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Are YOUR Goals YOUR Passion for 2014 – Part 2

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Have you noticed that sunny days smell so much better than cloudy ones?

sunflower

Food tastes better … snow sparkles whiter … girls look sweeter and smell more ravishing … beer is more refreshing – when it’s sunny.

Having goals to aim towards is like having balmy sun rays warming the skin on your shoulders every day – or John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High in your ears.

Your senses are fired up and you feel the glowing burn of internal enthusiasm rising knowing that you’re choosing a positive road.

Life is just sunnier and tastier.

……………………….

I can talk a good story.

I can post all of my incredible achievements with full glossy, colour photos on Facebook. Everyone is smiling and living the best life ever on Facebook. It’s true.

WRONG.

I can make myself sound like perfection while writing this blog, even though I’m not.

When we’re born, we contain all of the promise and disappointment, the fate of our lives buried inside. But it’s not really fate. We can choose the direction of all that promise or devastation.

I have fears. I’ve laid in my bed staring at the ceiling so many times through the years, worrying and fretting about a host of concerns, real and mostly imagined.

I’ve worried that I’m dying, or my wife has cancer, or what will become of my kids.

When I was a teenager, I cried myself to sleep worrying about my Mom dying. That wasn’t an imagined dread, it was real. She stepped out of the car one spring evening and collapsed on our driveway and died when I was 15.

But worries can’t stop us from making the most of the days we do have. I’m not Christian, or Jewish, or Islamic, or Hari Krishna, or a follower of any religious icon.

I’m just one of 7 billion living people on this planet and however many billion people that have lived before me searching for a meaningful – significant and worthwhile in a way that means something to me – life.

7 billion swimmers

The whole world must be swimming here …

Some days, some weeks, some years are long, but an entire life is SOOOO short.

One day soon, like my great-grandparents, I’ll just be a few yellowed pages of smiling, but essentially personality-less pictures in a weathered photo album or on a computer hard drive. That, and a bit of dust or ashes feeding the next season’s growth of flowers and grass.

……………………….

What’s that you say? Larry, you sound like Donny Downer.

Some of what I’ve said to this point does makes me sound like I’m wallowing in a depression, but don’t believe it. I’m an idealistic optimist.

I’m just pointing out that life isn’t 24/7 happiness and joy. And I’m glad for that. Life is a process, a road we travel.

I’m travelling hopefully, and I wish you the same.

Goals are a hugely important part of my hopeful travels. 

How can I tap dance on the sidewalk with glorious abandon if I have no direction?

This year I’m setting up my 2014 goals by category because a number of areas of my life contain more than one item in their little compartments.

I want to share these with you to make me accountable. I like the subtle pressure of you knowing where I’m headed because of the inner need I have to achieve and please.

I’m a terrible dancer, but if I could tap dance like Fred Astaire, here’s the fuel that would feed that ability:

……………………….

2014 GOALS

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

1. PHYSICAL/HEALTH

a) 100 burpees including pushups. I’m going at this lung-busting challenge with a few of my co-workers, so we can all DIE together. Most people I know, including me, hate the BURPEE. It’s hard once you get past 3 or 4 of these up/down/pushup/jump contortions, which is exactly why I’m doing it. I’ll enjoy the pain … afterwards!

Now THOSE are burpees!

Now THOSE are burpees!

b) 2 more New-To-Me Sports (eg. Paintball, Kickboxing …). It’s important to keep refreshed with new things to keep our enthusiasm levels high. If you have any great suggestions for innovative new sports I can try… add your comment at the end, OK? Pole dancing is NOT an acceptable suggestion for this dude.

c) Run 2 Half Marathons – both in sub-2 Hour time and as a stretch goal, finishing one in sub-1 hr and 55 minutes. Half marathon running is the perfect distance for feeling a sense of accomplishment without having to give over your life to training.

d) Lose Enough Weight to See the Subtle Signs of a 6 pack Abs.- I work hard in training. A lot of that work includes the core (ie. Abdominal muscles). Isn’t it fair that I should see even a tiny ripple or two of ripped muscle that says that yes, it’s finally paying off?

Muscle definition is one part health-related stuff to one part ego matter, and my ego needs a teensy little meal to feed on here. I don’t have an actual weight loss goal, just enough to see the small sandbar ripples in the mirror.

2. CHARITABLE

a) 10% Charitable boost – I’m so lucky to have won the life lottery that gives me an unbelievable lifestyle. Supporting charities  (Plan International /UNICEF) that assist in enabling others to proudly develop their own systems and economies to live the way I can is a tiny tiny price to pay.

b) Buy a coffee for the next person in the lineup at Tim Hortons once per month – Coffee is mentioned in the Ten Commandments given Moses:

Thou shalt be provided and drink coffee in healthful abundance“.

Huh, it’s not a commandment? Really? Well it should be.

Coffee Commandment

3. WRITING

a) 50 Additional Blog Posts + 40 views/day on blog 

I’m not the most stylishly eloquent guy when it comes to verbal communication. In some ways, I suck at the whole talk thing.

That leaves writing as my favoured way of expressing what I have to say. A weekly blog allows me to think about and ponder the things that are meaningful to me, and then allows me to share my thoughts with you.

b) Take on Writing Another Novel – this past November I participated in the month long National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an internet-based 50,000 word novel-writing challenge.

It’s free, it’s motivating, and they give you lots of feedback and encouragement. I wrote about 2/3 of a novel that is really bad, but I loved doing it.

I’m psyched to take it on again and make my own sexy 50 Shades of Green.

4.  MUSICAL

a) Purchase 12-string guitar – The guitar has been one of my best friends in life. It’s been there all through the peaks and valleys. But sometimes, a song just needs a little more depth than 6 strings radiate and a 12-string guitar can add that richness, like a teaspoon of full-fat cream in coffee.

b) Purchase a Baby Grand Piano – This is probably not a goal that will be attained this year, but it’s too important in my mind to not at least put it on the list for the next year or two.

Piano is a great late-night instrument that satisfies my spirituality needs. Singing a love ballad on a richly-toned grand in the semi-darkness at 11 pm. …well, it just soothes my savage soul.

mickey_mouse_piano

c) Learn more mandolin – I got a lovely mandolin gift last year. Like a 12-string guitar, the double sets of strings on a mandolin add musical dimensions that lift us dreamily towards the heavens. It’s time to give a bit of quality time and develop at least a minimal skill set.

d) Write 6 more Songs and perform original songs publically. Writing songs is hard, but rewarding. For variety I’d like to write 2 country, 2 folk-ballad, 1  jazzy, and 1 rock’ish-style. This should stretch my imagination and creativity skills to the breaking point.

Performing publically is nervously challenging but fun. But now, finding the steely nerves to take my own songs to a stage and perform them publically is, for me, a huge leap. 2014 is the year for me to brace myself and do this. Besides, why should only my family suffer through hearing my dulcet vocal tones!

5. TRAVEL

a) Visit at least 5 more American States – one of my long term goals is to visit each of the 50 American States – I’ve visited all of the Canadian provinces and territories in previous years. Last year I wandered and added 9 states (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and DC) to my list that includes 9 others. This year I hope to knock off a bunch of western U.S. States and make it near to the halfway point.

b) Touch Ground on One More Continent – One more of my long-term goals is to step on each of the continents. Africa, Australia, and Antarctica are out there calling my name like sweet sirens in the mist. See next item…

c) Buy a Fez Hat in Fez, Morocco + get my hair cut by a “Barber in Seville” – A touchdown in Morocco this year would take me to the African continent, and allow me the opportunity to do a couple of things that are iconic of the area: Visit Casablanca and talk like Humphrey Bogart, buy the Fez hat that Steely Dan sang about in the 1970’s , and while in Spain, be sheared like Rossini’s famed Barber of Seville.

A Fez of the Heart...

A Fez of the Heart…

6. MENTAL/EDUCATIONAL

a) Listen to at least 1 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk per month – I’d be hard-pressed to find a finer source of creative and thought-provoking material than is found in the inspiring TED talks. This is a Lego-block piece of the grey-matter material that makes the internet so great.

b) Read at least one new book each month – whether it’s for escape or education or relaxation, books (PAPER or ELECTRONIC) are one of life’s wonders more crucial and dear to most of us than the physical 7 Wonders of the World.

7. FINANCIAL

a) 15% return – Each year, my goal is to bring home an additional 15% on my investments.

And each year I start out feeling nervous as hell because no matter how well I did the previous year, January 1 is right back to the starting blocks. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day and each year I have to prove my investing chops all over again as if last year never happened.

My 5-year average annual return is looking pretty fair at 22.7%  but then when you cook in the 2008 stock market plunge, my 10-year annual average is only 12.4%.

b) Retire, Debt-Free –  The year 2014 is my “Freedom 57” year.

I hate the word retirement, it’s kinda like saying “I’m done with life“. We live in a golden age with countless choices of paths to wander.

As Yogi Berra said: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Retirement is just another fork in the road, and I’m choosing to take it.

8. FOOD & EATING

a) Eat at least one box of Kraft Dinner per month – mmmmm. Kraft Dinner. God’s flavourful gift to men. Like the humour of Monty Python, Kraft dinner seems to be favoured by the male set. With or without ketchup, it’s a simple box of orange-hued macaroni ambrosia.

Gourmet KD

If I had a million dollars …Gourmet KD…

b) Drink Coffee with Only One Sugar – to counteract the ill effects of all that delicious Kraft Dinner, I’ll resolve this year to scale back my sugar (and/or Splenda) use. A couple of years back I shed my Canadian-ness by cutting back the double cream to a single dose in my coffee. This year will be the year of my sugar assault.

……………………..

The chapter of each of our books that is 2014 has been opened and the juicy story of what will be, is waiting to be discovered.

Like a good Canadian lad, I grew up playing hockey with fervour and enthusiasm. When I jumped onto the ice at Parkdale Arena in Hamilton, the first thing on my mind was:

I wanna score a goal!”

Deep down, I’m still that little guy with the rosy-red cheeks, skating on this rink of life. I might not score on every shift, but I’m rushing up and down the wings, enthusiastically sucking in the air that sustains me.

And when I score a goal, inside I feel just like Bobby Orr soaring through the air, caught up in that moment of elation.

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal...

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal…

Are Your GOALS your PASSION for 2014? Part I …

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

2013 to 2014

Brace yourself and take this jump with me, OK?

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

My delusional optimism is greater than my depressive disorder.”

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

Cowards…

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

Nonsense, says I !

Having goals means I’m in control.

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

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

car_off_a_cliff

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

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

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

Get paroled. Make your own choices.

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

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

How many distractions can there possibly be in our lives?

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

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

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

REALLY.

IMPORTANT.

TO.

YOU!

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

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

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

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

GOALS for 2013

My 2013 goals…………………………………..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real writer of this blog...

The real writer of this blog…

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  • Write 12 songs…one per month. HALF HIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 20 Pullups Non-Stop – MISS

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

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

They can’t do it … neither could I …

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

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

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

This will be accomplished…. MAÑANA!

.Cooking class in Argentina

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

Check!

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

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

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

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  • 100 pushups Non-stop – HALF HIT

I’m happy but slightly disappointed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. 100 pushups

  • Purchase 12-string guitar – MISS

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

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  • Overall Net Worth Return of >15%  – HIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing money

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  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10% – HIT

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

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

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

Simple. Accomplished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for this, the walnut MUST die.

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

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

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

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

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

All good.

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

………………..

OK, so let’s add this up …

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

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

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

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

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

What about your list?

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

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

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

There's passion...

There’s passion…

The Road to Hell is Paved Through Routine …

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Many people die at 25

but aren’t buried until they are 75″

…………………………………….>>>>>>>>…..Benjamin Franklin

Beautiful girl is a Wind-Up Toy

My life is full of contradictions.

ROUTINE … I hate it and I love it.

Routine is like floating on an air mattress on Okanagan Lake in the summertime. You close your eyes and absorb the sun’s mesmerizing heat, letting the warm lake gods take you in whatever direction they meander.

It’s soothing and its comfortable, and for an hour or two you think you’re living in the hereafter. Then you open your eyes, scream at the scalded red sear you’ve just acquired and say to yourself, “Now what?

For over two decades, I woke up at 5 am on Saturday mornings and drove into the lab to look at culture plates for an hour or two, read the Globe and Mail newspaper, and have a Tim Hortons coffee. It was a comforting and agreeable routine and I found a calm pleasure in its monotony. I’d read the business section of the Globe and if the markets had had a good week, I smiled and dreamed of a fantasy life living in Aruba surrounded by servants.

Then one day the routine stopped when modern technology and centralization intervened and we began sending all of our Microbiology samples to the Kelowna lab for testing. After almost 25 years of doing this every Saturday morning, I still had a job, but my eyes flickered open and I saw the sunburn of the routine and I knew I needed something new and different.

Too much routine kills the creative genius and so I’m trying to avoid its poison.

creativity-tombstone

When we see and experience variety we build new pathways inside our heads that run wildly off in all directions instead of the plain-Jane Yellow Brick Road that follows a straight linear route.

Life is so much simpler when we walk the well-tread path. But the road we can build for ourselves contains all of the brains and heart and courage we need. We can step safely off the Yellow Brick Road and survive.

new_path_road-less-traveled

I accept that some people want to spend their lives in a comforting bubble of routine. We’re all constructed from slightly different sorts of clay. But any clay CAN be molded, even a little.

Routine sucks because, like a medicinal poultice, it sucks and draws away our vigour and true life. Avoid routine and then you unravel mystery, invention, WOW, and all the things that create passion.

Routine puts a clam on that magic. It puts limitations on what you can achieve. Face it.

You choose the world you live in.

Right now you choose.

If I eat the same foods with my mouth or my mind, my taste buds grow accustomed and wilt with apathy and neglect. I need new spices and new combinations of flavours to boost my metabolism.

Path of life

Routine can be disrupted in small ways and still feel close to routine, but you sense your heart beating again and your head is smiling inside:

  • Walk or bike to work. At the very least, drive a different route. Take a detour through a seedy neighbourhood.
  • Travel to a completely different culture. How many of us journey to the Middle East or Africa?
  • Read a book that is completely different from your normal interests. Like romance? Try Paranormal or Scandinavian Mystery.
  • Buy your caffeine fix at a different java bar. Coffee tastes different based on the logo of the paper cup.
  • Go to an exercise class you’ve never tried before. Trapeze class or the Thug Workout might just be your thing.
  • Try eating something new. Ever tried eating insects? Gross, maybe, but you’re never the same person again after the first bite.
  • Grow a moustache. Or get a Brazilian wax. You definitely feel different.

Routine is comfortable. Routine is unremarkable. Routine is bland. Routine resists change even for the better.

You can mark the passage of time and mindlessly blow out the candles on your cake each year … or you can see the fire … feel the heat … and celebrate your birthdays like your life means something to you.

Any change, even a change for the better,

is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”

………………………………..— Arnold Bennett, Novelist
Yummy ...

Yummy …

I’m Coming Out of the Closet … Again.

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Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

A year ago in this blog I came out of the INTROVERSION closet. And so in this, my 2nd annual coming-out post, I’ve selected a different closet from which to emerge.

Yin Yang, Hot Cold, Vanilla Chocolate.

The attraction of opposites is common and complementary.

I’m more like the repelling blend of oil and water within the world of gender roles. After all, what kind of real man likes romantic, sappy, poignant movies that tell stories of love lost and won, lost again and then re-won?

What kind of real man can endure Katherine Heigl or Rachel McAdams playing the hard-nosed but oh-so-soft female executive in a man’s world?

Most men’s heads are a vortex of sports, beer, cars, and sex. Real men thrive on action and violence and muscle cars. Real men don’t like quiche. Real men spit and swear.

I’m not a Harlequin romance reader or cheesy soap opera fan but I must — somewhat reluctantly — thrust my hand out of the macho-closet into the tissue-ready Chick-Flick world.

I’m the oil slick on the surface of this water-world of REAL men.

couple-watches-chick-flick

I like CHICK-FLICKS. Bite me.

Give me sweetly-saccharine Sandra, give me Blonde Reese (Legal or Illegal!), give me Chicago-syrupy Renee and Serendipitously-seductive Kate and Castaway Tom and Silver-lined Bradley and cutesy-Sleepless Meg.

Hold the Terminating Arnold, hold the Die-Hard Bruce, hold the Rambo Sylvester and Delta-Force Chuck.

I embrace this frilly feminine turf filled with feelings, relationships, and emotions. The rise and swell of sorrowful violins is tender therapy.

But really, chick-flicks are all about finding two hours of vicarious love in the form of a charismatic leading man or winsome heroine.

Like in a well-written novel, a clever chick-flick puts us squarely in the starring role — we peer from behind Audrey Hepburn’s neckline or Paul Newman’s blue eyes for a short time.

Let me recall some Chick-Flick history as a chart of my story:

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1960’s  “Honest to goodness it’s the absolute ultimate!” — Gidget (Sandra Dee)

Sandra Dee in GIDGET and Annette Funicello in the series of Beach movies were my early chick-flick loves. They were wholesome but in an ever-so-slightly slutty way. Men like wholesome sluts. It’s walking on the carnal ledge without cruising the dark side streets seeking the perfect hooker for 5 minutes (or 2 maybe) of fun and pleasure.

Julie Andrews sang, twirled, and beguiled us through the Salzburg mountains in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She teased us and made a nun’s habit vaguely naughty and sexy.

1970’s. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — LOVE STORY (Ali McGraw)

One of my favourite 1970’s movies was LOVE STORY. I had a mad crush on Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) with her pouty, intellectually preppy attitude. She also had a vulnerability that melted me into liquid chocolate.

1980’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan)

The decade began with AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN when Debra Winger wooed me with her blue-collar longings and husky voice and ended  WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Meg Ryan was the perfect chick-flick lead — she pulled at my heartstrings with her neurotic tendencies and operatic restaurant orgasms. Why is quirkiness so appealing?

1990’s “Go to the Mattresses.” — You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks)

1995  brought us WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. Sandra Bullock was my girl of the decade with her crush on comatose hunk Peter Gallagher while honourable Bill Pullman drooled all over her back. Meg Ryan’s cute-vulnerable act continued in a close second place with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

2000’s “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”  — Serendipity (Jeremy Piven)

The new millenium began and a new cinematic crush walked into my life as Kate Beckinsale brought a serendipitous attraction into SERENDIPITY in 2001. A year later, Mandy Moore sang and stole my heart in A WALK TO REMEMBER Like Ali McGraw in LOVE STORY, this movie reminded me that dying girls can be hot.

2010’s “I don’t want to fall asleep. Okay? Don’t let me fall asleep. Promise.” — SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Keira Knightley)

We’re barely into the second decade of the 2000’s but already I’ve been smitten with Keira Knightley in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. Once again, the quirky factor drew me in. I may be detecting a trend here — quirky + dying = irresistible.

Seeking-a-Friend-For-The-End-Of-The-World

So there you have it, I’ve outed myself … again. But I am egalitarian. It’s not only the female leads that make a chick-flick eminently watchable.

Strangely, I’ve developed man crushes on Tom Hanks (YOU’VE GOT MAIL),  John Cusack (SERENDIPITY), and Steve Carell (SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD / DAN IN REAL LIFE) too. The easy humour and vulnerability of the male leading man roles remind me that masculinity is far more than the stereotypical grunting and rutting of the penis owner.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, chick-flicks encompass the meaning of human existence. We work to live, but we love in order to breathe and feel and experience the depths of our emotional consciousness.

I’ve lived and loved my life to the passionate background beat of cinematic romance for more than five decades.

The greater fear that rises within me now is how I might survive the upcoming Chick-Lit-Flick armageddon 50 SHADES OF GREY. Don’t get me started on that one…

50-shades-of-bad-boys

State of the Nation “My Half-Year” Address … The Tortures I Inflict on Myself!

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You'll make a great Dad someday!

GOOD JOB…You’ll make a great Dad someday!

When a woman is pregnant, all her friends touch her swelling belly and say, “Congrats”.

But … none of them come and touch the man’s penis and say, “Good job”.

Moral of the story?

“Hard work is never appreciated.”

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I’d like to thank you for coming here today to share in my semi-annual State of the Half-Year Address.

I appreciate that it’s summertime; it’s hard to focus on serious matters during the hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer. I’ll try to keep my speechifying short and let you get back to your Sangria on the poolside deck ASAP, está bien?

I’m swimming laps in the Sea of Inspiration.

Cousin-in-law John is writing music with Nashville songwriters, 71 year-old brother-in-law Jim swims 100 laps in the pool each day, my friend Angus is writing novels,  my co-worker Dave is in the top ranks of senior golfers in B.C. with a 1 handicap, my friend Denise is a big-whig in the laboratory Blood Banking world.

Sometimes I hate these people and many others for what they achieve, knowing that I’ll likely never be able to accomplish what they have. But mostly – when I’m my better self – they’re beacons of motivation and inspiration who fire me up to push forward in the things that make my pulse pick up.

We all have our areas of passion and strength. Your’s might be in Sailing, or Snowboarding, or Sudoku, or Horse Dressage, or Dragon Boating, or learning Japanese. I don’t know. We’re all remarkable individuals with unique fires burning.

Setting and achieving goals can be hard and torturous, but so often rewarding – just like getting pregnant in the example I mention in my opening.

At the beginning of this year 2013, I scrawled a post outlining my goals for the coming 12 months. And here we are now past the halfway mark, so I thought this would be a good time to review where things stand so far. You might do the same for yourself.

So, following is the list I created at the end of 2012, with an update on each. Here’s where I’m at:

Possible

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

Right on track. I paid 20% down on the smallest of my 3 investment loans this week and will do the same for another in October. I’ve sold some REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) units to make this happen. In a year or so these investment loans should be totally retired (as should I!) and the cash flow bubbling over will then be going directly into my pockets and not the bank’s!

I’m still hoping that REIT’s rebound in the markets as they’ve taken quite a negative hit this year because of worries over central bank interest rate increases that have hit the REIT sector generally. They’re good investments, just down in value for the moment. PATIENCE!!

  • Bring blog posting total to 100 and views to 7,500.

Well, I began the year at post #39 and this is blog post #71 so I’m slipping back from my goal of 100 posts by year end just a bit. With one post per week for the remainder of the year I will only make it to 90 posts or so.

I’d like to pick up the pace and make my goal but the game has been altered a touch and I don’t think it will come to be. I’m not upset or distressed by this as I feel I’m showing sufficient discipline to keep writing the one post weekly. My writing road has split into different paths – I’m now working 2 pathways. Blog posts AND songwriting (see: next goal).

Viewings of this blog will surge well past the 7,500 mark mainly due to the surprising popularity of one post “Your Castration Awaits – 8 Reasons Women Will Dominate Men in the 21st-Century”. This blog post gets almost half of all viewings on a day-in day-out basis. Who knew that women lording over men was such a popular item?

  • Write 12 songs

This is a really exciting addition to my personal treasury.

Adding in songwriting has been a pleasant, long-overdue alternative to straight prose writing.  I really believe my prose benefits by the addition of the poetry produced in songwriting.

I’ve struggled mightily for years with the ideas needed to make a go of songwriting. After taking a free online course from Berklee School of Music in Boston, I’m moving forward and loving the different variety of approaches needed for musical and poetic movement. It’s hard work but getting easier each day as I do and practice more.

I want to tell stories in my music and this is very challenging in song format.

But 12 Songs? I’m at 5 right now, so 12 could be a stretch. I MAY have 12 songs in progress by the end of the year, but I find that I need to ruminate and reflect and edit a lot, so I doubt I’ll have 12 completed songs.

Writing songs, for me, is more a marathon, not a sprint.

  • 20 Pullups Non-Stop.

KILLER!! This is going to be a tough one to conquer. I injured my shoulder last December while struggling to reach my goal of 10 pullups for 2012 (which I barely eked out!). It’s been a slow recovery and I’m just now finding that my shoulder is pain-free. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

The REAL truth here is if I set a goal to lose 20 pounds, this pullup goal would be SOOO much easier.

I hate it when they take photos of me without my shirt on...

I hate it when they take photos of me without my shirt on…

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

OK, I may miss this objective but only by a hair. I have plans simmering for us to head to southern Spain and then Morocco in January 2014. The cooking classes part will more likely happen in Morocco … couscous and tagine anyone? But spending time in southern Spain will allow lots of opportunity to practice Spanish while just touring around. AND, hitting Morocco will mean stepping foot on the African continent for the first time, satisfying part of my life-list goal of visiting each continent.

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

I’m now a truly masterful paddleboarder…NOT! But I have stood on a paddleboard for a full hour and only tumbled into Okanagan Lake once … so far! It’s not a sport I would do regularly as a passion, but I can see that it will be a fun way to get out on the lake from time to time and peer down at the fish as they peer back up at me.

Charlie, a friend of mine, is a kettlebell instructor and so I took a 1 hour session with him on swinging these weighty suckers properly.

Adding kettlebells into my strengthening and fitness routine is a nice bit of variety and gives a pretty good overall workout in a short period of time. But to only do this for long periods would be severely boring!

Are you sure this how you do it?

Are you sure this is how you do it?

  • 100 pushups Non-stop

OUCH! Like anything challenging, this is a work-in-progress. Each week, I’m adding a couple of additional reps to my pushup pain threshold. Right now I can pull off 100 pushups if I divide the work effort into 4 sets of 25.

Now I just need to sweat a  river big enough to put it all together as one effort by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

  • Purchase 12-string guitar

I may have to defer this to next year’s list. It takes time to investigate and try out a lot of guitar models.

Buying a musical instrument is like finding nice clothes that fit you as an individual. You spend a lot of time in the changeroom robing, disrobing, and then discarding over and over. What suits one person just isn’t right for another.

My nephew Mike builds guitars called Riversong using a neat new technology. I’ll have to check out his stock before making the final decision.

It is kind of a fun exercise to test drive a bunch of fine instruments.

  • Overall Net Worth Return of >15%

Right on track here. This has been a good year with a return to this point of 8.3% on my starting net worth from January 1. I’ve put most of my investment dollars into lower- risk technology companies that are underappreciated by Mr. Market and have a ton of cash on their balance sheets eg. Intel, Microsoft, Apple.

Plus the exchange rate with the US dollar has provided some tailwinds.

I haven’t made any major blunders so far this year, although paying $500 per share for Apple may have been a bit optimistic on my part (although it’s worth $500 and more in reality).

I have to remind myself that I’m not completed or destroyed by the financial return on investments.

  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10%

This one was easy and was taken care of in January by just phoning up the charities we contribute to each month and adding a 10% top up to each. We have a monthly contribution that comes out automatically from our chequing account and goes directly to PLAN International and UNICEF.

After I finish up work next year, I’ll have to become more active on the charity front and add some sweat equity into this area. I’m still feeling some burnout after-effects from years I spent on a charity board, but it’s time to step up to the plate once again.

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

I hate to use the word failure, but I have so much more enthusiasm for planting vegetables and fruit than I do for harvesting and processing them. Each season, I plant a variety of lettuce, tomatoes, beans, potatoes and carrots, etc. I baby them to maturity and then just when they’re ready… I lose my zeal for the harvest and canning, drying, or whatever preparation is needed to carry them into the colder months.

I think this relates to my utter weakness at finishing projects of any sort – it’s all a part of my ADHD. A few years of counselling and drug therapy and I can probably see past this debility!

On the plus side, I did do some succession planting, sowing seeds of beets, lettuce and carrots in July. This gives me another chance to work on my follow through.

  • Run 2 Half Marathon races (sub 2 hrs)

Done … sort of. I have competed in 2 half marathons. One in Vancouver in early May and another in Penticton in late May. In Vancouver, it was a beautiful day and I finished in 1:57 ie sub 2 hours. Penticton was going well until I strained my calf muscle at about the halfway point of the race. My running pace slowed as the pain increased. I did complete the run but my finish time was 2:04 – I was disappointed.

I’m going to declare this goal complete, although I may make one more half marathon attempt in the fall.

Vancouver Half Marathon May 2013

Vancouver Half Marathon May 2013 – I’m the red runner…

So, this concludes my State of the Half-Year Address. I won’t be accepting any questions today (although your comments are just fine!) as the helicopter is waiting on the back lawn to whisk me off to my summer estate.

Thank you for your patience and enjoy the progress on goals you’ve set for yourself – appreciating those things you’ve improved or achieved, and gently accepting those areas where you’ve stumbled or faltered.

The Sea of Inspiration is warm and inviting. Why not jump in and we can swim through the swells and breakers of this challenging, frustrating, fulfilling, exhilarating, pain-inducing, endorphin-filled expanse together?

It was a smooth funeral as these things go…

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The rear swing door of the black hearse sitting in the horseshoe-shaped driveway was already gaping open like a Domino’s pizza oven, impatiently waiting for the deceased’s delivery.

hearse door ajar

Sun rays were prying their way between the clouds, trying desperately to make this final day bright. Alone, I hesitated a second at the tall, heavy oak door of the generic staid but stolid funeral home – I pulled it open. Within seconds, a tall, dark-suited bespectacled man approached.

Did you know the deceased well?

He was dignified and compassionate in his well-honed professional approach to terminal matters.

Very, I said, grinning in a sheepish, modest sort of fashion.

In fact, I AM the deceased.

I spoke this in a breathy whisper, hoping he would pick up on the discretion I wanted for such an unusual occurrence. He barely blinked when I said it though…How often does this happen? This guy was a pro. He slide-stepped a quarter turn sideways and gestured with a sweep of his arm that I might like to enter the chapel.

I was worried that I would be noticed when I passed into the dimly-lit open hall so I sat down quickly on one of the empty long wooden pews at the back of the room.

Funeral chapel

Fortunately, in churches and funeral homes, people don’t turn around to look behind them. You only look left, right, or forwards. I think it’s some religious rule, maybe even a commandment–  that you don’t turn around unless they start to play “Here Comes The Bride“, and then it’s rude NOT to turn around.

Music … I love music. Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” was just ending and the distinctive guitar picking of James Taylor began softly echoing off the high wood-panelled ceiling of the chapel – “You’ve Got a Friend”… I closed my eyes and absorbed one of my favourite songs.

I was adjusting my pant leg when a woman’s voice coming from my right whispered, “Are you the dead fellow?

My eyes were just adapting to the low lights of the room. Surprised, I turned to see an elderly woman scrinching her way, sliding gently towards me on the bench. She looked familiar, but only in the way that any woman of her age might remind you of your grandmother. She was squinting at me through her thick eyeglasses.

How did you know that?

– Well, you might think its a bit strange, but I come to a funeral here every week. IF there’s a funeral on a Friday. I have bridge club on Thursday and my daughter comes to help me out on Wednesdays. The other days just don’t feel like funeral days to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m Catholic. Fridays feel like a funeral day.

She slid her hands slowly over the knees of her dark dress to straighten the pleats that had been disrupted on her slide towards me.

– I never know the dead person, but I enjoy a good funeral. I get to see and hear the sum of a person’s life in about a half hour. I learn a lot about what’s important to different people. Sometimes it’s all just religious rigamarole – sandwich without a filling – almost like the dead person never existed. But sometimes, there’s a whole gourmet dinner laid out of a person’s soul. It makes me see my own life better somehow. I like those ones.

She fell quiet when she spotted the man in the dark suit, the same one that greeted me at the front door, approach the podium at the front of the room.

man speaking at funeral

He paused at the metal-faced lectern, looked down quietly at his notes, then slowly looked back up, and began:

One of the great benefits of living for a number of years, is that we absorb and observe and enjoy the things that make our time as humans on earth special and memorable. We experience the multitude of stages that constitute a life. Birth, childhood, teen years, first loves, fast cars and vehicles, first jobs, the stresses and great joys of family life and interacting with people that surround us. We see beauty, and pain, in so many forms, often those things that we glance past in early years become the treasures of our later lives.

-If Larry was with us here today, if he was sitting right here in this chapel at this moment…

He glanced with a small ironic smile towards the back of the room where I was sitting.

– if he was here, he would want us to reflect on the things that mattered greatly to him and at least take them into consideration in the living of our everyday lives. 

Hallelujah brother, I wanted to yell out.

But I didn’t want to distract the modest crowd of mourners and well-wishers who had broken away from their daily existences to say a final farewell to a small piece, a fragment really, for most of them, of their lives. Aside from close family, a funeral, at its most basic level isn’t really about the person who has passed. A funeral is about how each of us reacts in the moment, decides our own personal life course, and editorializes how we’re doing so far.

– Highly spiritual but not a typically religious man, Larry suggested in his final requests that I put in a good word about 5 things that stood out for him and that made his own existence special and noteworthy.

spiritual path

  • Love of creativity. Creativity surrounds and envelops us every day. Almost everything we touch from simple kitchen gadgets to fancy cars is there because another human conceived and made it. Our medicines, our clothes, chocolate bars. You name it, simple or complex, it needed creativity. Music, sculpture, yes even Fifty Shades of Grey…they all originated in the amazing mind. We need to observe and appreciate the good and great we’ve created and be mindful of the not so good. But more importantly, we need to be an active participant and create within our own sphere too. Create a garden, create a meal to be remembered, create a poem, create a pair of socks. Perform some idea sex and create something totally unexpected. Absorb others’ creations but take the time to make your own little masterpiece too.
  • Love of at least one other who loves you back. The warmth of another’s love and respect is what makes humans human. It grounds us, it gives us purpose. Giving love to someone else lifts up the poorest beggar to the richest monarch. It can’t be bought, it can’t be sold, but it’s more valuable than the Crown Jewels.
  • Love of health and activity. Our bodies are striated top to bottom with muscle. Bone and blood and muscle thrive on movement, active movement. Our mind muscles and our body muscles all feel better when they’re exercised and strengthened. An internal global sense of health and well-being starts with active movement.
  • Love of the unknown…fearlessness. Stepping to the edge of the metaphorical ledge makes our heart race and our soul sing. Horror movies are so popular because thay take us to the edge of our comfort zones, creating a sense of exhilaration, but pulling back and leaving us drained from a cathartic high. Taking ourselves to the limit or into an area that intrigues but intimidates us at the same time is a fantastic journey that puts LIFE into life. I’m told that Larry confided once that running marathons or learning another language in a strange, exotic locale filled him with fear. But, living and pushing forward into that fear is exhilaration exemplified.
  • Love of the senses. This is a world replete with sights, sounds, smells that can overfill our senses, and yet we often downplay or ignore them. We need to learn to slow our breathing and absorb the plethora of beauty in all its forms that surround us. The smoothness of pine needles, the scent of seafood in a crowded marketplace, the roar of a jet piercing the sky overhead, the glitter of the setting sun rays caressing the lake surface at sunset. Our lives can be so much richer when we take the time to appreciate the exquisiteness around us.

– So, Larry asked that we all retreat within ourselves today and reflect on those things we feel an affinity, a love, a respect, a passion for in our days and years living this amazing miracle that brought us to this place, this time, this world that evolved from no one yet knows what or where.

Oh, and one more thing. Larry wanted me to add –  eat some chocolate … always eat some chocolate!

Life can be as simple as that sometimes.

coffin crisp

The time felt right for me to leave.

The old lady next to me turned and nodded knowingly with a small smile. Leaning in slowly, she bussed her lips against my cheek and whispered, “Thank you for the lovely soulful meal you made for me today. I’m going to think about the things that were important to you. I’m glad we had this chance to meet.

I stood and took one last look over the group of my friends, my relatives, my life. Some were smiling, some were gently wiping beneath their eyes with white handkerchiefs. The ladies dressed in mixtures of short and long skirts, with sweet floral smells and red lips. Men in dark suits, some in clean blue jeans and open necked shirts, a disjointed harmony of style and generation that spoke of honour and fashion.

To my own surprise, I felt good. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that my own few eternal seconds had come and passed so quickly.

I turned and pushed my way through the door of the chapel. Instantly, a brilliant white light shone through the upper windows of the funeral home, the sun had won its skirmish with the clouds.

I wasn’t sure where the white light led but I felt a robust attraction to first one exit door on my left and then an equally strong pull towards an exit door on the right. On each door a sign was posted prominently on its surface. The one to the left stated:

Buddha awaits your reincarnation

The sign on the door to my right said:

Chocolate Eternity

I hesitated and thought deeply.

SERIOUSLY? All of life’s philosophies come down to this?

Maybe death can be as simple as that.

I paused for a moment longer then smiled a little smile and stepped confidently forward. I’d made my choice.

With all my strength I threw open the door.

2 more doors

Cafeteria Lunches at Glendale High…Improving Our World with French Fries

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Glendale Secondary2

Hands down, the school cafeteria was my favourite place at Glendale High School, just ahead of the Band Room and WAY ahead of the sour sweat-stinky gymnasium.

After the 4th or 5th period of classes, I’d go to my locker and grab the brown paper bag lunch my Mom had made me and head to the cafeteria with Jerome, Renato or Frank (my Ukrainian, Italian, and Hungarian friends) or whichever of my friends was in my last class before lunch.

Passing through the grey-metal, glass-windowed cafeteria door was like entering a whole different world. All thoughts of books or homework assignments dissipated when I was first hit with the heady scent of french fries and gravy wafting through the air, aggressively pushing back at the school hallway’s scent of Dustbane.

There were plenty of calories in our lunch bags to get us through the school day: sandwich, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, muffin, apple. Still, we rushed to the front of the cafeteria and took our place in the line leading up to Mrs. Jack standing behind the serving counter in her blue cotton front-zippered shift. She lived up to her Scottish stereotype by dishing up meagre servings of hotly fragrant french fries into white cardboard boat containers like you get at the beach in summer. We’d always smile sweetly at her – even though we didn’t really like her – and beg her to add more of the crisp, golden potato delicacies to our boat and then go fill whatever gaps existed between the fries with great squirts of ketchup, or nose-pungent vinegar, then sit at the long lines of parallel tables beside other kids.

french-fries2

Just a few more, OK Mrs. Jack???

In my blue-collar “lunch-bucket” Hamilton hometown high school, the tables were filled with Slavic kids with garlic-smelly meat sandwiches. Or Italian boys with names that always ended with the letter “O”…Mario, Angelo, Ezio, Vito.

We’d talk about important things like Mr. Mason’s little coloured peg “rewards” for correct answers in French class or Carole J.’s amazing breasts. Talking about them was the closest I was ever going to get to those babies.

Didn’t everyone go to a Glendale High School …

where cafeterias were staffed by middle-aged Mrs. Jack’s, where the echoing din of voices of hundreds of hormonal teenagers gathered to gab and gossip? And to munch on the chocolate- or caramel-chemical cake sensations Jos. Louis or Ah Caramel?

jos-louis

Probably not… but for a long time I thought they did.

  • I thought that everyone lived just like me in my insignificant east-end “Steel City” home.
  • I thought the whole world was the same as what I could see out my window.
  • I thought that sticky, hot, humid summers and wet, slushy winters were everywhere and all-the-time.

I entered the world naked and clueless, not knowing anything other than what I was surrounded by.

And then one day I accidently stumbled and fell through the looking glass and found a whole new, shiny world that had only existed for me in fancy fiction books, glossy magazines, and newspapers. Like the change of black and white to rainbow-hued Technicolor in The Wizard of Oz.

And not just one new world but a whole big gamut of new worlds and new people and new experiences.

And there would be no going back. No Larry, you can never go home again.

At the age of 20, I finished my medical lab certification at local Mohawk College and then, almost on a whim, went north to spend just a few months in the Canadian arctic before I would return forever to the warm, comfortable womb of my childhood years.

But instead of returning home, I went to Europe and backpacked my way across and around that continent. I married a great lady from British Columbia and went to live in her beautiful mountainous homeland. Later on I ventured to South America and spent time with Incan ancestors in the Andes for a few months. I travelled to China and drank snake wine. I voyaged on boats around warm southern islands. I ate cod cheeks and tongues and bakeapples in Newfoundland.

Arctic Larry

Two + years in the arctic changed my icy heart…

I was changed. I was new. I was improved.

The look out my home’s window wasn’t a whole lot different, but my outlook on the world was transformed.

We’re all going to be dead in 100 years. Everything and everyone we know will be gone, and we’ll just be an eighth note in the symphony of existence. I want my eighth note to be memorable, because I was given this time through the lottery of life. There won’t be a second coming for this non-Buddhist.

We live our lives with expectations and a belief in things moving forward as they have in the past. If I hadn’t left my home city when I finished college, I wouldn’t have changed and I would have lived a lesser life. Not a bad or worthless life, but totally different and less rich with experiences.

One of the life lessons I’m FINALLY coming to realize through my running is that we can’t keep doing the same things and expecting the outcome to change. If I don’t change my training habits, I’ll likely not improve my running results … if I live my life the same way I always have or as others tell me I should, then the results too will be the same. Expanded experiences develop my tolerance muscles.

I’m frightened by change. I get palpitations when confronted by new challenges or experiences. But I’m excited by it too.

We can spend our entire lives in our own backyards. It’s easy to do. Historically, a major reason why we’ve had wars and racism and intolerance and why different countries and different religions fight against each other and amongst themselves is that we’ve never left our own sandbox and climbed into someone else’s. There’s usually a good reason why they like brown sand and I like white sand, but I’ll never know the reason until I sit down and make a sandcastle out of brown sand.

I’d love to go back and have Mrs. Jack serve me up some hot, salty french fries in the cafeteria of Glendale High School. It would be great to sit and be kids again with all of my old multi-ethnic friends.

But what’s really cool is that I’ve discovered that I can pass through cafeteria doors anywhere in the world and love the french fries wherever I go, and I kind of like where the salty winds have carried me so far.

korea-french-fry-party

Now this is MY idea of a french fry feed…

Welcome to #50!

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Just yesterday I was 16 years old and driving my barely-running 1967 brown Rambler American to flip burgers at McDonalds in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Today I woke up in my barely-running 1957 body in Summerland, B.C., Canada.

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1967 Rambler American

Mine was the 4-door model on the bottom, picture it in brown…

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And yesterday, I wrote my first blog post about Women and Menopause. Today, this is blog post #50 for me. Yep, it’s true.

So on this day, a few disconnected, rambling, maybe incoherent thoughts as I hear Paul Simon singing to me… Still Crazy After All These Years?

Men are STILL from Mars and Women are STILL from Venus

Last June I started sharing my perspectives on many areas but primarily focussed on the lively and mysterious dance that occurs between women and men. All from THIS middle-aged crazy man’s biased and personal perspective. I’ve tried to be as honest and freewheeling as I can be without bruising anyone.

We all have thoughts that have the potential to hurt others. I want to be as open as my book can be while steering clear of saying something that might wound any one individual. I want to tell you that the Emperor (even if the Emperor happens to be me) isn’t wearing clothes, but I don’t want to tell you that YOU’RE not wearing clothes…get my point?

We’re all bobbing icebergs in life’s ocean swells who only show a portion of ourselves to the outer world. We want to be unique and individual while still knowing that we’re not alone or weird. There’s comfort when we realize that others bleed and cry and have fears and dreams, especially when those parts of ourselves aren’t publicly shared because we fear the opinions of others.

Despite what has been declared in recent press and research, I firmly camp myself in the belief that men and women have some very fundamental differences. Much of what distinguishes and attracts men to women and women to men are the opposing poles of personality, outlook, approach to life, and belief.

It’s not just what lies buried behind our Levi’s zippers that makes us different.

These differences can elicit huge issues of anger and resentment, as well as harmony and contentment. But it’s also what draws us together.

There is deep-rooted appeal of men for women and vice versa…no matter how many of our friends and relatives we discover to be attracted to the same gender, gayness/gayosity/gayificness isn’t going to ever dominate our world as the relationship of the majority.

It’s the oppositeness of the other gender that appeals for most…I like the fact that women are more communicative and expressive, I like that women are more sensitive and empathetic, I especially like it that women smell better than men. I don’t understand a lot of things about women… hell, this may actually be the meaning of MY life in a nutshell.

Women smell better

Things I’ve learned from writing these 50 blogs:

  • Creative ideas eg. music, writing, drawing – thrive in silence and solitude. Too much activity and background noise = stunted subconscious thought. A mind constantly bombarded by input doesn’t have the space to draw its own extraordinary net of ideas.
  • Sleep helps lots. Idea sex happens best in bed just like the other kind of sex (although some may argue this last point!). That old subconscious plods through the murk and muddied confusion and finds clarity and union of the seemingly jumbled while we slumber.

Idea sex?

  • Ideas and creativity don’t just happen by hoping and wishing. I have to sit down and make it happen, preferably at my personal daily peak-energy time (for me, early morning), regardless of my energy levels or feelings of inspiration. Sometimes, it flows smoothly and rich like hot, espresso coffee, and other times drips bit by painful bit like refrigerated Heinz ketchup. No matter, eventually a trickle happens, but only if I stay at it.
  • Live like everyday is MY last? …This doesn’t quite work to keep me inspired. I prefer to want to live as if everyone I know and meet were going to die that day. Would I speak badly of them? Would my eyes go glassy when they tell me about their concerns or joys? I feel warmer towards my fellow travellers if I think they’ll be cold and 6 feet under tomorrow.

Further…I LOVE to Learn

  • There is an amazing website called COURSERA that offers tons of online courses from 33 universities around the world. TOTALLY FREE! Right now, I’m studying Songwriting from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Technology has brought education into our homes from across the globe. Prepare to be inundated by bad songs I’ll be uploading to YouTube any day now!
  • I’ve loved languages since forever. Now that I’m older with fewer day-to-day responsibilities, I’m able to pursue my passions. My wife and I have travelled to Cusco, Peru…Havana, Cuba… and Barcelona, Spain, to spend time in classrooms learning Spanish. Connecting with people from a bunch of countries while absorbing the local Spanish culture has been an experiencia fantastica. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a drink of fluorescent yellow Inca Kola while eating guinea pig in Cusco!

Inca Kola

  • My Martin DX1AE guitar is one of my best friends. Playing music has been my comfort-blanket for years and years. Various internet websites and YouTube have given me the means to learn techniques and styles of playing that I could only have dreamed of 20 years ago. My favourite site right now? James Taylor guitar lessons. He even tells me how to give myself Fake Nails for picking…now there’s value!
  • Money may not buy happiness, but I sure don’t think any of us has to live in squalor to feel fulfilled. I haven’t earned an investment banker livelihood from my career. But thanks to great investing mentors like Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett, I’ve been able to live a notch or two higher than I might otherwise. A lifetime of great investment advice can be had in the annual letters at 85 year old Warren Buffett’s company website, Berkshire Hathaway. Get entertained and educated by the greatest investor of the past 100 years…once again, it’s totally free.

I’m so lucky to live this life in this time.

I have enough free time not having to kill my dinner  (or my neighbour!) that I can sit and write a blog.

Human history is a chuckwagon overloaded to the ground with violence and poverty and disease. I live in a world where sort-of-average people can concentrate their efforts on lip-swelling enhancements, butt lifts, and tooth veneers as well as Gucci handbags and truffle oil and champagne. Signs of the coming apocalypse?…well, that remains to be seen. No guarantees are on offer here!

So, thanks for joining me in the first 50 blog posts. And thank you for your messages and e-mails that encourage me far too much.

I’m aiming for 100, and that may be years and not a blog count.

I’m a work-in-progress…but aren’t we all?…

50th cake

I Love Your Ass in Those Heels…

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I do…I really do.

It sends my testosterone levels through the roof. You look fabulous and sexy…it’s very flattering to see your tush pushed up high and tight and firm. It sends me into full Male Chauvinist Pig territory that I suppress as best I can but can’t totally deny.

My friend Cyndi calls her high heels her CFM (Come F*** Me) shoes because she knows the effect they have on guys.

And she’s right.

CFM's

I often wonder if you’re slipping on heels just for me and all the other boys? I’m guessing sometimes yes, sometimes no. I could probably be arrested by the thought police for what I think when I check out a woman in spike heels, but that will probably have to wait until FACEBOOK finds a way to monitor my thoughts and put them on women’s WALLS. It’s just a matter of time. It’s scary really.

Honestly, I like to be around women in heels. It makes any occasion – important or totally trivial (even grocery shopping) –  feel more special and it makes me feel more grown up and manly. What you do as a woman affects my emotional and hormonal state.

I know you don’t wear heels for the same reason you wear a Onesie or a fleece sweater. Soft, smooth, and warm comfort are not the raisons d’etre when it comes to perking up your ass and calves.The TV show Sex and the City (which I’ve seen all of about 10 minutes in total) sounds like it’s primary focus is the expensive high heel shoes the 4 characters wear and then how much sex they score as a result of wearing them. When it comes to men, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. These gunslinging girls can put a notch on their red Louboutins for every conquest their heels are responsible for.

sex-city

One man’s fantasy come true…

So why do you wear them? Is it just the obvious?

Do YOU even know for certain?

Is it to look good to other women? You want to appear taller than your normal munchkin size? Is it to catch the gazing eyes of us guys? Does it make you look more professional in your bosses’ and co-workers’ view? And should I care why when I get to enjoy the fruits regardless of the reason?

Here are a few random thoughts about wearing high heels:

  • heels can stimulate your career by transforming you into a confident, yet feminine force to be reckoned with
  • conversely, heels can hamper your career by putting too much emphasis on your sex appeal rather than your brains
  • obviously, heels can wreak permanent damage on your feet and ankles with bunions, corns, calluses, shortening of the Achilles tendon, ankle fractures and who knows what hip and knee joint issues
  • and, of course, heels can improve your sex life because the act of wearing them makes you feel and look sexy and can strengthen core abdominal and pelvic muscles. Who needs ab crunches?

“High heels thrust out the buttocks and arch the back into a natural mammalian courting — actually, copulatory — pose called ‘lordosis,’ ” says Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey said. “Rats do it, sheep do it … lions do it, dogs do it. … It is a naturally sexy posture that men immediately see as sexual readiness. [Heels] are a ‘come hither’ signal”….there we go, back to CFM’s!

The official position of the American Podiatric Medical Association is that anything higher than 2 inches is medically unsound. So I guess what they’re saying is that anything up to 2 inches in height is physically healthful, and probably psychologically for both men and women. Hurdle the 2 inch barrier and you’ve gone into dangerous, unhealthy, lascivious, lustful, semi-porn land.

Of course, heels are just the starting point of my Fifty Shades of Glee. There are other areas of feminine guile that spring out at me like a magnificent building standing erect on fertile ground:

  • Cleavage? I personally am attracted to a hint of cleavage but no more. Maybe I’m just not a breast man. Once we get close to nipple territory, the concept of tantalizing and hinting becomes unsubtle and more like Penthouse magazine. There’s a lack of finesse and tease that crosses the line into campy and tawdry. I want to think that all women are the Girl Next Door type…a touch slutty, but only in private. Too much cleavage and I’m feeling like I’ve turned down the wrong street and have gone into the Red Light District.
  • Short hemlines? There is a direct connection between the amount of leg showing above a woman’s knee and the firmness of man’s phallacy. This likely relates to the eye being led by smooth, taut skin further northwards into the woman’s power centre. A short hemline of a skirt or dress is like the Klondike Highway leading to the Yukon goldfields. There is a promise of discovery and untold wealth that sets the dreamer on a path to Nirvana. But why does skin showing above the knee when wearing a skirt differ from the same view of skin when accompanied by shorts? With shorts it’s clear that the highway has a blockage, a frigid snowslide impeding forward progress. A skirt gives rise to a sunny warm day where the road is clear and unobstructed. But, like too much cleavage, the increasingly shorter the hemline becomes, an inversely proportional attractiveness ensues. HINT, don’t CLOBBER, says I.
  • Perfumes? Aroma is a hugely important part of attraction and attractiveness. The picture of my brain below shows 2 areas allotted to sex. The first area is for visual attraction…you know, the high heels, the short skirt, the colour and contour of the cheek and eyes. The 2nd area is consumed by the faint scent of a woman, both natural and artificial. I should highlight the word “faint” because I don’t want to be knocked unconscious like George St. Pierre in a UFC battle, by jasmine and orange blossom  when you enter a room. But, just a delicate, wafting hint of vanilla or lavender as you stand near or pass by is a passage into heaven. There is a special world of seductive scent that we can appreciate all the more if we only close our eyes and absorb.

 

malebrain-420x0

From a purely selfish, masculine perspective, I’m happy to live in a world where high heels exist. Attraction between women and men is a complicated dance of plumage and poetry and perfume that ensures our human continuation and enjoyment. Most of us derive great satisfaction in the appeal of seduction and beauty. Men wear tuxedos, women wear heels.

But when push comes to shove, I can be attracted by so many things about  a woman’s strength and femininity that don’t require wearing stilettos. Two-inch heels or ballet flats tell me that you care enough about your own health to resist the lure of extreme means of allure. I’ll get used to it.

Man in heels

I can never decide what to wear with my heels!

All we HAVE to do is Die…

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It’s kind of cheering to read this, isn’t it? ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DIE…everything else is a choice (yes, even taxes!).

This may not be an original thought – what is? I read this line in another blogger’s post the other day and it pierced like a sharp Hattori knife through to my core. It’s harsh and perhaps a bit unsettling, and probably even complicates life somewhat, but I think it can also be freeing.

all we have to do is die

And it reminded me that choice in life is one of my core beliefs. We can choose to do. We can choose to be.

Sure we have to eat and drink to sustain life, but so many things we think we have to do are things that we choose to do. It’s like the difference between needs and wants.

Do we make the choices we do because:

  • society (family, friends, media) dictates it
  • we feel an obligation to do it
  • we fear loss or punishment
  • we don’t see any other options
  • the benefits are greater than the drawbacks
  • it’s enjoyable or rewarding
  • it’s the easy thing to do

Life is like WalMart (this is in addition to Forrest Gump‘s box of chocolates!). We wander the aisles of selection, the shelves are stuffed to the rafters, full of alternatives, and we can choose to nab the items we want or amble by to another aisle. For example, we could put a career choice, a partner, a pair of shoes into our basket. Do we ever ask ourselves, “Why did I pick that job? Why do I eat? Why did I get married or not get married? Why do I go out with friends? Why did I buy a new car?”

And even after make our selections, do we then ask ourselves, “Am I happy? Is what I’m doing really fulfilling and meaningful? When I arrive at the time of my death, will I look back at my life and be happy about what I did, or will I have regrets?”

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 The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die”

-Bob Dylan

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Choice in life means lots of good things but it also brings with it…wait for it…responsibility. Being rational and adult means there are consequences to every choice. This is why choice can be so rewarding but also so damned messy and difficult. It takes thought and judgment and it can be painful. It’s hard work!

I can choose to quit my job tomorrow, but the consequence becomes a loss of a paycheque and all of the details that entails. How will I pay for food and lodging and entertainment and a hundred other things? So, do I absolutely hate my job? Could I find something I might like to do instead if I went to college for a year? Could I move to a smaller town where the costs of living are lower and the need for more income would be lessened? With enough thought, effort, and often courage, we can find a more satisfying choice.

Over twenty years ago, I chose to work just 3 days each week so that I could actively participate in raising my kids (now there’s a decision they regret!). There were lots of questioning glances at my withdrawal from western culture’s expectation of what a father’s and breadwinner’s role should be. This choice meant a lower income and driving slightly older cars, and not having magazine-perfect furniture as society told me would be appropriate. But it’s a choice my wife and I made and have never regretted. Believe me, not every choice that I’ve made has been as easy to declare a success.

stay-at-home-dad

As we go through life, we need to ask ourselves tough questions and then answer honestly. Living life like there are few choices can be a simpler existence. But for me, life is richer when filled with choosing the paths I want to wander. The paths may be tangled by weeds at times, but at least they are heading in the direction of my choosing.

I think making choices consciously gives us freedom and a sense of honesty within ourselves.  Most of us spend much of our lives making choices based on false assumptions and beliefs drilled into us as children. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy promotes “thought challenging”- questioning our basic assumptions from different angles to help us make better choices.

When I was a kid, I was told that God and Heaven existed and that there was no need to question that belief. I was also told that going to university was necessary if I wished to live a “good” life. I was told that sexual intercourse was something preserved until marriage vows had been exchanged. I was told that men marry women and women marry men. I was told that after I married a woman, I would buy a house and have children. I was on a pre-determined train track and would chug along in the direction that track took me on.

All of the above were absolutes. But now I know that they are all choices. Everything but dying is a maybe.

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Lance Armstrong made choices that most of us likely think of as flawed and of poor moral backing. No matter what he says, he knew what he was doing was illegal and cheating. He lied to cover it up. BUT…he made a choice to use drugs and illegal methods to accomplish something that was deeply desirable to him. The benefits were greater than the consequences in his mind. The possible outcomes were something that he chose to live with in order to win big.  That he didn’t believe he would be caught and disciplined suggests to me that he wasn’t making conscious AND conscientious choices. Narcissism perverted his ability to make respectable choices, for himself, and others. Choices can be messy.

mommy_puts_out

Mommy made the choice to “put out”…here’s her consequence…

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We try to find our happiness through periods of life that include birth, aging, sickness and death. Any pleasure and success we have is not going to run in unending, neat straight lines. But we can make the conscious choices that reflect our own core beliefs and desires, not those dictated by what’s going on around us.

Didn’t we all have childhood dreams of what we might do or be in life? It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”

–Ken Levine

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