Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight,

 ...because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

Oh, this one makes such good sense to me.

I gained 25 pounds when I quit smoking 22 years ago. There were a combination of factors. I quit smoking. We moved to a house where I now had to drive everywhere instead of walk. And we moved to a location with convenient fast food nearby.

That last thing is HUGE. Prior to the move, fast food was a long walk away (it didn't make sense to drive. We were in a large metro area and driving was a pain). But after the move, I drove by a fast food place almost every day. It was so convenient, so easy, so simple ...

...so fattening. I didn't realize it until we moved to our current home and the weight kept adding on. Fast food was there, simple, easy ... I tried now and then to lose weight, but I never really put my heart into it. And that's what it takes. You. Have. To. Want. It. It's really that simple. You have to find a diet that works for you and stick with it. Counting calories has always worked for me. Very easy: count what goes in, count the exercise expended. Exercise should be more than calorie.

And I did it. I lost most of the weight. Yes, I gained some back, but overall: it's off. And it will stay off. Because I realized something very valuable about myself: given the chance, I will eat like a horse. And I can't afford to do that. It's really very simple. It's not whether or not I *deserve* that donut. I can't have it. Next question.

So think about it:if you haven't gained weight, try not to. And if you have, work at getting it gone. You'll feel better about it in the long run.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day...

Teach a man to fish and he'll sit in a boat drinking beer all day.

I don't understand hunting or fishing for sport. I can somewhat understand the enjoyment in pitting one's intelligence against a wild animal, but I don't understand how anyone can kill another creature.

Side note: yes, I eat meat. Yes, I know where it comes from. Yes, I know there are many places in the U.S. with inhumane animal handling plants that process my meat. I don't have an answer for this except I try to buy cage-free and organic when I can. It's a sop to my conscience, but there you are.

I just don't get the whole 'killing' thing. I don't understand how one can look at a creature which is as beautiful as a doe and kill it. I know they're urban nuisances (because humans have invaded their territory and killed off their natural predators, but don't get me started on that!) and I know that 'culling' is good for the herd.

But why do people get enjoyment out of it? I don't know. And you know what -- I'll just go out of my way to avoid those who do enjoy it. I'm not going to understand it; they're not going to understand me. Why give myself the stress? I'll just avoid 'em.

Now if they would sit in a boat and drink beer all day then eventually fall in ...


Monday, October 18, 2010

Letting the cat out of the bag...

... is a lot easier than getting the cat back in.

Or, another way to phrase it is: Think before you speak.

I found this out the hard way a few years ago. I was relatively new to publishing and when I got a lousy cover, I said to my editor at the time that I thought it was an inappropriate cover (yep. That's it).

I thought my editor would be on my side. But no! She was on the publisher's side. Said publisher did PANELS at various conferences about how little a cover matters. Said publisher did presentations on the subject. According to them, cover art isn't a draw for readers -- good writing is.


The long and the short of it? My editor decided she could no longer work with me and requested a transfer. I had 3 (or maybe it was 4) editors after that and I'm no longer submitting books to that publisher. And a good thing, too, since they're changing how they manage the mainstream branch of their publishing house (where my books sat).

The moral of the story? Think before you speak. But if you feel you have to speak, damn it, go ahead and speak. There may be fallout but it may be all for the better.

Only time will tell.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pain and suffering are inevitable

... but misery is optional.

Oh, I can attest to this one. I've been helping my elderly mother as she copes with emphysema. This is not a pretty disease. It saps your strength, it invades every waking moment of your day, and there is little anyone can do about it.

I'm 250 miles away, so it's hard for me to be with her a lot. I do go as much as I can, usually for a week at a time. I'm fortunate because I have a job where I can log in and work remotely, and I'm able to work around her doctor appointments, etc.

There are no good outcomes here, of course. This is a wasting disease and the most we can hope for is that she's comfortable. She's not happy being restricted like this. She's 91 and up until last year, she was totally active, in a restrained way: she played bridge 2 times a week, she went to club meetings, she could get her groceries. Now she sits in a chair and that's about it. Getting up and going to dinner is exhausting and takes it all out of her.

I hate to see this happen, but at least she's not miserable. She's not taking out her anger on the people around her. She's handling this with grace and dignity, and believe me, I appreciate that. Misery truly is optional, and she's doing every thing she can to keep her misery from washing over the people around her.

I can learn a lot from her. A lot.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Experience is what you get

 ...when you don't get what you want.

How often do you get what you want? I don't know about you, but I'm doing pretty good. I have a home, a good job, a steady income, relatively good health, a partner who is supportive, and a loving family.

Did I really *want* all those things? I'm not sure, now. I do know that I appreciate all those things. I know far too many people who don't have those: they're unemployed, or in a toxic relationship, or hate their job, or have poor health. Every time I spend time with those folks I come away with an appreciation of what I do have.

To be honest, I think I usually set my 'want' list to things that are attainable. I don't 'want to climb Mt. Kilamanjaro' and I don't 'want to take a 10-day hike'. I'm intrigued by people who do those things and I sometimes think, "Man, I should do something like that. I should travel to Bali or Bolivia and hike in mountains and eat perched by the side of the road."

Then sanity returns. My idea of camping is a hotel without WiFi. I do walk a lot (about 10K steps a day) but I'm not up for 20K steps for 10 days or more. I hate heat and humidity. I like having my 'things' around me.

Maybe that's why I don't worry about getting what I want -- I'm a pragmatist in setting goals.

What about you? Is something on your 'want' list that might not be attainable? How bad do you want it? If you REALLY REALLY want it, you'll probably drop a lot of other things off that Want List and go after it.

And if you're not willing to drop things...how bad do you want it?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tell me what you need...

.... and I'll tell you how to get along without it.
Have you ever been involved in a natural disaster? Did the power go off for days on end? Were you ever in a flood or a fire?

I've experienced an apartment fire, a 100-year flood, and more moves than I care to count. Okay. I counted. 27 moves in 33 years. Right now I'm on year 20 in my current house. A record for me. Seriously.

But I digress. If your life has ever been uprooted, you get a really good sense of what you NEED versus what you WANT. I'm sure you've heard this all before: our society is based on WANT. Our economy is focused around getting people to spend money on things they really don't need in order to keep the economy going. I don't know about you, but I used to feel a bit guilty if I didn't overspend at Christmas, or buy the latest gadget, or upgrade to the newest car.

Note I said "used to feel..."

A few years ago (quite a few, actually), I read a book called "Your Money or Your Life." It was a financial management kind of book that was recommended by a friend. Okay. I didn't read it. I skimmed it. What I got out of that book was this:

You work for money. You then spend that money. Figure out how much an item costs you, not in terms of money, but in terms of your time. In other words, how long did you work in order to afford to buy that item?

Now look at it this way: what if you're in a job you don't like? What if you feel your job is taking you away from something you would really, really like to do.

Now re-calculate those purchases with that in mind.

Everything comes with a price and it's not just the monetary price on the price tag. You are spending your time to make a purchase.

If that's the case: don't you think you should pause and consider before you make that purchase?

Here's your goal for today (or this week or month or year, depending on how you're reading this book):

Track your purchases for five days, making sure at least one of those days is a weekend day. Just jot down what you bought and what it cost. Set the list aside. Pull it out two weeks later. Evaluate the list: do you remember what you bought? Did it give you pleasure beyond the moment? Was the purchase a "need to buy" (lunch, groceries, etc.) or was it a "want to buy" (new CD, new shoes etc.)

Was it worth it?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Inch by inch, life's a cinch....

Yard by yard, life is hard.

I had one of those Panic Mode days today. This happens to me when I get behind at work. Keep in mind, 'behind' is a relative term. There's often just the appearance of being behind: I have a few emails stacked up, I have to evaluate what to work on, I need to prioritize and sort out what is important and what isn't.

Inevitably, when this happens, I end up feeling way stressed -- waaaayyyy stressed. I always have to take a deep breath, look at the Stack of Stuff, and just start digging through it. Usually an hour later I look up, realize I've accomplished a lot, and I start to relax. But there's always that initial "Oh, no!" Panic Mode.

I managed to avoid Panic Mode most of this summer. I deliberately turned my back on things that bugged me. I didn't rise to the bait when people posted annoying things. I kept my opinions to myself. I didn't do things that annoyed me (a lot of promotion, or exercising on days when I just damn well didn't want to). I gave myself a break. I relaxed.

What surprised me was how easy it was to slip back into Stress Mode. BUT -- and here's the biggie -- I can easily envision how easy it will be to slip back into Relax Mode. I've found that I accomplish almost as much when relaxed as when stressed. I used to think that being wound tight as a clock was the way to accomplish things.

Au contraire.

So I'm going to practice what I preach and relax today. I'm not going to panic. I've accomplished a few things already. Now I'm going to pick away at a couple of other things. And then I'm going to do what I want to do.

Can you do that? Can you shuffle the Stack so there's less stress? Maybe not today, maybe not every day, but ...

Try it. You might like it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's lonely at the top...

 ...but you eat better.

Having never been "at the top", I can't attest to this, but it appears to be true.

Notice I said 'appears'.

Do you know anyone who has more than you? Someone who's rich? Someone who takes interesting, expensive vacations? Someone who appears to have everything possible?

I do. There's a person (or two or three) I know who own vacation homes in Florida; they take R&R spa vacations at swanky resorts. They don't work outside the home and they go boating, water skiing, and jet off to Europe whenever the whim strikes.

And yet I've heard these people lament about how hard their lives are. How stressed they are. How tough it is to be happy. How they *need* that spa vacation because life has been so unbearable lately. My response (not to their face) is always bitter incredulity. What color is the sky on their planet? I realize it's all a matter of perspective -- maybe there's something hidden that we in the public don't see, but really ... on the face of it, how 'unbearable' could it be?

People like that are toxic, as far as I'm concerned. They exist to annoy you. They have a twisted view of the world. They purport to know how others feel, but *their* feelings are far more important. Their feelings about losing a game of tennis, about arguing with their spouse, about coping with recalcitrant children, are comparable to feelings of traumatic loss in others.

The best you can do is ignore them. If possible, whack them (see a previous post about Whack People). And if you can do neither, avoid them. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of peeve.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Experience is what you get

... when you don't get what you want.

How often do you get what you want? I don't know about you, but I'm doing pretty good. I have a home, a good job, a steady income, relatively good health, a partner who is supportive, and a loving family.

Did I really *want* all those things? I'm not sure, now. I do know that I appreciate all those things. I know far too many people who don't have those: they're unemployed, or in a toxic relationship, or hate their job, or have poor health. Every time I spend time with those folks I come away with an appreciation of what I do have.

To be honest, I think I usually set my 'want' list to things that are attainable. I don't 'want to climb Mt. Kilamanjaro' and I don't 'want to take a 10-day hike'. I'm intrigued by people who do those things and I sometimes think, "Man, I should do something like that. I should travel to Bali or Bolivia and hike in mountains and eat perched by the side of the road."

Then sanity returns. My idea of camping is a hotel without WiFi. I do walk a lot (about 10K steps a day) but I'm not up for 20K steps for 10 days or more. I hate heat and humidity. I like having my 'things' around me.

Maybe that's why I don't worry about getting what I want -- I'm a pragmatist in setting goals.

What about you? Is something on your 'want' list that might not be attainable? How bad do you want it? If you REALLY REALLY want it, you'll probably drop a lot of other things off that Want List and go after it.

And if you're not willing to drop things...how bad do you want it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

When someone annoys you, it takes 42 muscles to frown.

But it takes only 4 muscles to extend your arm and whack them on the head.

There are some people who deserve a whack on the head. Let me just make that clear from the start. I don't subscribe to the notion that everyone is good and anyone who appears bad is just not understood. With some people -- even after understanding them, I dislike them and wish I could whack them on the head.

I wish there was an absolutely, fool-proof way to determine if someone is guilty of a crime. If there was, then I could be a total supporter of punishment that matches the crime. As it is, though, we need that bit of doubt to make sure the innocent aren't punished as well.

I have found that it's best if I try to avoid the people I want to whack. I just don't have patience for them, nor can I be polite around them. It's too easy to bait them and find ways to make fun of them instead of whacking them. Then I feel bad for baiting them or engaging in angry discussions or whatever.

Whack people can really interrupt your life. Just don't let them have that control. Walk away. But if you can get in a whack first ... go for it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Money can't buy happiness ...

 ... but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

I recently saw an article where Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (two of the richest people in the world) are trying to get their fellow billionaires to donate 1/2 of their wealth to charity.

My initial response was, "Well, yay!"

Then I thought: Wait a minute. Shouldn't that be a given? If you make a gazillion dollars a year, shouldn't you donate a boatload of it to some worthwhile cause.

Then I thought (lots of thinking that day): Why do I think that? If a person earns a gazillion dollars, why should they donate it somewhere? I donate a lot of money (a surprising amount, really), but it's easy: I have it automatically deducted from my check and/or credit to a credit card. I don't realize how much I'm donating until I get to tax time and I tally it up and look at the total in surprise.

And you know what I almost always say? "I could have done better."

Wealth truly is a relative term. Some people I know make barely minimum wage but they appear to be happy. Yes, they'd like more money as a cushion, but it isn't essential for their happiness. And I know some rich people whom I suspect are not as happy as they seem. They seem to be striving for ... something missing from their lives.

I think, more to the point, is the idea of 'misery'. True misery can be mitigated by money. Money can buy housing, or medical care, or peace of mind. It can't buy happiness, but it can buy a respite from anxiety.

Think about your own life. Do you truly feel 'misery' in any aspect? Would money help that? Or is your misery of your own making? And if it isn't ... is there some way to turn 'misery' into 'discomfort' (ignore me if you have a serious disease, etc. -- you're on the Special List).

Misery can be helped by money. Can your money help someone else's misery? And if you do donate it, how does that make you feel? I donate because it makes me feel good. How about you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Women think men will change after marraige. Men think women won't.

They're both wrong.

I recently celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband and I went out to dinner and I said, "Who would have thought, 25 years ago, that we would be sitting here, eating this, and talking about that?"

I walk a fine line between optimism and pessimism. I think of myself as a pragmatist, but I always have a sneaking hope for the best to happen and will strive to make that happen. My husband is an unabashed pragmatist. His feeling is that he'll give something 100%. If things don't work out the way he thinks they will, he'll walk away without a backward glance.

I won't say we've been lucky in our marriage. We've had to work to make things, well, work, and we still have bumpy times. But we don't argue bitterly, we don't fight over money, and we manage to get along pretty well, day in and day out. I married him after a divorce, when I was in my 30s. He was in his late 20s and, as he put it, 'tired of the dating scene.' I think we found each other at the right time: we both had ideas of what we wanted in life and when we found someone we could share with, we decided that was the right thing to do.

I know of many people in what I call 'toxic relationships.' They don't have a supportive spouse, or they tiptoe around their spouse, or they don't share the same views on some pretty important issues. That makes their lives not really their own. They end up worrying so much what someone else will think that they lose track of what's important to them.

Is someone in your life supportive...or not? How does that color your perception of the world? Is that relationship essential to your life? If negative, is there any way it could be changed? Imagine your life different than it is now.

Is that worth considering?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Never attribute to malice...

 ....that which can be explained by stupidity.

I would amend this saying, perhaps, to: "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by a lack of empathy." How hard is it for you to envision how other people feel? If you can't imagine how someone feels, then it's hard to imagine how you can hurt them (or offend them, etc.)

I'm not saying that you need to walk around trying to not offend people (sometimes it's just going to happen). But if you do offend someone and are surprised by it (or accused of being malicious), think about it. Is someone being over-sensitive or were you being stupid?

This happens a lot with e-mail. It's very easy to offend someone using email because there's no facial expressions (okay, there's smiley faces, but...), there's no tone of voice, and there's no one-to-one give-and-take. Once words are put into writing it's very hard to mitigate their meaning.

A friend told me about being at a swimming pool one day. Two teenaged girls started to fight -- kicking, screaming, pulling hair, pushing under the water fighting. Turns out one girl (girl A) told Girl B that Girl B was rude and not very nice to be around. So Girl B proceeded to try to drown Girl A. Girl A didn't just volunteer this info: Girl B had demanded to know why she (Girl B) had few friends. When Girl A told her, Girl B pitched a fit.

Well, duh.

Look at your life. Think about it. For better or worse, we have to get along with people. We can do without people in our lives, but they do intersect now and then.

Are the intersections going the way you want?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you think there is good in everybody...

...you haven't met everybody. 

Some people are just a waste of skin. Let's face it. This goes along with the "it only takes a few muscles to slap someone" idea. But this one goes a bit farther.

Be honest. There are people whom you think should be dead. For whatever reason: you read about them in the news, or they did something horrific (a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile), or they cheated a bunch of people or...

There's a lot of them out there, aren't there? I've often wondered if society has always been so laden with evil or if it's escalating, somehow. Or is it just the media? Do we hear more about these things nowadays?

How do people like that fit into a 'Zen' life? I've always felt that they served as contrast. It's the old "there but for the grace of God" idea. If you consider it, your birth truly was a random event. You were born in a certain country at a certain time of civilization and you had access to certain opportunities. Whether or not you could or would take advantage of those opportunities is irrelevant for this discussion (not irrelevant for your life, of course). The fact that the opportunity was THERE is totally out of your hands.

I often thank Whoever that I was born in the United States and not Bosnia or a Muslim country or somewhere that women are repressed. I don't know what I would have done if I were born into that kind of life. Perhaps I would have accepted it. But worse -- what if I didn't want to accept it? What if I rebelled? What if ...

Think about it. It may sound hokey, but count your blessings. It could be soooooo much worse. And you know, if you think you don't have any blessings--think again. Trust me. You do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A dog is just a dog unless he is facing you...

Then he is Mr. Dog.

It's all about perception, isn't it?

How often have you looked at something and thought, "Wow. Cool. I wish I had that." Or looked at something and thought, "Lame. Who would want that?"

It's way too easy to simply dismiss what we see based on our own mindset. It takes a bit more work to put yourself in those shoes. The shoes of ... Mr. Dog.

Think about it. You're walking down the street and you see a stray dog. Ho, hum. Yep, there shouldn't be any stray dogs in the world and that's too bad. You see his collar. Okay, somebody 'owns' him and he got loose or was let loose or...

Then he turns and faces you. Suddenly it isn't just a stray. It's a dog, facing you down in the middle of a street. You suddenly pray that whoever owns this dog has kept up on the rabies shots, etc. You hope this dog has had good socialization with those owners. You hope the owners aren't someone who beats a dog and says it's justified because the dog is 'property.'

What is the dog thinking? Now that's the tough part. You don't know his background, you don't know his baggage. All you can do is approach him with your own baggage, your own thoughts, your own way of acting. If it was me, I'd be friendly. If my friendship was rebuffed, I'd walk away. And if he looks like he'll attack, I'd either find a fast way to retreat or find someone to help me.

Now that I think about it, that's a good way to deal with people, too. Do you deal with toxic people on a daily basis? What are some of your coping mechanisms? What works? More importantly: what doesn't?

Who is Mr. Dog in your life? And when you run into Mr. Dog, how do you react? Is it always the best way? Can you learn from encounters in the past that weren't always productive?

And think about this: do you seem to attract the Mr. Dogs of the world? If you do ... why? Are you okay with that? Or can you change some behavior or facet of your outward-facing personality to make sure those people don't attach to you. And if you can't change it ... are you okay with the fact those toxic people are attracted to you. They won't change. You'll have to be the one to change it.

Think about it. Before blaming another person for ruining your day .... is it Mr. Dog's fault?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How old would you be ...

... if you didn't know how old you were?

It's odd. When I was younger, I was more worried about 'acting my age.' Now that I'm <ahem> older, I don't worry much about it. I think, as I've gotten older, I've realized that we are responsible for our lives -- what we do and don't do with them. If I worry about what others think, that often hampers me from doing what I want.

Have you ever done that? Have you considered an action only to back away lest people think you're odd, or flighty or brusque or ...

We can't always disregard what others think, of course. A little bit of empathy goes a long way -- please, THINK, before you crank up that stereo or talk on your cell phone or drive like an idiot. But other times...

Has anything ever held you back? Why? Why is the opinion of others important to you? Are you mentally comparing your life to theirs? What do they have that you don't have? Maybe more importantly -- WHY do they have it? Did they make decisions based on what others thought? Or did they do what they felt was right for them?

Consider it...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You can go anywhere you want...

... if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

It's funny, but I've found that if I look confident, I can pull off just about anything. It's all in the way you meet another person's gaze and don't look away. Inside you may be churning, but if you look like you know what you're doing, you'll be perceived as being competent (at least) and a rock star (at best).

Think about it: let's say someone asks you to work on a project. My first covert reaction to things like that is "Who do they think I am? Why am I being asked to do that? I don't know anything about that. I can't pull that off."

My overt reaction is to nod and say, "Can I get some more details? What would that entail?" I jot notes, I look confident, I nod, and then I go back to my desk and...

I set it all aside for at least a few minutes. I take a walk, even just to the bathroom. I get a cup of coffee. I think about it. Can I really do it? Why was I asked? Well, probably because they thought I could do it. I wonder why they thought I could do it. Maybe because I've done stuff like this before.

Hmm. What have I done before? Let's break this into small pieces. What's the first goal, the first milestone, the first piece of the puzzle? Start breaking it into pieces and look at it that way, rather than as an overall Big Project. Before you know it, you've figured out how to accomplish the pieces.

If you accomplish enough pieces, you accomplish the project.

Have you ever walked away from something because you were sure you couldn't do it? Did you break it into pieces? Did you walk away because you knew you couldn't do it or because you didn't have the backing of others?

Was that backing essential?

What would have happened if you tried and failed?

Always look at Best Case Scenario and Worst Case. Usually the 'worst' isn't really as bad as we think. And the Best isn't as good as we think. Reality is somewhere in between.

Next time you're asked to do something that you quail at doing, pick up your clipboard, smile, and make some notes. I'll bet you can do it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inside every fat woman...

... is a skinny woman screaming because she's hungry.

I'll bet this one resonates with a lot of people, doesn't it? I think just about everyone I know has at least one 'fat day' now and again. Of course, it's all about self-perception, isn't it? If I stand next to one person, I feel fat. If I stand next to someone else, I feel thin. The answer, of course, is to stand next to overweight people and...

No, that's not the answer. The answer is to change your mindset about weight. The government has given us guidelines on what constitutes a healthy life, but let's face it: it's not going to happen. Who has an hour a day to exercise? Who has two hours a day to shop for healthy food and prepare healthy meals? Yes, yes, yes, there are all sorts of shortcuts: make mega meals on the weekend and heat 'em up during the week. Get up earlier to get to the gym. Incorporate exercise into your day.

I'll tell you what worked for me, and I speak from experience: I lost 40 pounds in one year, and I did it this way:

1. Change your attitude about food. Food is fuel. You don't need a field hand's lunch (i.e., a Big Mac, fries, and shake) in order to sit at a desk and type.

2. See #1. Eat according to your needs, not your wants. There are bunch of programs on the market to help you figure this out (I use "Lose It" on the Iphone). Figure out what calories you need to get through the day and, hopefully, lose a little bit of weight at a time.

3. See #2. Plan to lose a half-pound or a pound a week, max. If you do that, it'll stay off because *you will have changed your eating habits*.

4. During the week, stick to your plan. Eat small meals (I eat the same thing for lunch every day. Boring? Yes. Easy to count the calories? Yes.) On the weekend, deviate in small ways: splurge on one meal for that Big Mac. Get a hot fudge sundae. But ONLY on the weekend.

5. Move around. Exercise every day. I get in between 7000 and 10,000 steps a day. I do one walk at noon (1/2 hour or 45 minutes). The rest of the time I get up every hour, I take the 'long way' to the coffee pot, I park far away from the door.

The biggest change I made: I don't make excuses. I don't say, "I can't do that because..."-- "I can't do that because I"m busy" or "I can't do that because I don't have time."

Now I say, "I wonder how I can..." as in, "I wonder how I can get in more steps today?" or "I wonder how many calories that has? If I eat just half, then..."

Think about the excuses/reasons you make for not doing the healthy thing. Figure out a way around THAT and you'll be on your way to weight loss.

I'll talk more about what is 'healthy' and self-image in another post. This is long enough for now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When life hands you lemons....

...use them to squirt juice in the eyes of your enemies. 
               --Happy Bunny

You thought I was going to say "make lemonade," didn't you? Well, I don't know about you, but I think revenge might be more fun than sipping a cool summer beverage. Of course, if I was going to make a beverage with lemonade, I'd make a Bourbon Sling (recipe below).

What does this have to do with Zen-ness? How can those who strive for Zen have revenge in their hearts?

Remember when I said this blog was about "Zen in the Real World"? Sorry, but there will always be a small kernel of "I hope she gets what's coming to her" in all of us. It's hard to celebrate the successes of people you don't like. It's almost as hard as celebrating the successes of people you do like.

More to the point, though, is the term 'enemies'. How do you define that? I tend to divide people into the following groups:
  • Group A: people I like. They have flaws, faults, and can be exasperating at time, but overall: I enjoy being with them.
  • Group B: people I don't care for. They may be loud, obnoxious, boring, or depressing. I try to avoid them.
  • Group C: everybody else. Believe me, the vast majority of the world is "everybody else." These are people you have to get along with for some reason, or people who cross your path, briefly or not. They can sometimes be group A and oftentimes group B. These are those unknown people who 'friend' you on Facebook or who follow your tweets on Twitter. You don't really know them, you're not sure you want to know them, but they're out there and you'll deal with them if you must.

Notice I didn't mention "enemies." I don't want to give anyone that kind of power over me. I don't want my emotions about anyone to control my perception of reality (you knew I'd get back to some Zen crap, didn't you?) If you let your emotions about a person (their unfair raise, their achievements, their wealth) twist your day, then they've won a little victory over you. So don't worry about them: don't compare yourself to them, don't envy their successes, and don't worry if you're not like them. They're probably in Category C, and if they are: they, like all things, will soon pass from your life. Don't sweat it.

And now, here's what you've been waiting for: the Bourbon Sling recipe.

1 tsp superfine sugar
2 tsp water
1 oz lemon juice *
2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 twist lemon peel

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and bourbon. Shake well. Strain well. Strain into a highball glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

* Reserve some juice to squirt in the eyes of your enemies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How This Got Started

I originally was going to compile a bunch of small essays into a book and self-publish it. Then I thought, "Hey, why not just blog instead? If people start to follow it and like it, well, then I'll do the book thing. Until then I'll have fun, though."
So here we are. My thoughts on Zen in the Real World. Oh boy. I can hear you now. Another take on Zen. Being Zen. Breathing. Living the Zen life. Stress-free living.

Ho hum.

Nope. This is different. This is how to be Zen in the Real World. I won't suggest you quit work, go 'back to nature,' take 3 hour walks, or give up your car. I will suggest you look at what you do and consider it.

The sub-title to this is "Crap that Bugs Me." I probably should have called it "People Who Bug Me" but I didn't want to get too personal. In truth, though, this writing stems from my reaction to people who write about their Zen-like objectives, or who blog about their carefree lives. I realize that maybe there's a hidden part to their lives I don't see, but they present what I call the "Golden Facade" to the world. Everyone has different kinds of people who bug them, but I suspect you'll recognize some of the types in my essays. I tell you how I learned to turn off the negative vibes I got from them and how to accept them (somewhat) into my life.

This has come about by borrowing bits and pieces from a lot of books I've skimmed over the years. The operative word is 'skimmed.' I ultimately don't sit down and read a work of non-fiction. I skim through it, looking at chapter titles, headings, italics, etc., trying to glean the meat of the book without having to invest my time, energy, and thought in it. I don't really mind spending the money, but I do make sure I spend the other 'intangibles' wisely (time, energy, thought).

I admit, it's not the best way to absorb information. And you know what? I'm okay with that. There is so much information out there, that I can't easily determine what is good inforrmation and what is crap. So I skim, hoping to find a few gems here and there.

This blog is set up for skimmers like me. I have one suggestion, though: read one 'essay' at a time. Read them in any order, randomly or in order, doesn't matter. That's how I wrote them. Each essay starts with a fortune cookie saying or some other phrase that caught my attention.

Why? Because there are small gems of wisdom in fortune cookies. Sometimes they're crap, yeah, but often there's something there that I can learn from. And I'm passing that learning on to you. I set up a file with each phrase/expression and stuck them all in a folder. Then each day I chose one at random and I wrote whatever popped into my head.

I promise, it's going to be about a 5-minute exercise. I'll provide you with some questions to consider throughout the day. What do you get out of it? Hopefully, a better understanding of how you spend your time, energy, and money. And by understanding that, you may see some ways to simplify, discard, or change what's bugging you.

And if you don't learn anything-- well, hey, you wasted 5 minutes a day. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty darn sure I've wasted at least 5 minutes a day on a somewhat regular basis.

Hmm. Something to consider? Have I wasted my 5 minutes yet?