The Fight And Flight Of 2017

A few months ago, I summarized my summer as one that was very anxious. Now I’m wondering how to best summarize my entire year. If I had to describe it in a single word, I’m not sure what it would be.

For me, although there are many positive highlights and things to be grateful for, 2017 has been one of my most difficult and stressful years ever.

This year brought a lot of potential changes for the better, but they were very stressful transitions and situations. And they all happened about the same time, which compounded their effect:

  1. My family moved to a new house and different lifestyle (city to country, big to small, two bathrooms to one bathroom, etc). It required me to do new levels of do-it-yourself work (remodeling entire bathrooms) that I’d never done before and felt incapable of. I also felt great pressure to get it all done in a short time.
  2. I started a new job position with more and new responsibilities that were challenging and trying and pushed me to my mental limits.
  3. My family joined a new church that was different and challenging and we ended up going back to our former church.
  4. I took my first major karate test that literally pushed me to my physical limits in order to test my spirit. Then among other circumstances, I ended up quitting karate.

All these took a real toll on me. Just the move to a new house was more taxing than I anticipated. I felt deeply drained. All this happened while trying to parent my 5 sons, and one of them was a 2-year old! That’s hard enough by itself. I was hit in all aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, intellectual.

So yes, 2017 was hard. Despair was tempting. Hope was hiding. Despondency was circling. Faith was floundering. Depression was sneaking. Anxiety was attacking. Panic was pushing.

But there have been glimpses of light from the lighthouse during the storms this year. A lot of people showed me a lot of love this year. And grace. There’s been power in prayer from others. Emotional support has not been lacking.

There’s also been some huge positive or unique highlights this year:

  1. My family was on TV! Basically, we had some crazy encounters with venomous snakes. The first one swam up our toilet…it kind of went viral on Facebook, and then it spread through the news. This led to my wife and I being interviewed for an episode in a new mini-series on Animal Planet, which aired in November. You can watch it online to get most of that story.
  2. No more changing diapers! After 11 years of diapers, wipes, and potty accidents through 5 sons, my last child is now potty trained!!!
  3. I turned 40!!
  4. No more mortgage! My wife and I for the first time are literally 100% debt free! No car payments, no house mortgage, no house rent or payments, no consumer debt. We were blessed being able to buy a house, land, and 2 nicer cars this year all with cash! It can be done!
  5. My parents moved and now live only 6 minutes from our house!
  6. I started this blog!

My biggest take-away from this year, I think, is the great empathy I now have for people who suffer or struggle with anxiety or similar and related mental or emotional challenges. I’ve learned a lot from others’ experiences as well as my own. And I’m still learning. I might blog more about that, but we’ll see.

I’m hoping 2018 will be much better than 2017.

How about you? How was your year, and what’s your outlook for 2018?

Is Flickr Still A Thing?

Recently I was bit by the shutterbug again! Being outside and collecting pecans, the vivid fall colors of the leaves caught my eyes. So I tried taking some photos to capture their beauty. I’m not saying I succeeded, but I enjoyed it none the less.

When I thought about sharing my pictures of late, I wondered if Flickr was still a good site to use. Short answer: I think it is!

I downloaded the Flickr app to my iPhone and iPad and visited the website, started a new account, and uploaded a sunset I happened to catch on my way home from work the other day.

After all these years and changes, Flickr is still a great place to enjoy photography with others. There’s still no other site quite like it. And I hope it stays that way.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Flickr is using its camera finder to see which cameras are the most popular. And a big trend was just re-confirmed. Flickr announced their 2017 year in review, and smartphones (shouldn’t we just call them smartcams now?) are the dominant camera type used by millions to capture and share their pictures online.

As much as I like the picture quality you get from DSLR cameras, the good-enough quality combined with the always-with-you convenience of a smartcam works best for me.

My iPhone 6 is my trusty camera with a built-in phone for calling a friend. Try holding up a Canon 5D Mark III to your ear and phoning someone. OK never-mind. Kidding.

If you enjoy photography but haven’t tried Flickr, give it a shot (pun not intended)! And maybe connect with me there too.

Living With Less Is Enough

A notion struck me about a year ago. I don’t know if it could be called an epiphany or not. But it was like the movie Inception; an idea seemed to be deeply planted into the core of my being. It moved me to make some changes in my life, including one of the biggest: moving to a new home. The idea was: “enough.”

Before the idea of enough took hold of me, I thought that moving to less of something meant…settling for less, sacrificing my current level of comfort. And who wants to lower their standard of living when you could have more!?

I thought the idea of less would mean giving up things I was holding onto. I had an aversion to loss; I just couldn’t let go of some things I had or even things I wanted to attain. The idea of owning less seemed inconvenient and impractical; it made me feel uncomfortable.

Instead of having less, I thought the opposite – I would need more!

But in the end, thinking about the idea of enough caused me to see things differently. I began to realize that fewer things, possessing older or simpler things, could still meet all my needs…sufficiently.

Fewer things and older things are not lesser things; they are enough!

What I thought was less was actually enough. Knowing that, I became able to freely let go of the many better things I was holding onto without feeling loss or fear.

With that big turn-around, I felt a calming freedom, a kind of contentment, which allowed me to make a bold move to a new home. Only it was really an old home! It wasn’t necessarily a lesser home, just an older home. Not only that, it was a smaller home, but still, not a lesser home. In fact, it was enough home for us.

My wife and I with our 5 sons moved from our 1,500 sq ft home into a 1,200 sq ft home. We went from having two bathrooms to sharing only one – without even a bathtub for our 2-year old! Scary…but it works. Although difficult sometimes, it’s enough!

Don’t let what you want get in the way of what you need.

There are other big examples too. We need mobile transportation from point A to point B. We want the newest nicest car. Because for some reason a 5 year old used car isn’t quite as shiny even though it runs great. We need mobile communication to and from others. We want the latest fanciest iPhone. Because somehow anything less just isn’t enough to make phone calls and texts.

And because the fancy car and amazing phone cost too much, suddenly we don’t have enough money! Really? So then we finance or subsidize, hoping that we somehow will have enough money in the future, month after month, year after year of payments.

If you can sort out your needs from your wants, things start getting simpler. Not lesser. Simpler isn’t lesser. In fact, simpler is usually better.

What’s better really, to get more or be content with what you already have? We can look at what we have and be thankful and content. Or we can look at what we don’t have and think we don’t have enough, which means living in discontentment. This makes the things you already own (and could be enjoying) become disregarded and then discarded.

Just because you say, “No” to more doesn’t necessarily mean your saying “Yes” to less. Rather, you’re realizing that what you already possess is enough.

In a materialistic consumer culture, contentment is hard to come by. Like happiness, you can’t buy it in a store. If that were possible, I’d order it on Amazon with next-day shipping instead of 2-day shipping.

But haven’t we consumed enough?

The End Of Newsfeed Distraction

Several weeks ago, I found myself once again mindlessly scrolling the Facebook Newsfeed with my thumb, glancing blankly at each passing post. I had opened the app for a specific reason but somehow got distracted, forgetting what I was there for. I’m sure you’ve heard of this habitual phenomenon before; it happens often.

I got frustrated by it, snapped out of my mindless scrolling, and decided to try and put an end to it once and for all – without deleting or deactivating my Facebook account.

So what did I do? I did what many people, myself included, have done before. I simply tailored my newsfeed by unfollowing (in other words, decluttering) people. But there was one big difference this time. I pushed it to the limits!

I decided to try and see what would happen if I unfollowed everybody – including my own wife! I wondered, would the algorithm show me anything? Would there still be ads?

I figured I’d give it a shot and then slowly re-follow some people one at a time. Basically, I would start my newsfeed over with a fresh clean slate and then build it back to a cleaner and leaner…source of distraction – I mean information, right?

Unfollowing everybody worked! It’s been over a month now and my newsfeed distraction problem is solved.

Much of the time, my newsfeed is literally blank! Sometimes, I will see only the last few of my own posts. And once in a while there is an ad. The only other posts I will see are the occasional ones Facebook promotes like Memories. There are usually 4 posts or less, so there’s nothing to scroll through on auto-pilot.

I figured I would re-follow some people, but because my newsfeed is so clutter free and since I have really enjoyed being released from the mindless scrolling distraction, I decided to not add anyone back to follow.

So if you’re tired of being distracted and want to escape some of the digital clutter of your social media, give it a try; unfollow everyone!

Here’s a few other points to consider: You will still be friends. You can still just look up your friends on their Timeline to see how they’re doing. You can still message them. You will still get notifications from friends if you want to. And no one will know that you unfollowed them; Facebook doesn’t notify others of unfollows.

After you unfollow everyone and see what it’s like, you can decide whether to add anyone back to follow and slowly rebuild your simplified newsfeed. Or you can just keep it as minimal as possible – keep everyone unfollowed.

The Anxious Summer Of 2017

After a long hiatus, I’m dusting off the Jason Journals site. Blogging is something you’re supposed to do consistently if you want regular readers. Well I might say I’m consistently inconsistent. But my absence from the blog over the summer has been due to more than my usual on-and-off interest in the blog-o-sphere.

I’ve had a lot of things going on this year – big changes – which brought a lot of stress! And then in May, I started having anxiety attacks. The short story is I’ve been wrestling with anxiety off and on for about the past 5 months.

Even though I’m not out of the woods yet, I seem to be better. So I’d like to get back to blogging since it’s something I enjoy. I might blog about my journey with anxiety, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that.

Personally, I have found private journaling to be helpful in processing the challenges that I have faced. Stepping back and observing my anxieties objectively through the tool of writing seems kind of therapeutic.

Publicly, if I journal some of my thoughts concerning “excessive concern” here on Jason Journals, then maybe whoever reads my blog will be able to relate and be helped somehow.

I know there are many people who suffer from anxiety; I never thought I’d be one of them. But soon after my initial anxiety attacks, I found myself suddenly being very empathetic toward those who, like me, have wrestled with debilitating anxiety.

So I guess I’ll see how it goes for now. Thankfully, I do have other things on my mind besides anxious thoughts that I’d like to write about. I’ll try not to worry or stress over it.

(Originally published at Jason Journals on WordPress by Jason McFadden.)

Why I Like Republic Wireless

After years of buying into 2-year contracts with cell phone carriers, I finally broke free! I must give credit to
Republic Wireless for that, and also to Walt Mossberg; his latest review of RW’s new technology gave me the push to give it a go! OK, also, Amazon’s Prime deal on a couple of phones helped too. So if, like me, you try to be frugal and minimal, or you like affordable and simple, read on.

I’ve had the candy bar phone. The flip phone. The iPhone. The Android smartphone. All on 2-year contracts. Every time. And that despite always wishing for a cheaper alternative that didn’t lock me into a service agreement. And until recently, the few options that fit the bill had too many caveats, required me to give up too much, or in some way had deal-breakers.


The deal I ended up going with is on Republic Wireless 3.0 plans. A modern smartphone with plenty of data and unlimited calls and texts: $20 per month.


It may seem too good to be true, but it’s totally true. I don’t think there’s a better deal out there. So RW is affordable, which may be it’s best feature. The benefit: I save a lot of money for other things.


RW is also simple. I was able to buy an unlocked phone from Amazon, pop in an RW SIM card, download the RW app, and got signed up and running right away, even porting my number from my locked Verizon phone (contract fulfilled). The website, the app, and the way RW service works…it’s all very straightforward.

How can this all be true? Republic Wireless works differently than the big 4 carriers. They rely mostly on Wi-Fi for phone service instead of using cell towers so much. Also, I think they’re what’s called an MVNO. Basically that means when they do use cell towers, the piggy-back on towers maintained by the big 4 carriers.


However it all works, I have found RW reliable. Most of the time, I get LTE data and cell coverage. Even in the rural Texas area I live in (piggy-backing on T-Mobile), I get coverage (albeit spotty sometimes).

If you’re thinking about trying Republic Wireless, the thing that helps is the fact that you can buy a really good phone for cheap, one that is unlocked. That means it works on any cell carrier instead of only one. So you can buy a phone you like and try it on RW, and if it doesn’t work out, you’re free to try your phone on any other carrier!

This is what helped me try RW for myself. No lock-in. No contract. No exorbitant fees. No high prices. No strings attached. No non-sense. No gimmicks. And by the way, their community support forums are helpful. RW has a grass-roots, friendly vibe to it. I think the word for it would be authentic.

And that’s why I am sharing this info with you. This is not a sponsored post. I was not contacted by anyone to do this. I just really like Republic Wireless and want to tell you about them; there are really great options besides the big 4 carriers!

If you want to break free from expensive cell phone plans, give Republic Wireless a call!

What Is A Shutterbug?

Shutterbug – an amateur photographer, especially one who isgreatly devoted to the hobby; a photographer, esp. anenthusiastic amateur.

I think this definition from is apt. I can’t call myself a photographer (sounds too much like a pro photog) without being more specific.

Amateur, devoted, hobbyist, enthusiast…I think they more or less have the right focal point. (Yep. I did that.)

Flower Bugs Made Me A Shutterbug

A photo I took of a single Texas Bluebonnet with bugs on it is the picture that made me become a shutterbug.

To others, this image is nothing special. But to me, it was seminal; it had a big impact on my life. We all have these kinds of experiences in life: an event, a circumstance, a person…somehow they can be special turning points.

So how or why did this single photograph, Bluebonnet Bugs, cause me to focus on photography?

Twelve years ago today, I took this photo with my still new first digital camera (Canon PowerShot A400.) The simple key benefits of digital cameras with instant image feedback and capacity for thousands of photos on one reusable roll of film called an SD Card enabled this in the first place. This made photography accessible; it was easier to practice.

Yet what happened in this particular photo opened my eyes to see God’s creation more than before.

So, I took this photo because Bluebonnets are pretty and rare; they only stay in bloom a few weeks of the year. Plus, I noticed the bright red bug on the flower. Vivid red color juxtaposed on vivid blue color! It was simply eye-catching, worthy of snapping it with my then new digi-cam.

But what happened after I took the picture was what really gave me a vision for photography.

When I reviewed the picture on the back of the camera and zoomed in, to my great surprise and delight, I saw what I had totally missed before: a second cooler looking green bug!

This kind of shocked me because it seemed so obvious, yet I somehow overlooked this neat piece of creation that was right in front of me!

That is what made me appreciate and pursue photography. It taught me to slow down, look around, and see…to notice the wonder and beauty of God’s creation in a new and deeper way!

Many people enjoy landscapes, those breath-taking grand vistas, like sunsets, that hardly can go unnoticed. But there is a microcosm of God’s glory right under our noses full of interesting details to behold.

Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).

But he also made miniature marvels, and he gave us macro lenses to capture and wonder at them and in turn know he is wonderful.

Rich Mullins said it best,

“You fill this world with wonders and I’m, filled with the wonder of your world.”

More Than Enough Is Not Enough

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, that “more than enough” is not “enough.” How can that be? I mean, if you have more than enough, then you surely have enough, plus more! That makes sense.

My point is more…strict, for lack of a better word. In math terms, let’s say “enough” is equal to one. Then “more than enough” is equal to any number greater than one, two for example. And two is not one; it’s two!

Why strain at such a distinction? Well, hopefully to make a good point. I’m trying to distinctly ask the helpful question, “How much is enough?” The answer is classic: Enough Is Enough. So “more than enough” is not enough.

The Problem Of More Than Enough

You might be wondering, “So what’s the problem with having more than enough?” Looking at the big picture, it’s not ideal. You want to aim for the middle of the spectrum, which is just enough. On the left end, you have the problem of less than enough. And on the right end you have the problem of morethan enough. In general, you want just enough because anything else is either too little or too much.

Most times, people agree that having less than enough is a problem. And the solution is to gain more until you have enough. But instead of stopping there, they extend it further, believing that if “enough” solves the problem, then “more than enough” solves the problem even more!

That sounds good on the face of it. If “enough” is good, then “more than enough” is better, right? But the problem is that “more” tends to create more problems than it solves. In a word, it becomes excess.

So what about excess? The minimalists say this about it:

“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

Excess Versus Extra

There is a subtlety to the problem of “more than enough.” While you might think of it as extra, my point is that it tends to be excess. And when it comes to minimalism, extra is excessive. And excess is the enemy of enough.

Excess is the enemy of enough.

Of course, you might quickly say that not all extra is excess. In some cases, a little more than enough is a good thing, like putting extra money in your savings account. But I think in the majority of cases, we inadvertently succumb to the trap of excess. We tend to slip beyond having just enough and find ourselves overwhelmed by too much of something: too much food, too much time on Facebook, too much…[fill in the blank].

So even though a little extra is technically “more than enough”, it can still be an acceptable amount sometimes. You just gotta be careful about it because we live in a culture of consumerism and materialism in which gaining more and more is the trend. (Minimalism strives to reverse that trend.)

Need Versus Want

How do you be careful to avoid excess? One simple way is to ask yourself about your needs versus your wants.

I’m sure you’ve been through something like this before. You’re at the checkout line buying what you need. And then the Milky Way candy bar catches your eye. And the caramel from within calls to you. Suddenly, you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. I know. I’ve been there more than enough times! So you ask yourself in that situation, do you really need that candy or do you just want it? And you look at your groceries, realizing you’ve already got plenty of snacks you’re about to buy.

The most common scenario seems to be a closet full of clothes and shoes. Most people in America have more than enough clothing. Yet we tend to keep buying more. In fact, decluttering your closet and dresser is one of the top posts on minimalism blogs. How did all that excess sneak in there? I think this can be addressed by just getting brutally honest about what you really need instead of what you really want.

So you might need extra, but you tend to want excess (whether you realize it or not). I believe that’s a truth most folks would agree with. Yet we tend to “forget” it in our daily life until it’s too late, like when the dirty laundry is stacked up. In exasperation you sigh, “Why are there so many clothes?”
Stop The Excess Trend

The call to action in this type of case is to donate, out of your over-abundance, a portion of your wardrobe to goodwill. But has the problem of more than enough been solved? Not really. A symptom has been alleviated, but the root cause remains.

Overall, the call to action here is to be mindful of these simple truths: “more than enough” is not ideal; it tends to become excess. And we tend to not notice the subtle excess growth, so be aware! I hope this blog post is a good reminder. Remember these things as you go throughout your days and weeks, asking yourself if you really need all that you already have, and do you truly need more of what you want to buy.

What do you think’s enough?

Dumbify Your Smartphone

A dumb phone may be a smart idea. “Too smart for your own good.” Maybe that should apply to our current age of gadgets like smartphones and tablets. Just 10 years ago, before the iPhone, the flip phone or feature phone was the smartest phone on the block. Now we call them dumb phones.

But in line with minimalism or simplicity, maybe we would be better off if we minimized the smarts of our devices. A less-smart dumb phone just might be enough of a phone.

This is one reason why some people prefer eReaders, like the kindle, with their singular focus; they’re distraction free. They don’t interrupt you with notifications while you’re trying to be immersed in reading a good book. They may be “dumb” e-Ink tablets, in a manner of speaking, but their genius is found in their simplicity and focus. Sometimes limits are very good; they keep us from getting out of line.

Of course, there’s the idea of a singularly focused device being a master of that one function, like a dedicated point and shoot camera, rather than a ‘jack-of-all-trades’.

If we simplify, or dumbify, our devices, will we be better off?

There’s a flip-side to trading your smartphone for a flip-phone, or for trading your phone and tablet in for the devices they replaced. You end up with MORE devices! Think of it: phone, iPod/mp3 player, camera, e-Reader, laptop, Garmin GPS. Our phones and tablets replaced all these dedicated devices.

Or maybe just minimize the plethora of apps and services you have on your phone. Or go all-in with one ecosystem, one sign-on. Go all 1st-party; remove all 3rd party software. Or decide to use only the apps your phone came with built-in (yeah, no Facebook app).

What do you think?