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

2016 Year in Review

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.” -Proverbs 23:7 KJV

Grandmommy Funeral

Grandmommy’s Funeral in Tipton

In January, my wife’s grandmother, Helen, died and my Grandpa Stauffer started to get sick. My oldest daughter turned 12 and my wife took her to Universal Studios. My mom ended chemo therapy and started radiation treatment. I flew to Orlando for work at GoServicePro.

Erich at Goservicepro

Erich at the WWETT16 Show in Indianapolis

In February, my best friend, Jason Cobb, told me he was moving to Wisconsin. My brother, Mitch, moved into a new house. Skinny and Company offered me full-time employment. On the last day of the month, GoServicePro moved offices and I let them know I was moving on.

Erich and Jason at the Hi-Fi

Erich and Jason at the Wakey Wakey Concert in Fountain Square

In March, my Grandpa Stauffer died. Our family decided to wait to get together. I began working nights at Skinny and Company and went full time March 28th. I started to notice that our kids were starting to grow up.

daddy-and-amalia-2016

On the weekends I would take the kids down to the park by the church. The Catholic church had decided to tear down the old church in the background as maintenance costs were too much to repair it.

samuel-and-kevin-swinging-2016

Working at Skinny was fun and exciting, but also challenging. We were setting up new systems and so I had to do a lot of learning really quickly. This also uncovered other areas, which needed improvement so there was a lot to do.

erich-at-skinny-coconut-oil

My mom’s cancer went into remission and her hair started to grow back. I admired her pursuit of health and her consistently positive attitude through the whole ordeal. Here she is at a band concert:

moms-hair-2016

In April I went and visited Jason in Wisconsin. It was a long drive up there and back, but I’m glad I did it. We walked along the Mississippi river and up on top of the bluffs. While I was there my wife told me she was pregnant.

erich-jason-lacrosse-2016

Later on that month I went to my first Pacer’s game with Skinny. That’s Mike, Luke, me, and Matt in the picture. Jordan, Landree, and Mike’s wife were also there (she was pregnant, too).

erichs-first-pacer-game

Samuel keeps growing up. He really likes going to the park. He’s my little buddy.

samuel-in-tree-2016

At the end of April we drove out to Missouri to see Peggy before going on to Dixon for the funeral for Grandpa Stauffer.

kids-with-peggy-2016

It was a good way to remember Grandpa.

grandpa-stauffer-funeral-2016

Here we are all together in front of the church where my parents got married.

dad-mom-family-church-2016

In May I finally setup my own office at Skinny. My brother-in-law, John, got married, and Suzanne and I went to a “Rev Indy” event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Skinny.

erichs-skinny-office-2016

By the end of the month, I stopped to smell the roses. I bought a season pass to Eagle Creek Park and would go walking there during lunch kind of like I used to when I worked at Worksmart Systems.

smell-the-roses

I took the boys out there, too.

boys-at-eagle-lake

We went to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. It was my first time going. It was hot.

race-day-2016

And we started going to the Silver Beach off Lake Michigan.

kids-silver-beach-michigan-2016-may

In June, Jason and I went to Chicago. I’ve been to Chicago with Jason more than any other person (so far). We watched a Cubs game.

We road bikes to China town to see the famous “Post No Signs” sign. It wasn’t there anymore, but we remembered it.

In July I thought I was going to Atlanta, but I didn’t get to go so I went to the 100 Acres Woods instead.

I went and saw my mom playing in the Greenwood band at a Greenwood park. She did good!

Worlds collided when Hans from GoServicePro went out with me and Mike from Skinny and Company to Amber Indian.

Kids got some ice cream and started growing up.

In August I went on a walk around Tipton with Samuel.

Magdalena left me a note.

We went and visited Jason and his family in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

And here’s us at the top of a bluff.

Here’s the office I had setup for a while at Skinny.

In September I bought a new bike (the first bike I’ve ever bought myself as an adult). My goal is to ride the Hilly Hundred in 2017.

Me and Magdalena went for a walk in Carmel on the Monon.

I took Samuel for ice cream.

Kevin learned how to ride a bike.

And I started going to the gym (or at least took at least one picture of myself at a gym).

In October I told Skinny I was moving on and I had Mike and Matt take this picture with me (thanks to Allison for taking it).

Carmina had fun seeing Skinny Coconut Oil at grocery stores around Indianapolis. She’s a good spokesperson.

I went and visited Jason in La Crosse, Wisconsin and made a movie of the trip.

The Cubs ended up winning the World Series. I had nothing to do with it, but I did visit them (twice).

Jason and I went for a bike ride on the trails at the top of the bluffs.

In November I accepted the job at Marine Credit Union in La Crosse, Wisconsin and moved into a hotel.

I came home for a bit and ate some tacos with Hans.

It was hard to say goodbye to my family after the weekend.

Samuel learned how to ride a bike and we went for a ride to the park.

In December I had a baby. We named her after Helen.

And my parents flew to Hawaii.

I bought the kids a PS4.

My brothers came up for Christmas.

I took Amalia to the park.

Here’s to 2016.