Are you in denial that it’s mid-December already? I am! Much like time, not everything that flies has to have wings, just ask Santa and Rudolph. However, not everything has to fly to remind me of this magical time of year. Take cats for example. There will be plenty of pet shopping for the kids. There will be kittens swatting at tree ornaments. Tails getting stepped on, and fatso castsos stealing a swig of Santa’s milk. But my question is, what do you do when your furball brings home a dead mouse and drops it on the front porch? Cats are really good at being independent and woefully bad at giving gifts. They don’t care how you feel. “Here’s a mouse, enjoy!”
THE CHALLENGE: If you plan to give a gift, don’t be like a cat. Actually get to know the person and discover their needs and desires. Only then will your expression of gratitude and/or love not fall like a stiff putrid mouse carcass on the front porch. Next post, a more delightful take…
Mountainous views and dense forest – my preferred environment, making it ironic that roughly 95% percent of my life was spent living within driving distance to coastal waters. You know what else is ironic? 95% of the homes butted up against said coastal waterways are boat owners.
But that’s a lie. Why? Because everything you own in life, owns you. The so called “boat owner” bears the burden to pay steeper fees for his/her property, a vehicle with a tow hitch, a dock or other storage and all the required maintenance, just to name a few.
The old saying goes, “The happiest days of your life are when you buy a boat and when you sell it.”
I know this first hand. I purchased a couple of 14’ kayaks. I loved them…as long as my butt was seated inside and floating on the water. But 95% of the time (you guessed it) my life is not spent on the water. I’m not amphibious. This means 95% of the time, the kayaks sat in my garage. Needless to say, not even one year later – they have been passed on to other proud owners.
THE CHALLENGE: I bet 95% of your time is spent doing something you’d rather not be doing. Can you bring that number down to 90%, 80%, 75%? It’s not easy. Every time you say “yes” to something, you say “no” to something else. Practice saying yes to what matters most. Maybe for you, that means getting out on the boat more often! Until next time, you can find me in the mountains.
Back in the 80’s and early 90’s most young jocks enjoyed Samuel Slater Junior High School (Pawtucket RI) for one reason and one reason only – the gym teacher! He was as down to earth as any man can be. We all looked at him as a mentor, NOT a school employee. His office was always clouded in cigar smoke and that just made him more believable. More approachable. More real. More human. And for most kids – more cool. There’s only one problem, as cool as he was, he was still “just” a gym teacher.
When I think of all the ways my life has been shaped, the gym teacher has never once made the list. Sure I have some good memories of slinging dodge balls and stealing bases. I often think of the most athletic kids and wonder why they never turned pro. Gym class provided a chance to form friendships, laughter, and a few scrapes and bruises. At the end of the day, you either loved or hated physical education – REGARDLESS of the teacher.
Gym class, like recess, mostly takes care of itself. Kids love to run around and are able to find something active to engage in. But what happens next? Eventually, we all become adults. Our taste buds enjoy the onslaught of flavors a prosperous country affords, and, if we aren’t careful, slowly expand our belt size to the circumference of a small planet.
To sum it up: the gym teacher only provided a playground, not the principles!
Next time you encounter “eye candy” pay attention to your thoughts. If you have graduated beyond the level of carnal appetites and passions – congratulations – but now what are you thinking? Maybe you ponder something along these lines:
“I wish I looked like that!”
“They must have a lot of discipline.”
“I wonder how much time they spend in the gym.”
“I would like to know what kind of diet they are on.”
“I wonder how they stay motivated.”
“How long did it take to get a physique like that?”
You get the idea. Not once in the history of mankind has anyone said in a fit of jealousy, “I wish I had their Junior High School gym teacher!”
THE CHALLENGE: Get off your butt. YOU ARE the gym teacher now. YOU are the one who must dig deep and search from within to find the motivation necessary to master your pursuit. YOU are responsible for your own destiny. YOU, YOU, YOU… get out of your comfort zone and BE the thing you are thinking about. Yes YOU!
Have you ever seen this sign? “WILL WORK FOR FOOD”
What you did do:
(1) Rolled up your car window and looked straight ahead.
(2) Handed over some loose change – maybe a buck or two.
(3) Said, “I would help, but I don’t have any money right now.”
What you didn’t do:
(1) Said, “You know what, there is an opening at my company and I can get you started right away. Hop in!”
(2) Said, “There are a bunch of projects I need done at my house and you look like the perfect candidate. I can pay you $25 per hour.”
Over 30 million Americans currently filed for unemployment claims. That means there are close to 30 million Americans performing the exact same behavior they once scoffed at. Saying they would work for food “if they could only get a job” but taking whatever loose change the government extends out of the car window.
THE CHALLENGE: Rewind the clock, if you just stepped off the Mayflower you’d be faced with challenges much more severe than you are currently experiencing. You’d breath the same air, work with the same soil, and utilize the same natural resources in order to get on with your life. Did you know in 2020 you still have a MAJOR advantage!
(1) You can access milk and cookies
(2) You have access to toilet paper (maybe)
(3) You probably have access to a device in your pocket with this thing called the internet.
If you spent the last few years of your life stuck in a candy crush coma or trying to find out what the fox says – it’s time to wake up and go do something important. Go choose you. Here’s a tip, add value to society and your bank account will increase (even if you have to wear a cloth face mask). So what do you say… time to file for employment?
Awhile back I wrote a few words about bees. You can read my encounter here. I would like to share two quick lessons from bees.
LESSON #1) Bees sting. If you are old enough to read this, chances are you’re a victim. Remember that first bee you ticked off? Remember the buzzing dagger catapulting towards you from a striped kamikaze Hymenoptera? Remember the inflamed pulsating welt it left behind? Remember your inability to catch your breath from crying too hard? Remember grandma pulling out her home remedy book suggesting a treatment of mud, honey, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, toothpaste and a wet aspirin tablet…none of which seemed to work?
It didn’t take long for you to realize that you hated bees – rather passionately too. You warned everyone that came near a bee to get in a defensive posture, saying “Watch out, you’ll get stung!”
But, we all know bees aren’t bad. We know the war we waged against the fuzzy buzzy pollen packer was unwarranted.
“Just because you are allergic to bees doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the honey.”
Consider EVERYTHING you encounter in life as a proverbial bee. It has some pros and cons. It might buzz around your head, it might sting, and it might even bring an army after you. On the other hand, it might pollinate your plants and provide an abundant harvest. It might bring you honey. It might show you its waggle dance, and quite possibly sting that annoying dog next door. Now, whether or not you wage war on a particular “bee,” that is up to you.
LESSON #2) Bees don’t fly in a straight line. Okay, technically they do when they head back to the hive – they “beeline” home. But when they forage, they fly around in an erratic pattern that looks similar to a bathtub scribbled on by a two-year-old. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism against predators. Maybe it’s because their brains are similar in size to a housefly… (the same thing that bounces itself into your window for several hours at a time).
Looking back at my individual journal entries, I see that I’m similarly erratic in a number of areas. For example, there have been several times that I thought I knew FOR SURE what career path I wanted to follow. In no particular order, I wanted to be a Disney animator, a website developer, a journalist, an author, a nurse, a cop, a cook, an entrepreneur, a salesman, a carpenter, a rapper, an Independent Duty Corpsman, and an arborist. I have even considered jobs such as a tattoo artist or bartender (both completely incongruent with my values and beliefs). Then again, bees don’t always land on flowers. Sometimes they land on moving windshields, or get stung by a cactus. I think we can all admit to perching on a “cactus” or two throughout our lives.
THE CHALLENGE: It’s okay to meander your way through life. Try new things! Explore! Plan your life in pencil – not permanent marker. 30 years ago I had no idea that I’d be where I am today. I imagine the same will hold true 30 years from now. So just focus on gathering pollen, staying dry and getting back to the hive – i.e. Stay close to your family and serve them. And while you’re at it, try not to sting anyone…it will probably hurt you more than it will hurt them.
Imagine with me for a moment that the world was coming to an end, or that society was saaaay….upside down. Envision people running to and fro crying out that nobody could tell them what to do or how to live, not the government, not a prophet, not God himself, that all that stuff is just madness.
Image that all the while, people failed to stock their shelves with the necessities of life and failed to plan ahead. Imagine they purchased the fruit, but not the fruit tree (and only after the Fudge Rounds were sold out). They bought the bread, but not the flour to make the bread. Imagine that it was like Black Friday every… single… day…, but instead of toys, people were buying toilet paper…and LOTS of it. Not for friends and neighbors, but for themselves. Imagine there was no toilet paper left on earth, as if there were a deadly plague going around. Surely the children of Israel cried out, “Who needs Moses when there is all this toilet paper?!” Not that the world is coming to end or anything. But, lets face it, your life is (sorry fam)…and probably not from the virus that’s making you scoop up all the Scott and Charmin anyway – so stop dwelling on it.
Besides, I’d rather have dish soap. Yeah, yeah, TP can wipe the brown custard like substance off your crack (as well as being a useful fire starter). But dish soap is much easier to store, can wash a virus off my hands, can wash my clothes (not to mention dishes), can ALSO remove the custard like substance from off my crack – and even BETTER than tripple ply Cottonelle (it’s called a shower people), and Dawn does a darned fine job at shining my jewelry… in case the virus DOES kill me (Who doesn’t want to look their best in a casket anyway?)
Today my beloved wife scraped her knees when my lazy dog played dead between her 8.5 minute per mile feet. My thoughts in order were: 1) I hope she’s okay 2) That was embarrassing 3) Life goes on
(Sorry if my stoicism offends you.)
Yes, people are dying all around you from COVID-19, but it doesn’t mean you won’t scrape your knees today. People are dying all around you for a plethora of other reasons too (and having birthdays ruined).
Today, someone is likely to die from a vehicle collision, cancer, heart failure, snake bite, spider bite, shark bite, and even choking on a bagel bite. Someone will fall off a ladder, slam their finger in the car door, loose a finger at the saw mill, and accidentally poop their pants while searching for toilet paper on an empty Walmart shelf. You are not immune from any of them
THE CHALLENGE: Worry about the stuff that matters! Be a responsible citizen, Coronavirus is indeed the “F” word, but don’t stop living your life because others are dying. While you are on lock down, put the Fudge Rounds away and try learning something new – like how to be self sufficient. Maybe try baking a loaf of bread or learn how to grow something edible. Just in case, you know, the world decides to come to an end.
Growing up my dad loved the oldies as well as a little country music. I could stomach the oldies, I even enjoyed a few songs. The country – not so much. Kenny Rogers was a household name, my dad loved the guy! But now my dad is dead. In fact, Kenny Rogers is dead. He died of natural causes 2 days ago. As a young child you don’t think about death. It felt like my dad would live forever. It felt like Kenny would live forever. It felt like I would live forever. By the way, I wonder how many people will get a Kenny Rogers tattoo?
Kobe Bryant died a few weeks ago. I watch as much basketball as I listen to country music (zero) – combine that with my stoic nature, and you’re looking at someone who simply wasn’t as shocked as the rest of the world. Of note, I found it baffling how many people came out of the woodworks to get Kobe tribute tattoos (but that’s a discussion for another time).
Today, the news is reporting that the Corona virus doubled in a week to surpass 300,000 cases (add another 17,309 at the time of writing this). Currently 13,671 deaths have resulted from the virus. That’s a lot of tattoos! (Maybe start investing in ink and needles instead of toilet paper – but I digress.)
I am going to die. You are going to die. Someone you love is going to die. Maybe not from a helicopter crash, maybe not from a virus, but die we must.
Sometimes I ask people how long they think they will live and how they think their life will end. When the question is reciprocated I answer, “cancer.” But my answer changed today.
Here’s a prediction for you – you will die just like Kenny Rogers – of natural causes. I too will die like Kenny Rogers. We will all die like Kenny Rogers. Everything is a “natural cause.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a helicopter crash or a virus, cancer or a gun, drowning or electrocution, hanging from a tree or hanging on a cross. It’s all natural. It’s part of mortality’s condition. Whether you suffer or go in peace, have your life taken by another person or take it yourself, it’s still the same result – DEATH.
THE CHALLENGE: Take a lesson from Corona, Kenny and Kobe. The virus isn’t even dead yet and there are ALREADY a bunch of tattoos for that thing (Google if you don’t believe me). Live your life valiantly. Do what you love and be the best at it. Leave your mark (pun intended). Be unforgettable. Measure yourself by the number of people who measure themselves by you. COVID-19 changed everything in a week, you can make decisions to change your life just as fast. Will you make the changes you want to see or continue to procrastinate? Think about it. Corona gets the job done because Corona doesn’t procrastinate – another 1,247 confirmed cases just in the time it took me to write this. Go do something. Make a change.
Not that I’m festive about these shenanigans, but, let’s just say Another February 14th is in the books. Ahhh, young love…or should I say, young lust? How many illegitimate babies started as a candy heart flirt? How many herpes simplex viruses were passed along like a hot Valentine potato? How many hearts were swooned with a box of chocolates and crushed with the iron hammer of deceit and jealousy?
But then again, who has time to worry about that? I know I don’t. If you’re like me, you found your love and that love has been alive and well for a very long time. In fact, “time” is everything when it comes to love. Love isn’t one dimensional. It is a living breathing thing with many layers; love manifests itself in different forms at different times and in different ways. It starts as a seed and grows to mighty tree spreading its branches, shedding its leaves and standing upright in the face of violent storms.
“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.” -Bruce Lee
Love must prove itself. Love is true when it can face the light and the shadows just the same. Young love is on a perennial honeymoon, parked on a beach chair, sipping on lemonade and waiting to be served. Mature love however, can run a marathon in the scorching desert sun on an empty stomach with no water and a sprained ankle…then back again!
I discovered a gem of a paragraph in a delightful book of fiction entitled, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.
“Loving someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”
THE CHALLENGE: Ponder the previous paragraph and apply it to the one you love. Do they know you love them for all of their little imperfections and shortcomings? Do they know how special they are to you because you know the “little secrets” that make them your Valentine? Most important, do they know you love them just the same, whether it’s February 14th, July 14th or September 14th?
READY! AIM! FIRE! We’ve all heard this phrase before. We play games as children and call it out to our friends as we cannonball into the pool or launch a stone at a perched pigeon.
It’s all fun and games as children, but as adults, for all intents and purposes – we aren’t very good at it. At least the stage where we are supposed to “aim.”
Society seems to be drunk on success and stardom. There’s no arguing that we’ve bought into the idea of “aiming for the top.” Haven’t we heard this idea our whole lives? Aim for the moon, shoot for the stars, swing for a home run.
However, if you were a warrior in days past and had the responsibility of firing the canon in order to knock down a castle, where would you aim? Would you aim for the top? Of course not. Who wouldn’t aim straight for the foundation and cheer as everything came crashing down?
THE CHALLENGE: It’s good to be at the top of the ladder, the top of the mountain, the top of the totem pole. (Or whatever other “top” is working for you these days.) Just keep in mind that arriving at the top isn’t exclusively dependent on “aiming” for the top. There is whole lot of bottom feeding you need to achieve along the way. Learn the very basics of your craft and master them. Ensure you aim for a solid foundation. Look to nature as your guide, the tree’s roots grow down and outward before it grows upward. Before it can provide shade it is very intimate with the dark, damp and lonely soil. Examine your goals, if you haven’t made it to the top, maybe it’s time to aim for the bottom.
My kids grew up on Sea World – how lucky. My best animal adventure was a school field trip to Roger Williams State Zoo in Rhode Island – how lame. Talk about apples and oranges.
While I never experienced the magic of watching people ride dolphins, I wasn’t clueless about underwater life. My older brother had a paper route and that allowed him to save enough pennies for…wait for it…wait for it…a fish bowl. He never went without a fish. They were sometimes gold and sometimes neon. Eventually he discovered his favorite variety, a Siamese fighting fish. They were terribly boring so I thought it was a good fit for him (we had our share of contention). I can’t remember any of those fish living very long. Unfortunately they seemed to go belly up within weeks, and while I don’t know the exact cause of death, I’m sure my generous contribution of fish flakes didn’t help.
Occasionally we took a summer vacation across the country all the way to the beehive state. We quickly learned that there was no way to frontload the fish food. If they didn’t die from overeating, starvation was certain, even after cannibalism ensued.
As humans we tend to scoff at the scaly creature circling the fishbowl. We might suppose that fins and gills equate to a complete lack of human characteristics. But the aforementioned observation changed my mind. Hunger is as real as it gets! Gluttony isn’t too far off the mark either.
Hunger makes the world turn. Let’s face it, we get up and go to work so we can eat. Joey Chestnut got up one day and decided he would set a world record by devouring 74 hot dogs. But hot dogs or not, no matter how full you get… it won’t be enough. It won’t sustain. Give it some time and before you know it that tummy starts to grumble. Bears stock up for hibernation, but soon enough even they roll out of the cave for a midnight snack.
The takeaway (and please don’t nuke this one) is this. For anything to sustain maximum vitality and life, it needs a daily dose of nutrition. Forget burning the midnight oil. It’s not sustainable. “Two-a-days” at the gym? When did this become a thing? How about “five-a-days” or “ten-a-days”? Stupid right? Work a job for the overtime? Not for me. Why? Because you still have to flip burgers, drill oil, or file paperwork the next day. Run a marathon in your 20s, cool…but what can you do in your 60s? Maybe a mile per day, or even a mile per year is more sustainable for the long haul.
THE CHALLENGE: Keep it simple. Don’t overfeed your fish! But don’t let them eat each other either. You have to feed the things you want to keep alive. You want to be a great artist, welder, pilot, musician, or mechanic? The formula is simple, feed your craft. Sure there are times to put in a little extra, and there are times to back off. But remember this – play the long game! Be consistent! Watch how many flakes you put in the bowl and don’t go on vacation for too long.