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Yes, Women WILL Dominate In The Years To Come…

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What did God say after he created man?

“I can do better.”

God created women

I have a meandering mind, so today, I’ll wander around and about and hopefully you can trace my convoluted trail … or trial!

I’ve been writing this MAN ON THE FRINGE blog for almost 5 years now.

I’ve posted close to … well, let’s have a look… exactly 258 entries. That’s the equivalent of about 3 average-sized fiction books.

And because I’m a stock market and numbers guru/geek I usually look at my return on investment – how much am I being paid for the time invested.

In this case, I’ve calculated that return as …. drum roll…. $0.

And I just don’t care. Writing blog posts makes me happy, which is a pretty good ROI in my books.

I read and look at a lot of blogs.

There are millions out there, many of them birthed by mere ordinary people like me who have this urge, an inner compulsion to write and share.

When you write a blog, it’s important to read quality books and blogs to know what others write about and how they write to keep an audience interested.

When a friend or relative says they like a post I’ve written on any particular week, I’m always happy. Like a toddler, I love it when mommy says I’ve done good. There’s still a piece of me that craves validation. Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. I know I do.

And when a stranger writes and says they like my post then I’m really happy because it’s truly about the quality of writing or something in the message that was meaningful for them.

Writing these missives each week is a narcissistic indulgence I look forward to because I’m never sure what little morsel in the news that passes my way, or in my memory hard drive, or in the sex-addled recesses of my mind, will insist on being expounded upon.

Blog writing is a continual discovery of the things that are meaningful for me… so usually it’s about sex, music, religion, food, investing, travel… or… interesting people I encounter. The folks I’m surrounded by intrigue me and teach me.

Blogging is a white cane that helps me uncover the hidden messages that surround me.

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After these 5 years of weekly posts, the most viewed article I’ve written is called Your Castration Awaits – 8 Reasons Women Will Dominate Men In The 21st Century

It was written in the summer of 2014 and boiled down to these bullet points:

  1. Women don’t waste time playing video games and watching porn. Girls just grow up and get on with life…well, and obsess over shoes but that’s a minor pastime on the way to the corner office.
  2. Women excel at communication and conciliation, whereas mens’ authoritarian style of coercion is outdated. Women are attuned to social dynamics and know the benefits of collaboration vs. competition.
  3. Women are getting educated and at higher levels. In just about every field, women are either in the lead or are charging hard to take the lead. It’s like China vs the U.S.. Get lazy, and complacent and watch the competition overtake you.
  4. Women know how to balance career and family. Both career and social worlds can thrive simultaneously. Men can’t pull off multi-tasking unless beer and a TV remote are involved.
  5. Men persist in thinking they can rise through manual labour. The world has changed and many men refuse to believe or acknowledge it. If men don’t excel and women do, don’t blame women. Wake up and smell that coffee boys!
  6. Womens’ self-definition is changing. Women don’t feel the need to acquiesce to men to sooth their egos. If a job needs doing, women will just jump in and do it. Damsels in distress are so yesterday.
  7. Allowing women to vote, fight wars, run businesses, and play sports levels the field. Women may never be able to build the physical strength of a man, but can equal or better him in every other facet of life if they choose to.
  8. Men want to get rich quick but don’t want to work or wait for it. Men are too impatient and unwilling to take the longer, slower route to a better solution. Too many impetuous mistakes are made by wanting everything now.

 

It’s still true today.

I can see the writing on the wall. And the black/whiteboards.

When I tutor at the local college, I wander past classrooms filled with far more girls than guys. Even the science and math classes.

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TV newsrooms and political halls are swelling in serious female presence with each year that floats by.

Even I can see that I’m a relic of a previous age.

I tell myself that I’m enlightened but underneath the progressive exterior I present, I remain a man raised in a male-dominant society…. a man with just a smidgen-holding of the sick Trump notion that I have the power to grab a woman by the pussy whenever I want.

Our planet is in a tsunami flux with metamorphosis coming our way from every direction.

The one direction I’m most tuned into? Slowly but inevitably… the Women’s March on Dominance… a feminine evolution/revolution.

Now I don’t want to totally dump on my own gender.

Men are a fair group as these things go, but after some millennia, we’ve had our time, for a time. We’ve overseen huge calamities and also huge progress. Yes, we’ve made a million blunders.

But is there anyone who would realistically prefer to live in a 19th century world of poor hygiene, high infant and maternal mortality, lack of antibiotics, no voting rights for women? I can go on and on.

Now we need to step back and reflect on where WE want to be in 100 years.

Women have done just that over the past century, and I like, with maybe a few hesitations, where the female gender is heading.

The world of “might is right” is rapidly fading like morning stars at sunrise.

In the bible book of Genesis, it’s stated, “God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night“.

The sun and the moon, perhaps the metaphor that speaks to men and women in historic terms.

For millennia, from the dawn of civilization, in most of our world, men have ruled the day. Simple brute force and testosterone held the upper hand.

The dawn has grown elderly and tired, even tiresome, now.

Sunset is approaching, growing nearer and nearer and soon… soon… the lesser light, the moon, women, will rise in the starlit evening sky where the quiet and peace of nightfall will be taken gently by the feminine hand.

The shift of momentum is whispering softly in our ears.

moon whispers

 

 

 

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200 x Scary … Would You Leap With Me?

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Airplane-crashing-into-FL-swamp.png

My friend Bill was an airline pilot. When asked to describe his job, he always answers, “hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” (Hmmm… he must order the Economy Class lunch).

In my life, the same can sometimes be said for stock market investing (taking just the last month for example) AND writing blog posts …

NUMBERS.

I’m a Numbers Guy. Investing Numbers. Date Numbers. Lab Result Numbers. Age Numbers. Weight Numbers. Cooking Numbers. Spanish Numbers …

Numbers are solid and real and maybe they are the counterbalance to my desires to be creative and off in my luminous dream world.

Numbers are unambiguous and tangible. Numbers don’t melt away like fluffy snowflakes and disappear while you’re sleeping (unless, once again, you’ve been investing in the stock market this past month!).

Today my favourite number is 200. Writing one blog post each week (more or less) for 3 and a half years has brought me to my 200th post.

I confess. I lied above about those things boring and terror-filled. Writing blog posts isn’t boring. Not at all. Terror?  Not really.

Fearful nervousness? Sure!

200

200.

200 blog posts. 200,000 words, more or less. The equivalent of two hardbound books.

200 creative opportunities.

200 internal investigations within my labyrinthine mind.

In June 2012 I began pecking out words and ideas, trying to capture the essence of my world … what it was like to be a man breathing feminine-scented air.

An XY living in an XX milieu: in my lab work, at gyms, at theatres.

I don’t tend to hang out where most men in this world hang out. I prefer music and cooking to auto repair and hunting.

As blogging weeks and months and years slipped along, a personal evolution occurred and I began writing about whatever itch felt the need to be scratched. I’ve been flying off, a bird on the wing, on tangents all over the map ever since.

I didn’t anticipate what writing would mean to me in terms of self-examination. I’ve confronted the sunshine and the darkness inside.  With each post I cobble together I discover a little bit more about myself, and my own personal beliefs, not the ones necessarily sold to me in the noisy marketplace of society expectation.

It’s not always pretty. Looking closely at yourself can be scary. I’ve unearthed many beautiful Valentine’s bouquets within, but also insecurities and worries that swim along the ocean bottom.

And further still I realized that when you share your inner world with the outside world it’s even scarier. I know that I’m different from you but I’m also the same as you.

Two hundred posts back I didn’t know where I was heading in writing a blog and that kind of sums me up.

Dance of Life.jpg

My way in life is to push myself, taking action and forging forwards without always knowing the precise direction I’m headed.

Life is like that.

You can stay static and unmoving, sphinx-like – until you know exactly what you want or where you’re headed. But for me, this would mean, playing a Christmas Grinch statue in the cold, never moving toward anything.

Total inertia and sloth-like existence. Fine for a few hours but not a lifetime.

Alternately, I can take a blurry, almost inebriated step forward, then another, then another… I like the sensation of movement, ripples on the lake in the rising sun, and eventually I know I’ll discover if I’m heading in a direction I like.

If I don’t like what I see, I re-assess and do an about face. Either way, I’m at ease because I’m doing something. And for me, doing something is ALWAYS better than doing NOTHING.

Writing blog posts was a scary thing to begin. I wanted badly to say things that were more often kept silent in my head and maybe inside yours too.

Not hurtful things, I hate hurting people. But truthful thoughts, scratching and clawing beneath the surface things. Funny things, sexy things, sad things.

And I’ve confirmed to myself that most of us are entwined in our own existence.  Most things we believe others say and think about us just don’t happen because we’re all too busy drowning in our own inner voices to be worried about anyone else’s.

That’s what I’m doing in this 200th blog post… drowning in my own inner voices. Narcissus looking at my own reflection.

But if you can shussssshhhh your inner voice for just a minute let me tell you something.

LEAP.

When we jump from a height, in that cinematic slow-motion moment while we free-fall we think, “Oh no!” in 100% of the cases.

Faecal creep takes hold for a second before we squeeze the blessed sphincter shut.

Then we hit the cold water and remember that we learned how to swim when we were little. The instinct to survive and thrive is there.

LEAP into the void. It’s only a void for a moment.

OK, not every opportunity that comes along. But enough to remind yourself that you’re breathing – participating – and not just a spectator or a reporter of a life.

LEAP into something that scares you, yet exhilarates you.

Write a blog post. Backpack through Thailand. Treat the sick who need you on St. Lawrence Island in the Arctic. Teach a yoga or fitness class. Eat a guinea pig. Organize a refugee support group. Start a new career. Sing acapella.

LEAP into the mosh pit of life and inhale a reassuring breath when the crowd sets you down gently.

Almost guaranteed you’ll get a smile that will waft you gently to the heavenly gates or carry you compassionately through the burning rings of hell … depending on what you did with the rest of your life. I can only help you so far.

200 Smiles.

See. There’s another NUMBER from this NUMBER’S guy.

Pentatonix.png

 

What’s This Blog About? A Breath in the Life …

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One minute he was sitting in his car … breathing … just like you and me, perhaps laughing, maybe scared, maybe just sitting quietly thinking about things.

Then, the next he was a blood-spattered mess like we might see in a TV cop drama. DEAD.

On one hand, in the pretend world, we watch for “entertainment”, while on the other hand we cry because it’s real life and we don’t like seeing real people killed.

I know I don’t. I feel the pain.

Today I harbour dark thoughts and nauseous feelings about a cat I hit with my car in Quesnel in 1981. Yeah, 1981… 35 years ago and it still bothers me.

bullet thru window

…………

People who don’t know that I have an alter-ego known as The Man on the Fringe and that I write a blog are bit surprised and curious when I mention it.

People don’t see these alter-egos, the “super-hero capes” and masks we don’t prominently wear in day-to-day life.

We all have aspects to our lives that many acquaintances have no insight into.

I write blogs, you raise equestrian horses or Golden Retrievers, the lady you met behind the deli counter supports a Syrian refugee family and is a massage therapist on weekends.

People almost always ask, “What is your blog about?”.

Well, initially they make snide comments like, “Are you sure it’s not The Man With The Fringes, or The Man in the Fridge?” before they ask the more serious question.

And it used to be the answer was simple. The words just flowed like warm blossom honey off my tongue.

  • Men and Women
  • Venus and Mars
  • XX and XY
  • Penis and Vagina
  • The Similarities and Confusions 

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Now it’s harder to define. Partly it’s because a year and a half back, the FRINGE Man retired from his lab job.

37 years a lab tech.

For 37 years this white-coat occupation defined my life. I was an almost solitary man in a sea of women …

… a teaspoon of testosterone swirling in a large, steaming cauldron of estrogen.

A blood-testing laboratory served me up my own inner laboratory of gender observation.

It was a fun position and I enjoyed it.

And there were times I admittedly pushed the limits of acceptability … often approaching the edge of gender-inappropriateness before easing back on the throttle to stay just inside the lines of propriety.

Most times I think I succeeded in not jumping over the line, although, I confess a few might disagree. Veni Vidi Aberravi (I came I saw I flubbed).

Anyway… the lights have gone dark on that gender-based observational lab now.

It was just like this every day!!

It was just like this every day!!

So at this point in time I write about those things that interest me – just the stuff I feel inspired or bothered or excited by.

I’ve turned the microscope into my own navel, not the flesh-eating bacteria that once occupied my gaze.

For example, this week I’m bothered and saddened to hear that a 22 year-old local man whom I knew when he was a youngster – a child adopted from Nigeria to a local family here in Canada – was found murdered in a car a few days ago.

He was a cute, smiley, enthusiastic little guy who would come and watch his older brother play soccer alongside my son who was a teammate.

Almost a team mascot, he played the role of parent entertainer during unexciting moments of the match.

In my mind, I ask what events and forks in the road in the last dozen or so years brought this happy-go-lucky kid to become the victim of a “targeted” murder, as the police have described it.

What heat and pressure created an apparent lump of coal instead of the envisaged diamond?

Where had he been, what had he seen, who did he hang out with that brought him to his sad, premature, violent ending?

It reinforces in my mind that all of us change over years.

We encounter people and ideas and activities that shape who we are and where we’re going. It’s like global warming on a personal level. We barely recognize the glacial pace of change but it’s there nonetheless.

I’m a slightly different person today than I was 6 years ago. You are too.

I know the shape and dimension of who I am was altered when we spent 4 months living in Cusco, Peru those 6 years back. Learning Spanish and interacting with beautiful, generous local folks and enthusiastic, young international travellers moulded this lump of clay that I am.

Maybe it was eating guinea pig that brought about change, maybe it was the spiritual magic that emanates from Machu Picchu. I don’t know, it’s that insidious.

Every day we’re sculpted and whittled tiny-bit by tiny-bit, the canvas of our art transformed.

But that’s just an aside.

I’m writing now to explore my inner mind, to develop creative thought processes that influence not just my writing but my music and my personal interactions with the world in general. Each week is just a breath in my life.

I’ve lived most of my breaths by “rational” rules and I’m now at a time where I’m truly enjoying living my days more across the “creative” side of the tracks.

For 37 years it was pretty important to a lot of sick people that I never explored a sense of creative in my laboratory job. Creative thinking in such a scientific and rationality-based career would be dangerous, and … most likely illegal too.

Next week I’ll inhale a deep breath and another 1,000 words will exhale. Hopefully, I’ll unearth something creative buried inside.

I don’t know what that breath will look like, not yet …

… who knows … maybe I’ll write a whole blog post about the word:

SAVVOCITY

… just because it’s a cool word.

machu picchu

 

Get Paid. Get Laid. Lose Weight.

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Larry SuperHero

I’ve got to be very careful because sometimes I feel like I am a SuperHero.

It suggests power that needs to be respected and restrained.

………………….

You know how when you become a Mom or a Dad and you lose your identity? It’s like you’ve had your name de-listed from the human registry and now you’re just “Erin’s Dad”. Wherever you go in your world, people refer to you by your relationship to your children.

After blogging here for close to 2 and a half years, my given name Lawrence aka Larry is transforming into Man on the Fringe or That Blog Guy, or as my friend Pam mocks me, Man with the Frills.

When I started out in the blogosphere, I had maybe 5 or 10 visits to my site daily. Bit by bit, the numbers crept up and by the end of last year, my daily average was about 25 visits.

Now it’s usually in the range of 60-100 each day which is tiny by blog-world standards, but for me, it’s pretty significant. I really appreciate you and everyone else who sets aside a few minutes to read my stuff.

I myself pass by acres of articles and e-mails every day, so I know that it isn’t easy to attract eyeballs in today’s multimedia, ultra-connected world.  Dreaming up titles, searching for evocative photos, and using colourful language are eyeball-eliciting elements that I put to work.

My first blog post ...

My first blog post attempt …

By now, most of the people I encounter who remotely know me, are aware that I write a blog.

Some of those same people I’ve mentioned in my posts because they’ve impressed me with their extraordinary skills or talents in areas such as creativity or persistence, or their ability to inspire me to invest wisely or to stretch and keep fit. I’m always on the lookout for everyday SuperHeroes.

Anyway, I’m just beginning to stumble onto the realization that I have a power.

It’s the power of the pen, er, keyboard. Frankly, I’m not convinced that it’s truly mightier than the sword ’cause I know I don’t want to encounter some swarthy tattoo-laden hood with a sword in a dark alley and my only weapons are some hard-edged words.

That’s just scary. I don’t want to see my smelly bowels unravelled like a lengthy snake on the pavement in front of me.

However, I know from life’s experience that words do have an impact on people and their lives.

I recognize that I’m connecting with you occasionally when I run into you on the street or we’re chatting on the phone and you say, “Hey Larry, I read your post about “Paid Sex Workers for the Handicapped (this is gonna be a future post!) … it made me think of my poor friend Peter trapped in a wheelchair who’s yearning for an intimate encounter. By the way, I think you should write a blog about …insert your pet peeve or best-loved idea here… “.

I think this is the finest compliment you can give a blogger. It’s a beautiful gift that you’ve wrapped up and given to me. I honestly glow when this happens.

Blogger-gift

It tells me  you believe my words are worthy and strong enough that I’ll put my superpower to use and tell a story or represent something that you feel passionate about.

I have to be honest here. Most times I don’t use your main idea because it just doesn’t speak to me somehow. But I always try to find some hook in what you’ve said to build a story that works for me. And, of course, after writing 130+ blog posts on a weekly basis, finding a story idea that interests me can sometimes be a challenge.

I’ve been told that if you want to build an audience, powerful Blogging SuperHeroes expound on one of these three sure-fire topics that seduce and charm readersThere are a lot of approaches I can use to build a story that revolve around these 3 gems:

GET PAID, GET LAID, LOSE WEIGHT

  • GET PAID: A few of my blog posts have figured on how I go about investing my modest savings.

I have a keen interest in investing money and attempting to build a mini-fortune. Because I’ve not been hugely career driven – translate this to say I’ve never earned a huge income – my issues with money have revolved around taking the modest $$ that I have and saving at least 10% (just like The Wealthy Barber told me)… and more importantly, investing the dollars so that I can enjoy the freedom to pursue all of my ADHD interests. I usually spend about an hour each day reading and researching possible investments, normally in the area of high quality companies found on the Toronto or New York exchanges. Tim Hortons and Disney keep my financial wheels spinning … I’ll hit on this topic again, trust me!

  • GET LAID: I began this blog site with the notion that I would write about the similarities and differences between men and women. I’ve spent an entire career surrounded by a moat filled with bright women. I figure I have an insight or two that Joe Blow the Plumber lacks – of course, plumbing is no longer a man’s domain any more than cooking dinner is a woman’s.

The whole veiled background that bobs to the surface over and over when peering at issues about men and women comes down to getting laid. I usually just refer to it as plain old sex, but the underlay, the true bottom line, is where, when and how we end up between the sheets.

Human nature is deeply … I said deeply … imbedded in the intimate connection between our brains and our naughty bits. We hear about it in our political, entertainment and sports stories every single day.

And so you may have noted that I hit on this area with some frequency in my writing. Well, you can probably lay a few dollars down on the Vegas gambling tables that I’ll be expounding about this again sometime in the near future. I’m a man, and gender laws have proven that we males think about this stuff multiple times each minute. Who am I to break the law?

  • LOSE WEIGHT: Hmmm, just how many of us are totally contented when we step on the weigh scales? If you always have a serene and satisfied smile on your face during your regular weigh-ins, please feel free to ditch out here and move onto someone else’s post, I have nothing further to say to you.

I’ve lived my life on the knife’s edge of muffin tops (do we call men’s swollen bellies muffin tops?). The struggle of enjoying the sweet bliss of delicious, mouthwatering foods while keeping their caloric tonnage from remaining with me on a longer-term basis is as perennial as the moon waxing and waning, the sun rising and setting, Lindsay Lohan entering and exiting rehab.

I admit I am a weak person when food is within my grasp. I love See-Food. So, by default, my writings in this area have largely revolved around exercise. Self-control and initiative for me are mostly limited to battling calorie excess with running and swimming and biking and TRX’ing and weight-training and yoga’ing and tennis’ing and boot camping and spinning …….

Most days each week, you’ll find me involved in some sort of physical combat against calorie creep and so I write about this theme while inhaling my 3,000 calorie snacks.

……………………………..

 

By now, you can see I’m just an average everyday blogging SuperHero.

Thanks for helping me keep my cape pressed and intact by telling me that, like Sally Field on Oscar night, you sometimes like me and what I have to say.

I’m gonna try to keep this knowledge from hungrily consuming my humility, once I figure how to unleash my word power to get out of this damned phone booth.

Gibraltar -- Stuck in a British Phone Booth

Them’s Writin’ Words … A Heartbeat of Harry Hero Worship

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Photo of Harry CHAPIN

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STATEMENT: Writing blog posts is easy.

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Well, not easy… no, not easy at all. I’ve written 130 posts in the past 2 and a half years, and not one was a simple, mindless endeavour, even if you think my compositions about baginas or castration are mindless!

Dogy Balls

I only write about matters that interest me – if the subject doesn’t catch my intrigue, the words will NOT come –  while at the same time, quarrying a nugget or two in the slag pile that somehow, hopefully, will be meaningful to you in your life.

My ego doesn’t fare well if no one reads a word I publish … yes, I NEED YOU!

But when I compare the mental effort and time it takes to write a blog entry versus piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that makes up a musical song, it just seems easy.

Writing blogs and composing music are comparable to the striking differences in playing guitar and playing piano. If you’ve tried both, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Writing a blog post – like playing guitar – is a singular, one-tracked effort. Putting one word after another is a focussed undertaking where your total concentration goes into moving forward in a single direction.

It’s kind of like becoming a killer kisser. Your entirety is devoted to the touch, taste … all of those sensations that cook up into making one other set of soft, sweet lips happy and well looked after.

But writing a song? Whole different breed of animal.

Songsmithing is a complex of musical melody, harmony and lyrics which is more like combining the left and right hand in piano. Songwriting is a boudoir threesome (like I would know!); there are parts running off in all directions. It’s pleasurable for sure (again, like I would know!), but it makes your head spin.

Sorry Ladies, but I've just GOTTA finish writing this song ... the BIG MALE FAIL

“Sorry Ladies, but I’ve just GOTTA finish writing this song” … the BIG MALE FAIL!

 

There are two independent thoughts running side-by-side inside your head and fingertips. Through exhaustive practice, you learn to separate them sufficiently to then weave them back together in a cohesive whole that makes a deliciously fragrant sonata.

If I want to write songs that are meaningful to me and – just like my blog writing – hopefully contain a snippet of something that has meaning for you too, the formulas that commercialized music depend on just don’t work very well.

Which, happily for you, brings me to the point of today’s sermon … avoiding the cliche in songwriting.

Songwriting cliche threatens to swallow us whole in today’s musical marketplace and it drives me crazy sometimes.

Don’t you – maybe even occasionally – ask yourself when listening to a song on the radio, “Who the hell let that DOG out?”. The music, the lyrics are a dog’s breakfast and still it smuggled itself past a recording studio, a bunch of music-studio talking heads, and a radio station programmer. ARGGGGG!

But there are and always have been exceptions.

One of my lifelong songwriting heroes – I have many musical heroes, but probably none as emotionally resonant – has been Harry Chapin.

Harry perished in an auto accident in the late 1970’s while only 39 years old. You might know Harry for his powerfully evocative song: Cats in the Cradle.

But Cats in the Cradle was just a miniscule sample of Harry’s ability. Harry didn’t write or sing cliches and I loved him for it.

Harry was a husband, father, writer, singer, a supporter of social causes, and most impressively, a funny and talented storyteller.

Today, 33 years after his death, I still think about him from time to time – I miss Harry like a treasured friend or brother who left behind a huge hole in my existence in his wake.

Harry had the ability to find a tiny fragment of the joy or sorrow in the life of a common man (woman) and magnify it into an opus that pierced directly into our hearts.

Over and over, Chapin sketched universal human stories in just a few short verses and choruses.

It’s an amazing skill akin to Ernest Hemingway’s famous brief 6-word story:

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn

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A few examples of Harry’s songs and the stories they told:

  • Mr. Tanner, the drycleaner, who tried opera-style singing at Carnegie Hall, just once, and was cruelly rejected by the reviewers.
  • the lonely midnight watchman in A Better Place to Be who desperately craves the love of someone, and discovers that he isn’t alone in his struggle to be held dear by others.
  • the former lovers who accidentally meet in a Taxi, and sadly realize that their young dreams weren’t fulfilled in the way they hoped.
  • the aging FM disc jockey who’s life lies in crumbles from chasing fame and fortune in WOLD
  • the truck driver rushing to get home to his “warm-breathed lover” after a long road trip in 30,000 Pounds of Bananas.

He told us stories, and like Steinbeck or Austen, his yarns entered our hearts and made us weep or smile with the fortunes of the characters he forged in his mind.

Harry Chapin, so long gone now, was a musical and storytelling saint, an inspiration to anyone who longs to tell a story.

Who of us doesn’t love a story from the sweet, innocent nights where we lay in our comfy beds listening to Daddy’s voice reading from a book, to sitting in concert halls where Stuart McLean or Garrison Keillor recite homespun yarns to us?

That was Harry … Master Storyteller. I miss you Harry… and…

I’m gonna write a blog post about you because it’s so much easier than composing a song. But one day …

 

 

 

HarryChapin

Creating Our Own News…

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Do not go where the path may lead: go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

OUCH.

I just had a birthday and in a curious way, it was a keeper.

At my age (57, ouch again) I don’t usually look forward to adding another integer to my sum (see Mom, I learned something in Mr. Warneke’s math class!). But combine a birthday with your retirement and it feels pretty special.

And because you’re reading it here now, my birthday, my retirement, have become the news.

I made a decision to publish my personal information and anyone on this blue and green globe with computer access, can be a customer of my little ego-story.

The world we live in today allows us to jump out of our consumer role and not just read or listen to the news.

We can make the news.

Let me explain more fully.

Growing up I was a paperboy. You too? Cool …

Spectator newspaper-2

Yup, every day except Sunday, I picked up a bundle of Hamilton Spectators from the street corner just down from my childhood friend Dougie Dawson’s house.

(ADHD Aside: I love people who give all of their kids names with the same first initial – two kids I can handle but 3 or more… come on Mr. and Mrs. Dawson, get a Baby Name book –  Dougie Dawson’s siblings were Diane and Donald … in my bizarro head they’re a waddling family of Disney ducks!)

I’d throw the inky newspapers into a big, off-white burlap-like sack with a long shoulder strap and head off over to Woodman Drive to plunk each of those 35 broadsheet papers in front of my customers’ doors.

I even delivered one to old Mrs. Ogilvie who, in her Scottish brogue, fingered me to the police as the 11 year-old car thief she saw driving off from in front of her building.

Can you see the look on the burly police officers’ faces when I was called down to the principal’s office at Glen Brae middle school for interrogation? Shaking in my little Grade 6 runners, I tried to squeak out answers to their probing of “where were you on the morning of blah blah blah?“. I froze up and couldn’t remember. They sent me – trembling –  across the hall to the library to try and recall a few details.

All the cops had to do was look at me. I was short for my age –  if my foot was pressing hard, pedal to the metal of a hot-wired car, my beady eyes would have been staring into the deep, dark bottom curve of the steering wheel.

Yes, it would have been a very short journey and then I’d have ended up in JUVIE, strip-searched and well on my way to a Clyde Barrow life of crime, perhaps even a White Collar Banker!

My life would be so different if Mrs. Ogilvie was right ...

My life would be so different if Mrs. Ogilvie was right …

Screw you Mrs. Ogilvie … CASE CLOSED (but only after they went after my brother Gord, the next older paperboy in my family)!

Anyway, it was a pre-digital era where the only way you or I would be seen or heard by a broader audience is if we:

  • stole a car
  • designed and built a car, or
  • got run over by a car.

But I stopped being a paperboy a little while ago now and I’ve decided that I won’t only be a consumer or delivery person of the news … I am going to create the news.

News comes in international, national, local, and personal varietals. Some of us are meant to be heard on the bigger, macro stage – the Obamas, the Putins, the Jennifer Lawrences – but really, the news I’m talking about here is on the micro level.

The headlines I’m interested in, you won’t be reading about in the Globe and Mail or see Anderson Cooper mentioning on CNN.

I’m creating a local, more personal version of the news. My edition of the news is called Man on the Fringe, and I’ve been your faithful reporter here for over 2 years and – last time I checked – 121 blog posts.

I choose to broadcast my news via this WordPress blog site, which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But really, making your own news isn’t about telling the whole world about yourself, it’s about telling yourself what YOU are all about.

I have a story, you have a story, everyone has a story.

Every morning we wake up and we begin to write our news story. The question becomes… will it be a momentous news day, or just another Pleasant Valley Sunday?

We can lie on our backs and look dreamily to the stars. In the ether between the chill earth and the distant cosmos there are a billion truths, and you have to choose the star that contains the truth that is yours.

Like slowly wafting snowflakes, no two truths, no two stars, no two lives are identical. You can never be identical to someone else but you can manufacture a snowflake life of beauty and meaning that reflects your beauty and your strength.

I can’t tell you what will make your news story special and unique. That is for each of us to discover.

It might be one overarching story that defines your full life existence, but more likely it will contain a gooey, messy, mixed combination of small vignettes that coalesce into a complete and complex story that becomes you.

My own story is a mosaic of writing and music and travel, fitness and woodcraft, reading and cooking and growth in its different forms. Like I said … Messy!

Make your own news, call it passion if you will, perhaps you prefer to label it “life’s shitty meaning”. The title doesn’t matter, the action is the key. Any action is better than no action. And don’t be afraid of mistakes… You’ll never look more foolish than me. Guaranteed.

Write a song: climb a hill that has intimidated you for years: practice hitting 500 putts: make a pie pastry for the first time: shear a sheep: build a spaghetti bridge: start a small business you’ve dreamed of since you were 16: make a life-sized sculpture of Taylor Swift from toilet paper.

In today’s headlines:

I’m creating my own news, and my story will be fabulous!”

 

The 1,000 Hour Rule

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10000 hours

I’m just too ADHD for Malcolm Gladwell’s renowned 10,000 hour rule of mastering something … ANYTHING.

Sure, it worked for the Beatles and for Bill Gates and countless prominent others – but like American Senator Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle during the 1988 vice-presidential debate:

I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy“.

And I am no Paul McCartney or Steve Jobs or Margaret Mead.

These are all extraordinary people who bled buckets of blood and sweat over years and years to pursue and perfect just one special thing.

Songwriting. The Personal Computer. Anthropology.

paul-mccartney

They focused their entire beings on their passion with unbounded dedication. It’s bloody admirable and I celebrate their accomplishments. It’s like they won gold medals in the Life Olympics.

But for this Man on the Fringe, anything I do for more than an hour or two at a time becomes a burden … yes, a job. Even my laboratory job that I enjoy becomes a job after 4 hours at my desk, so I’m packing it in in two weeks and indulging my ADHD side.

I accept and sometimes even celebrate that I’ll never be a master of anything.  Huh, you say? Why?

I know Mr. Miyagi would be disappointed in me… wax on, wax off… oh, go catch flies with chopsticks Mr. Miyagi!

I’m resolving to be a mini-master using the 1,000 hour rule.

Yup. 1,000 hours.

One thousand hours is no small feat.

Concentrated effort that is expended for that time frame will take you or me to a level well above the norm – whether its playing violin, sinking golf putts, or painting landscapes. It just won’t make us Anne Sophie Mutter, or Tiger Woods, or Salvador Dali.

Let’s put 1,000 hours into context ’cause it’s pretty meaningless when I just put it out there as a number.

A personal example: I’ve been writing this blog once each week (more or less) for a little more than 2 years now.

On average, I guesstimate that I spend 5-6 hours perched wiggling and squirming in front of my keyboard for each post. It’s not easy to avoid the lure of porn for such long periods. Modern man wasn’t made this way …

Putting all of my grade-school math skills into play tells me that 52 weeks x 2 years x an average of 5.5 hours… equals…

572 hours

572 hrs2

This means it’s going to take me about 182 weeks of writing these posts to reach 1,000 hrs of writing. That’s three and a half years of consistent week-in week-out blog writing at a pace of 5 and a half hours a week.

That’s a time frame I can live with. I hope – and feel confident – that my writing skills will continually improve at this pace AND it lets me do a bunch of other things I love to do all at the same time.

Take those same numbers and plug them into whatever your great interest or passion is: piano, knitting, dumpster diving, baton twirling, soap making, archery, Russian lessons, disco dancing … the list is endless but the point remains the same.

You can become really good at a number of things in just a few years with some reasonable focus and effort.

No SuperHuman skills necessary.

Man in leotard

See… anyone can do it …

If I was trying to achieve the 10,000 hour level of accomplishment, I would need to multiply my daily efforts by 2 to 10 times in order to meet the MASTER level within 4-25 years.

This is why I could never be a great entrepreneur. The passion and focus needed is not a part of my internal makeup … it just isn’t.

There’s something beautiful about doing something for the first time.

If I tried to dedicate 10,000 hours to merely one area of interest, I’d be sailing away at the end of my years with many fewer life firsts – and there are so many first adventures I don’t want to miss.

So … Paul, John, George and Ringo’s troubles are all far away with their “Yesterday”‘s fame. Bill Gates can feel relaxed sitting by his fireplace knowing I will never replace his “Windows”.

Dear Mr. Gladwell:

I’m only 1/10th the person that you write about in your excellent book (Outliers) but I’m content knowing that I can live a great life without being GREAT.

There will be no gold medal for this guy but I’ll stand on the podium all the same – silver medallion swinging in the breeze from my neck – with a smile just as big as if I was the winner.

That is, if I can fit the medal presentation in between German language class and creating a fantastic Chicken Kiev a la Julia Child .

Sincerely,

Man On The Fringe

Dilbert 10000 hr rule

Where Will I Fit “Sex” In This Blog Title?

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My first blog post...

Some dynamo’s first blog post…

I apologize profusely if I lured you into this post with a seductive SEX included in the title. It was just a teaser.

I like to write about sex, but this particular entry is just about 95% SEX-FREE, so you might want to move on if this was your prime reason for joining me today. Sorry for the inconvenience.

This post is about choices and decisions and creative sweat.

Movin’ on …

SWEAT

When I go to spin class or boot camp at the gym, I sweat… rivers, lakes, flood flashes. It’s scary, especially for those in the know who cycle next to me wearing goggles and snorkles.

When I write and publish a blog post, I sweat … drips, trickles, rivulets. I want to sweat just a little because then I know I’m sharing something with you that makes me a tiny bit uncomfortable. It’s therapy in a way, and saves me tons of $$ on shrink bills.

Either way – physical or psychological sweat – I usually come away smelling sourly acidic because of something I’ve said or done.

Sweaty spin

……………………

When I first began this extraordinary odyssey called blogging, I would spend a lot of my time trying to think of ideas and possibilities for my next post.

I wandered my cerebral garden searching for compelling thoughts and visions. There were never enough fresh blooms on my roses to keep the bouquet filled with colour and perfume.

For example, before I even finished writing this entry, I would be trying to upload the next idea for the following week. It wasn’t a bad approach, but it was a bit stressful on my inner psyche to be feeling the pressure of another and another and another.

Can you imagine being stressed by something you’ve chosen freely to do with absolutely no pay … crazy or what?

It’s kind of like when you anticipate the speech you’re going to make in front of a group at your next club or church or class meeting. You begin to worry and obsess and your kidneys start to filter more urine than normal and the idea flow gets struck with paralyzing rigor mortis because you’re trying too hard.

I love writing, but I would be a terrible reporter.

My brother Gord was a reporter for a number of  years with the Hamilton Spectator newspaper. I was green with envy when he wrote a big splashy story about the disco scene of the 1970’s. There was a large photo of him on the front page of the entertainment section wearing a white John Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” suit, arm thrust upwards in a disco pose … so cool. So handsome. Sure, groovy even.

JOHN TRAVOLTA SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1)

But aside from the occasional choice story, every day the reporter is presented with a different topic or story idea delegated to them by an assignment editor. Don’t like the assignment?…tough … suck it up Prince Nike. Just Do It!

Now with a blog, you can write about anything you desire. Love, books, quilting, skiing, kinky sex, paper clip art, prairie farming … you name it, there’s an audience for everything.

The thorny patch for me in writing blog posts is that if an idea or concept doesn’t intrigue or cause my pulse to quicken just a wee bit, then I’ve just turned the corner onto that dead end road called Writer’s Block.

It’s a dead weight that wrenches me down and I feel a sinking depression catching hold. My ADHD kicks in in a major way and all of a sudden the ping pong game of flipping into other apps or news feeds or anything not related to the blog writing takes over like a worm or virus that seeds itself maliciously into my head.

Next thing I know some porn, or worse yet, Miley appears on my computer screen.

How do I get this virus out of my head?

How do I get THIS virus out of my head?

But here’s the really neat thing for me now.

My brain has magically built some internal pathways or mechanisms that find, sort and filter for the next great idea. It’s like having a built-in personal assistant; sadly, one who won’t sit provocatively on my Mad Men lap or get me coffee (better still, Canadian Club on the rocks) in the morning.

By blogging consistently for a year and a half, mystical fairies or elves have quietly constructed an underground highway or superstructure inside me that delivers ideas without being prompted.

They’re clever little muse-makers, they know me. I’ve got too much noisy voice traffic going on in my head – beep beep – without adding in more crazed above-ground conscious freeways and cloverleaf interchanges.

This blog post highway they’ve built is a subway of ideas – it’s underground, I know it’s there, but I don’t have to look for it and drive the train.

I don’t know if my writing has improved in concocting 105 blog posts, but I can tell you that the exercise has become simpler, more streamlined.

The process of absorption through osmosis is what keeps the train running.

I’ll sometimes catch myself in discussion with someone. I’m not consciously seeking out material for writing, but I see this little person hiding in the recesses of my head, wearing a visor and horn-rimmed glasses, efficiently storing an idea into the subconscious filing cabinet for later use.

Slam, the door closes and another post awaits.

Ideas get stuffed in ...

Ideas get stuffed in …

I really like Malcolm Gladwell‘s concept of mastery in 10,000 hours. The Beatles and Bill Gates are two of his prime examples of focusing on one goal for an extended period until you become “gifted”.

I don’t know if I’ve spent 10,000 hours writing blog posts… well, let’s look into that here. I’ve written 105 posts and I spend probably about 6 or 7 hours writing each one.

Let’s test my math skills. 105 blogs times 6.5 hours = 682.5 hours, is that right? Damn, not even close to 10,000 hours. My “gift” is still being wrapped.

Anyway, my point is that the more time you honestly work at honing your abilities, your skills, your craft, in whatever area you choose, the better you become. My guitar playing and tennis game are two major examples where I know some focused practice time brings huge improvements.

…………………………

You know what is REALLY fun about writing blog posts?

Choosing a title is what gives me the most enjoyment of all.

I’ve learned that putting a sex-related title – SURPRISE –  you know something that includes the word BOOB or ASS or CASTRATION works wonders for attracting reader numbers. There is so much stuff for you to read and absorb out there that it amazes me every week that you read ANY of MY stuff.

This blog site, WORDPRESS, doesn’t tell me who is reading my posts, but it does give me the numbers of readers and which countries they come from.

I can spend hours perusing the statistics of my blog – it’s narcissistic porn to the writer.

Reader numbers are like eating chocolate, you always want more than you have (I’m sooo looking forward to Easter bunny chocolate next week, aren’t you?)

Writing a blog is easy and fun … BUT it can be hard work too. And I guess it’s the hard stuff that makes it so much more rewarding and keeps my seat in this chair.

The bottom line is that I don’t have anything very wise to say.

I’ve had a few experiences that I enjoy sharing with you, but I’m just an ordinary Joe.

An ordinary Joe who likes to sop up the salty beads of sweat, whether it’s in a gym, or at a keyboard, happily constructing sentences from fragments of my life and the great people around me.

Oh, and concocting racy SEXY blog titles!

SWEAT

Are Your GOALS your PASSION for 2014? Part I …

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 I’ve leapt off the 2013 cliff and landed clumsily but safely on the slippery shelf that I’ll cling to for 2014.

2013 to 2014

Brace yourself and take this jump with me, OK?

My goals are really important to me, perhaps because as my friend Jennifer tells me:

My delusional optimism is greater than my depressive disorder.”

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There are some who hate to set goals (resolutions, call it what you will) because of fears they’ll just be disappointed by what they haven’t been able to do.

Cowards…

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I don’t think I can, so I won’t even try!”

Nonsense, says I !

Having goals means I’m in control.

It’s a good feeling to take the wheel and drive – even if danger exists – because it always feels better to be the one holding the controls, doesn’t it?

When I’m motoring the nail-bitingly steep switchback roads plummeting downwards into British Columbia’s coastal town of Bella Coola, I feel less terror – even though I’m sweating bullets – when I’m behind the wheel than I do while in the passenger seat. I could still deftly tumble to a ferocious, fiery death, but it’s within my sway and command.

car_off_a_cliff

No Goals … I’m passive. I’m the passenger, terrified by the plunging depths laid out hundreds of metres below. I’m at the whimsy of the world, controlled by outside forces.

With Goals  I’m active. I’m the driver… I’m the one in charge of the potential fireball that is my life.

The changes you make in life are the preferable, fun ones. The ones pressed onto you are part of the squeeze, part of your prison sentence.

Get paroled. Make your own choices.

I love the glorious feeling of achievement … consummation … completion. I’m pretty sure there’s a wonderfully juicy sexual metaphor to be found in that statement … oops, a small extra shot of testosterone must have snuck its way into my system.

But reaching our goals means living a disciplined life. Discipline is a tough commodity to hold onto in the 21st century with so many distractions.

How many distractions can there possibly be in our lives?

Every year … nay, every week, more online distractions  (yeah, even this blog) jump into our path with eye candy and Angry Birds, countless diversions that pull us, like the serpent in Eden, away from living the life we really want.

Just thinking about this and I can feel my eye twitching. There’s too much activity – I feel a rising urgency and sense of panic.

To battle these distractions, you have to be sure YOUR goals are:

REALLY.

IMPORTANT.

TO.

YOU!

What truly matters is … what are you seeking to attain this coming year?

So, without further ado, I’ll jump into a review of my 2013 goals, laid out here in this blog one short year ago. I’ll even foolishly include a grade score (HIT, HALF HIT, or MISS) at the end of each line.

Next week, I’ll dive into my 2014 list of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG‘s:  from author Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great).

Be sure to check my year-end score at the bottom. It’s barely a passing grade, but you’ll see that I don’t mind not hitting every goal. It’s a process, right friends?:

GOALS for 2013

My 2013 goals…………………………………..

  • Pay off investment loans in anticipation of debt-free retirement in 2014- HALF HIT

This was really a two-parter right from the start.

In 2013 I did pay off half of my investment loans by selling a portion of my Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s). I’ll kill off the rest in 2014 in order to retire this summer totally debt-free.

Borrowing the $$ to buy REIT’s 10 years ago worked well as a way to accumulate a good investment while letting the investment itself pay off the cost of the loans. CAUTIONARY NOTE: This use of financial leverage can be a double-edged sword. Fortunately, it worked well in this situation, but I’d be very careful about doing it again.

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  • Bring blog posting total to 100 and views to 7500…HIT

As the year 2013 awoke, I wrote and posted blog entry #40, entering the year with a total of 2,383 viewings to Dec 31, 2012.

Well, I didn’t quite score top marks with my goal of 100 total blog posts by year end 2013, but I’m happy at a 1 post-per-week rate that brought me to a total of 91 entries.

Writing a weekly blog post is a wonderful bit of self-discipline that holds my lazy feet to the fire.

More important though is that searching my mind for words and thoughts each week makes me more keenly aware of what is going on around me. I have to observe the sights, the smells, the sneers and smiles of family and friends if I’m going to pass comment – or describe the beautiful vision of a scruffy, tan-coloured coyote nervously trotting across my front yard.

In 2012 I had an average of 12 views per day of one or another of my blog posts. In 2013, this number rose to 26 views per day.

I was aiming for a year-end total of 7,500 views but crushed that number, finishing the year at 11,920.

It might sound impressive – or it may not, if you consider that REALLY popular blog writers accumulate that many views per DAY!

A good deal of what attracts viewers to a blog (other than content) are keywords that are picked up by search engines like GOOGLE and BING. I stumbled into writing a blog post mid-year that contained the keywords Women dominate men and castration. Well, who knew it, but apparently the world is swelling with people whose minds gravitate in that particular direction when doing their GOOGLE search.

One other interesting factoid? Viewers came to the blog from 122 different countries.

The real writer of this blog...

The real writer of this blog…

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  • Write 12 songs…one per month. HALF HIT

The year 2013 was the year I finally found a way to pull a song out of my magic rabbit’s hat.

I’ve struggled and been frustrated with songwriting attempts for many many years, but just haven’t found the muse or the wizardry to really make it happen.

Not this year! I took a free online course on Songwriting. Instructor Pat Patterson at Berkley School of Music in Boston mined into my musical head and extracted what was needed to get me on track.

I receive just a half hit for this goal because I wrote only 6 songs.

No matter. I’m excited and jacked to know I can do this. Quantity isn’t the important thing here. The quantum leap has been achieved and I know now that I can move forward.

Stay tuned this year for a tune or two, penned by Yours Truly, attached to this blog. Advance warning : maybe buy some ear plugs now.

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  • 20 Pullups Non-Stop – MISS

Complete failure here. Nope, didn’t even make an attempt at this. I was too intimidated by last year’s successful attempt at hitting 10 that I couldn’t summon the mental energy to make the physical assault on this goal. No excuses … let’s move on.

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They can't do it ... neither can I ...

They can’t do it … neither could I …

  • Take cooking classes in Spanish-speaking country (Argentina?/Costa Rica?) – MISS

Perhaps I was too ambitious trying to squeeze this one in to 2013. Your invitation for spicy, steaming empañadas must wait another year I’m afraid.

Trips to icy Saskatoon and then to autumny Ontario and Nashville put a delay in the “cooking” trip. I see this as just a postponement and not truly a MISS, but I can’t give myself a passing grade for something that didn’t happen, can I?.

This will be accomplished…. MAÑANA!

.Cooking class in Argentina

  • Try 2 more “new-to-me”sports (eg. kettlebells, curling, paddleboarding) – HIT

Check!

I started the year with a Kettlebell session with my friend Charlie, who taught me the proper techniques for swinging these big chunks of metal without destroying my back, or flinging them through the plate glass windows at the front of the gym. For someone like me with probable ADHD, it’s just one more way to stay fit and stave off the boredom of the same-old same-old.

Twice this summer I found myself standing on a paddleboard aside Angus or Catherine Anne, precariously paddling and gliding over Okanagan Lake, sun glittering its diamonds across the water’s surface. Balancing on one of these suckers requires non-stop concentration, but I’ll admit it is much easier than trying to stay upright with a windsurfer.

Unexpected benefit? The lengthy paddle is perfect for smacking over the head of noisy Seadoo‘ers too!

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  • 100 pushups Non-stop – HALF HIT

I’m happy but slightly disappointed.

My friend Pamela and I hit the gym on New Year’s Eve – at lunch break, still lots of time for excessive drinking later. With colourful cheerleader pompoms and backward somersaults we rooted each other on to hit the 100 … and …

Pam started the session and knocked off 50 before she decided that surely I must be standing on her back. A short 15 second rest, then she smiled out of her fire-engine red face and continued on. It took 4 more sets before she made it to 100, but she gutted it out and arrived in good finishing form.

Nervously, I started and was pumping them out strongly at 35, then 40, 45, 50, yes, I was pleased and feelin’ fine … but by 55, the pain was really beginning to settle in and I reluctantly halted at 60 for a half-minute break.

“OK, Not a big deal“, I said to myself. Pam smiled a beam of supportive encouragement at me, and, I, like a woman in labour glaring at the man who brought her to this painful moment, don’t think I ever hated anyone as much as I did her when I saw her cheery grin.

I got back into position and carried on. 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90. My body shrieked and cried, my arms jiggled and quivered. Just 10 more. Mental talk and imagery…”I can do this“.

Each extra pushup was a painfully slow and drawn-out event. Finally, when I hit 96, my bum was inching skyward to help the physics along, and my earthquaking arms let go, sending me crashing mightily face-first to the hard floor. NOOOO, just 4 short.

I laughed when what I really wanted to do was cry.

Feeling slightly defeated, I knocked off the remaining 4 pushups a half minute later.

I’m pleased to have reached the 100 mark, but that gnarly non-stop component is gonna go down before I go down –  six feet under!

. 100 pushups

  • Purchase 12-string guitar – MISS

Nope, didn’t happen. I might need an inspired push from my friends Jim F. or John C. to get a move on. Not much to say here, but I will talk about this one much more in next week’s 2014 GOAL BLOG! Oh, the suspense……

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  • Overall Net Worth Return of >15%  – HIT

Final tally for the year shows a 21.4% increase, well above my aim of >15%.

Of course, it’s all relative. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)  rose 10% and New York  (S&P500) blew ahead by 30%. It was a GREAT year for the North American markets.

Happily, I’ve managed to sit astride each of these ships and benefit from the rising tide.

Markets ascend, markets fall. Today I’m smiling – it’s a wonderful feeling to sit back and watch your money multiply.

But I’m not going to celebrate all Leonardo-Dicaprio-Wolf-On-Wall-Street-style.

A strong ship needs a level-headed captain watching for icebergs. I’m sipping my champagne on the bridge with my hands on the wheel!

Growing money

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  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10% – HIT

As I’ve said before, this is an easy but important goal.

Each January, Maureen and I make a phone call to Plan International and UNICEF, our chosen charities.

“Hello, please add 10% to the monthly withdrawal from our bank account.”

Simple. Accomplished!

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  • Grow larger vegetable garden and process more for winter use. – MISS

Every year I seem to need to find a new and better excuse about why this one doesn’t quite happen.

We plant more seed, we add more compost to our garden beds, we water religiously. We weed regularly. When no one’s watching, I sing James Taylor songs to the lettuce and tomatoes.

But the yield just never seems to increase. You can’t freeze or can or dry more produce when the produce isn’t producing!

So, my excuse for the year 2013? It’s the damned walnut tree’s fault.

Walnut trees elaborate toxins in their roots and in their leaves that suppress and sometimes kill other plants. We have a walnut tree that is reaching mature size in the southwest corner of our yard that is, I’m convinced, systematically destroying our efforts. It thinks it’s the Godfather running its turf.

And for this, the walnut MUST die.

I’ve begun cutting it down limb by limb, and with each limb lopped, I laugh a crazed, demented belly laugh. Doesn’t the Old Testament tell us something about an EYE for an EYE? Well, starting right now, I’m an Old Testament kind of guy.

That walnut wood is going to look so good burning in my woodstove next winter. Bring on the giant, juicy vegetables!

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  • Run 2 Half Marathon races (sub 2 hrs) – HALF HIT

Yep, I ran two half marathon races last year, one in Vancouver alongside my daughter Emma (well, for the first 13 or 14 Km anyway before I kindly let her pull ahead).

The second one was a couple of weeks later in Penticton.

All good.

But it’s the second part about running in under 2 hours where I came up short. We all know that close doesn’t count, so this means I only get a Half Hit for this goal.

………………..

OK, so let’s add this up …

Final Score for 2013 – 12 out of 24 (50%)

HIT =2 points, Half Hit = 1 point and a MISS, well a MISS is of course, ZERO (0)

That’s it, 2013 goals in a nutshell. A 50% grade and yet I’m happy.

Now I’m pumped and ready to tackle a whole new set of goals for 2014 … the list of which, as I said earlier, will follow next week.

I’ve enjoyed going through my list, but it’s just that. It’s MY list.

What about your list?

Reading along, did you say to yourself, “Yeah, I did that” or “I did something like that”. Or maybe, “I’d like to do something like that”.  Or maybe you even said, “what a stupid thing to do!“.

I don’t know what’s running through your mind this first week of 2014, but I’d love to hear what goals or dreams you reached in 2013 that made your heart beat more enthusiastically, your breath quicken with anticipation, your eyes open wider, telling you you were alive.

What goals lit your fire and stoked your internal sense of passion?

There's passion...

There’s passion…

The Heart of the Matter

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This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.” – The Buddha

heart-of-the-matter

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In 1989, Don Henley ( of the band EAGLES) and JD Souther wrote a beautifully bittersweet song called THE HEART OF THE MATTER (listen to it here)sometimes referred to as FORGIVENESS — adapted from the title of a 1948 book written by Graham Greene.grahamgreene

What is this “heart of the matter“?

Is it the meaning of life? Is it the loss of love? Is it plunging deep beyond the surface truths to the underlying core of reality in life and relationships?

Henley’s own heart of the matter calls to the surface the intense pain he feels when he learns that his former fiancé is now in love with someone new.

Author Greene sees the heart of the matter as referring to failure, as well as the price we all pay for our individualism and the impossibility of truly understanding another person.

We all have a Heart of the Matter meaning that is unique to our lives in one form or another.

My heart of the matter at one time seemed to be a matter of the heart, or so I thought.

In my mid-20’s I started having panic attacks. Of course I thought I was the only one to have this frightening experience, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t standing alone on the deck of that ship. At all.

Initially, the bouts came on in the workplace or social situations or even in anticipating social situations. My heart would start to race and thump like it was trying to explode out of my chest. I would feel the swelling wave of anxiety rise; the inside of my head would cloud in like it was filled with cotton batting. Before I knew it I was hyperventilating and certain I was having a heart attack. Classic panic attack.

As time passed, these surges of alarm would arise unprovoked, just lying in bed or whatever.

ANOTHER heart attack?

panic attack

I knew the likelihood was infinitesimally slight, but in the moment and amid the sensations, rational thought just wasn’t available to me. I ended up rushing to the ER a couple of times and after ECG’s and some blood tests, all was normal, except for the one damn Chilliwack ER doc who mistakenly thought I had a faulty heart valve … you think I had anxiety before?

Psychologically, I began preparing myself to die and through the process grew increasingly calm and accepting of whatever fate lay ahead. The strongest feelings for wanting to live on were in wanting to have children that could carry a small piece of my DNA forward.

It took about 2 tense years before a prescient Emerg GP ordered a simple thyroid test and I was found to have hypothyroidism. A couple of weeks of hormone replacement meds and I began to feel normal’ish once again, although the anxiety feelings took a while longer to subside. I had my life back thanks to a little pink pill that cost about 15 cents per day.

That doctor looked deeper than the surface symptoms and found my heart of the matter — even though it wasn’t my heart that mattered — and with some simple treatment, I was able to get back on track again.

A New  HEART of the MATTER

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The heart of the matter means something different to me these days. Now, it’s what I come to unexpectedly when I’m writing these blog posts.

Off the cuff, I’m not a solidly academic, well-thought out person. Verbally, I’m almost inept in terms of forming coherent thoughts in the moment. I’m so wholeheartedly jealous of those who can instantly formulate and express out loud their solid opinions and viewpoints in a smooth, flowing manner.

If I stand to give a toast or an impromptu speech of any sort, I’m a lost cause. I’ll do it, mind you,  just don’t expect the Gettysburg Address from these Lincoln-less lips. Desert sands whip and swirl and howl in my ears and wipe away or smother any fertile thoughts. This is where writing becomes my saviour … hallelujah!

Normally, each Monday morning I sit at my home computer, a steaming, sweet latte on my left, the sun just beginning to unleash a few loose strands of orange light through the window.

Latte Kitty

I (sometimes successfully) ward off the e-mail demons calling out to be read, and begin composing a blog post. It will begin with a germ of an idea, a small vision or a concept that intrigues me. It has to have a kernel of a universal message so that I’m not strictly navel-gazing.

Then I charge in with wild typing abandon not knowing where the road will lead.

I do this intentionally.

Sometimes, the idea courses a dry, lifeless riverbed but more frequently it develops and swells into a torrent. A new life is born on the screen and it just materializes out of the ether that is my subconscious. The heart of the matter surfaces almost unbidden.

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With every in-breath
you are adding to your life
and every out-breath you are releasing what is not contributing to your life.
Every breath is a re-birth.”
― Allan Rufus

Where does it all lead?

I’m seeking out change and renewal and intensity in every direction. I’m finding re-birth in a bouquet of thoughts and activities that I ignored previously.

It’s exciting to me, and when I feel a case of nerves arising, I remind myself that whenever I’ve jumped into something new and novel, the end result has always been worthwhile and satisfying, like chocolate sprinkles on a banana split.

My little ADHD mind grows impatient frequently, so the directions I pursue may not last forever; in fact, they probably won’t. I accept and allow myself room to change.

The key to my heart of the matter rests contentedly in my pocket, waiting to open whichever door I choose.

heart keys