Motivation and Inspiration

Living Life without a Nose

Every so often, I meet or see a person that serves to remind me a) how good I got it, b) how we’ve all had crap happen in our lives and c) how the will and desire to overcome is present in some people and not in others.
***
“Let’s not do 12 days of Christmas,” Rog announced last Thursday night. “How about the 37 days of Christmas?” As I stare at him, completely mystified at his meaning. “I mean, why not put the tree tomorrow?” My jaw drops. Saliva drips from the corner of my mouth and he recants…a little. “This…weekend?” he suggests.

Seriously. Halloween just ended.

After wiping said drool from my mouth, I listened to Rog’s argument that we were hardly going to have a Christmas with all the travel and commitments.

“I’m also gone so much I don’t get to enjoy the decorations.” Nothing shows how truly-Christmas deprived he was as a child more than his plaintive wail. Of course I relented.

The next day, I find myself at my super-secret, cowboy ornament store that happens to have a killer sale going on. Standing a line 10 people deep, I take odds on what checker I’m going to get. When I see her, my stomach clenched and I felt a little queesy. Her, you see, is a woman with no nose.

It has only been in the last year that I’ve seen Her, a thin woman, mid-thirties, medium-height, five foot eight or so, thick, dark, shoulder-length, olive skin, and a graceful set of hands that move quickly from counter to terminal, referring to co-workings as “honey” and customers as “hon.”

The first time I’d seen her, I was a bit taken aback, and didn’t stare (thanks mom, you taught me right), and looked around her missing attribute– her forehead, her hair–easy to do when in the waiting line and looking at her from the side. But that Friday, I had a feeling it was going to be my turn in front of her.

Soon I was invited to her counter, called Hon and we started talking. That’s what I do: I get others talking. I’m genuinely curious and it’s helped by the fact others usually are more than happy to answer.

The conversation centered on our mutual love and appreciation of cowboy ornaments and she did her job and tried to sell me on an in-house charge card. When I declined, she went for the hard sell.

Let me tell you, she was good. She tried every angle, and I sparred with her like only a fellow sales-person would. It was becoming fun. As this went on, I noticed how gloriously green her emerald-colored eyes were, framed by long lashes and thick brows. Her lips were full, and her face a mask of flawless skin that actually moved, removing all doubt that she was in fact, a natural beauty, no botox or restilyn present. I didn’t even notice her nose, which was actually a reconstruction of two side-pieces of skin, folded together like a vertical seem.

“No in-house credit for me,” I was saying. “My twenties were for getting in debt. My thirties were for getting out of debt and my forties are for staying out.” She smiled. Then it was her turn.

“Tell me about it Hon,” she started, talking as rapidly as her hands moved my stack of cowboy ornaments across the beeping scanner. “I was flipping houses in my twenties, making eight thousand dollars a shot, had savings and a husband and credit with Lloyds of London. Then my husband left me with one hundred thousand dollars in debt and my identity got stolen. I had no money, no credit and no home.” She continued to ring and I was dead silent, captivated in one of those horrible yet fascinated ways.

“I’ve here working to get back to where I was, and at least I have decent credit now, I’m single, and I’m getting ready to start flipping house again. Nothing as small as that is going to stop me from getting back to where I was.”

Whoa. As the horse ornament whizzed over the beeper and she folded up the catcus and peppers, I was struck not by what she said (I’ve heard lots of stories of men and women being taken for rides by their former spouses, yours truly included), but what she left out. Nothing about the nose, and I wasn’t going to ask. By that time, I didn’t even notice it.

Then she took out a card from behind the counter, swiped that as well, and I saw the register remove another 15% from the total price.

“You can do that?” I asked, pleased and amazed.

She winked. “Of course Hon. Happy Friday.”

I told her I’d see her again soon, and left the building. Tonight, I hung the ornaments, taking extra care with the cactus and peppers, my thoughts on what one has to go through to not let something as small as being left physically, and encumbered with $100K of debt not diminish one’s determination to have a  fulfilling life.

 

The billionaire’s secret weapon

Once, when I was giving a writers presentation to a group of high school students, I was asked by a teacher what process I follow for writing my books. “Is there one thing, or set of things you do prior to starting to write?”

“Yes, there is,” I responded. “I pray.” That was it, pure and simple. I didn’t even elaborate on what I pray for (which, btw, is clarity, the ability to write what’s in my head etc. and have it be congruent with my ideals and thoughts etc). You should have seen the look on this woman’s face. You would have thought I was advocating a new drug inhalation process for the illegal, not legal type. The irony of it all, was this was a parochial school, the place I where I actually felt safe giving this answer.

Over the years, the irony of the prayer-before-the-big-event thing has intrigued me. I’ve grown up with images of Madonna and her backup-dancers holding hands in a group prayer before a concert. Big football players kneel or bow their heads prior to kick-off, asking for health, strong hands and probably a win. Why then, I ask, is the big deal with saying a prayer (albeit silently) before a big meeting or when starting a sculpture or writing a book?

quote

slightly obvious. I actually prefer Roger’s quote, which he used for years with consultants (who wouldn’t shut up). “You can’t learn anything while you are talking.” I would have used that but I didn’t have the time to create a pretty picture with quotes.

I have long prayed when considering what clients to take on and which ones to pass.  I’ve said prayers before presentations in front of groups large and small, interviews with the press, before I’ve gone on television shows, prior to pitching the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In fact, pretty much any event of significance I’ve invoked my right to call above to the Almighty (or as Roger says: “whatever is out there in the Universe that’s listening”).

Ironically, I’ve been much more lax about praying on the personal front, but that too, is another story. It seems that when it comes to career, my red-phone bat line has been in constant use. It turns out, I’m not alone in this. Over the last two years, I’ve been interviewing 3 dozen hundred millionaires and billionaires that haven’t spoken to the press about their rise from poverty (nearly all) to a financially secure point in life. One of the common threads is faith (in self or God). Another thread is prayer. Even the few who claim atheism state they still say a prayer (to the universal energy that exists).

This call-to-arms as I’ve come to think of it, is a plea for all the thoughts, energy and desire built within to come to the forefront when it’s needed in exactly the right way, be it for that winning touchdown or the closing of the million dollar home sale.

Prayer circles aren’t as weird as they sound

Going back to the football scenario, where a bunch of men are on the field, eyes closed and heads bent—it’s a normal scene is it not? They are in a circle…a literal prayer circle. If this came up in casual conversation, can you even imagine the derision the topic would instill, not to mention the analogies to other sects, cults and who-knows-what off-shoots of beheading chickens and dancing around a bonfire.

Yet for athletes and Madonna, it’s done and accepted, business as usual. (I would, just once, love to have seen Ballmer hold out his hand at the executive round table, bow his head and say whatever prayer that man would have said –although I imagine it would have involved a strong desire for the stock price to go above 100 for a picosecond. Just once).

Going back to me and the writing process, or business for that matter, yes, I pray, but it is not done lightly or by rote. I won’t pray if I don’t feel worthy of an answer. Ergo, if I have a lesson to teach and I’ve not adequately prepared, I feel it’s morally wrong to ask some higher power to bail me out. Conversely, if I’ve done my part, studied, prepared my outline, readied the lesson and I still feel uncomfortable, then I know this means I’m missing something. A piece of the puzzle isn’t quite right in the grooves. It is then that I pray fervently to understand what direction I must go, what I must change and how I must communicate the message—assuming that my message is right in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened, and when I’m on stage, I’ve had words, phrases or examples come to mind that I’d previously not thought of or considered, and it made all the difference in the world.

One billionaire, a seventy-ish man now retired and living in Colorado, used to be the president of one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the country. In his “retirement,” he still owns three different entities in different industries. When I asked him how he makes many of his decisions, he was unapologetic when he said he prays.

“Yes, I listen to my advisors and I read the numbers, but most of the time, hiring people and making big business decisions doesn’t rely on numbers or resumes,” he said. “Those can be manipulated and represented in ways that won’t tell you what will truly happen six months, a year or five years out.” For that, he relies on a higher power.

And this blog? Do I pray before writing a blog? No, not usually, and honestly, my level of seriousness regarding my blog writing (and Instagram and Facebook accounts) ebb and flow with my mood. Sometimes I simply like a picture that’s interesting, fun or humorous. I’ve noticed that when it comes to thoughts of making a person’s day brighter, uplifting myself (or others) in some way, then yes, I actually do say a prayer to understand what I should write or post. The reward is often immediate and strong, producing positive feedback or responses.

Even those who don’t believe in a universal God or super being, the notion of universal “Karma” is alive and well. In other words, what comes around goes around, so it’s better to be on the safe side than send out evil vibes. If this holds true, then one could argue that prayers can only help, and never hurt, so “What’s there to lose?” (As my husband often asks). “It’s not hurting anyone and can only help.”

Keep that in mind the next time you could use a little clarity, support, wisdom or overall confidence. It’s free, there’s nothing to lose, and it can only help. Those are three mantras I can live by.

Shamans, gambling and throwing bad energy

Last winter, I’m on the massage therapists’ table, and the big, bespectacled man says, “I’m feeling something like grief…right here,” as he touches a part of my foot. He traces “a line of grief” he says, and asks me if something has happeShaman picned but quickly says I don’t have to tell him anything, only noting “that it’s rising to the surface, so that indicates it’s been in the last few months and you have been suppressing it.” Shocker. Not me.

At that point in my life, I’d only had one item of grief to note, and it was my dog dying (cue sad country song as you dig deep and try to empathize). For those without dogs or children, think about it as the closest living being that you have spent more time with than anyone save yourself, and if you like yourself even a little, you might get the picture. In any case, I feel rather stupid, but I tell him my dog. This begat silence as he worked my body “Through the pain,” as he called it, which meant that I was emitting physical and emotional pain for the rest of the session. It hurt. It was exhausting, but I felt like a million bucks when I left.

As a part of this experience, I asked how he knew, because this wasn’t the normal massage-therapist “I felt something in the muscles,” experience. “I’m an energy worker,” he answered. My response was more than an understanding. I immediately guessed he’d been working with Shamans, or those that in the US, are typically of Native American descent, but can be from anywhere in the world or any race etc. Over the course of his life, he’d trained himself to be more receptive to the energy forces around him. He revealed he could tell something was up the moment I entered the room (by something is up, he meant that he knew I ‘was bottling negative energy and a lot of pain).

Fast forward a few months, I have a conversation with Susan, a woman of Native American descent who is in fact, a Shaman. From her early years, she could see and speak to spirits on the other side (they don’t call them spirits, they are called ‘ancestors,’ for they came before her, not those who are yet to come). We got to talking about my latest book and I was asking her if some individuals who are gifted in the area of energy use their talents for evil.

“All the time, unfortunately,” she answered, catching me by surprise. She then told me of a man who, like she, was born with natural gifts. Apparently it is rare that a male can retain these gifts as they age, because ego and passion get in the way- and when it does, the energy talents are used for self-benefit. Me being me, I ask- “Like what can/did he do?” She told me that as a youth, he would throw bad energy on his classmates to ensure they failed a test and he got better scores (by this time, apparently the elders were onto him and had to watch his every move). He would take a bet and then throw energy on two guys who were friends but suddenly get into a fight and he could win a bet. This graduated into full on stealing (a passerby would grab a woman’s handbag out of the blue and then drop it a block later), and this guy would pick it up. She kept detailing a life of progressive crime that eventually landed him in jail, and I was fascinated and appalled.

“How can anyone protect themselves?” I wondered. She basically said that a person has to have a strong internal core: immovable values and a pure mind, not one that is easily swayed by outside influences, and generally good.

“If a person has a persuasion to live life on the line, or can be moved to tell a white lie now and then, or realize that an item at the store wasn’t paid for and they don’t go back, that alone is the crack in the exterior. It makes then vulnerable.”

I’ve since used this general theme in my latest book (the time/travel action adventure series), but I think about it often. “Just a crack” is all it takes, but doesn’t that apply to so many things. Give me a bite of chocolate and I want the whole candy bar. Give me a kiss and I’ll take the whole body. So many temptations, so much discipline required.

Need an experience? Take a walk…

Complainers don’t have a role in my life. You know the type: at the office (the person who can’t find a solution, only a problem), in the neighborhood (the tree is too tall, not hey, I’ll cut it down)..and worst, at Staples (“If the credit card isn’t going through, its your system, not my credit.” -true story).

My recommendation? Take a walk. Get that fat-A** off the chair and out of the cubicle, and take a walk down to your managers office. See if his/her job is really that much easier that yours (and for more pay) or if it’s a major headache, full of stresses and issues and turmoil that would make a person go postal. And when at home, walk the dog, visit the neighbors and see what real problems are all about.

To wit: Three of our (older) neighbors have some sort of debilitating disease–and have gone from vibrant, happy, healthy people to being unable to drive, barely making it up the stairs and reaching the point of a in-care facility. And I’m not talking about aged people–just those who have a strain or gene or

The walk today..but my Dawg  got shy and pulled out of the pic

The walk today..but my Dawg got shy and pulled out of the pic

whatever in their life that made them susceptible. Also on walks, I’ve run into bears (ok, a mama and two cubs, but I walked past w/my pit bull and little girl, who were both blessedly unaware), and down to another (younger) couple. In the last year, she’s taken up smoking, started galavanting around (an appropriate word, I think), while her husband and two kids are kicking it at home. Then another older (single) man down the road, had his cat run over (accidentally by my husband, in his truck, I later learned), his wife die (of natural causes, not my husband) and a tree fall on his garage! All within 30 days!!

This points to the lives of other people, their travails, self-inflicted or fate, and the comparative “sane” nature of my own existence (as if anyone who knows me and my triple type-A would consider me such). I’ve learned that the next hill over, the power lines have caused cancer in most of the dogs (the really nasty kind, the gives bumps before itching then grows with such speed that the internal organs are overwhelmed within six months and have to be put down), and that two men working for Microsoft, both with children at home, were let go in the latest round in July (both were director level and very well known-but the entire division was cut)…and they were mowing/blowing, jobless and depressed.

At the bottom of this five mile, hill and valley loop I normally walk, I always go by a woman who is roughly my age, three kids, oldest is a senior and youngest twelve. Her husband sold his company for about $8M two years ago, stopped going to church, took up remodeling old cars (and not even the cool ones like the Mustangs or 67 Corvettes, but lame ones which I shall not name for fear of offending anyone). He grew a beard, got a gut and generally speaking, made it all about him. (And might I just note that he was probably the best looking man at church, trim, thick hair, great jawline. Unrecognizable now. If that’s what money does, stay with the day job. Please). In this same time, his wife completed her Master’s in counseling, started a practice and is still the sweet, soft-spoken size 8 girl she’s always been. Go figure.

Then I walk the straight portion of the road where a million cars pass me before turning left and up my road. Past the belching frogs (it’s cold now, no belching), but lots of moles tearing up the lawns. Past a contractor who lost it all in the last recession and has been living with his attorney-girlfriend and her two kids. I only know this because he had up a sign for services, so I had him to the house for a bid, thinking that I’m a good neighbor, helping out the locals. Imagine my disappointment when he gave me a figure that was double the two others I had. (His was $44K versus $18 and $21 respectively). Maybe there’s a reason he went under and is kicking it with his girlfriend.

By the time I reach my home, I’m sure my legs and butt are tighter and my life, with its own pimples and periodic bursts of extreme badness really isn’t as bad as those around me–perhaps a little or a lot better. So with that perspective (and given the recent case of figurative facial breakout I’ve undergone), I’m going to head out for a walk. Maybe I’ll do two-laps, just for good measure.

 

 

The missing leg and other object lessons

Nothing gets the attention of six 9 year old girls like a formal Air Force office taking off his titanium leg at the knee, all done whilst during Sunday School. At church. You read that right.

So now you know two things. One, I’m a Sunday School teacher (try not to go running in to the night screaming). Two, I’m all about object lessons. And this one is classic. If I had an object lesson like this for every vice, weakness or temptation in my life, I’d be a saint.

rosemary in png

Rosemary is good for migraines & muscle relaxation

Here’s how it goes down. The lesson: the tie between health and wisdom (yes, for pre-teens. It’s never too early to talk about how caffeine will stick you to the roof of the car, thus requiring a parent to unpeel you off with a set of prongs). As I’m sitting there in the pews, considering the rosemary sprigs I’ve cut from my herb garden (to show how you use it in the belly of a turkey as well as in the stuffing, but can also press it for oils and put it on the muscles in your neck to ease the strain and reduce/eliminate migraine headaches, but really, is that going to be something the kids will remember once they leave?

I see George, a former fighter pilot. A devilishly-handsome man (from the pictures I’ve seen taken 30 years and 100 pounds lighter). I recall when my daughter Porsche was four. We went for a visit to his home. He’d just had his right leg removed above the knee. Her, being four, asked him where it went, just like that. He glanced at me for approval, his look of “can she handle this?” answered by my look of “don’t holding anything back, man, this is life.”

“I ate too much, got fat, lost the circulation in the leg due to diabetes and they had to cut it off.” (Thankfully he skipped over the gout, gangrene and other stuff he said off-line).

My daughter had no issue with information, and when it was followed by his admonition “this is what happens when you eat too much sugar.” My four year-old looked at his non-foot, and the titanium boot sitting nearby and that was that. From that day forward, she has watched every bit of food to go in her mouth, especially sugar. (Thankfully, it only took a few wks for her to figure out what had sugar and what didn’t, the good types and the bad).

So to my original point: wouldn’t it be grand if someone, early on in life, had pointed out some guy and said “and this is what this type will bring,” or a box of melted chocolate saying “this is what will give you headaches and pre-cancerous cells.” Would I have run to or from those things or towards them shrieking ‘bring it on!’

It’s not entirely too late for me though. I watch. I ask questions. I adjust, as painful as it sometimes is, hoping to prevent some future (and entirely preventable) badness.

In the meantime, I was humored to learn that I, myself, was used as an example in my brother’s own seminary class (another version of church) because apparently I made such a mess of my life for a period of time that he wanted to show the teenagers what happens when a person goes off the rails for a period of time (isn’t that what the 20’s are for? and not to justify my slightly questionable decisions, I’m not in jail, nor do I have an Internet video available).

So go ahead. Use me as an object lesson to your desired end. And when you are wondering if you should have that 3rd piece of pumpkin pie, think of George and his missing appendage. Let him be the object so you don’t have to learn the lesson.

2 weeks to lose 2 inches- Get some (physical) religion

Greetings to readers in the latest countries of Peru, Andorra and the Czech Republic. Is it the frog detterent blog or the Swedish Tickle? I’ll never know and don’t much care. I adore my followers to matter where they reside. Wait, She says “forget the blogs. It’s all about the music.” As usual, She knows how to put me in my place.

Given that I have been eating my way toward Easter, I felt it incumbent upon me to make up by reminding everyone to 1) do side bends, 2) add weights and 3) start a clean diet for 21 months. Take the challenge readers, your waistlines and lovelry one will thank you. (yes, you read that write. Loverly is my personal version of loved one+partner=loverly. Correct usage would be, “you are my loverly.”

Sweet nothings from Maple Valley to you.

Now on to the blog. “She” chastized me the other day. (New readers, She is the person who shall remain anonymous forever-more, since she refuses to be outted, thereby invalidated all her good, blunt, funny and sometimes off-color advice. She keeps me humble and in-line, lest you think that task falls only to my husband. Not so).

“What is this? You’ve lost 2.5” (inches) on your butt and you haven’t shared this with anyone??” Boy, was she pissed. She proceeded to tell me about slogging through my other, slightly worthless blogs, waiting for a kernel of insight (as promised in my tagline) only to feel as though I’m holding out on her.

“Do I have to tell everyone that I’m shrinking?” I ask, hoping to retain some modicum of dignity.

“It’s too late!” she cries, reminding me how I’ve talked about batwings and chinhair, and aired my dirty laundry a-plenty, all in the hopes of helping others learn my mistakes. “Tell us! We need to know this!!”

Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life (Special Collector's Edition)
Me in the next life

OK. I’d like to reveal that this is some ancient elixer of inches reduction, but it’s not. In truth, it’s much of the old, regurgitated advice from thousands of magazine articles. The difference? You ready? I actually paid money ($125 US) to visit a naturopath recommended by friends, and with the blessing of my homeopathic, eastern Swami, and got the skinny. Instead of immersing me in water to determine my fat content, she put 5 pads about the size of Band-Aids on my body, entered the info in a computer and walla!10 minutes later, provided me the modern version of my body stats. It was U.G.L.Y.

155 pounds, 38.5 pounds of fat. I’m 5’10’+ I’ll skip the part about lots of muscle, the toxicity of my body (low), the water weight carried inside and outside of the cell (normal) and cut to the chase. I got religion.

Channeling Laura Croft

Religion about getting off my lazy eating regime. Sure, I work out all the time and my body reflects this. In the past, I’ve slimmed down but the dimply cellulite on the front and backs of my legs have remained. And you see, I’ve this vision of coming back in the next life as a Swedish version of Laura Croft, trapeze in my living room the size of an airplane tarmac and all. Ok, I wouldn’t mind the chest as well. It’s going to happen until I make some changes.

“You are cutting carbs and protein,” Gaylen the naturopath begins. “You need to cut the starches and sugar, while increasing the protein.” Many of my readers my recognize this advice, as it’s nearly identical to the P90X plan. Lots and lots of protein and limited bad carbs. The difference? This cleansing process completely eliminates fats, sugars and starches. It’s this:

Here you go:
5 servings of proteins a day (100grams per)
2 apples
2 salads (green)
1+ gallons of water or tea a day
2 tsp of pure coconut oil**
The juice of one lemon and as much salt as you want

No dairy
No fats of any kind (EXCEPT– coconut oil. Now, this deserves a note. It’s found at PPC, Whole foods etc. It’s for cooking, and is hard. I was dubious, but determined to follow my naturopaths directions. Thus, I scooped the oil, put it in a pot on the stove, and had enough for a few days. Actually, it’s very smooth, not vile, left no aftertaste, and ensured I didn’t completely end up looking like dry toast).

This sounds lean and horrid, but believe you me, it’s a TON of food. I felt like I was eating all the time, and by week two, was dreading “another salad!”. Also, on the protein, it can be grilled, steamed, cooked in any way, but no fat added. I found it very easy to go out with friends and family, have the salad w/lemon and salt, all the other food and not feel uncomfortable or starved.

The difference? Measuring at 2 weeks.

The scale doesn’t lie.

I’d only lost 2 pounds. BUT, I’d lost 1% body fat, and more importantly, inches everywhere. To wit: (inches lost below)
2.5 off the butt
2.25 off the waist
.75 off the chest
1 inch off each thigh
.25 inch off each arm.

That was 2 weeks. Another week and I’d lost another inch off my waist and hips. Haven’t measured my thighs. All I can say is I’m fitting in clothes that haven’t seen sunlight since before my daughter was born, 6 years ago. And let me say, getting Physical in the words of our dear Olivia Newton-John has been like a rebirth. Think Madonna back in 1984 and you are getting my drift. Removing 2.5 inches from the backsides makes quite a difference. (’nuff said!)

The best news? I have tons of energy, sleep great, and most of my cravings have been killed off like the yeast in my bod (gerrosss). If you want some ideas, hit up the P90X recipe site. To be religious about, subtitute the broth for water, and avoid the above. In 2 weeks, you will have a different body.

Finding the blue behind the clouds: sometimes, you just need a kick in the butt

I’m not sure what it is about my existence that people think I’m always happy. I’m not. I get bummed out like anyone else, but this doesn’t stop people (colleagues, acquaintances) from telling me their situations. I suppose that my general feeling is that we are here on Earth to have experiences and grow as individuals, so if we are going to go through bad shit, then lets make the most of it.

Now I’m going to share with you an email I received from a long-time colleague (former client, turned friend and now business partner). Then I’m going to provide the email I sent to him in response, and finally, the conclusion. FYI, he is a former millionaire, high-flyer, now finding himself in an all-too-common situation, fighting depression. His world was dark and grey, and I knew it was my job to help him find some blue sky. Read on.

 —–Original Message—–

 From: Joe

 Sent: Thursday, April 3, 2014 5:41 AM

 To: sarah@

 Subject: Must be great having your cast off?

 

 I was thinking about you and Roger, how smart you have  both have been. Building your nest egg, creating value for the Family, seeing the future and doing what you both want to do. I guess that is why I have always been envious of you.

 

People say live in the moment. I always lived in the moment. Today was as far as I could see. When I was young and moved to Southern California from New York. I went nuts, I partied every night, I would go out until 3 in the morning come home sleep for 2hours be in the office by 7:30am, and do the same thing the next night. I never saved a dime or worried about the future.

 I didn’t care. I married Margorie when I was 30 and it took her 5 years to get me back to Earth. I have no idea why she stayed with me? Now I am in the Winter of my years and reflect on reality. I think I  will always have a smile on my face, because of the experiences I have had. Someone who is born crazy, hard to face reality every day, saving money, old age, having a nest egg, being able to go on river cruises  and play golf in retirement. I will never experience That, but I am not sure if I would have changed. Margorie has stuck by me and times are tough. She said this the other day ” you are an Asshole, you ruined our lives financially, but you always make me laugh” she was dating a doctor from UCLA when I met her. She should have stayed with the doctor? I went out with Susan Anton, she was dating Dudley Moore.

 The next night is when I met Margorie.
 

Well Sarah, the business side I hope before I meet the Great Sales Manager In the Sky,I hope I can reflect on some of the good things I have done.

Getting tired my Dear. I have been a fighter my whole life, but just getting tired.
 

All the best.

Joe
 
** I waited on the response for a few hours. Until after lunch. And this is what I wrote, and the rest of the conversation.
 
 On Apr 4, 2014, at 1:03 PM, “Sarah Gerdes” wrote:
Hey Jim–
 
Well the cast is indeed off, but I’m thrown right into 3 hours of physical therapy. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do (physically) that is, but if they tell me it’s going to be a year for
full mobility, what I hear is “I’ll do that in 3 months.” Otherwise known, in Sarah-talk as “screw that.” Those rules don’t apply to me. 
 Jim, I must say that sometimes I want to reach through the computer and shake you up man! You have so much to give and offer, and you are doing that every day by waking up, facing the world and picking up  the phone. You do it out of sheer will, grit and determination. You should be proud of yourself instead of having a pity-party (if I may be so bold). Who cares if you aren’t playing golf and drinking? You don’t want to be fat and lazy anyway. In fact, you are still contributing to the world and doing something.
 Let me tell you something. Yesterday, I go into a store that I’ve been frequenting for about 12 years. I haven’t been in 6 months, and yesterday was my first day of freedom from this prison that is my home. Well, I start talking to the woman (who I always speak to) and two young girls come up, prob in their early 20’s. They are buying a boat load of candles, so of course I ask why. They look at each other, then me, and one responds “for my mother’s funeral, they were her favorite.” I say I’m sorry, and then easily transition to ‘but that’s nice that you to have her favorite candle and allow others to take a bit of her away with them.” I proceed to tell them that at my brothers funeral last summer, my sister invited everyone to take their favorite flower from the casket, and they did.
Jim, before last summer, I would have been stumped and uncomfortable; not anymore. Death is a part of life. So is sadness, disappointment and failure, but so is rebirth.
 
Then the girls leave, and I start talking with the woman. She walks me out to the car, and applauds how I handled that, and she asks about my foot. She tells me her husband lost his engineering job four  years ago, and while he was working at Lowes (after 3 years of not wanting to face the music and the retirement going away), she had a heart attack. She was hooked up to tubes for 10 days and it kept her alive. Because his insurance (Cobra) had run out, they had no ability to repay the bills.   They had no savings. They couldn’t sell their home. So she has a bill of $165,000 dollars that she pays in monthly installments. She’s been working at this little shop for nearly 12 years. She’ll be
 working for the rest of her life (and she’s 63).
 
Her tells me her husband finally took a job in Texas, and he was able to travel home 2 times last year. This next year, his current project will finish up, they hope to sell their home, buy an apartment or condo someplace cheaper (wherever that will be) and both work until the day they die.
 
Here comes the interesting part. It turns out she lives five doors  down from me. The lights at their home are always dark (but then, they live around a curve and it’s sort of hard to see). She was  telling me that on her 6 acre property, they have an indoor riding arena, that both her daughters grew up showing horses nationally, one got an MBA from NYU and the other became a police officer because she wanted to give back to society.
 
 “Everything we gave our daughters growing up, and everything we thought we had is gone,” she said, matter of factly. She works. She goes home to a dark, 5,800 square foot home (save her pitbull she rescued). When we discovered we are “neighbors,” by virtue of living in the same community, we both died of shock. She’s the sweetest woman, and completely alone. She didn’t know about my life, I didn’t know about hers, and yet we’ve been friendly for a decade.
 
I applauded her ability to have the fortitude and continue on.
 
 “What else am I going to do?” she asked. “I’m happy to be alive, even if we are broke and have nothing.” I could tell she was a woman that for many years, had have everything. But she said it with humility  and grace, I wondered if she had come to a place of acceptance or contentment. I don’t think so. Contentment implies one is happy with their lot in life, and frankly, I don’t think she is, but she has “accepted” that this is her lot in life, at least for the time being. As she said, her kids are healthy, happy and well-employed. She and her husband have done well. They are gutting it out. She makes no bones about her debt or requirement to downsize, and that her girls and grandkids will never grow up riding horses and traveling the world. It is what it is.
“Do you want me to save some bunny rabbits for you?” she asks me as I go to shut the door. She has remembered that I love to shop after holidays for chotckies that I can get 80% of retail.
 “Absolutely,” I reply.
 
 “I just can’t believe I didn’t know about your foot,” she said apologetically. “Let me know if you need anything–in fact,” she interrupted herself. “I’m going to set aside the rabbits and bring them to you. Don’t you do a thing.”
 
She helped me to the car, shut the door and I felt like the friend I didn’t know I had, but I already had, was right there, right in front of me, and in those 5 minutes, I learned more about her than the
previous 12 years. I also felt graced with her wisdom.
 
Joe, I could tell you about another close (older) friend- his loss, his tragedies, but I won’t. suffice it to say you and he are in the exact same circumstances, but he has you by a decade. It’s killing/killed him, but he too, wakes up, picks up the phone and is determined to make it happen. And he will keep going until the day he dies. Not that he hasn’t thought about killing himself, but it would hurt all of us, particularly his wife, who has said pretty much the exact thing to my friend that Margorie has said to you. But that’s what love is all about. Two people who love each other and stay together through it all.
 Remember, it’s all temporary anyway. The way we handle our difficulties says more about us than anything else.
 Ok. Enough of my wisdom. Happy Friday!!!  
 
And this is Joe’s reply.
 
On Apr 4, 2014, at 1:31  PM
 
You never cease to amaze me. That is a great story and now the lady is your neighbor, unreal.We need to do a movie together? You are right everything you wrote. Reality is so boring, ha,ha. The good news I have no debt. 1 credit card with 800 bucks on it, I just want to get enough to buy a house and not rent.
 
Just keep plugging.  thanks for the encouragement!! I needed a kick in the Ass.
 
Epilogue-
“Joe” is right. Sometimes, what we need to see the blue through the ever-darkening clouds above us is a nice kick in the pattootie. Rog gives it to me, and I give it to myself. And why not? The color of blue is so much happier than grey.

 

 

Outside the Faith: the doubled edged compliment & criticism

BJ was over today, a surprise event, given that the married father of two, engineer by day and hobbiest-inventor by night, just showed up with his long-bed truck about thirty minutes after Rog left to go skiing.

“What are you doing?” I ask him, noticing the top of his truck is up and his lawnmower is sticking half-way out the back.

“I’m going to mow your lawn and cut down the blackberry bushes while Rog is gone,” he said, already unloading the push-mower. I try to stop him, hobbling toward him as fast as my crutches will allow, telling him he won’t.

“What are you going to do?” he laughs, continuing about his business. “Stop me?” He’s smiling broadly, the face-wide grin on his square face, atop his squat, muscle-bound body that attests to his state championship title when he was in high school, when I first met him. I’ve watched him evolve from young man to father, our relationship maturing along the way, from a boy that wouldn’t look me to one who barely acknowledged my presence and now today, both adults. It is in this state that the still uses a respectful tone with me, but now its sassier, more like a brother than an associate.

“Beside, I like Rog, even though he’s outside the faith.” Before his last comment registered, I responded that I liked him too, which is helpful, and then as I stood watching, the gravity of his phrase hit.

Outside the Faith. How interesting. How many women (or men) are married to a person ‘not of the faith’ and are looked upon as different. In this case, BJ, who has know Rog as long as I’ve known him, looks at Rog almost as a mini-idol. I’ve gathered this over the years from the things he’s said, his aspirations: “I’d really like to show Rog my truck. Is he around?” to “I invented this wake board that is jet propelled and can lift you ten feet off the ground. I want Rog’s opinion” and so on.

I’m off pondering how many Jewish, Baptist, or whatever people “of faith” of had family, friends or acquaintances say something like this, because it’s such a double-edge sword, sort of like “she’s not bad, for a red-headed dwarf” or something strange. Thanks, I think.

“You know, he’s a better father and family guy than most of the men who come to church,” BJ tells me, getting ready to pull the cord on the lawn mower.

“He’s a pretty good guy,” I agree, then add, “and I’ve had a few people in the church say that to me as well.” What else am I supposed to say? This is why Rog doesn’t bother go to church- because he thinks half the men in my church are hypocrites, who espouse family but then spend more time doing their own things. Nope. I keep my mouth shut, take the compliment, and tell BJ that I’d still like to pay him something for just showing up.

“You can go back inside now,” he politely suggests, his mind made up, completely ignoring my request. I found it ironic. That’s exactly what Rog would say to me. Maybe he is of the faith after all.

Shedding the Winter Muffin Top

Tips from Mr Universe runner-up
that we can all live by

Spring always inspires me. I want to rake and trim, eat healthy and start shopping for sexy, springtime clothes. This is circular, because I can’t actually always fit in existing clothes, and if I’m going to justify spending money on new clothes, well, I better look decent.

Invariably, I replay what a former trainer told me (A 3-time, 2nd and 3rd Mr Universe runner-up). He was big, black, built and bald.

“You’re not just eating the wrong foods,” he told me. “You are eating the wrong foods at the wrong time). He emphasized I required more protein, less carbs and most importantly, I needed to stop at 5 instead of starting at 8 pm. “Eat every two hours, no matter what, and eat your protein first.” He also said one other thing.

“Cardio two times a day until your body fails you,” without waiting to see if I understood him. “And that goes for weights, which you’ll do three times a week.”

At this, I protested. I was going to bulk up and turn my fat in to mass. He smiled, obviously hearing this before.

“Big thighs,” he said. “The worry of all women.” At that, the fine looking man said no more and took me for a tour of the place. Walking among these humongous men of color, I was one of two white people in the entire joint. I felt odd, out of place and frankly, ghostly in my white fatness. Sensing my discomfort, my newly-annointed trainer turned to me and muttered something like “you get points for showing up at 5 am.” I stood a little taller at that, I’ll admit. My big, bloaty butt wanted to me in bed.

We made our way to a row of women on the treadmill and other cardio. He asked a random sampling if he’d told them what he told me (repeating) and then asked “what happened?”

“I leaned out,” said one. “Lost three dress sizes,” said another.

“See?” he asked me. “You have to eat more, all the time and push until failure.”

Ahh. The point of the article. Whether it’s JK Rowling giving her famous Harvard commencement speech, or Mr Universe Runner up, the point is to push the mind and body to the point of failure. Then, and only then will you know you’ve made progress.

Yesterday, as I lifted the weights above my head (for I am still forbidden to walk on my bad leg, so am consigned to doing upper body only as my lower body goes suffers through physical therapy), I recall Mr. Universe runner-up. I push…I grimace…all the while consoled by the fact that tomorrow, my arms will thank me. So I continue, proceeding to push myself to the point where my arms collapse, literally failing to assist me any longer in the exercise.

With that, I stop. I have succeeded in my attempt to fail, and that’s what I wanted in the first place.

Need a Job? 5 proven sources to jump start your career

A friend’s boyfriend has been out of full-time work for two years, bouncing from temporary job to contracting, luckily in the field of physics, chemistry and gaming (you might ask, what in the world does he do? Well, he plays with things that blow up, like an educated, well-intentioned chemical Ali, but on harmless enough).

In any case, I get this updated LinkedIn notification that he now has a permanent job. It’s hourly, not salaried, but pays well, offers amazing benefits and is close by.

Here’s my own belief. Getting a job is like hitchhiking. Unless you put yourself out there, no one will even give you a first (or second) glance.

“What was the trick?” I asked my friend, who’d been commiserating with me about the dramas of an unemployed family member.

“He called an old boss,” she said, adding a ‘duh!’ for good measure.

It’s not the first strategy I’d think about using were I in that situation, but it made sense. Why not? Hiring failure rates run about 80% when a firm uses ads. Their employees (the hiring managers) would probably love to hear from former employees, assuming the field is one that allows for transition (e.g. retail to marketing, not attorney to doctor).

I thought about bosses, but I also considered former clients. (heaven forbid I need to go out and get a real job sometime in the future). With nothing better to do, (for I am still bed-bound), I searched my contact database for names of former clients. Specifically, individuals who had left the ‘client’ company and were now working elsewhere. Turns out I have nice relationships with folks inside Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and a slew of other companies that may be interesting to me at some point. That was good news to me. I can at least reach out and say hello (which I did by the way, just to make sure my name still rings a bell).

At least twice a week, I will get a resume or inquiry from someone looking for a helping hand. Here are a few of my suggestions. Try reaching out to:

  • School community-parents, teachers. Soccer moms or yore are now the PTA, art docents, you name it wonderpeople (for both men and women volunteer). Schools and orgs have after-school programs that need paid helpers. These folks also have partners/spouses who work and may know of an opening.
  • Church employment. Quite a few churches have strong employment arms, and the LDS church is one of them. The job openings list can be found by city/state and is a fantastic resources. If you don’t belong to the church, I bet you know someone who is. As your member friend to look on the ‘job postings’ site.
  • Neighbors. These people may not be your best friends, or friends at all. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t help if given the chance. If you are a loved-one is unemployed, what’s to lose? Go tell them what’s up, the skill set and if they know of any opportunities. Said humbly yet fervently and a bit of passionate zing, it might be a kickstart of grand proportions.
  • Service providers. Don’t laugh. I’m talking the garage repairman, the painter, the plumber, the car technician, the clerk you see a thousand times at the grocery story—all of these people know at least 50-100 people. That has to include someone in some industry that you care about. (I’m making the grand assumption that you are a) nice to all these people so b) they would want to help you).

From Pie sales to Big Sales

A good friend of mine Kristin, is now a successful sales professional but for about five years prior ot working outside the home she made and sold pies. Beyond making a few hundred bucks every week, she created a fabulous reputation for kindness and having can-do attitude for a dozens of business owners and professionals who wanted to give a pie to a new client, take to a party, or what have you. When Kristen’s daughter entered full-time school, the first thing Kristen did was tap into her network of “pie buyers,” as she called them. Within a week she had four interviews and two weeks later, had her first job in sales. Granted, it took her five years to move from inside sales (phone calls) to outside sales, but now she makes nearly $75,000 a year and has a great life. All because she tapped into her network.Today, she estimates half her business is referral, and the other half folks that she just starts talking to in line at Starbucks, or wherever else she finds herself surrounded by people. To her “every person waiting in line is a potential customer or new contact.” That new contact is a stranger in the beginning, but falls in to a category above.

As I’ve been typing, I’ve received an email imploring me to help a relatively new acquaintance get more contract work. Better go answer that one right now.

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