Deadly Food Allergy: A Blessing?

A question I have pondered recently: are my deadly food allergies (peanuts) really a blessing in disguise?

My first thought, it has given me strength to be different. Standing out, not participating with the group, is regularly required for my survival. A common experience, as long as I can remember is being in a room, usually a cafeteria, full of people eating peanut butter infused food. Peanut butter rice crispy bars were a frequent treat at Santaquin Elementary School. Something I have just realized, these foods that I was unable to eat were considered a treat by most everyone else. I can only imagine my avoidance of the food was even more strange to other people. “Why in the world would I avoid eating a treat?”, they were probably thinking. Getting strange looks and harassment was common.

Living with a life threatening allergy has also increased my ability for attention to technical details. From a young age I needed to ask for food ingredients and how the food was prepared. This is something I took for granted. Until recently I didn’t realize that this was a strange thing to do. From my perspective it is and has always been perfectly reasonable. Like looking both ways when crossing the street. Both cars and peanuts are deadly to me. Avoiding getting hit by a car is common among people, but a deadly food allergy is not. Looking back, I can see that I did realize this on an unconscious level. I learned to avoid asking what was in all food, sure it is risky, but I learned to categorize food. Thinking about the categories, they are: high probability of being safe, probably safe, risky, and high risk foods. The foods with a high probability of being safe, like fresh fruit, or other food where the ingredients are clear, I didn’t need to ask about their ingredients or how they were prepared. Other foods, like anything with chocolate, are high risk for peanuts and peanut butter, those I would ask or just avoid, not being worth the risk. People’s methods of food preparation are also risky, like using the same knife to spread both the jam and the peanut butter on a PB&J sandwich. If I don’t know that a jar of jam hasn’t been contaminated, I don’t even risk eating the jam.

I have discovered that paying attention to details and being OK with looking strange in a group setting, both are useful for eating healthy!
I’ve started eating a wider variety of healthy food the last few years. I’ve never wanted to try Panda Express but my wife enjoys their food, so I thought I’d give it a try. I went into the restaurant and saw how they dished up the food, there is the possibility of them using the same spoon to dish up the peanut food with the non peanut food. Seeing that I decided not to risk eating there. I used to love milk shakes, but peanut butter ingredients are regularly mixed on the same mixer and I have been exposed a few too many times. I now avoid ordering milkshakes (it helps that milk now also gives me congestion and stomach issues…).
Realizing that I was used to this (apparent) strange life of being picky and inquisitive about what I eat, I decided to use it to my advantage and eat more healthily. I currently choose to eat whole grains and avoid sugar based foods. Sure it’s a little awkward turning away cookies, donuts, pie, cake, and candy at social gatherings; but, for me it’s not that weird, I’ve always turned down peanut butter cookies, rice crispy treats, snickers, butter finger, peanut butter sandwiches, and many other foods mixed with peanuts!

Perhaps peanuts will be the death of me someday, but hopefully heart disease and diabetes will not! So it seems, I can look at this allergy and challenge in my life as a blessing and not a curse.

How about you? Any challenges that you could say “why me?” – that seem to have no benefit to your life? Could they really be a blessing?

Talking With Your Hands?

On the fourth of July we went camping and my wife took pictures of me in a serious discussion.

I was having a discussion with my brothers on the definition of a role-playing game. OK, maybe it wasn’t that serious, but the way I was holding my hands one might wonder! This amused me and inspired this post!

I’m one quarter Italian and I’ve been told that talking with your hands is an Italian thing. The questions for today are: is this really an Italian thing or just folk rumor? Is being part Italian the reason I talk with my Hands?

A New York times article states “To Italians, gesturing comes naturally.” Not a scientific publication, but I’m not making major life decisions here, this is good enough for me.

There are some interesting things online about talking with your hands, unrelated to being Italian. Many things I never knew before starting to write this post!

There is a lifehacker “Guide to Talking With Your Hands Without Being Annoying”. Hopefully I can avoid looking like the image a commentator left on that post: Fast Talking Hand Gif


According to a Forbes article “Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands”. My arms open and spread in the pictures should indicate that, I was trying to be open and honest, with nothing to hide. Can’t say I was consciously trying to convey openness or why I’d need honesty in the case of discussing the definition of a role-playing game. Perhaps I thought it would help make my point…?

I discovered that people are researching gestures and the research indicates that we gain cognitive benefits from talking with our hands. Our working memory can more easily use a gesture to communicate, which frees up some mental space for more complex thoughts. This makes sense to me. I enjoy complex discussions that fully utilize my mental capabilities. The more engaged I am in the discussion the more gestures I tend to use.

My takeaway from this little study, on talking with your hands, is: in general it’s a good thing. A caveat, we should take notice of ourselves once and a while and decide if we’re gesturing well or just being annoying.

What do you think? Do you talk with your hands?



The New York Times, When Italians Chat, Hands and Fingers Do the Talking

Lifehacker, A Guide to Talking With Your Hands Without Being Annoying

Forbes, Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands

Discover Magazine, Talk With Your Hands? You’re Doing It Right

Are You Stacking the Odds?

Much of life requires taking actions, in which you only have a chance at success, and most of the time, the odds of success are unknown. Regularly I will “risk the odds” and I often experience success. This has caused me to ponder “why?” on many occasions. I have decided that stacking the odds in my favor, a skill I honed through playing games, is one of the keys to my success.

Role-playing games (RPGs) make this concept much more clear. Let’s use the action to attack an enemy. In most role-playing games there is an attack action that factors in your game characters attributes with some random factor, a dice role, for tabletop role-playing games. In my online RPG Rule the Seas if your strength is significantly greater than your opponent’s defense, and you attack first, you will win. A player can increase their strength or defense by equipping items, but you can only equip nine different types of items. Some items give more strength than defense, and others give more defense. If you want to damage players with greater defense you’ll need to focus on equipping strength items. By focusing on increasing the strength attribute you are stacking the odds in favor of you winning when you strike first. On the flip side you could focus on defense and hope to withstand your attacker through a longer fight. There are other attributes and abilities you can focus on with your equipment, you could also choose to equip the most visually attractive items, regardless of their combat abilities. To play well you must pick an equipment strategy and stack the odds in favor of winning with that strategy.

Stacking the odds in life also requires choosing a strategy. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that maintaining a healthy body shape is our strategy for increased happiness. There are many habits we can “equip” to increase our odds of getting and staying in shape: eating fruits and vegetables, avoiding added sugar, eating whole grains, eating balanced meals, weekly strength and aerobic training, walking 10,000 steps per day, limiting saturated fats, limiting carbs, and on and on…
Will any of these alone ensure a healthy shape? Will ten of them employed at the same time guarantee it? No, it is still possible to have unhealthy levels of body fat while doing many activities to avoid it.
The key is, each activity increases your odds of success.

There is a famous scene in Star Wars, where Han Solo says “Never Tell Me The Odds!”

We don’t actually need to know the odds to stack the odds, we only need to know if the actions we are taking align with our strategy and increase the odds of success. For example, developing a great marriage or relationships with my parents or children, these are not strategies where I need to know the odds of success.

I have learned that being persistent is a key part of this concept. When we refuse to give up, keep stacking the odds, and keep rolling the dice, we will experience success again and again (and eventually conquer our enemies and shed those fat pounds!).

Role-playing games not only provide an example of how to “Stack the Odds”, they also function as an excellent way to practice. Do you have a favorite RPG and are you learning to stack the odds?

Egotistical or Self-Aware?

After writing many posts about myself, a concern crept into my mind, am I being egotistical and selfish or am I becoming more self-aware?
“Know thyself” is generally considered wise.
Being egotistical is not.
Often one seems to be confused with the other.
Is this one of those fine lines where a virtue can turn into a vice?

John D. Mayer Ph.D says “People who display such an ability [to know thyself] understand themselves and know who they are.  They evaluate others more accurately and therefore make more allowances for others’ foibles; they are better at acknowledging their own limitations, too”. Making allowances for others’ weaknesses and acknowledging ones own limitations doesn’t sound like being egotistical!

“Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness” states Sara Canaday.  In her article by the same name, she makes several good points. Confronting the reality of yourself, truly looking at our weaknesses and strengths always includes pain.  To our ego the pain isn’t worth the price of genuine self-knowledge.  She provides several good suggestions for improving self-awareness, take a look, if you dare!

Bringing back everything to yourself or relating to yourself can seem self-obsessed, especially if done in a rude way (which is not necessarily selfish, it could be a lack of social skills).  I found an interesting post by Peter Kowalke on where he shares his experience with self-awareness and how it’s different from selfishness.  He does make a point that we should guard against selfishness and there seems to be a risk of it in the unschooling method.

Using this knowledge, my plan is to keep writing and assessing myself. My hope is to improve self-awareness and avoid being egotistical.

What is your plan?


Know Thyself by John D. Mayer Ph.D

Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness by Sara Canaday.

The Fine Line Between Self-Awareness and Selfishness By Peter Kowalke

Irrationally Awesome!

Why are some things irrationally awesome? There is much in life we like with no good reason, the answer is simply: “because I like it”. Let’s start with the featured image on this post, a Jedi with a light saber overlooking an amazing scene. Very cool!

Dragons, why is a giant fire-breathing lizard with wings awesome?
Maybe because it’s red! Oh wait, yes, I’m a little irrationally obsessed with red too…

An excellent specimen:

Red-Gold Dragon

Beagles, not sure why but I just like to look at them. I feel like King Haggard in the Last Unicorn. Only if I could command a Red Bull to round all of them up for me…
My beagles had puppies, very cuddly!

The only thing more awesome than a beagle is a beagle ninja! See my dog climbed his fence and is walking the balance beam…


Mongoose, see it take on a Cobra!

I could say it’s from the dozens of times I watched the movie Riki Tiki Tavi as a child, but why did I want to watch it dozens of times…?


Um, not sure…

Swords, so I can stab someone! er, wait… I typically avoid even killing insects if possible…

Trees, see the picture of the house surrounded by trees, a big reason I moved to that house, the trees…

Take a look at me pointing at the Trees on our Vacation to Lake Conroe, TX – awesome trees!
They do give shade, but so does a warehouse (not awesome)…

Praying Mantis, found this critter hanging out on my windshield wipers. Why is this so amazing!?

Rational likes for comparison

  • Food (needed for survival)
  • Fair Maidens (human survival)
  • Winning (helps attract a fair maiden and get food)

What is the point here, not sure, maybe it’s that, even those of us with “Analytical” in our top five strengths can still be irrational!

Or perhaps, the key takeaway from this post is: if you want to sell me something, it should be a red dragon-beagle-mongoose-goat-mantis perched in red-leafed tree wielding a red tinted sword or at least you should find some way to throw that into the deal!

Die To Learner?

From an early age I liked to test the boundaries. My Dad (Pickering), would watch me as a child and I would intentionally roll off the edge in Marble Madness the Original Nintendo Game, to learn just how far I could get to the edge.

Marble Madness (U)
Marble Madness Screen Shot

No, it was not because I liked to lose or “die”, but knowing where the boundary was would allow for increased game performance.

Personalized insights From GALLUP:  Learner

“Instinctively, you enjoy examining books, journals, documents, artifacts, or data. They broaden your knowledge and allow you to acquire new skills. Firsthand experiments and personal experiences contribute mightily to your qualifications and credibility as an expert and specialist. It’s very likely that you thirst for new ideas and knowledge. Often you lose yourself in a book. You pore over the ideas contained on its pages for long stretches of time. Why? You want to absorb as much information as you can. Driven by your talents, you value education and scholarship at any level and at any age. Your thirst for knowledge causes you to explore many topics of study or specialize in one particular subject. You thoroughly enjoy opportunities to acquire additional information, skills, and experiences. Chances are good that you long to gather information about individuals. Your “need to know” is rarely satisfied. The more facts you gather, the easier it is for you to understand the person’s unique strengths, limitations, interests, likes, dislikes, or goals. Unquestionably, you study human beings one by one. Your ongoing observations of selected individuals probably provide you with interesting insights into human nature. By nature, you yearn to know a lot. It makes little sense to you to skim through a book and read only the highlights. You delve more deeply into intriguing subjects than most people do. You love to gather all kinds of information. This explains why you take time to grasp ideas that appear in print.”

GALLUPs insights are generally fitting, except the bit about skimming a book to read the highlights. Some books are only worth skimming, although I prefer the term “inspectional reading” used by Adler in his book, How to Read a Book.  First, a book should be inspectionally read, and then if warranted it can be given an in-depth analytical reading!

Take a look at my post about my study process for more on this strength.

Dating My Wife

I love being married and now it’s easier than it is challenging. This was not always the case. After five years of marriage (year 2003), we had gone through some rough times in our relationship, and to repair it we decided we needed to spend more enjoyable time together. My wife and I had common convictions and some similar interests, but significantly different personalities. There are many personality theories and general counseling advice, that suggest we are incompatible and the odds are against us making it work.

Both of us believe in eternal marriage.

Now, twelve years later we enjoy a rock solid relationship. A critical element in our success is continuing to date. There are several activities we have rekindled and allow for renewing of our relationship.

Shows/Videos, this one is easy and low-cost for us, we started renting TV series and watching them together each evening. At first we went a little crazy on this and would get through a whole season in a week. The key is watching something we both enjoy. I cannot tolerate watching television with commercial interruptions and dislike watching one episode per week, so we wait for a whole season to release on disk and watch it that way. We both enjoy Science Fiction, Fantasy, Law, Spy and Crime (some) genre and we stick, for the most part, to those types of shows. If either of us is uncomfortable with the violence, language or general feel we’ll move onto something else.

We have also found common ground in books, discussion around our shared interests, vacations, and dining out. Most of the time we don’t read the same books, she reads interesting fiction and tells me about the story; I read educational non-fiction and share my discoveries and insights. We like to discuss what we read, watch and experience. We discuss while walking and eating out. Our vacations include walking, exploration and discussion.

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Walking Past Saint George LDS Temple
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Walking up Cedar City Canyon

Sometimes we just have fun being silly!Moroni dating wife 3OQDiG8QV-yZDCRRFkfGTnpJ0rF2pS5vU_FnBW-bjx0=w694-h921-no

Creating a beautiful relationship requires nurturing the relationship, it requires making the choice to put in the time necessary. We all must find what will stack the odds in our favor and then make those actions a priority!