Money, Music, and Confidence

Leave a comment

Baby pullup

Certain things come easy in life. Other things hard. Sound familiar?

There are intersections that bring together my areas of interest and passion, encouraging and reinforcing the sensation of confidence.

Money and music are areas of ease and comfort for me… like the sensation of wearing a warm knitted cardigan on my outdoor deck on a mild spring day like today, crayola-yellow sunshine filtering through the wool into my skin, red-winged blackbird trills and chickadee chirps ringing me in a quiet, happy symphony.

Of course to complete this bucolic scene, a waft of fragrant cigar smoke from a Cuban Calixto is the topper. You can close your eyes, feel divine prickling down your spine, and know that there is heaven in the air.

Money and music feed my confidence.

First, Money.

While never in huge supply in my world (do you have enough? is there ever enough?), money has played a part in most of my life choices since I was a wispy little paperboy tossing rolled up Hamilton Spectator newspapers at the front doorsteps of east Hamilton denizens.


These early indications of my 10 year-old lad’s interest in investing have coursed through my veins, like a lively Riverdance, over the many years since.

I’m in a serene zone of comfort when I read annual reports and dig through financial statements. Yeah, I know, weird. Numbers’ nerd.

Maybe this is because professional earning capacity has never been one of my overwhelming goals, an arrow in my quiver.

I have complex fears of taking on jobs/careers that pay lofty salaries.

WTH? Well, it’s because an unease swells inside me like a nasty necrotizing fasciitis when Monday-to-Friday vocation impinges on my desire for flexibility and freedom.

I love making a positive contribution to our world, our economy, and the welfare of others, but I’ve always shrunk from becoming a minion to any one area of life, paid or otherwise.

Hence, the ability to have passive streams of income has been my target, the beautiful bullseye in my sights.

Passive income lets me exercise my ADHD “Madly Off In All Directions” bent of chasing diverse pathways, and still afford the occasional chocolate Fruit and Nut bar.

Investments in companies that produce a growing river of dividend payments are wonder drugs that alleviate the nagging anxiety of lack of flexibility or freedom.

Dollars that flow over the riverbanks into my bank account while I sleep are a sweet delicacy to be savoured, even though some days I sigh and wish the flood would speed up just a little bit.

Money Confidence.

Cat band

Next, Music.

Music too (not just listening, but playing too) has been a meandering thread throughout my life… sometimes tenuous and tentative, but always present like a quietly insistent heartbeat in the background.

In my early days, I sat in the basement of my family home while my teenage brother Gord and his pals set up their electric guitars and drumsets and pulsed out “(Sittin’ On The) Dock of the Bay” or “Satisfaction“. My brother’s friend Bill would let me play around on his baby-blue electric guitar when they took short breaks. Nirvana…

Soon, I was taking a few guitar lessons from a neighbourhood “Rocker”-lad with greasy-slicked hair. Next thing I knew, I was front and centre at the Glen Brae Junior High talent show crooning out a cover of the Bee Gees “Gotta Get A Message To You” on my very own electric guitar. I was hooked.

In my teen years, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John, and John Denver seduced me while I learned acoustic picking, soothing my teenage fears and angst. You’ve Got A Friend was surely a song about my Yamaha guitar.

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

Music is a conversation I have with myself, and then I share it with others.

Learning and practicing music takes energy.

The conversation I have within my musical self can be difficult and complex and sometimes energy draining, but then the opposite happens when I share it.

Sharing our music is where energy is produced. I see it over and over again when performers come off the stage. I feel the energy myself. The endorphins are hurricane winds that can take a day or two to subside.

Music Confidence.

Little child girl plays superhero. Child on the background of su

For sure, confidence isn’t a blanket that spreads over all areas of my existence. It’s a patchwork.

Put me in front of a car motor in need of repair or maintenance and watch me shrivel and shrink like plastic wrap in a flame.

Set me in a room with math whizzes or history buffs and watch me stumble and fumble over concepts and intricacies.

Place me in a card game or at a chess board with moderately competent players and know that my lack of skill and aptitude will mark me as the sucker in a flash. 

Give me a basketball and ask me to throw 3-pointers. Watch as I toss airballs and rimshots over and over.

Lacking Confidence.

Confidence is a part of what we call Happiness… confidence feeds my self-esteem, my sense of control and competence.

The knowledge that we have skills and passions… money and music… or tennis and Italian cooking… or bowling and winemaking… or sewing and ultra-marathon running… or genealogy and Irish dancing… offers us the feeling of purpose that helps make our days more luminous, more intense, more meaningful.

Maybe one day… maybe… the making of music will become a minor money-maker for me. Nah, probably not…

… but it doesn’t really matter… because money investment and music ability each feed me in ways that build a stronger inner nucleus of confidence.

confidence sound of music.gif



Movie Boobs and #MeToo

Leave a comment


movie boobs


I love the cinema. I love movies. I love popcorn. I love the Oscars.

I’m a regular viewer of movies at the local theatre. Movie theatres are a dark dream heaven.

Crisp writing and amazing cinematic gifts are skilfully weaved together by hundreds of artists and technicians to deliver a funny or dramatic story… a story that resonates deep inside me giving birth to a magnificent song that elevates and enriches my world, and most importantly, feeds my own inner creative spark.

Of course, some flicks totally suck. That’s a good thing because it allows us to appreciate the really good stuff when it comes along.

And so, after seeing many of the year’s “best” movies, I tune in to watch the Oscars with excited anticipation.

Anticipation of the recognizable faces, the crescendo of orchestral music in Hollywood’s Dolby Theater, the beauty and majesty of sartorial elegance on full display like preening undernourished peacocks…

… and perhaps strangely, I always love the teary poignancy of the musical tableau of the In Memoriam section of the show… I know, how maudlin!

oscar in memoriam

Yes, I love the Oscars. Usually.

I remember five short years ago, in February 2013, I wrote a post (Movie Boobs) lamenting the inanity of the usually decorous and dignified Oscar broadcast hosted by Seth McFarlane.

That celebrity celebratory broadcast was an archaic affront to women (and men) then and if anything has only grown more antiquated and offensive in the short time since.

It’s like we were living a modern version of The Handmaid’s Tale in real life.

It took us 500 years to recognize Christopher Columbus as a race-decimating conqueror lout, but only 5 to see the McFarlane-led showcase for what it was.

Now that’s progress in a social media world.

(ASIDE: Your #Educational/CulturalMoment:

Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family, and followers created throughout the Caribbean. His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit — beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.

Jack Weatherford –  Professor of Anthropology at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota. )

Sorry… back to our regular program….

Yup, in only 5 years we’ve gone from the gratuitous male-assertive setting where the theme tune sung by McFarlane and a hunky boyish band of singer/dancers was called WE SAW YOUR BOOBS …

… through that prehistoric misty haze all the way to this past week’s Oscar version where confident women and the #MeToo movement took centre stage instead of their boobs.

For sure, not everything has changed.

Boobs were still there and a part of the visual buffet, but they somehow seemed like an afterthought and, if anything, a determined statement that boobs are a beautiful part of strong, forceful womanhood. Feminism doesn’t mean the end of femininity.

You might say there’s been a TIT-for-TAT turnaround.

The tone of discourse on stage this year was far more respectful and balanced, the movement of the gender pendulum noticeable even though far fewer women won awards than men. Momentous change does take some time.

And for this change, just like the Black Lives Matter faction and the DACA lobby, we really have one person – one man – to thank for the surge in protest and anger and long overdue move towards equality…

… the envelope please… and this year’s Oscar for Best Dramatic Bungling That Inadvertently Leads To Progress goes to… Donald Trump.

trump oscar

Smiles and cheers. Cue the orchestra to launch into Pigs. Kiss (but please don’t grab by the pussy) the celebrity sitting next to you.

And as he gloriously struts toward the stage a screen lights up with brilliant quotes emanating from the pursed lips of The Donald:

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” 

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Would we be celebrating the successes, the progress towards a measure of equality without the xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and lustful, misogynistic slime bag that creeps the Twitter corridors and nearly decimated hallways of the White House?

I don’t think so.

Trump is day-by-creepy-day galvanizing the world in a unified force against his narcissistic and perverted views.

We love to hate on those who offend our sensibilities.

Seth McFarlane may have started the derogatory Boob Ball rolling 5 years ago but Trump has lifted it overhead like a steaming double cheeseburger and claimed the WWF title belt.

Now we have a seething crowd that is ready to fight back and demand change and respect.

Maybe Trump is a small price to pay to set the world right for the many who have suffered and struggled for an eternity.

Maybe Trump is a blessing in pig’s clothing.


On the other hand, I’m feeling pretty exhausted by his rants.

I think a bit of momentary escapism in a hushed theatre might be a soothing tonic for us all.

I love the cinema. I love movies. I love popcorn. I love the Oscars.

oscars 2018

The Sock Hop Kiss and Other Lessons

Leave a comment

sock hop.jpg

I got dumped for my first time at the Grade 6 sock hop.

I paid the 10¢ admission for both Louise C and I, we danced to The Box Tops The Letter and the Bee Gees I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. She was blond and pretty in a Grade 6 kind of way. It was heavenly

Then she ditched me (was it my purple paisley shirt?) before it was time for me to walk her home. Not a good date. Crap!

The second time was at the Grade 9 dance. She was a dark brunette and had some sexy dimples. We slow-danced to Black Magic Woman and Stairway to Heaven. We kissed for the first time at the exit door to the gym. It was heavenly.

Two hours later she was kissing my (soon-to-be-ex!) best friend Kevin in his basement rec room. Another bad date. More crap!

The third time was in a car riding back from the beach with my “girlfriend” and some high school work friends. She was moving on to a new guy (the driver of the car), but hadn’t quite told me yet. Triple Crap!

To be fair, the love ledger hasn’t always been one-sided, all credits and no debits. I’ve dumped others and seen the pain in their sad eyes and broken hearts. I think that is the crappiest.

Ultimately, I asked myself… What have I learned from the hurt, both mine and the others?

Today, I give you…

grease dance.jpg

8 Lessons I Learned at the Sock Hop and Beyond:

  1. My heart is fragile – love and desire – the chemistry and the butterflies – are gut-level emotions that don’t respond to logic. A love connection with someone else is a freak phenomenon that defies any sense of reality, a sci-fi animation where oxygen is no longer necessary to sustain life if someone you desire fiercely loves you back.
  2. My heart is strong – after a hurtful loss, and another, and another, we develop a resilience, the elasticity of experience that assures us that no matter the depth of anguish (whether it’s loss of love, or the loss of a loved one), the overwhelming sensation of pain will dull little-by-little. Pain lives on a bell curve that rises and falls. Time is the one friend that will never desert us.
  3. My life has many facets – love, desire, connection are major parts of our lives, but they are not the only areas that bring deep, genuine meaning. There are so many aspects to a full and rounded life that don’t require a dance partner e.g. pets, learning, exercising, music, books, working, volunteering, hobbies. Diversification on a personal level adds strength to our individuality.
  4. Lips are the gateway drug to romantic love – there’s good reason why some hookers won’t kiss a John (I’m told!)… a kiss is a powerful weapon, the key that unlocks the heart more than 1,000 words or “forever” diamonds ever will. That Grade 9 kiss I mentioned took me to the top of the mountain and then pushed me off the cliff.
  5. There are different dances in life – not all dance revolves around romance or courtship. Dance can be sexy and erotic. Dance can be friendly and cordial. Dance can be joyous and freeing. Dance can be technical and challenging. Dancing with your children can be the best dance you’ll ever have.
  6. Dance connects us to music – dance isn’t only a way to connect with another person … just close your eyes and feel the music infiltrate and massage deeply. Dance is a physical manifestation of what we hear and feel.
  7. Joy makes everything worthwhile – Joy is a stronger muscle than pain. Joy brings us back from the precipice when the night is dark and bleak. Joy is ultimately – thankfully – stronger than fear, anger, and grief. Joy should be a key piece of the movement of dance, a pleasure-drenched sway.
  8. A really great dance partner doesn’t laugh at my dance moves – Dance can teach us humility and grace… of course I feel like a dork when I dance. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it though. The average child laughs 300 times a day… the average adult…5 times a day. My dance moves shouldn’t be one of your 5 times. Yup, acceptance of our Elaine Benes dance stylings are the litmus test for when we know we’ve found THE one!

Alright, you may have figured out that I didn’t uncover these thoughts all in one go after the Grade 6 sock hop. The visions and impressions sift and settle over months and years and decades.

That afternoon sock hop in the Glen Brae middle school gym in 1968 was my first tuition payment, the first of many learning and growth experiences in my long life of learning and understanding.

Dance can unveil truths about us we never knew. I’ll stretch the metaphor of “dance” here a bit by recounting a clip from a favourite movie of mine.

In When Harry Met Sally, Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher), at their wedding dance, thank friends Harry and Sally publicly for being so utterly unappealing as dates and partners, and as an unintended result, bringing the bride and groom together.

To Harry and Sally. If Marie or I had found either of them remotely attractive we would not be here today.”

A simple dance, a touch of hands, the shuffle of feet, is sometimes all it takes to define a worthwhile connection, or prove a sour attachment.

Dances are like diversifying your stock portfolio… you observe and connect with different partners (stocks)… some are wonderful but burn out too quickly, some totally suck from the first cha-cha, and finally, some burn with just the right intensity to sustain a lasting flame of prosperity.

Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance (Garth Brooks)

School days. It’s funny looking back and thinking about the apparent innocence of a Grade 6 Sock Hop where the greater lessons learned that day didn’t occur inside Miss Taylor’s classroom.

dance with me.jpg

The FOCUS of My Love and Hate




OMG… could I be more distracted?

Don’t answer that. Of course I could.

I love this new world. I hate this new world.

I love… I hate… I love… I hate…

  • I love that I can learn about anything or nothing at all at the drop of a hat because I have access to almost every brilliant (or demented) mind that has breathed air on this earth.
  • I love that I can read every poetic line penned, listen to every musical song written, the original artist or a dozen cover versions…
  • I love that I can book a trip, buy a book, sell a stuffed moose, give away a cat, check my APPLE stock dividend payment, order a pizza, study screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin, download a detailed guitar tab for Please Come to Boston.
  • And yes, I love that I can see Hillary Clinton naked (those photos aren’t Photoshopped, are they?), if I feel my carnal desire arising.

… all from the very spot where I sit writing this blog post… in total comfort, with a steaming hot latte at my right elbow, Cali cat warmly schnoozing at my feet (I have a cat to give away if you’re interested! Sorry Cali…)

How many historic kings would have deliriously surrendered their castles for such indulgence?

  • I hate that I’m able to do all of the things above because it keeps me from working away for 1,000 or 10,000 hours on the stuff that’s key to my inner thrive, my need for productivity, my drive towards goals and desires. The internet well has no bottom, no end, it defines infinity in our everyday more vividly than contemplating the cosmos with a telescope. It’s a rogue thief that I don’t lock my doors against.
  • I hate that I struggle to finish reading a book… hell, I often struggle to finish a chapter in a book because my ADHD mind goes off like crazed fireworks in all directions and before I know it I’m scanning a web recipe for Penne alla Vodka or The World’s Best Chocolate Cake.

Throughout history, the world has been filled with artisans and specialists who dedicated their brief mortal lifetimes to mastering their craft, whether it was writing, or masonry, or ballet, basically any form of technical or creative endeavour that struck a chord.

Today this is hugely challenging.

And yes, we all know the answer why…

It takes a uniquely special and focused person to tune out the myriad distractions that fill us up with Facebook videos/messages and Instagram posts and e-mail memes, games and puzzles and “forwards” and “cc”s.

FOCUS is unsentimental and stern, like a nun with a ruler in her hand. FOCUS doesn’t care if you love her.

I want to write songs badly (but not BAD songs!). Well-written songs are beautiful children that bring us smiles and deep warmth, comfort in the evening’s twilight.


In my imagination I view myself, Walter Mitty-like, laser-focused, moving forward, writing songs based on inspirational ideas that come to me in the middle of the night, in that wonderful dark room inside my head where my dream life is less distracted.

Certainly, writing a blog post takes a moderate degree of focus. In fact, writing these posts is one exercise I crave to keep my head grounded in concentrated reality.

But composing a song is a different level of focus, the difference between simple arithmetic and challenging algebra.

Musical writing … composing… is a multitask activity that gathers the need for lyrical, poetic inspiration interbred with musical melody and harmony.

It links back to the idea of musical prosody… melody and rhythm and lyrics that embrace like young lovers in a masterpiece that makes us believe the words and music are as one… inseparable and shallow without the other.

But that’s my imagination.

My reality is less idealistic, more scattered, more ordinary and everyday… more in sync with the current technology schizophrenia that traps many of us.

There are lists all over magazine covers and the internet with apparently simple answers to the puzzle that is focus…. Live Your Legend- 11 Steps to Insane Focus: Do More of What Matters …  8 Ways To Improve Your Focus – Fast Company … 12 Ways To Be More Focused And Get More Things Done Quickly. 

But MY best answer to this faraway bewildered quandary is my plain old non-technical caffeine and a daily TO DO List. And if a messy, paper-cluttered desk is any indication of a genius mind, Einstein and I could be twins.

The bottom line is we know FOCUS is hard work. F-words have a way of getting under our skin and stirring us up.

So even though I occasionally grouse about distractions – our love/hate relationship – the truth is I love this time and place where technology is sometimes taxing but ultimately an amazing perk… a creative self-care gift basket.

computer kid

The Gold and the Guns…

Leave a comment

Bugs bunny.png

Sing it Bugs … 

Overture, curtain, lights,
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every card by heart …

HEADLINE: Pyeongchang, Korea vs. Parkland, Florida

How do we hit the heights and the depths all in one moment; the heavenliness of the Olympics running into a brutal head-on collision with bloody savage gunfire hell?

Easy… the starter’s gun fires springing the loaded athlete from the gate at the top of the mountain… while… simultaneously a loaded AR-15 weapon of mass mayhem fires, unleashing spurting pools of blood and panic in children’s classrooms.

Or, as a fellow named Dickens antithetically noted,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

comedy tragedy masks

Spring of hope, winter of despair

There are physics’ rules that explain it I suppose.

After all, Einstein himself said, “energy is neither created nor destroyed“….

… Potential energy in athletes created = Potential energy in murdered children expended.

I live in Canada, but I can’t coldly turn aside and avoid the pain that crosses an invisible geographic and linguistic border when children are senselessly annihilated.

There is beauty and heartbreak in sport… is anything more lovely than a young man or woman flying into momentary orbit, spinning on their own axis 3 or 4 times, then returning to icy terra firma in delicate and graceful balletic form?

As the climax of their performance nears, a bright smile of joy alights and beams for the adoring crowd… or… tears of anguish swell when an unsuccessful program marks the end of the journey.

There is beauty and heartbreak in gun ownership… there must be some beauty, although I struggle to find it … a plethora of TV shows and movies are released each week glutted with exquisitely choreographed scenes of gunfire and bloodshed. Forgive my confusion when the censors tut-tut naked bodies and lovemaking, and yet merrily abide mass murder vistas that any adult or child can absorb daily.

Contradiction, we all eventually discover, is a part of humanity.

We have friction and conflict… a conflict of belief systems.

Curiously, I shake my head and gaze on as the “pros” and “cons” of gun control tread ground on opposite sides of a mirror that they believe is a window… they can never quite see each other’s image.

I watch those talking heads on CNN debate gun issues ferociously. It’s fascinating to see mouths moving where no ears are listening.

It’s as if one side speaks Latin and the other side Swahili.

You say tow-may-tow, I say tow-maah-tow… where you see biosolids, I only smell shit.

So how do we move forward?

ESL flags.jpg

OMG, I hope you weren’t expecting me to have the answer. Sorry. I don’t.

I can only view it all through my own lens and seek out some sort of truth that makes sense in my own mind.

Value for me has been teaching ESL and literacy-challenged adults to learn something that seems so easy. Language. Simple, basic language.

I’m forced to break down the elements of what most of us consider too rudimentary to need explaining.

I’m compelled to immerse myself in a world of explaining what I don’t truly understand at the fundamental level.

Oh sure, I know a noun from a verb from an adjective, but I get all muddley-fuddley when we start slipping in terms like diphthong and dangling modifier and reflexive pronoun.

These are experiences that help me step back and look and listen to see what I’m missing. To learn. To understand.

These are experiences that remind me that my culture and environment are not the same as the person sitting opposite me. To learn. To understand.

The gun culture is Swahili to my Latin.

I look around my gun-lite Canadian world and worry that there are too many young boys brought up to traipse the backwoods with a weapon and bring down a living creature … and then… rah rah… call it… sport.

The Oxford English Dictionary says sport is : An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

The use of guns and hunting as sustenance is one thing… but calling it sport makes me vomit.

How do I find a way to learn and understand this “sport”? Killing as entertainment?

In my world, sport is something that pushes the human body to achieve and improve… to aim for higher, faster, stronger… the Olympics at least attempts to solve that equation. A gun may fill your tummy, but will never be about achievement or improvement.

I know our world is driving the long and winding road to more civility, more kindness and understanding. The historic fog is lifting. There’s an inevitability to it that, like the tsunami of technology that floods our world, is unstoppable.

It’s just that, like so many things in my life, I feel an urgent impatience for the next steps to occur along that highway. Hurry up. Learn. Understand. Please…

The internet has proven its worth as a change agent for women and #MeToo… I’ve seen a recent Facebook post that encourages American school students to go on “strike” until gun laws are changed.

These front line soldiers in this battle will be the children of change…

Meanwhile, I’ll dab away my gun-weary tears and watch those athletes that have put in their 10,000 hours of dedicated training, the medallists and the others who have reached golden heights without a medal to hang around their necks.

… Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, we’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it…

cross-country athletes.jpg


Mountain View From My Cluttered Mind

Leave a comment

Peeing superheroes.jpg

Now, mountaineering for me has been the motivator, the initiator, that keeps me from falling asleep in life. I say that because I tend to find, now I’ve turned 40, myself getting into this waking sleep that I notice a lot of people do down here. I think we all need initiators or motivators to remind us again and again what we’re capable of and to remind us of those ideals that we hold close to our hearts. 

Laurie Skreslet

Don’t give me MARVEL or DC comic heroes, no Spiderman, Black Widow or Iron Man, no Han Solo or Indiana Jones.

NO! Not for this earthly mortal.

I crush only on true flesh and blood heroes… YES! I kiss real inspirationists (my new word!)

Many years back I attended a medical lab conference where the Keynote speech featured a motivational talk by Canadian mountain climber Laurie Skreslet.

I shuffled into the large conference hall for the breakfast talk – caffeine had barely begun seeping into my bloodstream – with low expectations.

An hour later I bounced from the room loaded with fireworks and energy, piss and vinegar.

A superb speaker and motivator, Skreslet gave me spiritual CPR with his words and photos that morning.

Skreslet didn’t just present himself as a man of theoretical ideas. Do this. Do that… Rah-rah!

I love inspiration but not from false prophets. No Kardashians, no Gweneth Paltrows, no pretenders or theorists. Doers are my inspiration.

Laurie Skreslet was the first Canuck to successfully scale muscular Mount Everest (1982), although in the process, 4 others perished in the notoriously treacherous Khumbu Icefall section of the climb.

He was a man of action and persistence. He was a man who walked his talk. He set himself a huge goal and never wavered with unflagging courage and determination.

Strangely, he became an early hero of mine even though I’ve never attempted a true mountain climb in my life.

Oh sure, I once nearly reached the summit of B.C.’s Mount Cheam (2,104 m (6,903 ft)) but my wife and I chickened out when a crawl along a narrow ledge with 2,000 m of unobstructed air beneath was required. Craggy mountain hikes that require a change of underwear are not in my wheelhouse.

Sure, I’ve hiked to the top of Scotland’s Ben Nevis (1,345 m (4,411 ft.)), the UK’s tallest mountain.

Sure, I’ve inched my way up the glaciers well above Interlaken and Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Sure, I’ve strolled at much higher elevations in Peru (hell, for almost 4 months, we lived and breathed the thin air of Cusco which sits at 3,399 m (11,150 ft.)).

But… none of those compare with a minute on deadly Mt. Everest.

Mountains make great metaphors. Beauty and danger are unnerving and explosive.

Mountains are something we can all picture and understand. Mountains are a superb symbol for human striving, goal setting and achievement, coping and surviving.

painting mountain.jpg

We all have our own mountain(s)…. and each of us is perched at a different spot on our mountain. The view from the mountain is unique for every person.

Mountains are climbed every minute  – physical accomplishments, cancer, accidents, deformities and disabilities, school, work, charity.

Mountains are precarious and dangerous.

In my own sphere of hero worship and mountain climbing, I’ve seen the awkward stumbles of Lance Armstrong, Woody Allen, Tiger Woods, JFK, Bill Clinton… people whose accomplishments I admire.

Real life heroes, unlike most of the comic book superheroes, are mere mortals filled with angst and weakness in other arenas of their lives. They don’t always clean their room before saving the world.

I spend a good part of my time on the lookout for heroes that help me up my mountain… inspirational men and women who live a life of wonder and discovery and reinvention.

World leaders, scientists, athletes, writers, artists, religious leaders, inventors, composers, philanthropists, musicians, physicians, teachers, judges… or… sometimes I put on a pedestal those I see as decent, respectful, compassionate, empathetic, generous, tolerant, humble, responsible, trustworthy.

One thing I’ve learned is that the inspirationalist should be admired for the inner strength and accomplishments that spurred them to excellence. This is what they bring to our table for us to emulate and model.

Admiration of the hero for their personal magnetism or impressive character is too often a set-up for disappointment.

With the #MeToo movement afoot, we’re seeing this on display over and over and over again. So let’s stop being foolish and hitching our wagons to the “beauty and wonder” of the hero’s personality and goodness.

Love the action, not the actor. Worship the heroic, not the hero.

Heroes pee and poop and fumble and crawl. They just so happen to also do miraculous deeds.

I still have my long list of folks I admire… their heroics are my energy source, the protein in my inspiration diet.

A short list today?: Tim Ferriss (author and life experimenter), Chris G (local soup kitchen crazy chef), Aaron Sorkin and Nora Ephron (movie/TV screenwriters), Brenda M (eternally bright Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferer), Stephen King (author), Cathie R (empathetic novel idea generator), James Taylor (tireless musical performer), Tommy Emmanuel (guitarist extraordinaire), Majed A (Syrian ESL student/optimist). The list is fluid and dynamic.



Laurie Skreslet stood briefly atop his mountain. Then he climbed back down and continues climbing other mountains to this day.

I celebrate his heroics and the inspiration he has given me to climb my own metaphorical mountains.

Celebrate your accomplishments. Celebrate the strength that gets you through the minutes, hours, and days of an injury or serious health issue. Celebrate the fact that you find a way to overcome the fear that could paralyze.

It’s wondrous to do things you haven’t done before or that you were afraid of doing, and it deserves a pat on the back… and a visit to the pub or the teahouse (or chocolate aisle!) when you’re done.

You ARE capable of much more than you think. We all are.

… I think very few of us in our life are ever lucky enough to get a glimpse of what we are actually capable of doing and I think in a sense we’re all climbers in a way. Perhaps my mountains are more of the mountains of deprivation, hardship, cold–maybe your mountains are mountains of planning, preparation, mountains of endeavour as it were…

Laurie Skreslet

mountain ironing.jpg

300… The Vagenda Continues



300 blog posts. 300,000 words. On my way to 10,000 hours and mastery.

HOLY SMOKES! I’ve been writing these weekly missives for almost 6 years now. Thank you for your help in pushing me along this winsome winding road. I appreciate your generous Samaritanism.

One sunny day in June 2012 I sat and pecked out my first blog article .

Genesis began with the obvious hint that I would be exploring and commenting on the Mars vs Venus tangle we find ourselves amidst in the world of men and women.

I know. It’s lunatic foolish of me to think that I – a tiny bobbing boat – could find an understanding where other brighter ships have crashed on the rocks.

My foolishness persists to this day. Go figure.

But let’s be clear. It’s not one-sided although it is unbalanced. Men misunderstand women and women misunderstand men. Human math says it should be an equal equation x=y. That day is not yet today.

And to add to the doggy-pile of confusion is intra-gender misunderstanding. Hell, I’m a man and I frequently don’t get men.

men group.jpg

Yeah, I get frustrated with my own gender. Bigly.

Only last night I was playing my guitar at an Open Mic, watching a couple of middle-aged men guzzle down entire over-sized bottles of beer in one gulp and yelling loudly so that none of us could hear other performers giving their heartfelt best on stage. SHUT UP A**holes !! (Aside: They were kindly quiet for the first 2 of my songs, but couldn’t contain their boisterousness for the 3rd piece I played!)

That doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up and walk away. Attempts at understanding in all directions is what propels us forward. That’s why we should all travel and immerse ourselves in other cultures and religions and beliefs.

It seems kind of fitting today to return to the topic that I began musing on those 6 years back with the maelstrom of news and comment regarding #MeToo and #TimesUp

Women are an unstoppable force driving us forward in the new world of brains vs brawn. The crystal ball is as clear as the chill ice I see on the lakes in the nearby mountains.

The fleeting rise of TrumpWorld has merely highlighted the schism that exists and which will inevitably tumble avalanche-like in a totally new direction. HUGE.

Dinosaurs died out many millennia ago and sadly, men are today’s dinosaurs… of course we won’t die out but we are having to accept, adapt and change our “DNA”. The metamorphosis needed has to occur a hell of a lot more quickly than what Darwin observed on the Galapagos.


Happily, I feel confident it will.

On the flip-side, I know that I… yes, even little me… contain some fragments of that outdated dinosaur DNA just as I’m filled with the brawny DNA that drives my attraction to the female gender and not my own male brethren.

Like you, I’m a product of the generation and the culture in which I was raised.

Adapting to new social realities is like trying to maintain currency with the advances in the software and apps that flood my tech world on a daily basis. Am I the last one left to own a paper printer? I can only absorb and redesign myself so much over a short time frame. For sure I feel the dogs snapping at my heels.

So maybe you’ll understand that while I’m fully supportive of the feminist movements zooming up in my rear view mirror – I condemn the crass stupidity of men where sexuality and harassment are concerned – I’m also fearful of what I say and where I step.

My funny-bone misfires. My explanations sometimes lack nuance or sensitivity. Those times I don’t step on a landmine with my words, generally mean that at best I’ve trod in some stinky shit on the pathway. Some choice, eh?

This is my daily reality now… my emotion, my motivation, my personal experience.


  • I’ve never lived a world of gender-linked cruelty or suffering… the infuriating or fearful experience of sexual pressure (not on a true physical or financial level anyways).
  • I’ve never been callously subjugated because of the tint of my skin.
  • I’ve never felt heartless persecution because of some God I do or don’t believe in.
  • I’ve never encountered a curb or a building I couldn’t enter because my legs weren’t capable of lifting me up.


That’s not my reality. Those aren’t my tears.

The best that I can do is to try to empathize and imagine those experiences by observing and understanding what others pass through.

It’s never enough but it’s all I have. This is what I want women to know when I mess up.

#MeToo and #TimesUp are movements I enthusiastically support but will not for a moment be a real part of and will never viscerally know from my own involvement.

So I’ll keep trying to understand.

300 posts down… I’ll continue (until I don’t) writing my weekly words despite the chaos and chatter between my ears… words, sentences, and paragraphs where I’ve chatted about positivity and inspiration and aspiration and music and movies and writing and exercise and creativity… and the lyrical poetry and wonder that exists between men and women… things that I believe to be true in my vision of the world.

… until My Times Up.

Thanks for joining me and the 300 club today.

woman and man

This Is Us? That’ll Be The Day…

1 Comment

Guilty Pleasures … Episode 1,012,325.

this is us 2.jpg

… I was watching an episode of THIS IS US last night… and not just because I’ve had a minor crush on winsome girl-next-door Mandy Moore for years which – gulp – even to me seems kind of creepy knowing that I’m easily old enough to be her father.

Hey, there’s a psychotherapy session for another day. Squeeze me in between Norman Bates and Harvey Weinstein.

I watch the show because the stories are so raw, so borderline melodramatically overwrought, so personally intense… but eminently watchable. Every character is flawed and still lovable, so human.

This Is Us.

My only wish is that maybe they find time to shine a few more splashes of sunshine in their scripts. The best cinema and TV have a delicately sculpted balance of carefree and fun blended with sorrow and gloom.

I crave deep emotion and pathos, but I don’t want to plummet down a dark hole having them create a need in me for antidepressant pharmaceuticals where none exists at the moment.

This Is Us - Season 1

Last night’s episode titled That’ll Be The Day pierced me, and not only for the obvious reason of at last discovering the root of the family’s pain… you and I know that Buddy Holly’s song ends… that I die… yes, we now know when and how Jack died. I don’t want to seem impatient but OMG… that was more than enough foreplay.

In between distracted bites of carrot/banana/pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing I made earlier in the day, I was intimately drawn in when Randall (the adopted black “triplet”) said to his screwed-up white actor-brother Kevin, “… Dad’s already been gone longer than we had him.” 

Randall realizes that he’s lived longer without a father than he did with one.

Yes. This Is Us.

I’m now the age my mother was when she died.

Yes. This Is Us.

Randall reminded me that I’ve lived much longer without a mother and father than I did with parents. Inside, there’s this little nag telling me I’m a “dead man walking.”

The writers of This Is Us know how to turn us inside out, diving and examining the passage and import of our lives. That’s where its power lies.

Of course the writers of the show are skilled story-crafters who weave the past and present in wonderfully evocative ways, always leading us up and down alleys… alleys we know exist and what lies down them, but we desperately want them to show us even so. That’s impressive.

For years after, the triplets Randall and Kevin and Kate all live mournful moments in their lives because of the last interaction they shared with their father. An inner tape recording of their final conversation plays incessantly, shaping the adults they’ve become.

Last conversation.jpg

It’s slightly tragic that we might allow ourselves to be affected by one negative prattle moment with someone we love.

My last conversation with my Mom on a sunny April afternoon didn’t end with a smile and a hug… it was more like me looking up like a little teenage jerk and saying, “God, stop bugging me Mom, I’ll apply at McDonald’s tomorrow or the next day”.

A month later I was a cherubic McBurger Flipper and my mother was lying cold underground.

That vaguely negative moment was our last, and I’ll admit that it lingered unhappily with me for a short while, but it doesn’t affect my tranquil memories or love for my Mom. A moment of crabbiness shouldn’t impinge on our obvious love and closeness.

I have a scrapbook in my head filled with cheerful memories and moments that have crowded out almost every other unfavourable second.

The arts we view and listen to pass through a fine filter between our ears as they reach our brain. A colander lies within us picking out the explanatory snippets telling us about who we are.

As you read these words, you may be delving inside, reliving some portion of your life that I’ve just reminded you of.

This Is Us.

We watch, absorb, connect, and live our lives over again – for better or worse – on-screen.

This is how we watch movies.

This is how we read books.

This is how we listen to music.

This is how we take heed of our neighbour telling us about his new motorcycle, or her sister’s operation.

Right now I’m enjoying the guilty pleasure of sitting here snug in a cozy office chair staring out my window. Random moments with free-ranging thought clouds.

Short fragments of dialogue between Kate, Randall and Kevin ping-pong through my head along with some soft guitar licks that punctuate and reinforce the sentiments of their story.

A luminous white snowline runs halfway down the valley hillside across in Naramata as I absorb delicious harmonies of Foxes and Fossils singing Helplessly Hoping, envisioning myself as the male “Fossil” singer in the middle… listening to my inner voice whispering…

This Is Us.




I Do Stupid Things

Leave a comment

Dumb and dumber.jpg

Everything was fine until I did something stupid.

Isn’t it always that way?

We looked first-class as we entered the east-end restaurant where her friends and classmates had gathered.

It was a fun evening with hoots of laughter and discussions of the ordeals and traumas and goofy occurrences that happen when a group of young people have shared time together for four years.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…. her high school graduation and prom. I was her date.

Her short, dark brown hair pulled into an up-do, she looked artistically lovely in a flowing amethyst dress and I looked late-teenager handsome(-ish) in a late 1970’s kind of way. It was a toss-up of who had the longer locks that evening.

The night passed, we drank Labatt’s 50 beer (I was legal, she may not have turned 18 yet) and danced to a DJ, and then after the “prom” we adjourned to her friend’s basement rec room for the “all-nighter party”.

Angela was cute. We had a fun night. I liked her. Friends. That’s all.

boy and girl shake hands

This is where the stupid part comes in.

We had been chummy for a few years while working evening and weekend shifts at our local McDonalds. She was a friend and classmate (at the nearby Catholic high school) of the girl I had a mad love for – the one I had taken to my own grad a year earlier – and who had dumped me a couple of months earlier.

As the all-nighter party approached morning and the excited momentum of the evening quietly slowed into an adagio, I could feel the devastating disappointment in her eyes… disappointment that all her girlfriends were making out with their dates… but we weren’t.

And so, as the sun rose – against my best judgment, and while paradoxically trying to make her feel better – I made out with her sans feelings of attachment or sensual desire.

“Made out” in the sense that no clothes were shed but lips touched. Maybe a breast was fondled, I honestly don’t remember now.

We drove down her street in my old tawny-toned Rambler American as daylight settled over the cool dew glistening on the lawns of her neighbourhood.

She was giddy and blissfully happy when I left her at her parents’ front door.

I felt crappy inside knowing the love in her eyes didn’t catch a similar reflection back from mine.

She had a major crush on me that lasted for a couple of years afterwards that I never reciprocated… at least after that one night.

In today’s parlance, I “ghosted” her.

And to show you how stupidity isn’t always a one-off, I did a similar thing with another amiable young lady when I moved to Yellowknife a year or two later. That time, clothes were shed.


Some things are plain old Stupid-dumb.

Some things are Stupid-hurtful.

Angela was Stupid-hurtful. I’m sorry Angela.

Minions stupid.jpg

And stupid-hurtful isn’t just something we do to others. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted.

… stupid-hurtful like… I blame myself for my Mom’s early death at age 60. I can’t leave behind the internal message that if I’d known CPR or artificial respiration, she might have breathed long enough, might have had a heartbeat long enough for an ambulance ride into the skilled hands of a real doctor. Her heart health wasn’t my responsibility as a 15 year-old, but a basic CPR course may have given me more time with her.

That’s stupid-hurtful to me, and yet at 2 a.m. I can’t shake the bastard thought despite it being nonsensical.

Some things are plain old stupid-dumb.

… stupid-dumb like… to keep my McDonalds job as a pimply teenager, I wore a wig… a short-haired wig that kept my non-corporate-conforming shoulder-length locks from the critical eyes of management.

… stupid-dumb like… as a 12 year-old, I cooked fried rice for my family’s traditional Sunday night dinner… clink tinkle tinkle… those are the sounds of hard rice landing on dishware when you don’t boil the rice in water first before frying.

… stupid-dumb like… as a student lab intern, reporting test results that had the potential to kill an unborn baby had an astute surgeon not called my lab supervisor for confirmation of my calculations before making the first cut into the Mom’s abdomen.

… stupid-dumb like… walking off the edge of an elevated deck in my yard where I had removed the stairs for renovation just a day earlier.

… stupid-dumb like…

Well, you get the idea, right? Even Forrest Gump had it right: “Stupid is as stupid does

Stupid must have a weight attached to it because sometimes my head feels heavy.

For all of the things we forget in our worlds – and we all forget sooooo much – the stupid things have a way of indelibly ingraining themselves in our psyche, like burrs in deep grass.

It’s fascinating and maybe even infuriating that I struggle to see the cherubic faces, to hear the angelic voices of my young children at their many Christmas concerts and dance performances and basketball games, and yet, I can vividly see and feel the sharp ends of a projectile nail protruding from my 11 year-old leg while playing a dumb game with childhood friends.

Stupidity doesn’t play fair.

And somehow, when I search for a silver lining to my playbook, I reflect on the conclusion that stupidity is directly related to life lessons and humility because the end result of any stupid thing I’ve done has a positive rebound effect of making me more aware of my terminal ordinariness… taking me one baby step forward on the bumpy road to becoming humble and kind.

I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton understood a few centuries ago that a whole lot of stupid does the job of gravity, holding us firmly to the ground?

cow feet.jpg



A Simple Sunny Day Conversation

Leave a comment

… muddled darkness still filled the winter-chilled room when I slid back into my dream …

William Goldman, Nora Ephron and Aaron Sorkin sat in a haze of talkers’ block, frustratingly biting fingernails and pulling hair over a discussion of how… how and why they write their movie screenplays.


THE William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, The Princess Bride),


THE Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia) and


THE Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network, Molly’s Game).

Three spirited and gifted talents, hardworking Jewish folks, mystically wired to type out brilliant lines of cinematic dialogue that the world slurps up like delicious soup from a beautiful pottery bowl in the sunshine.


Butch Cassidy: Do you believe I’m broke already?
Etta Place: Why is there never any money, Butch?
Butch Cassidy: Well, I swear, Etta, I don’t know. I’ve been working like a dog all my life and I can’t get a penny ahead
Etta Place: Sundance says it’s because you’re a soft touch, and always taking expensive vacations, and buying drinks for everyone, and you’re a rotten gambler.
Butch Cassidy: Well that might have something to do with it.
William Goldman

Butch and sundance.jpg


Just like in the movies they wrote, the conversation flows like silky sap from maple trees in early spring.

Why do we bother writing if it’ll all just be rain down a drain when we’re gone?’

‘And why am I trying to write lines coming from people who are smarter than me? I don’t think it can be done.’

‘Sure, and why do we make tasty foods to eat when the basic building blocks of healthy life don’t require any flavour, or at least pleasant flavour?’

All so serious.

Nora smiled and sighed loudly. Shaking her head, she tilted up to the royal blue, squinting into the sun beating down on them as they sipped margaritas on Sorkin’s back patio overlooking the resonant Pacific on California’s coast. A slew of gulls squealed and shrieked over the waves.

Guys, this is silly. There is no reason to writing.’

‘There is no reason to life. It just is.’

‘Stop obsessing about why and enjoy the trip, the process.’

You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it,‘ she added, not knowing why.

Nora was always so grounded. So sensible. Or maybe it was the tequila-tainted inebriation talking.

But of course, Nora is dead and has access to metaphysical ideas and thought that the rest of us here on earth can’t see yet.

Except dreams.

Dreams allow us that delicious fusion of combining life with death, truth with fiction, oil with water.


Sally (on faking orgasms): “Nothing. It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and all women at one time or other have done it so you do the math.”

Nora Ephron

Sally Orgasm2.jpg


People don’t talk in real life like they do in the movies. That’s the beauty of what we do.’

Real people don’t kidnap couples from the side of the road and boldly declare, “We’re Bonnie and Clyde. We rob banks!” Never been said outside of a movie theatre.’

Yeah or … “You can’t handle the truth! Son we live in a world that has walls, and those have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it, you, you lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury, you have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence while grotesque and incomprehensible, to you, saves lives.” ‘

‘That’s true, we can’t write the boring stuff, but we can take conversations and make them sound alive, believable as if it really happened just the way we wrote it. Audiences want to believe’

Believe, huh? No one believes or cares that we wrote crap for years that no producer or studio would touch.


NEWSROOM’s Will McAvoy (to college students proudly calling America the greatest country in the world): “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”

Aaron Sorkin

Newsroom .jpg


Aaron jumped up and after a slight wobble, arrowed himself back into the house, returning just as quickly with a thick, yellowing manuscript in his hand.

‘Look, I wrote this screenplay for Warren Beatty years ago. It’s called Ocean of Storms. It’s embarrassing. There’s no music in this. It’s totally missing any rhythm. I wish I could write it from scratch all over again.’

‘Shit you guys… I’m dead … Sleepless no more… so listen up while you can.’

Nora leaned forward, scanning the faces of both men. Goldman and Sorkin straightened in their leisure chairs, looking all the part of schoolboys in short pants ready to be chastised by the wise schoolmarm.

‘We all want instant perfection. You want a meaning to writing or life? I’ll give you my secret. Free, keep your dimes in your pockets.’

‘You do what you do well and know that it will never be good enough.’

‘You write and you write and you get a teeny fraction better, maybe not every day but at least every year or every decade. And you capture joy like children’s marbles knowing that your abilities and understanding are tiptoeing up a mountain who’s peak is in the clouds and you’ll never see the peak no matter how high you climb because the little secret is… there is no peak.’

‘All you do is keep making the mountain higher and higher like you’re some Godless one who can build their own mountain. And once in a while you stop climbing and look around at the beautiful scenery below because the higher you climb the more magnificent the view becomes.’

‘We’re all a bunch of Shakespearean fools, or insecure Charlie Brown’s. The climber one day stumbles and falls, but the mountain still stands there for others to ascend and make larger.’

The limey margaritas tingled and settled inside in a soft, mellow pillow…

… my dreamy haze was lifting in early morning light as, in a muted unusual moment, all three, the great dialogue communicators, sat quietly, reflecting on a simple, sunny day conversation.

Sunshine on Pacific.jpg




Older Entries