Resistance just makes me hard

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Read at least 52 books in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
4. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I read the first book of this series at the behest of my sister, who really enjoys the series. The alternate history plot of the book is very simple: During Europe’s Napoleonic Wars era dragons are used as weapons of war. There is an Aviator division like the Navy or Army wherein riders are matched to dragons, they train them to fight aerial combats against other nations, and bonds form between dragon and rider. The dragons can speak and are as intelligent as humans, in some cases even more so since they can live for hundreds of years.

In the book an English warship commanded by Captain Laurence overtakes a French warship. Among the booty is a dragon’s egg, ready to hatch. Since the hatchling dragon must be bonded with a rider from the shell, or become wild and unrideable, Laurence and his men are forced to draw straws to see who will present themselves to the creature for bonding. Despite best laid plans, the dragon bonds with Laurence. This means an end to his Navy career and ignominious acceptance into the disreputable Aviator Corps. He names the dragon Temeraire and they form a very close emotional bond.

The book is basically broken up into three distinct and predictable acts: 1. The acquisition of the egg and the hatching and the bonding with Laurence. His subsequent personal turmoil at having to give up his captaincy and become an aviator (which he does in the most British of fashion). 2. Training camp, where Laurence collects a crew who will serve on the dragon, and where Temeraire learns how to fly, fight, and cooperate with the other dragons. 3. The plunge into battle, where both dragon and rider are tested against hostile forces.

The book is well written in regards to historical details, and the author has created a fictional back history of the dragon corps so that it reads like real history, too. Not a lot of words are wasted on ornate explanations of things regarding dragons and dragon training that make it seem like the author is trying to convince the reader that this alternate world existed. By being simple and brief, we get the feeling that this is something people who knew a little bit about the early 1800’s would already know.

I was not, however, excited about the book as a story. Laurence’s character is stiff and unyielding in his righteousness, nary making a moral misstep. Temeraire is a sweet, good-natured, intelligent, yet self-possessed dragon who thinks Laurence is just the bee’s knees. They get along without strife from Day One. The plot line was very predictable, to the point of being a pulp plot. Most of the book was kind of boring in it’s day-to-day details of training and human-dragon bonding. The few action scenes, the few fight scenes, were well done and engaging, but still lacked emotion. Laurence is a fearless hero without fault, and Temeraire is (predictably) discovered to be one of the rarest dragons in the world: A Chinese Celestial. It also turns out that such dragons are exclusively hatched for kings and emperors and that Temeraire’s egg was actually headed to France as a gift to Napoleon. All ends well for rider and dragon, Laurence more than overcomes his misgivings about being an aviator, and brings some much needed British Navy spit and polish to the ragamuffin corps. Of course, if he called one more person out because of a gentlemanly affront, I would have hoped to see his tight, upper-class ass given a good kicking.

It is unlikely in general that I will read the other books in this series. I certainly won’t read any more as part of my 52 book goal. By being kinda dull and unengaging, it took me a long time to get through it. And that puts me behind on my goal in general.

I’ve got several other books lined up to read, but they are all in the 350+ page length. That puts me in the position or reading about 15% of each book per day to complete it in a week. I believe my reading skills will come back, the more reading I do. That will make me a faster reader, and also not so prone to fall asleep while reading. That is not just the fault of the subject material, it is also a result of my eyes being out of practice in reading.

Do something to improve the house (read all 24 entries…)
Oh, Yeah... We Have A Nursery

Skipped over this goal numerous times. In truth, we haven’t done much with the decor or improvement of the house. We talk a lot about what we want to do, but it is not translating into action.

One room that has gotten a makeover is of course, our nursery. Even though little Universe doesn’t spend a lot of time in there yet, we’ve gotten it painted and decorated. We still want to lay new flooring (carpet or laminate, we haven’t decided), and we need to paint the dresser/changing table. The walls are a pleasant Riesling green, the ceiling is sky blue with a sun-shaped light fixture in the center, and the closet is daffodil-yellow. S. has put numerous Circo stickers on the wall featuring all kinds of animals and bugs. We have put up two shelves over the rack that holds diapering supplies and bibs, we have a glider with a foot rest, an open-faced shelf unit for toys and stuff, and a mini-fridge and bottle warmer in one corner. Eventually her bassinet will migrate from our room to the nursery, along with the required baby monitors, spycams, heart-rate monitors, motion sensors, and alarm systems. The nursery is in the room right next to ours, and I suggested we take down part of the wall and add French doors to connect the rooms. S. said the was over the top and to get a hold of myself.

The main theme for the room is ladybugs and owls. It is a relaxing space and I think our baby is going to enjoy it for a number of years.

March Bootcamp 2014: Blueprint for Success (read all 4 entries…)
The I'd's of March

“I’d like to get a new job, but it’s so hard to find anything right now.”

I’d like to lose some weight and get into shape, but there’s so much to do and I’m so tired.”

“I’d go to that play, that show, that movie, that network meeting, that meet-up, but I’m so busy with things I don’t want to do.”

The I’d’s of March are upon me. All the things I’d like to do, or wish to have, or need to get around to. They are swarmed by the rush of things urgent but unimportant, things unexpected but disruptive, and things completely useless and exhausting. “Et tu, Tivo?” I cry out as yet another day slips away with the lists of “must-do’s” still accusingly unfulfilled, building impotent reinforcements with the next day. I’m the one putting out so many fires that I fail to notice the dragon I should be slaying. Slay the dragon, and the kingdom will be safe, and the fires will burn out on their own. I move from “crisis” to “crisis” like a Whitechapel whore looking for a gentleman with a farthing, and at the end of the day, none of my real chores, the ones that are supposed to set me on a more purposeful and permanent course, have been accomplished.

I’m not a complete failure, you understand. I just don’t have my blueprint laid out quite flat and free of wrinkles and creases. I’m fighting with the permit guys and contractors instead of building my foundations and footings and walls. I’d like to get moving on my big projects… but there it is: my I’d’s of March.

Lately I’ve been trying a new means of keeping those “must do’s” at the forefront of my attention. I’ve frankensteined a couple of productivity methods including Kanban and Priority Matrix, and I’m using multi-colored post-it notes to identify my most important chores and tasks. It works as a tiny, hands-on reminder of things I need to make a priority on any given day. I keep all my post-its on a large foamcore board, and when I decide to work on a chore or task, I pull the post-it down and carry it with me, tacking to my car’s dash, or my phone face, or my notepad. When I get it completed, there is a physical satisfaction in either putting it back on the board in the “Done” column or just crumpling it up and tossing it away. It is harder to sit and watch mindless tv while a pink post-it waves at you from your wine glass, reminding you to get to that particular task (harder, I am learning, but not impossible :( )

As a get-things-done methodology, it is an on-going experiment, but it has been helping me, especially with short term tasks that just required me making a phone call, or paying a bill, or placing an order online. I’m looking forward to making it a more holistic process. I am thinking of adapting it to cover affirmations, idea flows, and task delegation. I know a lot of people use post-its to improve their productivity. I just don’t know the whole mental process they use to apply it.

I’d better learn, though.

Change the Energy (read all 49 entries…)
If Schrodinger's Cat Farts In A Box, And No One Hears It, Does It Still Smell?

It either is, or it isn’t. Unless it is or it isn’t…

I can understand why physicists who work in the realm of quantum physics get irate when the LOA people start using their theories and concepts to explain how attraction principals work. Quantum Theory is convoluted and bizarre enough without throwing in “New Age mumbo jumbo”. Never the less, it does offer some answers to unanswerable questions. And as a science it is just barely understood enough to be cooptable when attempting to rationalize the weirdness that is intention, attraction, and the role of energy.

I’ve been semi-watching the implosion of Kevin Trudeau and the GIN pyramid scheme he concocted. A friend who gave me some of his audio CD’s is very into the organization and continues to include me in her email chains regarding the evil government plot to destroy the ability of well intentioned people to gain mass wealth without working hard. Every setback is seen as opportunity opening a new path, the Universe setting up the perfect set of circumstances. But not for these people to be lead out of the desert of deception they’ve been stuck in, but rather, every setback is a step further toward validating the GIN program and all that needs to be done is to throw even more energy, good will and powerful thoughts into seeing it restored.

This “any answer is the right answer” philosophy irks me. Be it blind faith in God, or blind trust in the Universe, I have issues with anyone who simply takes every twist of fate or turn of events as a continued sign that they are on the right course.

So it made me think of Shrodinger’s Cat, the famous thought-experiment about a cat, a thingy of radioactive material, a geiger counter, a trip hammer, and a vial of poison, all in a box. There’s a 50/50 chance that an atom of the radioactive material will decay, setting off the geiger counter, which in turn trips the hammer, which breaks the vial, which releases the poison and kills the cat. There is an equal chance that the geiger counter did not go off, and the cat is spared. When the box is closed, any observer cannot determine the situation without opening the box. Once the observer does this, they are affecting the outcome, one way or the other. The idea is that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time until someone makes an observation. The act of observing settles the state, and the question of kitty morbidity.

But does the observer’s intentions or expectations affect what state things settle in? If you open the box expecting to see the cat alive, and it is, then you feel your powers of intention are validated, and if you expect to see the cat dead, and it is, then that just makes common sense. But if you expect to see the cat alive, and it is dead, do you think you were carrying some negative element in your subconscious, some glimmer of doubt that affected your positive vibration and led to the opposite effect you were intending? By focusing on what you expected, did you limit the Universe in delivering what was best in this situation?

People with blind faith in God and blind faith in LOA don’t subscribe to the idea that “stuff just happens”. In fact, they believe everything happens for a reason. Some people source God as the author of all that occurs, and some people source themselves and their intentional vibrations. For people to rationalize events that do not happen the way they want or expect, they have to believe that God was acting in higher wisdom, or that the Universe was a)responding to unconscious vibrations they were not aware they were emitting, or b)is acting in a higher wisdom.

In the movie The Minority Report Tom Cruise rolls a wooden ball across a table. Just as it tumbles off the edge, Colin Farrell catches it. “Why did you catch it?” Tom asks. “Because it was going to fall,” answers Colin. Tom: “You’re certain?” Colin: “Yes.” Tom: “But it didn’t fall, you caught it. The fact that you caught it doesn’t change the fact that is was going to fall.” Meaning? Everything happens with it’s own purpose, until an observer interacts and forces a new purpose.

What am I blundering to say here? Everything happens for a reason. Yes. Without a doubt. A ball rolls, set in motion by a force of momentum. It follows a course set for it by environment, motion, and gravity. It will continue on this course until an observer interacts, expressing intention, to change what would have been an inevitable course; falling. Whether the observer acts, or doesn’t act, he still influences the outcome. He creates the reality of whether the ball is caught or falls. The observer determines the reality of a live cat or a dead one the moment he opens the box. Reality is not what is, until by action it is what is. Reality is determined by actions, not by intentions.

Every day since December I have intended to mail my sister’s Christmas present to her. I have not taken action to do so. My intentions have not opened magic door of postal convenience for me. My intentions have not summoned a mail genie to take the package away. Until I take action, I cannot create the reality of my sister receiving her gift three months late.

And yet… and yet… No action is taken without intention (at least no meaningful action). So, hmmmmm. If intention is required to take action, then there is no action without intention, then reality is a construct of intention…

Why am I thrashing out such ideas, considering outcomes and intentions and quantum physics, when I can generally barely figure out who’s turn it is at a four-way stop? Because I believe I define my reality, I’m not sure how. I’ve been practicing the art of letting go and releasing expectation with very positive results. But sometimes that isn’t good enough, and if I’m just turning things over to the Universe, is that any different that turning it over to God and wouldn’t I get just as much benefit from praying? Also, are my successes really successes or just the inevitable outcomes of a process set in motion? Does releasing expectation do anything more than take the stress off? If the answer comes back in a way that doesn’t seem to mesh with my intentions do I simple shrug it off with the peacefulness of acceptance and gratitude, figuring “if not this, then something better”?

I like getting what I want. I accept that. I don’t like not getting what I want. I accept that, too. What I really don’t like is not knowing if I’m getting what I want or not. That’s hard to accept. The waiting, the trusting, the detachment… it goes against my nature to take action, even when there is no action to take. That is why I am trying to figure out if my intentions set my reality, or if my actions set my reality, or if it is all just a cosmic swirling shitstorm in which cats die unobserved and balls drop uncaught, over which I cannot hope to hold the reins, merely to be swept along in the current.

I’d like to go with what I know works. Unfortunately, I don’t know if it works until I observe that it does… or it doesn’t. Whichever. Or both. Or neither.

Maintain and Improve My Fitness For Life (read all 11 entries…)
Abstract Lessons in Awareness

Sometimes you’re snacking mindlessly away on whatever your brain is telling you it wants. Then you stop and look at the package and you get it:

You are what you eat…

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)

While I’m always willing to try something, I’m also able to see when something is not working, or not serving the purpose I had planned for it. When I started this goal I thought it would be great to drive myself to experience something new everyday. Honestly, it has turned out to be more work that it was worth for me.

Not saying it was a bad idea, and hats off to the author of the book who inspired me to try. But I’m taking the 10 count on this goal. It is too distracting and difficult to both look for something unique to achieve every day and then record it. It is almost like submerging into the minutia of my day, rather than dealing with the bigger issues.

So, I’m dropping this goal like a glass-jawed opponent in the sixth round. I’m keeping the list of things I’d like to do in the near future… but I won’t be pushing to try something new everyday.

March Bootcamp 2014: Blueprint for Success (read all 4 entries…)
I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover

Begin the day with a friendly voice:

“I am so lucky. I am sooooo lucky. Every day is a gift. Everyday is an opportunity from the universe waiting to be unwrapped. I’ve so much to be grateful for, I don’t have time or space for unhappiness or negativity. Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky. I’m not here because I’m smart or powerful or determined or strong. I am here because I am grateful, and I accept into my life the good things the Universe sends me. I don’t fight the flow; I go with the flow, and in that way I’m as strong as the waves that pound boulders into sand. My life is full of everything I want and everything I need and everything that is coming to me. I choose the destination, but I don’t worry about the path. A way will reveal itself; one always does. Today I will say ‘yes’ to almost anything.”

What a wonderful time to be alive, yes? That might be a matter of perspective, but so far this year I’ve been blessed in so many ways I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, amazed and overwhelmed at how much he had to appreciate. A year ago I wasn’t feeling that glad or grateful.

During those dark days a friend turned me on to a CD package by Kevin Trudeau (yep, that midnight infomercial huckster who makes you believe you have millions of unclaimed and unearned dollars laying around the coffers of the US Treasury, waiting for you to claim) called “Your Wish Is Your Command”. And like prospecting for gold, you have to sift a lot of useless material to find one or two glimmering nuggets of value. I could never say that CD “changed my life”. I can only say it started to change my life. Or at least where I was in my life at that time.

Fast-forward to today. I feel mentally fit and free. I have a new baby (a lifelong goal accomplished), I have a closely knit relationship with my wife, I have a job that is secure which is almost effortless for me at this point. My negative friends are almost all gone (damn you, Facebook), and my positive friends are more present (thank you, beloved Facebook). My health is great, except for some weight gained over the winter. Money is good. Where we are lacking, I know that we will catch up. How? Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t enter into the equation. In ways I cannot plan or predict, that’s how.

So… why so serious? Why this feeling of dissatisfaction and edginess dancing around the corners of my vision? The illusive images that vanish when I turn my head for a better look. Why that longing for some white whale to pursue and vanquish, or be vanquished by?

I’ve never felt like I was achieving anything unless I was fighting against something. And I never took on little opponents. Father, Nature, the Law, God… the bigger the Goliath the more stones I slung. I learned after much battering and failure that most of my success came from releasing expectation of success. By rolling a snowball down a hill, it gained weight and momentum and force all on its own with no more influence from me. Not everything was that easy, but by putting myself on the path, saying yes, taking opportunity, and by not fixating on conquering the outcome, I experienced far more achievement than when I put on 14 ounce gloves and tried to go 12 rounds. It has taken me a very long time to see this.

Yet I think this primal dissatisfaction with status quo is important in maturity, growth, and ongoing success. The spirit of the fight is what drives you out of the cave, spear in hand, to hunt deer and face down bears. But too long I’ve not looked past the feeling of fight, onto the real goal: success.

Accepting that I don’t really have control, accepting that everything I get really comes from desire and not from my own plans and machinations, is a hard elephant to eat. I’ve been chewing that beast one bite at a time, sometimes gagging, for quite some time.

But construction starts with excavation, with laying a foundation, with building supports. My blueprint is not actions and deeds and things to be done. My blueprint is a format for how to approach, tackle, accept, and release my goals. My first approach, my starting point, my first huddle, is to reaffirm that no matter what I am lucky, and I am grateful. “I’ll see you when I get home tonight” is an affirmation, isn’t it? It predicts, without any knowledge of the day’s events, that we will returning to our loved ones in our secure homestead at the day’s end. Beginning every goal and challenge, I’m starting with: “This is going to work out. I don’t know how, but I know I am lucky and I am grateful for what is coming”. Accept that. Accept that it is going to come. Not by wishing or dreaming or without the kickstart from me that gets that snowball rolling downhill, but knowing that when my mind and spirit are in alignment, my actions will fall in, too. I will do my part, but I will not demand the outcomes.

Acceptance is my four-leaf clover, my lucky, lucky, lucky talisman that fulfills my wishes. The first layer of my blueprint for success.

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
Struggle On

Okay, I throw in the towel. Lou Ann Cahn officially has my respect.

For 365 days Lou Ann successfully found something to do for the first time every day. She blogged and videoed it to prove it. I have been on a constant struggle to A)find new things to do, and B)find time to do them. Some of them are so lame as to be embarrassing. I was actually holding off posting a list because I was waiting for something exciting to happen. I’m only going to go through another month of this if things don’t pick up. Of course, things picking up is completely dependent upon me, isn’t it?

26. Spent an hour in the book store reading lesbian erotica (I swear I’ve never done this before)
27. Took a new and never used way home from work
28. Spent 4 hours driving 25 miles – Thanks, Snowstorm
29. Spent the night home alone with the baby while wife was stranded at work
30. Watched all 4 _Mission: Impossible” films, back-to-back (that’s what happens when you are cut off from the rest of the world)
31. Resolved to have a better month in February Oh, gosh, that’s not something new. Okay: Read January’s issue of Creative Loafing from cover to cover, including the little ads at the back
32. Started using the “Priority Matrix” to sort tasks
33. Did not watch any of the Superbowl (Not one minute, not halftime show, not national anthem, not SB commercials… zero, zip, nada. First time in 25+ years. Read a book instead)
34. Performed 25 medicine ball ab crunches using a 32 lb pack of raw prime rib (kind of a Rocky-thing workout, but no punching)
35. Talked to that chick, finally
36. Bought some unique kinky toys in advance of Valentine’s Day
37. Counted all the VW bugs I saw on the road for the day (18)
38. Listened to a self-hypnosis recording (in 21 days, we will know)
39. Got stitches in my finger after a staffer closed my hand in a drawer (first time ever getting stitches)
40. Planned a “Dinner and a Movie” fundraiser for a homeless shelter
41. Made a tres leche cheesecake. I wrote it as a menu item because it sounded good. I couldn’t find a decent recipe on the web that matched (only tres leche cakes), so I had to wing it. It came out really good.
42. Learned a simple magic trick (the ol’ levitating coffee cup trick)
43. Performed sun salutations outside in the sleet and snow – Invigorating
44. Cut a Buddha face from cantaloupe
45. Bought balloons, flowers, and a card for Universe for her first Valentine’s Day
46. Made a casiss-blackberry cobbler – Very good
47. Tried on a $6,000 wristwatch – Nice, but did not buy
48. Made a three course tasting/demo for a potential employer. Was asked to provide only one course, but I went over the top trying to impress. Hope it pays off.

Read at least 52 books in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
3. Life, Reimagined by Richard Leider and Alan Webber

For multiple reasons I am making it a rule to read a lot of “self-help” books this year. I chose this book because it had several good reviews (from real people, not fellow SH pimps), and offered some insights into breaking out of old patterns and behaviors, and at looking at life from a different perspective.

I came away somewhat disappointed, however. I expect SH books to contain a fair amount of fluff and gobbeldy-gook, but this one had more than it’s fair share. It has a nonsensical theme that the authors kept repeating, sort of like a cheer at a pep rally (Way to go, Indians, way to go!). About 2/3rds the way through the book, I got the creepy feeling I was reading the transcripts of a seminar designed to whip up excitement and whip out checkbooks (or credit cards… does anyone even use checkbooks any more?). Unfortunately the excitement was lost in the search for usable information, on which this book was woefully short. I also get the feeling it was mostly cobbled together from a website connected to AARP. Taking a few articles and concepts and stringing it out into a 200+ page book rarely leads to any profound insights.

That is not to say it was useless. I am one who, when digging for gold, will still take the tin when I find it. The book describes 6 practices to help a person map their goals/desires. They go into waaaayy too much depth (in fact, it is the foundation of the book), but I could see applying the practices to some of my own decision making.

I also like a series of questions the book compels the reader to ask about why we do the things we do or live the way we do. This was one of the only portions of the book I highlighted for further exploration.

By asking “why?” we open up the possibilities of choice.

  • Why do I get up in the morning?
  • Why do I do the work I do?
  • Why do I live where I live?
  • Why do I buy what I buy?
  • Why do I want what I want?
  • Why do I have what I have?
  • Why do I love who I love?
  • Why do I keep what I keep?
  • Why do I think of myself the way I think of myself?

If I do nothing more than sit down with myself and have a hard, deep conversation about these “assumed” things… these “taken for granted” things, then the whole fluff of the book will probably have been worth the trouble.

To balance out the overall feeling of disappointment I had with this book, I read 2 other SH booklets which were, despite their relative brevity, on point, helpful and informative. I’m not including them in this list however. One was 32 pages long and one is a 30-day workbook which I am undertaking.

Maintain and Improve My Fitness For Life (read all 11 entries…)
Who Do I Think I'm Foolin'?

I read an article recently that the director of the movie Elysium wanted lead actor Matt Damon to get really fit for the role, and went so far as to tape a picture of Matt’s face onto a photo of a model with the type of body he wanted Matt to have. He showed this to Matt and Matt’s trainer and said this was what he wanted, and needed to have in three months. Somehow, this motivated Damon to workout four-hours a day (not sure how many days a week) to become that figure in the Frankenstein-stitched photo. Matt has had several roles that called for him to be fit, so it was probably somewhat the norm for him, but if you have seen the movie, his physique does show the results of all that hard work.

I thought about how ridiculous it was to do something so patently shallow as to put someone’s head on someone else’s body, and then require that person to measure up to that image. But I thought about how many of us do the exact same thing on a regular basis, only to ourselves. We oogle and study magazine and tv and online images and imagine that is us with the tight butts and corded abs and meaty shoulders. We put our heads on these superman images and that is the look we are going for. It breaks our hearts when, after P90 days of mostly working out except for the nights we got home late or the days we were sick or forgot our gym bags or needed to go out instead or had to deal with the busted furnace or couldn’t miss that one show or we had to be the ones to finish off the cookies and pretzels because they were just sitting on the shelf, mocking us and daring us to adulterate our protein shake diets… when, after all that, we still weren’t svelte and we still weren’t firm and we still needed a size 40 jeans. I know I’ve been guilty of that kind of fantasy-fitness.

I mean, Matt is a beer and cheeseburger kinda guy. He’d rather put on a few pounds and go a little soft around the middle and opt for a relaxed fit slacks (at least he says so in interviews). Yet he gets in the gym and stays on his diets and gets rugby-tough or secret agent fit or super-soldier hard for his roles. And I don’t think it is just the million dollars paydays. No one is paying Philip Seymour Hoffman or Paul Giamatti to get in the gym and break a sweat in order to get roles. I like beer, I like cheeseburgers, I like finding jellybeans under the floormats of the car. I like sweatpants and telling people to bring me stuff that is just out of arm’s reach. Why can’t I get Elysium buff? Why can’t I get on a diet and stick to it? Why can’t I make my body look like the airbrushed and contrasted glossy image I’ve pasted my face over and let become my vision for my Herculean future? If it worked for Matt, why doesn’t it work for me?

I guess I’d have to say first, that Matt is serious about this shit, and I am not. Matt wakes up and says “Hey, muthafucka, if you don’t hit the gym and cut back on the donuts and get up and run instead of laying in bed and watching tv, you are not gonna be in shape when filming starts. And if you aren’t in shape, everybody’s gonna know it. And everybody’s gonna be on your case about it. The director, your instructor, your agent, Variety, TMZ. You’ll be getting condolence emails from Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson. Too bad if you’d rather sit back and skip a session, if you’d rather have BBQ and fries than a green smoothie. This is your job, buddy-ro. Now, go to work.”

Me, I tend to wait until its warm, I want to first check the news and email, I want to stretch and unkink myself, I want to find out if that is a mole or cancer on my neck, I want to see how the baby’s doing, my shoulder hurts, my back hurts, my knees hurt, I’ll start tomorrow, no, I’ll start the day after tomorrow, no, I’ll start next Monday… after all, what’s the hurry? So, there’s that. And there’s the factor of it being much easier to wish for something than to achieve it. And there is the belief issue. I can mentally splice my head onto all 12 months of the Chippendale’s calendar boys; in the end I don’t really believe I can make that kind of change in my physique or level of fitness.

Maybe, for an ordinary human being like me (or somewhat sub-ordinary), starting with an ideal end in mind is not the proper motivation. So much time and energy is spend in trying to reach the level of 4% body fat and 12 BMI and rippling muscles and brilliantly shining teeth, that it is too far a goal to grasp. I believe our goals should always exceed our grasps, but in this case, maybe it should be more like going up a ladder rung by rung. Maybe I shouldn’t be finding the ultimate Adonis-grade images to aspire to. Maybe I should be aspiring to be just a little better than I am today. I don’t have to weight 157 lbs – ever. I don’t have to have a 32-inch waist – ever. Let’s chuck all that madness and agree that all I have to do is a little better than I am today. A few pounds lighter, a few meals healthier, a few more yards on the treadmill, a few more reps with the weights. Let’s resolve this issue not all in one big swoop, but in small, steady, incremental steps.

Actors like to know what their character’s motivations are for acting certain ways. No doubt Matt likes to know his motivations, too. My motivations are pretty simple and hard to avoid: a)I am a vain man who cares not for being out of shape. b)a man of my age should take care of himself now and from now on if he wants to be a man of an older age (this used to be bullshit rational fed to a guy who only ever wanted to die young and leave a beautiful corpse. That guy is grown up now). c)for the first time in the history of the world, I can go anywhere and do almost anything I want, if I can get there and if I can do it. d)my wife and daughter need and deserve a husband/father who is able to join in their lives and enrich them, not hang back or slow them down. e)It’s never going to get any easier.

That’s not all of it, certainly, but that is enough for a start. Don’t need all the answers, just need a few more than I had before.

So let’s crumple up those magazine photos with taped on heads and let’s hang up images of real motivation: Life, love, family, and health. I’m never going to look like those images, anyway. All I can do is a little bit better version of myself, which is a more realistic and doable goal.

Read at least 52 books in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
2. Bushido, The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe

I picked this book up for two reasons. As a precursor to reading “The Five Rings” I wanted to brush up on the culture of Japan’s old warrior class, as well as gain insight into the perceptions and concepts of Japanese society in general. The other reason was to discover what elements of this vaulted code of conduct and honor could be viewed as relevant in my own day to day life.

The author is actually among the ones credited with creating the word, “bushido”, which basically means “way of the warrior”, when he wrote this book. It does not pretend to be an in-depth study of the philosophy and code, but rather a topical treatment and introduction. He is also credited with cannonizing the “Seven Virtues” which form the core of the bushido code observed by samurai soldiers.

The problem I had with the book is that it was originally published in 1899, and the syntax and themes of the times make the work difficult to read at times. Nitobe comes across almost as an apologist for the warrior culture he describes, constantly comparing Japanese philosophy to the heights of Western and Christian philosophy. “See, see?” He seems to say. “We are all just the same! We Japanese are just as equal as you Europeans!” In the process I felt he slanted not just Japanese history, but Western as well.

Bushido grew out of Confucianism, Shinto, and Zen Buddhism. Nitobe touches on this, but balances it out with equal quotes from Plato, Shakespeare, and Jesus. This made it harder to appreciate the independent development of these concepts. His Seven Virtues shape the philosophy, without addressing what were clearly class inequities of Feudal Japan, in which the samurais held sway. Maybe he wanted to paint the sword-wielding samurais with the same noble brush we painted knights in shining armor with.

I learned a bit, and it has made me curious to learn more, so in that respect it is a nice tease. But I think I need to read something with more prospective and a more modern tone.

survive the zombie apocalypse
The Perfect Storm

In retrospect, I cannot say I’m surprised or shocked.

Yesterday Atlanta got hit with under 3 inches of snowfall. Flakes started falling around noon, and by 1:00 pm it was becoming apparent this was going to be a typical Atlanta-pocalypse traffic mess. Luckily, I got out on the roads, opting for the slower going, but safer, backroads while the snow was still falling. During the afternoon the temperatures dropped into the teens, and the slushy snow began to glaze over into sheets of ice. I inched home over the course of 4 hours (to go 25 miles). I was able, by good luck and timing, to stop off at the grocery store and grab some staple foods, to get some gas, and to pick up the baby. I got home and found out that my wife was basically stranded at work due to the gridlocked traffic and increasingly iced conditions. Today, the governor has declared a state of emergency, the city is effectively shut down, hundreds of cars are still stranded on the roads, and many have been abandoned so the drivers could walk to sources of food, water, and shelter. There are thousands of kids stuck at schools, where they had to spend the night because the roads were impassable.

Overall, I get the feeling that the city is responding as best it can in the face of these freak, once-every-couple-of-years events that swoop in and are overwith in a few days. I think the comparisons between northern cities and Atlanta are unfair, when you consider that northern cities have a reliable history of what to expect, resources appropriate to the seasonal needs, an infrastructure designed around snow and bad weather, and a populace inculcated to moving around in snow and ice. We get shitty weather like this once a year or less. The real issue is not with the 40 snowplows Atlanta acquired over the last two years (an increase of 1000%) or the limited number of sand spreaders (again, 10X as many as we used to have), or even the planning and response of government officials. Try to move 1.2 million people out of downtown on short-notice, via roads slick with ice and snow, with every driver trying to outsmart each other with GPS updates and Twitters to find the most effective way out… It is the perfect storm of human frailty and Mother Nature’s indifference.

I frequently joke with friends about people who will not “survive the zombie apocalypse”. This applies to people who cannot function without their smartphones, who complain when they lose a dollar in the soda machine, who complain that the Quincy’s buffett doesn’t have enough vegan and gluten-free options, and don’t know how to proceed at a four-way stop… basically anyone who cannot adapt to a change in their western-tech world and suffer inconveniences. People who will circle a parking lot for ten minutes waiting for a spot closest the store entrances. We all know the type. They are the ones who, when push comes to shove, when things go super sideways, when it is eat or be eaten… these are the ones who won’t make it, who will be the colossal casualties, the ones you just have to stay a little bit ahead of when the bears are chasing you.

Okay, it is not that extreme, but “zombie apocalypse” is a unique mythos in Western culture and entertainment. In a society where the haves out muscle the have-nots, there is a Puritan appeal to a cataclysm that separates people not along religious, financial, or ethnic lines, but on the raw, primal capacity for pure survival. Who is going to be smart enough, fit enough, resourceful enough, hard enough, and brave enough to be the few who come out on top. And it always come down character, a willingness to sacrifice and suffer privation, make hard choices, and function within a team or individually with equal adaptability. Around the country, there are genuine models for emergency services that play on the concept of a “zombie apocalypse” to train their staffs for how to plan, prioritize, and deliver services in the event of a calamitous cock-up, and they are finding uses in events of natural disasters.

Sitting at home, my baby in front of me, secure with food, water, formula, diapers, heat, firewood, gas, electricity and internet service, I contemplate whether I’m here because of good planning, or blind luck. Had I been among those stuck for 16 hours or more on frozen interstate, would I have been ready? I had a cup of coffee, half a bottle of water, a quarter-tank of gas and a spare sweater, and chargers for my phone. I had a “bug-out bag” of diapers, formula, blankets, etc., for the baby. Certainly enough for me to get home, but probably not sufficient to camp out had it been necessary. And lately I have given thought to the skills and characteristics necessary as an individual or a family or a community to survive a “zombie apocalypse”. It’s more than sorting out group dynamics, living on rats, knowing how to strike for the undead brain-stems, or dealing with angst, guilt, and remorse of a life passed. Do I have the raw, primal personal ability to separate wheat from chaff and concentrate on survival (which equals success).

“Zombies” don’t mean walking dead. Zombie Apocalypse just means an event that changes everything, that presents me with challenges and conflict and choices on how to deal with things. Unemployment could be a ZA. Divorce, cancer, hurricanes, infant illness, home invasion, changes in job leadership, job offers, fitness and obesity, and financial crisis can all be ZA’s. My goal is to think ahead about what I have to do to be ready for major changes, and not be a victim of them. Sure, there are things to do ahead of time to prepare in terms of savings, provisioning, considering the possibilities. But it’s also a matter of having a philosophy or concept of what to do or how to respond when the best laid plans go to hell in a shit-lined handbasket. Remaining open to options, going into unfamiliar territory, dealing with privation.

I think often in Life, as in the Zombie Apocalypse, the difference between crying “why me?” and saying “not me” is about asserting individual prowess over dependence on frail structures and conveniences. I am looking forward to what lessons this goal gives me.

On a good note, despite 1,200+ traffic accidents statewide during the storm, only 1 storm-related fatality and 1 roadside birth has b been reported.

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
"Dare Me"s 17 - 25

Hummmmm… when is the real fun going to start? I think if out of 365 things, I can perhaps do 90 really neat first time things, then it will be worth it finding piddling things to do for the first time every day.

17. Lunch at Einstein’s – Very good
18. Shelled and toasted pumpkin seeds
19. Tried Cinnamon Flavored Bourbon (meh)
20. Breakfast at Egg Harbor – Not bad
21. Made chocolate granola bars from scratch
22. Visit the Fulton County Library
23. Started watching “Ripper Street” – intriguing
24. Treated a burn with soy sauce
25. Was invited to help in setting up a nearby women’s shelter

Change the Energy (read all 49 entries…)

Before I became a dad, I thought being a dad would make me be the person I was meant to be.

Before I became a chef, I thought being a chef would make me be the person I was meant to be.

Before I became a husband (for the third time), I thought being a husband would make me be the person I was meant to be.

I can’t even say anymore who this person that I was meant to be was. I knew he was supposed to be stable with a job (✓), own a family-friendly house (✓), play it safe and take things easy (✓, ✓ and double ✓). All this I knew in part because people told me that was the way it was supposed to be. I saw it in the examples of my rebel friends who got bald, got fat, and settled down. They guys who were going to change the world ended up changing filters twice a year on the HVAC unit and sorting through the mail while walking up the driveway.

With each benchmark I achieved, however, I still felt lacking and empty. Not with the accomplishments; I am proud of my house and what we had to endure to get it; I enjoy my career and am glad I chose it; I love my wife and I’m grateful and happy we have stuck it out; I adore my daughter and relish the role of fatherhood. No, it has never been the getting or the having that has been at issue. More the feeling of a lack of overall purpose. As though the Fates had spun a web of meaning for me that I had fallen out of. I don’t think I was meant for great things, like a world leader or genius inventor or curer of diseases. But the feeling of being more has swathed me even as I move from achievement to achievement. Maybe it is in the things I give up on and don’t accomplish.

Maybe I grew up in a household under a paternal critic that taught me that nothing I did was ever good enough. Maybe it led me to believe that whatever I did, there was still something more important to do. Maybe we all talked so much trash about what we were going to do once we got out of Polk County, Florida, that I was the one that just never grew up, nestling fantasies of life and adventures away from that mundane lifestyle. Maybe in the process of starting over and over, I became transient in my spirit, ill-content with anything too long staid.

Or, maybe from fear, ignorance, conservatism, or lack of umph, I never took the steps to pursue my purpose, never recognized it when it came to knock, never followed when it beckoned, never dove off when it nudged. I think that, sometimes.

I think one of the saddest places on earth are cemeteries. Therein lie the greatest loves never realized, the greatest novels never written, the world-changing inventions never pursued, uplifting songs never put to voice, lives wasted rather than spent, and dreams never made real. Of course there are inspirations, too. Many examples of how 20, 30, or 40 years of life is still more than enough time to have a great and wonderful life, and a life of purpose and meaning.

Sometimes I feel like I clutch my purpose to me, tightly and restrictively. I am afraid to let it go out of fear it will sail away, or get batted down like a sparrow that flies too close to a cat. I gather it deep in my belly, certain that there will be time to let it flourish and grow. I feel I am fetally encased in protective sac, still in development. I am protected and secure from the world, and my energy is developing inside me. As soon as I reach this goal, or this benchmark, or this level of accomplishment, then I can birth myself from my egg and emerge, certain and purposeful. Once the stage is set, the great actor of the play can appear. Until then, let’s not risk rushing things. Let’s take it easy and safe and step by careful step. Let’s relish our backsliding and failures because it buys us more time to get things perfect. And it must be perfect before I can unfasten my grip on my tightly held sense of purpose. Perfect before I can force a fault in my protective shell.

Other times I think that I am just the kind of person who needs goals and ambitions. That the longing I feel is not emptiness but the need for a new challenge. I am living my purpose everyday and fulfilling it with each goal I make manifest. There is no great plan or design, there is only here, there is only this. My purpose is not what I am going to do, not what I intend to do one day. It is what I am doing right now, how I am living this moment. Therein lies my purpose. I think it a horrible thing to contemplate when I hear someone tell someone else: “you missed your calling” (even as a joke). I think sometimes that we struggle to live our purposes everyday, and when we don’t we know it deep inside.

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer climbs Mt. Springfield. At one point he exhaustedly reaches what he thinks is the top, only to find out it is just a ledge, and the summit is nearly out of sight. Despondent, Homer gives up and concedes to plant his flag only as high as he is willing to go. Driving the flag into the ice causes the whole summit to tumble and crash down, leaving Homer on what is now the highest peak of the mountain and having attained the summit after all. I always thought there was a philosophy lesson there, but I’m not sure how to phrase it. Except that in terms of purpose, it is my purpose, and not accountable to anyone else. I may see it as a high summit impossible to reach, until I decide that where I am right now is my purpose, and then that becomes my summit.

I am excited about this year. I believe it holds great potential and realizations. My energy is swirling around inside me, anxious for release and purpose. I don’t what what direction to send it in. I don’t know what the next great goal is. Hence, I feel a great roiling energy within me, ready to be released, and me within a egg, anxious to emerge. My ambitions are linked to and connected to all the fields of energy around me and in the Universe. If I can believe that everything I want to do or have or be already exists in some form of energy, and is already manifest in some part of the Universe, then I’d have to believe that the same goes for my purposes. Whatever I am going to do, whatever I am going to be, I am all of that already, I am doing it already. To realize this and make it manifest in my life, I need to tear myself loose from my embryonic sac of “self-development” and let the energy of purpose loose from my belly.

I can opt to keep struggling to the ever-receding summit, or I can choose to make my summit the now, and decide that I am already king of my mountain.

Read at least 52 books in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
1. Navy SEAL Training Guide: Mental Toughness by Lars Draeger

I picked this book up last year on a whim, and made it the first book I read in 2014. It describes the common factors that enable arguably some of the world’s toughest guys to complete the world’s toughest military training regimen, one that averages an 80% dropout rate of qualified candidates. At one time the U.S. Navy thought their recruits were just not fit enough for the demanding course, and put applicants on a fitness training schedule to improve their performance. They found that physical preparedness made practically no difference in the dropout rate. They then began to look at the psyche and mindset of these men who were surviving the cut. Turned out that when those lessons were studied and applied, trainees experienced lower dropout rates, greater overall success in the program, and better teamwork.

The common mental denominators that enabled these high-achieving men to complete the grueling, bone-crushing, mind-bending, soul-sucking training courses turned out to not be that unusual and unique. We’ve heard them all before, and they just make sense. It is the mindset of the professional athlete or the superstar performer or the Everest-scalers. It is neither foreign nor exclusive. Although some people may have more of a talent for it, it is still a skill that can be developed.

What got SEAL tadpoles through training, what kept them from quitting, wasn’t just a “soldier on” or “hoo-rah!” macho-man bravado. It was a process we are very familiar with: Goal setting (including SMART goals), mental imagery (envisioning success the way we do with a vision board), positive self talk (affirmations), and what the author calls “arousal control” (using techniques like meditation to affect a calm, ordered, detached, and purposeful state of mind in stressful situations).

I have known about these methods, and used them, many times. I have exerted mental toughness on my own and struggled through to get the results I wanted, and to persevere where others have quit or failed. But I have discovered that mental toughness, like a muscle, required regular and challenging work. And I have not been exercising it the way I should. Big desires and small ones fall because I don’t exert my own mental toughness, and the four traits that have proved successful, often enough. Sometimes I feel like a living metaphor for modern America: Overweight, under-educated, irrationally proud and self-content, and too comfortable. And I’ll stay that way until I am forced to rear up by some imagined insult or threat, or until someone tries to take my oil, or illegally cross my borders. Then I get narrowly focused and determined, and blunder forward like Pamplona bull herd through a Waterford warehouse. I could do with some SEAL discretion and proactiveness.

My own mental toughness has gotten me through culinary school and the machinations of management politics, through divorces and child adoption, through declaring bankruptcy and buying a house, and through various levels of health and fitness. But I also flounder on desires ranging from laundry to going back to school to losing weight. I know it is because I don’t exercise my mental toughness enough. It can sit and become weak and atrophied if not used regularly, which means it will fail me at the crucial time. Or, I will leap in and overwork it, and injure it as surely as I would tear a muscle or strain a joint from over-exercising.

There is a SEAL credo, one that harkens back to Sun Tzu, that says: “The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in battle”. If I take anything away from this book, it is that I have all the tools I need, and I have all the capability to be as mentally tough as I need to be. It is up to me to practice and train and exercise those capabilities and develop those skills.

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
2 Weeks Plus

Roasted Octopus and Greek Feta Salsa on Crostini, one of the appetizers on my James Bond Menu

11. Created a James Bond Themed Menu and Event and had my picture taken with a near naked girl covered in gold paint (the food and the event turned out great, with lots of compliments. Sadly, the room was too dark for it to be a decent picture with the golden girl…:( )

12. Built a high powered photo lamp for photographing food at home.

13. Built a DIY pullup bar and punching bag assembly.

14. Made sugar glass.

15. Took Universe to Urgent Care. (turned out to be nothing serious)

16. Brainstormed at a working lunch at Ri Ra Irish Pub with the sales/event staff. Never eaten there before. Not bad.

Try 43 Small-Batch Bourbons (read all 10 entries…)
#9, 10, 11 - Catching Up

I’ve been busy with baby stuff, but I have not forgotten to keep up with this goal. I sampled several bourbons over the holidays, but three stood out and made my list:

#9. Blanton’s Small Batch: I had a couple of glasses of this bourbon on the rocks at my cigar store. It starts off kinda sweet with tropical fruit notes, then quickly turns hot and peppery. The water from the ice enhances the caramel notes and overall makes this a nice, if not especially distinctive, sipping bourbon.

#10. Hooker’s House Bourbon: Tried this one on a lark while out with a buddy of mine. We were at a restaurant bar and the bartender tempted us with this Kentucky bourbon that has been aged 7 years and finished in Sonoma pinot noir wine barrels. Allegedly named after Civil War General “Fighting Joe” Hooker, the bourbon was rich and smokey, with fruity hints of apricot, cherries and cranberries. I got a distinct nuttiness from it, and a tinge of sour that no one else seemed to discern. A nice, potent, 100 proof that hurt-so-good. We probably would have been better off buying a bottle somewhere, since at $14 a shot (the first one was free, the next… hum, three or four or five we paid for) it is not a cheap drink. Worth it, though.

#11. Larceny Small Batch: Say hello to my little friend. This is my new go to bourbon for sipping, icing, mixing, bathing, whatever. Larceny’s legend is that John E. Fitzgerald, a bonded treasury agent during Prohibition, with keys to the barrel storage warehouse of confiscated spirits, regularly and surreptitiously “liberated” certain high quality barrels for his own consumption (and for good friends) (can I not emphasis enough how important it is to have the right friends in the bourbon world?) Larceny Bourbon is young at 6 years of aging, and is blended with a corn/wheat mash vs a corn/rye mash. It is a Kentucky straight at 92 proof and a brilliant, bright, coppery color with a fresh and invigorating aroma of toasted bread, toffee, chocolate, and butter. The flavor is slow and smooth, honeyed and hot, but not stabbing. Flavors build on each other rather than rushing and encroaching. Long finish and sweet to savor. Makes a great Old Fashioned, especially with the BBQ flavored bitters I recently acquired. I made a nice mint julep with muddled mint leaves, and had Larceny in a Derby while we were out. I also made a killer cocktail with ginger beer, orange slice, and muddled blackberries. I will be drinking on Larceny for a good long while, I think.

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
Measly List of Firsts

I’m not off to an especially exciting start. A lot of my “firsts” are work related, which is to be expected since I had a lot of work this week. I’ll be working all day tomorrow, too, which makes firsts difficult to achieve since so much of the day is meticulously planned out. I’m discovering that it is tough to either think of a first, or jump at the opportunity to do a first, without greater control over my daily life. Sure, I’d like to stop off and tour the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library… but I’d have to plan it, because to jump at the opportunity would mean that I am not doing something that needs to be done. It was tough just to find 10 things so far (some of them I feel are kinda weak, but are at least firsts). I have to keep this up until I cover 365 first time things.

3. Smoke weed (First time in over 20 years)
4. Made a PVC Pump to use in the garden this spring
5. Made homemade pop rock candy (baking soda and crystalized citric acid)
6. Made Flourless Chocolate Cake
7. Tenderized a boiled octopus (baking soda, again)
8. Laid floor tile
9. Signed off on a health inspection as the executive chef
10. Trained the baby to sleep in her bassinet – we now have our bed back for adult activities and cold-weather spooning.

The last one is probably the most significant!

Do Something for the First Time Every Day in 2014 (read all 6 entries…)
Plunge Into 2014

Hopena mentioned last month that she was reading a book called I Dare Me, by Lou Ann Cahn. Lou Ann found herself stuck in a rut, even though there was nothing “wrong” with her life. She had her career, family, children, friends… everything most people aspire to. What she didn’t have was a feeling of newness, of experiencing life. She felt like she was just going through the motions of daily routines. What she did to reboot her life and to get unstuck was make a promise. Every day for one year she would do something she had never done before (or had not done in a very long time). Practically nothing was pivotal or life-changing, it was all more life enhancing, which I think was her overall goal. 365 small, nearly mundane things, helped her derive more satisfaction and happiness in her life.

I myself have a long list of things I always wanted to do but never did. Ideas that sprung up and withered from a lack of follow-thru. A folder full of “ought-to’s” that never amounted to anything, because I was not driven to pursue them, or found myself distracted and too busy or too scared to go after them.

While I found the book somewhat mundane and Lou Ann’s stories less than exciting, I did find the idea of doing something new, something I had never done before in my life (or hadn’t done in a long time)revolutionary. Gone are excuses and reasons to procrastinate. Doing something new, experiencing what I have not yet experienced, can be a purpose and a goal itself, rather than an indulgence.

I’m kicking off 2014 with my own goal of doing something for the first time every day this year. One rule: actually engage upon something I can honestly say I’ve never done before, and do it every day. I’ve made out a list of about 85 items that I’d like to do, but that means I still have to come up with 240 other things. That is going to be a lesson in seizing opportunity when I see it. The discipline of that alone is worth the exercise. Other things will require some thought and planning.

To start things off, I did a Polar Bear Plunge into Lake Lanier. I’ve watched lots of people on TV going running into ice cold waters. I’m sure everyone had their reasons, mine would be that I want to push my limits of comfort and mental resilience. I signed up with the kayak/canoe club that has been hosting a January 1st plunge for 17 years. About 75 people gathered on the docks at the lake and one by one, or group by group, jumped into the murky, extremely cold water. The air temp when I jumped was about 39°F. At first it is like just jumping into a pool, but then a few seconds later the bite of the cold water hits you and all other thoughts get run out by the one thought that tells you to get to the ladder and pull yourself out of the water. My wife, witness to what she called my “craziness”, asked me if it was all I thought it would be. I told her yes, it was. It was freakin’ cold.

For my efforts I got a t-shirt. I also filled another listed first of entering a culinary competition. The club had a chili cookoff to go with the plunge, and I made a killer pot of chili. I did not win, and I was amazed at the chili that did win. It was flat and bland and relatively flavorless. As I packed up my chili, three of the judges came to me and said that my chili was their favorite, and I was definitely in second place. Non of them could understand what made the first place chili a winner, either. I chalked it up to club politics and was grateful that people enjoyed my dish.

Filling two goals on one day is something of a quandary, however. I feel like I should enter another culinary competition to let that be a stand alone goal. I think other, opportunistic firsts can be done several in a day, but one of them has to be the prime.

So, my year of firsts so far:

  1. Take a Polar Bear Plunge/Enter a culinary competition
  2. Learn to tie a bow tie

I’ll try and make weekly posts hereafter.

Change the Energy (read all 49 entries…)
The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

Welcome 2014!

At this site, on Facebook, and in other areas of my life, I am seeing a great resurgence of positive energies from people who are intent that this will be “the year” for them. I’m feeling it, too.

There is a scene from the movie The Edge where Hopkins’ character says: “If I get out of this, I’m going to live a different life.” To which Alec Baldwin’s character sardonically answers: “Go ahead… you be the first.”

Everyone intends to change their life. Everyone wants to achieve more of what they feel they are capable of. Me too. Me three, if I’m honest. And every year, we do change, a little or a lot. We change because we choose to or because we are forced to. Our best intentions can lie like litter on the street upon Life’s interventions, forcing us to one course or another. To quote “The Edge” again: “We’re all put to the test… but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?”

But this is my year. The groundwork and foundations laid after years of effort is going to support my efforts in 2014. I’m moving past the need to reconstruct, to retreat out of fear and uncertainty. I can summon into my life anything that I really want, and dissipate anything that I don’t want. I can’t control the how and when, and I’ve learned that I shouldn’t want to. If I can define my intentions, act in accordance with my desires, release myself from expectation, and receive with gratitude that which comes to me, then I will have everything I want, even the stuff I never thought to ask for.

The word for this year is Revolutionize. That means to radically or fundamentally change something. For me, it means to get off the block of trying to improve every negative thing I don’t like about myself or my life, and start focusing on the positive things I’m happy with. It doesn’t mean ignoring my cholesterol or weight or bank balance or relationships, it means turning my focus onto what I want those things to be, and to live in accordance with those intentions. That sounds simple for regular people, but for me it requires a 180° turn in my way of thinking, planning, and intending. And that is the amazing and exciting part; I only have to change my intentions. I only have to stop fighting and start accepting.

2014 is my year of lifestyle design, to live everyday and experience new things and to remain mindful of who I have become, not who I have yet to become (meaning, who I’m not). Through the practice of release and acceptance, I think I have no choice but to grow into the person I already am… if that makes any sense.

And although I do not expect everything to go perfectly in 2014, I can treat everything that happens as if it is all for my higher good. Call it the Zen of Letting Bad Things Happen. After all, what’s bad, exactly? Whatever happens this year (as much as I am humanly able) I am going to accept and be grateful for. And I’m going to use it like a supernova of awareness and realization.

I’ve lived in the dim, murky past. I’ve fumbled in the darkness to find my way to the light. In 2014, I’m going to wear shades all year long.

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