted into the common Happy Birthday song, but he would make sure that I would hear him sing.  When I turned 21, I was in Australia at the time, he called me as I was coming home from the bar and sang Happy Birthday to me.  No matter my age nor how crappy he might have been feeling from the medication he was on or from having cancer in general, he would sing happy birthday to me.

What would he ask for in return?  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  I would ask him, “hey Dad, what do want for you birthday, or what do you want to do?” He would say he had everything, and that he wanted me to take my wife out and do something fun.  That was the kind of guy he was.  Never would he put the emphases on himself, he would always be thinking about others.  Even on the day in which should normally be reserved for being selfish, he would always put others needs in front of his own.

Today, my Dad would have been 58 years old.  I have had a hard time publicly talking about my thoughts, feelings, and sharing stories since he passed away in March of 2010.  I am still not crazy about publicly talking about this, but I think it is helpful for me as I begin to explore and share openly what a fantastic human being my father was/is (I hate using past tense).

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him.  There are still certain things that set me off and cause my heart to ache.  Most of the time, those things tend to be songs.  Just hearing the first chords of the tune take my mind away and I get sent to a different place wishing he were still here just for a conversation or a phone call or a game of basketball in the middle of a snow storm.  Those are things as a kid you think will last forever, but unfortunately they do not.  Life is fragile and precious, and by the time you realize you need to hold onto the moments they have passed you by and all you are left with are memories.

I must say that my memories of childhood are pretty good, and for the most part I have to attribute that to the loving nature in which I was raised.  As I mentioned earlier my Dad was the type of person that would give his shirt of his back on the coldest day of the year to someone that needed it.  Now take that and multiple by 109839080938 and that is what he did for me.

My parents divorced when I was two and around the time I turned 10 my Dad and stepmom Barb moved to the Upper Peninsula.  Even though he lived 5 hours away, he drove down every other weekend and we either made the long journey back to the UP or he stayed in the Lansing area in a hotel.  We spent hours in the car, bonding and he never once complained to me or made up an excuse to not drive the 10 to 20 hour round trip to see me on the weekend.  He was the epitome of an involved father providing guidance but never pushing his beliefs onto me, he would let me come up with my thoughts and we would talk.  I believe these car rides are how I became to be the person I am today as it helped me think through how I felt on important subjects of life in a safe place.

I am now realizing as I write this, I am beginning to get off topic while staying on topic at the same time.  The whole purpose of this entry was to pay homage to my dad and share some stories in honor of him on his birthday.  I am sure this will not be the last time I do this as there is so much to share about the way he touched my life and helped guide me to be the person I am today.

So, Dad, much like your birthdays previous to this one, it is you giving the gift the instead of receiving.  In honor of your birthday I am requesting the people reading this to do something for yourself today.  Take an hour or two and be nice to yourself.  Go out for a nice dinner, get a massage, but most importantly be good to you, because “Dammit you deserve it”.

I love you Dad, Happy Birthday!



Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


It’s been one week

Seven days down, only 23 more to go.  As of this evening I have completed seven days of my veggie/pescatarian challenge.  Over the past seven days I have only really wanted to eat meat a few times, but for the most part eating only vegetables has been a nice change.  I have not really noticed much of a difference in how I feel, but I feel like my meals are lighter and on the days when I track my calorie intake I seem to be eating less calories than I would if I were eating meat.  All in all it has been a good experiment as I am trying a few new things here and there while also eating some things I normally eat.

Here are some quick highlights of meals I have had that I thought were worth mentioning:

For the first time at a restaurant I at a veggie burger.  I went to Bagger Dave’s for lunch and had a veggie burger, smothered fries, and an Arcadia Angler’s Ale.  Fantastic lunch!!


On Sunday, Christina and I made shrimp on the barbie.  We decided to utilize one of Rick Bayless’ sauces and made some rocking shrimp tacos.  In addition to the shrimp we also grilled asparagus and zucchini.  It was a fantastic meal as you can see:

In addition to this fantastic dinner, Christina found a fantastic recipe to make Brownies a little healthier.  Now, I must say that I am a HUUUUUGGGE brownie fan and am very particular about Brownies.  So, I was a little skeptical when she said she was going to use whole garbanzo beans and agave nectar instead of flour and sugar.  They turned out fantastic!!! Check out the renewal body bootcamp blog and recipe found here .

Well that is enough ramblings about food for today.



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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


A Dreamer

“You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one”.  A classic line from John Lennon that I have lifted on several occasions, but often find fitting in my daily musings.  I often find myself dreaming of the “what ifs” and the possibilities of tomorrow.  Sometimes these things are global or political, and sometimes I just dream of doing something big or extraordinary.

Often what trips me up is the fact that despite my momentary delusions of grandeur, I am at best the average of average White 30 something men.  I have decent job, a reasonable mortgage, an average level of intelligence, and below average athletic ability.  In fact, one of my best friend’s often calls me Joe the Plumber (sans the overly conservative view on life), meaning that I am the epitome of middle class White America.

While it is a hard pill to swallow, and even if I do not want to admit it, he is correct as I do fit the demographic.  I think the only major difference is that I do not claim to be affiliated with dominate culture religious beliefs (i.e. Christianity).  I grew up Catholic (yes, Catholicism is a denomination of Christianity, despite some peoples narrow view) and while I do not participate in the Religion I still finding myself being able to “fit in” with most of the practices (holidays etc).  Actually, at one point in my life I even thought about becoming a Priest.   Those aspirations and my devout faith in a church or religion has since dissipated, and now I find myself being more “spiritual”.

I know that tends to be a cliche response to the “religion question”, but I can not find any other way to describe how I feel.  I plan on spending some time writing about this in the future, so I will not get into it in detail today.  Let me just say, that I have feelings and have experienced certain things that I cannot describe, but I also remain skeptical and have serious mistrust issues with organized religion.

Back on topic (sidebar, I once had a professor tell me I was guilty of word vomit while writing, well it is true as I once again have gone off topic after saying back on topic), I often find myself inspired by stories of fantastic conquest.  Over the last few years I have found myself drawn to books and stories of survival.  Tales of women and men reaching the summit of Everest or running thousands of miles without stopping.  These people do this not for fame but to test the boundaries of human capability and their own understanding of the possibilities of life.

So today, as I find myself engrossed in a book about a 60 plus year old man attempting to break the World Record for crossing the United States on foot, I think to myself of the possibilities.  I find myself getting inspired and thinking of my own capabilities or lack there of.  And I wonder, what is my Everest?  What will be my Transatlantic adventure??

I am still searching but I hope to find it and I hope to push the boundaries of what I thought could be possible for myself. And maybe just maybe inspire someone else to reach their own Everest summit.

As the saying goes, You can say I am a dreamer, but I seriously doubt that I can be the only one?


Some highly recommended books about extraordinary people pushing the boundaries of human capability:

Dean Karnazes:  Confessions of a Midnight Runner

Marshall Ulrich: Running on Empty

Christopher McDougal: Born to Run

John Krakauer: Into Thin Air

Graham Bowley: No way down: Life and Death on K2

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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Day 2 Portabella Burger v Hamburger

Day two is almost up and so far things have been going quite well.  I have only craved bacon 38898499 times, so I consider this a minor victory.  Yesterday’s meals were pretty simple and typical of what most might think of a the non-meat eater lifestyle.  It mostly consisted of beans and salads for lunch and dinner and oatmeal for breakfast.  Today, I decided to branch out a little bit and try something I have never had before.

Let me first say, that as a child I had a giant fear of mushrooms.  In fact the thought of eating mushrooms made me ill, and I believe one time I actually got ill after eating one,  at least that is what brain remembers.  About a year ago, while eating at one of the most amazing burger joints in Michigan (Crazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger) I ate some deep fried mushrooms dipped in ranch. On the scale of healthy it is a negative 12, but it was a baby step that has now opened the door to trying things with mushrooms.

So as I venture on this journey in effort to expand my culinary routine and not focus so much on meat I decided to try Portabella burgers for dinner.  My brother had a great marinade recipe for portabella burgers and so I decided to give it a shot.  I made some small modifications, but overall I stuck to the recipe that he declared to be a winner.

Recipe:  1 part balsamic vinegar 1.5/2 parts extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, pepper flakes, and seasoning salt.

I marinated the mushroom for about 3.5 hours and threw it on the grill for about 15 minutes or so. I topped it with feta and cheddar cheese, tomato slices, onion, avocado, garlic olive oil mayo, and ketchup.

In addition to the mushroom burger I made a baked sweet potato.

Now, don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day I still would take a nice juicy beef hamburger before opting for the mushroom burger, but I will say the portabella burger was nothing to turn my nose at (as a matter of fact I look forward to having it again in a few days).  In fact on scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a solid 8.25.  It had the meaty texture of a hamburger and the flavor of the marinade complimented the flavor of the mushroom and the veggies I topped it with very nicely.  The feta and the cheddar are always a perfect mixture of cheeses to any grilled beef burger and it did not disappoint on the mushroom version.

I do think that this is a fantastic option and will be something that I definitely do again. After this little challenge, I think on days when I am looking for less calories (only 20 calories for a portabella mushroom cap), this is definitely a great option.

Here is a picture of the meal.

I will be writing my first article in a few days (my hope is to do what I call articles once or twice a week, these “articles” will be some sort of focused writing on a topic of my choosing, usually involving some sort of research or sources).  I have decided to pick a topic that I am familiar with and will focus on the education level of our society.  I am working on the title but it will probably be something like “Fist Pumping the Kardashians, our society seems to be getting dumber”.  Let me know your thoughts and don’t forget to leave a comment.




Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized



Welcome to my blog, I know what an exciting starting that statement is, but hey I promise it will get better. Too be honest, I hope that this is nothing generic or boring, so let us say that this is the last time I will aim for mediocrity.

My hope is that this will serve as an outlet of some sort, an opportunity to ramble about life’s musing and discuss things of importance.  Or simply share thoughts on random occurrences of the day.  In addition, I am planning from time to time taking challenges and talking about my experiences during these challenges.  More often than not these challenges will be roughly 30 day projects requiring me to make a life change or try something new.  Life is too short to experience the same thing every day.  Living in the world we live in, it is too easy to do the same things everyday and not try anything new.  Before you know it life passes you by, and as I reached my 30th year in life realized from time to time I am guilty of letting life pass me by.  So in effort to reach beyond myself I have decided to do something and chronicle it for the 10s (that number might be high) of you that actually read this.  Actually that is part of the reason I chose the name Sideways fallin for this website.  It is taken from a line in one of my favorite songs, in my favorite album, by my favorite band.  The full line is “sideways falling all will be revealed my friend”, and I feel that this has the possibility to be very telling as hopefully much will be revealed as I will show my passions and at times my vulnerabilities.


As I stated earlier, in addition to discussing the progress of these challenges, I will talk about whatever I want.  I can do this because well this is my space.  Please feel to comment, critique, or provide feedback, but please try not to venture into attacking or providing too much negativity.

So, as I sit here on this chilly January 2nd evening I begin my journey.  Before I get started, I want to thank you for joining me on this journey, even if it is to kill time at work, while using the bathroom (I know with the advent of smart phones, people use these on the bathroom, and I feel honored that I could be part of your daily business), or as part of your nightly facebook time.


My first challenge.

Since I turned 30 back in July I have wanted to do a series of 30 day challenges, but for some reason or another I kept putting it off.  Well, I will use the beginning of this new year (according to the Gregorian Calendar) to begin my first of what I hope to be many little challenges.

I have decided to give up meat for 30 days. I know this is not a big deal, however growing up in the midwest meat is the focal point of almost every meal.  In addition I have certain friends that believe that if their not some sort of meat on the plate, it is not a meal (you know who you are).  I really do not think I eat a lot of meat, but I know I do not eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables, so I think it is ideal to try this in hope to increase my intake of veggies and fruit, so that when I do go back to eating meat it is not the focal point but just a part of the bigger course or maybe not even part of the meal at all.  I have decided to not go full vegetarian, but instead to take the pescetarian route.  I do not eat a lot fish, shellfish, or other bottom dwellers but I have a feeling when going out to eat from time to time it might be nice to have some fish or something, plus as I will begin training for the Riverbank Run 25K, I will need to make sure I am getting enough protein and this will help ensure that I am doing that.  Some might think this is me not taking this challenge seriously, but the challenge is ultimately for me to get to rethink the possibilities of food and become less reliant on meat.  So for those interested my last meal as a carnivore was this:



It was fantastic.  Steak tacos with pickled onion, fresh cilantro, and a black bean mixture with grilled jalapeños, onion, tomato, spice, and plenty of hot sauce.

Here are the rules for this challenge:

No meat, meaning pork, chicken, beef, game meat or any other type of warm blooded animal.  I can eat fish, or shellfish.  I have also decided I am not going to be picky about things made with beef or chicken stock but I will try to avoid.

What happens if I cheat?  Since the purpose of this challenge is not to give up meat full time but to change my lifestyle in consumption of meat products, I do not consider having bacon one day cheating, but do not worry it will be something that I try to avoid and attempt not to do.

Well I start tomorrow, so wish me luck.  Until next time keep it simple!


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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Uncategorized