My Body is a House

This is a story of how a joke from a 3-year old, a 100-year old house, and a rainy afternoon helped me to move on.

Carmina’s Joke

“Daddy, there’s a cow in the sunroof,” my 3-year old daughter said to me as we were driving through the country to see my brother and parents for Thanksgiving. Not knowing what to expect, I slid open up the sunroof to hear, “Mooo!” from the back seat. I quickly shut the sunroof as to not let out the cow.

“Daddy, there’s a pig in the sunroof,” she continued. Again I slid open the sunroof and a new sound emerged from behind me, “Oink, oink, oink!” she squealed in joy. Not knowing exactly how many barn animals were up in my sunroof, I again quickly shut it, which silenced the pig. She paused to think.

“Daddy, there’s a house in the sunroof.” Based on the previous two farm animal sounds I had no idea what to expect when I slid open the sunroof, but nonetheless, just as I cracked it open, my 3-year old in her lowest, deadpan voice said, “A house.” It was a good memory and a fun story to share.

The House in Tipton

For the first 15 years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in a tiny town called “Tipton” in north central Indiana. The house was built in 1919 and at the time was nearly 100 years old. My wife’s parents had owned it before her dad died. Soon after we got married, my wife’s mother got remarried, moved out, and we bought the house.

In the time we lived there, we went from having no children to 6 of them. Magdalena was our first child. Carmina, the one who told the joke, was our second. We then had two boys, Kevin and Samuel, followed by another two girls, Amalia, and Lilianna. We had many Thanksgivings and Christmases there. We had many good times and bad.

At some point while living there I realized that despite all that had changed in my own life and in my family’s lives since living there, from the vantage point of the house, after nearly 100 years, it had already seen many families come and go, rise and fall, grow and die, come together, and break apart. Our time was just one among many.

Jordan Peterson’s 7 Epochs

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, a post he has occupied since 1998. He previously served as a professor at Harvard University. He has authored two books: Maps of Meaning & 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. He also has a popular YouTube channel, Jordan Peterson Videos.

In an online course called Self Authoring, professor Peterson guides you through writing a story of your life. One of the exercises is called “Past Authoring” and in it are exercises where you divide your life into seven different time periods or epochs, identify the most significant events, and describe how those experiences shaped who you are today.

I had heard about professor Peterson only through his appearances on the Joe Rogan Podcast, but it was only when a friend of mine sent me info about the Self Authoring course that I discovered it. My wife and I both signed up one rainy afternoon but before I started the program, I went up from my basement office to my bedroom to reflect.

Watching the Bluff in the Rain

In 2017 my wife and I moved from Tipton, Indiana to La Crosse, Wisconsin. It was a new house and a new start. We went from seeing nothing on the horizon but corn cobs and windmills to tree-lined bluffs and bountiful rivers. The town of La Crosse sits nestled in a coulee region between steep, rocky bluffs and the Mississippi River.

When I lay down in my bedroom I can see the bluff out over the tops of the houses in a way that is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s November 5, 1949 cover of the Saturday Evening Post where a man is hanging his new TV antenna while a church cross towers in the background. In this afternoon, it was raining, so I opened the window.

While I listened to the rain and stared out the window, looking at nothing in particular, my eyes settled on the roofs of the houses between our house and the bluff. It’s at that moment that I remembered our house in Tipton and how we had only lived there 15 out of its nearly 100 years and I wondered what other stories these houses had to tell.

The T-Shirt

I make t-shirts and because of Carmina’s joke, I had wanted to make a t-shirt for myself that just said, “A HOUSE“. I figured I would be the only person to buy it, but I wanted to buy it so I made it and published it on Amazon to sell. I just happened to make the shirt the same day I heard about Jordan Peterson’s course and went upstairs to reflect.

As I laid there staring at the tops of the houses and thinking about the house in Tipton and thinking about the Self Authoring course I had just bought and the shirt I had just designed, I realized that there was a common theme and that’s when I had my epiphany. That’s when I realized that my life was a series of stories in my body, “A House”.

Aside from major events in your life, even if you did nothing, the cells in your body will mostly replace themselves every 7 to 15 years, while some cells, such as neurons in your brain, are never replaced. In this way, your body is more like a house where cells come and go. In the same way, different epochs take place in your body, which is just “a house”.

Who Are You?

You may have heard that you are the sum of all of your past choices. An often-used anecdote is that “You are what you eat” or what you think about comes about. What I have found is that I often feel trapped by past choices or condemned by them. Sometimes I have done things I regret and other things I regret having happened to me.

When I had my epiphany that afternoon and I started to think about my body as “a house”, I realized that, like families who move in and out of houses, the house looks the same from the outside, but the insides are different. And the house may contain scars on the inside from previous dwellers, it has no care or further connection to them.

In thinking of my life in terms of epochs with specific endings and my body as “a house”, I was able to disassociate my current reality from past realities and stop reliving bad memories over and over. While I may look the same from the outside, there is a new ‘family’ living inside me now, a new set of cells making new choices and living a new epoch.

2017 Year in Review

O God, Thou sellest all good things to men at the price of effort.” -Leonardo da Vinci

This year was about getting re-settled and getting re-situated. The main themes of the year were moving the family to La Crosse, selling the house in Tipton, the ramping up of t-shirt sales, and the ramping down of client work.

The work I was doing was different. Instead of making blog posts I would make over 1000 t-shirts. Instead of listening to podcasts on my way to and from work, I would spend more time with my wife eating out or taking the kids to the park.

January

At the beginning of the year I lived alone in a one-bedroom, studio apartment.

I designed t-shirts and sold them on Amazon when I wasn’t at Marine Credit Union.

One day in January, Jason and I went to the ice caves with his family.

And towards the end of the month I went up on Grandad Bluff to take a selfie.

February

In February I went to Kansas City to meetup with my wife and my aunt Peggy in Garden City.

Later on that month my boys visited me in La Crosse and took them to the quarry.

I’d go on walks along the La Crosse river during breaks at work.

And I kept making new t-shirts. This is from a bumper sticker my Grandpa Wade had on his truck.

March

In March, Suzanne and Carmina visited me and we went to the Mall of America. We haven’t been back since.

After they left I played Minecraft with Samuel remotely online.

Jason and I explored the coffee shop on the corner. It was the only time we did that.

April

In April I went back to Tipton to visit for Easter.

I took the kids to the park for one of the last times.

My brother, Mitch, came over and I gave him a t-shirt.

We took the kids to see their Grammy.

I went for my first bike ride of the year.

Jason and I went to Taco Bell.

I went to a payments conference in Austin, Texas with Jason.

I saw my aunt and uncle in Austin while I was down there.

I hiked the Balanced Rock Trail along Devil’s Lake.

And then Carmina came to help me move out of the apartment.

May

I rode my bike across the Mississippi for the first time. It was an odd feeling doing that from my house.

I continued walking on the trail at work. The leaves were starting to come out now.

We celebrated the lives of Joe and Helen O’Banion, my wife’s grandparents, in Tipton.

I was back at home alone. I mowed the yard for the first time.

June

I had to make my own breakfast.

But then I met this guy at Taco John’s. He recognized me from Instagram.

But at home I was still all alone in an empty house.

But then the kids arrived (along with a lot of help from my Mom, Dad, Mitch, and Jennifer)!

Magdalena setup her workstation in the basement.

July

I took the kids out for hot chocolate at the Root Note.

The Cobb’s came over for ice cream.

And we met new friends, the Miller’s, at Ranison’s for ice cream.

Samuel enjoys building things. We sold the house in Tipton. Suzanne drove back to sign the papers.

I went on a Dragon Boat race with Jason and Marine Credit Union.

Because we live close to work now, Suzanne would come bring me lunch and we’d go to the park to eat.

For my mom’s birthday, we drove back to Indiana to see her. My aunt, Mary, also drove to see her from Missouri.

But then my Aunt Peggy got sick so I went and visited her before she died.

August

The family came together for a meal in Garden City.

We celebrated my Aunt Peggy’s life.

See also Peggy’s 50th Birthday Party from August, 2006.

It was good to get the family together for a time.

I took a selfie with my two brothers.

And with my dad.

Back in La Crosse we went for a walk along the marsh.

We also walked to the Mississippi River.

Suzanne continued growing her essential oils business while I continued making t-shirts.

The kids went on a plane ride around La Crosse.

They were all very excited.

The girls were growing up.

The lights were going out.

It was a very exciting time.

September

In September I went kayaking with Jason.

I visited my mom in Franklin.

While I was there I visited my friend, Hans.

I recreated the Shog logo in Adobe Illustrator and turned it into a t-shirt for me and Samuel to wear.

Amalia learned how to ride a bike.

The kids really got into LEGO building.

And at the end of the summer we finally made it to the beach.

October

We went kayaking again. It was getting darker again.

Jason and I went to Minneapolis to see a graphic designer and tour the city.

I visited my mom and took a picture of my dad’s bookshelf.

Suzanne’s aunt Kathy visited us in La Crosse.

Suzanne and I visited New Glarus Brewery south of Madison.

Magdalena started swimming and I went to one of her swim meets for the first time.

We dressed up for Halloween.

November

I hung out with Hans in Franklin.

Kevin started a hot cocoa stand.

Carmina was in a ballet.

Suzanne and I started going on more dates.

December

I visited the Pearl Street Brewery.

Jason and I made a podcast.

I kept walking on the trail by work.

The kids had a good Christmas. I was glad to have everyone in the same place.

Like Andy Bernard says in the television show, The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole’ days before you’ve actually left them.” Well, maybe there is. Sometimes you just have to stop and pay attention to the moments you’re in and be thankful for them. They may never happen again.

Never thought we’d get old, maybe we’re still young
May we always look back and think it was better than it was
Maybe these are the moments
Maybe I’ve been missing what it’s about
Been scared of the future, thinking about the past
While missing out on now
We’ve come so far, I guess I’m proud
And I ain’t worried about the wrinkles around my smile
I’ve got some scars, I’ve been around
I’ve thrown some pain, I’ve seen some things, but I’m here now
Those good old days -Macklemore

2015 Year in Review

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” Ecclesiastes 5-18-20

Erich Loves Donuts

In January I helped Jason renovate his great room. I occasionally do carpentry on the side and Jason needed trim installed. During that time I discovered Jack’s Donuts. I was beginning to build out my ‘breakfast brand’ persona online.

Erich at the Bean in Chicago

I also got a chance to go to Chicago for a HVAC tradeshow. GoServicePro had a booth there and I helped tell people about the system in hopes of getting some demos scheduled back at the office. It worked.

In February, my wife and I went to Nashville for the iTHRIVE conference, which is a Young Living Essential Oils business conference. I watched the baby during the day and we hung out together at night.

Erich Stauffer Advance 3

In March, my wife and I went to Kansas City to attend an essential oils conference for men. While out there we had the opportunity to have dinner with my aunt, Peggy. It was good to catch up with her and see her again.

Erich Stauffer on Periscope

In late March, Twitter released Periscope and I had some fun making live videos with it. Making more videos was one of my resolutions for the year. I wanted to ‘do the things I asked my clients to do’ and one of those was make videos.

Samuel and Daddy

In April I started a new company with Matt Geddie and Rahul Sahni. It’s an import/export company that connects buyers and sellers around the world. I had to learn about Alibaba and international trade. We ate a lot of food together.

Erich, Matt, and Rahul of RMI

I also started creating more videos of myself in order to document more of my day-to-day life. I started posting them on Facebook and YouTube. I got a lot of weird questions and comments, but I was trying to practice what I preach.

I called the videos “1-minute updates” and started creating a new video every weekday. I would record them on my way to work while driving in the car. I told people it was “practice” for making videos.

Erich at Skinny

In May, I started working nights and weekends at Skinny and Company more. My daughter, Amalia, had a birthday. She turned 2. On Mother’s Day we all went up to the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was a cold, fun day. We have lots of neat pictures.

Indiana Dunes Trip 2015

Jason and I held a Minecraft Conference for the kids. They got to play Minecraft together and teach other about what they had been learning. Jason and I also went to a concert in Fountain Square. While I was waiting on Jason to show up I made a video.

kids-fishing

The boys wanted to go fishing so I bought some fishing rods from Wal-Mart and we headed down to my parents house. This was their first time fishing, but the only thing they caught was a frog. It made me realize I still don’t like to fish.

In June, coworkers at GoServicePro (Hans and Chris) and I started doing weekly ‘food challenges’ where we would go get a similar food and do ‘blind taste tests’. We started with subs and moved on to various foods throughout the month like dark sodas, hot dogs, and gourmet hamburgers. This was all practice shooting and editing video using iMovie on my iPhone.

Exploring Boys

Kevin and Carmina finished up Soccer. I had fun watching them play and going on walks with the other kids along the river behind the soccer fields. I even got to play one game against Kevin. Afterwards, I took the boys to get ice cream.

ice-cream-kids

My wife wanted me to help her landscape the yard so we started trimming back old bushes and tearing down vines that had grown up against the house. Eventually we took down the back deck, too. It was hard work, but it looked better when done.

landscaping-stauffers

I attended another “Dude’s Game Night” at Jason’s house with some guys that are friends with Jason who have become friends of mine including Cullen, Chris, and James. Sometimes Hans comes too. Jason’s wife makes lots of good food. It’s a good time.

me-and-my-mom

Carmina and I both have birthdays in June. My mom came up for Carmina’s birthday party. Jason took me out for waffles on my birthday and then we went on a “Tour of the North” another day. We went to Marion, Huntington, and Upland.

erich-tree-marion

At the end of the month, we went up to the Indiana Fiddlers Festival with my parents. The kids enjoyed listening to the music and walking the trails. At work, Michael, a new guy started. Michael had a beard too and he appreciated my beard.

Erich Stauffer, Full-Stack Marketer

In July I celebrated my brother’s birthday with a trip to Steak n Shake with his daughters. During this month my wife, Suzanne started doing Periscopes for her business. Jason and I went to a Foxing and Mewithoutyou concert in Indianapolis.

And then we found out my mom had cancer.

sue-steve-stauffer

My brother, Scott, and I celebrated my mom’s birthday at Red Lobster. My wife, Suzanne, attended a Young Living convention in Texas for a few days, leaving me alone at home. Here’s what we talked about before she left:

My daughter, Magdalena, made me salsa. It was good. When Suzanne got back, she started making bars of soap and shampoo for Skinny and Company. August is our wedding anniversary. My brothers, Mitch and Scott, got together at BW3s to discuss family matters.

mitch-and-scott

Later on that month my mom had us all down to her house to take group, family photos. Back in Tipton I took my two sons to their first high school football game. The baby, Amalia, has started to grow up and is going on more walks with us.

erich-iu

In September, Jason and I took a road trip down to Bloomington and walked around the IU campus. I had a dream about a ‘red caboose’ restaurant in Tipton and then Noblesville’s train museum gave out caboose rides at the Pork Festival.

I went down to visit my parents in Franklin and my dad gave me a guitar. My wife went on another business trip, but this time to Utah. I started helping out nights at Bonzi Sports again by helping him setup Opencart. Jason and I kayaked the White River.

In October I went and saw The Martian and my mom started chemotherapy. iOS 9 came out and McDonald’s started serving breakfast all day. I took a week off from GoServicePro to meet with clients during the day and take a family vacation to see my Aunt Janice and Uncle Dan in Texas.

We first drove to Chicago where we went to Millennium Park and Lou Malnati’s. The next day we flew to San Antonio where we saw The Alamo and walked the River Walk. We then drove to see my Grandpa Stauffer and then finally to see my aunt and uncle.

It was the first time I’d flown since June of 2000 when I went to Texas for a wedding. Dan and Janice’s daughter, Amy (my cousin), was getting married. It was good to spend some time with the two youngest children and Suzanne – and to see Grandpa, Dan, and Janice.

erich-samuel-chicago

One of my goals on the vacation was to make a decision whether to start a new company (if so, what type) or continue on the path I was on already. I thought about it all week and on the plane ride back to Chicago I finally had an answer.

erich-jason-breakfast-club-me

I started Breakfast Club Me as a creative outlet and to practice building a consumer brand and online marketing using social media, email, and video. It would build on the ‘breakfast guy’ brand I had already built up naturally over the years.

My first product would be a t-shirts that said things like, “Biscuits”, “Waffles”, and “Sandwiches”. I didn’t know much more than that when I started. But to get started I found some similar shirts online and started creating content right away. Within 30 days I had my first product.

fiber-optics

In December we got fiber optic Internet installed at our house and we really started ramping up soap production for Skinny and Company. My wife makes their shampoo bars and I make the wood molds and do the stamping. This is the part of the post where I tell you what I learned.

samuel-and-me-2015

Kids grow up. They only ask you for “big jumps” or for you to take them to the park for a short time. After a while, they stop greeting you when you get home and sleep in when you leave in the morning. When a child asks for a hug. You stop whatever you’re doing and give it to them.