Ode to my departed father…

My father died in March in 2014.

Way back in 1984, my little sister passed away. She died of cancer.

As a young man, that event changed me from a “suit-guy” to a hippy. I became self-adsorbed and dis-interested in much other than simple pleasure-seeking. I wasn’t into drugs much, but I didn’t take life and work very seriously.

Ultimately, this meant that the teen-aged Christopher who told his dear ol’ mom that he would make his first million by the time he was 25 and have $25 million by the time he was 50, would not only be almost penniless at that later age but, despite his pleasure-seeking behaviour, be unhappy and discontented. In other words, Christopher was decidedly NOT a success.

Learning to be happy and contented has been a long, laborious process, although, I’m not quite there yet, not on a regular, daily basis.

Fast forward to earlier this year. My father, 89, passed away after a lengthy stay in the hospital. My father was not consistently a “happy” man, I don’t think, but he was generally “contented” and overall, I would say a “success”. He was not very educated but was well-read.

In 1937 a car accident nearly cost him his life. It severely left my grandmother, who was driving, with severe injuries and my uncle was injured as well. But worst of all, my father’s very young sister (age 11) was killed.

Marian with puppy

Shortly after he recovered from his fractured skull, my father left high school to help my grandmother full time on the their farm. He eventually got his “high school equivalency”, as it was called back then. In the years that followed he drove a bus… started and ran a plumbing supply shop and he worked for several companies as a salesman. He married my mother and had
six kids… always counting pennies.

Dad was, at the same time, a talented, likable, lovable man and a firm disciplinarian who had little empathy for others who showed themselves to be lazy, less than honest or who did not apply themselves.

Then, of course, came that fateful day in 1984 when my little sister passed away… my father’s youngest child. As you could have
guessed, we were all so very heart-broken and, I think, it is doubly painful for a parent. It certainly took a chunk out of me and all of my life’s plans.

After my father’s funeral, 30 years later, me in my mid 50’s, as you could imagine I pondered my father’s life and death, my life,
my sister’s death… everything. I asked myself, how is it even remotely possible for my father to live to be weeks shy of his 90th birthday… overall, contented, Loved, respected in his community, usually in reasonable health… despite all that he’s been through?

The answer? I think that it was a decision, on his part, that he was going to “mold” himself. He decided to make himself over in line with two basic tenants… “responsibility”… he took responsibility for his life and his family, this resulting in the second tenant, “self-discipline”… you can’t be a responsible person if you are not disciplined.

Self-Discipline and Responsibility. You’ll notice that those are personal qualities of CHARACTER. They are not outside THINGS that you strive for. They are qualities of the self and when you hear someone say, “that man has character”, more often than not they are referring to these two traits. “Honesty”, seems like yet another trait, but in fact it is part and parcel with Responsibility. You are automatically honest, when you are taking responsibility for your life and for your family.

I call life goals of “stuff”, “distant” goals. Those things are “out there”, somewhere. Wonderful places to see, exciting things to do… things outside of your own being. To my father, a man of modest means, these stuff-goals were things like owning his own home, learning to paint, taking his family on regular vacations, being his own boss by owning his own business.

I call character trait goals, “close” goals. These goals are immediate, and in-your-face. You don’t have to go anywhere to change and work on them. And you need to hold them close. A goal of a character trait should be sacred to you!

These close, character trait goals are what transport you to your distant, stuff goals. They are the means to an end, but a character trait is also an end in itself. Come your own end, they are what get listed on your gravestone.

Marvin at Niagara Falls -repaired

But what does it mean for me and you and our personal success stories?

It’s not that my father was the wisest man in the world but, as many of us do, I tried to live up to my parent’s expectations and I think I failed… which, again, probably many of us do. With me, I focused too much on short-term pleasure seeking and rarely looked at the long term. Neither long-term necessities nor long-term enjoyment. Self-discipline was not one of my strong-suits. I was a middle child and I hear that it is common for middle children to have all of their decisions made for them and are not forced to exercise their decision-making muscles.

That’s where I think completely understanding what our actual “responsibilities” in life are. Not just making a list of goals that we’d LIKE to attain but really starting out with and deciding, if we’re going to be adults, if we’re going to be all grown up and that, what exactly are our no-ifs-ands-or-buts RESPONSIBILITIES in life… to ourselves, to our kids, to our spouses, to society
and our community.

Pleasure-seeking… that which we do to escape the pains of our existence, may sometimes be necessary but often, if we focus purely on them, it is just selfish addiction! Even if your sister dies and your whole world comes tumbling in on itself! We can’t live our lives constantly seeking pleasure and ignoring our responsibilities. Not if we want long-term happiness and contentment. Not if we want personal success.

And the difference requires unselfish self-discipline.

I miss you, pops!


Journaling… Forcing yourself to think and act differently

I have recently started writing a personal daily journal/diary.

Now, I know what you’re saying. A journal is one thing and a diary is another. Most sources say that a diary is a daily documentation of events and a journal is not necessarily daily and it is usually much more than a documentation of events and is where you write down ideas and where you brainstorm and jot down random but possibly important thoughts for later pondering.

Tell that to a teenaged girl! Diaries are OFTEN for journaling and vica versa. These two terms MAY once have meant two different things but now they’re both subject to that mental real estate oft referred to as… grey.

Why this subject? Because I’ve always been interested in what so-called “successful” people do as opposed to… well… less-than-successful, I’ve realized that the most successful business people, the most successful artizans, the most successful housewives (or househusbands, seeing as I was one once… househusband that is)… presidents, prime ministers, theorists, scientists, philosophers and so on… kept copious notes, sketches, outlines, jottings etc. Often in the form of a bound journal of some sort. Diary, what-have-you.

Leonardo DaVinci, Harry S. Truman, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes… Michael Palin kept a journal and I’m sure if Monty Python was a person he would have kept one too!!! Sir Walter Scott, George Bernard Shaw. William Lyon Mackenzie King kept a journal just to remind him what his name was. Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson… see the pattern here!? Charles Darwin. Winston Churchill. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Anne Frank. They all kept journals or diaries of some sort. Usually written in daily. I don’t know if Steve Jobs did or not… probably on an old Lisa computer which he tried to convert to iPad format but probably couldn’t!

So, “what is the use?” I hear you say. “I keep lists! You told me to write lists; what more could you want!!??”

Well, I am no scientist, really. I’ve not done any primary research on this but I think that our paleolithic brains have not fully caught up to our very structured, neolithic and cosmopolitan lives. Paleolithic man had to do only a FEW things in order to be a success and FEEL like he was a success. Hunt & gather, make shelter, make fire and make woopie. Success! Everything else was mainly fun stuff.

We, on the other hand, have a whole lot of stuff that has to line up for us to BE and FEEL successful. Sure, we have social safety-nets (not as much as my left-leaning brain would like to see for each other!) and we aren’t likely to die of starvation or cold if we don’t get all of our ducks in a row (though that certainly CAN happen!) but “success” is more than subsistence to us and our brains require help to keep everything in the air, so to speak. Where paleolithic man did not have to remember much to survive and had to rely on physical skill of the moment, modern man has to know a lot, connect with a lot of people other than family, take lots of action, do those complex actions in specific order (pick the kids up, take Penelope to soccer practice, take Garth to ballet class, take a cheque to the bank, pay the electic bill, drop by the wine shop for the boss’s favorite Shiras, drive an half hour to visit grandpa in the hospital… and so on), all very detailed and dynamic.

But many of us don’t do any of that detailed tracking instinctively. I certainly don’t! For the longest time I was never on time paying my electic bill. I’d scratch my head… “when was that due, again?” Did they turn out the lights on me? No… but it certainly didn’t help my credit rating! I wasn’t even aware that the Detroit Edison reported to the credit reporting agencies. Not a clue. And the sad thing is, this is far more common than you might think.

So, the solution to that detailed and dynamic tracking that our brain is ill-equiped to deal with successfully on its own is not to JUST write lists, as I’ve previously suggested and still suggest, but to track your daily living, thoughts and ideas, concepts, diet, health, meaning-of-life, contacts, birthdays stuff you did, stuff TO do, all in a nice, neat, compact and dynamic form… A journal or diary. You can do this the Steve Jobs way (I’m hypothesising) in cool, digital form. Or you can do this more organically, which I personally prefer, with pencil or pen in a paper, booklet form.

For me, doing so makes me feel more connected to the process. Although I don’t mind writing on a computer and do it better than many, for a journal, so far, I prefer the artistic and organic process of feeling a pen against paper and never, ever, having to boot something up or bring up an app or be concerned about battery power, in order to put just one thought down that I happen to have in that instant. A longer process, like writing in a blog… sure!

I use TWO different journals. One is a very small Moleskine that I can tuck into my back pocket and which I don’t care if it gets a little chewed/beat up. I put lots of QUICK jots down in that. Eureka moments! Inspirational thoughts! For my daily-grind, diary stuff, I use a slightly larger (5”x7”) cheap-ass but sturdy Moleskine-TYPE journal.

Writing utensils, for those of us who do not carry a purse around needs to be thought about. If you are a suit guy, then you’re covered. But for us blue jean crowd, I suggest either the very short Fisher Space Pen, which is easily pocketable, has very smooth, rounded ends and won’t put a hole in your jean pockets OR the similar but slightly less rounded Zebra F-301 Compact. (sounds like a small car!)


What should you put into your journal?

That can depend upon what your expectations are and how much you like to write. But more importantly it may depend upon how much you can get into the habit of writing down and tracking your life and thoughts! Journaling is very much about creating a new habit which then spills over into creating other new, success, habits.

Fisher and Zebra pens

Minimally I would include:

  •  your thoughts upon waking and how well you slept and how your body feels. This can help you nail down successful sleeping habits, like when to go to bed, when to set your alarm, what to eat or not eat before bed, what temperature to set your room. The lighting etc.
  •  what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as what and when you snack. This can help you discern cause and effect for your diet and eating habits. I strongly suggest this!
  •  what your various moods are during the day. Successful lives are lives where we are directed toward things that make us and those we love happy and contented and away from things that make us and our loved ones sad, hurt and discontented. Pretty basic.
  •  what activities, both important and unimportant, that comprise your day. It amazes me, what time-wasters keep filtering their way into my life. Journaling helps to eliminate them and helps you focus on what is important.
  •  what inspirations and eureka/aha! moments you have. I don’t think I have to explain this one, really, do I?
  •  what are your thoughts at the end of the day. This helps you process it all EFFECTIVELY. It makes your wasted moments less useless and helps you repeat the good things.
  •  what exercise you got during the day, how much and when. Like tracking your diet, this helps both spur you on and give you realistic feedback about how much exercise you ACTUALLY do as opposed to what you THINK you do.

Additionally, you might consider:

  •  a minute or two of “stream-of-consciousness” thoughts. Letting your mind be playful and creative or therapeutic.
  •  jotting down thoughts in tomorrows pages. This can get things off your mind and allow you to sleep better. It may allow you to be more productive tomorrow as well.
  •  affirmations… God-thoughts… prayers. I think this is also self-explanitory.
  •  ask your God or the universe a question. Questions that you don’t expect an answer right away, but let it mellow in your sub-conscious mind for later resolution. If you feel an answer coming to you, write it down.
  •  doodle or draw in the pages… more creative exercises

What do you do, after the fact?

A lot of what journaling does for you is automatic. It helps you to create new habits. Things seep into your subconscious without any effort on your part. Things “click” and you have those “aha!” moments.

Some of the benefits that you might hope for, however, require some more work on your part. You need to take SOME time, maybe an hour at the end of the week, to re-read and review some of your diary entries of the past. Both in the immediate past… that week… or in the longer past… a month or months or even years ago.

Unless you have a super brain with a super memory, in which case you probably already have steered your way to your own personal success, you probably have to exercise your brain and your habits by constant and consistent review and planning.

I think that journaling can help you get there!





Try Try Again… What Else is There, Really?

I have “declined” for the past two and a half months to come on here and continue on with my never ending journey to better myself… to “succeed”… and to, in turn, relay my experiences to whomever MAY benefit from said trials.

I’ve had to deal with a couple of problems and “issues” with my life last year, a sin of my past that came back to bite me in the ass, and severe illness of a family member… my father (89).

The thing is, I’ve read MANY essays in the past, as I’m sure you have as well, of the painful life’s tragedies and “insurmountable” obstacles that NOTABLE personalities of history have had to… well… surmount.

I read these stories, these tragedies turned triumphs, these Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-esque, amazing stories and I see an oft common thread. The ability to at first cocoon and reflect, and then rebuild, dig one’s heels in… and have at it all over again… but with a slightly different tack the next time. Or even drastically different, maybe.

The movies are full of these stories as well. Overcoming life’s obstacles seems, in fact, to be the crux of a good cinematic storyline. “The Pursuit of Happyness”, “My Left Foot”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Good Will Hunting”… even “Forrest Gump”.

“INTREPID: characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance”… the ability simply to carry on even when you’d just rather give up… die even.

One thing that I’ve found that helps me stop worrying about MY life and distracts me from the pain and fear is to look for ways to help others. Small, easily digestible ways that I, in my life-has-bashed-me-up state of mind can handle, like stopping to help someone change a tire or give someone a battery jump or push a car out of the snow. A random act of kindness. Each of these things I did recently BECAUSE it was inconvenient for me. They were relatively small things that I could do, but that were inconvenient, and it was fricken cold out, and I didn’t really want to do them and I was late for something… but when I did them, I felt better about myself and my life and about humanity in general.

That last bit is rather interesting. I feel better about humanity in general… the other guy… when “I” do a good deed! Maybe because I think it will be passed forward? Or maybe because my small part, in some small way, helps the rest of humanity… heal. And knowing that, helps ME.

People Blizzard and Car Stuck

 So… I’d like to encourage you to “Keep Calm and Carry On”… to “Try Try Again”… to “Keep On Keeping On”.

Cocoon if you have to, for a SHORT while. Reflect on your past and make note about what needs to change. And then… rebuild! Keep an eye out for ways to help your fellow man, even in some small way and express your sense of belonging in random acts of kindness! 🙂


It’s Like Winning the Time Lottery!!!

What could you do with an extra day a week?


 What could you do if the big man upstairs, called ya up on the phone and said… “There’s been a mistake in my accounts department’s calculations and we owe you some time. To compensate I’m going to give you an extra day a week. (Who knows, maybe through some time warp thing, he gives you two Fridays every week and you get to NOT go in to work on the second one.) Put it to good use! Don’t waste it! You MUST do something of value, something to help your life progress in the direction you’d like. According to our records, you’ve not been quite satisfied with how things have been going lately so, maybe you could work on that…”

 I can see you now, grabbin’ at your hair, eyes bulging out. You’d be in shock! You’d be screaming to your spouse! “I’ve won the lottery! I’ve won the lottery!” You’d be beside yourself! What to do!? What to do!? You’d be telling your spouse that you’d need to keep it a secret; everyone in the family would be wanting you to do chores for them, getting you to clean their gutters while they were at work. Giving you their grocery lists so that you could pick up a few things on your day off! You’d be guarding your conversation to make sure you didn’t let it slip out that God gave you extra time.

 What if I said that you could have that day… that extra day a week! What would you do with it!

 Playing Soccer


 According to the company that does that Nielsen television ratings… that would be the Nielsen Company… the average person over the age of 2 watches approximately 34 hours of television a week. That’s not going to the movies… that’s not watching DVDs or downloading netflix… that’s watching TV.

 I can see you now… eyes up and to the left… smoke coming out of your ears, while you do the calculations… jotting digits in the air. “Wait a second! I only watch Hart of Dixie on Monday nights… Okay, I watch a bit of The Simpsons and The Family guy every day after work to unwind, but a guy HAS to unwind!! And then there’s the nightly news but you seriously can’t count that! And watching PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday nights? That’s SUNDAY for pete’s sake, SUNDAY!!! Then it starts to dawn on you… you DO tend to sit down while the kids have their shows on… And you ARE kinda gettin’ into the latest season of The Walking Dead………

 So… maybe YOU aren’t the type to watch the 34 hours. Maybe it is only half that. But what could you do if you set aside one and a half or two or three hours every single day, cloistered away in a workshop or den, or getting together with a meetup.com group to do yoga or discuss a business plan. What could you get done?

 Living vicariously through others, particularly the imaginary characters of the small screen and, frankly, through the printed page. What is it REALLY getting you?

 Okay, I’m not telling you to give up ALL TV or ALL fiction, but I’ve known people who, instead of getting ANY exercise at all, read all evening, every evening thinking that they’re doing themselves good because they aren’t watching television! HUH!!???

 Years ago, when first introduced to the stories of Ray Bradbury (one of the positive values of the printed page) I read “The Pedestrian”. In it the main character, Leonard Mead, would walk for miles every night, for years, aware of the flickering lights of the televisions through all of the front windows of each house and never meeting anyone on the street, ever.

 A few nights ago, my girlfriend and I were walking down the street in the evening, out for exercise, out for air and we, too, were noticing the blue flickering behind almost all of the curtains. And we, too, met no one on our long walk.

 Do those people have “lives”? Are any of them a success? Maybe some feel that they are? I’d be willing to bet that many of them feel stuck in a dead-end life, though.

 I am sure that many of those people, tired after a long day, were still realizing a successful existence. We are not quite a society of atrophying limbs and unthinking brains. Yet. But I also believe that many people in those houses, staring at those screens complain about their life and their day job. Many (maybe most) live paycheque to paycheque and most would feel that they don’t get enough vacation time.

 The problem here is not that they’re not enjoying their time in front of the box. The problem is that they’re living their lives vicariously through the characters in the TV rather than living their dream-lives on THIS side of the screen.

 I’m sure that Arthur Nielsen (the man behind The Nielsen Ratings) did not watch very much TV!

Greatest Obstacle Himself

 I used to have the problem of nodding off at about 4pm every day. I was exhausted when I got home and so I understand when you FEEL a need to just crash after work. I’m the first person who recommends relax-and-unwind-time. But add up that time living the life of the people on the boob-tube and ask yourself if you couldn’t maybe have wound back up again and done something productive for YOURSELF in the evenings after all that day working for the boss during the day.

 Try this. Instead of crashing when you get home, take a quick shower. Massage and scrub every part of your body, get the blood flowing, towel off, climb into jeans or a tracksuit and then go do something, either before or after your dinner. (NO… DON’T climb into your jammies after the shower!!)

 Remember, the idea here is to create a life for yourself where you feel alive, happy, contented, that you are progressing, getting exercise, making connections, feeling better about yourself and maybe pointing yourself to a better income through networking and job skill development.

 Some ideas…

  • Join a meetup.com group or start one

  • go “wall climbing” once a week. Bring a friend

  • go for a brisk walk every night

  • take up drawing or painting

  • take up photography and go on a photo hike once or twice a week

  • play a board game with the family

  • start a once a week “healthy dinners’ club” and make planned healthy dinners with friends

  • brainstorm a business plan with a friend (or, better yet, with someone you could run a business with!)


  • have a morning coffee club at a local coffee shop

  • check out UnderEarners Anonymous meetings (http://www.underearnersanonymous.org/)

  • take a martial arts class

  • take a night school class in order to get a job promotion

  • go to a college’s free evening concert

  • put up a hoop over the garage and shoot hoops

 I hope that this encourages you and nudges you gently along your path!


The Arts… what are they good for?

To many, maybe most people, the arts is a personal quality of life issue, but one that evolves AFTER you’ve made a good income and have some money to spend.

While I agree that the arts is a quality of life issue, I’ve been learning over the years that art, the involvement of art in your life, whether art that you create or art that you appreciate, is also a personal GROWTH issue. It may be a cliche but many consider art a direct connection to the soul… yours and the artist’s and anyone else’s with whom you share it. And in a way, isn’t that part of what success is?


Beth Paterson tongue

It should not come as a surprise to know that listening to (or playing) music can intensely affect your emotions, level of physical energy and mental drive. (Hence the invention of radio alarm clocks!)

I never had a huge stack of LP’s growing up and, compared to my friends who would always “invest” in the best receiver, turn-table and tape player that they could afford, I never really got into a big outlay of cash for stereo equipment. It wasn’t until I was connected to the internet and mp3 downloads were the norm that I started to learn the personal value that music had in modifying my sense of well-being.

If you like listening to music at all then I strongly suggest that you purposely investigate what music, does to you! Find music that drives you POSITIVELY and listen to it as often as your physiology allows.

Pardon me???

Well… for me, I know that if I listen to music too long than it turns into noise that overloads and drains me. It wears me out so that by the time a couple hours of heart-pounding rock goes by while I’m cleaning the bathroom exhaust fan or vacuuming along the channels in the patio door (yeah, right) then my brain itself starts to buzz!!! I know some people who seem to need music all day long but to me too much music CAN stop me from MINDFULLY approaching the task at hand. (see: http://mightyandwonderfulforces.com/mightyblog/2013/02/16/mindfulness-and-urgency/)

As far as actually playing music, you don’t have to be an Eric Clapton or Yo Yo Ma to derive benefit. Personally, I own four guitars. I don’t actually “play” guitar… despite trying off and on for years my fat, short fingers, stiff joints and constant distractions by other interests, have stopped me from learning to play beyond strumming a few chords here and there. I tell my friends that I “play WITH” my guitars. Here’s the thing… that has value. Meditative, mindful, introspective, healing value. And so I keep my instruments around to pick up and strum whenever my soul requires it.

But I digress. Overall, listening to the most appropriate music elevates the mood and helps your emotional outlook. But be careful. Listening to the wrong music may simply get you in a mood to “fight the man” or jump off of a bridge and we don’t want that! If you need to fight the man, then fine but if you need to inspire yourself to go out and find a new job… well, you get the picture. Find appropriate inspiring, energizing, relaxing, comforting music and listen to it!

Don’t forget classical! It is been shown that baroque music (the classical era just before Mozart… though Mozart’s music would include strong baroque elements) helps when you need to study and absorb what you are reading.

If buying new music is too draining to your present bank account there’s always a radio! Remember those? You can also listen to music online especially programmed to your needs and taste. Try pandora.com.

The visual arts…

Drawing & painting, sculpture, photography etc., allows your mind and heart to expand beyond the dimensions of the room you are in while still living in the moment. Art adds beauty and stops you from having to stare into a dark corner of dust bunnies. Surrounding yourself with beauty is always preferable to surrounding yourself with a mess. Art connects you to humanity in a way like nothing else does. It is emotional and provocative. It can make you feel that you’re not alone when you are all by yourself. It is either comforting and uplifting or disturbing. Both have value but “disturbing” my not be something that you wish to live with on a daily basis.

Art does not need to be expensive, particularly if you are the creator, yourself. If you can’t afford a framed painting then buy an unframed piece. If you can’t afford an unframed piece then… paint or draw one! Who does not own a pencil and a piece of paper?

The performing arts…

I go to a lot of movies and watch a lot of movies via DVD or online. But there is nothing that makes you feel that you are beyond the humdrum, above the ordinary, than to go to a live theatre and watch a play or go to a concert and listen to live music. The artistic nightlife is ALIVE and expressive and moving in a way no other art can be. Indulge! My favourite, again, does not cost much more than a movie these days. Community theatre and high school drama club presentations… the classic high school musical are often amazingly good deals. Local colleges and high schools often put concerts during the year for free. And end of season, spring concerts, when everyone is thoroughly practiced are still very inexpensive. One of the best and most uplifting and energizing concerts that I have ever experienced was a freebie of the University of Michigan music department. They require audiences to perform in front of and I’m only too happy to oblige.

Surrounding yourself and your family with art of every type and decorating your home and your life with these creative expressions, helps to lift your spirits and energize your being.


Easier But Never Easy…


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There’s a line in the movie, “The Weather Man”, where Michael Caine’s character is listening to his son, played by  Nicholas Cage, complain about wishing life were easier. Michael Caine says, “‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life!”

No matter how often I’ve told my kids and step-kids, “Life is MOSTLY work!” (Actually, I would tell them that in order to hear their moans of displeasure *mischievous grin*… but still, it’s a fact of life!), this is still a hard lesson to learn. It can be frustrating and make you want to rebel against it. And of course, teenagers usually do.

Obviously this “easy” bit is not WHOLLY true. There are moments of ease. But if you wish to succeed in life (I’m still working at it) you absolutely NEED to understand that “Life is MOSTLY work!”

But, here’s the thing… “Work” does not have to be “drudgery”. In fact I suggest strongly that if you are in a line of work that IS drudgery then you need to start looking for another line of work. Seriously! Work does not have to be drudgery, but it does have to be frequent and regular. And if you are going to have a life of frequent and regular work then you better have a goal and a plan to get there.

Artful Living Walking Line

Here’s something I posted on my facebook page recently. “Artful Living Requires Walking a Fine Line Between Abandon and Careful Planning.” (awiseoldwomanoncesaid.tumblr.com) There are only a FEW lucky sods out there where everything just falls into place. (A few that will remain nameless and always seem to be in the news, drunk and unwilling to wear undergarments… don’t ya just wanna smack ‘em!??)

Merriam-Webster defines “work” (for our purposes) thusly:
▸    : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:
▸    : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result
▸    : the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood
▸    : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity

Nowhere is there the mention of personal anguish, angst or unbearable pain.

So… let us repeat this. There’s a difference between something “not being easy” and something being drudgery or even slavery. I think (and a lot of philosophers agree) that one of the things that makes life interesting is the process of problem solving and overcoming obstacles. In fact the average teenager would not want to spend the whole day playing video games if there were not obstacles to overcome or problems to solve. The reason that dad told you to “get a job” wasn’t because of the sitting on the couch so much as that HE didn’t want to have to pay for your video games for the rest of your life! Sitting on your keester playing video games doesn’t (normally) pay very well. (Okay, maybe he didn’t want your brain to turn to mush and your body to flab either!)

As to my own story… Years ago I would come home from day after day of “work” and I would just crash. There was no way that I wanted to “work” at other things, after a long day at my day job, that would make my life more of a success. I would either sleep, watch TV or play on the computer, eat and try to convince my wife to have sex. (But who in their right mind would want to have sex with someone who just wanted to crash, sleep, watch TV, play or eat, right?)

For me, there were basically two separate  issues that I had to deal with. The first was seriously debilitating chronic issues of fatigue. The second was depression and not being able to see a way forward. For MANY years I suffered. Sometimes silently but often complaining regularly. Depression and fatigue were ruining my life. Doctors gave no solutions. My resulting behaviour was selfish and self-centred and responsibility fell by the wayside, creating their own problems in the process and hurting those whom I loved.

These obstacles HAD to be overcome and neither was easy, though, interestingly enough, they both involved the same, holistic solution involving diet, exercise, study, prayer and meditation. I stopped eating junk food and started on a “Paleo”/”Primal” diet (mimicking our ancestors), I took up unicycling, walking and running. I studied the methods of prayer and meditation that seemed to be successful for others. I again took up the relaxing and recuperative hobby of photography.

There’s been no quick fix. I stumble and fall… often. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by outside forces but in reality these outside forces turned out to be of my own making brought on by a lifetime of bad habits and not taking responsibility for my life. But my life IS coming together. Two steps forward. One step back. Over and over and over.

“‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.”

So… what’s it all mean? When you jumble together, “mostly work”, “easy doesn’t enter into grown up life”, Paris Hilton, your wanting to come home from work and lay down on the couch, your overwhelming urge to shoot zombies on your X-Box, being a slave to your job, problem solving, overcoming obstacles, pain, fatigue, depression, drudgery, small steps, big steps, small successes, big successes… what are we supposed to do with all that?

Well, I believe it means that there are no guarantees of success in life but if you continue with a goal of your own making, and put that first above everything else, putting in effort, putting in work, putting in continuous action and motion, pushing the envelope, moving outside of your comfort zone, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for your life… FOR you, FOR your kids, FOR your life partner… then, Life becomes… EASIER even if it is never all out easy.


Adulthood Easier Not Easy

Avoid time-wasters like the plague…


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TV, Video Games, Lounging, yakking and even reading too much! They ARE the plague!

A “good” Life is about balance. That’s it! That’s the gist of it all. Too much of a good thing, becomes bad. I would be the last person to tell you that TV or video games are bad things. They can be great ways to learn or unwind. But you KNOW what I’m going to say, right!?

If you are not satisfied with how your life is progressing, not enough of this and that… too much stress… not enough love… coming home each day exhausted with little to show for it… wanting immediately to shove something into your pie-hole and crash on the couch… Is that your day? How long can you go without the feel of either a TV remote or game controller in your hand? Or sleep? Or sex?

Gerry Butterwick on Guitar

Let me digress a bit here.

I was talking with a fellow in a parking lot once. We were sharing inspirational anecdotes and he made a statement that really quite struck me… made me think. He quoted someone, I’m not quite sure who, he said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “We all WANT stuff, but we will never get what we ‘want’. We only get what we ‘CHOOSE’.

I’m going to tell you right off… because the statistics are so prevalent. You’re addicted! If you’re reading this book the likelihood is that you are watching too much TV (which includes movie DVDs… no, you’re not going to weasel out of this one!), playing video games too much, surfing the internet or spending too much time on social networking! If you do none of these things, congratulations… you are probably reading too much!

People who feel content and truly happy and who feel that they live a successful Life do a very MODEST amount of any of these not the hours and hours of addictive time-wasting that is the norm for westerners.

If you are reading this book I’ll bet that once you drag yourself away from all those addictive NON-activities you look plaintively at someone who is happy and contented and active and getting MORE out of life and you say, “I WANT that!” I want a better job and I want a better income and I want more vacation time and I want a car that isn’t falling apart and I want this and I want that…

My suggestion? CHOOSE! Don’t live life as an automaton! Choose! Then act!

When you come home from work, if you are exhausted and want to crash, kiss your partner a nice long 20 second kiss, start your dinner preparations (keeping away from all heavy, sit-in-your-gut-for-a-long-time foods), doff your work clothes, put on some clothes suitable for either running or brisk walking. Have a nice conversation over a modest dinner. Then go for that run or brisk walk. I do either and I also unicycle! *grin*

Once you’ve eaten dinner and you’ve done your brisk walk, do something on your list of things to do to improve your life?

You DO have a list don’t you?

Remember this blog?

Namaste! (<– I see and recognize the divine within you!)

Exercise and Sleep… *YAWN* One of the secrets to a new zest for life!


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Benjamin Franklin had it right! Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Although it is obviously not the WHOLE key to riches and a better life, sleep is one of the most important keys to having the energy to do the things you need to do, daily, to FEEL on top of things, to feel relaxed, to be mentally and emotionally balanced and to not live life in a fog.

But sleep does not just promote mental acuity and balance. Sleep is paramount to physical health. For a long time researched didn’t really understand what sleep was for. But studies with animals and volunteers showed that when the subject is awake many hormones are in play that are used for the proper animated functioning of the body and brain. These same hormones, adrenaline and cortisol being a couple of the main ones, also interfered with the proper maintenance and rebuilding of the body that is needed to keep the body in top form. They actually stop the body from being able to properly utilize proteins and other “building blocks” of the body.

When the body is in sleep, these hormones are either completely shut down or greatly reduced. This then allows the systems and functions of “restoration” and maintenance to work in unison to rebuild and clean out the waste products of waking animated living.

But for Sleep Daring and Bold

Well, you think, I get about 7 hours of sleep a night and I wake up okay. I know people at work who complain about getting far less than me. 7 hours is plenty, right?

There have been several studies on this and although 7 hours is fine for SOME people it is likely not okay on average. The true basal sleep requirement depends on a number of things such as how much “whole body” exercise one gets during the day. How much stress a person is subject to, what they eat, how much water they drink, how much caffeine they consume, what foods they eat, how much they feel loved and what their evening habits are etc and so on.

Exercise is tricky. You can get too much (NOT the problem of the average office worker!!) which leads to a fundamental need to do a lot of cellular repair. And you can get not enough which leads to a lack of lymph circulation. Lymph circulation???


Yeah, I know, right!? Well… it turns out that you have more than one circulatory system in the body. There’s that one that moves blood around to all parts of the body, taking nutrients and oxygen to all of the organs and cells. Then there’s the Lymphatic System. In fact, the Lymphatic System is all part of the overall blood circulatory system but it doesn’t really carry blood. The Lymphatic System is basically a mess of tubes that start… from basically no where. It takes the fluid that has built up in the various tissues of the body, the interstitial fluid, where there are no blood vessels and slowly, THROUGH MUSCULAR ACTION, moves that fluid, containing waste byproducts, immune system cells, some fats, toxins etc to where they are needed. This may be to blood vessels and it may be to lymph nodes and eventually to the organs of elimination and so on.

YAWN… yea gad!!! Here’s the thing… If you do not get enough exercise throughout the day, that crap tends to build up in the muscles and tissues of the body and while YOU are trying to sleep, your BODY is wanting to flush all that crap out. Result… a little thing that we call TOSSING AND TURNING! if you are tossing and turning when you should be sleeping that means something. It means that your body is insisting on using your muscles to SQUEEZE the interstitial fluid out of the tissues of the body and through the lymph nodes. That means that instead of shutting down the hormones that are supposed to be dormant during the night, allowing proper muscle and organ recuperation, they are all fired up for muscle action. This also means that dead cells, metabolic waste and toxins are building up where they should NOT be building up.

In the end, you’ve not gotten enough sleep for your lifestyle. Which probably means you need to change your sleep patterns AND your lifestyle!!!

And those yawns? The reason for yawns are to, again, SQUEEZE the lymph nodes that are in your neck below your jaw. Every time you yawn you are forcing lymph through the lymph system and getting your body in readiness to sleep and eliminate the garbage you’ve built up during the day.

My recommendation? Get up out of bed and do a series of modest whole body exercises including a few sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups as well as stretching exercises. Don’t overdo it. Your body WANTS to sleep, you don’t want to totally wake yourself up. What you need is to have your muscles squeeze your lymph around your body. Touch your toes and reach for the ceiling! Bend backwards. (don’t fall over in your sleepiness!) and stretch from side to side.

Quality of sleep and not just how many hours clocked in bed is important. Deep, sound, continuous and undisturbed sleep is what is best needed for bodily recuperation. Those people who seem to function beautifully on fewer hours are almost always people who sleep very DEEPLY and soundly, making the most of fewer hours, PROBABLY because they’ve gotten enough exercise during the day or because they never allow themselves to get “stressed out”. If you sleep a lot but it is unfit and disturbed sleep then you are not allowing the body to shut down completely enough for the nightly repair work to thoroughly do its job.

So, buy a new mattress if you have to! Move that snorer to another room if you have to. If sleep apnea is your problem then see a doctor and get a cpap mask. Close the blinds, turn all lights out, make sure the temperature is set to about 65 degrees F, do WHATEVER it takes to get a deep, sound, recuperative sleep! You will be surprised at the difference it makes to your overall drive, your alertness your sex life and your zest for living!

Keep notes and make lists! The care and feeding of a good idea.

I have sooooo many ideas… I think I’m a pretty smart dude when it comes down to it. (not much of an ego here, eh!?) The problem is, I don’t implement the vast majority of them because… well… I forget why! Oh yeah! I forget many of my great ideas!

I’ve come across a lot of instances of people letting go of a useful idea, an idea that was truly valuable or useful simply because they didn’t pursue the idea. And why didn’t they pursue the idea? Well ONE of the reasons… and there are others… is that they are having a chat with someone over a cup of coffee or listening to the radio in morning traffic or dozing off after a long, hard day, and the idea just up and leaves because they are in another mental space. When they get out of that mental space then they move on with their daily routine, the idea never to return. Or it may return but years later.

Who made up the idea of a picnic cooler on wheels. Yours truly bud!!!! Me and my brother-and-law came up with the idea LONG before it appeared on the market one day. We were busy carrying things to a picnic table from the Toronto Zoo parking lot and so while we were yammering on about how heavy the cooler was that we each had an end of, we were also quickly dispensed with the idea, once we had our faces around a sandwich!

But I’m not even really talking just about the I-could-be-rich-if-I-had-pursued-that ideas! I’m talking about ANY idea that adds to improving your life, lifestyle, sense of well-being, etc.

One of the MAIN aspects of success is knowing what you want to do and then going forward with DOING what you want to do. ! In other words, creating goals and then acting on them. Lists help with both! Most of us, when we have a lot of things on our minds, have a harder time of keeping track of everything and soon new ideas that we had moments ago are lost in the general hubbub of living, never being in our heads long enough to develop into something meaningful.Journal

Pick up one of those little “moleskin” type notepads, pocket-sized, and a small pocket-able pen (I use the keen little “Fischer Space Pen” because it is short and has rounded tips and so won’t put holes in your pockets.) and keep them with you at all times. When you have an idea that seems important, write it down. As you create a goal, write it down. As you determine the processes and steps that need to be completed to attain your goal, write them down.

FOCUSING on your goals and steps is one of the main characteristics and keys to success and notes and lists will help you keep focused.

Oh… the Tragedy!


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Avoid Negative Self-Talk
I’ve never known anyone who is ALWAYS positive and upbeat ALL the time. But I do know a few people who are much more commonly positive and who, almost invariably put a positive spin on almost every situation in their lives. More-so than myself, that’s for sure. The point is, these positive people, despite me wishing to smack ‘em upside the head sometimes for being so positive, seem to me to have better lives than the average joe.

Shall we analyze why?

Banana Brains

Negative self-talk is the mental habit, with verbal reenforcement, of “taking away” rather than “giving to”. For the MOST part negativity is unproductive and distorted. Why? Because it is usually based on downward spiraling “What-ifs”… NON-facts created by the imagination. It is lacking in productive, progressive, forward “motion” and by it’s very nature puts the breaks to whatever would constructively get you toward your goal. I am not talking about the give and take process of brainstorming. I am talking about the unimaginative stick-in-the-mud attitude that has no positive counter-balance.

I’m sure that you’ve heard it before. “You get what you focus on!” When you think about it, this is a self-evident truth. You’re not going to end up with an ice-cream cone if you are constantly thinking of a rock! You aren’t going to end up with positive things in your life if you are constantly thinking of negatives. Nothing magical, here!

Most people know to what I am referring and many are very frustrated with the constant barrage of their own negative self talk. I have a quick and easy solution for you. A cute little trick!

Buy yourself a “negative thought counter”. You know those shiny little chromed counters that they use to count people going through a gate at a concert or event? Nope… those aren’t “people” counters. They’re negative thought counters! Buy one for yourself (I’ve even seen them at a “dollar” store once) and put it on a lanyard and hang it around your neck. Every time you find yourself in an onslaught of negativity, click the counter for each and every negative thought that you have! Very often the problem with negativity arises because we can’t “catch” ourselves. We become less mindful and attuned to what we are actually thinking. What the negative thought counter does is help make you aware of these negative thoughts. Sure enough, over a short time you will CATCH them and they start to become fewer and fewer. I guarantee, this alone will make you a happier person!

Add Positive Self-Talk!

We’ve talked about reducing your destructive and time-wasting negative self-talk. But along with the normal stream of mundane, day-to-day “processing” thoughts you NEED to introduce a stream of Positive, RAH RAH!, self-promoting, “I can DO this!… of COURSE I can do this!” self-motivating thoughts!

Don’t be afraid of being egotistical. There are two sides to the “ego coin”. One side is the “I’m on top of the world today and feeling good. Nothing can stop me now!” type. And the other is the, “I’m better than he is, and I deserve more… I’m gonna get mine!” type. The second type is “egotistical”. It usually focuses on ME, ME, ME and has nothing to do with oneness, fitting in, or self improvement. On the other hand, positive ego is never ME, ME, ME and yet still recognizes your divine deserving nature! It FEELS healthy and promotes a good feeling in others around you. It is wonderfully contagious.

Positive self-talk will pump you up and promote positive, healthy ego giving you the energy to act on your goals.

One of the simplest and most useful tools to promote positive self-talk are… wait for it!  Yep, you guessed it… sticky notes. It is important that you constantly reenforce your intentions with goal-affirming, positive thoughts, many times a day, over and over. You do not want to allow time during your day for negativity to enter! So… up go the sticky notes!!! Start with your bedroom ceiling! (Of course you’d need larger placards for that!) “My Day Will Be as I Make it! Start Today with a Great Attitude! Focus on Your Goals!”

Maybe draw a smiley face on the bathroom mirror with lipstick with the words, “remember to smile”!

It is ABSOLUTELY important, however, to make the words and phrases your own! It is important that what you read each day, the words that are drilled into your head, are of your own creation, of your own intention, NOT some trite, clichéd, affirmations of mine or anyone else’s! Change them regularly, switch it up! Keep things fresh.

Keep a new internal dialogue going! Wow! Talk about “what-ifs”! What could you do with POSITIVE what-if dialogues and scenarios running through your head!!??

Namaste, everyone!