Christmas Newsletter 2010 (clean verision)

Hellriegel’s 2010 Holiday Newsletter (a must read!)

Another year has whipped by and we find ourselves back at the holiday newsletter time of year. In short, we are all alive, healthy, and wiser(?). So if you want to skip the rest of this newsletter, please go ahead, just remember to recycle it (it would make a lovely wrapping paper for my gift)!

The kids are all doing well. We still have three (I haven’t killed anyone….yet). J (20) is living with his dad and working at Toys R Us. At least he has a job in this lousy economic time. My wife and I are still both working so that is great news, right? It was one of my best years in real estate and my school photography business is still solid. It just goes to show that if you actually do a great job, your clients will stay with you!

What about the younger kids that inhabit our home, drain our energy, and think I am awesome? K (8) is in 2nd Grade and is developing my sense of humor! Thank God for that! Rest assured that after I’m dead and gone, she’ll continue to bring that sick and twisted Hellriegel sense of humor to your lives. She complete her first year of soccer (loves it), bridged over from Daisy Scouts to Brownies, continued ballet (now switched to Jazz), and went on a Dad and Me Camp (Girl Scouts) with me (where I was the coolest Dad around-at least I thought so).

H (12) is now in the 6th Grade and in his last year at elementary school. As a pre-teenager, we are seeing the switch in his attitude from child to obnoxious son. He believes 20 minutes of arguing is better than doing the five minutes of work he is arguing against doing. He played indoor soccer and outdoor soccer, is now in Boy Scouts (following his old man & uncle on the path to Eagle Scout), came in 3rd Place in popcorn sales for the troop (thanks to me!), and has long hair (unlike me!). I attended summer camp with H for a week (Camp Piggott) where he earned 5 merit badges (compared to only 3 that I earned my first time at summer camp). You’ll be pleased to know that he too has my sense of humor (much to my wife’s dismay). Perhaps that is why he likes to argue so much?

Vacation Trips: Don’t get too excited; our vacations are usually pretty boring, road trip style because I’m such a frugal person (or cheapskate as my wife likes to say). Our school vacations were also cut short because of the teacher’s strike so we did mini-vacations. We went to Portland, OR over the New Year’s Break and we rode the Portland Streetcar around (because H and I are train geeks) while my wife humored us. Luckily, we are grooming K to be a train geek as well…soon there will be another (insert evil laugh here). We also bumped into one of the four people I know in Oregon right at Powell’s Bookstore. Man, there goes my chance to win the PowerBall Lottery with a random run in with a friend named (get this) “Chance”. Seriously, that is actually true and his actual name.

We did our annual trip to Lincoln Rock for a week in June (out of the rain!). Then we did a freezing cold Oregon Coast trip (in July) with temps of 40-60 degrees. I was blamed for the cold weather (not my fault, it’s an act of God ok?). Overall, Oregon Coast was fun because we had extended family camping trip with campfires and family time. We also managed to make it another time to the warmth of Eastern Washington and a waterslide park. We did a few trips to the Anderson Island cabin. Since I’m the oldest of the children and can blame all the broken things on my brother and sister, we had a raging party with 100 of my closet friends from the tavern (at least that is what my father firmly believes).

Additional Members of the Family: This year we added a rabbit to our family named “Puppy” (that was his name before we got him). I renamed him “Zoltron: Destroyer of Planets”. It sounds more Star Trek-ish and manly (if those two terms can go together). No offense to the folks that speak “Klingon” in their spare time (i.e. no social life). Our dog Shelby turned 10 in February and is greatly loved by the kids (who don’t seem to remember to feed her or pick up her poop unless it is on the bottom of their shoes).

My wife had some good “Girlfriends without Whining Husbands and Demanding Children Trips” with a wine tour to Lake Chelan and a trip to the Oregon Coast. Thank God, I had stocked up on Pop Tarts (a most delicious dinner!), peanut butter, and insane amounts of hot dogs. What else would we eat when she is gone? McDonald’s? With each vacation my wife takes without me, our marriage grows stronger because now I can bank more days into my “Dad Alone Vacations”! I’m up to 16 weeks of vacation now. Hmm, an extended trip to Europe by myself? Maybe a trip to South America? Or a couch surfing trip to NYC (hint, hint Cousin Stephen and his wife Melissa)? Truth be told, I like to use my vacation with my family and hold it over my wife’s head as an evil overlord. This way I can “feel” better about myself (and still keep those vacation days in the bank!).

The end of the year brought us Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Thanksgiving was bittersweet because of the snow and we stayed at home instead of getting away to Anderson Island.
Other News: I continued on in my Aikido class and passed my 5th kyu (I’m “grasshopper” like in the TV series Kung Fu). I also had 11 Cub Scout finish up their Cub Scout careers and me as their Den Leader in February. Then I got sucked into an Assistant Scoutmaster position (hence my week long “vacation” at Boy Scout camp instead of Hawaii). Actually, we are in a good troop and H and I are both having fun.

Between my endless hours of wasting time on Facebook and watching TV (mostly reality shows), I have mostly neglected my family and household duties this past year. However, I did manage to write more on my blog (which I wholeheartedly encourage you to read on a weekly basis). Is it as funny as the newsletter or my various Facebook status updates? Sometimes. Will you get more of my weird sense of humor? Of course!

So important websites to remember:
Kevin’s Blog:
Kevin’s Photography:
Kevin’s Real Estate:

Feel free to call us or stop by the house anytime you happen to be in Kent!

Warmest Holiday Wishes,

Kevin & Family!

Self Help Guru and your Critical Thinking Skills!

I finally finished the audio book (I had to drive around the neighborhood for about three hours in my car to finish it) titled “Bright-Sided How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” written by Barbara Ehrenreich. She really doesn’t mean to be funny but the book is funny in a depressing sarcastic way! Well, to me it was funny because it really showed how the “positive thinking” is messing up the good old United States of America. So that fits perfectly into my new brand of Self Help Guru Motivational leadership I want to do.

Before we go off and talk about my favorite subject (me), let’s talk about the book “Bright Sided”. The book is a serious statement against the Self-Help movement and Positive Thinking followers. You might be wondering what the difference between positive thinking and positive thoughts are.

Positive thinking is a blind belief that you must think positive all the time. Positive thinkers believe that all negative thoughts are bad and should be cast aside. But is that really the best thing to do? Aren’t you throwing the baby out with the bath water when you do that? Aren’t you just sacrificing your critical thinking skills for simpler, easier thinking? Could positive thinking cause you great harm?

What is Kevin talking about? Let’s take the example of walking through a bad part of town. Should you use “positive thinking” and the “law of attraction” to safely guide you through the dangerous streets of Compton, California? Or should you use your realistic thinking of the potential dangers that exist in this negative environment and use your critical thinking skills to get the heck out of there?

Positive thinking is all a big scam according to Barbara Ehrenreich. She writes about mega preachers and self help gurus. One would think that her negative view of self help gurus, motivational speakers, and mega church leaders would deter me from becoming a Self-Help Guru. Ha! If anything, this book has given me the push I need to become that Self-Help guru I so yearn to be!

Think about it for a moment. Positive thinking and the Law of Attraction is just a scam in which people are lied to and told that anything is possible if they “visualize” it. It is a scam in which they want you to falsely believe that if you think it will happen, it will actually happen. I’m pretty positive that I picked the latest PowerBall numbers, yet I haven’t won the Powerball jackpot yet.

Am I saying you should use negative thinking instead of positive thinking? No, not in the least bit, however, instead of positive thinking could we be realistic thinkers? Could we be realistic with the fact that you need to work hard to be successful? You need to study hard to get good grades? You need to develop your critical thinking skills to become successful. What are critical thinking skills? Critical thinking is your ability to identify the problem, analyze & evaluate the problem, think of multiple solutions, and hopefully solve the problem by implementing one or more of your solutions. For a more detailed definition of critical thinking, here’s a link

Now, there is nothing wrong with having a positive attitude while thinking of solutions to a problem as long as those solutions are realistic in natural. In the brainstorming phase, you can throw out crazy ideas (that is why it is called “brainstorming”). However, once you move past the brainstorming phase, you narrow down your objectives to realistic, doable, and obtainable solutions.

An example: You need to increase sale for your “drug lord business.”
How would you do this? I’d suggest you set some goals for yourself.
Goal: I want to increase my drug lord business by 100% next quarter.
Is that realistic? If you live in a small town and all the local druggies are purchasing from you already, a growth rate of 100% isn’t going to happen unless they build a new low income housing project overnight.
What if you live in a large city? It is possible, however, will the established gangs and drug dealers take too kindly to your encroachment onto their turf? Is your expansion plans going to piss off the neighboring gangs? Is a turf war worth it? How much will it cost you in death of your “employees” and lost productivity? Remember a dead employee doesn’t make you any money!

This is critical thinking at work. You have to ask all the good, the bad, and the ugly questions. You have to think of multiple scenarios in which your plan will have to survive in. These scenarios need to be worst case and best case because you need to be prepared to do your best whatever the outcome may be!

Now the positive thinking group and the Law of Attraction flakes would have you believe that you can just “think” about growing your drug lord business by 100% and it will happen. I argue that you can use realistic thinking instead. Yes, you can grow that business by 100% but use your critical thinking skills to do it. Your realistic thinking will then guide you into how you’ll actually go about achieving that lofty goal.

There is nothing wrong about thinking “big” and setting big goals for your self. You just have to know that it is going take hard work and dedication to reach those goals. Is your heart ready to live your dreams? I’m positive it is as long as you take it seriously. I’m not holding you back; I’m here to push you forward by making you think! Enjoy what you do and do it!

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback!

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes!

As I was stepping out of the bathroom this morning, I was informed by my wife that our daughter needed a new pair of shoes. These things happen. Children grow, they need new shoes. No big deal.

It wouldn’t be a big deal except she needed new shoes NOW. Really? Right now? It is 8:23 am and they are leaving for school at 8:25 am. She really needs a new pair of shoes in the next two minutes? This really couldn’t wait? What is the emergency?

Apparently, someone left her shoes out on the porch where the rain could reach them. After the tremendous downpour we had this past weekend (and today), her shoes were not just a little damp; they were soaked. I’m thinking to myself: Just have her wear another pair of shoes. What is the big deal, right? She has other pairs of shoes, boots, slippers, whatever. She could have worn her boots except for the fact that she broke those on Saturday night while we were walking in Seattle. And it appears that all of her other shoes are now too small for her never ending and continuously growing feet. What about her snow boots? Yes, snow boots! She just wore those with all the recent snow we had! It snowed only two weeks ago! I don’t have to make a trip to the shoe store! I’m saved!

No dice. The snow boots were a wee bit tight as well. She probably could have gotten frostbite because her feet where stuffed in them and her blood wasn’t circulating correctly. Details, details.

OK, after my less than enthusiastic acceptance of being the parent who has to drag their kid to the shoe store on a Monday morning, my daughter and I head out on the quest for new shoes. Mind you, I hate clothes and shoe shopping. I hate it with a passion. I hate it with every bone in my body. I hate the driving to the store, the walking into the store, the trying on of the clothes, the matching this shirt with those pants, the changing of the outfit into a different outfit, the returning of the first pile of clothes, the bringing back of more clothes to try on…you get my point, right? I hate it. And now I have to go with my daughter on a shopping trip? I can’t stand going with my wife shopping and now I have to go with my daughter? This is the same daughter that argues me with me about which gum she wants to buy and we spend fifteen long (very long minutes…minutes I’ll never get back) minutes looking at gum in which to purchase? It is a pack of gum! It shouldn’t take fifteen minutes to decide!

However, this trip is for a pair of shoes only. No add ons, no additional accessories, no skirts or tops to go with the shoes. Shoes Only! Clear, obtainable goals!

On top of this, we also need to get to school before they send in the lunch orders or I have to bring a lunch from home during my daughter’s lunch period (when I’m suppose to be working). We now have a time deadline on our shoe quest to add more stress to this mess. First, I hate shopping. Second, I now have a time deadline, and third, I haven’t a clue on what size shoe or style of shoe. Lucky, for me (or perhaps unlucky for me), my daughter pretty much knows what she wants. Let’s just pray that she doesn’t want the $95 Nike shoes or the piece of junk “pretty” shoes that won’t last two weeks yet cost more than the pair of Nike shoes.

So what can make this worse? My daughter actually feels terrible about me having to do this. She keeps apologizing about making me miss work. She’s sorry that I have to spend money on her to buy a new pair of shoes. She feels bad that I have to do it when usually Mom likes to do these things. She says she’ll pick the cheapest shoes. OK, now I feel like a real jerk. My poor daughter has all this guilt because of these stupid shoes. I do tell her that it isn’t a big deal, that she needs new shoes anyway, however, I didn’t want to be making a shoe shopping trip during school hours on a Monday morning. I mean, I look like a terrible parent waiting until the last minute to outfit his daughter in a new pair of shoes. I can see people looking at me and thinking: What kind of father waits until his child is headed to school to purchase her shoes? Doesn’t he care?

I need to spin this back onto my daughter. I ask her why she didn’t put her shoes inside. Well, she had dog poop on her shoes. Good reason. However, that is why you wash off the dog poop outside with the hose and then put the shoes by the front door. She knows perfectly well that her shoes need to be right by the front door, under the porch roof. For God’s sake, she’s eight years old already. If she lived in a Third World country she’d be making her 15th pair of shoes by 9:15 already and working for 15 cents an hour, 12 hour days, six days a week. No wonder our country is going downhill.

We get to the local Kent Fred Meyer store and walk into a very clean and well organized shoe department. We find the girl’s shoes area. She likes a pair of purple Nike shoes (on sale) but they are a bit tight. She then tries on a pair of blue New Balance and they feel better. She likes the blue running shoes and they are on sale as well. YES! We head to the cashier, who then tells us that they have another coupon for an additional 15% off. Double YES!

We walk out of there with a new pair of shoes for about $32 and in about 15 minutes time. Not super great but not bad on price and the time spent in the store was acceptable. We make it safely to school. She is a bit late but still manages to get her lunch order in under the deadline. Sweet deal! We part ways on good terms and I’m back off home to get some Photoshop work done. Not a bad morning for an idiot father who hates shopping….now it is time for a nap!

I want to be a Self-Help Guru!

I want to be a Self-Help Guru!

I recently started a new audio book titled “Bright-Sided How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” written by Barbara Ehrenreich. Since I just started this audio book I can’t give you a detailed review, however, I can say that it makes me want to become a self-help guru! The self-help guru industry is probably a great place for me to use my talents as an delightful individual to spread my unique style of sarcastic self-help. And I can create a media empire in the process and get rich too!

Think of the endless possibilities that await me as a sarcastic self-help guru! I have the perfect “unhappy” foundation in which to build upon my self-help guru career. Even if my life history isn’t as sappy or depressing as it could be, I can still spin a great tale of childhood misery to make a go of it as a self-help guru.

I can talk about how deprived I was as a child growing up in middle class suburbia. Please allow me to tell my tale of woe….when I was in elementary grade school, my parents didn’t buy me the all “too cool” Atari game system. All my friends and enemies had the Atari game systems with Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger….but I had nothing! So what if I had every Lego set they made and I lived in a nice house….I am still scarred to this day with the knowledge that EVERYONE had an Atari and I didn’t.

Oh, and the vacation trips I never took…..where should I begin? How am I going to heal the wounds of never going to Hawaii until our family moved there? I’m still in pain (which gives me the emotional background to be an awesome self-help guru!).

Should we be talking about my emotional struggles of not getting a new bike when everyone else had one? Or the skateboard I never had? Or the new REI backpack for Boy Scouts I didn’t get? Oh, the pain of my terrible childhood. How did I overcome these painful childhood memories? Yet, I can blame my parents for the lack of a wonderful childhood or should I “thank” them for giving me this wonderful gift called “opportunity”?

And I have failures in my adult life which I can parlay into being a “Life Coach”. Oh boy, oh boy! If you really what to succeed, just hire an unemployed, twice divorced, free spirit life coach (that makes less money than you do) to guide you. What is that you hope to accomplish in your life? Hope? I “hope” I don’t puke with a bunch of nonsense! How do you feel about that? I “feel” like you are answering my question with your question. Did you see that? I’m an old dude giving you advice…I’m your “Dad”! Not really, I’m a stranger giving you advice for money. I’m telling you it will be ok…heck I’m a hooker!

Honestly, you know in my mind and in your heart what you need to do to be successful. The hard reality is that life gets in the way of you becoming successful. There is always one more TV show to watch, one more kid to tuck into bed, one more client to email, one more blog to write! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to work towards become successful with written goals. I have goals, I just never write them down! See, another Self-Help guru tip!

In my quest to become a self-help guru, I did intense and extensive research on the internet by visit two websites. I loved this one: Oh, and let’s not forget this article too!

I can’t wait for my “Nine Habits of Successful Living” to become a York Times Bestseller with a book tour, groupies, an appearance on “Oprah”, a series of workshops and programs. Maybe I can do some “good” by appearing on a PBS pledge drive…remember that if you help others reach their goals, they’ll help you reach yours!

As always your comments are always welcome!

I love Seattle Traffic!!

Kevin Hellriegel

I love Traffic in Seattle!

I love heavy traffic and that is why it is so wonderful to live in the Seattle.  You get a constant stream of cars, trucks, and crazy motorcyclists on the freeway at all hours of the day and night.  There are usually great bottleneck areas like coming into downtown Seattle from South King County and going into Bellevue either from the north end or from the south end.  Since I live in the south end, I particular like either Interstate 5 or Interstate 405 for heavy traffic; it is so fun to be stuck in it!

Why do I love traffic so much?  It gives me more time to listen to audio books!  Let’s face it, if my commute was a few minutes each way to work and then back home again, I’d never get any of my audio books finished.  However, with a 45-60 minute commute to a job site (that’s each way).  I can get through an audio book in about a week or less.  You can’t do that working in your home office.

Sadly, I usually have my assistant with me and therefore can’t listen to my audio books when in the vehicle with her.  It falls into that category of being “rude.”  Besides I can use that time to talk about work and her lousy job performance.  See?  Use that time as reflection period in which to have a daily job performance review?  She certainly is lucky, isn’t she?  Man, I’m certainly a genius when it comes to time management!

Sometimes, she pretends to be asleep but I can usually get her to snap back to attention by slamming on the brakes, screaming and cussing at the other idiot drivers, or playing my music just a little too loud.  You have to have that perfect volume on the car’s stereo where it sounds like the song right before the current song was a soft song.  This gives the illusion that the current song is too loud and that you never touched the volume control.  While in reality, I’ve been switching channels and adjusting the volume up and down in no particular pattern other than to drive someone crazy.

I suppose you could talk about important issues of the week during this commuting time.  However, it is much more fun to have a full blown discussion of why my position is correct and her position is incorrect.  Even if she is correct and I agree with her, I still like to argue from the other point of view.  Debate is a great thing!  And it helps to keep me awake on the drive home.

As always, your thoughts and comments are always welcome!