On learning a basic equation

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Now that I’m a certain age, I get surprised less and less. Fewer things stop me in my tracks and cause me to take stock of what’s around me and appreciate all that I have…and the saddest truth is that the older I get the things that tend to stop me all too often are tragic.

Sounds like getting old is a real bummer.

Only it isn’t. If you keep your mind and heart open to new possibilities.

This morning, an Aha! Moment happened to me, and it was when I was doing a morning scan of social media no less. So the first lesson here is to always be paying attention, because you never know when you might find something.

Anyway my epiphany came thanks to a Facebook post by “Becoming Minimalist,” a health and wellness website that I follow for the occasional feel-good nudge. I’ll read something pithy, something that makes me go hmmm… and whatever it is serves to provide a gentle, necessary, and all-too-often short-term attitude adjustment about whatever it illuminates. Today was different. The post (which was not of great interest) included this quote by Brennan Manning* (which made my morning):

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

Let that sink in for a second—there is no neutral exchange—and then think of the implications.  100% of the time, this “rule” applies to us. And 100% of the time it gives us the power to choose.

That’s huge.

This mindset isn’t limited to either our professional lives or our personal lives. It presents an unbounded challenge to each of us, to be aware of our role in every interaction, and to acknowledge that every one of those interactions has consequences—both seen and felt by us and seen and felt by others. And often times our actions have consequences that are entirely unbeknownst to us.

So while I get (kind of) the ongoing debate about whether one can choose to be happy or not, this is a little bit of a twist on what and how we choose. As a rule, I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume negative intent…yet they still seem to drain my battery or suck the life out of me. However, reflecting on that quote reminded me that while there’s nothing I can do about them, I can do everything and anything about me. And maybe, someday, it will influence them. Maybe. Maybe?

I urge you to consider this emotional equation when you have your next encounter, be it conducting a big deal at work, facing a personal conflict, or undertaking an innocuous everyday event like buying a coffee…and remember that there is no neutral exchange. Challenge yourself to step up and to give life in whatever form it takes for you. Whether you give extra energy, a smile, a hug, a thank you…whatever it is…you’re giving life…and everyone who is part of the exchange will come put on the other side with a fuller tank…no matter what.

*Brennan Manning, American author, is best known for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. To find out more, a Google search is a good way to go.

 

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Remember Where You Came From

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So…not sure if this is a rant or a lecture or a PSA or something else but it’s definitely not a normal blog post. Read all of it or some of it or none of it. I don’t care. Look at all or some or none of the pictures. Still don’t care.

I’ve had a bit of free time and some surprise peeks of sunshine yesterday so I set about on foot, on what I expected would be a very Griswoldian tour of DC’s highlights.Before I knew it it had converted into a fairly maniacal patriotic quest, fueled by a strange combination of frustration and possibility.  

It started at the Newseum where I counted 6 newspapers that featured headlines other than the debate. Inside the news museum I saw artifacts of terror, headlines through the years, and an eye-popping gallery of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.  

I had stops at the brand-new National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the National Holocaust Museum, where I saw tear-jerking and painful recollections of barbarism and oppression and horror…and of triumph and victory.

I passed by monuments of great people, of Washington and Jefferson and FDR and MLK. And I passed by memorials of nation-shaping events, like WWII and Korea and Vietnam.  

I read inspirational quotes, saw people moved to sobs, and all the while felt the sun on my face. In it all I thought, “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” And I started pretty much to dry heave when I realize that I see us repeating it now. I see a presidential candidate wanting to make America great again when it never stopped being great. I see anger and blame and selective amnesia when it comes to the countless sacrifices that have given us a license to bitch. But enough already.

Stop the complaining and the rhetoric and the bullshit. Be kind. Be happy. Take care of each other. And God bless America.






Service. Selflessness. Sacrifice.

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I’ve been AWOL.  I know.  After I went to San Francisco (great trip, if you ever go, try the happy hour at the The Tipsy Pig), I went back to the West Coast, to Palo Alto…then to Tampa…where I managed to find time to squeeze in a training plan-mandated 10-mile run…home for 36 hours which gave me enough time to do laundry and visit my nephew in the hospital (blood infection of unknown origin that thank God wasn’t MRSA; he’s ok now) before hoping a flight to Indianapolis.  Since I’ve been back I’ve been catching up on work and life and while I was away I was just keeping my head above water.  Oh, and I ran my fifth half marathon, setting a personal worst, but at a time that was in my “acceptable” range.  2:09:50; anything 2:20 or up woukd have been considered a failure.

Sounds like a bunch of b.s. excuses to me.  Maybe, maybe not.  Who cares?  So this post is long overdue and probably will be pretty random.  I don’t know.  I’m in bed drinking coffee…listening to the rain…happy for the day off…wondering whether my sister will respond to my “Go out for breakfast?  My treat?” text…I don’t know what I’ll say, exactly…

You probably know I try to be mindful, but yesterday I started a special program at the office, Mindfulness at Work.  So in addition to logging a redemptive quality to each and every day, I’ll now be practicing mindfulness actively, per the office program.   So anyway, despite the awareness of the importance of mindfulness, there are a lot of scattered thoughts I need to lasso in here.  Apropos of something (because is anything ever apropos of nothing?):

  • I’m afraid that–if the Today Show teasers are any indication–this upcoming reunion of the cast of Willy Wonka will give me more nightmares than seeing the Oompah Loompahs did was I was a kid. 
  • Life is too short, bad things happen to good people, and deep faith goes a long way.  So do compassion and empathy.
  • It’s possible to find a job that you love.  Don’t settle.  Every day I work with committed, dedicated, passionate, caring people.  In seven months my life has been wildly enriched by the people I’ve met in my new job.  Even when I don’t know what time zone I’m in, I know I’m surrounded by good.
  • There’s a Mexican proverb that goes like this: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Remember that when things get cold and dark and you’re feeling tamped down.
  • Mainstream media is a perfect reflection of all that is wrong with society.  We seem to have lost a sense of focus and commitment and value.  The Starbucks Cup contrv easy kind of sums it all up.
  • The presidential race is a disaster.  It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, the house is burning and you’re desperate to get out safely.

And on this Veterans Day I’ll end by givng a personal thank you to all Veterans–for the service, selflessness, and sacrifice that supports my freedom, the freedom to be and do the things that allow me to be mindful and centered and happy.  Mindfully exercise the freedoms they give you today and every day.  Don’t take this or any of the gifts you’re given for granted; I suspect you’ll find that it makes you a little happier.

Snowbservations, Continued: Number 11

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The list from an earlier post grows with this: 

 11) When someone stops and waves you out, smile broadly.  Wave vigorously.  Holler thank you.  Show a shred of gratitude. 

 Gratitude.  Probably one of the more taken-for-granted things out there.  Remember to practice gratitude regularly.  It does wonders in shaping one’s attitude, perspective, and outlook.      

I’m not telling you what to do, but I’m suggesting you try.  They say that it’s not the happy people who are grateful but rather the grateful people who are happy.

Take that food for thought and nibble on it, please.

Snowbservations, Random Order

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We’re socked in in the Northeast, 7+ feet of snow in three weeks. I have no idea what the back of my house looks like. My pool cover, advertised as strong enough to hold an elephant, appears not strong enough to hold all this snow. Tempers are short. Snow banks are tall.

Here are some things that I’ve observed from my vantage point, while driving around town feeling like I’m inside a ginormous come of vanilla soft serve:

1) I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Four-wheel DRIVE does not equal four-wheel STOP. If you’re up my ass and hit a patch of ice it doesn’t matter squat whether you have rear-wheel or 100-wheel drive. So back off. And slow down.

2) Having a plow on the front of your truck does not provide immunity from following basic traffic rules and regulations.

3) Chances are that you had to inch out from behind a ginormous snowbank at some point today. Keep that in mind when you choose between leaning on the horn and giving me the finger me or stopping and cutting me a break while I’m trying to inch out from behind one of my own.

4) If you live in or are on vacation somewhere warm, I’m very happy for you. I don’t need to see pictures of your good time right now. I’ll like them all when you do post them, just please keep them to yourself until August or so.

5) Brush the snow off of your effing car.

6) If your life circumstances compel you to drive on a major highway with an oversized mattress tied to the roof of your undersized car, think about using your hazards and popping over to the right lane.

7) Pedestrians. Walking in the road. Wearing black. At night. Headphones on. Heads down, texting. Hello? And WTF?

8) Good manners are always in style. Do unto others. Don’t be an a$$hole. Stuff like that. Stick to the basics.

9) We’re all in the same boat, or rather we’re all on the same toboggan. So when someone asks how you are or whatever, don’t state the obvious. It’s snowy for everyone. Cold for everyone. Bad driving. Etc. Etc. Etc. Try “Great, thanks” and smile. Actually feels good.

10) If you are driving and must drop off or pick up a passenger, please do not do so in the middle of an intersection…especially if the light is green.

Straight temperature are single digits, wind chills below zero. Ice everywhere. It would be so easy to be miserable.

But…

…I have a choice.

The days are getting longer. It’s light well after 5pm.

The roads are a mess, so running outside is out of the questions; I joined a gym.

And I’m choosing to focus on the pretty. Like this:

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I leave you with Walt Whitman:

“Happiness, not in another place, but this place…not for another hour, but for this hour.

Find the happy, in this place, in this hour.

Recharging…

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It’s MLK Day, so we’ll start with his words: “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

What’s right isn’t always what is easy.

For me, the last week was spent recharging my batteries. It was easy, and it was right. And now I’m ready for what is hard and what is right…facing life, staring it down, making good choices, and feeling alright.

So go feel alright, now!

PPB: Primarily Plant-Based

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Vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, freegan, whole foods, plant-based, gluten-free, no sugar, organic, low-carb, Paleo…seriously, what am I supposed to eat? Not even a diet of water and supplements is safe!

I’m landing squarely in the “mindful eating” camp, the place where informed decision making and good choices reign supreme. It’s no different than life, for crying out loud. Educate yourself. Make smart choices. Be forgiving of yourself. But push and challenge yourself too.

I love meat. Nothing like a good steak. And I pride myself on my ability to really get my money’s worth out of an already-cheap rotisserie chicken from BJ’s. But at the same time I’m aware of the drawbacks of eating too much meat. Too much anything. Of simply eating too much. I come at this now from a point of exercising a bit less (ugh!) and weighing a bit more (double ugh!) (and weighing more but still in my acceptable range) and as I type I realize that I am always going to have to be vigilant and attuned to what I am doing…even if it’s understanding and accepting some not-so-good choices.

Finding new recipes and feeling like I’m getting the right nourishment and all that is a great challenge. It’s fun trying new things. I’m making my own nut milks and nut butters. I’ve given my new Veggetti a good workout. And I’ve also adapted some of my long-time favorite recipes to be meat-free.

Here’s a favorite, and instructions are how I did it yesterday (it varies):

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
Serves 8

Heat a small layer of water in the bottom of a saucepan and add diced onion (1, sweet), peppers (2, one red and one orange), and jalapeños (2, unseeded, but I like hot stuff) and start sautéing it. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and some hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot).

Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of dry quinoa according to package directions. When it is done, add it to the veggies, and add another dose of spice (chili powder, cumin, etc.). Give it a stir and let it sauté for a bit. Then add two cans of rinsed and drained black beans (for me it was Goya low sodium), two 14 oz-ish cans of diced tomatoes, two 32 oz cans of kitchen-ready to orators, a helping of the spices, and let it simmer for a while. Until it’s hot and you can’t wait any longer! I serve mine with Trader Joe’s FF sour cream and some shredded Mexican cheese blend.

Yum. And super-healthy. Per MyFitnessPal? 392 calories, assuming the pot makes 8 servings. Enjoy!l

Remember, you are the only one lucky enough to be you, so don’t squander that opportunity. Go. Start. Now. Do. Be. Just go.