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EXERCISE!…

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comes in lots of forms

… they all hurt until they feel great.

 

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  • Writing this blog exercises my writing mind, pushing me to be as clear in my communication as possible.

I spend a good deal of time writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing these posts to make them as understandable and relevant as I can manage (you may think I fail terribly… oh well!).

It’s frustrating and sometimes hurts my head trying to finding new ideas and new approaches that fulfill my needs while also hopefully finding a message that occasionally intrigues you.

A satisfying payoff comes every 4 or 5 blog posts when I hit on a thought, maybe a metaphor or a way of thinking that sends a chill of thrill up my spine.

It’s like finding a hidden cinnamon bun in the freezer and no one is around to catch you eating it… 0 calories!!

  • Playing and practicing my guitar exercises a part of my brain that requires coordination and memory and nuance of tone, timing, and volume.

I rehearse and practice songs over and over, trying out different keys and styles of approach (is this better in country format, jazzy, or slow and soulful?).

Jackson Browne would sit at his piano practicing a song, or even just one line of a song for hours until he hit on just the right sound he wanted. I think the best musicians follow a similar pattern to Browne’s.

Tonight I’ll sing his song THESE DAYS at an Open Mic with my own interpretation that I’ve practiced over and over.

The hurt heals to delicious pleasure.

Jackson brown piano.jpg

  • Investing exercises another part of my brain.

It’s the numbers part, the analytical and decision-making areas that weigh and decipher and calculate risk vs reward.

There’s a large set of reality-based and psychological components that need assessment and a steady mindset to produce a High-5 satisfactory return on dollars invested.

The level-headedness required to persevere when bad stuff happens to good investments is challenging, but ultimately rewarding when good analysis turns into good returns.

  • Running and other physical activities like spin class, yoga, and boot camp exercise my body.

Physical exertion forces large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to the areas where it’s needed to perform and work hard.

I try to work myself hard for at least a small amount of time each day… sometimes as little as 20 minutes with high intensity stuff. Half marathon training can consume a 2 hour period for long runs in preparation for a race.

I don’t mind if my body screams and hurts a little. Sorry to disagree with the “experts”, but sometimes… a little pain does produce gains.

The best showers are the ones that rinse away a ton of salty sweat.

sweaty guy

Exercise of all kinds comes down to habit and focus. Yes?

Self- discipline. Yes?

We all know that exercise in all forms is important in our lives.

Wrong… MOST of us know.

Here’s what Donald Trump thinks about exercise.

In a book (Trump Revealed) by the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

And, like all things TRUMP, I disagree. Every reputable scientific study disagrees… but there I go off on an unfocused tangent. Bad Larry. Yes, I digress.

Exercise is about habit and focus and self-discipline. But we also know that exercise is usually hard, a challenge to body, mind and soul.

Sometimes to pocketbook. OUCH!

For me in my life the hardest exercise is the creative process.

creativity ocean

 

Being creative exercises my sub-conscious mind and my powers of observation and interpretation and Idea Sex.

I can procrastinate my life away when I become lazy and try to avoid the creative process that I both love and hate.

I love the end result. I hate the process that takes me there.

We went to see the movie DEADPOOL 2 this week. WTF, Another tangent?

It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of those 80’s and 90’s movies like AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN… a bit of silly slapstick, a bit of Monty Python, buckets of blood and comic “violence”, even a kiss of romance.

But OMG, its approach to the superhero genre is so irreverently abrasive and inventive and original and CREATIVE.

I am in awe of the thought process (plus the multi-millions of dollars spent in its production) and independent manner that led screenwriters down this path.

I must have had some exercise in watching the show because my laughter muscles hurt afterwards.

Laughter can be THE best exercise, right? Shower time!

deadpool 2.jpg

 

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The FOCUS of My Love and Hate

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OMG… could I be more distracted?

Don’t answer that. Of course I could.

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

I love… I hate… I love… I hate…

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

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

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

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

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

Today this is hugely challenging.

And yes, we all know the answer why…

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

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

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

songwriting

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s my imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

computer kid

The ADHD Perfect Week… Do You Have A God Complex Too?

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Was God ADHD-afflicted?

Maybe even a rotten heathen like myself has been constructed in God’s image… is it possible that I’m God’s Mini-Me?

Dog and puppy

I’m pretty sure I said GOD…

Let’s face it, anyone who builds universes and Adam’s and Eve’s and animals and plants, listens to every prayer, watches over every sporting event, administers individually to the multitudes of sick and dying, carefully allows wars and famines to take their course without interfering, blesses babies at their Baptisms and Bris’s, accepts and welcomes the recently deceased into his home, creates artistically gorgeous sunsets for vacationers…

… well… this entity we call God is beautifully smitten with a ravishing ADHD ailment.

I don’t think he/she can focus. That’s a considerable amount of activity and a lot of ground covered by one “person”.

I used to think I was crazy because I constantly shifted my focal point of activity not just on a daily basis, but on an hour-to-hour level.

So maybe you’ll understand that when I look at my actively scattered mind in this “God” light, I figure I’m doing OK.

To give you some context here, let me outline my typical week of activities. While representative, some items drift in and out with the seasons and my level of enthusiasm at any given moment:

  • Soup kitchen
  • Open Mic performance/guitar practice
  • Bartending
  • Boot Camp/Swimming/Weight Training/Track Running/Yoga/Tennis
  • Tutoring
  • Blog Writing
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Reading Books
  • Stock Market Investing
  • Building Stuff/Renovations
  • Movie Watching/Popcorn Inhalation

Family Circus

It’s pretty easy to call this a distracted ADHD-like whirlwind. (My apologies to those truly afflicted with a diagnosis of ADHD… I use the term loosely in my personal life)

Or, perhaps if you’re a female-type, you’re saying to yourself, “It’s called multi-tasking stupid man, we women do this every day of the week!“.

Sometimes, I think I’m losing touch with normalcy because even when I’m doing and enjoying an activity – experiencing the moment – I’m actually thinking about the next thing I want to do or should do.

It’s like Seinfeld says in his stand up routine, Whenever we’re ‘here’, we’re already thinking about what we should be doing ‘there’.” I talked about this idea a couple of weeks back.

It may appear that I’m riding madly off in all directions, but I prefer to think of my disseminated existence as “life balance”…

My Italian brother-in-law Don comically talks about his food “balancers”, the delectable little snacks he ingests constantly throughout his day that balance his need for calories!

I’ve merely taken Don’s “balancer” act and morphed it slightly into my list of busyness…  movements… my “to’ing and fro’ing“. I like the sensation of being an Olympic gymnast teetering on the balance beam, doing flips, then turns, and then somersaults while tenuously holding onto the central girder.

I’ve always been an adherent of balance in life. I may be mentally unbalanced but my day-to-day equilibrium remains intact.

The Oxford Dictionary describes balance as, “A situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” Who knows what correct proportions are but I think balance = healthy… as in…

… a healthy’ish blender mix of the physical, mental, spiritual, social, intellectual/educational, narcissistic and altruistic. Biting off a portion of each of these food groups of life on a regular basis builds the muscle groups of our existence.

WellnessWheel

I’ve observed very successful people who have a razor-sharp focus, folks who dedicate every waking hour to a goal or an outcome that burns like the fires of Hades inside them.

At the extreme, they relegate their physical health and/or family contacts to the bottom of the pile creating a diseased state of balance.

Do I believe that Steve Jobs was brilliant? Absolutely! Do I believe Steve Jobs was physically strong and robust, and had healthy family relationships… not so much.

While I admire the obsessive focus, stamina and dedication of these highly successful types, it’s not the house where I see the dreams of my world living.

I prefer to consciously allocate my 1,440 minutes a day in a proportioned balance to each of the areas I value…

I see my days in the same way I see my investing diversification.

I would never allocate my entire wad of $$ to one stock investment like Apple or Johnson & Johnson, even though these are fine companies and great investments. It’s common sense to spread your investment dollars just as it’s common sense to live a life of balance. Diversification in life = Balance.

So, let’s go back to the where I began today’s “sermon”… Was/Is God ADHD-afflicted? Or does it matter?

I’ll let you decide… because I’ve got a bunch of other things to do.

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“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Art of Focus… Never a Better Time… Pay The Price Now…

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Focus Art

The unthinkable is TRUE… it’s happening…

OMG… you can learn and excel at anything… ANYTHING… you’ve ever dreamed of and not have to leave your home.

You can get the best, most expert, most expensive instruction on:

  • screenwriting
  • acting
  • golfing
  • piano playing
  • knitting and sewing
  • furniture making
  • philosophy
  • bird identification
  • cake decorating
  • Romanian language 
  • basketball layups
  • doing an artfully erotic striptease…

banana-striptease

ANYTHING… it’s all there just waiting for you and me to dive in…

The internet has given me alone tutorials on songwriting, french language skills, grammar and the Oxford comma, concrete finishing, ancient history, beef roast cooking, SQL computer coding, chicken raising, growing better tomatoes, running a faster half marathon (fat chance!), and on and on.

I’ve had James Taylor in my home office patiently instructing me, coaching me on how to do everything from tuning a guitar well to proper picking form in Fire and Rain .

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will happily come into your home, you don’t even have to offer them a cup of tea, and give you driving instructions.

……………….

To be deeply philosophical about it, or more likely just to fool you into believing that I’m smart or something… all of the atoms in the universe have been cycled and recycled, combined and recombined over millions and billions of years, and somehow, by fate or whatever, you and I were fabricated from a mere dusting of these fragments and particles.

It’s a miracle really; a miracle that justifies something great and noteworthy, don’t you think?

But dear friend… it’s the best of times and… it’s the worst of times.

Because there are so many distractions, maybe fewer of us than ever are actually doing these amazing, diverse things… or at least doing them well. Good morning, this is your wake-up call...

I’ve struggled mightily all my life with mediocrity – boo hoo, poor entitled lad – you know… Jack of All Trades, Master of None.  

For the most part I’ve actually happily embraced being so-so at almost everything I do, rationalizing that because I do a bucketload of varied things with my time, that I can ditch the worry about doing anything really well.

CHANGE.

My thinking has and is changing … let’s see, my fellow Canadian JT (Justin Trudeau) has changed his thinking on electoral reform, and even Donald Trump has changed his thinking on China as a currency manipulator.

So maybe, just maybe, it’s OK for Larry Green to change his thinking on mediocrity in every area of his life (hmmmm, talking about yourself in the third person is a sign of encroaching narcissism, I’d better look up some remedial therapy courses online).

To be good or great, you have to hone the skills, spend the 1,000 hours… the 10,000 hours to become “special”.

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I’ve talked about this before, and I hate to be a nag, but in a world that makes learning so easy, and concentrated focus so challenging, it bears repeating.

When I – drooling over sexy music porn – watch Tommy Emmanuelle or Keith Urban play their guitar, the first thought that passes through my brain like a crawler at the bottom of the news channel screen, is, “I could never do that“.

WRONG… they became that good by… practice… practice… and more practice.

Your wise old Mom was right when she told you to sit at the piano bench, practicing your lessons for a half hour every day.

I, and similarly, you, have the ability if we’re willing to pay the price.

If I’m willing to commit hours, months, and years, I can do it.

It’s about committing to something you enjoy tremendously and making the effort, the hard, concentrated effort, to learn and progress and accept the difficulties and failures that come with slow, uneven progress.

It’s about The Art of Focus.

It’s about a willingness to say NO more often, no to the distractions and outside influences, and sitting yourself down to do the hard, often lonely, but ultimately pleasurable work of making something magical within yourself.

It’s about the inner feeling of goodness and creative spark that comes with a pat-yourself-on-the-back sense of mastery.

This beautiful blue planet we inhabit for such a painfully short time has evolved over millions of years to the point where, today, most of us rarely fear for our mortal lives or tremble about starvation, where crippling diseases are at a lesser tide than any time in history, where work days usually conclude after 8 or 10 hours, and weekends are for our own pleasure.

We’ve come to bat at the sweet spot in time and circumstance. HOME RUN territory.

I’ll cock my head, glance up into the bright sunshine, scratch some fine dirt beneath my cleats and rub my crotch for good luck.

The once almost unthinkable moment has arrived and you and I can decide for ourselves if these moments we’re allotted are meant for watching the world happen to us, or we happen to the world.

The internet gives us the gift of choice where we can be sucked into an intoxicating whirlpool of dullness, and a diet of artificial Twinkies, or… a tsunami of wonder and a dramatic reaching for the elegant twinkling of the stars.

Grammatically, an incomplete sentence is one where either a subject (YOU) or a verb (YOU doing something) is missing.

Every complete sentence has a subject (YOU) and a verb (YOU doing something).

YOU doing something is a complete sentence in a life fully lived.

You guessed it. I learned that from a grammar lesson I took online…

keith urban brad pasisley guitar

 

Goodbye Norma Jean …

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Candle in the Wind.

Candle

One song … of two mysterious but tragically unfortunate women, struck down at the age of 36, in the beautiful prime of their lives.

Long after Marilyn’s lifeless, drugged body was found in her bed on August 5, 1962 …

Long before any of us knew who shy young Diana Spencer was …

Long before Princes William and Harry were born …

… Elton John (music) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) penned a song called Candle in the Wind… an ode originally written to the memory and significance and tragedy that was Norma Jeane Mortenson. You probably know her more familiarly as Marilyn Monroe.

…………………

And it seems to me you lived your life, like a candle in the wind 

Never knowing who to cling to, when the rain set in.

…………………

The song was on Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album that came out in 1973 when I was a young lad at Glendale High School in Hamilton, Ontario.

It was the most influential set of songs I had heard to that point in my life with pop classics like Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, Funeral For A Friend, and of course … Candle in the Wind.

“Candle” was probably my favourite song (along with Danny Bailey and Sweet Painted Lady) on the entire 2 record album.

I’ve always loved ballads, and Candle in the Wind with its simple chords and melody and poignant lyrics, captured the struggles of untold fame on the lives of simple people.

Songs we love are so important to us because we find meaningful significance in them that the writer may have never intended.

We internalize a message that is unique to our own experience.

For me, Candle in the Wind was an ode to my Mother’s untimely death – I’m certain thousands of others felt the same deep emotional connection within their own lives, whether relating to the death of a significant other or perhaps the loss of a relationship that had once been strong and filled with love, hope, and longing.

When I was a teenager, I would sit in the apartment I shared with my sister, playing my guitar, dreaming of becoming a music writer and rock star like Elton John …

elton john

I wanted the weird, multi-coloured eyeglasses.

I wanted the fame.

I wanted the adulation.

I wanted the ceaseless waterfalls of cash flowing into my bank accounts.

What I didn’t want was to serve up the work ethic and sacrifice that would make it possible.

Like my studies in high school where I did OK, but rarely ever pushed myself, I was a lazy musician and songwriter.

I hadn’t mastered the arithmetic of putting 2 + 2 together yet and wouldn’t for a couple of decades to come. I closed my eyes to the blatantly obvious that the really good things happen when you put in the hours and focus to make it happen.

The hard work happens before the rewards flow. It harkens back to that old 10,000 hours rule of “practice makes mastery” that Paul and John knew, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs knew, JK Rowling and Sheryl Sandberg knew.

Good luck shines on those who pour themselves wholeheartedly into their dreams. Wishing just doesn’t make it so.

I’ve changed now. Both in understanding what it takes to excel … and what I’m willing to bring to that lionized table.

I’ve changed, but not enough to become a rock star, or an esteemed author, or a renowned gardener, or even a celebrated Porta-Potty cleaner.

I’ll never be a famous or acclaimed singer/songwriter because, even though I’m willing to put more effort and time into the things that are important to me, I’m still not willing to make the all-out sacrifice of time, focus and energy that it takes.

I won’t pour myself into making music or anything else for 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day every day. That’s not who I am. Even my vacant macho dreams of becoming a male prostitute to Desperate Housewives peters out as I realize my Peter’s not up to the hard and salacious demands of Urban Princesses.

I’ll always be a Hobbiest, never a Master.

I’ve made my choices and I’ll never be Elton John.

Some candles burn brighter than others, but really, we all cast a flicker of light that provides warmth and illumination to those around us.

Marilyn and Diana were those dazzling, brilliant candles that lived their lives on the treacherous edge of hurricane alley where the storms were always a threat to their light.

Often, those that burn brightest sadly seem to be the ones at the greatest risk of being snuffed out when the winds begin to swirl and howl.

And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did …

Marilyn and diana

 

 

 

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

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My first blog post...

Some dynamo’s first blog post…

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

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

This post is about choices and decisions and creative sweat.

Movin’ on …

SWEAT

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

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

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

Sweaty spin

……………………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN TRAVOLTA SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1)

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

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

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

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

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

How do I get this virus out of my head?

How do I get THIS virus out of my head?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slam, the door closes and another post awaits.

Ideas get stuffed in ...

Ideas get stuffed in …

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

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

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

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

…………………………

You know what is REALLY fun about writing blog posts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and concocting racy SEXY blog titles!

SWEAT

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.

pregnant_runner

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…

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!

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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