What Were They Thinking?

I was sharing an older post from this Blog with a friend when I realized I haven’t written anything here since last November. Lack of inspiration? More like lack of simple discipline. Throughout my life I’ve been quite good in practicing the gentle art of procrastination. I’ve stumbled upon this observation by Oliver Burkeman.

Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you’re procrastinating on as passing weather, you’ll realise that your reluctance about working isn’t something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and act anyway.”

Indeed. Most prolific artists, writers, and innovators are successful because they have work routines that force them to put in a certain number of hours a day, no matter how uninspired. Burkeman pointed out an observation of the renowned artist Chuck Close; “inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work”

In addition to procrastination I’ve been thinking about self destructive behavior. Any young actor come to mind? What was Jussie Smollett thinking?

One of the podcasts I enjoy is “Stay Tuned With Preet. Preet
Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who Trump famously sacked after saying he was keeping him on the job. Bharara was asked why Paul Manafort would enter into a plea deal and then harm himself so badly by violating its terms? He observed in all of the prosecutions he’s been involved in that’s often an ongoing mystery. Why do Billionaires commit crimes for another million? Why do celebrity movie stars shoplift?

That made me think of Alfred Taubman the billionaire mall developer who was convicted of price fixing and served jail time when he was Chairman of the art auction house Sotheby’s. It’s estimated that Jussie was paid $125,000 for each episode of Empire. I guess it just wasn’t enough.

We are suppose to get a cyclone bomb. Winds as high as 50 miles per hour with anticipated power outages. Went food shopping today and I’m charging my devices and my charger and laying out batteries for my electric lantern. Local television loves to sensationalize the weather. Let’s see if it lives up to its hype.

P.S. From time to time we all do things that causes us to ask “What Was I Thinking?” For 30 years my favorite singer songwriter, Christine Lavin has been writing and rewriting a signature song “What Was I thinking”. Here’s the 2015 version regarding Kim Davis. If you have three more minutes give it a listen. If you like it then buy it.

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck…

Last Friday I participated in a Frolic.   I’ve thought of frolicking as playful behavior or some kind of fun activity.  But our friends in the Amish community are much more purposeful in their frolicking.

‘Frolic’ describes a social/work event that takes place from time to time in Amish communities.  Neighbor men and boys get together to pitch in for a few hours on a work project.

Think of the barn raising scene in the movie “Witness” with Harrison Ford.

Our frolic took place at Gesu Community Green – a children’s playground that members of my church built a number of years ago on vacant property across the street from our parish school.  Winter takes a toll on the wood chips that soften the ground around the swings, slide and other things that kids climb on and inevitably fall from.  We arrived at the park at about 5:00 p.m. where a mountain of 100 cubic yards of wood chips had been delivered.  Our job – instillation.

At it’s peak I’d estimate we had 50 volunteers of all variety of men women and children.

A convoy of wheel barrows were assembled, filled with wood chips, dispatched around the park, dumped and raked.  My job was simple – dig.  I worked next to a couple of guys from the school’s Dad’s Club filling the wheel barrows and, of course, was determined to keep pace with them shovel for shovel.  But after about two hours my back said to me “you know those Dad’s Club guys are thirty years younger than you”.  I wandered over to the water station and had a leisurely chat with our Pastor Fr. Peter Etzel, S.J. who was happy to give me dispensation.

None of this would have happened without the determined (some say stubborn) leadership of Anita Sevier.

Trained in Urban Planning at Columbia University she was the catalyst in the effort to rescue the vacant property and turn it into a family friendly community space.  She was the field marshal directing everyone to make sure the park was ready for summer.

I like the Amish idea of a frolic.  A purposeful social activity that brings people together with a tangible result.  We are often admonished to leave the planet in better shape than we found it.  Anita has shown us that this is literally possible.  It was nice to be a small part of this effort.

…and I was reminded of the Mother Goose poem

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
Believe it or not, one scientist has actually answered this question.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

I’ve not read a lot of Andrew Sullivan’s work. But he channeled many of  the troubling thoughts and fears I’ve been experiencing but trying to ignore for the past several weeks. His piece “The Madness of King Donald” shines a bright light on the elephant in the Oval Office; namely that the President is nuts.

He begins with the litany of lies which are verifiably untrue but for which there is never an acknowledgment or correction. The lie is repeated and often doubled down by a bigger lie. What kind of person does this? Someone in a very troubling state of mental health.

I keep asking myself this simple question: If you came across someone in your everyday life who repeatedly said fantastically and demonstrably untrue things, what would you think of him? If you showed up at a neighbor’s, say, and your host showed you his newly painted living room, which was a deep blue, and then insisted repeatedly — manically — that it was a lovely shade of scarlet, what would your reaction be? If he then dragged out a member of his family and insisted she repeat this obvious untruth in front of you, how would you respond? If the next time you dropped by, he was still raving about his gorgeous new red walls, what would you think? Here’s what I’d think: This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional. If he kept this up, at some point you’d excuse yourself and edge slowly out of the room and the house and never return. You’d warn your other neighbors. You’d keep your distance. If you saw him, you’d be polite but keep your distance.

Sullivan says journalists simply have to call him on his lies immediately and to his face.  We shall see.

The patriarch of the Ilich sports, gaming and pizza empire Mike Ilich passed away. His significant impact on the city I love cannot be overstated.  But you have to separate what he did and how he did things. He had his detractors. Stephen Henderson wrote of some of the ambiguity we feel.

But he also leaves a complex legacy. The strife over some of his projects and the public subsidies for them. The fans who decried the tenure of his ownership of two of the city’s major sports franchises. They are part of who he was, too.

Happy Monday to you all. I’ve got four days of work before I get to leave on a vacation to a very warm place.

Desearía poder hablar español.


Holistic New Year’s Resolutions – Redux

Three years ago I first posted my Holistic New Year’s Resolutions. I’m dusting them off again.

A specific New Year’s pledge of mine – Resolved to write more. Hopefully my writing will survive when I’m gone.

  1. Don’t be nice – be kind

There’s a big difference.  Nice people are polite, smile and are friendly.  Kind people actually care.  Last year I received a random act of kindness.  I pulled up to the drive through window and was informed that the car in front of me had paid for my meal.  That was nice and who doesn’t want a free lunch?  But we should match our kindness to need.  Be aware of people you know who have suffered a lose or are otherwise hurting.  If you go to a funeral follow up about a month later with a call or a visit.  We all know people who have been through divorce or bad break ups.  Keep them on your radar and make it a point to reach out.  Your opening can be as simple as “I was thinking about you.  Can I buy you a drink?”

2Change from Within

Instead of focusing on weight or appearance change from within.  Seek and appreciate solitude every day.  For one friend who is a single mom it’s the 15 minute very hot shower in the morning.  I’ve tried driving to work as a moment of solitude but that doesn’t work for me.  Try meditating.  There are lot’s of YouTube videos with guided meditations.  If you belong to a religious congregation seek out the more spiritual aspects of your beliefs and worship.

3. Eat Better Food

Did I say I was at a drive through window?  I’m working on this.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says I should be eating 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day based on my age and level of activity.  I’m not even close. You can find out what they recommend for you.  One has to shop, clean and chop  those veggies.  But once you do that roasting, steaming, boiling or sauteing them is pretty easy.  And they taste pretty good too.

4. Spend Less Than you Earn

This is financial equivalent of burn more calories than you consume.  Keep track of your spending.  It’s surprising how many people don’t especially when using credit cards.  For $39.95 you can get Quicken’s Money Management software. You can automatically link your bank accounts and credit cards to down load and categorize all of your expenses. A free on-line version is available at Mint.com.  I’m not comfortable with all of my financial data and passwords on the cloud but I’m no expert on this either.  Make monthly contributions to your retirement as important a payment as your rent or car note.

5. Be a Mentor

Parents with children at home can skip this one.  Reach out to a niece or a nephew, a kid in the neighborhood or someone at work.  Give them the gift of your time and your wisdom.

6. Volunteer

You know how to do this.  Do it.

7. Be Creative

Former President George W. Bush took up oil painting.  The critics have not been kind but who cares?  I’m going to try to edit video…and be a bit more faithful to this Blog.

bush paintings

8. Get Rid of Toxic People in Your Life.

This may sound unkind but it’s really not.  You know who toxic people are.  They contribute nothing to your personal growth, talk about themselves way too much, whine but do nothing and are constantly critical about everyone and every thing.  I remember one such person criticizing mutual acquaintances to me and it made me wonder what he said about me to others.  Life it too short and we have choices about who to include and who to exclude in our personal environment.

9. Learn a New Skill

If it’s a creative skill you’ve got a twofer (see no. 7).

10. Be Mindful of Your Life’s Purpose

Indulge me as I get a bit “New Agey” here.  I do not believe we are accidents of evolution.  We all have a purpose.  Most of us are fulfilling our purpose without realizing it.  Being mindful of ones purpose makes it’s fulfillment all the more satisfying.  One’s purpose includes each of these three characteristics.

a. You are very good at it.  Be it writing, teaching, cooking, writing code or painting houses – you are better at it than just about everyone else.

b. You enjoy it.  My father used to say they don’t spell work “f-u-n”.  To an extent he is right.  Work is work.  But when we are engaged in our life’s purpose we are most likely to get into the “zone” in which all of our concentration and attention is focused and time loses its meaning.

c. You Make the World is A Better Place.  When it comes to saving the world few of us can do more than baby steps.  But all of those baby steps accumulate.  And they are very important to those around us that experience and benefit from our life’s purpose.

Happy New Year everyone.  I’m hoping it’s joyful, healthy and prosperous.