Author: Kenneth L. Ervin, II

Be Your Valentine

Be Your Valentine

It’s that time of year again, with grossly overpriced roses, chocolates, gift certificates to everything from day spas to fancy restaurants — Happy Valentine’s Day! Of course, it’s only happy if you’ve got that special someone, or if you’re part of the burgeoning movement of young singles who celebrate with their other single friends.

But even if you do celebrate with the love of your life or your BFFs, there are many for whom happiness and love exists only at the surface level. Increasingly these days, many women — and men, for that matter — experience a just-under-the-surface feeling of loathing and hatred for themselves. And a good number of those act on these feelings by engaging in self-harm.

The most well-known form of self-harm is cutting, but according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), self-harm is “hurting yourself on purpose,” and even the urge to hurt yourself all on its own is “a sign of emotional distress.”

Self-harm is not a mental illness, though. It is simply a symptom of a larger issue. It is a symptom of pain and the inability to cope or deal with that pain. It is, in essence, a release of pent-up emotion. In the case of cutting, NAMI reports that “injuring yourself stimulates the body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, thus raising [your] mood.” But then the feeling of shame and guilt comes, and you’re down in the dumps again. It’s a vicious cycle.

A person who self-harms is not necessarily seeking to commit suicide; however, such individuals do have an increased risk of having suicidal thoughts.

If this is you, or if this is one of your friends, please seek help. There are better ways to cope with the pain. Thousands of people seek counseling, and it helps. I was one of those who would never have considered counseling, but my daughter went through a very rough patch in her life, and counseling did help her a great deal. In fact, I’m convinced it saved her life.

Ultimately, it gave her what she needed most — coping skills. “Instead of cutting myself, I will [blank] … And when these feelings arise, I will [blank] instead of hurting myself.” That doesn’t mean the urges aren’t there; it simply means she deals with the pain in a more constructive way.

For those who loathe and hate themselves, there’s nearly always an underlying reason — but it might be a reason they neither know, nor understand. As Christians, we’re taught to “love one another,” and “love others as Jesus loves you.” But the most difficult command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I mean, if you hate yourself, how do you love your neighbor?

Loving yourself is hard — and nearly impossible at times — but it’s possible, because it’s a posture of the heart. It has been said that children aren’t born racist; they learn it from someone. In the same way, nobody is born hating themselves. Something happens, usually in childhood, and it’s an emotional burden that becomes too large for a child to process. This leads to the child blaming themselves for the event and turning their anger inward on themselves. Years later, you have an individual who self-loathes and self-harms and may not even understand why.

So today, if this is you, the first step is to seek help. If it’s your friend, urge them to seek help. In the meantime, learn to love yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and say, “You’re not horrible. You’re not a monster. You’re okay. … And I love you.”

I guarantee it’ll be the hardest thing you’ve done. You may not even be able to look yourself in the face as you say it. And you definitely won’t believe yourself the first time. In fact, as you’re saying it, you may feel pent-up frustration and feel like this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. But look in the mirror. You’re standing there giving it a try. Somewhere deep inside, you’ll realize you need this. And you’ll probably have to force yourself to say, “I love you.” As much as you may want to, do not skip this part. Say it even if you don’t mean it.

Do this every couple of days, and you’ll find it getting easier. Most of us self-loathers have to “fake it, till you make it,” but that moment will come.

So today, treat yourself right for a change. Show yourself some affection. Spoil yourself. Set aside whatever it is you usually use to harm yourself, and buy something for yourself.

Today, be your Valentine.


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A Trail by Fire

A Trail by Fire

Thanks for noticing, but no, I didn’t misspell “trial.” I was just being clever. It’s an intentional twist on a popular phrase. Why? I’m glad you asked. 

I was recently invited to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I was invited to take a week off and hike a 100-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I immediately accepted, and over the next 24 hours, I was excited, giddy … and terrified. The prospect left me feeling a little like Frodo. “I will take the ring! I will take the ring to Mordor … though … I do not know the way.”

I’m not exactly in shape. Granted, “round” is a shape, but I don’t plan to roll along the Appalachian Trail, so I need to get into another shape. And how’s that gonna work? Well, let’s start with diet. Not “diet” as in “let’s eat little-to-no food, and when we do eat, let’s have Styrofoam-tasting wafers.” I mean “diet” as in “di·et /ˈdīət/ noun: the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” (Thank you, Google!)

Basically, Frodo went to the fire to achieve his goal of destroying the One Ring. I’m going to have to go through the fire to reach my goal of destroying the One Ring Around My Belly. And I think I’ve already put together a good guide. I’m sticking to it at least for breakfast. (Don’t judge! I’m slow to start sometimes … most times.) Anyway, dinner is being worked on by my sweet wife. That leaves me with lunch … in downtown D.C. … Wow. Yeah. So many restaurants, so little time. And that’s why I’ve decided to boil lunch down to this: A protein shake. “But Ken, won’t it be hard to drink your protein shake while others are sitting at the table with their luscious, scrumptious food?” Ha! Get thee behind me, Popeyes! That’s exactly what the next part of the plan is for.

Exercise. And I don’t mean “exercise” as in “do cardio till you can’t walk, and lift weights till your muscles cramp, you ball up into the fetal position, and whimper like a little baby.” I mean … no … wait. That is what I mean. But I’ll do it during my half-hour lunch break. I have a gym in the basement of my building at work. (Quit looking at me like that. I’ve been down there before! They have a water cooler. Yeesh!)

I’m going to be mixing it up with cardio (mostly treadmill), and weight lifting, because I’ll be carrying a hefty pack on my back throughout the trip. — unless I can hire someone to carry it for me. … which probably isn’t a good idea. Yeah, nix that. I’m probably throwing in some core exercises as well, although I admit that I currently have no clue as to what those are. Enter Google. I’ll find ’em.

So, all this to say, I’m planning on dropping as much weight between now and the first week of June. I’d rather carry as little with me as possible over 100 miles of trail. And, if I’m able to keep up the pace, I’ll have made some good, lifelong habits. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: I didn’t really lose a lot before the hike. I tried, but c’mon, I have a Dunkin Donuts right around the corner. Oh the inhumanity! However, I did lose 14 lbs. the first four three days of the hike. I’ll take whatever I can get.

Bruised Eggo

Bruised Eggo

So, sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes the curve ball is flat, toasted, and looks like it’s been beaten with a set of football cleats. Yes, for me, it was those tasty curve balls know as “Eggo Waffles.” A hot waffle is something akin to heaven under the right circumstances. I was hungry, and that was all the circumstance I needed. I bought the economy box (Translation: Waffles in bulk), and made my merry way into the kitchen. And to show that I’m not a selfish guy, I made waffles for everyone. Granted, my son doesn’t like waffles, and since my parents always hated it when we wasted food, I made the sacrifice and had the waffles my son didn’t want. It was basically waffles with a side of waffles. Each one was bathed in butter and dripped with golden syrup. Sticky, gooey, yummy syrup. Wait … I need to wipe the drool off my chin. … … … Okay, I’m back.

So yeah. There I was, stuffing my face with hot pastry — Are waffles pastries? How do you classify those little non-pancakes? — when all of a sudden, I remembered I was on a diet. Well darn. Screwed that one up! I’d been bested by … by … whatever it is you’d call them. Pastries. Sweet breads. Football Cleat Cakes. Whatever. Did I mention the syrup? Oh heaven!

I dragged myself over to my chair to think about what I’d just done — and also because I was sure the sugar spike would send this diabetic dummy into a wicked mini-coma. As I began to lose consciousness, I had this one thought, “Why did I … where … ummm … coconuts.” [Drool]

I’m reminded of the demotivator poster of a sinking cruise ship. It read, “Sometimes your life is meant to serve as a bad example to others.” Yep. That’s me.

Fundraising 101

Fundraising 101

So I’ve been taking a course in fundraising as of late. … Well, maybe not an official course, but with the amount of junk mail I’ve received, I could easily write my own. Wait. … Why don’t I? I could probably earn a healthy little living without leaving the comfort of my recliner. Let’s give it a try. …

Dear Friend,

Did you know the world is set to explode in less than 90 days? All your freedoms … all your worldly possessions … everything and everyone you hold dear … will soon be incinerated in a planet-engulfing fireball of cinematic proportions … ALONG WITH EVERY KRISPY KREME DONUT SHOP ON THE PLANET! It’s true. We read it on the Internet.


You’re probably wondering, “Oh no! How can this be?” (Hence our craftily crafted subheadline.) Well folks, there are evil people in the world, and they are absolutely … well … eeeeevil. How absolutely evil? Well, let’s just say that even Dr. Evil, the evilest evildoer in the history of evildom has an evil master. (Think horns and a pointy tail. … Big time evil.)

There’s this thing called the World-Ending, Donut-Shop-Incinerating, Cinematic-Fireball Machine (WEDSICFM, for short), and they have gained control of it. Who is “they,” you ask? It would take too much time to explain. Suffice it to say, “they” are eeeeevil. (See paragraph above for details.)

But don’t worry. We can stop them. … And you can help!


Why friends, frankly we’re shocked and a little bit hurt that you’d think us capable of fundraising on such an Earth-ending, soul-crushing, freedom-stealing event such as this. Besides, where would we spend our ill-gotten gain? All the donut shops — the good ones, anyway — would be gone. … blown into the ether. … roasted to inedible bits like McDonald’s french fries. … Oh, the poor pastries!

But I digress.

Now is the time to stand. Now is the time to fight. Now is the time to … Wait! You can’t do this alone. You have to work. You have bills to pay. A roof to keep over your head. Donuts to buy! And so, my friend, we will fight this battle for you!

For your extremely generous, selfless donation, we will send our editor — who is also a highly trained ninja assassin — into the belly of the beast to disarm and destroy the WEDSICFM and bring to trial and justice all the eeeeevil minions “they” have employed in this sordid little affair. All for three easy payments of $29.99!

So, can we count on your support? Please give right away. EVERY SECOND COUNTS (and those seconds are counting down to Doomsday)!!! *tick, tock … tick, tock*

Stand with us and open your wallets, before your donuts and your freedoms die horribly.


The Fundraising Dept.