Day #63 – “Rubber hits the road…”

I’ve been blah-blah-blah’ing for years about how I want to be a part of the publishing process, ideally as a writer, but also as an editor or a proofer or a fact checker or… whatever gets my foot in the door. 

Well, this morning I got an email from the Production Manager for WordFire Press – Kevin J. Anderson’s publishing company – informing me that they’re going to send me a short proof (about 8 pages) to do.  Im assuming it’s a test to see how I do. 

Kinda scared.  Kinda excited. 

This is where I find out if this is for me. 

Day #62 – “They’re in there somewhere…”

 I used to have abs (I’m the one in the middle, for those who don’t know me.).  Up until the age of about 40, I steadily kept myself in good physical shape. 

Then Life happened – long story; too long for this blog. 

My abs are still “in there”…somewhere.   It’s my plan for them to make a grand re-appearance before my daughter’s wedding next year. 

Day #61 – “Fine wine…”

The first time I watched Robert Downey Jr’s “The Judge”, it was in the theatre, Seinfeld perfect setting, along with my wife and daughter.  I really enjoyed it – thoroughly! – but my history screams that its overwhelmingly unlikely that I’d ever watch it again.  (I mean, c’mon.  It’s not Lord of the Rings or Star Wars).  

Then this morning, woke up early on a Saturday. Can’t sleep. Bored.  Channel surfing.  I see The Judge on the Guide and almost in a daze I click ENTER.  It’s near the beginning. Hmm. 

About 90 minutes later the credits start to roll and, quite unexpectedly, I realize that I had enjoyed the movie even MORE thoroughly than I did the first time.  

Funny.  How does that happen?

Day #60 – “In Search of…”

I love chess.  Always have.  But it can be very bad for my health. 

Digressing slightly…  I damaged my neck in my early 20’s during intense martial arts training.  After years of therapy, medication and meditation, I’ve reached a form of equilibrium: it only hurts when I’m overly tired (to the point of near-exhaustion) or overly stressed.  So, part of my ongoing therapy is to do my best to avoid extreme stress, when possible. 

However, part of my life paradigm is to regularly test myself and stretch my Self, and that occasionally involves extreme stress (like learning how to longboard downhill). 

This is where chess comes in. 

For me, chess can be extraordinarily stressful.  I take it very seriously in the pursuit of getting better.  However, like golf, personal chess developed can sometimes involve periods of repeated failure.  Many lost games in a row as I put myself against opponents who are much better than I am.  

But there was a period – about four years – when I gave up chess completely because my stress gauge – my neck – was constantly in pain, causing chronic migraines, insomnia, and over usage of pain meds. 

Now I am playing chess again.  I am still in the “enjoyment ” period, and I’m hoping that perspective and self-control that come with age will allow me to avoid triggering my stress-gauge and necessitating a divorce from the game that I love so much. 

But, if divorce is necessary, then… Oh well.  She’s a bitch anyways. 

Day #59 – “Famous killers have three names…”

Yesterday, the man who took an arsenal of weaponry into a movie theatre in 2012 and open-fired, James Eagan Holmes, was sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole PLUS an additional 3,318 years. 

Really?  

At what point does the number of years on his sentence become absurd?  

Not long ago, Nebraska forgot about our famous import – John Joubert – and repealed the death penalty. Now they are in discussions to reinstate it.   

Yesterday, a Virginia news station reporter and her cameraman were gunned down while conducting an on-air interview. The gunman was a disgruntled ex-employee of the news station.  Fortunately, he killed himself (after sending a 23 page manifesto to ABC News and posting vids of his deed on Twitter).  Why do I think the VA community would have preferred that the killer stand trial and go through appeal attempt after appeal attempt and public protestations of justification-due-to-insanity or some other silly defense and a likely cost of millions to sustain this killers life … All under the umbrellas of “closure” and “justice”?

Such a strange cultural hypocrisy. 

Day #58 – “What’s it worth?”

My wife and I both came from extremely humble beginnings, to put it mildly.  The fact, of which, we were completely oblivious to at the time; a testament to our mother’s constant care and our father’s constant work.  

Having that shared background makes it easy for us to understand our shared cavalier attitude toward money.  It is absolutely not a goal for either of us to amass great wealth.  We could care less.  Our years of life have taught us (or rather, re-confirmed for us) that money does not buy happiness. 

Do we sometimes wish we had a little more money now and again? Of course.  But it’s only because: we want to take a modest trip together and enjoy each other’s company – outside of the pace of the life-race. Or we want to gift it to our kids to help them over-a-hump.  Or I’d like the ability to shower my wife with roses at a moments thought without having to figure out a way to budget that emotion. 

But those, in retrospect, are all minor or temporary things.  

We see people and the horrible things they will do, the pitiful comprises they’re willing to make, all in the vain struggle for monetary wealth, and we are saddened by the speed with which they will jettison their morals, their core beliefs, and even the welfare of loved-ones.  And if, by chance, they succeed and are able to stockpile “enough” wealth (how much is “enough”?), the people they would have shared it with are now gone (to them).  

I look at my modest home, my wife and kids, my intentionally dwindling number of possessions, and I know – without doubt – that I am the richest man alive. 

Thank you God. 

Day #57 – “The Wall…”

Day 4 of Tiger’s run at Wyndham was…disappointing, to no one more – I’m certain- than Tiger. 

He just couldn’t get any momentum. 

That said, it was still a joy to watch him play. 

I’m not a fair-weather fan.  Even on bad days, Watching Tiger gut his way through a round still inspires me to my bones; the same way that watching Jimmy Connors gut through 5 grueling sets.  Win or lose, their drive and determination are examples of the never-quit mentality I continue to do my best to emulate.  

Thank you Tiger.  Thank you Jimmy. Thank you Sugar Ray.  And so many others. 

Day #56 – “Butterfly Kisses…”

Okay – I’ll be the first to admit that I can, at times, be intimidating.  And, while I’m being honest, it’s not a perception that I go out of my way to avoid.  I kinda like the automatic distance that is created when I am around people I don’t know.  Does it stilt conversation and/or interaction?  Likely – yes.  Do I care?  Not really.

My wife, kids and friends have told me on separate occasions that they’ve heard from the uninitiated that I seem brooding or angry or intense or … well, fill-in the adjective.  Those who know me no longer see those things.  They know the true me, and they are much better at reading my true feelings and mood than those who don’t know me.

Perfect!  That’s the way it should be.

So, keeping all of that in mind…

I accompanied my wife and daughter to a Bridal Shop over the weekend so that my daughter could try on wedding dresses.  That glaring reminder that my daughter will soon be a married woman and, even more, will be leaving home, really messed with my head.  Every dress she tried on, standing there before the tri-fold mirror, looking at me in the reflection, waiting for dad’s response to this dress or that dress.  Of course, she looked gorgeous in all of them.  But that’s not what was playing with my mind.  With every new dress she showed me, a chorus was playing in my brain, singing “Sheeeeee’s leaving home… Bye Bye.”  (name that song).

In-between dresses, I’d go out to the sitting area and play on my phone, trying to take my mind elsewhere.  But it sure didn’t help when, right after seeing her in the most beautiful dress so far, I had to listen to the heart-wrenching song “Butterfly Kisses” over the Muzak.

Now, put together the perception-stuff I mentioned at the beginning and pair it with the tears coming down my face because of that damned song, and imagine the reaction on the faces of the two girls working the front counter.

Yep!  Priceless.

Oh, I’m sure they see crying dad’s all the time.  But, at first glance, I’m not the kinda guy you’d imagine even breaking a smile – let alone cracking with tears.

I hope those two girls learned something about people (the whole ‘…judging a book by its cover’ thing, y’know?)…. cause I sure learned something about myself.

I had the same personal reaction several years ago at my son’s wedding.  My then-future-daughter-in-law wanted me to sing a song for them during the reception.  Something I initially said “Sure!” to when she asked.  But as the day of their wedding grew closer and the emotion of my son actually getting married began to weigh on me, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to perform a song without cracking.  I used to sing — solo and as part of a group — for years with no problem at all.  But this was different, right?  This was my son.

Softy then — Softy now.

I’m glad my wife knows she’s really married to a mushy guy…and that she still loves me, despite that fact.

Day #55 – “Crisis of faith…”

First, let me clarify that the title of this entry does not refer to a crisis of religious faith. I’m honing in on those times when our faith in other people is at risk. 

Do we need to have faith in others?  Of course.  The faith we have in family and friends is integral to those relationships being healthy and meaningful.  Once someone in that tight circle you’ve created does or says something that puts the basis of that faith in doubt, the relationship itself is at risk. 

There are other relationships where faith is important as well.  The faith we place in our work leaders, spiritual leaders, and other life-leaders varies in intensity and degree – depending on the importance each of us places on the other person’s role in our life. 

For example: I will place my faith in a physical trainer, but that faith is constantly being examined and evaluated by me each time I workout with that trainer. As long as I show progress and they succeed in helping me avoid injury, then the faith I have for them becomes more solid and more integral to my regular existence.  If they were to fail me early on in the relationship, then it would be fairly easy for me to sever ties, cancel the commitment of faith, and move on. But with every passing month, that faith becomes more solid, more a part of my being. Severing that commitment of faith becomes increasingly difficult, and the impact of betrayal or failure becomes potentially more personally devastating to me. 

The more impactful the role a person plays in our lives determines the level of impact that a breech of faith on their part will have on our lives. Faith Leaders are a great example. 

When we see faith leaders on TV who have, for decades, preached a certain way of life and the evils of sin – all while holding out their hands for our hard-earned money- it’s very impactful to thousands when those pious leaders are caught with their hands in the till.  This is not a crisis of religious faith, it’s a breech of faith committed BY someone involved in religion. Not the same thing. 

Please keep all of this in mind when people place their faith in you.  It is an important responsibility to be the receiver of faith.  

Remind yourself daily of that responsibility.   It’s important. 

Day #53 – “It’s Tiger’s fault!”

When I was a kid, I hated golf.  It made absolutely no sense to me at all.  The scoring seemed incomprehensible, and just the idea of smacking a little ball down a very long lawn in the often-vane attempt to get it into a little white hole in the ground seemed, well… silly.  And, since I’m being honest, My hate for it was sealed because my dad loved golf and, during certain times of the year, he’d spend much of what little time he did spend at home planted in front of the TV watching Jack Nicholas or Arnold Palmer on TV — while we kids had a standing rule of NOT making any noise while dad was watching TV.

Later, after moving out of my home, joining the military, leaving the state, and building an adult life on my own, golf still didn’t have ANY place in my life.  There were much MUCH better things to do than to watch a bunch of entitled rich people playing a game that I would never play myself.

That was — until Tiger came on the scene (for me) during the latter part of 1996.

This guy was not boring; not by any stretch of the imagination.

He would swing his club as if he were trying to land his ball on the moon.  Yes, he often missed the fairways, but I quickly learned that fairways were for the ‘other’ golfers.  Not for Tiger!  He didn’t need fairways to win.  He’d put himself in the deep rough – he’d land his ball amongst the trees – or he’d land his ball so far left or right of the green that every (EVERY) expert commentator would count par as an impossibility, and they’d start calculating the best way of getting off that hole with a double-bogie…and counting Tiger lucky to have that.

But they hadn’t become believers of the Tiger Eye yet.

Tiger saw paths to the green – or to the hole itself – that no one else saw.  He would thread the needle between a tight stand of trees, or he would bend his ball around the largest of obstacles, or he’d simply pop it up and over EVERYTHING…then land it soft and sweet, right near the hole…well within birdie range.

He could read a green better than anyone alive.  He instinctively saw all the bends and turns and dips and broken blades of grass and dead bugs and where the wind was and wasn’t…. and that ball would do a waltz for him that was artistic and totally without precedent….all the way to the hole.

For many years, the fact that Tiger would win or, at worst, be in serious contention, every time he showed up on a course was very quickly without doubt.  But that’s really not why I watched him – or why he seduced me into loving golf.  It was the way he played.  He was like the little kid who could ride his bike in crazy ways that seemed to defy the laws of physics, simply because no one had told him yet that he couldn’t.  He was the kid who could dance across a fence without any worry of falling because no one had taught him about gravity yet.  That was Tiger.  He really shouldn’t have been able to do many of the things he did.  He simply did them – because he refused to check in with someone else beforehand to see if what he was about to do was possible.

He’s had a rough couple of years lately, but that doesn’t matter.  Tiger will always be the reason I love golf.  He will always be one of my primary inspirations for thinking outside the box, trying the impossible, and simply going for it!

Thank you sir!

Day #52 – “Beating Inertia…”

in·er·tia
iˈnərSHə/
noun
  1. 1.
    a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
    “the bureaucratic inertia of government”

=========================================================

We are all affected by inertia in our everyday lives; those things that stubbornly do not move forward or refuse to turn in the direction we want them to.

A general example of inertia is:

Imagine a very large boulder sitting halfway up a steep hill.  That boulder has likely been sitting in the exact same spot on that hill for decades, or perhaps even centuries.  That boulder is affected by inertia.  It needs some outside source or some ‘change’ to occur for it to move from the spot it’s been in for so very long.  It may be erosion under the boulder.  It might be torrential rain.  Or it might be as little as a bird landing on it for rest.  However it happens, when that one final thing occurs that causes it to move downhill in even the smallest amount, then its inertia has been interrupted.  And, for this example, once that boulder starts to move, other forces – like gravity – start to have a larger effect on the boulder, causing it to roll more, then roll faster…until — inertia has been completely defeated and the boulder comes crashing down the hill at a scary pace.

The same process occurs in our lives.

For me, I deal with the battle of inertia daily in regards to my workouts.

I LOVE working out — once I’m doing it.  But it’s the ‘getting-in-the-gym’ part that serves as the cause of my inertia.  I can camouflage it by saying that the roadblocks to me successfully working out everyday is my work, my family, sickness, an injury, and so on, but the bottom line is >> Once I get in that gym, I WILL workout, and it WILL be a good workout!  (I’ve never had a bad workout – ever!)  So, time and just paying attention has taught me that – for me to successfully beat the inertia of workout-avoidance, I just need to get my butt in the gym.  After that, everything always works itself out.

I hate product placements, but – the term “Just Do It!” almost always applies when it comes to overcoming inertia in our lives.  Whatever obstacles you THINK are in your way from writing or working out or going to school or cleaning that room or… well, you get the idea… I KNOW that if you simply take the first step, the inertia will be defeated and you will move forward — today.   Tomorrow, you will likely face the same battle of inertia, and you will need to simply Do It again.

So:  Write the first word; put on your running shoes; get your butt to the gym door; pick up that first dirty sock; sign-up for that class; and just Do It!

Day #51 – “Wisdom by Osmosis?”

I love books – all kinds of books.  But for this entry, I’d like to concentrate on Instruction Books.

Books on Chess, Writing, Life, Meditation, Gardening, and SO many more.

I have a LOT of these types of books at home….and very soon, I’ll be giving almost all of them away.

For so many years, I’ve collected these kinds of books.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of them have been collected dust on my bookshelves for many years because I’ve either failed to read them, or I’ve felt no need to go back to them.

Yes, there are a few books that I’ve read and re-read and re-re-read — and those books I’ll be keeping.  But the others are going into a box to be given to charity in the hope that they’ll find life and purpose in someone else’s hands…and NOT gather new dust on someone else’s shelf.

I know why I got all those books in the first place: it was in a sincere attempt to ‘take action’.  I love learning new skills and sharpening current skills, and these books were meant to help me do that.  And they are all good books (or I wouldn’t have gotten them in the first place).  But why didn’t I ‘use’ them for their original purpose?

Part of the problem, I think, is that I don’t have a lifestyle that allots sufficient time toward learning new skills and sharpening current ones.  And, unless I can learn/sharpen my skill-sets by osmosis (Wouldn’t that be wonderful?), then one of two things needs to happen:

  1. Change my lifestyle enough to make time for this developmental practice.
  2. Jettison some of the plans I have for new skills training.

So, what am I going to do?

Both of them.

I’ve been a bit over-zealous and unrealistic about this whole thing, and at my age, I need to be more selective about not only WHAT I’m going to learn, but also HOW MUCH TIME I want to dedicate (or, more accurately, have TIME to dedicate) towards learning new skills and enhancing current skills.

So >> Old books = Gone!

New books = Be selective!

Current books = Use!! (Or else…gone!)

Forward!

Day #50 – BONUS Entry – “Nihilism…”

ni·hil·ism
ˈnīəˌlizəm,ˈnēəˌlizəm/
noun
The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.
Sometimes I wonder why people do what they do — or why they refuse to do what I consider to be ‘right’.  Don’t we all share a common sense of goodness and justice and correctness?
No, we don’t.
There are those that, quite honestly, believe in only those things that contribute to their own lives, their own enjoyment, their own prosperity.  This moral paradigm is one that constantly shifts and changes and moves, like moons around a planet, and the core of that orbit is the selfishness of the individual.
I’ve heard of people describing nihilism as a means of re-examining everything around them with a clear, unbiased mind.  And, in that context, I can see a very temporary value in its employment.  But as a core philosophy?  No.  This is a belief in nothing.  This is a stance nowhere.  It requires no courage; it requires no sacrifice; it involves no responsibility.
If you want to turn the cube to see what’s on the other side, and you want to view it with ‘no mind’, then yes – please do.
However, if your existence is one where moral principles have no meaning, where life itself has no purpose, then I think you have no place on this Earth.  You are consuming resources and giving nothing back.  Your only contribution to this world is the carbon dioxide that you expel and the neon example that you serve…the ‘thing’ that others should avoid emulating at all costs.

Day #50 – “Gremlins…”

There’s no such thing as a completely bad day.

Bold statement, right?

I’ve had days that were completely blackened by the death of a loved one, or physical pain, or back-to-back arguments, or a daisy-chain of disappointments, but – in the end – none of them were completely bad days.

Were they mostly bad?  Even ‘overwhelmingly’ bad?  Sure.

But ‘Completely Bad’?

No!

From the practical side first:

Although hard to find or remember, every one of these days had moments of peace, of quiet, of solace.  A few of them even had the stray, unexpected laugh that seemed to vaporize at the time, but served to relieve the tension, if only for a moment.  Often, days of disaster are shared with others.  That alone is a positive – a sharing on an island in a sea of pain.

From the esoteric side now:

With every hardship comes the realization that we are stronger than we think we are.

With every strain, break, tear, pull, and cut comes a healing and a new level of acceptance and tolerance to pain.

With every setback and disappointment and failure and devastation comes the chance to learn and grow and develop a new focus and drive and intensity that we didn’t possess before.

I’m not saying that we don’t experience horrible, mind-numbing, soul-crushing days.

I AM saying that – they are never ‘All Bad.”

Over the years, I have learned to find comfort in that fact.

Day #49 – “Stasis…”

One of the largest, most attractive pits that I frequently fall into is Stasis.

A part of me obviously loves a calm, peaceful, tranquil existence.  I know this because I regularly, just naturally, steer towards that form of environment.  A quiet day in my home, doing “nothing” activities” (watching TV, napping, puttering around the house, etc.) makes a part of me very happy.

However, Stasis is the arch-nemesis of productivity, growth and larger enjoyment.

If I want to learn something new, I can’t do it while lounging in a state of Stasis.

If I want to get one of my MANY projects done, I can’t do it while wallowing in Stasis.

Any goals I may have will NOT be found in the cocoon of Stasis.

Should I avoid Stasis altogether?  I honestly don’t know.  I DO think that there is value to be found in occasionally (I repeat >> “OCCASIONALLY”) allowing yourself to reset, to unplug, and simply re-energize.  But I have to be aware of the dangers of going there too often, or staying there too long.

So, going forward, “Stasis” needs to be closely monitored.  Or, perhaps the better way to deal with the dangers of Stasis is to schedule my Stasis time.

Something to think about.

Day #48 – “When it rains…”

They say hardships come in three’s. I hope so. 

My rear brakes starts to screech and squeal because the pads were now metal on metal.  Got ’em fixed by an on-the-side mechanic named Felix. He normally does good work. Picked up my car on Friday, but could still hear screeching coming from the back.  Felix said I needed a new backing plate.  He showed me my old brake pads and rotors and yes, they were worn out.  

Bummer. One more headache (literally). 

That night, I was backing out of my driveway to pick up a pizza for dinner when… SNAP!  My serpentine belt broke.  I contacted Felix and he said he’d come by the next day (Saturday) to put on a new one.  But then, all day Saturday, I couldn’t get ahold of Felix.  I eventually got a call late Saturday night to tell me Taft Felix had to fly to Cali on short notice due to a family emergency and he likely wouldn’t be back for about ten days. 

Headaches two and three. 

I’ve been messaging all the on-the-side mechanics I can find online in my area, but some of them are really weird.  I think I’ve found someone who will come to my home tonight to install the belt. 

Please let there not be a headache #4. 

Day #47 – “Where does it hurt?”

My Kids aren’t technically “kids” anymore, but that fact fades quickly when they’re sick – even at their current ‘adult-age’.  

My son was in his 20’s when he dumped his longboard doing 50+ mph.  He didn’t want to go to the ER, and he didn’t want his mom to find out cause he knew – from long experience – how it would affect her.  Instantly, I was transported back to a time when he was a pre-teen and he’d fallen out of a tree and severely sprained his wrist.  The age was technically double this time, but the feelings were exactly the same.  He was my beloved son, my little buddy, and he was hurt. He’s now in his early 30’s, married and has a child of his own, but his mom and I still fret (at times) over his health.  “Is he eating properly?”  “Is he sleeping enough?”

This emotional scenario occurred again today with our daughter.  She’s in her mid-20’s and she’ll be getting married next year, but today, she was simply my sick little girl.  She’d contracted some stomach bug from one of her students at school, and she was throwing up regularly. She couldn’t even hold down simple sips of water.  Today, we all reverted to familiar roles: her mom and I instantly became the caregivers, eager to do absolutely anything necessary to make her feel better; and she was the pitiful child, easily relinquishing all power, independence and control – in favor of being our little girl…if only for the day. 

I am certain that my son will always be my “Little Buddy” and my daughter will forever be my “Little Girl.”  

Today, I wasn’t “Dad”, I was “Daddy.”

Day #46 – “Must be maturing…”

There’s a story I love to tell to illustrate how a marriages matures:

It’s raining hard when a newlywed couple enters a doctor’s office together.  They’re there to be tested whether there are any obstacles to having children.  After checking in at the counter, they start to settle in the lobby.  The young husband shook the rain off if his hat, he set it down on his chair, then he helped his young bride with her coat.  Then, unknowingly, he sat on his hat.  However, his wife saw what he did and immediately started berating him for doing something so dumb. Of course, the husband got defensive, and this quickly escalated into an argument. 

A few minutes later, an elderly couple enters the lobby, the rain still visibly pouring behind them. The husband is accompanying his wife to her post-surgical checkup; she’s a breast cancers survivor.  After checking in at the counter, then start to settle in just a few chairs away from the still-arguing newlyweds.  The old husband shakes the rain off of his hat, sets it down in his chair, and then he helps his wife off with her coat.  He hangs it up, helps her down into her chair, and then he unknowingly sits down on his hat.  Several minutes pass without either of them saying a word.  Then, the wife leans over to her loving husband and whispers, “You sat on your hat.”  He pats her hand and whispers back, “I know.”

Day #45 – “Wrong? Me?”

One thing that I believe I’ve attained with age is the ability to readily accept being wrong.  

When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, being wrong was something caused feelings of anxiety, guilt, frustration, and so on. I tried VERY hard to always know what I was talking about, and I had an opinion about virtually everything.  When someone corrected me, it almost always sparked a knee-jerk reaction series: red face, raised voice, firm resolve, and the tendency to talk over the person who corrected me. 

Now, I am wide open to the possibility that something I had said was inaccurate, and equally eager to learn. 

I firmly believe that the trigger for my transition coincided with me learning to say “I don’t know”. Saying it, meaning it, and allowing myself the freedom away from knowing it all was the same as discovering a new room in a home you’ve lived in for decades. 

I wrote before about being an Eternal Beginner, and “I don’t know” is often integral to that process. 

Will I get even better at being a beginner?  I don’t know. 😁

Day #44 – “Twit-Face-Insta-Chat…”

I’m kinda torn about today’s social media craze.

Or…is it a craze?  Is it a fad?  Or is this the way people actually communicate now.

I know I’m gonna sound REALLY old with this, but…

I remember actually talking with people as the main form of communication.  The 2nd most popular form?  Writing letters.

These days, if I try to call someone, they refuse to answer their phone.  But, a few seconds later, I’ll get a text from them – worded in a way to make it clear that this is the form of communication they prefer.

People express themselves — OVER-express themselves – on Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, and so on.  They feel entitled to tell the entire world (or, more accurately, ‘their’ entire world) what they feel, why they feel it, and they do their absolute best to infuse their post, their rant, with as much emotion and emoticons as they can.  To today’s world, this form of communicating is “interactive” and “social”.

My experience, though, is that these interactions are fake!  The person doing the ranting or raving or flirting or alphabet-spewing is usually completely different from the person you end up speaking with face-to-face.  A person is more confident over social media because they feel protected.  They also feel entitled.  Something about this forum (at least, in their minds) gives them the right – almost goads them – to go directly from emotional-brain to keyboard without the normal barriers and filters that face-to-face interactions demand.  They often don’t have the same level of respect for the people/person they are communicating with, and they are MUCH more in-your-face with how they feel and what they think.

And it is through THIS format that today’s single people are often meeting potential dating partners.

No wonder so many people have become serial daters…going from cyber-person to cyber-person, looking for their ideal mate, and constantly disappointed because (imagine this!) the person they end up meeting is NOTHING like the person they were communicating with over Twit-Face-Insta-Chat.

Kids — you both have someone you love and will be spending the rest of your lives with now.  But for any other Kids out there, please >>>  Speak with people (actually hear their voice!).  Exchange looooooong letters (emails are cool) with them.  Ask a million questions and offer a million answers.  Have Real Friends – and be sure to mentally separate them from your Social Media Friends.  They’re NOT the same.

Oh!   And don’t text and drive – EVER!  (Just sayin’.  😛 )

Day #43 – “Tinker – Tailor – Soldier – Spy…”

I have worn an uncounted number of hats in my life thus far, and continue to do so.  And I am still on the hunt for additional hats in various sizes, shapes and colors.

One of the two hats I love the most actually has two names: “Dad” (and all its various permutations: Pops, Papa, Dada, Daddy, etc.) and “Grandpa” (or whatever name my grand-kids decide to call me when they are able).

I absolutely love being ‘that’ for them.

Stepping outside of myself, it’s very easy to see that my love for this (these) role(s) comes from a very selfish place.  But, quite fortunately, it’s an ‘allowed selfishness’.  I’m expected to adore my kids/grand-kids.  I’m expected to spoil them silly.  It is perfectly acceptable for a 55+ year old grown man to get chest-down on the ground so that I am face-to-face with that wonder-filled face and speak nonsensically and laugh at nothing and make wildly inappropriate sounds and sing to them and beat-box for them and tickle them and nibble on their toes.

From the time each of my kids was born, it didn’t take very long for every piece of clothing I owned to be anointed with a variety of child-born bodily fluid/matter, some more than others, and I didn’t care.  My shoulders were constantly soaked with baby drool because that is where they often slept.  Children have always found me ‘comfortable’, my kids especially.  When our kids slept with my wife and I as they grew up (and they often slept with us during their first 5 or 6 years of life), no matter where the child started the night, I would often wake up with their face nuzzled firmly into one of my shoulders.

How wonderful is that!!

I firmly believe that I was born to be a father.  And this is no exaggeration >> I was eager to be a dad ever since I was 10 years old.  One of the regular jobs I had throughout my teens was as a babysitter.  It garnered me spending money, and it allowed me to be a complete idiot with kids: playing games I was too old to play, singing songs I was too old to sing, and watching cartoons that I was supposed to have already outgrown.  This was the perfect proving and training ground for my ultimate calling.

So when my son was born, I made sure to take a month off from work so that I can spend some serious QT with my recovering wife, but also to ensure that that little, new person would definitely bond with me.

During my childhood, my dad had a recliner.  It was a worn-in, very comfortable thing, and it was extremely easy to lean back and fall asleep in it (only when dad wasn’t home, of course).  And, laying half-awake in that chair, I could easily picture myself with my child on my chest, also half-awake, as we eventually nodded-off together.  My wife and I made that ever-present vision a reality by ensuring we had a recliner in our apartment before our son was born.  And that is where my son and I spent much of the first month of his life.

We repeated that when our daughter was born, 8 years later.  And the heartwarming thing that I am able to experience now is, at the age of 24, my daughter still leans her head into my chest or shoulder for comfort.

Several of my ‘hats’ are creative in nature (artist, musician, poet) and my role as a dad directly feeds inspiration into those other roles.  By seeing life and overall existence still the constantly evolving eyes of a child, I receive their sense of wonder and inspiration and awe and gratitude for simple pleasures.

My grandpa hat still has that new-hat-smell; my first grandbaby is gonna be 2 next month and I haven’t spent a lot of time with her yet cause she and her parents live about a thousand miles away.  But she and her parents will be moving here in October.

I am SO ready to be the goofy, loving grandpa…eager to hear her create a new name for me…eager for her to write new endings to the stories I will tell her…eager for the barrage of questions she will ask…eager for her to outrun and outplay me, and then come back to her poor gwampa and sit in my lap till I catch my breathe…eager for her to grab my face with both hands (as children love to do) and stare deeply into my eyes to see whatever it is that children see when they do that.

Eager for October to come.

Day #42 – “Ramalamadingdong!”

Have you ever been flipping through the TV channels and happen upon an old movie that you’ve seen a million times (-ish) but you still wanna watch it again?

I just did that with “Grease”.

My family and I have seen that movie sooo many times but, like tonight, we never get tired of watching it.

We know all the dialog.  We sing all the songs. And we still laugh at all the same spots.

Not looking for an explanation for this phenomenon. Just happy for the joy my family and I still get from these movies.

Day #41 – “I Call a ‘Do Over’!”

For nearly every movie series ever made, in my mind, it’s normally the first movie that is the overall best. 

Fellowship…?  The best!

Indiana chasing the Ark?  The best!

“I’ll be back!”  The best!

First Star Wars that weirdly became the 4th one?  Definitely the best!

However, there are some very distinct and decisive exceptions to this overwhelming trend.  A few examples:

Khan over stupid cloud thingy. 

Harry beating Voldemort (they say it’s two movies, but I don’t agree). 

And Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ over…well, everything!

And on a related topic…  If you’re thinking about rebooting a movie, please don’t. The original is almost always unbeatable, so why bother?  ( I know the answer just like you do.  Sad, right?). A few miserable attempts?

True Grit – Andromeda Strain – Spider-Man (Amazing!) – Vacation (can’t beat Chevy) – Planet of the Apes – Footloose – and probably the worst reboot ever? Willy Wonka.  Why try to remake perfection?

You may or may not agree with my list, but I hope you’ll agree that… The first time (for so many things) is almost always the best. 

Day #40 – “There can be Only One…”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of immortality.  This obsession grew after watching the movie “Highlander”.  The idea of living for many lifetimes, learning everything I want to learn, not being hampered or slowed-down by age or infirmity, and – over the course of centuries – quietly experiencing the world as it advances & changes.

To be honest, the Highlander movie and TV series were the impetus for me wanting to learn how to use a sword.

However, over the years, I’ve watched many of the people I know slowly go from vital, energetic individuals, people who clung to life tightly, who dreamed of living forever too…to people who gradually became comfortable with the idea of degraded physical ability, with more frequent aches & pains & illness, and with diminished eyesight and hearing.  The shock to me was hearing them express how they were no longer afraid of death, and how they would be ready when it came.

What the… ?

Traitors!!!

These were people who had shared my dream of immortality.  They had wanted to attack life and dive into every new pool.  They had wanted their adventure to go on forever, almost as much as I did, and they dismissed any discussion of dying in their 50’s or 60’s or…  Well, you get the idea.

But then, after reaching the 50+ mark, they began to lose their zeal; their stubbornness incrementally faded; their visions of chasing gremlins into the centuries slowly forgotten.

Nope!  Not me!

I am now 55.  I still plan on reaching 155 — or 255 — and beyond.  I’m not talking about some medical cure or environmental miracle.  I’m talking about living on and on…just because I want to.  I see it (I have for decades), and I will make it so.

I’ve got far too many goals still to chase.  I have way too many adventures left to experience.  I have SO much left to learn.

Yup!  355.  That sounds like a good initial goal to shoot for.

Day #39 – “Words to Live by…”

I love short, simple quotes, statements, expressions, etc.  Anything that concisely voices the pictures in my brain or the feelings in my heart.  When done well, a few words strung together can inspire, illicit action, cause reflection, flair emotion, or soothe pain.

I am constantly on the hunt for motivational snippets, acronyms, words in other languages, etc…anything that reminds me of the right thing to do.  Some of my favorites are:

“Great acts are made up of small deeds.”

“Anyone who angers you…conquers you.”

“A man is not finished when he is defeated.  He is finished when he quits!”

“Negativity is like acid – It eventually destroys the vessel that carries it.”

“An easy task becomes difficult when you do it with reluctance.”

“It is much easier to be critical than correct.”

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.”

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”

“Anything unattempted becomes impossible.”

“Eliminate destructive/negative Self-talk.”

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

Saudade: “The love that remains after someone is gone.”

And my favorite:  “Integrity, Excellence, Service”

What inspires you?  What reminds you?

Day #38 – BONUS Entry #2 – “As One…”

THE MOST precious and important person in my life is my wife.  I’ve known her for 34+ years, and I’m still learning about her. She still melts my heart with her laugh,  I still wake up in the middle of the night and simply watch her sleep,  She is still the most gorgeous person alive.  And the time I spend with her, simply sitting together in a room, silent, together, assures me that we’ll have no problem spending our next 50+ years of life together.  (After that?  Well… we’ll see.)

She is an artist that doesn’t know that she’s an artist.

She’s been trying to learn how to whistle for decades, can still only manage one note, but refuses to stop trying.

She is – hands down, without doubt – THE BEST chef in the entire universe!!

Her compassion for the important people in her life is enormous, as is her selflessness towards those same people.

She is one of only a handful of people in this world whose opinion of me sincerely matters.  She realizes this, and she is very careful with that power.

Like her son (or, her son is like her?), she can plow through a stack of books with no effort — all while I’m still on book #1.

Her sense of style and fashion is often trend-worthy, and it’s been my experience that she has inspired many other women (young and old) to follow her example.  (An ability her daughter has inherited.)

At essentially the same time, she and I have come to a stage in our life together where we want to simplify, minimize, and reduce.  I can view that existence with her, and it makes me eager to get there.

I envision us sharing a simple breakfast from a single plate, drinking fresh-brewed coffee from one cup, and then curled-up in an overstuffed love seat while we watch movies or read together or nap together….or whatever.

The crystal clear vision of that future makes me very happy!

Day #38 – BONUS entry #1 – “The Mirror…”

When my Kids were young, they constantly tried to copy me at everything: how I ate, how I sang, even how I sat.  Here are a couple examples:

>> I’d be sitting on the couch next to my daughter while we half-watched a TV show, and I’d be leaning on one hand, half asleep.  Then I’d suddenly notice that my daughter was mimicking my position perfectly, even down to the half-closed eyes.

>> Or I’d do a drawing of Spiderman and happen to leave it on the coffee table before going to bed.  The next morning, I would find a drawing my very young son had drawn, and it’d be of Spiderman in the exact same pose, to the exact same scale, but his drawing would be better, cleaner, and more detailed than mine.

I have a very large catalog of memories of my kids copying me in some fashion, and I recall them more and more as I get older, and even moreso when I watch (for example) my son with his daughter.

But there eventually came a time when I began to copy my Kids.  I think, at first, it was unconscious.  But today, it is definitely intentional.  My Kids are extraordinary people in my eyes.  Their skills, their knowledge, their way of interacting with people, all make me say to myself, “I want to learn ‘that’!”

My son’s knowledge base is encyclopedic.  He reads 5 times faster than I do (when he’s not really trying). His artistic ability is mind-numbingly brilliant.  His affinity for languages is awe-inspiring.  And his hunger for learning new skills, coupled with his intensity of focus, have allowed him to absorb skills that I SO wish I possessed.

My daughter’s finesse, her communications skills, her logical thought process, her compassion, her writing skill, and her instinctive musical ability, all make me want to try harder in those areas.  I’m never going to match her ability in those areas (nor the many other areas that she excels in), but at least I can console myself by saying, “I’m trying.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dedicated my life to learning something new – constantly.  And my Kids – just by being who they are – constantly inspire me and reignite that fire in me to keep searching for new skills to take on.

Thank you, Kids!

Day #38 – “Essentialism”

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”  – Greg McKeown

For most of my early life, my answer was always “Yes”.

When people needed favors, when someone needed my assistance (even if I was already overbooked), when co-workers would push their work off onto me, my bosses would overload me with work, my answer was always, “Yes.”

In hindsight, this passiveness came from the desire to get along, not be viewed as difficult, and as a way to prove that I was a team player.  But I believe it also came from a place of fear: fear that I would be disappoint; fear that I would be seen or judged as non-productive; fear that if I said “No” to anything, they would take it all away from me.

Eventually, I hit a breaking point.  I finally said “No!”  Probably more emphatically than I needed to, but the energy behind the “No” was also due to an overwhelming sense of dread that I had just cooked my own goose, as it were, and gave them reason to fire me.  And what happened?

Did I get fired?  No.  Were they angry?  Yes.  Were they frustrated?  Yes.  Did things, as I expected them to, get worse?

No!

From that point on, it got easier for me to say, “No”.  I had already stepped off the ledge.  I had already risked everything with my first “No”.  So, saying it again was no real additional risk.  And, over the next few months, it almost became a test.  How many times can I say “No” before it all goes bad.

In the end, I found that saying “Yes” all the time caused an insurmountable amount of stress, it made it impossible for me to meet all my deadlines, and it didn’t allow me to actually enjoy what I was doing.  Everything was “Crank it out, send it out, move on to the next emergency.”

Saying “No” – even occasionally – allowed me breathing room.  It allowed me to put more time and energy and care into fewer projects and actually start to create ‘things’ that I was increasingly proud of.  I began to enjoy my work again.  I started to see – finally – that doing 10 projects with focus and care and enthusiasm was FAR greater and more rewarding than doing 100 projects shabbily, just to get them done.

An unexpected side benefit >> People respected me more; they respected my time more.  They asked instead of demanded.  They began to view my time as important because I had begun to display importance for my time.

Now – People automatically assume that I am always busy, and they know that I may say “No” if they simply try to dump their project on me without preamble.  With this firmly in mind, they stop and think before coming to me.  I imagine an internal conversation that goes something like this: “Is my project worth Lee’s time?”  Or… “What can I say to Lee to get him to add this to his “To Do” list?”  This assumption comes from the tone and content of the conversations my customers have been having with me ever since the first time I said “No.”

Negatives to saying “No”?  Don’t overdo it.  If you say “No” to too many things, you take the risk of being viewed as lazy and not part of the larger Team.   The trick?  It’s all in the follow-up conversation AFTER the “No”.

When I say “No”, I always quickly follow it up with specifics about why the project cannot be done “…at this time.”  This is even easier if I am already working on another project for them.

Example:  Before the first “No”, I would regularly have people come to my office with half-baked ideas, musings they had just before going to sleep, or epiphanies that popped into their heads – half-formed – when they woke up that morning.  They’d run their ideas by me, then they would figuratively plop their partial idea on my desk, and then they’d walk out – fully confident that “Lee will fill in the blanks and make it into reality.”  In my more somber times, I viewed this practice on par with people who would say, “Lee, I have an idea for a book.  It’s brilliant!  Y’see, this girl gets her heart broken, she steps away from society, and when she comes back, she is now more confident and can take charge of her life.  You know…the emerging swan-type story, right?  Okay Lee.  I’ve done the hard part – I had the idea.  Now you just crank it out, okay?”  That’s the way my customers would approach me with their business ideas.

But saying “No”, I had forced them to think these ideas through, to consider and reconsider if it was worth my time (Because remember, I finally established that my time is now valuable, so they began to view my time as valuable).  Then, over time, the frequency of these spitball sessions and knee-jerk project requests almost completely disappeared.

Do I still get the odd request with no merit?  Or the occasional epiphany request?  Sure I do.  But I know how to handle them now.  I talk through their proposal with them, but I do it in a way where THEY eventually come to realize the true merit of their not-completely-thought-out idea.  And when they do, when they reach that moment of realization, the look of understanding is almost beyond words.  You see the truth click behind their eyes.  You see their shoulders slump slightly.  You can literally watch them go through the 5 stages of grief as they realize that their gangbusters idea is missing some or all of the components needed to actually be actionable.  At that point, they can’t get out of my office quickly enough.  They nod, they say something to let me know that they will “table” the idea “for now”, and they smoothly slide out my door.  That normally only needs to happen once for a person to permanently learn to think twice and thrice before doing it again.

They learned something – just as I learned something.

So again, please remember >> “If YOU don’t prioritize your life, someone else will!!”

Day #37 – “Beginner Mind”

One of the most useful things I’ve ever learned was to happily embrace being a beginner.

I love learning new things.  But, as you get older, it can be increasingly difficult to let yourself be a beginner.  The more we learn, the easier it is to let that knowledge get in the way of learning something new.  This is especially true if the thing we want to learn is closely related to something we already know.

For example: I’ve been a beginner in martial arts many MANY times in my life.  To do this, I had to set aside my existing martial training – and all of its associated biases – so that I wouldn’t block or dismiss the new training I was receiving.  I knew how to punch.  But I had to allow myself to relearn how to punch, over and over and over. And, after many years of relearning how to punch, and after decades of relearning, I now almost know how to punch.

Kids – search out opportunities to begin again, to relearn what you think you already know.  Be a constant beginner.

Day #36 – “Gotta Pee….”

One of the greatest theoreticians of the current era (at least, in his own mind), Sheldon Cooper (TBBT), once said (and I’m paraphrasing here…), “People with full bladders make better decisions.”  He was, of course, quoting Dutch researcher, Mirjam Tuk.  (What? You didn’t know that?)

So, with that in mind, I am literally bouncing up and down in my work chair as I try to decide what to write about in today’s blog.

However, it’s not working very well for me.  I must not be doing it right.

Gotta pee?  Check!

Looking for an idea?  Check!

Trying my best not to urinate all over my work chair?  Check!

So – why isn’t it working?

Did I miss a page of her research on the topic?  No – cause I didn’t actually read the research.  I’m just going off of The Big Bang Theory episode that I saw last night.

Did I miss a part of The Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon employs this technique?  No – I make a point never to leave the TV when TBBT is playing; that is…unless I can pause the DVR.

As I think of it, I now remember that Sheldon wasn’t very successful with this technique either.  He kept saying things that reminded him of how badly he had to pee (Oh!  Pee!)…and the more he did it, the more he bounced in his chair (Like me, right now!).

And the more I bounce, the less capable I am of thinking about potential topics for today’s blog, and the more of my attention is pulled toward calculating how long it would take me to hop over this desk, knock down the three guys who are currently standing in the hall just outside my office door, and physically pull the person sharply backwards who is likely standing at the urinal right now; standing between me and the relief that I SO need right now.

Yup!  Going around the desk won’t work — too long.

Politely stepping through the congregated throng near my door?  Nope.  That won’t do it either.

Tap the guy at the urinal (I KNOW he’s there, blocking me on purpose!) and quietly, calmly ask him to step aside?  Can’t!  He might think I’m some sorta weirdo.  But if he saw the overwhelming wave of relief across my face as I finally relieved my bladder?  Well…EVERY guy knows that feeling, right?  He wouldn’t blame me.  He wouldn’t judge me.

Back to the search for ideas.

Think – Think – Think.

Wait?  I think…?  Is that an idea I’m getting?

No!  It’s visions of waterfalls and water boiling and a drippy faucet and the sounds of rain and….

Gotta run!

Day #35 – “Joyful Pain in the Neck…”

I love chess. 

I hate chess. 

Yes, you can both deeply love a thing and sincerely hate that same thing.  (The same applies to people, but that’s a different topic.)

I love the beauty of a well-played chess game. 

I hate chess for denying me the ability to consistently create such beauty. 

I love the way chess challenges both my intellect and creativity. 

I hate the way chess so often makes me feel like a fathomless buffoon. 

I love the exhilaration that permeates me after a good game of chess v

My neck physically hurts me from the tension associated with both good and bad chess games (often resulting in migraines). 

Chess can extend my life because it exercises my mind and expands my imagination. 

Chess shortens my life because of its affect on my blood pressure (The migraines and extreme tension).  

Doctors have been known to instruct their patients to avoid chess because of the dilitory affect it is having on their health. 

While many other experts strongly extol the benefits of chess on the mind and body.  

So torn.   

Day #34 – “Pucker Power!”

Is dietary preference genetic?   

I LOVE sour stuff.  Sour candy. Sour food. Sour drinks.  If it’s tart, it has heart.  

And both my kids love sour stuff too.  

How’d that happen?  Is that normal?  Can whatever phenomenon that explains our shared love of sour stuff also explain any or all of the following?  

Our shared tendency to snort when we find something extraordinarily funny?

An occasional level of sarcasm that can border on the obnoxious?

Firm agreement that the absolute best pizza in the world is in Omaha, Nebraska at Zio’s Pizzaria?

Or the ability to watch the same movie an embarrassing number of times?

Or…perhaps it’s simple luck.