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Live Time or Dead Time?

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Press your fingers to your wrist and check your pulse for me. I know it’s crazy but just do it.

You felt a steady bump thump bump, right?

OK, good. You’re alive.

Now prove it.

art making

I luxuriate in reading books, listening to recorded music, watching TV and movies, visiting art galleries, feasting in exotic restaurants… these are all sweet desserts and wonderful preoccupations.

The richness of our lives is a temple built upon the passive enjoyments and imaginative passions we digest and are captivated by.

To a point.

A heart-swelling, well-lived life needs balance, a balance of Absorbing and Creating.

Mental vs. Physical, Sweet vs. Sour, Questions vs. Answers, Minor Key vs. Major Key. You get my point, right?

A life spent absorbing the output of others is either:

  • Entertainment
  • Learning or…
  • Dead time.

I love entertainment: movies, theatre, dance, television, concerts, cooking demonstrations, football games. I confess I may not eat all the vegetables I should, but I can sure play a vegetative couch potato with the very best.

I love learning: Learning is leaning into the sunshine like a spellbound sunflower growing wings to the sky, expanding our abilities and knowledge.

Preparation and study, learning to play a tough new guitar lick gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Grasping, digesting, mastering skills and knowledge from others is inspiring and… well… killer awesome.

But like the second, third and fourth pieces of banana cream pie, too many absorbing muches makes us flabby of body and mind.

banana_cream_pie_shirts-

Dead time. It’s like living with a corpse in your head.

Walking through a graveyard under the dappled shade of a Honey Locust tree – looking, absorbing, breathing, contemplating –  is calming and peaceful, but ultimately, “life” six feet under really sucks.

Surely living should be more than passing through the graveyard, absorbing others’ products. Reading Shakespeare or JK Rowling is shadow boxing… enjoyable preparation for the real match.

Eventually, consuming what others create is… Dead Time.

When you personally write like Shakespeare or Rowling or even the worst pulp fiction writer, THAT is truly punching the bag. Live Time.

Creating vs. absorbing.

Like saving and investing $$, the best of intentions mean nothing if you don’t actually make yourself put 10% of your paycheque into the investment i.e. the bank or bond or stock or real estate or…

Live time is creating your own output, being active versus passive.

Writing a story, designing a sweater, inventing a new golf swing, writing a song, building a bookshelf, learning the piano, putting a fusion twist on pizza, singing in a choir, planting a guerrilla garden, designing a website. LIVE TIME.

My backyard chickens like to think they are prime examples of active creativity… one of the girls actually told me this the other day. After all, she clucked from behind the wire coop gate, we absorb the chickie chow you give us and create a brand new egg… every day!

I thought about what she said, but I had to remind her that creating the same thing over and over and over is kind of lazy creativity.

We then had a long discussion over the multiple definitions of creativity, the grammatical distinctions between creative and creativity, and whether it was just semantics at the root of our difference of opinion.

Fortunately, she and her feathery sisters didn’t take my criticism to heart, and so I still get to enjoy their boring creative output in a yummy green onion and mushroom omelette as often as I wish.

……………..

Because it’s something I like to do, I’ll use writing as an example of LIVE TIME. You can substitute anything that stirs your creative juices in its place.

Everybody has a story within. The seeds are lying quietly dormant like bacterial spores waiting to be watered and exploding to life.

story to tell

No life is too small to find some meaning in words. Why? Because your own interpretation of the beauty or horror of the world will be unique. Own it proudly.

Writing can be personal (diaries, journaling) or shared (books, letters, blogs).

Writing, like reading, is a powerful force that can develop and take us in surprising and unpredicted directions.

When you work on your creativity, you develop a great inner force and become competent.

Each day try to do one creative thing that makes you feel good. This is one way to make yourself your priority.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE and a recent book titled BIG MAGIC- Creative Living Beyond Fear believes there is a creative force that surrounds us.

The creative force is there but it requires an awareness and a desire to allow it to materialize from ethereal nothingness like a fluffy marshmallow cloud in the sky.

Vincent van Gogh, speaking of art and poetry said,

Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum… Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. 

Great ideas need to be nurtured and expressed, and they need work, lots of work. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Hell, you can probably live a great life without ever dreaming a creative or original thought or idea, bobbing merrily atop the ocean surface.

But I think most of us know that slipping on a mask and snorkel and diving under the waves is where the greater riches lie, the rainbow colours are brighter, the water is immersively warm and that is where you’ll truly Find Dory (sorry, that metaphor just might be the worst I’ve ever floated!)

At some time, think about crossing the bridge from reader to writer (or… HGTV-watching DIY fanatic to project builder) and be patient enough to express your own creativity and emotion.

Creativity and personal expression run through each of us like the tempestuous blood pulsing through the radial artery at the base of our wrist.

Measuring that pulse, appreciating its warmth and cultivating the life force it contains is a heavenly approach to dividing our moments between Dead Time and Live Time.

Omelette anyone?

you and everyone else.jpg

 

 

 

The Determination of Creativity

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They sat around the long table glaring at me like I had 2 heads.

It wasn’t comfortable.

I was determined, more so than usual. It was the right thing to do.

So, instead of just going along with the majority opinion, I held my ground and continued to push. To push for a creative answer.

This is a tiny story with a big message.

big-dog-and-little-dog

………….

It’s beautiful isn’t it?

What’s that you say?

The magic of the creative spark.

That shaky confidence of knowing that creativity – in some configuration – always exists in each of us.

It’s like opening your mailbox and finding a postcard from an old friend you weren’t sure you’d hear from ever again. You’re pretty sure they’re out there. You hope … but you’re just not certain.

Creativity can lie latent until we call on it and obsess a bit. Latent like:

  • The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace on Masada in Israel.
  • A wheat seed sitting dormant in an Egyptian tomb for 1,000 years before being untombed and germinated.
  • A botulism spore patiently pacing for eons in the waiting room, longing for its chance to come to life in a jar of green beans on your pantry shelf.

Every week I sit down to write a blog post with no roadmap. Latent creativity.

I’m travelling blind, my headlight’s beam obscured by the fog.

I inch forward slowly through the mist and bit by bit the road becomes more and more visible. An idea forms, a seed germinates, a few words get typed… then more and more.

germinating seed

………….

I’m reading a book about Elon Musk.

You probably know him. He’s the creator of Tesla Motors (electric cars), SpaceX (rocket building and space exploration), PayPal (alternative payment systems), SolarCity (solar panels).

This guy – we’ve seen it many times – like Steve Jobs or Lance Armstrong, or ? … could probably best be described as an ASSHOLE. A focused, persistent, headstrong #1 Grade ASSHOLE.

But an asshole who can change the world. With determined, non-latent creativity.

With these guys, normal rational logic goes by the wayside, cast into the rubbish heap.

Musk makes a bold decision that something – a battery-powered car – will feature a sports car look, have amazing futuristic design elements, will cost a ridiculously low amount to build.

Then he doesn’t allow ANY roadblock to halt its finality.

No amount of common sense reasoning will hush his personal batteries, his determined creative drive, down. He finds a way to make the unreasonable, the impossible… possible.

tesla car

Musk’s “boring” battery-run car …

How about a personal example on a much MUCH smaller level?

For many years, I was the treasurer of a board that administered a public botanical garden here in Summerland. The flow of funds for this non-profit group, like most non-profits, were perpetually running on fragrant fuchsia and fritillaria fumes.

The new year’s spring brought our 2 long-time seasonal gardeners, Marcia and Kerry back to the fold … to weed, to plant, to stress their bodies fashioning beauty for thousands to savour.

Our volunteer group was paying the ladies barely over the minimum wage and all the other board members wanted to freeze their meagre salaries.

I wouldn’t go for it. I dug my feet into the slippery sand.

I pitched a 2.5% increase for each. 2.5%! That’s all. They deserved it. They were loyal, hardworking, dedicated.

There are sometimes really smart reasons to wait, to pause. To let the seed spend some time in the cool earth, dreaming itself into being. But there is also a time to stick up a little green tendril, to taste the air and feel the sun.

The others argued strongly, loudly, sensibly really, that we hadn’t the dollars to reward their efforts. And it really wasn’t even a reward, just a cost-of-living adjustment.

Somehow, I convinced the doubters.

The end result of the decision to give them a raise required creativity and thought. It held my and my fellow board members’ feet to the fire.

Sometimes it’s the resolve that makes the next thing possible. It involved a mixture of creativity and blind faith.

Creativity and blind faith are partners in crime.

Creativity requires a belief in the power of our subconscious.

The decision to pay more was made. The money had to come from somewhere. We obsessed and focused on ideas that would make it possible.

Our group took a calculated risk.

We boldly increased the amount of stock plants we purchased wholesale and made available at our annual spring plant sale, filling the horticultural shelves like a popular Walmart.

A lack of vegetative sales would mean that we absorbed the costs denting our financial coffers. It would hurt, but not bankrupt the organization. Good sales would grow our financial muscle.

The garden gnomes smiled and what seemed like a bold move turned into a stroke of fortune, and a lesson learned.

An additional $5,000 of plant sale profits flowed in almost effortlessly with this small, shall we deem it, creative decision? The pay raises were easily covered.

And it sent a message to our talented gardeners that they were important to us. They didn’t ask for the tiny raise, but they glowed when told the news.

There you go… a tiny story with a big message.

This is the way I like to try to pursue much of my life – albeit in a far plainer way than Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.

Set a goal and then find a creative way to make it happen.

Elon Musk set his goals to design and manufacture a battery-run vehicle that looked and performed better than the model that had been the standard for close to 100 years.

People scoffed, people laughed, people harrumphed.

This is what people do when the “crazies” out there decide to break the mold, to do something that others haven’t done or even considered.

Steve Jobs broke the mold with the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone.

Creativity doesn’t always come from the rational, the common sense approach. Logic and creative pursuits aren’t always 100% compatible.

JK Rowling knows it. She lived in relative poverty before publishing a book or two you may have heard of.

Creativity doesn’t result in an error-free life. I’ve made and continue to make mistakes.

But sometimes to do something special you have to go off the main roads and allow yourself to be lost for a while until you find a creative path, a path that no one else has followed exactly.

A path that makes your tiny message into a big story.

cute creativity

 

 

Achievement and The 7 foot Tall Dude

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Little Compton Fair_01

I arrived at the start line of a 10k running race the other day and there was this dude in hot orange fluorescent neon shoes. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch.

We were all gathered there at the start line – about 200 eager runners hopping nervously in the early morning chill, a bit of dew still clinging to the grass blades under our feet, all revved up and ready to go, waiting for the crack of the starter pistol or siren.

Then this oddity-of-height dude begins jumping up and down, probably to keep warm, but it looks like he’s on a trampoline or something because he floats way above the heads of the crowd.

You know just looking at him that as long as he can stay upright on those fleshy stilts sticking out beneath his shorts that he’ll cross the finish line in about 10 lopes of his supernaturally long legs, miles ahead of anyone else.

And sure enough, he did.

I used to enter running races with this imaginary vision of myself crossing the finish line, arms raised in glorious triumph … crowds of well-wishers cheering the winner … yup … ME.

Of course this is a totally imagination-based scenario because I’ve broken the tape of a race at the head of the pack … not once … nope … not even remotely close … not even when I was in my prime 20’s and ’30’s.

And I never will, but that’s OK, because I live my days like a scattergun.

Scattergun smoke

I call it my “ADHD” which probably offends those with true medically-diagnosed cases of the disorder. But, for me, it loosely describes my everyday approach to life.

My ADHD is what allows me to enjoy and feel passion for all of the things I love to do. It’s unrestrictive… it’s like the passing wind, rustling freely through a wheat field with lots of wide open space to reach towards the horizon miles off in the distance.

I like to achieve.

But my life isn’t based only on success in one area that I practice … I pursue a lot of interests each day in a lot of different regions … sports and physical activity, investing, reading, building, writing, cooking, gardening. And that’s where I find my comfort zone… my zen.

Maybe it’s a neurosis or a psychosis or a vicious brain tumour that makes it happen, I don’t know.

I’m driven, maybe even haunted, by reaching for the carrot that taunts and teases me in front of my nose.

If I can’t make my nose bleed with excitement each day with a feeling of “I made this”, or “great forward momentum“, I end my day feeling blah and uninspired, maybe the way you feel when you can’t summon your daily bowel movement routine.

Achievement is my mental “Ex-Lax“. I produce, I achieve, I feel light and unburdened.

mental_exlax

Not every day produces something – a blog post, a new song, a gate on the chicken coop run, a chicken parmigiana to die for – I’m proud of … many times I do get achievement “constipation”.

But I know enough that if I plug away day in and day out, leaving worrisome thoughts behind … a day arrives where the stars align and something otherworldly materializes and this is enough to keep me motivated to get up the following day and keep trying.

Maybe this is one of the reasons aging gives us confidence and understanding. We learn about our capabilities and believe in ourselves – we finally believe in our own powers that once locked us in doubter’s prison in our earlier years.

I know what I need is there inside, I just need to be patient, get in behind and push a little, and allow it to surface.

A smile will come to me as I realize that once again I’ve produced something. I’ve achieved, therefore I am …

In 1880, Leo Tolstoy, after he wrote “War and Peace“, published a book that took him 30 years to write called “The Kingdom of God is Within You“.

This book focused not on a supernatural heaven that waits us later but on the choices we can make today that can make us happy and inspired. My “ADHD” is a choice that I’ve embraced and makes me feel happy and inspired.

In the end, I feel like I’m 7 feet tall at the start of the race and I know I’m a winner.

When I’m acting in a creative, productive way, even if I don’t cross the finish line first, or have a million blog followers, or make 25% annual investing returns like Warren Buffett, I’m enjoying the process and getting my little thrills in the little things that I can make happen.

And that’s all I ask, thank you very much …

adhd-2

2015 The Year To Be Great – Part 2, The Sequel

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Some days I feel a bit low and there doesn’t seem to be any explanation.

Gun Man

That is, until I look more closely inside myself and realize that the get-up-and-go-gun isn’t loaded.

What good is a gun without fire power?

Actually, as a peaceful kind of guy, I could debate this with myself, but let’s not go there today, OK?  When my gun is unable to blast away I know I’m lacking gunpowder – a fervent feeling, a drive of passion.

I love passion in all its forms.

Passion is what makes me – like my investing guru Warren Buffett – tap dance on the sidewalk with glorious abandon …

Give Me PURPOSE! Give Me GOALS!

NOW I have a Loaded Gun!

I am rarely happier than when I’m working and playing with purpose.

Give me a road to travel on and headlights to show me where I’m headed, and I’ll have a smile on my face. But it’s up to me to make the power to run those headlights.

That’s what makes this such a great virtuous circle … I feed power to the headlights with goals that give me purpose and passion –  and the purpose and passion light the way forwards towards achieving my goals.

PRESTO … I’m on a supercharged highway with great spin-off effects … an autobahn with no speed limits …

Examples of how this might play out:

  • a 10k running race event in May gives me the initiative to work out and train hard for 4 months leading up to it … A strong, healthy body is a side effect of reaching my goal.
  • I sign on to perform 2 songs at a local summer festival … so I practice and write music until it all sits comfortably inside my muscle memory so that when I get on stage, when the nerves rise up, the music is there inside me even if my head is too jangled to realize it.
  • I listen to people speak and really listen and praise them for the little things they do right (we all have some things we do right) … it makes them feel good about themselves and this makes me feel good about myself … another virtuous circle in action. Our relationships with others are always better, stronger if we take the time to make the other guy/gal feel good about themselves, rather than knocking them down with a competitive response… “oh sure, I did that a long time ago, what took you so long?”

My blog post last week spoke of what happened in 2014 … now it’s time to look forward and plan … after all, you do know that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail“… sorry, I swear I’ll lose kitschy cliches in 2015!

So, does 2015 have a THEME? Hmmmm, what would my theme be?

2015 The Year of Simplify

Rock in stream

SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. Sometimes, I try to take on too many goals and I lose focus and concentration. This year I think I’ll choose fewer goals and work harder to make each of them happen.

……………………….

2015 GOALS

BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and LFEG’s (Little Fuzzy Everyday Goals)

1. PHYSICAL/HEALTH

a) Climb Mount EverestHaaa, not quite what you’re thinking, although I like that idea too.

No, this Mount Everest is a cumulative hill climb that equates to the distance needed to surmount the king of Mountains. Mount Everest is what? … let’s Google this… 8,848 metres (or 29,029 feet) high.

My local Summerland “mountain” called Giant’s Head is 296 metres in height from the lower parking lot to the summit overlooking the picturesque Okanagan Valley.

I’ll have to summit Giant’s Head 30 times in 2015 to make the equivalent climb to the tip of Mount Everest. That means a weekly average of 2 climbs bottom to top and I can plant a flag at the top of Mount Everest. My friends Jennifer and Pam are taking this challenge on too which will give us all some motivation.

I think this is going to be a stretch challenge … I like stretch challenges!!

DSCF6054

Peak of Giant’s Head… er… my Mount Everest…

 

b) Run 2 Half Marathonsjust like last year, 2 half-marathons will be my “big” running events for the year. I’ll probably throw in a few 10k and 5 k events too, but they will be the little siblings to the main objective of running 21 k in the half-marathon event. Usually I set time goals eg. sub 2- hours for these, but as I age and become more … let’s say “mature”… I’m going to simplify and relax and make completion of these runs, regardless of time, my HAPPY PLACE.

2. CHARITABLE

a) 10% Charitable boost – adding 10% to my monthly automatic charity contributions is a great goal because it requires next to no sacrifice or sweat. Two phone calls (hang on a second … there … done!!) and the year’s objective has been met.

b) Volunteer Time – In the past few months I’ve begun volunteering some time at the local soup kitchen, and assembling Christmas hampers at the Salvation Army – my goal here is simple (see? Simplify!)… keep on keeping on. Chopping vegetables and making sandwiches a couple of days a month is fun for me (I love to cook) and there’s a warm and fuzzy factor that settles in when I survey the tables of folks chatting and enjoying a steaming bowl of soup. The downside (there’s ALWAYS a downside) … these poor unfortunates have to eat MY cooking!

3. WRITING

a) 50 Additional Blog Posts + 75 views/day on blog – Writing blogs is my therapy and my routine. In this post-paid-work world I now inhabit, there’s a big need for day markers and deadlines, otherwise couch-dom and sloth become my best friends (well alright, La-Z-Boy is already my best friend). But I’m not just physically lazy, my mind needs the push of writing blog entries to keep it fine-tuned like a Maserati that just happens to motor along more like a Rent-A-Wreck version otherwise …

2014 brought an average of about 54 views to this blog each day. My fragile male ego would be really swollen in gratitude if enough new folks came along to bring this to 75 daily.

4.  MUSICAL 

a) Purchase 12-string guitar this carryover from last year will be looked after soon dear friends, I promise. I’ve done most of my homework, now I’ll only need to haggle for price and terms eg. does it come with guarantees of perpetually perfect tuning (after all, 12 strings is a lot to keep tuned, right?)?

WAIT... I said a Taylor 12-String Guitar... not a Taylor Swift guitar!

WAIT… I said a Taylor 12-String Guitar… not a Taylor Swift guitar!

b) Build A Guitar – This is a brand new idea that powered its way into my head this past year. There are a number of places worldwide that offer the opportunity to build your very own guitar over a 2- to 4-week period with lots of instruction and expert guidance. What could be cooler than to craft your own musical instrument and add Luthier (no, not LOSER!) to your resume?

c) Write more Songs and perform original songs publically. I hesitate to give a number as far as writing my own songs goes (SIMPLIFY), but I know I have momentum pushing me in the right direction. So rather than choose a number of songs to write as a goal, I want to press myself to make the pieces as high a quality as I can manage … great, meaningful lyrics enshrouded in wonderful, harmony-laced melodies with a fantastic chorus that draws one in and sets the happy or melancholy emotions aflame.

Stepping further into the musical abyss, beyond the writing lays the performing side. Here I’ll need to kick myself in whatever direction gives me an opportunity to throw myself at the public audience.

5. TRAVEL 

a) Visit New-To-Me Central American country – learning and improving Spanish has been on my agenda for about 5 years now (hence “school” trips to Peru, Spain, Cuba). But we’ve never touched ground in any of the Central American countries, so this is the year to say HOLA to one of Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, or Guatemala.

b) American States? I think I’ve managed a visit to about 26 states of the little country to the south. I’m barely past the halfway point of my goal to see ’em all, which means I’ll have to live to … oh, about 110 years old at this pace. I’d better find a way to get my puny Canuck ass into another state or two. Maybe a visit to those old carved Presidential dudes on Mt. Rushmore is in order, or a whirlwind tour of  tornado alley to catch up on Dorothy and Toto.

6. FINANCIAL

a) 15% returnI spent the first 30+ years of my working life saving and accumulating a financial base. Now it’s time for that base to pull its weight. Slavery has found a home in my investment account.

I can live indefinitely with about a 7% average annual return, but I enjoy the research and stimulation of investing, so why not be entertained and make a few bucks along the way. Besides, the better investor I am, the more I can drop into my charitable contributions bucket. I’d call that a WIN-WIN…

My investing hero...Warren Buffett... hey, wasn't he in the movie "UP"?

My investing hero…Warren Buffett… hey, wasn’t he in the movie “UP”?

My 5-year average annual return is looking a bit light of my 15% goal at 12.2%.  Intriguingly, my 10-year average is now identical at 12.2% also.

Despite a bit of underachievement here, these numbers don’t make me unhappy. After all, the 10-year record includes a pretty precipitous drop in 2008. But I’m thinking that as I get older and wiser, maybe I should be capable of bringing that average up a bit without bumping up the risk levels.

So… help me out here please, OK? Perhaps if each of you could buy just a few more APPLE products and drop by MCDONALD’S for the occasional BIG MAC while making sure to chat/text with your friends on your BELL CANADA cellphone? Am I asking too much?

8. FOOD & EATING

a) Study Cooking for One Day in any Travel Destination – I’ll make reasonable attempts to catch at least one day of cooking classes on local cuisine for any locale to which I travel. Last year was TAJINE in Morocco… maybe this year, GALLO PINTO in Nicaragua.

c. 2013 www.GretchenAlms.com

b) Develop a Repertoire of Egg Recipes – the chicken palace under construction in my backyard should be finished by early spring. This means an abundance of fresh eggs by summertime. I’ll want to get innovative and creative and ply friends and relatives with fabulous frittatas and Green Huevos Rancheros and Ham.

……………………..

Look Into Your Crystal Ball and Read the Tea Leaves of Your Tarot Cards (huh?)

In 2015 I’m trying to release any pretensions of perfection as part of my SIMPLIFY theme. And it truly is pretension – I’ve never approached perfection in any segment of my life. I discussed my simple thoughts for this in an earlier post about my 1,000 hour rule.

This life “thing” is fascinating. Each year I find out something new about myself as bits of inner flotsam are released and rise to the surface where I can see them. This is one of the very cool things about aging – and aging is a concept and process I struggle against. One of these years I’ll likely have an epiphany and gracefully accept the creaking ship that is life.

But for now, I’ll be who and what I am and run madly off in all directions in search of adventure in all its forms.

Adventures that come in physical form such as building things, cooking things – maybe even skydiving – and also mental adventures in the form of ideas. There are a ton of great ideas out there that set my heart and mind on fire just waiting to be plucked and mated via idea sex.

I’m seeking a simple, balanced life that accommodates an ADHD kind of personality like mine.

So … simply tomorrow … take in a boot camp class but not snack (physical), write a thank you email to my sister for her Christmas gift (emotional), come up with 10 ideas for future blog posts or songs (mental), spend 10 minutes in meditation feeling grateful (spiritual).

Load up your gun with all of the passion and goals you can muster and let’s head into 2015 together, OK?

 There are worse ways to start …

… or finish … a New Year. 

2015 goals

80% of Life is Showing Up

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plato-quote

My favourite philosopher and great thinker/doer never lived in ancient Greece or Rome like Aristotle or Cicero. He never conquered a nation like Napoleon or Hitler. He never started a society-shaping company like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Philosophers come in different shapes, genders, sizes and spring forth in every era with their shrewd and perceptive observations.

You might even consider Joan Rivers as a late, great philosopher of the recent epoch.

But for today’s post, who is this orgasmically-astute philosopher I’m referring to?

Woody Allen

Yup, the little neurotic pessimist.

Like so many others I reluctantly admire for their accomplishments (Lance Armstrong, Kevin Spacey, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump) I don’t necessarily like Woody Allen as an individual mortal.

He’s not a perfect person. I identify.

He has weaknesses and has made some poor choices. I identify.

To all appearances, he’s just an ordinary schmuck with nothing to physically separate him from the masses on a busy city sidewalk. I identify.

Some would say that being an asshole is a requirement for great accomplishments. I don’t know the answer to that one yet for sure although it seems to me there are some creative geniuses who shine as delightful human beings as well.

BUT …

Allen’s written 49 movie screenplays: directed 46 of those: acted in all but 17 of them: he’s produced some documentaries: guest hosted the Tonight Show in the 1960’s: written 3 books …  AND …  he crafts amazingly clever perspectives on the absurdities of the lives we lead.

Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.

 

Basically my wife was immature. I’d be at home in the bath and she’d come in and sink my boats.

woody-allen-80%

Some of the wisest words that I’ve ever come across about making a mark in life were spoken in an interview Woody gave a few years back after finishing his movie, Vicki Christina Barcelona. This is a long passage, but each sentence has a powerful message, so I’m giving you a big chunk to absorb, OK?

 I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work.  

If you want to accomplish something you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways.  You have to actually do it.  

I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in the world, no matter what I’m doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play.  I have to do it.

When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write.  You can’t string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made. You have to do the stuff.

Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do.  There are a million distractions and when I was a kid I was very disciplined.  I knew that the other kids weren’t.  I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply weren’t applying themselves.  

As a kid I wanted to do magic tricks.  I could sit endlessly in front of mirror, practicing, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks you’ve got to do the thing.  I did that with the clarinet, when I was teaching, I did that with writing.  

This is the most important thing in my life because I see people striking out all the time.  It’s not because they don’t have talent, or because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t put the work in to do it.  They don’t have the discipline to do it.  This was something I learned myself.  

I also had a very strict mother who was no nonsense about that stuff.  She said ‘If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.’  

It’s as simple as that.  

I said this to my daughter, if you don’t practice the guitar, when you get older you wouldn’t be able to play it.  It’s that simple.  If you want to play the guitar, you put a half hour in everyday, but you have to do it.  

This has been the biggest guiding principle in my life when I was younger and it stuck.  

I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up.  

People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.  All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack.  They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.  

So that is my biggest life lesson that has worked.  All others have failed me.

 

Thanks for that Woody, I couldn’t have said it any better.

I like to accomplish things, but I also lean heavily towards laziness … such a conundrum.

I’d like to stretch and attain a height of 6 ft tall but I’m too lax to go and get myself a hanging rack to lengthen my spine, so I’m stuck at 5’10 1/2″. Also, my goal of running a sub-40 minute 10K run, will just have to roll into the grave – sorry – cremation oven along with me.

Sad? Not really.

There are so many other wonderful things to focus on … and so many of them are attainable still. I’m going to leave some of those truly unattainable dreams behind and move forward with what I can do.

It’s not a failure to discard some goals and dreams, adjust course, and move on with others. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing for Dreamers to also be Realists.

One day I’ll grow sick and die.

The plaques in my arteries and little bastard cancer cells are setting up camp somewhere, adjusting their little tuxedoes, just waiting for the curtain to rise and make a special announcement.

Now is not the time to perch in my leather LazyBoy and watch the clock in anticipation. Like a boiling kettle, the Grim Reaper will come in his own time without my assistance, or invitation.

So, the race is on. The finish line banner is in place and it’s up to me to keep putting one foot in front of the other with daily practice and enthusiasm.

I’m gonna grab that sage old philosopher Woody Allen’s hand, SHOW UP AND PRACTICE.

And, no offense Woody, but as much as I admire your witticisms and accomplishments, I hope you make to the final finish line well ahead of me.

I need a lot more practice!

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!”

 

Clap Along If You Feel Like Cookin’ …

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Man-cooking

This is definitely not ME! Paying close attention to recipes is not in my playbook…

Why do I feel so damned Pharrell Williams “HAPPY” when I’m cooking up a storm in the kitchen? Even if the kitchen isn’t “a room without a roof“?

What kind of a real man eschews the world of sliding under cars to manhandle greasy gaskets, or watching blood-spattered UFC supermen, to “perform” on the stage of culinary arts?

I think I must be what you would call gastrosexual.

Cooking and food – as we all know –  is really a metaphor for the warm and soft, fuzzy aspects of our lives.

Food provides calories, but isn’t just sustenance, would you agree?

Food means sharing, friendship, family, love, sex, laughter, discussion.

Throw a bottle or two of wine into the equation and it also means political arguments, RAUCOUS laughter, louder talk, dysfunctional families, wine goggles, raunchy sloppy sex.

dinner-argument

A typical Sunday night at my house…

……………………

Sometime during the 1980’s I remember a great heated discussion in the (now defunct) Canadian back-to-the-earth magazine Harrowsmith about the cover photo of a woman holding a hot steaming loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.

The blush and shiny glow in her cheeks hinted to some readers of a post-orgasmic flush and maybe even a hot-and-ready yeasty bun in her own personal oven.

To naive little me, it looked like a woman proudly offering up a beautiful loaf of bread, but I’ll admit that sometimes a cigar isn’t just a cigar. Yes, once again, sex rules the media, and it’s everywhere.

Switching to the movies, one of my favourite “family” cooking scenes from cinema comes from none other than big John Candy and little Macaulay Culkin in Uncle Buck.

Whenever my kids are home and I’m stirring and chopping away in the kitchen, inevitably, one of them will whisper the classic line loudly, “Dad’s cooking our garbage“.

Now you might prefer the more serious-toned Julie and Julia for your film cooking chops. This is all well and good but makes cooking and cuisine a job to be wrestled into an organized round of beginning, middle, and end.

DING, the round is over … the recipe has been followed exactly … there, done!

Damn, forgive me. I keep getting sidetracked from the message I’m here to talk about today.

Which is … that I have a different approach to edible art.

The Alternate Zen of Cooking

Aside from the obvious connections between cooking food and family and love in its various forms … for me, cooking also means musical themes, and exploration and travel.

How so, you ask?

Cooking can be regimented and stiff, or, if you’re like me, free-form like jazz.

I know that for some, food preparation is a rote symphony – you measure every quarter note and 1/4 cup to the T… you place every rest and teaspoon in its perfect momentary place. The cuisinary maestro is to be strictly adhered to for the music and vittles to sound and taste so sweet. This is fine, I suppose.

IMG_2413

In Marrakesh, Morocco, Karina ensures I measure everything for a Tagine dish just so …

I was told by Karina, my cooking guide in Morocco this spring to:

 Respect the Recipe”

Bahhhh… I want to play my cooking-style like uplifting jazz, using a recipe only as a guideline where a list of ingredients is important but amounts vary from time to time, and my imagination allowed to summon up a flavour that I favour on that day.

More lemon today, more ginger tomorrow, less oregano and cumin this time around. Maybe quinoa in place of rice.

Cooking is like playing in the sandbox with the kids, it’s fun and learning all mixed together in an agreeable mess.

Image

Lugme, a delightful Cusco friend, stacks our freshly-baked guinea pigs into a container for the short walk back home from the community oven … a tasty Peruvian delicacy…

A wonderful bonus of today’s connected world is the availability of ingredients from every region of the world, all of the time.

Any day of the week, I can choose to eat Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Peruvian, French, Spanish, Caribbean, Hawaiian, or whatever style of food you can name with one quick visit to the local supermarket.

Is this a great world, or what?

I can hear you already. You might believe strongly in the 100-Mile Diet.  I get it. I want the local grower to do well too. But, I figure that the peasant farmer in Quillabamba, Peru or Wenchang, China or Ladysmith, South Africa deserves a livelihood as much as my friendly orchardist down the road. I support both. ‘Nuff politics, OK?

Even if I’m not travelling, cooking transports me to other worlds and exotic locales.

A special meal is like catching a plane and taking a vacation in your own home – a STEAK’ation if you will.

We can create recipe sex in our own homes where Thai meets Italian meets Brazilian and an incredible taste explodes for us like an atomic bomb in our mouths.

But at some point I grow tired of staring at the map on the wall and making dishes from afar.

The true measure of great cooking, eating, and enjoyment is to settle in the dust of the region where that food originated.

Just put a forkful (or chapati-full, or chopstick-full) of locally-cooked, flavour-laden food where the street sounds and smells encircle you … music floating on the evening air… then close your eyes and absorb all that surrounds you.

Here, I’ll take you on a short cooking-style trip right now… hang on… it won’t take a lot of your time or money!

Image 1

Oscar showing us Spanish-language students in Cusco how to prepare “Ahi de Gallina”.

I’ll throw a great little Peruvian peanut-chicken stew recipe at you here from my Cusco, Peru master-chef amigo Oscar? Listen for the pan flutes playing through the thin, cool Andean air.

Oscar makes lovely gourmet-style meals for large groups using only a 2 burner propane-fired hotplate. Try this in your own kitchen and feel free to adjust the amounts.

Ahi de Gallina (Serves 6 – Oscar gave this recipe to me in Spanish, but I’ll make it a bit easier with translation)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 100 g white cheese (mozzarella or cheddar or monterey jack)
  • 1 1/2 onions
  • 4 aji peppers (any small hot pepper will do)
  • 1/4 litre milk
  • 50 g roasted, ground peanuts
  •  150 g chicken stock
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 150 g water crackers
  • 4 garlic cloves

Preparation:

  • Boil the chicken breasts in 2 litres water with a clove of garlic, some salt and pepper for 15 minutes
  • Drain the broth but reserve 1 litre of the cooking liquid and hand shred the chicken into small strands
  • Chop 1 onion, garlic and peppers into small pieces (remove and discard seeds from hot peppers)
  • In a large frying pan on medium heat, saute the chopped vegetables in a small splash of oil, add salt and pepper to taste
  • After a few minutes, add the milk slowly in equal portions to the crushed water crackers
  • Add cubed cheese, the peanuts, and the chicken broth and stir for a minute
  • Pour the entire mixture into a blender and liquify until smooth
  • Cut the remaining half onion into julienne strips and add to the frying pan and saute for a minute before adding in the blender mix and the shredded chicken
  • Stir over heat until it reaches the boil point and add more milk or broth for a smooth consistency
  • Serve over rice or potato, accompanied by olives and hard boiled eggs

…………………..

Now when I travel, I want to spend time in the company of local cooks and learn their magic with local traditions and foodstuffs. Few things in life bring us more warmly, more peacefully, together than cooking and sharing a meal.

And I’m just at the start of this journey. Morocco, Peru, Spain, Cuba, China, even Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories of Canada … the list will grow and recipe sex will make the spicy ambience of life a bit richer.

So it might seem crazy what I’m gonna say but I’m just gonna put on my Pharrell cooking hat and keep pirouetting and gyrating my Happy-dance as I blend the fusionary, culinary, provisionary, sometimes flavourful, sometimes disastrous kitchen concoctions and dream my way to the furthest corners of the world.

Do Something …

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Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who bought a Volvo.”

-> Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

 

From time to time I feel a rant coming on and that time is now.

I want to stand on the pulpit like Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts, my welcoming arms spread wide, and preach to you about how to live your life.

I can sense a warming Pastor’ish aura descend over me, like a rich multi-coloured woollen cloak.

And the really wonderful thing is I won’t make a pitch for you to send money… hmmm, hold on a minute … if you want to send me a few dollars I won’t object.

So, friend … Join me today in the esteemed CHURCH of LAWRENCE.

Church Sign

Do you want to be the one who left this earth and they said at your funeral:

he read a lot of books.” (although that’s good too!)

 

I want to be the one who reached his final breath, where they said :

there were a lot of books written by and about him.”

 

In other words, I DID something.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Lose the passive, lose the inertia … become the active. Physical. Mental. Spiritual.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, really important stuff to anyone other than yourself or the small world around you. If you want to be Nelson Mandela or Maya Angelou… go for it. But it’s good enough to be a better Joe Schmidlap.

In Grade 13 Physics class at Sir Wilfrid Laurier school in Hamilton, Mr. Miedema tried to teach me all about the various forms of energy. I was bored stiff other than when I was ogling sweet-faced brunette Charlene, dreaming of what she looked like naked, but this much I absorbed:

It isn’t enough to have potential energy… you can store up all the energy in the world but unless it’s released, there ain’t nothing happening.

I need my energy to become kinetic … active energy that makes things happen.

potentialkinetic energy

 

Because I’m preaching and ranting today, you might think I’m claiming to be perfect.

I wish.

I know people who brag to me about not watching any television. BULLSHIT…

Not me …

If you don’t watch “television” you’re most likely watching your iPhone or Netflix or downloading movies and TV series from the internet … it’s all semantics. I love good TV and there is some very good TV available, just like there are great books, great movies and great music.

Like the food I eat, I try to limit the junk TV (did someone say Reality TV) and seek out the quality screenwriters and performers that nourish my mind and inspire my funny gene or my idea machine after I click the box off.

I even like to watch nighttime soap operas like The Good Wife, House of Cards, and Nashville (of course the music negates the “soap” component here).

But if I sit in my La-Z-Boy hour after hour, day after day, after sitting at an office desk 9 to 5, my muscles atrophy and I slowly dwindle. My strength shrinks and fades as surely as my gut swells and my chin clones multiply.

If I think and do … build chicken coops, write books, ride bikes up mountains, play some piano, cook a gourmet meal … my kinetic energy builds and multiplies.

growth mindset

We have to measure our time carefully so we don’t become strict observers of life.

The kinetic energy that makes us grow smarter and better needs to be used over and over again and then it grows like a voraciously hungry trumpet vine or a wisteria, wild plants that once started, sprout new tendrils at an astounding pace.

It takes sweat and effort. It’s hard work to think and grow and generate ideas and make things.

Just like in the gym though, the muscle won’t grow until the effort creates heat and rivers of sweat.

And sometimes it’s not what we do, it’s what we don’t do that makes the difference.

For example, I’ve stopped buying the Globe and Mail newspaper every day. I can spend a couple of hours easily each day, reading news that means nothing to my life.

By cutting this back, I can use that time to do and create, or maybe just think. I still buy the Saturday Globe, it has the Books section and lots of pretty pictures of models wearing swell clothes, so I won’t give that up.

Our electronic world is filled with wonderful time consumers, little bastard time-wasters that vacuum up precious moments of our lives.

Time waster

I’m learning not to waste my time with negative people or those that are draining … I want positive interactions with those who plan to live life in an uplifting fashion.

I have a friend Henny who seeks out newness in her life to the tune of her birthdays. For each year of her age, she finds something that she’s never done or seen, or even eaten, to accomplish in the year between birthdays. So, for example, at age 35, she finds 35 new things to be a part of her life.

They’re not all big items – most aren’t actually –  just something unique and different to her.

It keeps her fresh and excited about her life.

Things like a trip down a zipline, a bottle of wine from a country never tried before, reading a book about something totally foreign to her, riding her bike down every street in her small town at least once in the year.

These are little exploits that take a touch of effort but reward her with an ongoing profusion of experiences and enthusiasm.

So, my friend, dive in … I’ll cheer you on.

Do something that makes you catch your breath, even if just a little.

We can all become minor Superheroes. No cape required.

Maybe your earthbound days will roll to the finish line and the immortality of your name will live on as an eponymous adjective.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have the newest “IT” thing described by the masses as … not Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Wagnerian or Napoleonic or Shakespearean, but … maybe Fergusonian or Fisherite or Swidzinskian … or perhaps  best of all… Greenesque.

There you have it good friend, this concludes today’s sermon.

Go forth and be kinetic. You have the potential.

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me ...

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me …

8 People I’m Going to Miss When They’re Gone…

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broken heart

I miss all of my old girlfriends.

Every person I’ve formed a deeper attachment to has gifted me something special of themselves and left a little bit behind that lives on inside me. There are many nooks and crannies in the back eddies of my brain that harbour tender thoughts.

It doesn’t mean that we were meant to be together forever. I had my heart broken and gushed bloody sadness, and feel bad that I broke one or two hearts myself.

Obviously there were things about me or them that prevented the bond from growing deeper and more permanent. But I still appreciate that they were a part of my life if even for a short time, and treasure (and wonder!) that they found something about me that was lovable.

In a similar vein, many of us look back at those who have departed/died and lament the loss of their cherished contributions to our world, and sometimes just to our own little life.

Albert Einstein, Ludwig von Beethoven, Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway, Indira Ghandi, Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Monroe, Harry Chapin, Nora Ephron, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Will Shakespeare, Anne Frank are all names that linger and thrive beyond the grave and give us reason to reach higher than mere average mortals.

On my list …

On my list …

Not on my list...

Not on my list…

My list is huge and your list will be just as long and probably far different than mine.

So many figures from the past to admire.

So many incredible minds and abilities.

So much left behind to observe and wonder at for years, decades and centuries to follow.

………………

But … I have this peculiar tendency.

I find that I grieve prematurely the loss of those around me who are still sucking air, pumping blood, and producing marvellous things that I can admire and respect and hold dear.

It began in my early teen years when I worried and pondered the loss of my parents, most notably my mother.

I know … send in the psychiatrists, there is some deep shit to be worked through here. But, the tendency I have to lament losses before they occur has clung tenaciously to me.

When I see someone whose talents are otherwordly I develop a crush on their superpower. It’s not a jealousy, just an admiration, an envy of the time and devotion they have contributed to becoming what they are.

And because I appreciate their ability, I begin to grow nervous or edgy when it appears they are nearing the end of their career or life. I start to miss them even while they still live in their creative prime.

I lament the coming loss.

An example: I went to a Loretta Lynn concert last year, not because I was dying to hear her sing, but because I wanted to hear her sing before she was dying.

Grieving

Am I alone in this?

Following is a list of some of the Living World’s Wonders (in my mind) whom I’m dreading seeing the end and the loss of their capabilities, either through death or retirement:

  1. Stephen King – author with an unending capacity for creative ideas, not all great (I’m not a huge fan of his horror thrillers) but enough to leave me gasping in awe.
  2. Warren Buffett – a financial investing mind without a match. He’s earthy, he’s sensible and amazingly insightful into businesses and investments. My coming retirement is in no small part due to his wise words and teachings.
  3. Bobby Orr – a former Boston Bruin wizard with a hockey stick and skates that flew like the wind. Watching Bobby was like having a Bolshoi Ballet virtuoso running through a little tots’ first dance class.
  4. James Taylor/Carole King – two folk singers that find a way into my head with simple melodic messages that strike deeply. They have no idea who I am, but I feel like they’ve been my lifelong BFF’s.
  5. Aaron Sorkin – for my money, the best TV and movie screenwriter with the sharpest wit I’ve ever encountered. Verbal dialogue by Sorkin is a complex symphony – on the surface it sounds simple but is filled with layers and nuances that bring chuckles or a-ha’s to me hours and days later.
  6. Steven Spielberg – a conundrum of a filmmaker, he’s produced some marvels and some mutts, but anyone who can take me on the emotional ride that is Schindler’s List is a stunning mind. How can humans excavate such staggering ability?
  7. Steve Nash – a short (for basketball) Canadian NBA guard who kept me up late too many nights watching his playmaking abilities, enthusiasm, and creativity on the court. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but Steve has me almost convinced.
  8. Monty Python group – absurdist and brilliant comedy that found the underbelly of our society and made me laugh like I’d puke if they took it one millimetre further. Who else could fashion a huge Broadway production number with crowds of dancers and singers and children singing Every Sperm is Sacred?

Every Sperm is Sacred

AND a Special Bonus:

9. Beach Boys/Eagles/ Simon and Garfunkle – I love love love musical harmony and these are three of the greatest contributors of complex pop harmonies that make me wonder if there is a heaven, then it truly must be here on earth. Just close your eyes and absorb the sweetness of the blend.

……………….

So there you have it. Your and my lists will differ based on our beliefs, whether religious or sports or arts or politically inclined.

The great thing, of course, the truly amazing wonder is that there is always always a succession of trendsetters whose minds and abilities will continue to confound the mere mortals of us that breath the same air.

And in the meantime, I’ll just suffer the melancholy of knowing that those who have hallowed my life with their presence and talent will graciously sit themselves in the halls of greatness like storied old baseball players held forever in a cornfield within the Field of Dreams.

 

large-field-of-dreams

 

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

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