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My Life As A Christian Fraudster

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closet atheist.jpg

Square peg in a round hole.

Am I a fraud? Am I usurping a zone where I don’t belong?

Or … am I merely a sign of the times… a modern zeitgeist where anyone is welcome anywhere so long as they don’t try to upend and smash the belief cart?

Like a reticent homosexual, I’ve climbed out of the closet in recent years, only my “reveal” is that I’m an atheist.

To be fair, I won’t pretend that the fears I felt in the past when people become aware of my non-belief, in any way compares to the traumas of others who’ve encountered much greater rejection related to their sexuality.

But fears and unease they were still.

For the past couple of centuries, Canada has been a “Christian” country. When I was born in 1957, more than 90% of the Canadian populace was Christian.

Of course today it’s a pastiche of religions, pseudo-religions, and non-religion. Barely 60% identify as Christian today.

I grew up in the United Church of Canada.

I hated the unending “preachy” sermons, but I really loved the hymns, the grape juice that I pretended was real wine (even while knowing that St. Eugene’s Catholic Church a few blocks away had the real stuff), the stained-glass windows.

I loved the warmth of the people always shaking hands and smiling. The warmth may have been put on temporarily like wearing your best Sunday suit, but it felt good nonetheless.

I’m comfortable now in my non-believing skin, but I can’t seem to shake a churchly connection to my past. Even though I proclaim myself an atheist, I’m in no hurry to cut the ties of my heritage.

We’re at the end of the first week of December in the Okanagan Valley, and I’m awaiting that true harbinger of Christmas, the first beautiful snowfall of the season. Nonetheless, the Christmas celebration is rushing headlong at us and Christmas says Christian, right?

Yet here I am, many years removed from my days of religious faith, and many thousands of kilometres away from my family’s church.

It’s music’s fault and I’m unapologetic. In fact, I’m thankful.

And on 4 occasions now, I’ve been asked to play my guitar and sing at the local United Church at their Monday night Community Dinners. When I told the vivacious woman in charge of these functions about my own belief system, she happily laughed it off and said, “so what?“…. WTH? … were they welcoming the Grinch into their little village?

 

Also, this year I’ve been asked to stand by the Salvation Army “kettles” to croon my John Denver version of Christmas for Cowboys and collect alms for the Christmas cheer of the less-favoured in the local area. I reflect back to the time when the folks standing by the kettles ringing the bells were outfitted in their authoritative “Army” uniforms, looking the well-starched Christian soldier part. Even their clunky black shoes looked God-fearing to me.

That was then. The volunteers I encounter standing by the Sally Ann kettles now come in jeans and wear Santa hats. That’s pretty inclusive.

In tutoring my Syrian Muslim friend, I’m acting as his interpreter of the Christmas season, just as he does the same for me during Ramadan. We enjoy learning about each other’s worlds. I’m just a non-Christian playing a small part in a world of Christians and Jews and Muslims and Atheists and on and on.

But I hope the feeling that I get by being around and enjoying others with different belief systems is a trend that continues to spread as our uneasy, uncomfortable world slowly… inexorably melds itself into a sphere of tolerance and acceptance.

If only I were a Christian… then I might suggest that “tolerance and acceptance” would be an excellent 11th Commandment… nobody needs religion to buy into that, right? Thank you… Thank you very much …

Sally Ann Elvis

 

 

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Christmas Old and New

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That was then. This is now.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Christian believer.

Maybe it’s because Don Draper and all the advertising Mad Men crawled inside me and wouldn’t stop ringing Christmas bells and playing the jingle-script of Kris Kringle perfection.

Maybe the Charlie Browns and Grinches and Rudolphs and Ebenezer Scrooges were like multiple-personality Sybil’s speaking at me in an unstoppable constant repeat.

Xmas TV

Yes Virginia, I like the modern tradition of Christmas gift-giving.

I love to spend hours watching others  – one by one – open a beautifully-wrapped present. A personal gift given to a loved and/or admired one is as close to my definition of “Christmas spirit” as the other “meanings” of Christmas.

But in days long gone, I’ve been panic-struck while Christmas shopping. If I was migraine-prone, I would have OD’d on opioids from the tension I layered over me like a searing winter duvet.

I can remember years where I drove the streets of my birth-city like a crazy man, battling snowstorms, madly seeking out some sense of Yuletide perfection that could never be possible. Always dangling but never attainable.

Ho Ho How will I ever send everyone – friends, relatives (large families are wonderful until you count up your two dozen nieces and nephews on December 1st) – to the pinnacle of joy unless I have the perfect gift?

Cheery-fluff snowflakes laughed at my misery as they drifted by my face beneath the streetlights.

Anxiety and anguish were my shopping companions. All to the accompaniment of joy and peace and good tidings shared with a thousand (hmmm… felt like a million) other crowded shoppers.

I was captive to my consumer culture.

That’s one hand. And as my good Fiddler friend Tevye says: “On the other hand…

… this old dog has found a new trick.

My culture, my time, has provided me with the greatest shopper’s gift called … the INTERNET.

BUY, BUY, BUY

Yes, I’m still a captive to the consumer culture. I buy. I buy more than my initial budget tells me to. I still agonize over what my peeps will tear open and beam at with delight.

But the anxious hours I used to spend uneasily traipsing the mobbed aisles of department stores and scented boutiques (I really do love the sweet scent in small boutique shops) are pared down to minutes now that I do my window shopping gazing through the windows of the menagerie of online stores.

Once I find the treasure I’m seeking in the “Internet Mall”, I’ll call or visit my local merchants. If they offer the same or similar item at a similar price (I’m always willing to pay a few dollars more to support the local), we have a sale!

Otherwise, Amazon or Hudson’s Bay or LL Bean or TicketMaster suck in my conspicuous consumption $$.

Either way… it’s… Relaxed … Easy … Anxiety-Free.

I love Christmas morning. It’s the same as every other morning, except it isn’t. Does that make sense?

Christmas awakening is a release of all the merry tautness, all of the mental and physical effort that pours out over a month of anticipation and sugar and alcohol.

Even for us non-believers, there’s a sense of spiritual awareness and warmth and a magical aura that comes with the harmony of hymns and cheerful “Merry Christmas“es. Joy to The World feels more real on Christmas Day.

When I was a child, Merry Christmas was all we had.

Today I can share the pleasures of the many cultures that surround me. There’s no need to toss aside the calling out of Merry Christmas, or Happy Hannukah, or Gung Hay Fat Choy or Happy Kwanzaa. And sure, even Happy Holidays…

We can all participate in the joy of each other’s celebrations.

That’s the gladness I find in this “new” Christmas that I want to share with my friends of all beliefs.

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A Short Distorted History of You and Me

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blood or beets

Fact or Faked? Urine or Grapefruit Juice? Blood or Beets?

A person’s history is a fuzzy mirror. Maybe it is us in the silvered glass, or maybe it’s someone else.

We think we’re looking into a clear window of understanding as though it’s a genuine window into our soul.

The trees are green-leafed and stately, the lake is crystalline blue and lazy wavy…

… or … maybe …

… is it a tall building with luminescent windows casting a reflection of the sky into our retinas?

Which is it? Fact or Fake?

When I look in the mirror, my face looks cracked, like when I walk on thin lake ice.

The creased and furrowed face of someone who’s lived through some history.

The Personal History Divide

Ask three friends about a shared event in their lives, and they all agree as they smile and recount … (hopefully) agree on the major points, but each tells a different storyline on the nuance and emotion and meaning.

It’s like a Rorschach test … every person comes away with a uniquely different story of the vision they observed so clearly, or so they believed.

rorschact test

What does your dirty mind see here??

We were visiting family last week in Vancouver, sitting in comfortable black leather chairs in the kitchen, sipping white vino, chatting about “old days”. 

The talk and interpretation of the shared experiences from years long gone was loosely the same but the fine points and the personal interpretation of the feelings resulting was starkly, shockingly divergent.

Were we really at the same occasion? How much is spun in webs unrecognizable to the other?

We all carry our own personal history baggage. The password is unique and unshared, unsharable.  

That’s history. History is a mix of fact and fake… ok, not fake, but personal interpretation.

It’s often crazy hard to distinguish fact from opinion and memory. 

So when I read or hear a story of an occurrence from 5,000 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 5 days ago, I find myself looking very carefully at the source and the biases (positive and negative) to the retelling. 

More often, I feel the urge, the need to double check facts from alternate sources just to be sure that I have a reasonably accurate portrayal of events. Of course, living in the Trump world has hugely added to my suspicion of “fact”.

Bottom line, my spidey-sense is not just an occasional visitor now as it once was, it’s become my full-time interpretation detector.  

We all know The Dash of Life – between our Birth and Death Date.

Unless we’re looking at a tombstone, we don’t usually notice or certainly not think about the little line between a person’s birth date and death date. … the gap, the in-between of those two dates that is life – the life of a single person.

Eventually, one day, the life of us.

The Dash of Life is all of our own personal history, all the little facts, all the delights, joys and sorrows, the cornucopia of history that walks the halls and corridors inside us for a desperately short lifetime of emotion and opinion and interpretation. 

Fact or Fake? Um… Yes …

Live your dash.jpg 

I SHOULD Write A Thousand Words Today…

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1,000 words

… but I won’t this time because I’m ultra-focussed.

Totally narcissistic. Self-indulgent. Hungry.

Each day I write out a To-Do List. You too?

And then I fail…

Each day I remind myself that focussing on 2 or 3 items is the life-blood to making real headway on the things that are extra important to me, my writing and music… the creative existence.

Each day I listen to a new song on YouTube or Apple Music, seeking a theme song of inspiration for the day… then silently ponder the beauty outside my window, urging calmness like a quiet meditation into my sense of focus. OOOoooooommmmmm…

Each day I begin with this short list of the critical, the important, the passion-filled.

And here’s where I fail. Again and again. No motivational gurus like Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar or Brian Tracy have come to my rescue.

Despite my best intentions I look down at my sheet of paper squished in the narrow space beneath my computer keyboard and the edge of my desk… and realize that my shortlist of 2 or 3 items has mystically and maniacally expanded to 8 … 10 … even 15 items.

Where is my focus?

Sigh.

I’m a refugee inside my own world… an outcast from the creativity urgings that seek updrafts of warm air.

I look around at people like Stephen King or Paul Simon or Carole King, JK Rowling or Brian Wilson or Joni Mitchell, and marvel at the focus and drive that brought them to a God-kissed magnificence. I drool and desire like a 13 year-old boy with unlimited access to porn!

I lust after their nucleus of theme and priority.

1,000

1,000

Numbers. My blog posts have talked a lot about the power of 10,000 hours in practice…. or even 1,000 hours in practice and preparation.

And each week I write down about 1,000 words in this blog that I’ve been playing with for more than 6 years now. 340 blog posts.

It’s been the chronicler of me – to me – that I share with you because I think we all contribute pieces of ourselves to a common existence and inner understanding. And when I write I magically discover pieces of me that I never knew existed.

I read others’ writing to add to my work of understanding life and history and my place in it.

I hope that sharing my words with you may occasionally give you a tiny nugget of insight into your own motivations and understanding of who you are. Maybe even an occasional smile. Maybe.

Priority

I’ve added some shiny new features to my world since I “retired” 4 years ago. Bartending, tutoring, soup kitchen, grandparenting are all part of the cutting edge in my days. Music has always been there too but – like my new grandson – is growing and expanding and filling me with enthusiasm and excitement that refuses to be contained.

So as part of my journey going forward, I’m looking to carve a small slice of additional time and focus that can be re-allocated to this continually new and hopefully improving me.

OK… I know I’m me.

I suspect the numbers of items on my daily To-Do List may still end up as long, but going forward, I’ll slide a small portion of the hours I spend each week writing these posts over and spend some more quality time on a revised list of priorities.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Maybe I SHOULD write a thousand words today. BUT, 500 will just have to do.

Instead, I hear a super sexy tune in my head that needs to be captured before it gets lost in a whiteout featherstorm of lost time.

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The Muppets and No Country For Old Men

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statler and waldorf 2

Dear Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley:

We regret to inform you that The Muppets still have no openings to replace Statler and Waldorf in the balcony cheap seats. We would kindly recommend you return to your local Mayberry coffee shop and continue your enlightened pontifications of why women just don’t suck up to the good ole boys like they did in the ’50’s.

Sincerely, TROTTFCW (The Rest Of The Twenty-First Century World)

Did you know that the state of Vermont has never sent a woman to the U.S. House or Senate? … never ever in 242 years…

DANG! I really want to write light, fluffy pieces about music and books and movies and Halloween and all the great stuff that inhabits my world. I want to laugh and kibitz with you like we’re young children in the schoolyard of our dreams. Blue skies, shining on me… nothing but blue skies, do I see….

But the current affairs’ bus just keeps careening off the US Interstate Highway and I can’t look away.

I feel like a victim even though I play for the side of the victimizers. Yeah, I know that’s a bit like Melania saying SHE’S the MOST bullied person out there… BOO HOO!

melania bullied

What the hell am I talking about?

Baseball of life.

I have 3 strikes against me and there’s nothing I can do to change it (short of surgery and hormone therapy).

  1. I’m a Man.
  2. I’m White.
  3. I’m Old(er)!

AGAIN. BOO HOO!

I sort of belong to the same club as McConnell and Grassley and Trump and it scares the hell out of me. I have to fight back against my privilege.

You see, I watched some of the U.S. Senate hearings a month back where another white man – angry, juvenile’ish Brett Kavanaugh – sat in the hot seat and told me how much he and his buddy PJ enjoy(s)ed beer.

Add that to the sight of a murder of old, white codgers sneering angrily, contemptuously, at a woman who has a boatload more credibility than any of those interviewing her and…

It made me ill. I’m one of them…. and….

These relics aren’t learning and changing. They’ve dug themselves in and are hanging on by their richly manicured fingernails… and…

I felt a whole lot of disgust and animus.

I love the differences that delineate men from women, white from black, Christian from Muslim from Jew, old from young, gay from straight.

But different should never imply better or superior.

I’m a product of my culture and generation, as are you.

There is hardly anything in life that is not changing… rapidly.

Some changes we like, many others create fear and anxiety.

We all have to do our best to grow and change and wonder and debate those changes, morphing and putting ourselves in the shoes of the “other”. It’s called understanding.

Because I belong to that clique of “old, white men”, it is ever more important that I stay attuned and sensitive.

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Almost daily, I have to assess and determine those areas of humankind that are basic and unchanging, and those that are elastic and variable.

I’m learning to change as the circumstances make sense.

Here are just a few of the things I recognize now and changes I’ve adapted to in my years.

  1. Sexuality and the nature of manhood/womanhood are less distinct than I ever realized or accepted. There is a flow in the world of sexual preference, gender fluidity and spectrum. Love is Love. Gay marriage, Interracial marriage, Sex outside of marriage. I accept various forms of sexuality and gender now that I could never have fathomed as a young boy and man.
  2. I can’t blindly use derogatory terms as I did in my youth. It’s embarrassing to think of the ignorant words I used to describe others: Nigger (we ate licorice nigger babies from the corner store); Jew (“too expensive, we’ll jew them down”); Newfie (Newfoundlander) jokes; Dumb Blonde jokes; Pollock (Polish) jokes; Paki (Pakistani/Indian) jokes; Wop (Italian) jokes… on and on it went without any thought of the hurt it might cause.
  3. Tattoos and piercings are not only for sailors and Hell’s Angels. Not a fan but I quietly accept.
  4. Circumcision isn’t a given. A penile toque is kinda cute (I hear!). Female circumcision is plain nutso.
  5. Women as leaders. The safety and security of our world would be stronger in the hands of women. Pollution measures would be more robust.
  6. Technology is the driving force behind everything we do. One small example? Elections have changed immensely with social media alone.
  7. Animals are deserving of life and kindness. I do not have dominion over all creatures.
  8. Bullying is just not acceptable. ‘nuff said.
  9. Mental health should be treated as seriously and openly as we treat physical health. Too many folks suffer needlessly because of our fears and stigmas.
  10. The things I do and consume, contribute to global warming and have a negative impact. The sad thing is as I age my methane production goes up, what’s a concerned boy to do?

The leaves on all the tall birch trees outside my house have turned yellow and most of the leaves have flittered like gossamer feathers to the earth. Yes, change is as perennial as the seasons.

The unearned privilege of being an old(er!) Canadian white guy weighs on me when I see the struggles of others who did nothing to deserve their plight.

I’m trying my hardest to avoid looking in the mirror and seeing McConnell or Grassley as my reflection.

I’m hoping that I’ll soon find my way back to writing light, fluffy posts that might make me smile like Kermit or Miss Piggy and not frown like Statler and Waldorf.

As for a woman finally being elected to the Senate for Vermont this year? Fat chance… there’s some old white guy named Bernie Sanders standing in the middle of the road.

frustrated woman.jpg

Lights… Action… Kiss

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Butch and Sundance1.jpg

Bolivia.

Sundance: What’s Bolivia?

Butch: Bolivia. That’s a country, stupid! In Central or South America, one or the other.

From a rock cliff high above, an armed lookout signals to Butch.

Butch and Sundance saunter forward on horseback into Hole-In-The-Wall – rugged Wyoming canyons – where turn of the 20th century US robbers and criminals hid away from the law.

The two are the perfect pair: Butch, an independent, unconventional thinker, has the brains and is a quick-witted visionary, disrespectful of both the law and the establishment… Sundance provides the strong, quick-draw, traditional Western hero.

Sundance has heard Butch’s fanciful dreams before, such as his bright idea that Bolivia has better pickings with its silver, tin, and gold mines… and easy-to-rob-banks.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the perfect pair that lit up the silver screen in the 1969 bromance Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

Even more than The Sound of Music, it was a romance that captured my movie heart in a deeply visceral way.

Since then, I’ve sat in the darkness of a theatre hundreds of times, gazing up at the cinematic products of countless directors and actors, consuming truckloads of grease-laden popcorn (in a future life, I may return as a movie maker, or failing that, a movie popcorn critic).

There was no on-screen kiss between Newman and Redford (what mainstream audience in 1969 was ready for the kind of on-screen love that Brokeback Mountain unveiled later) but there was a love connection that even Katharine Ross (Redford’s female romantic interest in the film) couldn’t come between.

……………..

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ When Harry Met Sally

……………..

Movie romance is as common as cheesy love songs in the 1950’s and ’60’s, but just how often do we succumb to their charms?

Most romantic actor combos are sloppy, cliched furballs made from a mixture of lard and lemonade… anything with Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz is a non-starter (I don’t care how good looking they are… and yeah, leave Seth Rogen off that list too!))

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On the other hand, I’ve been charmed by movie romances of a dozen kinds … deliciously sensual pairings such as :

  • Bonnie and Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway
  • Benny & Joon – Johnny Depp & Mary Stuart Masterson
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan
  • Silver Linings Playbook –  Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence
  • Reds – Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton
  • Brokeback Mountain – Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdam
  • Thelma & Louise – Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis
  • Leaving Las Vegas – Nicholas Cage & Elisabeth Shue
  • And most recently, A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga

Cooper and Gaga2.jpg

I’ve come to the conclusion that you could blend Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper with any actor sporting a modicum of acting chops and come out with beautiful chemical burns.

Those chemical bonds that spark a romance between actors channel some vulnerable and magical territory. If it was easy to do, we’d be flooded with a tsunami of unforgettable love stories. Smouldering romance takes great writing and actors tuned to each others’ frequency.

……………..

I wish I knew how to quit you.” ~ Brokeback Mountain

……………..

Most of these flicks have left an indelible impression on me because of their balance, the humour mixed with an underlying sadness or trial that infiltrates and takes up residence.

Movie romance needs to be coddled along with enough tension between the “potentials” that you want to scream out, “oh for God’s sake, just admit to her/him that you love her/him“… that unbearable tension needs to be real and believable, delivered with the possibility that the two may never be together in the end…

The Ending

The flirtation finish, like the final taste of wine in the back of your throat, is critical.

So many movies make it to the final 15 minutes in great shape and then collapse into themselves.

I would have added An Officer and A Gentleman (Richard Gere & Debra Winger) to my list of winners above had the screenwriter not blasted it apart with a corny, cliched carry-the-girl-off-to-co-workers’-applause-into-eternal-bliss-from-her-hell-hole-of-a-life ending. BLAH!!

Titanic lost its sensual sizzle when Kate Winslet couldn’t find a way to share her floating door with Leo DiCaprio. Come on Kate… show us YOU own the Heart of the Ocean.

Blessed catharsis

A smile or a tear explodes inside us when we’ve plumbed the depths of human experience… when Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton finally come together on the train platform in Reds, when Benny and Joon make grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board, when Butch and Sundance, or Thelma and Louise plunge forward to their deaths.

When the screen dims … when the theatre lights go up… there should be a lingering silence … a moment or two for the actors, the crew, the audience to absorb, reflect, internalize and feel.

Off in the distance, we finally hear a faint echo from the director, “CUT!”

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8 Things I’ve Learned At Age 60+

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Lincoln with man bun.jpg

I’m how old? Get the f*** out… can’t be…

Or…. can it?

What’s that Serenity Prayer thing about “having the wisdom to accept what you cannot change…“, yeah, my age qualifies under that…

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Socrates was a clever man, but I’m not buying into his philosophical ditty there…

I know lots, but I also have the wisdom to know that I have a ton to learn…

I have so much to learn… my days may wither and shrivel on the vine, and still, I’ll never really truly know if a God exists (although I’m pretty heavily invested in Stephen Hawking’s NO side) … how to fold a fitted sheet… why women have to bleed every month just for the pleasure of having children… why McDonalds doesn’t sell hot dogs… or… if chocolate comes from a bean, how come it’s not in the vegetable group?

But still, I DO know lots. I’ve survived to this point through the school of hard knocks and picked up a few valuable tutorials along the tortuous passageway of years. I’ve come a long way from, “Larry, don’t touch the iron with your hand.” “Yes, Mommy.

I’m not an expert, just an observer and sifter. I sift and I weigh, I ponder and I sift some more. Then I make my conclusion which usually sits in a grey zone. Maybe that’s why my hair’s gone grey – the older I become the more grey zones that inhabit my inner space. Like right now … I can’t decide who to vote for in today’s municipal election.

voting ballot

But this doesn’t stop me from sharing my siftings anyway… sucks to be you, eh?

A few points that stand out for me in my continuous lifelong education? Try these:

    1. Don’t stop even if it hurts (a little). If you’re on the right track: physically, educationally, personally… don’t bail because things hurt a little. Perseverance and persistence are hallmarks of success in any endeavour. The price of this improvement often involves a modicum of pain… my body usually moans an achy-breaky ballad after a long run, my fingers are sore and dripping blood (just kidding) after a productive practice session on guitar.
    2. Be responsible for your own finances. No one cares about your financial health today and tomorrow with the same intensity as you. Don’t buy into something with your hard-earned and saved capital unless you understand it and its risks well. Market makers love to yell FIRE even when there’s barely the hint of smoke in the air. So when the market yells FIRE, don’t run for the exits. The one true time to run when it comes to investing and markets is when you hear the term, hot tip... HOT TIP = FAKE NEWS 90% of the time.
    3. Discipline is key. OK, it’s bloody cliche’ish but the way to get better at something you love is to do it, over and over, then over again, practice (with intent) like crazy… put in the 10,000 hours, the 1,000 hours. Your inner happiness soars when you do something you never believed possible. Do the tough stuff first, then relax.
    4. People need to be complimented. The world is full of walking wounded – I see this constantly when I’m bartending at the Greek restaurant, or dicing and chopping at the soup kitchen. People’s inner voices dwell on the negative about themselves so often, but we can give a great gift to anyone. Remind your family members, friends, and even minor acquaintances of what they’re good at, what makes them special. I was a Microbiologist in my lab career, dwelling on the tiny points of life… nowadays I’m drilling in on the personal micro level… there are those who like to be acknowledged and recognized on the grand stage – the macro- and still others that prefer privacy and humbly favour a micro acknowledgement… I’m trying to live like a Microbiologist in my personal relations today. Simple e-mail notes of recognition or appreciation can be huge in a person’s day. I try to do a least a couple of these each week.
    5. Forget who you think you are or were. Don’t become trapped in a vision of “you” that was created when you were 20, or 30, or 40. Orange may be the new black and you may be the new “________” (you fill in the blanks). Letting the preconceived notions and concepts that have been drilled into us by our family, friends, and society shouldn’t prevent us from reinventing, reimagining who we are and can be. A scientist’s occupational life doesn’t rule out an artistic vision in later years. A bean counter can find rejuvenation in bean cooking. Throw the gates open and allow new ideas to filter through.  Kudos to Val who now fundraises for the Sally Ann, Jim who grows his own medicinal herb garden, Betty who tutors a young El Salvadorian woman, Chris who runs from soup kitchen cooking – to Critteraid – to Okanagan Gleaners that prepare and send dried soup mixes around the world. All new life episodes.
    6. Don’t complain, whine and bitch. For God’s sake, take responsibility. Your life is yours and no one else’s. The hardships (and successes too) are what make us stronger and more flexible and understanding and compassionate. Complaining breeds anger and distrust. Whining holds us back from taking the positive steps to improve and move forward. Bitching, well, bitching is mere manure oozing out of an angry, frustrated mind.
    7. Be a mentor and an intern. Help others along their path. Share your wisdom and expertise (with permission) with those who will listen gratefully. At the same time, drop your own ego and allow others to help you along your path. Both giving, and receiving wisdom and knowledge are gifts.
    8. Google is in my head. I’m getting older and my “hard drive” (in my head, not my pants!) is overstuffed like Grandpa’s armchair, which means it takes longer to access names and numbers and Jeopardy answers. But the beauty lies in letting my subconscious do its thing and find answers in its own time. When I relax and allow my mind to process, answers are magically floated to the surface. Google may be the fast food of today’s world, but my slow food is far more satisfying.

Keep learning and growing… after all the Serenity Prayer also says, “grant me the courage to change the things I can.“… that includes ourselves… one day I may even learn how to fold that *&^$% fitted sheet!… ah hell, maybe I’ll Google it!

google is my brain

The Only Way To Get Smart Is To Look Stupid

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lookng stupid

I never asked a girl out on a first date and had the response of “NO“.

100% success … (just don’t ask about my success rate on 2nd and subsequent attempts!)

Aren’t I wonderful? On the surface this appears to be a good thing, yes?

After all, NO means rejection.

NO means hurt.

NO means I’m worthless.

NO means being thought less of.

NO means I look stupid.

YES is success…

But it wasn’t about success… it was about fear. Fear of being judged, fear of looking stupid.

A NO doesn’t make us worthless.

NO is an opportunity.

NO is a learning chance.

NO is a driving force.

Of course we MEN should know that some NO‘s mean NOOOOOOO! Interpreting THAT NO as a MAYBE is stupid.

But for a lot of us, NO brings out the fear of looking stupid.

In my younger years I was terrified of looking stupid. I look stupid all the time now.

ask on a date

The reason I never heard a NO when putting my fragile ego on the line and asking a girl out is that I waited, then waited more.

I probed and deliberated and spent whole nights awake… wondering, weighing, wishing… doing my “mental homework”.

I would flirt some. If she wasn’t flirting back like crazy, I knew the time wasn’t right.

I would wait and wait until the edge of the cliff was so enticingly close that the sweet young lady was almost set to ask me out in restless frustration. There were actually a couple of occasions when the gender-norm-of-the-time was flipped and she did ask me out.

But I also knew that if I waited too long, she might walk away in irritated exasperation… “… he’s cute, but he’s gutless. Time to move on …” 

Once my level of certainty was 99.8% of a positive response, I would finally make the societally expected masculine approach.

“I see that the new Star Wars movie is at the theatre this week…. would you like to come with me?

Of course that latter half of the statement was an added flirt… a double entendre to see if I could make her blush. Being nervous and provocative simultaneously aren’t mutually exclusive. A boy’s gotta have fun sometimes. BAD!

movie date

I wasted a lot of time – my own and young ladies’ –  too afraid to make a polite gesture and ask for a date even if I was only maybe 50% certain of the outcome (who can tell I’m a statistics’ and numbers’ nerd?).

I was afraid to look stupid.

If I was smart I would have realized much earlier that taking some measured risks not just in romance, but also in education or business or anything else I could think of, and taking the chance to appear stupid is OK. Really OK.

After looking stupid I can come up with 8 more plans of ideas I want to work on. I can use the experiences of failure to become a better person, to have a better chance at success, to maybe work with other people who will contribute to my success (and I to theirs) and to increase my odds of doing what I love.

Good people accept honest stupidity in others when they can see that they’re trying to better themselves. The not-so-good people should be happily ignored… they’re the arrogant stupid.

Smart people are lucky. Smart people are curious. Smart people are humble. Smart people ask “What if…?” Smart people learn from their mistakes and don’t blame others. Smart people learn new skills to enhance their old skills. Smart people don’t listen to what society tells them they should do. Smart people work the 10,000 hours and over-prepare.

Smart people aren’t afraid to look stupid.

I look stupid regularly now. I ask stupid questions. Unfortunately I too often say stupid things (but that’s another blog post!)

Stupid is good when it leads to better.

I don’t mind trying things where I’m likely to fail until I’ve practiced them over and over. I studied violin for 4 years as an adult.

I sounded stupid. My bowing technique was terrible.

I sounded and looked stupid but I carried on. After 4 years I still looked and sounded stupid. Stupid but sadly, not better. The stupid I could manage, the screechy sound and lack of “better” finally wore me down and I turned in my bow.

Yes YODA… I tried…

Psycho violin

Maybe stuck-stupid is still banging your head on a wall after wearing out the padding. Smart can be knowing when to move on.

Fear of looking stupid is a prison cell we lock ourselves inside. Those bars that imprison us sometimes are really just an illusion, a mirage.

Allowing ourselves to appear stupid is a measure of courage and confidence, maturity, self-acceptance, and finally, success.

Ultimately, looking stupid is a stage we pass through on the way to becoming better – a better date, a better guitarist, a better curler, a better therapist or surgeon or linguist or burger flipper.

Forrest Gump knew that…

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Thanksgiving and Civil Wars

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Don’t you hate it when you feel a rant coming on and nothing you do can slow or deter the beast? Today is one of those days…

Even worse, this is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada which makes the following all the more humbug’ish. I truly am thankful for so much.

However, my friends, the words Civil War have become a recurring mantra that’s disturbed the inside my head for weeks now… perhaps the only cure is to expel those inner voices, lighten my load and burden you with my burden…

………

washington sunrise

When the sun rubs its eyes and slips hopefully above the horizon, long shadows cast their sinewy fingers across the serene landscape – shadows that hide the carnage rising and fomenting like a slow cooker set on high heat.

Civil war.

Meandering tails of dark silhouette and contour slide between stolid concrete edifices and buildings, up and down the alleyways of the city, like in the opening credits to House of Cards.

Civil war.

A Washington dawn that spreads its ascending murk onto my sleeping innocence.

Modern, contemporary Civil War is the uninvited phoenix.

Civil wars

One of my (many) favourite musical groups is the Civil Wars, a sweet-sounding male-female country duo. Ironically … sadly … the talented pair themselves have now parted and melted away, torn and victimized by their own internal civil war.

In happier times, according to Joy Williams (half of the duo), they named themselves Civil Wars as an homage to Plato’s quote:

Be kind, for everyone you meet

is fighting a great battle.”

Civil war develops when kindness hides its face for a period and personal victory must be attained at any and all costs.

Civil war tears apart families and friendships and communities.

Used to be that civil war meant the wielding of vicious knives and bayonets, organ-tearing explosions of gunfire and cannons and bombs, destroying former friends and neighbours all in a cataclysmic cyclone.

Friends become fiends. Neighbours become nay-sayers…

Civil War, like all war, is a tremendously disfiguring and tragic episode. Smiles turned upside down. Bodies strewn across the landscape in an abstract, gruesome form of art.

I’ve grudgingly admired the USA for decades. Despite its many problems, it has, in my lifetime, held a position of reluctant reverence for its solid, world-calming influence… sanity above all.

The American attitude that anything (positive) is possible rang out above the other dirt that sifted to the ground.

Sanity Lost.

Today, a glance across my Canadian southern border affords a view of civil war (civil but with broader worldwide tentacles) unleashed and unrestrained. Nasty. Heartless. Brainless.

Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee vs Abraham Lincoln brought forward into the 2000’s.

Trump vs Country vs World.

I see a spreading civil war unleashed out of anger and ignorance and dissatisfaction and fear.

The divides are sharp as razor blades, bloody and vicious and cruel in ways that could be compared to the slavery vs freedom arguments of the 1860’s. Right vs wrong gone murky.

The war being fought may be weaponless on a physical, body-distorting and -destroying front, but the sides have clearly been chosen.

Each day a distasteful battle for supremacy occurs…. Republican vs Democrat… White vs Non-White… Male vs Female… White Collar vs Blue Collar… Roe vs Wade… Truth vs Lies… Industrial Revolution vs Techno Revolution… Christian vs Muslim… Conservative vs Liberal… CNN vs FOX …

Always US vs THEM

US = Good

THEM = Terrible

us vs them

Great battles aren’t calmly debated but instead inflamed with WMD’s wielded by one named Trump who cares little about tolerance or acceptance or finding common ground.

His stealth virus infects us all, the same as advertising execs have influenced us for decades without our truly understanding… YES! watching gorgeous Clydesdales does make me want to drink a BUD!

These are bruising infectious battles that aim to destroy and victimize and emerge with one solitary victor. Show no mercy. Take no prisoners.

Win – win scenarios are for the weak and useless.

I feel thankful… and confident… that Trump is a short-term President (and a long-term convict).

As I’ve said here before, I believe that our shared existence – humanity – is on an upward curve of tolerance that hits minor and occasionally major bumps along its path. Bruises and cuts happen along the trail.

Minorities and women will rise higher in the tides of time.

But we are now going to carry the noxious, venomous Trump virus going forward and that saddens me.

Might is right. Winner takes all.

There are many sad people, like in 1930’s Germany, who now feel emboldened by nastiness and victimhood used as tools for personal adornment and advantage. Mirrors are superior to windows.

I prefer to live in a space, a world where…“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” is the guiding force that carries us along.

The warm shadows of the sunset are a calming reminder that each day has the potential … the beauty… the tolerance and understanding to sleep with only a slight itch of nervousness about the demons that creep out of the closet from time to time…

Civil war or not… I’m eating pumpkin pie … Happy Thanksgiving, eh!

PS And friends… a wee reminder when staging your charitable turkey drop from a helicopter… no no no … turkeys still can’t fly!

WKRP

Thanksgiving meal

 

I Like To Nap… So Sue Me… Positive Addictions.

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nap time.jpg

True story …

I spend a lot more time napping and less time reading the news now than before.

Addiction Confession: I used to be a Globe & Mail’aholic and I still consume too much CNN and Chocolate!

I know that Brett Kavanaugh is huge in the news, but what can I do other than watch the children give each other bloody noses in the government schoolyard? Will my observing make a change? I think not.

I know that Trump thinks that Canada and Justin Trudeau are being nasty and unfair in trade negotiations … SAD… (boo hoo donald… you don’t even deserve to be capitalized a**hole). Will my opinions be the butterfly-wing flapping that miraculously changes the tide of trade? I think not.

I know that drinking lots of lattes will/won’t give me cancer, heart disease, impotence, flatulence, and the inherent ability to speak Italiano. Will quaffing less caffeine improve my quality and quantity of life? I think not.

I know that my Hamilton Tiger Cats football team (BTW, the Tiger Cats were a “question” to a Jeopardy answer this week!) will struggle to win their game against BC this weekend, but will my cheers tip the scale in their favour? OK, on this one I think I can have a positive effect! (Last minute UPDATE: Hamilton 40 – BC 10… I’m right!)

Chocolate and Tiger Cats are addictions that will sizzle along with me as they slide my chilled corpse into the crematorium chamber.

Chocolate and ticats.jpg

Football AND chocolate donut… OMG!!

The point I’m going after this morning – and I think I do have a point – is the old “don’t read/watch the news” … be the one to “create the news“.

News noun vs News verb.

I’ll never write AI code. I’ll never run a successful entrepreneurial company. I’ll never win an Olympic medal. I’ll never cure Ebola or Irritable Bowel Disease.

But that doesn’t mean I, nor you, should despair. Nope.

A human being’s success isn’t always measured in the millions or billions, like McDonalds’ hamburgers. One or two great burgers can be life changing.

A lot of our personal victories can be counted on our fingers and toes. A lot of success needs a telescope or microscope to recognize.

Creating the news can be a small-scale operation like those mini-loans operations in Third World countries that give women opportunities to be courageous and self-sufficient.

Saving … improving… the world can be intimidating. It looks like too big a bite for most of us “non-lions”. It’s like a huge tsunami wave coming at you, perhaps a giant skyscraper tumbling over you, crashing in a monstrous wave.

Disaster.

But step away, go a kilometre or two inland and that terrifying tsunami shrinks into a gentle manageable wave that pushes and tugs at our fragile knees and toes but allows us to stay upright and do the job we want to accomplish … to stand and be counted as making something happen.

To be the news verb and not the news noun.

breaking-news-.jpg

Did I mention naps?

Can naps be labelled an addiction?

People get confused when I say “I need a nap“. They think I’m hip and 21st century-cool saying, “I need an app“. But I’m not cool.

Doesn’t matter. Naps are an important part of my “create the news” plan.

Sleep is my creative bliss time… I often do more productivity-wise with my eyes closed than open.

Sleep and nap time are where the old sub-conscious puts on its big boy pants and goes to work.

The challenges of navigation through difficult music passages, new blog ideas, personality frictions, altered approaches to tutoring… they all hatch on the nap front.

All of the thought and planning personnel needed to make good stuff happen for me is sitting down restlessly, yet patiently waiting… patiently waiting in the inner office of my mind.

They’re sipping lattes, eating donuts and cinnamon buns – where’s the fresh fruit? – and chattering quietly but the meeting hasn’t been called to order yet.

At this point, I stand up and leave the room (nap).

They don’t appreciate me watching over them, so I happily vacate the space and away they go. Suddenly, the buzz in the room takes on a spirited youthful energy and life as the zzzz‘s emanating from me in the outer office increase in intensity.

Twenty minutes or half an hour later, I stir back to the surface, wipe away the sloppy drool at the corner of my mouth, then open the office door.

I rub my eyes as my faithful representative at the adjourned meeting gives me a synopsis and plan based on the group’s deliberations.

Answers and remedies and focussed ideas flow on broad rivers that were filled as I snored. BEAUTY!

It’s a pretty great day when not only can news be a verb in our lives, but so too can the power of napping transform into a verb… ACTION.

The morning is morphing closer to an afternoon and I can feel the zeal and energy slowly drain, like thick syrup, from my head and my fingertips.

I’ve been typing away here for a few hours.

Thanks for joining me in this sunrise to high noon journey.

I can now go forward in my day and make that news verb a reality, but…

… only after I’ve grabbed a quick nap… such a terrible addiction!

nap time.png

 

 

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