I have a shopping problem, but it’s not what you think…

My name is Ryan Rauch and I have a shopping problem.

I know there are kids out there who will get $20 for their birthday and take it straight to their piggy bank in their room and never even think of spending it. Maybe they take it out every so often and look picture of Andrew Jackson or the White House on the back. Maybe they stare at the hologram, or maybe they keep it tucked away and imagine how it will be a big down payment on going to college someday. I know there are other kids out there who will take that same $20, run across the street to their friend’s house, and trade that $20 for an old NERF gun or XBOX game.

Do kids still play with NERF guns? Doesn’t matter…

The point is, kids rarely do the smart thing and weight their options, look for deals, and try and use that $20 for something practical and necessary. I was never the kid who hoarded money for 20 years down the road. Nor was I the kid who ran out and spent it as soon as I touched it. However, as I got older, something happened to me. I have become that kid who stares at the $20 bill and refuses to spend it unless he absolutely HAS to.

I have a spreadsheet to track my finances. It’s sensible. I was told by my coworkers at a sales dinner last week that they, too, have similar spreadsheets to track budgets and spending in their own homes. (Actually, someone told me that Chase has a way you can download your statements to an excel file… I almost had to excuse myself from dinner and run to a computer…)

Anyway, I look at my spreadsheet like that kid looks at his $20 bill. Wide-eyed and excited, I track out 3 months in advance how much money I will have in my checking account. I know what day my electric bill will be coming out and how much, to the penny, I will have leftover afterward. Sometimes, so not to spend more than what I budgeted for fuel in a given month, I will stop short of a full tank by a few dollars so that my spreadsheet stays accurate. Again, this is not so much the problem. Well, my wife will tell you it is, but to each their own, right? At least this is somewhat-sensible and responsible. And when it comes down to it, at least I am not the kid who is pawning my paychecks for NERF gun and video games.

The problem comes in for when I have some “extra” spending money. Some “shopping-money.” I budget so much money every month for “assumed spending.” Sometimes, this means paying for dinner with my wife or playing a round of golf on the weekend. I don’t have a problem with doing things like this. My problem is when I decide I really want a material-something like a golf shirt, and I become gun-shy when it comes to actually buying the shirt. I have had an Amazon tab open on my browser with 2 Nike golf shirts and a bottle of green Sriracha in my cart for the past 2 weeks.

Side note: The only reason I know how to spell “Sriracha” is because I am able to click over to that tab and look.

I have the most fascinating was of talking myself out of buying something for one reason or another. The other night, I “almost” bought everything in my Amazon cart, but my wife who was sitting next to me made a little comment about one of the items and I decided that her comment” threw me off,” so I shut my computer and was ready to go another two weeks before considering buying again. She, recognizing this, tried to build my confidence back up and tell me I should buy the shirts. So, reluctantly, I go to get back on Amazon, and the internet connection fails.

A sign.

This is literally what happens when I shop online:

  1. Find something online that I really like or want.
  2. Let that tab stay open for 3 or 4 days on my desktop while I click over different color options.
  3. Decide what I want is probably too expensive and there is another (insert color or style) one that is half price.
  4. Find one that is half price.
  5. Decide that this new one isn’t really what I want and I’d be better off getting undershirts  or something I really need.
  6. Don’t buy anything because I don’t really want undershirts and I need to pay off my credit cards anyway.

I recently read an article about learning how it’s OK to spend money on yourself every now and then as long as you’re not buying a new car or a 2 month trip to Tahiti. I’d like to say that it gave me the courage to just spend $100 for the hell of it, but I am still apprehensive. I think I like the idea of buying something more than the execution of buying something. I liken it to buying expensive household items. For me, it’s more fun to window shop at West Elm than it would be to buy furniture at Target. So until I can buy at West Elm, maybe I want to hoard my money in a savings account.

This is a problem. This is a SHOPPING problem. I can spend, but I cannot shop.

However, I am determined to overcome this shopping problem. I do not want to be the kid who stares at the $20 bill. Besides, I don’t think a golf shirt is going to keep us from finding a house in a year or not being able to turn on the A/C if it ever decides to stop raining and actually get warm this spring!


Managing Stress, Conquering Fear

In general, I am not a very “stressed” person. My mindset is usually one where I absorb whatever unpleasant situation that might arise, decide that “what’s done is done” or “what will be will be,” and figure out how to move past it. Sometimes, I think people want to dwell on stress for entirely too long. I don’t know if it’s because they want to believe that their stress trumps anyone else’s stress or if they think there will be some sympathy on the back end from people. I know people who over dramatize whatever happens to them in order to, I can only imagine, almost make you envy them in some backwards kind of way. In any case, people handle stress in any number of ways.

Today is the Thursday before Easter. Every year since I can remember we would go out to my Dad’s side of the family for Easter Sunday and we would have a big dinner, which would usually take place at 12:00 or 1:00 which is still funny to me that it’s called dinner. Anyway, today I was looking through Facebook and I saw a post from my Sister-in-Law addressed to the Facebook page for the “Rauch Family Easter Dinner” explaining that she and my brother and niece weren’t going to be able to make it out this year.

Side Note: The fact that there is a Facebook page dedicated to our family holidays cracks me up. This is the family that 3/4 of the entire family lives on one stretch of road in Newark, Ohio and still has the same red barn I remember growing up. It seems like a world that will forever live in my memories, but now they have Facebook to organize holiday dinners.

Red circles all Facebooking each other right now…

I’m losing focus.

The point is, I completely forgot about going out to “the farm” this year for Easter. Usually by this time, I have talked to my Dad and we have arranged a time to get out there and when to leave. Here’s the point: it stresses me out that I will let my family down that I will not be out there this year. It stresses me out that, although it’s not like I am staying home, that I feel like I am losing touch with that side of my family. It stresses me out that  my relationship with this side of my family exists more on Facebook than it does in real life.

Today, for whatever reason, I have been feeling stress more than most other days. A lot is happening in my life and maybe it’s all catching up to me. Maybe it’s normal to feel stress and my way of shrugging when the weight of the world hangs over me isn’t always the right way to handle stress. I’m stressed about moving. I know I should be excited to start looking for a house but I can’t help but wonder if I am ready or if I want to settle in Columbus, Ohio. I’m stressed that I can’t write more blog entries. I’m stressed that I don’t know what to blog about some days. I’m stressed that I cannot finish books. I’m stressed because I don’t have any money to play poker and even though I’m confident that I’d win, I cannot justify gambling money I can’t afford to lose. I’m stressed that I can’t justify buying a hat or a golf shirt I want (This could be a whole other blog post and it will be eventually. I have inability to buy things for myself. It is what it is.). I’m stressed that I have debt. I’m stressed that I pick at hang nails until they bleed. Stressed that I don’t know if I do this because I’m stressed or if I do it which causes me stress. I’m stressed that this list is getting so long. I’m stressed that I started in fantasy golf Graham McDowell instead of someone else and I only will have 6 starts left with him and he is shitting the bed.

So before I ramble off the edge…

I am not trying to turn this into a pity party blog entry and I am not trying to make it seem like what I stress about is any more or less important than anyone else. I know there are 100 million people who would read what I stress about and tell me how lucky I have it. And I think that’s why I never allow myself to show stress to anyone else. I feel like I am blessed to stress about things like hang nails and not being about to blog. But this way of thinking prevents me from stressing about the things that actually matter, like feeling like I am losing a part of myself because I am losing touch with the side of the family I do not identify with as much as I used to.

I think we stress because we cannot quite grasp what really matters. We stress about the little things because we don’t want to admit what really scares us. Fear and stress are very closely related. Stress is the blanket we use to hide ourselves from fear. My wife stresses out when I do not answer the phone when she calls because she thinks I got into a huge car crash. I stress about not seeing that side of the family enough because I fear the day when I don’t see them anymore. It doesn’t mean one stress is more legitimate than the other, rather, it means we all interpret our fears differently allow stress to affect us uniquely.

So how do we cure stress? Should we cure stress? Is there a world where we can honestly say we do not fear anything? I think we are born without fear and the more we understand and more we know, the more we learn to fear. I think the right approach is to embrace stress. Understand stress. If we can be honest with the reasons we stress about something and get down to the root of what we’re afraid of, we can learn to manage our fears and get through the hard times. To conquer stress, I believe we have to be honest about what we fear, decide if we are able and willing to address our fears, and ultimately either do something about it or learn to live with the daily worry that our true fear will someday come to fruition.

Runner Dog

Yesterday somebody sent me a funny email about the “75 thoughts runners think about during a run.” The long and short of it was that during the course of a 5 mile run, a runner will think about how easy the run is, how difficult the run is, and just about everything in between. It got me thinking about what I think about when I run.

Background: I have run 1 marathon, 2 half-marathon, and about two handfuls of 5k’s, 10k’s, color runs and fun runs. I ran cross country in 8th grade and I “invented” a style of running where I run on roads against traffic called “adventure running” that my wife and dog are not very fond of me doing.

Since we got Rogue, I have been doing most of my runs with him (though he tells me I should be doing ALL my runs with him).

Post-run tired Rogue

Running with a dog is very different than when I run alone. I like running with Rogue because he needs the exercise, but also because I am in a totally different frame of mind than when I run alone.

Normally when I run alone, I have my music going. I pretend that I am in a movie and the music is what you’d hear when the main character is running in slow motion to get the girl or when he missed the bus or when he’s being chased by those mean kids on bikes. When it’s a slow song, I’m usually in slow motion and the everyone is observing my awesome form and how fast I probably look to them. When the songs pick up their pace and the guitars kick in, every car on the road is out to get me but they’re no match for my elusiveness and quick feet.

Running with a dog, however, takes me out of the movies and I go into coach-mode. Rogue and I have a 3 mile loop around our house that we like to do. Rogue likes it because he’s comfortable with it, and I don’t have to tell him where to go. He knows where his poop spots are and where the trees with those ass-hole squirrels are that if only he wasn’t leashed up he’d make sure they never mocked him again!

Tangent: We used to live at an apartment that had a pond next to our building. We’d take him out to pee and he would pull us toward the geese if they were on land and he swore up and down that he would kill them and they wouldn’t stand a chance and if we just give him 60 seconds with that goose he would make us so proud of how good of a goose-murderer he is. Anyway, the geese would always run back to base in the pond and he couldn’t ever get to them. Well, one time a goose decided enough was enough and was going to stand up for himself. Well Rogue pulls close to it, then chickens out and wants nothing to do with the goose. He’s afraid of the thing! This dog who swore that he was tough turns our to be a big old scared-y dog.

Anyway, so I am in coach-mode when he and I run together. The first mile is all about keeping him calm. He gets out of the gate like Smarty Jones and thinks he is out to win the Kentucky Derby. “Slow down, Rogue. You’re going to wish you hadn’t gone out so fast so early, buddy. Save some of that energy. You know you’ll need that later.”

This is usually where he calls time out and gets his poop on. At about the end of mile 1, there is a trash can that we regroup at and get ready for mile 2. Sometimes, I carry his poop for the better part of the mile and I can only imagine what people think when they drive by and see him dragging me down the sidewalk while I am trying to reel him with one hand and delicately holding his poop bag in the other.

Mile 2 begins and I am thankful to not be holding his poop anymore. We are out of the neighborhoods and entering squirrel-country. This is when his head goes down, and he forgets that we’re there to run. We both tend to get into “the zone” and are right at each other’s pace. He is no longer dragging me and I can now pump both arms. There are a few ponds with fountains, and we can start to see the park which is my favorite part of the run. As far as coach-mode is concerned, I am more or less just letting the players play. He knows what to do. I am feeling good. No concerns.

As we get to the park, we enter mile 3. This is where Rogue’s brash start to the run comes back to bite him. Now I am ahead of him and his tongue is in full floppy force and hanging out of the side of his mouth. Now is where I have to be at my best as a coach. “Come on, buddy. You can do it. Come on Rogue! Stay with me, buddy. You’re doing a good job runner dog. Come on, buddy stay with me!” At this point, a squirrel-parade could cross between he and I and he might not even notice.

We get through the park and are coming back up on the other entrance of our neighborhood. The home stretch! “Come on, Rogue. You’re doing such a good job buddy (not really. you WERE doing such a good job, now you’re hindering my run and you REALLY need to get back into running shape). Come on Rogue (get your ass moving). Almost there, buddy!”

Usually, we have to stop a little early. The loop is actually about 3.2 miles, so I let him off the hook at the 3 mile point. Once we get back into the neighborhood, we practice dropping the leash and stopping, waiting, sitting, and continuing. One day, I can see us running without a leash, but don’t tell his mother that. She wants him to be a leash-dog his whole life… We’ll get to that some other time.

Rogue promises me every time that he will remember to try to keep it under control next time for that first mile. He tells me good job and thanks me for the run-date and we go inside for some water.

“Did you see that one squirrel on mile 2?” he’ll say. “I bet he’s there again tomorrow. He won’t be if he knows what’s good for him.”

“Okay, buddy. Drink some water. We’ll get him tomorrow.”

Man Up: A Guide to Modern Manliness

If you pick up a Men’s magazine in any given month, you’re likely to come across an article about what it means to “be a man” in today’s society. Now, if you’re reading Muscle and Fitness, you’re probably going to find out about how being a man means staying fit and pushing your physical “manliness” to new heights in the weight room. If you’re reading Esquire, being a man probably has more to do with what’s in your closet than what’s in your head. And I’m sure you could probably even find an article about what a man should be in technology magazines, hunting magazines, and maybe even a Playboy.

The point is, with all this conflicting information out there, men are likely to try and spread themselves too thin (both mentally and physically) by trying to be somebody else’s version of what they think a man should be.

Now I am by no means old enough to write a “this is what I’ve learned in my years” kind of an article. What I can write is a a list of simple truths that can apply to any man’s life no matter what age. Being a man isn’t about being stronger, smarter, more able to survive in the woods or even who has the longer……resume. It is about being comfortable enough with who you are to acknowledge your strengths and showcase them, recognize your weaknesses and work on them, and being able to handle whatever comes your way when life happens around you.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Are you a computer-whiz? Does your life revolve around sports? In order to build a foundation in life, you have to know what you’re working with. Knowing yourself means you have to be honest with yourself, flaws and all. If you can’t walk into a room and strike up a conversation with every single person there, then you’re probably not going to be a good sports agent. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your dream of signing the next LeBron James, but it does mean you have to work on some things before you can expect to make it in that industry. Knowing yourself means

Stand up for yourself and your family

There comes a point when being right is less important than standing up for yourself or your loved ones. The only time in life this does not apply is Jeopardy. Life is a playground game of dodgeball and you have to pick your team. Your wife, your kids, your friends and your family are your team. Sometimes your coworkers are on your team, and sometimes they’re on the other team. Sometimes your wife and your mother seem like they’re on different teams, but that’s when it’s your job to remind them you are all on the same side. The point is, if someone you care about is being attacked, or you can tell they are uncomfortable, then stand up for them.

Be Accountable

If you tell somebody you are going to be somewhere, be there. If you tell somebody you’re going to do something, well you know. Sometimes, we fall into this trap of trying to please everyone around us and we end up letting more people down because of it. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you can’t do something if you know you wouldn’t be able to do it. Now, don’t take the easy way out and just refuse everything asked of you to protect yourself from letting people down. Do what you can to help where you can, but know that people will understand if you have to say “no” every now and then.

Be assertive

When you are young, your parents probably told you that you could be anything you wanted to be. Now, you read success stories and you hear people say “if you want something, you have to take it.” I know someone who has a masters degree and assumed that entitled them to a great job. This person is smart, but is not at all ambitious and is consequently working an hourly without much room to grow. Don’t let someone else take something that you want. Whether that is a girl, a job, or anything else in your life you have your eye on.

Be focused

Have you ever watched a TV show and noticed how much “chatter” there is around what is actually happening? “Chatter” is visual busyness. If you’re in front of a TV, turn it to Fox News or CNN. You’ll probably see something like this:

Where to go when you need scores, stocks and infotainment all at one time...
Where to go when you need scores, stocks, weather and infotainment all at one time…

Now that is an exaggeration, but it’s not too far off from reality. Don’t let “chatter” into your mind. If you are doing something, then just do it! Turn off the TV. Turn your phone on silent and let Twitter update without you for a few minutes. You’ll amaze yourself with what you can accomplish if you put your mind to something and see it through.

Think before you Act

For that matter, think before you speak too. For whatever reason, people think that the quicker you answer a question the more believable you sound. This is wrong. Take a minute next time someone asks you something and allow yourself time to process what they are saying. Think about what you want to say, then articulate it. If actions speak louder than words, do yourself a favor and make smart decisions instead of quick decisions.

Believe in Something

I will never say you have to believe in God. I believe that is up to each person to decide for themselves. But even an atheist needs to believe in somethingBelieve in yourself. Believe in the government, or the Yankees or even in the idea that Tupac and Biggie are somewhere on a beach laughing at the rest of us. The point is, you have to believe in something in order to ever get anywhere. Belief begets purpose, and a man without a purpose is a waste of space. Don’t be that guy who moans about how empty life is and how we are all just here and then we aren’t.

But don’t Believe Everything

Being a man means making up your own mind about things. Gone are the days of teachers telling us what is fact from fiction. Likewise, the days of mom and dad telling us right from wrong are over. Your life if full of questionable content. The New York Times released a study where they found the average American is exposed to anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 ads per day. Conservatively speaking, lets say you sleep 6 hours a night. That means in the 18 hours you are awake every day, you will absorb an ad every 5-10 seconds. Think about that. Every ad is full of “9 out of 10 doctors recommend” or “studies have proven.” Give yourself some perspective when it comes to making decisions and don’t let anyone but you influence what matters to you.

Be Kind

Unless you are a UFC fighter, than there are very few things in life you can’t do while being considerate and thoughtful. And just because a man is kind does not make him weak. Be aware of the differences between being kind and being a pushover. Be kind, but know when you have to take a stand and when you have to say no to someone. Being kind makes you more likable, which makes people want to be around you and get your opinion on things. You will meet more people, and your kindness will give way to a more positive outlook on things.

Have perspective

Having perspective allows you many things, like never over looking people, never underestimating people, and always seeing a situation in more than one way. A lot of men think that being driven means you have to be so focused on the end goal that you lose sight of the people and places along the way. Be driven, but don’t be blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel. Be focused on where you want to go, but remember that there are plenty of ways to get there.

There is no handbook to what being a man is in today’s world. Everybody has to find there own way and there isn’t a self-help book or seminar in the world that will hand you what hard work allows you to earn. Being a man means being comfortable with who you are, and not letting anyone else’s ideas of what you should be or who you should be get in the way of what you want to be.