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Another Year… Another Marathon… Another Baby!

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I’m a man and I’ve experienced the equivalent of CHILDBIRTH and it hurts.

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MAN Childbirth

The last hour of a marathon or Ironman race can be excruciating. There is a titanic game of struggle and dialogue that goes on in your head when your body is bellowing to stop the trial you’re putting it through. This happens regardless of your level of fitness because you are pushing yourself harder than you’ve ever made yourself go during training. Competition, whether against others or just yourself, does this to you.

I’ve always said that participating in a lengthy race of any sort is akin to self-inflicted torture…an agony that we seem drawn back to time after time.

Just like childbirth.

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Go ahead m’ladies, hit me now for making this comparison!

And then there are the occasional crazies who want both experiences simultaneously and run a marathon while pregnant, like the 27 year-old woman that completed the Chicago Marathon in 2011, only to deliver a full-term baby 7 1/2 hours later.

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I feel qualified to make this comparison since I’ve competed in 2 marathon races, 2 Ironman competitions, a countless assortment of other running/swimming/cycling contests, AND (it’s rumoured!) I’ve fathered and assisted in the delivery of 3 children. Absolutely none of which, I freely admit, I excelled at! I have a box full of “participation” ribbons and medallions.

Both pregnancy/childbirth and marathon races require a substantial investment of time and energy with the result that our bodies are changed in significant ways over a period of weeks and months. There is a voluntary – except, I suppose, in unplanned pregnancies –  commitment to lifestyle change with an end goal in mind… one where you get a medal hung around your neck, and the other where you get a baby laid upon your chest.

There truly are some striking similarities between marathons and childbirth, so hear me out:

  • Growing the body, stamina and mental strength to start and finish each for most takes about 9 months.
  • Specialized diet planning with a concentration on calcium sources, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and quality protein makes a big difference to the end result.
  • Coaches and specialized classes pass on the most up-to-date and leading scientific knowledge to achieve the optimal end result.
  • Smoking (and alcohol)  is a huge NO NO for both.
  • A collection of stretchy and often colourful new special-purpose clothing is needed to accommodate the growth of muscle or baby tissue. Gear is gathered, whether baby strollers and snugglies and nipple creams, or chafing lotion and gel carrying belts and water bottles.
  • There are moments, sometimes days, or weeks during training or gestation where the will to continue dwindles and fades. Sleep patterns can be disrupted, pains materialize, gastrointestinal distress pops up.
  • Going into labour is like the start gun firing at the beginning of the marathon. You still feel reasonably comfortable but know that the coming hours will bring on increased intensity and pain.
  • The cheering, encouraging crowds and family support along the course of the marathon resemble the nurses, doctors, and family members urging and firing up the expectant Mom to push to the finish of delivery.
  • There is a huge sense of elation at the finish, knowing that the pain and discomfort are largely finished and the rewards are tangible. This is the point where they either hang a medal around your neck or a latch a baby onto your breast.
  • Afterwards, you don’t feel like walking for a day or two as the stiffness and  pain below the waist begins to heal. In both cases, the cards and flowers brighten the recovery period and celebration.
  • Wound Care: Stitches and sitz baths for mommys…blister bandaids and hot tubs for the marathoner.
  • And finally, posting the glorious results. eg. A 7 lb 4 oz. baby girl, 70 cm. in length born after 7 hours of labour…or a 4 hour 16 minute marathon run of 26.2 miles on a sultry 30C day!

Blisterfoot

Childbirth and Marathoning both bring out the best in an individual human’s strength and resolve. Life would be fairly simple to pass through without experiencing the pain and sacrifice needed to complete either of these, or other singularly difficult ventures. But we know that any positive experience or accomplishment comes with the challenge of overcoming obstacles. Jumping smoothly or haphazardly over hurdles is what makes the end result so satisfying.

Our DNA builds a desire within us to make something from nothing. The sense of living a life well-lived entails the feeling of having helped ourselves and/or others to be or do something over and above the everyday. Beyond getting up in the morning, eating, working and going back to sleep at night. Making a mark means doing something creative, or arduous, or selfless. There is no end to what any one of us can do to cross the threshold into the realm of memorable or noteworthy.

I’ll be honest…

When I compare marathon racing and childbirth, I mostly get bemused or frankly scornful looks from women who have participated in each of these events. Most willingly acknowledge the similarities, but ultimately, childbirth wins the competitive match for supremacy for discomfort (excruciating pain, if you will!), disruption, and the pleasureful reward.

Deep down for most, a marathon medal hanging from one’s neck just isn’t the same as holding and nurturing a living, breathing, warm bundle of new-life, regardless of the pain endured.

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My youngest baby and me at the end of the Vancouver Marathon run 2012…

He SHOOTS, He…almost SCORES — 2013 Goals, not Resolutions

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I’m the Wayne Gretzky of goal scorers…

well, let’s make that goal “makers”!

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100% of shots

I don’t DO New Year’s Resolutions…but I DO do New Year’s GOALS.

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GOALS

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I grew up a true stereotypical Canadian male — hockey courses through my veins. Which, as a blood-sucking lab technologist, it’s good to know that something runs through these old venous pipes.

I learned early on at 5 or 6 years of age that there are lots of contributing roles that can be filled by a fine hockey player. There is the defender who drops fearlessly, crotch or face-first in front of opposing goal scorers as they release a powerful slapshot towards the net.

There is the enforcer, who with his/her brawny intimidation and slurs against opponents’ mommys, beckons tears from the players of the other team, taking them off their mindset of scoring goals.

There is the playmaker who dipsy-doodles like an Olympic figure skater before slipping the puck to the another player who blasts it past the goalie.

And then there is the pure goal scorer, who pops the puck into the back of the net with staggeringly awesome consistency. I began my childhood hockey career as a fantastic goal scorer. Mostly because the other 6 and 7 year olds could barely skate, much less shoot a puck straight. Anyway, with each year passing, the other kids got better and faster and stronger. I learned to love cookies and got slower and fatter. I slowly migrated back to becoming a defenceman who gets the frozen puck slammed into his face and groin.

Almost anyone who plays or admires the game of hockey wants to score goals or see lots of them. Goals win games. Goals win the hearts of the cheering, adoring fans. And it’s goals that coax the panties off the young blonde Barbie-hockey groupies who hang out in cold city or prairie arenas each winter, looking for that strapping hot, hard, stick-toting stud with the “moves like Jagger”.

Lick the stanley cup

WARNING to HOCKEY GROUPIES…don’t do this outdoors in the middle of winter…

So it’s probably that last point that inspired my lifelong path from scoring great hockey goals to great goal-setting in life. It’s all about reaching for Maslow-like “self-actualization”. Goals are something that I’ve taken from the hockey arena and dropped squarely into the middle of my own day-to-day lap. I remember faintly the lessons of my Grade 13 physics class — when I wasn’t too busy staring at Charlene, the ever-so-sweet brunette ahead on my left — relating to Newton’s First Law that states,“an object at rest tends to stay at rest”.

Newton describes me to a TEE. I’m not like YOU. I like to rest. I like to stay at rest. I am so lazy.

But the best way to get me off my butt is with a good challenge, a GOAL, not through a New Year’s resolution. You may forcefully state that it’s semantics, but I believe that goals and resolutions have a slightly nuanced difference.

A RESOLUTION is “a firm decision to do or not to do something“. Like quitting smoking, or gaining enough weight to get on The Biggest Loser, or not licking flag poles in the winter, or starting a blog once I can think of something important to say.

From the practical perspective, most resolutions work from a negative point of view…”I won’t do this”, “I won’t do that”. By the second or third week of January…you’ve stumbled, you’re toast and the game has been lost until the following New Year, a full 11 and a half months distant.

A GOAL is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result“. Goals, unlike resolutions, come at you from the opposite, or more positive, perspective. A goal should be very specific and achievable – making a goal of growing an extra finger on the top of your head to flip at annoying drivers without having to turn around is laudable, but not achievable.

A goal sets a desired result that you go for unceasingly, like paying down 20% on the mortgage, or not paying your personal trainer more than $100 for sex, or convincing 2 friends to start smoking so that you feel less lonely. With goals, you generally have the whole year to work towards an objective that stretches you beyond where you are now, and hopefully to a level that you think is ALMOST unachievable for YOU.

funny-life-goals-internet

At the end of 2011, I sat down at this computer and wrote down a list of those things that I hoped to accomplish in 2012. Honestly, I bombed totally on a few…BUT…I struck gold on a few others.

Following is a sampling of where I skipped unerringly along the Yellow Brick Road, and others where I swerved like your Drunk Uncle on New Year’s Eve.

So, Where did I strike LEAD?

  • Visit Ireland…NOPE, made it to Scotland, but not Ireland.
  • 100 Pushups non-stop…Not even close. I only made it as far as 41 on March 12.
  • Overall Financial Net Worth Return of >15%…Only halfway with a total return of 7.9%.
  • Run a sub-4 hr marathon…Missed again. It took me 4:35 to complete the Vancouver Marathon.
  • Write and Publish 1 article in the Globe and Mail “Facts & Arguments” section…I did submit an essay, but I’ve yet to see it in print.
If I can do 10 pullups, so can you!

If I can do 10 pullups, so can you!

And the GOLD?

  • Hold a Yoga plank for 5 minutes Non-Stop…Knocked that one off just a couple of weeks ago in mid-December…whew…killer!!
  • Try 2 “new-to-me” sports…Check. Did Tai Chi on a Yangtze River cruise in China in March. Snowshoeing in nearby mountains in January.
  • Visit Spain and China…Check (October) and Check (March)!
  • 10 Pullups (Chinups) Non-Stop…Check. Only barely accomplished TODAY!!
  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10%…Check. or is it Cheque?? Both UNICEF and International PLAN got a 10% raise this year.
  • Start a Blog and write 2 new posts each week…Check…sort of. I did initiate this blog, but cut back to 1 entry per week about a month ago to concentrate some more time on music and songwriting.

Now 2013 sits before us, beckoning teasingly and holding hope for each of us. They say you should share your goals as a way of holding your feet to the fire. Telling others adds subtle pressure, helping to keep your motivation levels way up there.

So, my friends, I’m putting some of my 2013 list of goals out, here and now. I know you’ll be supportive, and not laugh TOO much in those areas where I crash spectacularly. Many still laugh raucously (and ever so cruelly!) at my earlier talk of retiring at 35, then 40, then 45…then…well, you get the point. Here I am at 55 years, gainfully (and happily I might add) employed in a medical laboratory.

GOALS for 2013

  • Pay off investment loans in anticipation of debt-free retirement in 2014
  • Bring blog posting total to 100 and views to 7500…today’s blog entry is #39 with 2,383 viewings to date.
  • Write 12 songs…one per month.
  • 20 Pullups Non-Stop.
  • Take cooking classes in Spanish-speaking country (Argentina/Costa Rica??)
  • Try 2 more “new-to-me”sports (eg. kettlebells, curling, paddleboarding)
  • 100 pushups Non-stop
  • Purchase 12-string guitar
  • Overall Net Worth Return of >15% -(investigate more underanalyzed small cap stocks, follow arbitrage opportunities)
  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10%
  • Grow larger vegetable garden and process more for winter use.
  • Run 2 Half Marathon races (sub 2 hrs)

I keep my list of written GOALS on my desktop of the computer as a continual reminder, a strong motivator, and a Hannibal Lecter-like fear factor facing directly at me every day. We all have our core values, passions, and purpose…goal-setting is my way of reaching and stretching myself forward in those directions that are paramount to me.

I am the lead actor and director in my own life’s production. There are those who wake up each morning and cheerfully improvise their lives like a “Second City” performance. For me, spontaneity, joy, and enthusiasm are found on the rehearsal stage when I’m extending my limits in search of the goals I’ve set for myself.

new-years-resolution-magazine

Five People I’d Like to Have for Christmas Dinner 2012

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turkey-protest

HURRY…kill the turkey!

The year end is approaching quickly.  And this means that many of us spend the long, dark wintry days turning inwards (especially us Introverts!), becoming introspective, seeking meaning and reason in life. Do you think there’s more to it all than Facebook?

This search may be especially true for those of us who don’t put our trust in a higher power or being. Not believing in a deity and/or afterlife compresses the time allotted for finding significance to our existence. After all, to us heathens, existence and eternity usually means something like 40 up to about 90 years, really not a whole lot of time after you make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and sleep. Turn off the TV I tell myself, time is running out. Time management for the atheist is the #1 priority right after food and sex!

So I say…

Damn you Christians with your eternal time in heaven with all of your loved ones and no worries about global warming.”

Damn you Muslims and your reward of 72 (some say only 40) virgins.”

Damn you Buddhists and your Nirvana and reincarnation.”

I won’t damn YOU Jews since you’re a bit confused on the whole afterlife side of things already, so why should I make you suffer more consternation with my words.”

Christmas 2012 will be unusual in my world as this will be the first time in 27 years that we’ve not had all or most of our 3 kids at home. They’ve provided the meaning to the season for so long, that I’ve forgotten that there were other reasons, you know… all of that birth of Christ child stuff and Wise Men and Shepherds and HOHOHO and pretty girls…oops sorry, I’ve slipped off on a Charlie Brown tangent. Blockhead!

Since the Christmas dinner table will be extra light on offspring this year, I’ve decided to enjoy a very special Christmas meal serving up 6 courses of my most appealing and satisfying guests from now and days gone by.

centennial-james-a-michener         Trinity by Leon Uris

Course 1 – Appetizers

With Authors James Michener and Leon Uris…a dinner that starts with appetizers should be filled with creative ideas and thought to whet the appetite. These guys aren’t literary heavyweights. But they have written a huge volume of amazingly researched, diverse, and well-written historical fiction covering all parts of the world. I devoured their books in earlier years. And today I’d love to bite into some of their ideas on the writing process and organization. I’m astonished by those who can be so determined to focus and deliver a huge body of work in one lifetime. Sure they’re old white guys, but inspiration comes in all colours, ages, and genders. I also loved radically individualistic Ayn Rand’s ideas in my younger days, but just can’t bring myself around to her level of narcissism at this point in my life. Fortunately, just looking in my bathroom’s mirror and seeing the “funhouse” image it reflects back is enough to keep me grounded at this point in life!


Course 2 – Soup

Mom photo

With My Mom...Warm and inviting and full of goodness, this soup course will be my visit with a Ghost of Christmas Past. It will be wonderful to have my Mom at my table this year. It’s been 39 years since she died and I was last able to sit at her table and share in the Christmas feast. She made the BEST roast potatoes. Like any good, doting son, I’d want to tell her how much I love her and miss her after all of these years. As the first person I encountered in life who showed me unconditional love, I would want to tell her about my successes and mistakes, knowing that she would listen, but not judge. And I’d want to tell her that she gave me the grounding and support I needed to go out and make a pretty damn good life, despite all of my fears and worries (Mom was a HUGE worrier herself). And I’d want to apologize to her for not knowing the basics of CPR when she needed it back in 1973.

Course 3 – Salad

Warren-Buffett-ninja

Buffett is my favourite ninja…

With Legendary Investor Warren Buffett…what would a Christmas buffet be without a Buffett? Well, not overly filling, but chock full of nutritious thoughts and concepts. Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, and probably the best investor of this generation. He’s also such a folksy kind of guy. It should be fun to have him at the table, telling little stories about life and making great stock investments. It’s not very often that you meet people who are highly intelligent and independent-thinking who can also relate to people in a relaxed and personal way. Making billions of dollars, almost all of which will go to charity when he dies, while playing a silly NINJA makes him my kind of guy.   Buffett can take a story about a one-armed baseball player and an Iowa chicken and make a heartfelt parable of it that relates directly to the reality and oftentimes insanity of the investment world.

Course 4 – Main Entree

obama_clinton

With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton…Clinton needs to be the main course because, despite his personal foibles (I’m buying you pants without a zipper for Christmas, Bill!), he’s one of the most substantial minds in the whole wide political world. Clinton, like Obama, is one of the seemingly few rational and caring political-type Americans out there today. Clinton can spontaneously dissect just about any complex world issue and bring to it a common sense approach and potential solution. There are many minds out there to admire, but Bill Clinton’s is at the top of my list. One discussion with Bill and I’ll be feeling overfull this Christmas.

Course 5 – Dessert

With Actress Reese Witherspoon…dessert should be a light, fluffy, and sugary sweet confection. The perfect dessert, like fine wine, also has an underlying layer of complexity and depth. This is why I’ve invited actress Reese Witherspoon to this occasion rather than my gut-instinctive initial choice, Pamela Anderson. The Queen of Jiggle, Anderson is just too much fluffy cotton candy that leaves me feeling sickly nauseous after consuming. The first lick is sensually encouraging, but a few bites later you can only feel regret. I like Witherspoon even though she isn’t my favourite actress… she is sweet and light, but hidden behind her fluff-laden translucent facade is a woman of some core substance. She has a nice finish on the palate that leaves me satisfied and wanting more.

pamela anderson

Jello served in two cups…

Perhaps you'd like "FUDGE"?....

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Course 6 – Cheese and Wine

With Singers/Songwriters Carole King and James Taylor…it takes two to finish this delectable Christmas dinner because they’re inescapably intertwined for me. After a large repast with so much to digest, some harmony is needed in this course for settling purposes. Other beautifully harmonious cheese and wine pairings could be Simon and Garfunkle, Karen and Richard Carpenter, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Lennon and McCartney, Milli Vanilli (just kidding there!). But ultimately, what better finish could there be to a meal filled with symbolism and meaning shared with friends and relatives than with a blending of voices in “You’ve Got A Friend”? Whenever I’ve been “down and troubled”, a touch of musical melancholy from either of these two feels like rays of warm sunshine on the first sunny April day.

TaylorKingJT Carole King Now
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Finally, the anxiously anticipated Christmas dinner is done, the turkey has been deboned and made ready for the next week’s soup and sandwiches. There’s an awareness of satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made it through another year, however tumultuous or sensational.  A year filled with events that made us jubilant, made us cry, made us impatient, made us content, made us angry, made us appreciate.
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So. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, Splendid Solstice…whatever you choose to pay tribute to, I celebrate with you and I can only hope that your gala feast with whomever you’d like to share it, is SPECTACULAR!

Dear Santa…or Sinterklaas…or Pere Noël…or Babbo Natale…

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Virgina Santa letter

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How are you and Mrs. Claus? Are you and the elves ready for another Christmas? This must be Christmas 551 coming up for you … am I close?

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This past weekend I pretended I was you…

I hope you don’t mind.

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I HOHOHope my belly laughs were as good as yours Santa…

I pulled on your special red suit and affixed a fluffy white beard and a big pretend tummy. I have to admit I felt a bit nervous and pressured going into the gig. “Now what are all of the reindeers’ names again? Blitzen and Tony Danza and Margaret the Vixen…” played over and over again in my head.

A swarm of cute little poppets rushed up to me and gazed at me with hope and adoration and expectation in their eyes. Children have pretty high expectations around you Santa and there is a monstrous sense of responsibility in representing you. Who wants to screw up the magic that is Santa Claus in childrens’ eyes? I’d hate to mess up and discover myself on your — or maybe worse, a bunch of children’s — naughty list.

You have one of the glory jobs of this entire world. It’s tough and the expectations are North-Pole high, but everyone, especially little tykes, love you. You can make it onto anyone’s party invitation list. Why, politicians, movie actors, rock stars, and famous writers have a lot of admirers. Tons of people love George Clooney, millions admired Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey is a huge icon, and outside of the USA just about everyone loves Barack Obama (Sorry to you Prime Minister Harper!). But by the same token, they ALL have their detractors and boo-bears.

Not YOU Santa!

There’s a continuous stream of static concerning the over-the-top commercialism and crassness of Christmas, yet again and again you stay above the fray and are left unscathed by any critics that hunt the scent of controversial blood in the frigid, winter air.

And unlike religious prophets and apostles, no one ever suggests that you are probably a woman, or Jewish, or black-skinned, or a socialist. You don’t have a crew of spin artists out there smoothing out the bumps and scrapes that are directed your way, and still you get great PR year-in year-out.

How do you do it?

Well, after walking in your boots (and beard) for an hour or two, I think I have some ideas as to why you consistently top the global popularity charts. I hope you don’t mind me sharing the reasons why you make it onto everyone’s “NICE” list:

  • You don’t over-expose yourself…and I don’t mean that in the dark movie-theatre creepy kind of way. You show up once a year for a couple of weeks, and then we don’t see or hear about you for another 11 months or so. We don’t see you in TV commercials, movies, magazine ads, and tabloids every week or two. I’m pretty certain I’ve seen your enormous untanned tummy on some Caribbean beaches in post-Christmas relaxation though…the “all-inclusive” unlimited beer you quaff keeps you rotund for your job, I’m sure!
  • You are EVERYMAN. You don’t take political or religious views that would polarize you to one side or another. Gay, straight…you don’t care. And even though you come on the day that represents Christianity’s holiest day, you stay separate and apart from the religious side of things. I never see you popping up in Nativity stable scenes along with the lambs and wise men with a HoHoHo, or lighting the Hanukkah menorah. You don’t broadcast a message to the world like the Queen or the Pope on Christmas Day…just a simple “Merry Christmas to All, and to all a Good Night” as you fly past our rooftops is your classic annual message. It works for you!
  • You are dignified and mysterious, but fun-loving (HO HO HO!) and gentle. I do have to say you have a bit of a potential image concern on the “Naughty and Nice List” side of things. But kids and parents seem to forgive you for this as you never REALLY ever put anyone onto the naughty side of the ledger. Please be careful here Santa, this could tarnish your image if you were seen to be too judgmental.
  • Unlike almost every group that is run or headed up by men that interact with children, you’ve NEVER EVER been suggested as a touchy-feely pedophilic monster. You’ve always been a gentleman and this gives us all hope in a world filled with too many tragic events. I admit that when I played you this weekend, I was pretty careful not to touch the wee ones TOO much, or insist that they sit on my lap. Both hands on view all of the time makes a safe Santa (and kids)!

Cover of "Miracle on 34th Street (Special...

  • You are the quintessential bearer of HOPE. Anything and everything are possible when we think about or talk to you Santa. You have powers that bring people of all stripes together. In Miracle on 34th Street, when Natalie Wood wants her Mommy to marry and make John Payne her Daddy and buy a house where they can live happily ever after, you set up the conditions that make the dream possible. We all want to believe that you are capable of making our wishes come true. And every year, just as night follows day, our hopes rest in our belief in, if not the true person that is Santa, at least in the belief that a magical spirit exists within us all to make our dreams reality.

Until this past Saturday, I don’t think I ever knew how really special and important you are Santa. After wearing your robes for just an hour or two, I now realize that a germ or two of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch have lived inside me. It may take more than one attempt at living inside your world to kick Scrooge to the curb, but I feel like I’ve awakened anew on Christmas morning after being visited upon by the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future. And I think I’ve breathed in the wondrous feeling the Grinch experienced:

Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew THREE sizes that day.”

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Have a wonderful Christmas Santa, but go easy on the cookies…we need you around for a long time to come.

Your faithful elf…

christmas-scene-santa

I Should Have Been Born A Woman…

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Nora Ephron is responsible for the crush I used to have on actress Meg Ryan.

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when harry met sally restaurant            Meg ryan orgasm

I’ll have what she’s having.”

    When Harry Met Sally

I think it was Ryan’s cutesy little nose and her transparent fragility and vulnerability, not her ability to fake a great orgasm, that drew me in. God, she was as adorable as a fluffy little puppy! But it’s the death of Ephron earlier this year that reminded me that maybe I should have been born a woman…

Certainly I’ve got all the right junk down below for AMAZING manhood (I say modestly … TMI you say emphatically!). I could go on and on here but I’ll try to stay on point, OK?  I love to watch and play manly sports like hockey and football. I don’t think that I display effeminate characteristics in style of dress or mannerisms. I feel a STRONG attraction to women and NONE towards men.

But I find that many of my thoughts and opinions and interests roll into shore along currents that most of us might think of as feminine.

Men are supposed to have a passion for swearing, hunting and drinking lots of booze, while eschewing things like shopping, reading and gardening. Real men vote Conservative or Republican, not the Liberal or Democratic bearing that attracts my vote and those of the majority of women. Tough manly studs admire violent Action or Adventure movies and TV shows that star chunky behemoths like Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone who run and dodge bullets and explosions with the casualness of me picking up a latte (oh, and real men don’t drink lattes either!) at Starbucks. Men avoid genuine personal conversations that deal with emotions and relationships- I prefer to dive right into the nitty gritty of the heart.

And it’s in this realm of emotions and relationships that Ephron found her calling and strengths.

So… Who’s this Nora Ephron I’m talking about here? I’ll bet many more women than men could answer this question.

noraephron_merylstreep

Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep

Ephron was a fine American blog, book, and screenwriter, and director of what most would use the term “Chick Flicks”. Her tally includes movies like “When Harry Met Sally” “You’ve Got Mail”,”Sleepless in Seattle”, and “Julie and Julia”. Something else she was famous for was once being married (of three marriages in total) to Carl Bernstein, one of the Watergate-exposing journalists that resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

I’m going to really miss Ephron and the humour that she mined from human relationships. Because despite the drama and traumas that exist within any couple-type relationship, there is just a boatload of funny stuff that goes on, some intentional, and a whole lot accidental.

Who hasn’t had an argument with their significant other over something as trivial as the proper way to slice a tomato, or from which direction the toilet paper should roll (on top, or underneath), or whether that wagon-wheel coffee table should be ditched? Ephron could turn these sorts of simple things into movie hysterics. Perhaps because of her own life experiences she created characters who desperately wanted the enchantment and longing and harmony that makes us all idiots in the love domain.

wagon wheel when harry met sally

Most of us live lives similar to those of Ephron’s characters. Ordinary people going about our day-to-day existences. Searching for meaning, connection, and love in a busy and impersonal world that often passes us uncaring or uninterested on street corners and shopping malls and offices, or in today’s more-connected world, on Facebook or eHarmony.

Thoreau said, “Most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to their graves with the song still in their heart.” I don’t know if any of Ephron’s characters discovered the song in their heart, but they all seemed to live lives of quiet desperation and were searching for an escape route or at least a respite. More often than not, that search began and ended with a human connection.

meg-norah-remem

The overwhelming reality of most of humankind’s romantic relationships is a spellbinding launch of euphoria and then a harrowing finish that doesn’t truly end with “’til death do you part”. For most, the narrative pendulum swings between some inexplicable sense of ecstasy and grim anguish. Very few of us cherish the storyline that ends with hard feelings and tears. Ephron led us down sinuous romantic pathways, and despite the tears shed along the road, always had us leave the theatre with a sense of elation and hope in our hearts.

I don’t know the exact reasons why I have a more-feminine mindset. There’s probably some deep-rooted psychological undercurrent that could be hooked and brought to the lake-surface of my mind by years of analysis and a few tens of thousands of dollars. But then it could be just because my mother was the parent that took me to my hockey games and teacher interviews, or it might be that I was unselfishly housed and fed by my saintly sister while I went to high school and college for four years after my Mom died. Or…maybe I’m just a serendipitous genetic artifact, like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Anyway, I don’t lust after you anymore, new Meg Ryan  (sorry Meg, your plastic surgeon has turned you into someone I don’t recognize). But it’s because of women that attract me like you and Nora Ephron that, in the end, I’m really happy that I wasn’t born a woman…

I’m content to just think like one sometimes!

meryl-streep_julia-child

Streep as Julia Child sings “YMCA” in JULIE & JULIA…

I’M A WORLD CITIZEN…NOT Just A Canadian!

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It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.”

                                 –Arthur C. Clarke.

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My son Will was touring around London, England last week and sauntered into massive Hyde Park and its famous “Speakers’ Corner” where a balding, middle-aged gent raised his finger pointedly to extol on the subject of the day.

Speakers’ Corner is the site of the everyday person’s soapbox- a place to speak your personal beliefs to an assemblage and for sharing of ideas and debate. And given the sometimes…shall we say… quirky views of certain speakers, it could double as the site of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest“!

So today, just a few days after Remembrance Day in Canada and reflecting on wars and the state of humanity, I’d like to clamber up on my virtual World Wide Web soapbox and expound for a few minutes on a subject dear to my heart. I feel a little like Linus strutting to centre stage in Charlie Brown’s Christmas to recite the meaning of Christmas…please feel free to shout me down off my pedestal if you disagree, or give me a big High 5 if you’re approving of my message.

Hem, hem, hem…

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen… Well, maybe I’m just being overly sensitive, but I feel like I’m hearing a lot of insular nationalist-type talk by those around me and in the press.

The 100-mile diet and discussions about keeping jobs at home  (personally, I should probably be on the 100-calorie diet, and I love the concept of working FROM home, two ideas that come into massive and messy conflict while working at a home office desk only 100 feet removed from the refrigerator) are a couple of examples of the stuff I’m talking about here.

What I hear when I encounter these sorts of statements is… FEAR! And it’s not groundless fear, not the “all we have to fear is fear itself” sort of stuff, but fear nonetheless.

People feel a threat to their security, their lives, and their livelihoods. I understand this. The world is a competitive place that can be scary. Canadians and other Westerners are feeling the imposing threat of corporations with deep pockets and citizens of many other countries who are willing to work hard and save hard and sacrifice for themselves and their children.

Today, these “others” are living the life of sacrifice that Canadians lived 100 years ago that allowed us to later become the envy of all. We now live the life of kings and queens. Our royal lifestyle came at a price of hard-work and innovation and risk and investment, and… I hesitate to add, good government too. Now that we have all of this, we understandably want to keep it.

But I don’t believe in beggaring our worldly neighbours to allow us to continue to live in this regal style. I want both us AND our fellow global citizens to live a wonderful, rich life. Fairness demands this. How can we say otherwise?

I don’t want us to just GIVE everyone a wealthy livelihood. It should and must be earned, just as our retention of this lifestyle should continue to be earned.

The 100-mile diet has some validity if you are looking at it from an environmental perspective…less carbon fuels for transport goes the argument. I want to guard the environment too. But there are many who see it differently– It’s about US versus THEM. Save our jobs so THEY can’t take them. “I Object”, I say to the judge.

THEY are US, WE are THEM.

Beggar thy neighbour is not in my principles’ code.

When talking about nationalism, you really can’t avoid the words of George Orwell, who said that nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’. According to him, nationalism is a feeling that one’s country is superior to another. With the amazing connectedness in today’s world, we need to migrate ourselves from a view of Nationalism to a view of Globalism. I’m from Canada, but I am a Global Citizen. My neighbour in Mexico growing grape tomatoes is equal to my neighbour across the lake growing wine grapes.

If a farmer in Peru is willing to work hard for a small paycheque in order to provide me with some wonderful, ripe fruit or vegetable at a price that is attractive to me, then he/she deserves my dollar in order to enrich her pocket, as well as her family’s health and education. Hopefully, one day, my dollars will afford her the opportunity to buy some automated equipment that will make her more productive and earn even more of my dollars. Why should he/she live a life of poverty so that my neighbours and I can wallow in relative wealth?

Millions and millions of Chinese citizens have and are working in sweat-shop conditions making items for my consumption. Do I feel good about this?…NOPE. But I also know that millions and millions are scrounging their way bit-by-bit into the middle class. I know that Asian factories and corporations are being shut down until pay increases come the way of the worker. And if this means I pay 20 cents more for a T-shirt at Wal Mart, then so be it.

Sew a pair of pants here, so they can’t sew a pair of pants there. We’re beyond this. There are lots of jobs available here now and for years to come so long as we make ourselves a smart society, either from advanced entrepreneurialism, advanced education, or advanced training. Our destiny and good fortune relies on making something better of ourselves, not taking something away from others.

We’re all world citizens…could we start acting like we all are deserving of a piece of the pie?

The great thing about travelling outside our own country is meeting people from different countries, different skin colours, different languages and realizing we’re all individuals with hopes and fears and desires for ourselves and our children…we have so much in common, despite our differences.

I am a World Citizen, not just a Canadian!

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The year is 2030 and the din in the stadium is deafening.

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The World Cup soccer (football) final game made up of a mixed-nationality team playing out of  Honduras and another mixed-nationality team playing out of Azerbaijan is about to get underway — the best players from any city, any country, any continent, are lined up at centre field for the starting kick.

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A tumultuous cheer swells and reverberates in a wave around the stadium…

“GO WORLD”

I WOKE UP GROUCHY! 8 things to do…

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He lowered the window of the fast-moving train and then, nonchalant as an acorn lazily dropping from an oak tree, tossed his bag of lunch trash out into the breeze to land in the sunflowers growing beside the tracks.

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I was on a train from Milan to Venice, sharing a compartment with a Catholic priest dressed in his black formality, and maybe one or two other travellers. The bucolic countryside scenery of a beautiful sunny Italian day was heart-lifting. It was just into the early afternoon when the priest pulled out his paper bag containing cheese, bread, fruit and spicy, sliced meats. He sat across from me on the bench seats and chewed contentedly on a typical Italian repast. It was a while back in time so I can’t quite remember if he had some wine to sip on as well. It being Italy, he probably did.

Eventually, he finished up his little meal. He placed the wrappings of paper and plastic and the detritus of his snack neatly back into the bag it had come from. And then, with total casual aplomb, he stood up, lowered the compartment window, and flung the bag out into the pastoral countryside before raising the window and contentedly taking his seat once again.

I thought I would have a stroke. My anger rose to a boil quickly at this unanticipated sight of premeditated littering and befouling of the environment. A priest, for God’s sake!! I wanted to punch him right then and there. My mind raced with rage as I considered pulling the Swiss Army Knife stashed in my backpack that was easily accessible in the overhead bin. I envisioned myself plunging the knife into the throat of the priest and enjoying the sight of blood and retribution for his sin. A sacrifice was in order. He must pay…and so…

I did NOTHING!

I was grouchy for the rest of that day.

The priest had ruined for me what had been a supreme day. He didn’t have to diddle with me, he… just… threw… out… some… garbage!

I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse…you jump off the train or one of my boys will push you off the train…

And today, years later, I feel resentment and anger building whenever I think of that instant in a European railcar.

I don’t feel like Oscar the Grouch very often. I remind myself almost daily of the charmed existence that I live. In historic terms, I live the life that kings dreamed of hundreds of years ago. I have a warm, dry castle. I eat sumptuous foods in overly abundant quantities. I have health and good teeth that aren’t filled with rot. I have entertainment of my choosing (music, drama, comedy) provided in my home 24/7.

But, for no apparent reason, once in a long while, I wake up feeling crabby and grouchy. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s man hormones…maybe it’s a low pressure weather system with grey clouds…perhaps I’m worrying about the health of an ailing family member. Do YOU always know why you’re irritable?

I don’t like feeling grouchy, and I’m sure those around me don’t revel in the sulky, “don’t bug me” attitude that exudes from my curled-under lip. I’m just not pleasant to be around. So, I sometimes try a few things to get past the feeling and bring the Bluebird of Happiness back to my window ledge:

  1. Avoid the news- newspapers and TV news are great means of disseminating information, but the real reason they exist is to bring in eyeballs and make money from advertisers. They do this with as many sensational and tragic headlines as they can think up. Newspaper and magazine sales skyrocket when a hurricane strikes, or Justin Bieber breaks up with his girlfriend. 90% of the news has no effect on you so why get tied up in knots by it all.
  2. Change up routine- routines are wonderful, they give us a sense of stability in our lives that often keeps us sane. But sometimes, I escape the routine and change my milieu and go to a different coffee shop for the first time (so long as it’s Tim Hortons, I own shares;) ). Read a book about something that doesn’t typically interest me. Drive a different road to work and observe the different stores and people  along the route. Play a song on the guitar or piano that I haven’t played in eons. Try a different form of exercise like roller blading or badminton. Make up a new recipe using no more than 4 ingredients. 
  3. Hyperfocus on one thing – for just 30 minutes or an hour. We live in a soupy milieu of computers, and TV’s, and cellphones and a ton of different stimuli that distract us from many important things we could do. So I say to myself, I’ll read one whole chapter of the book I bought last month but haven’t read more than 3 pages at a time. Or, I’ll do the full P90X workout CD, start to finish. Or, I’ll go through 3 boxes in the storage room, get rid of a bunch of stuff, and consolidate them into one.

    This is how I’ve seen them do that YOGA stuff….just focus!

  4. Think about where I’d like to go on vacation...immerse myself in thoughts of a desirable vacation…one I’ve had where all the food was fantastic and the air was warm…OR the vacation that I’d like to have. Close my eyes and allow my senses to experience it like it’s happening now. It’s like listening to music from a time when I was supremely happy…I hear the first few notes or bars of the song, and I feel the emotions, and smell the fragrance of that happy time. Bring on the full sensory experience.
  5. Learn to smell my own crap – aka the “Jewish Mother’s” voice. Sometimes we’re a bit down and grouchy because we know we haven’t been true to our own principles. Some examples? It’s easier to just ignore the insensitive way I spoke to a co-worker. Not booking the cat for her annual shots is weighing on me but maybe I’ll do it tomorrow (yeah, right!). I should phone a relative who’s not been so well? Just do it and not only will she feel better, but I really will too!  I try to see myself for who I am…acknowledging when I’m not living up to my own standards can be difficult. When we at least smell our own crap, we can decide consciously if it can be flushed away and forgotten, or kept and cleaned up. Don’t be afraid to throw away the things that you know aren’t you..are you doing things to impress others?
  6. Buy a lotto ticket- there was a guy in B.C. last week who bought a lottery ticket on the way to his own father’s funeral. He’d bought lottery tickets for years and years, and this time, of all times, he won $25 million. Even when the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, positive things can happen…it’s all about hope!
  7. Acceptance- sometimes I want to soak and marinade in my own self-pity and crabbiness. An acceptance that some days are diamond, and some days are stone (thanks, John Denver!) is just part of our existence. Making this choice is fine so long as I can remove myself and my mood from others…just because I’m grouchy doesn’t mean everyone else should be miserable too. The bluebird’s happy song is that much sweeter after we’ve listened to the clucks of the Chicken of Depression!
  8. Chocolate- a little chocolate stretches an incredibly LONG way in lifting a grey grouchy mood. All of that sugar and cocoa butter and antioxidants. Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your list of things to do today. Chocolate is to grouchiness as apples are to doctors.

If none of the above stuff does the trick, I close my eyes, all of those squiggly lines appear like in a TV scene, and I go back in time and imagine—

…the priest opens the train window to toss his trash just as a huge gust of wind miraculously whips through the compartment. It catches his billowing vestments and like the Flying Nun, out the window he soars screaming, thrashing into a lush patch of prickly pear cactus alongside the tracks.  

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Then, his lunch bag drifts dreamily back into the compartment like the feather in Forrest Gump. I bend over to pick it up gently and with a contented smile, drop it smugly into the garbage bin next to the door. Sitting back down, without a care in the world, I gaze once again out the window and admire the beautiful olive groves whizzing past.

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Today I Am…Tomorrow I Can Be…

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News item from Westover (Me.) weekly Enterprise, August 19, 1966: RAIN OF STONES REPORTED.”

Cover of "Carrie"

This is the opening line to Stephen King’s first published novel, CARRIE, a story about a poor little high-school girl with menstrual problems who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. Sort of a man’s take on PMS!

I’m not, or at least I wasn’t, a huge fan of author Stephen King. Widely known for his populist horror thrillers, he’s sold bazillions of books, most of which have been made into movies with varying levels of success.

At this point, with his name recognition and popularity, Stephen King could write a COOKBOOK highlighting the culinary use of all of the bloody, dismembered human bodies he’s written of in his novels – now add in one cup of eviscerated intestine –  and it would become an instant bestseller. Fully-coloured, glossy photographs and all…it will make a great Christmas gift!  I’m envious and amazed at what King has accomplished in his genre of literature.

I could list for you a number of people in my own circle who I know and love that I think are amazing (I won’t because if I missed one by accident, I would look like a dick). There is also a bunch of well-known people in this world I admire. I may not necessarily LIKE them – I don’t need to like them, to appreciate their accomplishments – but I admire their creativity or thinking abilities, or physical prowess- and in either case, I think it comes down to the notion that they have developed amazing capabilities of focus and drive to make something where there was nothing before.

A current short list of these people for me might look like:

  • Stephen King
  • Aaron Sorkin– brilliant TV and movie screenwriter of superb dialogue with credits such as West Wing, The Newsroom, and The Social Network
  • Lance Armstrong– with or without drugs, he climbed mountains – competing against other similarly drug-pumped athletes – with fantastic determination and strength of will.
  • Hillary Clinton– unshakable and smart, and part of two “dream” teams of which she could easily have been the leader…Bill Clinton’s and Barak Obama’s.
  • Payton Manning– an NFL quarterback (silly, I know) who plays a brawny game like a brainy chess master.
  • Sarah McLachlan- Canadian singer/songwriter with such a great voice that also speaks for women’s, children’s, and animal issues.

I’ll likely never be a famous songwriter/singer like James Taylor. I’ll likely never be a famous writer like Stephen King. Actually – although I hope this isn’t true – I may never write a book…EVER. And yet, my desire to be creative has never been stronger.

For years, I’ve allowed my creativity to be governed. I’ve spent the majority of my life concerned about what others think…about me and the things I do. I’ve worked really hard to not look dumb, to not embarrass myself and others around me. I’ve pigeon-holed myself based on a litany of voices in my head that say I SHOULD get a good university education, I SHOULD get married, I SHOULD have 2.5 children, I SHOULD be nice to everyone, I SHOULD chew my food with my mouth closed…I SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD. And to quote a dubiously-famous motivator, Anthony Robbins:

I SHOULD all over myself” 

 
But back to Stephen King. King has reminded me that we don’t have to be those things that others, or ourselves, tell us we should be. He has written library shelves full of books that are largely horror. He 65 years old now and could just get up each morning and shuffle over to his La-Z-Boy chair and enjoy a life of total leisure. Or…he could continue to easily and systematically pump out – like a weekly Harlequin romance novel – more of his standard horror fare and make Brink’s armoured-truck loads of money.

So what HAS he done?

He threw the “SHOULD HAVE” in the trash. In the past year, he wrote and published another novel called “11/22/63”. HORROR?…nope…at least not in the sense that we tend to think of horror. I guess that a story about someone perched in a 6th floor window overlooking a crowded Dallas, Texas street and taking a murderous rifle shot at the head of the sitting American President could be considered horror.

But his book is a well-researched and intriguingly-written novel based on a true historic and history-changing event in modern times. Even though I was just 6 years old at the time, I can remember when I heard about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was that big a deal! King develops fully-fleshed out characters and complex situations that are totally removed from his usual fantastical horror creations. It’s a great book from an unexpected source.

How and why did he take the leap to this?

Sorry if you expect me to have the answer here, but…Well, honestly, I don’t know. Boredom?  Desire to write in a more “respectable” genre? Nightmares that wouldn’t rest until he wrote the dreams down?

What I really like here, and what I personally take from this is that we don’t have to be the things we tell ourselves we should or must be—

Horror writer today, historic fiction-writer tomorrow…

Health care worker today, entrepreneur tomorrow…

Bank employee today, college instructor tomorrow…

Concert violinist today, Country fiddle player tomorrow…

Stand aside…I’m making the LEAP!

Ten years ago I was working with bacteria, doing lab tests day in and day out. Throat cultures for Strep, urine cultures for E. coli, vaginal cultures for yeast. It was fun and interesting at the beginning of my career 20 years earlier but it became as boring as watching gonorrhoea bacteria grow.

Computers were just becoming big in clinical labs, and so I took a course on data management and reporting. I learned and learned, and taught myself more and some more still until I became the  lab data expert, another nerdy kind of role. But it was different nerdy. It challenged my mind every day, and now I don’t work with the smelly, yucky specimens. Today, I work in the lab world still, but in a different “country” within the lab. But this world too will grow routine someday soon, and so I’m thinking about where the next challenge lies.

Our lives, like plants in a garden oasis, are living things that need to be thought about, tended, and nurtured. Seasons change, some plants die back, others thrive and grow stronger in the coming spring. We plant fresh seeds.

Change can be a frightening thing, but my experiences have ultimately shown me that it’s exhilarating too. Feelings of disappointment, frustration, loss, or general sadness that go on and on tell me that now is the time to begin the search for the counterbalancing positive to them. Emerson referred to it as the “Law of Compensation”… an opposite condition must emerge to offset the initial condition.

To be in the driver’s seat of change and to make the parachute jump out of the airplane is terrifying and tremendous at the same time. I think that Stephen King- just like you and me who pulls on his or her pants one leg at a time– was needing to feel a brisk, fresh wind in his face, strapped on his parachute, yelled

Today I am…Tomorrow I Can Be…”

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and took the big jump!

8 Places To See Before I Die

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Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Cruz will be panting breathlessly– all swollen, crimson, pouty-lipped in anticipation of my arrival. I just hope they haven’t tattooed my name on their bosoms…

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They’ve fantasized about a threesome with me ever since they filmed Vicky Cristina Barcelona and were forced to make fake-love to Javier Bardem. I could take it or leave it, but my insecurities prevent me from hurting others’ feelings, so I’ll likely go along with their plan, bored though I may be.

This will be the last MAN ON THE FRINGE blog posting for a month as Maureen and I spread our linguistic wings and head in-flight to Barcelona to plug away in a downtown classroom for 4 hours daily on our Spanish expletives…

You see, I’m not satisfied embarrassing myself only in my home country. The rest of the world should know that not all Canadians are the cliched polite, self-effacing, half-intelligent, hockey-stick toting, igloo-making, parka-wearing, maple donut-gorging, making-love-in-the-snowbank, Mountie-lovers that they think we are. It is never a great idea to be deluded by stereotypes of nationality. I intend to set the record straight for the poor Spaniards who lack a true understanding of poutine-laced Canada and Canadians!

You can follow our trials and tribulations of learning ESPANOL on another blog site…just link in here  for our stories and adventures.And because we’re off a-wandering, this seems to be just the right moment to segue to my travel “bucket list”. I’ve been to all of Canada’s provinces and territories, and now I’m setting my sights on each of the continents, as well as all 50 states of the good ole U.S.A. I’ve set foot on a piece of :

  • North America (Canada, US & Mexico)
  • South America  (Peru)
  • Europe (all western except Spain, Portugal)
  • Asia (China)

and with a (I’m assured)finite lifetime, it’s time to get my sorry ass out there. My own list follows…if you have some ideas of other “must see” places you think I should go, please pass them my way!

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MY personal list of  8 “GO-TO” places:

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  1. Russia—the Cold War era was a part of history that I grew up in. The former Soviet Union and now Russia and its affiliates are still a very foreign entity and culture in my mind. The food is different; the language is guttural and intriguing. The stereotype of hard-drinking vodka-swillers in large fur Ushanka hats lives on in my mind. It’s time to see and experience this country and either reinforce my typecasting, or kill the stereotypes dead in their tracks, like so many steers lined up at the abattoir doors.
  2. Africa—a continent of thin, black primitive people living in mud huts on a desert plain with wild animals waiting on the prowl to devour them. An accurate description? I’m guessing not. Once again, a pigeonholed vision waiting to be crushed. This huge landmass is almost forgotten by North Americans unless there is a relief drive to save drought-savaged starving people. Surely this amazing continent deserves more attention than it has attracted so far.
  3. Antarctica-it’s just sitting there in its icy-frozen place at the bottom of the world with penguins and ice floes. I don’t even know if there is an actual landmass that makes Antarctica, well, Antarctica. As a part of my quest to visit each of the world continents, Antarctica needs to be on the list. Bonus, I figure Morgan Freeman must live there, since he is the voiceover I hear every time I see a documentary or film about Antarctica!
  4. India—like with Africa, I grew up hearing great tales of a place filled with starvation, swollen-tummied children with flies in their eyes, and disease, but with super spicy, aromatic food. India is a huge country with lots of climates and cultural and religious varieties. I don’t think you could visit India and not be mesmerized by the complex mélange of colour of life within its borders.
  5. Australia– well, because it’s a continent with weird, poisonous animals and insects. And crocodiles. Sounds terrifying. And kangaroos and wallabies…we all love those. I have to see it to understand why some people actually want to live there, other than to visit the Sydney Opera House.  Would go just to acquire the cool accent! G’day mate!!
  6. Alabama– Really, I could have picked any southern US state.  I haven’t been to any of them save Florida (which isn’t REALLY a part of the true “South”). Civil War, grits, racism, Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer, Sweet Home Alabama. There are countless tales of life in a country that’s just like mine, but ISN’T when you head south. Even northern-state Americans talk about the south like it’s a different country…kind of an American Quebec. Who wouldn’t want to visit a place where everything eaten comes in huge, deep-fried portions? And where they say “Y’All”?

    Alabama Emergency Room…

  7. Turkey—a life wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a historic Ottoman Empire country, situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Huge mosques, the Hagia Sophia, and dry landscapes combined with Muslim culture and exotic foods make this a must-do, just as a sharp spiny breath of culture shock.
  8. Israel– it wouldn’t be fair to visit an Islamic country without the counter-balance of a sojourn to the one and only Jewish state. The tension…two sides of the coin, yin and yang, positive and negative, black and white, Judaism and Islamism. A gutsy, belligerent, tiny young country surrounded by a sea of antagonistic hordes. What kind of people can live their lives in this sandy ocean of tension?

So, look after yourselves while I’m away. Dream of your favourite places you’ve been or would like see. Start to plan for your future “bucket list” of travel, or any adventure that makes your heart beat just a little more rapidly. Make YOUR life just a little more “well-lived”!

Sorry, but I hear Scarlett and Penelope calling me, they need help rehearsing a torrid love scene they have coming up in their next cinematic outing with Ryan Gosling. Being a teacher and mentor to their fragile hearts is such demanding work.

Why must they be so needy?

SHAMELESS Like Me… YEAH, I’m a Bad’ish Ass!

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I hate him but I love him.

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If I could start out in life all over again, I’d be a real BAD ASS, like Frank Gallagher.

Arguably the most aptly named show on TV, it is profane and crazy and lusty, and even a bit far-fetched. BUT it’s great fun, so not MY life.

Frank Gallagher is the most lovable, hateful boozer out there (despite being the possessor of 3 testicles!)  He’s shameless, and so are all of his kids in their own uniquely dysfunctional ways.

Canadian actor William H. Macy plays the role of the alcoholic father of 6 children in the TV show called SHAMELESS (based on a British show by the same title). He would sell his soul and anyone else’s besides if he could get a freebie support cheque from the government to support his drinking ways.

WILLIAM_H_MACY SHAMELESS

Like the Shakespearean Fool–and despite all of his unforgivably, incredibly bad behaviour– he often utters the least fool-like and most intelligently profound statements. He has cachet and charisma.

Frank Gallagher is the perfect old-man bad boy. He pays none of the bills. Totally narcissistic, he lures his youngest daughter and sundry other women at various times to do his bidding, with a charm that is both loathsome, yet irresistible. There’s nothing physically appealing about him yet he attracts female attention like elder bees to autumn honey.

I’m even attracted to him and I’m a Straight Guy!!

Bad Ass Boys

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The world is full of bad boys that a substantial cadre of women are drawn to, like moths to a flame. This bad boy attraction strikes girls at a young age. By the time they wake up to their folly, they fall exhausted –alone– into bed at night, the adjoining bedroom containing 2 wee moppets who struggle at school and eat poorly because Mommy can’t afford to feed and clothe and supervise and educate them while simultaneously working a dead-end job at just above minimum wage…sans BAD ASS BOY or his bankroll!

It’s been described as “ovulation goggles”, the period leading up to a woman’s period where she’s most attracted to the bad boy who bizarrely…paradoxically… looks like the great father type. Women love a man who appears confident…and for Bad Ass Boys it really is just an “appearance“. Women are attracted to men who take risks and who take the initiative to meet them. They say they want the solid, caring, sensitive type of guy but what women say and what they actually do are generally miles apart.

BAD ASS BOY harbours only a smatter of important dreams in his little head…a great car, a beer in his hand and a great piece of ass in his bed at night…probably in that order of appearance and importance.

BAD_BOY

So let’s look first at some of the traits of the typical Bad Boy and see what we can learn from him.

The typical Bad Boy:

  • is cocky, arrogant
  • always puts himself first
  • is inattentive to a woman’s needs
  • does what he wants when he wants to do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks
  • acts like a loose cannon
  • struts his masculine sexuality
  • treats women badly
  • often uses women for sex

The lure of excitement and cocky self-confidence draws women into their “Bad Ass” moats like a desiccated wanderer in the desert lacking water for days.  Akin to Lady Chatterley’s lover Oliver Mellorswomen feel the draw of the stereotypically aloof, sarcastic but masculine woodsman whom Lady Chatterley falls for.

How do these relationships usually turn out? In a word, poorly. That’s because bad boys won’t change unless they want to—no matter how long-suffering their partner might be.

Further, despite initial attraction, most women get tired of bailing a man out of jail, wondering if he’ll make it home from a party, or catching him with another woman. Women who sign on with bad boys enlist for endless conflict and turmoil. Ironically, the very thing that draws good girls and bad boys together also sows the seeds of the relationship failure. Many women have learned the hard way that bad boys make bad dating partners–and even worse spouses.

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What woman wouldn’t want a piece of these BAD BOYS! Bad Ass though…who knows?

Women are all to blame, right? Yes, and NO!

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Typically, we blame women for falling under the spell of these magicians. But maybe we should look at this from a different side. Men can be a part of the solution too.

The world needs good men. Good women need good men too! But good men need to change. There are too many good women who end up in dead-end lives because they’re fooled and taken in by the tricksters…the BAD ASS BOYS. Fear of failure keeps many nice guys home alone while faux-confidence keeps the bad boys busy.

Nice guys need to learn to be a bit more shameless…confident and cocky and adventurous and risk-taking, while simultaneously retaining their sensitive and caring side…we talk about a perfect woman possessing beauty, intelligence and charm. Men need to be the perfect 10 of humorous, adventurous and compassionate.

Good guys need to wear the disguise of the BAD ASS. Become a BAD’ish ASS Too!

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Three Things to Bring out the Bad’ish Ass in a Man:

  1. A good humour can be cultivated by anyone, good or bad. Just as math and spelling can be learned, a sense of humour isn’t necessarily an inborn trait. Guys, learn how to tell a killer story and women will love you for it. Try to learn a funny line or two,  absorb the funny things that happen in life. The everyday stuff gives every Jerry Seinfeld out there plenty of material…it just needs to be observed and absorbed. Women LOVE a funny dude. A bit of attention to humour will bring life and love into a man’s life. Nothing Bad Ass about this, but it still looks edgy.
  2. A life well-lived means taking a bit of risk. This doesn’t have to be a jump off a cliff with a hang-glider, although, why not? Cultivate some additional interests that push the edge even a bit. Rock-climb…learn to sail…mountain bike on trails…play the drums. Women want to see someone who LIVES life because it makes them feel alive just being with you. Bring some passion into your life, and others will feel passion for you.
  3. Ditch the gut. Even a bit of regular exercise outside the bedroom will pay off here. We know that women are far less beautiful-body absorbed (in their men anyways), but showing that you care about your own body and health will show her that you might care about her too! BAD ASS BOYS always look decent in a pair of jeans!

I’m trying to be a bit more SHAMELESS! I’m as lucky as a guy can get in my life, but running a bit closer to the edge adds some zing to life. Just writing this blog makes me way more aware of the silly things that happen in everyday life.  And the next time I get the opportunity to parasail, I’m there!

So girls…save yourself a lot of agony and despair, and search a bit deeper for the caring, sensitive, good, BAD’ish ASS BOYS. They exist. Relationships can be exhilarating and edgy, and still be filled with compassion, commitment, and equality.

And guys…being BAD’ish ASS can be cultivated while still retaining the passion and gentlemanly qualities that make a dude a MAN.

Let’s all put Frank Gallagher out of business and keep him as a fictional guy on the tube where he belongs!

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