080: A Change In Focus

So, I know you have all really come to love and adore the content I post here on How Many Beards. But this post is to serve as a bit of a forewarning that you may notice a slight shift in focus coming soon.

complete beer course

In TOTALLY unrelated news, I am finding myself getting back into brewing and as part of that I am diving into beer styles. The internet has almost unanimously pointed me towards The Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein. It’s a hefty tome that is equal parts coffee table book and actual fountain of knowledge. The book is truly designed to walk you through learning the different beer styles, and it’s something I am fully committing to. As a result of all this you should start to see more regular posting here. The downside is you probably won’t really care about most of it, and some of it may be unintelligible if I forget about the second half of Hemingway’s maxim: Write Drunk, Edit Sober.

What I am really here to ask is if anyone is interested in joining me on this voyage. It won’t be a short one. There are 10 Classes, and the first class has 34 beers (2 from each style) to try. So let me know! Don’t make me be the guy drinking all these beers alone! I’ll do it though. I’ll drink them alone. At night. In the dark. While everyone is sleeping.


079: Be A Man

“Be a man.” All Things Considered posits that these are possibly the 3 scariest words a boy can hear. Part of me tends to agree. Part of me thinks they’re scary for grown men too. Part of me also hears it as a call (a challenge if you will) to be better. A reminder that, in our time, masculinity has been warped through commercialization that is pressed on us non-stop both directly and subliminally and that we must find a way to lift ourselves up from this. 

If it truly is a calling, then it is a lifelong calling. It is something which must be worked at, honed, and exercised. One must create a muscle memory if you will, so that it becomes reflexive from repetition. From my experience it is not something that comes naturally. Rather it is born at best through the teachings of your family and community and at it’s hardest through a sincere effort to improve one day at a time through learning and action.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family and community with strong male role models who represented some of the best qualities of a man – leadership, work ethic, morality, physical strength, emotional availability. Chief among these was my own father, but there were plenty of others as well – uncles, friend’s fathers, teachers, coaches, etc. Yet, somehow when I reached the middle of my college career I found myself seeking out knowledge about manhood, masculinity, and what it meant to “be a man.”

I am sadly part of a generation unwittingly forced into Prolonged Adolescence by many compelling societal and economic factors, so when I first looked to my peers I found them to be, on the whole lacking. Many of my closest friends contained the potential to be good men. Diamonds in the rough, if you will, but for most of them those parts of their character were overwhelmed by other aspects. This led me to look elsewhere. I found it in some of my male professors. But I found myself mostly drawn to the early writings of Brett McKay. Brett is the creator and chief author of the now deservedly popular Art Of Manliness.

Admittedly my early fascination with Art Of Manliness was quite in line with my priorities at the time – materials. I was fascinated with articles on straight razor shaving, pocket notebooks, knives, and how to dress myself. Yet over the years it has been the in depth articles on the more philosophical aspects of manhood that have truly captured my attention.

The question of manliness, of “being a man” lingered on in my mind for years, especially during my year long sabbatical in Korea. However, when The Wife and I found out last year that we were expecting our first child, the question returned to the forefront of my mind with great passion. Suddenly I was looking on the matter from a whole new perspective – fatherhood. In my early panic about whether or not I would be a good father, I found myself looking back more and more on those role models and teachings I had found years previously, my father, my professors, the writings online. I found great solace in the parable of Hercules – that a life of ease is no life, and only through toil can we find success and joy – and also the writings of Seneca on stoicism. I made changes in myself. I made choices in my life. I chose to cut the fat, and live a healthier existence. 

And then over the last couple of days I came across two things that made me want to talk about all this. 

First, was a piece I found a few days ago over at what is possibly the blog most responsible for me being able to dress myself like a respectable adult. The fine gents at Put This On posted about a piece they had read. It was written by Andrew W.K., who apparently has his own advice column, in which he talks a good deal about what it means to be a man but from a wonderfully different place. I actually recommend reading the whole thing. Sidebar, a decade ago I thought Andrew W.K. was a total wacko, but have since come to really appreciate his approach to life.

Then today, while driving home with Scout sleeping in the back, I was tuned into NPR and this piece from All Things Considered came on. It’s an interview with former NFL player Joe Ehrmann, about what we as a society are doing and messaging to young boys and young men and what affect it is having on them long term. Mr. Ehrmann couches it in terms most familiar to him – his experiences with coaches and players on the field and the different types of relationships they have. Most importantly though he uses two terms in reference to those relationships, “transactional and transformational.” He goes on to talk about the crisis he sees facing manhood and I have to say it really resonated with me. I won’t go into terrible detail about what he says, I think you can find the 7.5 mins to listen to it.

At the end of the day, the core of both these pieces is essentially this – that being a good man means being good. However, there still seems to be a line drawn in the sand between being a good human being and being a good man. So what makes the two different? What constitutes that line? And how does it remain in our modern society where so much work has been done to erase the barriers between genders? Is it that men still hold an assumed position of power and strength? And through that are we held to a higher expectation of decency not to abuse that position? This seems to be the next line of thinking I have to pursue on this lifelong journey. Let me know what you think in the comments.


078: Friday Jams | Face To Face – Disconnected

Crack a cold one and kick off your weekend with a little rock and roll.

077: Friday Jams | Anberlin – Ready Fuels

Anberlin. One of those bands that I was introduced to in high school but never came to enjoy until college. And then honestly, after their second album I never really got around to their newer music. I don’t think I’ve ever classified them as a favorite, oh sure they were probably on the list of bands I liked on Facebook circa 2006, but they were never in heavy rotation.

But, whenever one of their songs comes on Pandora I always sing along and know more of the words than I do for a lot of songs I listen to on the regular. Maybe it’s because they’re one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

It was freshman year of college, and a friend of mine from down the hall had asked if I wanted to go a few days earlier. We bought tickets, but the day before we found out the show might not happen – the front-man had come down with the flu. Yet day of the show was still on so we walked down to what was then the Beta Bar (now the Engine Room?) and jammed in with everyone else. The band that opened for them, Showbread, was this insane screamo-noise rock mash-up band that performed with a fairly intoxicating energy. But then Anberlin came on. And even though they were touring in support of their (at the time) newest album, which I had only listened to once or twice and the fact that the lead singer had a 100+ degree fever they just absolutely killed it.

BONUS JAM: The first Anberlin song I ever heard – Glass To The Arson

076: World Cancer Day – Myth 1

Let’s admit it, Super Bowl XLVIII was pretty lame unless you’re a diehard Seahawks fan. And even most of the commercials were pretty lame. But, I did catch an interesting take-away from one of them – that today, February 4th is World Cancer Day. So, I did a little research and found that this is an amazing organization dedicated to getting people to understand cancer so that they can seek the prevention or treatment they need. This year they are running a campaign called “Debunking The Myths” focused on knocking out the 4 biggest myths that prevent people from talking about and understanding this disease.

World Cancer Day Myth 1 Poster.pdf-page-001

In the spirit of my last post I’d like to focus on the 1st Myth “We Don’t Need To Talk About Cancer.” This is probably the single biggest block on a greater cultural awareness of cancer. The benefits of discussing cancer are huge, while remaining silent about it can harm not only you, but your friends, family, community, and business as well.

World Cancer Day Myth 1.pdf-page-002

The most intriguing fact to me was from the section titled Cancer and the Workplace. A direct quote: “In low resource settings, the costs of cancer can be catastrophic for families, with the high costs of cancer treatment and absence from work, impoverishing families.” This speaks directly to what Aflac can do to protect you and your family. I only wish they included not just those with low resources, but even those of modest means. A cancer diagnosis can be a huge burden even for those in the middle class, with costs avergaing $35,000 in out of pocket expenses even for people with Major Medical Insurance.

Here’s my challenge for you, this week go out and talk to 2 people about cancer. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, or a business partner it doesn’t matter. Just open the conversation with them. And if it’s something they’re concerned about, have them get in touch with me to discuss their options to protect their family against the rising cost of cancer.

075: Why I Do What I Do

Many of you may know on a cursory level that I work for Aflac, but many of you may not know why. Aflac built itself up on the idea of Cancer Insurance – the idea that in light of the physical and emotional toll that this disease can take on friends and loved ones, a family should not have to be overly concerned with the financial concerns of a cancer diagnosis and it’s often lengthy treatment.

This is why I work for Aflac. After losing my father to cancer, and knowing all the different ways that my wifes family was affected by it when her mother went through treatment for breast cancer, this policy and all of the protection it can provide hold a very important place in my heart. I have seen how this plan can and does provide families with the financial freedom to focus on the physical and emotional support that a person needs during such a difficult period in their life.

I’ve never been very vocal about this policy with family and friends before. Never talked much about its ability to pay out tens of thousands of dollars during a period of treatment. But after reading this article the other day, it really moved me to reach out.

At face value the article is scary enough – that Cancer is set to eclipse Heart Disease as the No. 1 lethal disease in the US, a title which Heart Disease has held since the first time the CDC ever published its mortality report back in 1958. But, as always the devil is in the details. The article even comes right out and says that we are getting better and better reducing the mortality rate of cancer. What that really means is that cancer is slowly transitioning from terminal illness to chronic disease. And even more so we are learning first hand every day that cancer never truly goes away. That remission has replaced the word cured.

What this says to me is that there will be more and more treatments. More radiations, more chemo-therapies, more surgeries, more anti-nausea medicine, more experimental drug trials, more bone marrow transplants, on and on ad nauseum. Fortunately all of these things and more are covered by the Aflac Cancer policy so that we can have the luxury of being their to take care of those who matter most.

Cancer can be a difficult subject. Insurance can be a difficult subject. But it would really mean a lot to me to have the opportunity to speak with you directly about what I do and how I can help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

074: Somewhere You Can Finally Work 7 Days A Week

Today marks one year since my father passed away. He went so peacefully that honestly, at first, we didn’t even realize he was gone. If anyone had ever earned a peaceful passing it was him. A man who worked non-stop from the moment someone let him start. He worked a host of jobs as a teenager and young man to help support his family after his own father passed away, and took on many responsibilities in the house as his mother faltered under the weight of her own battle with cancer. He then went on to own and operate a company that at one point employed over 100 people. A company that still persists to this day in a much reduced form, but that managed to weather even the depths of the recession. He got up early to work and stayed up late to work. He would leave his chemotherapy appointments and go out and go to work. Most of us work to live. My father lived to work.

He worked for good reason, because he worked to provide for all of us. Not just my mother and brother and I. But his family, his friends, co-workers, employees and acquaintances. He worked to provide ease of living and peace of mind. He wanted to know that if he decided he needed to get up and go to Wal-Mart at 6 am and buy a third pair of work boots that it wouldn’t be a problem. Or that at the end of the year when it was time for a little extra cash in the envelopes for his people he didn’t have to check the company’s cash flow.

This is one of the most important lessons he ever taught me. It has taken me a while to learn, but I have learned it whole-heartedly. And that is because my father never taught by telling, but simply by doing and by being.

Only, I wish he were here to continue teaching me. And that’s the problem. I miss him. I miss him in a way that is so frustrating that it borders on anger and then that makes me feel more upset because it feels petty and cheap. One of the best things someone said to me after he passed away is that one shouldn’t mourn a life well lived. And if his life wasn’t well lived than no one’s is. And I don’t mourn him. I simply miss him. I miss that he won’t be here to continue celebrating life with us. That he won’t be here to see my baby girl when she comes into this world and he won’t be able to cherish her the way I know he would.

But missing him is perhaps the best honor I can bestow upon him. It means I haven’t forgotten him or what he tried to teach me. And so when I do miss him, I remind myself to be like him. And that he is in a better place, somewhere where, as I told my mother, “He can finally work 7 days a week without anyone bothering him.”

Rest well, dad.


073: 2013 Gift Guide – Pt. 1

Well hello there fine chaps! It seems it is that fine time of year again when we all start gearing up for the holidays. The parties are planned and scheduled, good times are shared, and goodfaith compromises are made on how much weight gain is acceptable between Thanksgiving and Jan 2nd. For most people it’s also a time of exchanging gifts, and in case any of you are looking for a little inspiration we’re here to prep you before you find yourself wandering the mall on Dec 17th in a spiked-eggnog fueled daze with no idea what to get anyone except your self. Also, don’t forget my birthday falls conveniently halfway between now and the old 25th of December so anything you want to pop in the mail is up to you. Follow the jump to see what’s in store.

Read the rest of this entry »

072: Friday Jams | J Roddy Watson & The Business – Heavy Bells

071: The Wife Story

When my wife and I met in the fall of 2008 we could not have been more different people. Her being a beautiful young woman with her hair done, make up on, and dressed to kill in a dress and heels. Me being a slobish boy with a big beard, a mohawk, and uninterested in dressing myself to an impressive degree. Yet it was serendipitous. As many of our closest friends will tell you, had we met at any other moment prior in our lives we probably would’ve never spoken to each other. I was convinced she was out of my league. All of her friends thought she was crazy for even looking at me.first met

But fate is a funny thing. We were drawn to one another and we were tested, both by time and distance and also by each other. Each test worked to reveal more and more ways that we were already connected, and to forge connections where they did not previously exist. We came together over both the best in our lives, things like our shared passion for travel, excellent foods, and a well deserved drink. And we supported each other through the worst in our lives like living on different continents for a year and enduring separate cancer diagnosis in each of our families, and eventually losing my father. All of these experiences served only to bind us together, and when were finally married we knew it was something we wanted to be for a lifetime; to build a life together, create a home, have children, and make a family to cherish.married

We’ve always talked about kids, even before we were engaged. They were always part of the grand plan: marriage, house, career, children. That plan was supposed to be on our own time, and in our own way because that’s how we’ve always done things. Yet, just a few short weeks ago we discovered (after six positive pee tests) that she is pregnant and our first child is on its way. We’ve both officially moved out of the shock and into the very real elation at bringing a child into the world. And for me, I can’t wait to watch this woman who has been so crucial in my life over the last 5 years transform from being an incredible partner who has pushed me in every way to be a better man to being an amazing mother to our children. Baby Lueth coming in May 2014.

baby mama