The Recovering Farmer

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I want to take just a minute of your time. In essence Christmas started some time ago and will carry on for some time to come. In a typical Mennonite fashion, my Christmas keeps going and going. The family gatherings often start well before Christmas and run into the New Year. Fun,fun. Worse than the every ready bunny. Or is it the energizer bunny? I can’t remember.

I thought the shopping was done. I risked life and limb to drive in Winnipeg during a snowfall to pick up some gifts. Needed three gifts. Same item. One store sold out. Across the city one other store had three left. Refused to put them aside for me. I had to hurry. Enough to lose any Christmas spirit I might have had. I made it. Got the three gifts. Only said a few bad words. Made it home in one piece. A week later I was reminded that we have a grandchild. That is special but required another trip to a shopping mall.

Now that the hustle and bustle of shopping, cleaning the house, preparing food and getting ready is over, let’s eat. For the last few days we have had our kids at home. It has been special. Spent a lot of time with my grandson. I must be getting old. I enjoyed sitting back, grandson on my lap, and watching everyone laugh and have a good time.

It is the time of year to make memories. On that note let me share the following poem with you.

Memories are a special house
We build inside ourselves
Where love and laughter linger,
Where all our past life dwells.
On holidays like Christmas
We can draw upon the store,
Reliving happy times
And feeling all that warmth once more.
Wherever we may travel,
This house is always there
To help to blend the old and new,
To build on . . . grow . . . and share.
This house can never get too full,
Just grow from floor to floor,
Because the joy of memories
Is always making more.

So to all of you from all of me. Merry Christmas. Make it a good one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


We have arrived. The day is here. The sun has reached its low point for the year. From here on in its all downhill. In no time the snow will be gone. If I listen closely I can almost hear the birds. I can almost envision buds on the trees. The smell of new life. Soon we will be golfing. I close my eyes. I can hear my neighbor mowing his grass. Wait a minute. That's his snowblower.

Okay. I know. I seem to have lost it. No, I am not drinking or smoking anything illegal. Actually not drinking or smoking anything legal either. This is what I do. I get excited about the fact that days are getting longer. More about that later. It is December 21.To me this date represents one small step towards the end of winter. I know January cometh. That is a challenge in itself.

Just as I get excited about experiencing more daylight each day, fully aware that it also marks the first day of winter when in fact we have already had winter for months, I have been reminded that that day also marks the end of the Mayan calendar. Some “experts” are suggesting that means a cataclysmic end to the world. At first blush that creates some anxiety. Then I am reminded of the Y2K debacle and my fear dissipates. No sense in worrying about that, I have bigger fish to fry.

Remember the comment I made about days getting longer? Do you ever stop to think what that sounds like? Days get longer? Excuse me. Don’t all days have twenty four hours? So how can days get longer? But if days have twenty four hours how many hours are there in a night. Because nights are part of days, right? If that is the case how can you have days and nights and only 24 hours? And then in spring when we go to day light savings time our days get longer yet? I am reminded of the Native American wisdom that says; “When told the reason for daylight saving time the old Indian said..."Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket."

It’s a matter of semantics. It actually reminds me of the ongoing debate on whether the world was created in 7 twenty-four hour days or whether the reference to days is just to tell the story when in fact the world evolved over a much longer period of time. We receive a monthly publication from a certain church organization that shall remain nameless. It so happens that a recent article contained one person’s opinion on creation. The response in letters to the editor actually had me looking forward to receiving the next issues. It became entertaining, at times humorous. Created a conundrum. Somewhat like my little rant above. I don’t really think it matters. Enough said, before I get into trouble.

The point is that December 21 is a turning point. Somewhat like climbing a mountain. We have reached the top and now are on our way down the other side. To me that provides hope. I suppose if I dislike winter that much I could move to a different climate. But then I would probably be concerned about hurricanes or earthquakes. In some places it might actually be too hot. Perhaps I just need to go with what I got. Go with the quote from A. Cumus; “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer”. What I do know for sure is that in six months the days start getting shorter. Make it a good one.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Golf and Life

I am reading a book, written by a psychiatrist, that draws many comparisons between golf and life. (sorry K) The book is called Golf And The Spirit with the sub-title being Lessons For The Journey. While down in the States, a few months ago, we came across a used book store. Obviously the title caught my eye. Sounded to me like stuff I have written about over the last few years. Perhaps this could give me some new ideas. Perhaps it could validate my own thoughts. Perhaps it could teach me some lessons. Either for golf or for life. So far it has done all of the above. At least to an extent. And no, for the record, I do not read a lot of books other than novels.

I have finished the front nine. I am making the turn. Sorry, that sounds almost Biblical. This simply means I am half way through the book. That only took three months. Each chapter is devoted to a hole on a fantasy course conjured up by the author. What I have found interesting in Dr. Peck’s writing is the references to stuff that I like talking about. Stress, sleep issues, mindfulness, our intellect, our thoughts, and even a touch of spirituality. He seems to be particularly obsessed with paradoxes.

The Encarta dictionary defines paradox as “a statement, proposition, or situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact is or may be true”. That sounds interesting. It has taken some effort to get my head wrapped around that. Let me give you some examples. Arnold Palmer once said that “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect”. That sounds contradictory all right. But if you think about it, it is true. I suppose you have to be a golfer to relate to that one. I recall sitting in a client’s house. On the wall was a picture with the following words. “We give our kids two things. Roots and wings.” Again, sounds contradictory. But if you think about it there is a lot of truth in that. By what we teach our kids, by the examples we set, by giving them stability, we are giving them roots. Roots that will define them in later years. By letting go, by showing trust, and through encouragement, we give them wings. We give them freedom because they have roots.

With the Sleepless workshops fast approaching I have been giving thought to the issues of sleep, stress and safety. Dr. Peck talks about our thinking. Of course, he views our thinking as something positive. He obviously does not know about my stinking thinking. But he also states that we must get a good night’s sleep to think clearly. Perhaps that is my problem. He says, and I quote, “As far as researchers can determine, most of the brain activity during sleep (including most dreaming) is devoted to emptying our minds of preoccupations, and concerns so that we can begin the new day with more or less a clean slate”. He ends the chapter by saying that “Without enough sleep, people go crazy.” I am looking forward to learning more about the gift of a good sleep.

There is my book report on the first half. Notice how little I actually said about golf? Perhaps that will come in my next report. For now I am moving on to the back nine. My score on the front was not that great. To many “problems” I recognized and had to think about. But I have a chance to redeem myself. A new beginning. I can still salvage a good score. If I change my ways. Actually just bought another book. Will take a break from the self-help book. I found out I am misdiagnosing myself. Perhaps reading a novel filled with violence will help. Make it a good one.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Here Comes The Sun

I would have called this That Time Of Year but that title has been used in the past. Perhaps many of you are familiar with where my feelings are at this time of year. Where my thoughts tend to go. Perhaps many of you share similar experiences, similar thoughts. It is the time of year when temperatures are cold. Snow is on the ground. Trees are bare. Less sunlight each day. Some might argue we have no sunshine. We have had an inordinate amount of cloud. It is gloomy. Me thinks there is a significant shortage of Vitamin D.

Seems George Harrison, of Beatles renown, had similar feelings when he wrote the lyrics to the song Here Comes the Sun. Life was getting to him. It was not as simple as it used to be. He writes in his autobiography that “. . . it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it”. No, I have not read his book. Wikepedia is a great source of information. I simply googled the title of the song. The song came to mind as I reflected on another cloudy day.

What is it about this time of year that brings so much gloom and doom? Sure, we can blame it on the weather. We can ruminate about the lack of sunlight. We can grouch about the winter that has gone on forever but, in essence, has only just begun. So many, myself included, would like to fast forward through the month of December. There are so many expectations for this supposed festive season. The hustle and bustle. Buying gifts. Attending parties. Putting up decorations. Preparing food. Perhaps it is the expectations others have of us. Real or perceived. Perhaps we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We “have” to buy gifts. We “have” to go to that party or that family gathering or that community event or that concert. We “have” to invite so and so over. We “have” to make sure we do something special for the kids. What we would “like” to do becomes secondary. It becomes tiring.

There are the Christmas lights, there is music, at first glance, a festive spirit. Commercials on TV, with a background of nice music (I really like the music in the Walmart commercial), promise something magical. If only we would spend $100 here or a $1000 there. Makes it sound so simple. We put up a tree, we hang lights from the eaves, we play more music, all in the hope of finding that magic. We try to do what it takes.

And yet beneath all of that, behind the facades, in the hearts of many lurks a certain sadness. A darkness that is difficult to define. A sadness that leaves me puzzled and confused. I remember an uncle that would often have tears in his eyes when Christmas carols were sung at family get togethers. I often wondered why. I will never know what brought on those tears. I may never fully understand what brings on my tears. I just know it happens. Perhaps it becomes a time for reflection. Reflecting on Christmas’ past, remembering a loved one, more acutely aware of the pain that many people feel, more aware of our own anxieties. And for many that creates profound sadness and loneliness.

Here is hoping that the sun will shine just a little brighter this Christmas. Hoping that through some simple way we can find magic. The magic of relationships. The magic of love. Hoping that through our friends and loved ones we can experience the peace and hope that Christmas was meant to bring. Here is hoping that together with George Harrison we can sing “here comes the sun”. Make it a good one.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Don’t Look Too Good

That probably doesn’t come as much surprise to anyone. Perhaps the only surprise is that I have never admitted that previously. Anyone that watched the Grey Cup half time show or has had any discussions with anyone that did watch or has read any newspapers, has, by now, heard about the fact that Justin Bieber was booed during his performance. Personally I didn’t notice nor do I care. I am much more concerned about the song sung by the infamous Gordon Lightfoot. Wow. Talk about old. Perhaps my problem is that some mornings when I look in the mirror I think I resemble Mr. Lightfoot. That is why I say, I don’t look too good.

Actually I am not referring to my physical looks. It is my eyes. Seems I have some issues. Again. I don’t look too good. At least out of one eye. I am reminded of going to bed one night and as my wife took off her glasses I made the comment that without her glasses she looked just like that beautiful, young girl I married 30 years ago. Wait a minute. Tomorrow is our anniversary. It is actually 31 years ago. Another story for another day. After I made the comment to her she looked at me and said that without her glasses on I didn’t look too bad either.

Back to my eyes. As some of you know my issues began a few years ago with a diagnosis of cataracts. Got that surgery done. Then I had a detached retina. Took three surgeries and a few laser procedures to fix that problem. Even after the surgeries I never got good vision back in that eye. When I was able to return to the golf course I realized very quickly that lining up putts with only one eye does not work. Then I came to the realization that something was happening in my other eye. Turns out my cataract lens was fogging up. Got to the point where I probably should not have been driving. A simple laser procedure fixed that. A further laser surgery on both eyes got me to where my vision was quite good. Now this.

I am told that I have Glaucoma. Sounds serious. Somewhat scary as sight is something most of us take for granted. I have been told that Glaucoma cannot be reversed but it can be stopped. Will probably mean using eye drops for the rest of my life. I got lots of practice using eye drops during my detached retina debacle. So that should not be a problem. Only one side effect. It makes eye lashes grow long and thick. I will be the envy of many. Mostly women. But that is okay. I have been told I should use the drops in both eyes. I thought it was as a prevention of getting glaucoma in the other eye. Now I am beginning to think it is so I will have some balance to my eye lashes. Me thinks this could make me look somewhat weird. Then I won’t look so good. Again.

So here is my thinking. If the eye drops help in growing eye lashes perhaps they could also help in replenishing the hair on top of my head. Might be on to something. So if you see me and I am applying eye drops to my head don’t laugh. This just might work. In the meantime, here is hoping that the glaucoma can be stopped. After all, the golf season is right around the corner. Right? Make it a good one.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Feeling Good About Me

Ever stop to think about the meaning of self-pity? Look it up in the dictionary. Even better, keep reading. I will give you a definition. The Encarta Dictionary defines self-pity as “the self-indulgent belief that your life is harder and sadder than everyone else's”. That says it all. Does not sound like something one would really want to get too immersed in. So why is it so easy to fall into that miserable state of mind where these feelings exist? Why do I actually sometimes enjoy that state of mind? With today’s ways of communicating, knowing what is going on in all four corners of the world, you know that there are so many people worse off than you. (That statement right there is proof that the world is flat. A round object does not have corners.)

I mentioned recently that I was learning a new concept regarding one’s feelings for self. Self-compassion. Ah ha. The dictionary does not have that one. What is the definition of compassion? According to the Dictionary it means to have “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help”. We know that caring for others, wanting to help, is a good thing. It feels good. And we all know when others care about us, when they want to help us, it feels good.

The theory is quite simple. Do you know that as humans we have an innate desire to be understood by others particularly during periods of distress? We never outgrow that. Our pain and anxiety reduces the more others understand and care. Our physical health improves when others show they care, when they show they understand, when they reach out to help. Using that same principle on ourselves is just as important. You know me. I keep beating up on myself. Question my self worth. Remember Imposter Syndrome? This is where self-compassion is so important. We need to better understand ourselves. We need to be kinder to “me”. We need to be able to reach out and help “me”.

Easier said than done, right? I just came from a meeting which included a number of people involved in mediation work. It was an informal meeting, one where ideas were shared. Participants were asked to share about what works and what doesn’t. There were more degrees in that room than people, and I don’t mean the temperature. There were lawyers, professional mediators, executives, people with abrasive self-confidence (arrogance). I felt intimidated. Who was I to be involved in that meeting? I went with the thought that it is better to keep my mouth closed and appear to be a fool rather than to open it and erase all doubt. When I got home I sat back and thought, I can’t do this. I am nothing. I don’t rate. Felt like curling up in some corner in the fetal position.

And then I took a minute to reflect. To reflect on who I am. I thought about what had been said. I realized that many of the “novel” ideas that were shared I was already practicing. I came to understand that I was good at my job. I softened my view of myself. I opened my heart and my mind. And in the same way I would have responded if someone else had told me that, I started feeling better about myself. I felt validated. I felt worthy. Worthy of the kindness and respect I was showing myself. The kindness and respect I deserve.

Mindfulness is a great tool to use to become self-compassionate. Bring ourselves back to the present. Build on our natural ability to meld mind and body. Take some time, on a regular basis, to sit back, become aware of the present by focusing on your breathing. And as you contemplate the present say the following words. “May my heart be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe. May I be healthy in mind and body. May I be happy, truly happy. May I live my life with ease.” (Taken from Klinic’s brochure on self-compassion.) With practice this exercise will come naturally. And as you do this exercise your life will become more fulfilled. You will feel better about “me”. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lest We Forget

Someone suggested to me that they were opposed to the concept of wearing poppies. That particular person felt that it was a symbolic gesture that had lost its significance. And, perhaps, for many people it has. The further we are removed from something the tougher it is to take note, to remember. I would suggest that is a sad commentary on society. We have so much to be thankful for, particularly as it concerns our freedom from dictators, tyranny, and civil unrest. Perhaps we take too much for granted. It was also suggested that wearing a poppy was a cop out. Meaning that we put one on, for this one day of the year, just because it is expected of us. We show the world we are “with it”. But are we really?

Some years ago, shortly after the war in Afghanistan began, I put a magnetic decal on my car. You know the one that says `support our troops”? I got quite the tongue lashing from one individual who accused me of supporting the Conservative government, supporting everything that the Conservative government stood for. I stopped him. I could have argued with him that it was actually the Liberals that sent our troops to Afghanistan but I refrained. I said he was being somewhat hasty in his judgement of me. I suggested to him that supporting our troops did not mean that I was supporting what they were doing. Did not mean that I was in agreement with the conflict happening in Afghanistan nor what had perpetuated that particular conflict. As I heard yesterday, the soldier’s duty is not to reason why, it is to do or die. I was making a point of being cognizant of the dangers our troops were facing. The decal on my car was a daily reminder of what was happening in other parts of the world.

I read an interesting article this weekend where the author informed his readers that he was a pacifist but still wore a poppy. In his words, “I wear (a poppy) as a sign of respect for the many men and women who sacrificed years, youth and their lives during this country’s wars”. And we need to respect those that fought for our freedoms. Our rights.

This should not be a debate about whether wars should be fought. About the “what ifs” had there had not been the efforts to stop Hitler. Not about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Not about the many other excuses there have been to defend our rights. Some valid, some not so much. As a mediator I have a firm belief that conflict can be solved without violence. (I am trying to imagine what it would have been like to mediate between Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt) Some may call me naïve.

Rather it is a time to reflect on what we enjoy today. Reflect on the price that was paid. The young lives that were sacrificed. The hardships created by war. Reflect on many of the conflicts that are still happening today. Soldiers that have been deployed. Perhaps there are better ways to resolve conflict, to find peaceful solutions. It is our duty to remember . And ultimately do our part for peace. We must wear poppies, lest we forget. Make it a good one.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


It was with a heavy heart that I set out for Wawanesa earlier this week. Although “going home” should have a certain excitement to it, this trip did not. You see, I was going to a funeral. A funeral for a good friend of mine. He lost his battle with cancer. A fight that had carried on for many years. One that left him scarred, weary and worn.

We did not start out in life as friends. He was somewhat older than me. His kids were friends of mine. Spent many hours with them. I suppose back then he was concerned about the trouble we might get into. I recall my parents forcing me to call him uncle. Not that he was my uncle. However, in our house when people were older, particularly men, they were referred to as uncle. In later years he and I often joked about this. I would, on occasion, still call him uncle. My parents were firm believers that calling someone uncle was respectful. And I did respect him. As we became friends and peers, as I got to know him better, my respect for him grew.He knew what he believed. He knew what he wanted. And most of all, he was prepared to fight for his beliefs.

He owned a chicken farm. A mere two miles from our farm. My first recollection of the beginning of our friendship was helping him load chickens. Not the best job I have ever done. But interesting how an evening like that could turn into an evening of laughter and camaraderie. Soon thereafter we spent countless days drinking coffee, going out for lunch, enjoying visits at each other’s homes. Initially our coffee dates took us to the local gas station. When that closed we would gather at our farm. We had a place where we spent hours discussing agriculture, politics and religion. It was a hoot.

Some irony in the fact that he died on Halloween. When I heard the news and reflected on some of my memories I remembered a certain Halloween that we sat at my barn and visited. It was in the days when local kids liked wreaking havoc at my place. Never figured that one out. I was vigilant. When I saw a vehicle, with the lights out, headed to my barn I hopped in my vehicle in hot pursuit. There he was. Laughing. Getting a kick out of having me chasing him around to find out what was going on. Ended up visiting.

He had some significant challenges in life. Some years ago he lost a son. Devastating to say the least. Heartbreaking for a parent. Something nobody wants to experience. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. We spent a lot of time talking about that. Lots of questions. Seemingly, few answers. He faced financial ruin on his farm. A victim of high interest rates. He recovered from that, farmed successfully for many years, was able to turn the farm over to family and was able to retire in comfort. He exemplified resilience.

He was a tremendous help to me. Whether it was struggles on the farm, learning to be an agricultural leader, facing financial stress, going through mental health issues, or questioning my existence in this world, he provided a listening ear. He was there for me. He was a mentor. For that I will always be thankful. I will not forget.

Unfortunately, and I regret this, when we moved I lost touch. I feel like I failed him as he struggled with his health. I know he is in a better place. The cares and worries of the world are gone. RIP Erwin. My thoughts and prayers are with the family as they adjust to a world without a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Cherish the memories.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Build A Bridge

How many times have you heard the phrase “get over it”? Certainly if you have had anything to do with kids, whether your own or someone else’s, you will have heard that. Often times, I am sure, you have felt like using it yourself. And, I am sure, there are times when you did use it. As many of you know by now, I often slip into a state of rumination. I stew about things. I have, on occasion, wallowed in self-pity. Some time ago I was worked up about something. Can’t remember what anymore. Perhaps that in itself is a sign that it happens to often. My wife finally had enough and told me to get over it.

I deal with many people who are in crisis. Some real, some perceived. And, like me, many of these people feel they are alone. They feel like they are being picked on. Taken advantage of. Sometimes I feel like telling them to get over it. Sure, it hurts initially. Sometimes, temporarily, it puts us deeper into that cauldron of self-pity. Thinking everyone else is on easy street. I am the only one hurting. And the age old line, nobody cares and nobody understands. (Heard a new term today. Self-compassion. I want to learn more about that. It sounds like a much healthier emotion than self-pity.)

Just recently one of my kids said to one of their siblings, “get over it”. In the background I heard someone else say; “build a bridge”. Excuse me. Build a bridge? Sure they explained. When you are told to get over it what do you need? You need a bridge. That simple.

You know me. I started applying the concept to life. Instead of muddling our way through, fighting everything we are trying to avoid, we need to build a bridge. In my mind I conjured up this picture of a crisis being like a river. A river with a swift and turbulent current. As you start across the river the water gets deeper. Mud is sucking at your feet. The current is throwing you off balance. The water gets colder. Then when the water gets too deep for walking you start swimming. The current takes you down stream and you end up in places you had not wanted to go. In a worst case scenario you can drown.

Now picture crossing that same river on a bridge. Sure, having to build a bridge will take some time and some effort. But when it is built it becomes a way to circumvent a lot of problems. You stay dry. You stay on course. You stay safe. Now you can observe the river from above. There are no threats to life or limb. And once that bridge has been built it can be used time and time again.

So next time someone says “get over it”, build a bridge. Don’t take it personally. Take it as a challenge. Understand that there is a better way than the way you are dealing with an issue. Instead of mucking through an issue, utilize tools to get over it. The tools are available. And the best part of this is you don’t need to do this on your own. Find your supports. Friends, family, neighbors, professionals. They are all prepared to be on your “construction” crew. They are your supports. Remember. “When it hurts to look back and you are worried about the future look beside you and you will find your friends.” Make it a good one.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sleepless In Manitoba

I know. The title has everyone thinking of that movie Sleepless In Seattle. The one starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It’s a romantic comedy. But that is not what I want to talk about. Because, really, as you know I am not the romantic type. Remember when I admitted almost a year ago that I had bought flowers for our anniversary? The first time in years? Which reminds me. Our anniversary is coming up next month. Got to get ready for that. Think of something special. I will think about that.

Do you find yourself wishing for a good night’s sleep? An uninterrupted sleep? To wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to get at life? Sleepless In Manitoba is a series of workshops being put on by the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services. An interesting topic, to say the least. More and more research is being done on sleep. Significant and interesting data is coming out of this research. We are getting close to the day when we change our clocks. The good news is that we get an extra hour of sleep. Research has shown that traffic accidents increase significantly the day after we lose an hour of sleep when we go back to daylight savings time. Imagine that. Losing one hour of sleep has such an impact on our daily lives.

Knowing that, take a minute to analyze your sleep patterns. I know for myself it does not take a lot for me to miss out on some sleep. Many of the people I deal with will share with me issues they are experiencing with their sleep. Some people have a difficult time falling asleep because of overwhelming stress in their lives. Others have no problem falling asleep, it is almost like their brain knows that sleep is the only way it gets a break from constant rumination, but will wake up in the wee hours of the morning and not be able to fall asleep because of anxious thoughts. Do you know that insomnia is a symptom of depression and anxiety and a condition that makes it worse? It makes for a vicious circle.

A lot of our sleep issues relate back to stress in our lives. And with the fast paced world we live in stress is becoming more of an issue. Farming is one of the most stressful occupations. Being overwhelmed with stress often lead to poor decision making. Most accidents, and particularly farm accidents, are as a result of in-attentiveness. Not being aware. Why is that? Our minds are far too busy dealing with a myriad of issues in our lives. We need to stop and take stock. Recognize what is going on. And then use the tools available, and they are, to bring back balance to our lives. Bring back a semblance of control.

In my research I have come across some information that I will use more often. Do you realize that your body is directing you to take a nap in the early afternoon? Really. I like that. Far too often I am looking for an excuse for a nap. Even napping ten minutes can restore your physical and emotional wellbeing. A one hour nap is even better.

This is but a taste of information that will be provided at the Sleepless In Manitoba workshops. Dr. Carlyle Smith, a renowned sleep specialist, will share his expertise on sleep deprivation and the practical tools available to help you get a better sleep. I have been asked to be involved in the workshops to talk about the stress and safety. Talk about some of my experiences. I am looking forward to sharing war stories with many of you. That is the way to learn. That is the way to make the rest of your life the best of your life. Visit to find out more about these workshops. Hope to see you there. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Something Good About Soccer

Last week I dropped in to have coffee and a chat with a friend and colleague. We used to have the opportunity to share war stories as our offices were across the hall from each other. Since the move that has not happened as often. It happened that I had a meeting in Brandon so the coffee thing worked out. She informed me that she had checked out my blog that morning but I had not kept to my usual Friday post. I had an excuse. I was on the road Thursday and Friday. She asked what the topic was for the week and was quick to add a suggestion. She felt that I should write something good about soccer. She felt there was so much said about golf that it was time to write about something else. Like soccer.

Personally I took it as a cry for help. You see, she was going to be spending the weekend watching kids play soccer. Soccer is not the most invigorating sport to watch. In case you are telling yourself that I have no expertise on this don’t be so hasty. I watched a soccer game this summer. My daughter’s boyfriend plays the sport. He is what they call the “keeper”. That would be goalie in plain English. So I went and watched a game. Honestly, it was mind numbing. I was thankful that a cousin of mine showed up which gave me an opportunity to visit with someone. At one point I thought they had changed “keepers”. It took a few minutes to realize they had just changed ends.

The argument is made that golf is boring and who would ever want to watch golf. I get it. Amateur golf is not a spectator sport. Nobody ever watches me play golf. I never went to watch the kids play golf. Yes, I do watch golf on TV. And so do many others. I will admit that there are times when I am meandering down a fairway I question what it is I really am doing out there. It appears to be a pointless game. My efforts often times futile. Reminds me of a quote I saw some time ago. “When primitive man screamed and beat the ground with sticks, they called it witchcraft. When modern man does that it’s called golf.” (K, I am sure that applies to women as well)

Back to soccer. Something good about soccer. I was just watching national news. Apparently Canada played Honduras in a soccer match. In Honduras in front of 40,000 fans. Canada lost. 8 to 1. Much adieu about the score. The coach has apologized. Someone suggested this was embarrassing. Embarrassing? Not sure why. You lost. Get over it. 9 goals scored in one game. Must have actually provided some entertainment for the fans. The captain of the women’s Olympic team has been suspended for yelling at the ref during a soccer game. Sure, blame it on the refs. Don’t get me wrong. It would have been great to see the Canadians beat the Americans. But they didn’t.

Okay. I still have not said anything good about soccer. I am working on it. Here goes. I think I know for sure that I might be able to confidently say that soccer fans are passionate. And I will admit that some players are quite talented with their feet. Okay, their heads to. But that is where it ends. At the end of the day I still prefer watching golf. And, I am not in the least bit tempted to play soccer. Here is hoping that the sun comes out for the weekend. My golf course is closing Sunday for the winter. Would like to get in one or two more rounds. Make it a good one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thanksgiving And All

Although this is only being posted at the end of the week, the Friday after thanksgiving, I am, at least starting to, write this on Thanksgiving day. A day when most people will be getting together and stuffing their faces. Get it? Stuffing their faces. With stuffing none the less. After all, stuffing is something you have with turkey and turkey is what is traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving. What did the turkey eat for thanksgiving? Nothing. It was already stuffed. (groan) And then for dessert some of you poor folk are actually going to eat pumpkin pie. Never quite got that one.

Watching news this weekend I heard that Canadians waste 27 billion dollars’ worth of food annually. 27 billion. Unbelievable. Imagine that. That works out to just under 1,000 dollars per person. Do you know that the amount of food we waste equals Canada’s deficit for last year? If you extrapolate that over the G8 nations you come up with a staggering number. Wonder how many people we could feed with what gets wasted every year.

It is the time of year when one reflects on the good things in life. I know. Far too often it is easier to think about all the things that suck. But, you will notice a significant swing in your mood if you focus on good things. That happens to be a little easier for me this year as we celebrate the arrival of our first grandchild. When the kids brought him for his first visit Sunday I was awestruck with that tiny bundle of new life. So much potential. At the same time I have to wonder what is in store for the little guy. The world we live in changes on a daily basis. Things just are not as simple as they once were.

I am reading a very interesting book. The setting is in the early 1900’s. That would seem archaic to many. Almost pre-historic to others. We are talking a mere 100 years ago. The story happened during the first world war. It has intense, graphic descriptions of what happened during that time. From coal mining to war, aristocracy to working class, and the dynamics of conflict between many European countries. The language of the day, terminology they used makes me chuckle at times. Reiterates the point that the world has changed. People have changed. Technology has changed. Our thinking has changed.

Many of these changes are positive. No question. However, how we adapt to these changes can dictate our future. In spite of these changes many of the dynamics remain. Power struggles. Discrimination of people based on religion, color, sexual orientation, to name but a few. There does not appear to be any less conflict. Many people are struggling. There is often a cry for help that goes unheeded. We have the ability to do so much but far too often we do so little. We take things for granted.

Going through some pictures on my cell phone I came across a picture I obviously took at some point in my travels. I have forgotten where I took this. And that’s understandable as I am a grandfather. A picture of a quote on a poster. It goes like this. “In the end we will preserve only what we love, we will only love what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.” Makes me hope that I taught my kids the right things. Makes me hope that my grandson will be taught the right things. Knowing his parents I feel confident that will happen. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Waiting Game

I recall, many years ago, waiting for our kids to be born. It was stressful. Of course, I suspect, I was quite naïve back in the day and had no clue what awaited me. I just knew I was going to be a father. I looked forward to it. I was excited. And it did happen and we were fortunate to have three healthy kids. At the time I found myself feeling quite good about the fact that the three were born so close together. Although it is almost embarrassing to have the new year’s baby 3 out of 4 years. (Actually it wasn’t quite that way. Our third child was a day late for the new year baby distinction and she was born in February. Only in small town Manitoba.) I recall, while leaving the hospital with child number two, the nurse saying to us; “see you next year”.

And while they were young it was great to have these kids crawling, jumping and walking all over the place. Then, in a blink of an eye, they all became teenagers in a very short order. My perspective changed but obviously it was too late to do anything about that. What appeared a relatively easy task initially, quickly turned into a bigger challenge. But, I can honestly say, so far so good. Their growing up years can’t have been too bad as two of them are currently living with us. One even brought a boyfriend and a dog. Perhaps we need to quit cooking with cheese.

I am again in a position of waiting. I have known for a while that I was going to become a grandfather. Wow. That sounds ominous and exciting all at the same time. Ominous because it makes me sound old. Ominous because that means our kids are all grown up. Ominous because, again, there comes a certain amount of responsibility. Although this go around we can spoil the kid rotten. After all, when he becomes too ornery we can send him home. (Yes, it is a boy) Or I can give him to grandma. Wait a minute. When my kids acted up I seemingly always had work to do in the barn. Easy way out, perhaps. And how about those diapers.

This becoming a grandpa has really made me reassess myself. Made me look in the mirror. I know. That is a scary thought. The last year has brought so many changes. Last September we experienced one of our kids getting married. In January we sold our house and bought a house in a new community. In February we moved. And here we are expecting our first grandchild. As much as time flies by I can honestly say that I do not recall any other 12 month period in my life that saw so many positive changes.
To celebrate all of this I went to see a doctor today. I miss the doctor I had back in Wawanesa. This doctor was all business. In seven minutes flat he had given me a complete physical. Yes. Including that dreaded prostate check. The doctor I used to have liked to visit. Chat about farming. Not so much today. Hey, I got a clean bill of health. Really that is all that matters. He informed me that I appeared to be in “reasonably” good shape. What the heck does that mean.

So here is what I am going with. By the end of the weekend I know I will be a grandpa. If it does not happen naturally by then the doctors will help him along. (Seems to be a stubborn little guy, just like his father.) In the meantime I can relish in the fact that I will be a reasonably fit grandpa. “I am going to make the rest of my life the best of my life.” I know that with all the positive changes over the last year I have a good start. Make it a good one.

P.S. After 30 hours of labor Kai James entered this world at 3:30 last night.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Breaking The Silence

I have a brother who is the pastor of a church in Saskatchewan. Occasionally he will send me his sermons. Now, whether that is because he feels I don’t go to church often enough or whether he thinks I need more spiritual food than what I am getting or whether he just feels that the topics he picks will interest me, I am not sure. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. I have another brother who is not a pastor but probably should be. Then again, based on my mother’s opinion, I should probably be one too. However, that is a topic best left for another day. So in a nutshell I have one brother that is “Mennonite” (leave that one alone as well) and one who is Catholic. Then again I have a friend who is a Lutheran pretending to be Catholic. So what am I? Since our move I have been to a Catholic church and a Mennonite church. I suspect that would categorize me as being between churches.

Back to the real topic. The latest sermon I read talked about breaking the silence. Reminded me of the work I have been doing in the last few years. Ironically, the same day I read the sermon I did a noon hour interview on CBC radio noon. The topic was the ever worsening plight of our hog farmers. I emphasized the fact that people need to talk more. They need to open up. Find a support system. Find the resources that can help them. They need to break the silence.

“Breaking the silence” is a common theme in today’s world. When you google “breaking the silence” there are over 7 million results. 7 million. Quite astounding, actually. In my work with the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services we often talk about “breaking the silence” as it concerns depression and suicide. In my radio interview I was again asked about my experience with depression. I have often related how I kept it quiet. Even today when I find myself slipping I am loathe to talk about my mental health issues. Why is that? Why is there such a stigma to talking about how we are feeling mentally or emotionally? I have no problem telling anybody who will listen when I have a back ache. I quite openly complain about being tired. My wife thinks I never stop complaining when I have a cold. These ailments are easy to talk about. However, talking about feeling down, feeling anxious, feeling helpless, is difficult.

“Silence is to say we can imagine nothing else than what is and we are quite prepared to accept the evil as the best and only thing that can be.” I took this quote directly from my brother’s sermon. That quote really hit home for me and my struggles with negative thoughts and feelings. When I allow the dark clouds to move in, when I do not act proactively against these feelings, I often times feel like I am conceding. I am giving in. I seem to accept the darkness as the only thing that can be.

The challenge for us is also to be aware of those around us. Many of us have friends and neighbors who are struggling due to a variety of reasons. These people often times feel alone. They have withdrawn. Perhaps they could use our help. “Maybe there is a silence that needs breaking but the people who need to be heard simply cannot find their voice. It’s been silenced for too long, the pain is too great, the hopelessness has gone on for too long? You can break the silence for them, and give voice to their cry, their pain, their groaning.” (Another quote from my brother. If nothing else he should at least know that I read the stuff he sends me.) I know from experience that talking to someone about my issues helps. I have also found that when I talk, others share with me. I just hope that I can help others like others have helped me. Make it a good one.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Means To An End

The hog industry is in the news again. Over the last week we have heard of two large companies seeking court protection from their creditors. An industry that had so much potential is facing ongoing challenges. At the outset of 2012 there was significant optimism. The future looked bright. Feed prices were relatively stable. Futures prices for hogs were good. I talked to some producers who had locked in very favorable prices. But then that changed. Drought hit the American mid-west. Feed prices sky rocketed. Potential profits turned to devastating losses. What looked good, no longer was.

It is difficult to imagine how much money has been lost in the industry. Back in the mid 1990’s there were many positive market indicators that showed the industry having nothing but success. The government of the day jumped on the band wagon. The Manitoba industry was promoted around the world. Study after study showed how Manitoba could be and would be the place to produce hogs. But since 1998 the industry has had more downers than uppers.

I remember 1998. It was the beginning of the end for many producers. The price hit all-time lows. It was said at the time that producers lost 15 years of equity. Some knew that it would be a struggle to make that back. Many tried. Many failed. Some sooner than others. I have sometimes said, facetiously, that I was one of the first to lose my farm. My claim to fame. Truth be known, I have looked back and thought of things that I could have done differently that could have kept me in the game. In the last few years I have come to the realization that my demise as a farmer was inevitable. Some people have suggested I was lucky. Maybe I was.

Over the last few years I have dealt with many fellow hog producers. So often the question comes up, what will I do? Is there life after farming? Many have reached the age where they thought they were working towards retirement only to have, what was once worth thousands or millions, become a liability. Not something that promises a healthy retirement. Now they wonder, what next?

Often times we hear that there is more to life than money. Don’t even get me going on the current labor dispute in the NHL. The top Jets player will be losing $64,000 per game that is not played. That is more money than many people make in a year. Much could be said about that. Often it is said that money is simply a means to an end. Far too often these comments come from people who have never experienced the devastation of losing all. The devastation of coming face to face with the reality that life has changed. The reality is that money is important. And yes it is the means to an end. An end to one part of life as we move into the next phase. A comfortable retirement. For years we have committed to the demands of our farms. Sacrificed, because some day all that work and effort will pay off. When you have a passion to farm, when you are connected to the land, when farming has been your life, it is very difficult to see anything beyond that.

The stress of facing these financial challenges is enormous. Our pride is hurt. Our self-esteem takes a beating. We feel like such failures. We feel lost. We feel alone. This stress often hampers our decision making abilities. It hampers us from making good choices. We do things we would not normally do. Far too often these poor choices only make things worse. The good news in all of this is that there is help. There is relief. The key is to reach out for help. There are others that have been there. There are those that can guide you through the process of moving on. And best of all. There is life after farming. I know. I have been there. Make it a good one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Acts Of Kindness 2

I did a random act of kindness early one morning last week. I wish I could say I had done it intentionally. Not so. I was rushing to a meeting. Enroute I stopped at the bank to deposit a cheque. I also needed cash. No problem. It’s handy when you drive by the bank on the way to your destination. Downtown Winnipeg I stopped at my usual coffee corner for a coffee and muffin. I put my hand in my pocket to grab my money. It was at that point that panic set in. I had no cash. My mind started racing. Where could it be? I checked my pockets. Twice. I thought I had lost it. I thought back to my stop at the bank. The only conclusion I could come up with is that I never took it from the ATM. I was in a hurry. I was somewhat preoccupied. Of course, this created a distraction all morning.

Why am I telling you this story? Plain and simple. I knew that at some point I would have to fess up. Admit to my forgetfulness. My stupidity. My ineptness. Break it to my wife. I shared this with one of the participants in my meeting. She laughed and suggested what she doesn’t know can’t create issues. I could only wish it would be that simple. Unfortunately my wife checks the bank balance on a daily basis. There would be questions about why I needed to make two cash withdrawals in one day. I needed cash to pay for parking. It would be tough to fool anyone.

I have another problem. Since I was young I have never been able to hide any feelings of guilt. In fact I can recall my mother questioning me when she thought I had a guilty look on my face in spite of me not having done anything wrong. That problem has stuck with me. I wear my thoughts on my face. Tough to keep secrets that way. Tough to hide anything.

So at noon I called her. Curious what I would hear. Filled with trepidation over what she would say. She laughed and without missing a beat suggested that I had made someone’s day with that screw up. That was it. The only verbal abuse I got for that incident was what I gave myself. And trust me, I did give myself a true tongue lashing. I am really getting good at that. Call myself everything in the book. Accomplish nothing by doing that.

So what now? I stopped in at the bank to ask them. They said I should bring in my receipt and they would investigate. Oh really? What if I don’t keep my receipt. I never even look at them. Don’t want to know. Stems back from my farming days. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. I wish. Well, as luck would have it I found my receipt. In my car, in the cup holder. How it got there I have no idea. It’s still readable, in spite of the coffee stains. See if they can investigate that.

I challenged a client today that they should leave the past behind and look ahead. Move on. Like the saying goes, “scars remind us of where we have been but do not have to dictate where we are going”. Perhaps that should be my goal. After all, it was only 60 bucks. Ouch, that still hurts. But, I suspect, I have probably spent money on things less useful. Lesson learned. In the meantime I made someone’s day. I hope. Make it a good one.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hope Springs

The good news is, I remembered my wife’s birthday. Even better, the kids took control of the evening. They made dinner. Not my favorite but who cares. I did not have to prepare it. One son surprised his mother by showing up earlier than she had expected. All I did was suggest, early in the week, that I would take them all to a movie. Of course, with me paying the way, I got to choose. Ever mindful, of course, of what my wife would like to see. I chose the movie Hope Springs. Not because of the topic, a middle aged couple having bedroom issues, but because I like the main actors. Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep. I suspected it would be good.

I would be remiss in not pointing out that my kids were not that enthused about the movie pick I had made. One hates movies and did not want to go at all. Another one suggested that the Bourne Legacy movie was showing as well. He obviously knows my weakness for the Bourne movies. But they humoured me. We all went. By the time we got there the theater was almost full. We had to sit right in front. I did notice, however, that our kids were the youngest people there.

I enjoyed the movie. Had a few good laughs. Noticed quite a bit of laughter coming from behind us. Some of it seemed like nervous laughter. I was wondering if there were parts of the movie that was hitting some nerves. You know the old adage, truth hurts? I suppose that is what happens when you have a bunch of middle aged people watching a movie about relationships, particularly as it concerns the physical aspects of a marriage. It was hilarious to see Tommy Lee Jones playing the role of a man forced to go to marriage counseling. Frustrated, nervous, nonchalant. A roller coaster of emotions.

What I got out of that movie was that we need to make an effort at retaining and maintaining our relationships. It does not happen on its own. We need to work on it. No different than many other things we do in life. If I don’t practice and work on my golf game on a regular basis it goes awol. If I don’t keep up with training and working at my mediation skills I lose my effectiveness. If I don’t watch what I eat or drink my body does not respond the way I wish it would. Quite frankly, this age thing is wreaking havoc with that. The point is that we need practice, we need “updating”, we need to work on all aspects of our lives. And there are times that we need to seek professional help.

It’s called relationships. We have partners. All of us make mistakes. We are human. All I can say is hope springs. The lesson I learned from the movie is simply this. Communication is important. Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, picturing in our minds what might happen are exercises in futility.

My wife and I are taking a break for the weekend. Take a little trip south. Grand Forks. Ironically that is where we went on our honeymoon 30 years ago. Hmmmm. Wonder what will be different this time around. I may tell you about it, but then again, I may not. Make it a good one.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What All Ails Me

Over the course of the last few weeks I have heard numerous diagnoses of all my problems. Based on that you are thinking I have seen various professionals for their opinions. That is not the case, although I think I may need second opinions on what I am about to tell you. Perhaps a professional can tell me whether what I have heard has any merit and actually does pertain to me.

I am reminded of the person that went to see a psychiatrist. He had a problem. For years, since he was a child, he had been frightened about what was lurking under his bed. It truly scared him. So he went to see a professional. The psychiatrist heard him out and then offered to help him get over this problem. But, he informed him, it would be a lengthy process. Would take multiple appointments. The gentleman said he would need to think about this. Many months later the psychiatrist met this person on the sidewalk. He asked him why he had never come back. The guy informed him that a bartender had cured the problem for him. The good doctor was somewhat bemused about this and asked how that could possibly be. The gentleman told him that the bartender had suggested he cut the legs off his bed. Now the problem was gone. He knew for a fact that there was nothing under his bed. Sometimes it is that easy.

While up at Hecla a few weeks ago my friend gave me a listening ear as I related to him some of my issues. I related how I felt unsure of myself, particularly as it relates to my work. I have written about this before. (Met Mei Es Et Nousht, Jan. 26, 2011) At the time I had very low self-esteem. As we talked about it now, he very confidently told me that I am suffering from Imposter Syndrome. He also told me that this is quite common amongst people that do my type of work. I smiled and thought, yeah right, what do you know. When I got home I googled it. Sure enough. He was right. There is actually information on this syndrome and it sounds like what I have.

I also mentioned to him that I had been experiencing anxiety as of late. (I often refer to anxiety in my blog) I related how I was not sure what to do about it. When I did an inventory of my life and the situations I was dealing with there really was no reason to feel anxious. Again, he was quick to jump in and told me that I was suffering from Existential Nausea. Again, I smiled. That one sounded really different. Could it be? I googled that one as well. Wouldn’t you know it? He was right. Again, there is a lot of information on it. Sounded just like what was ailing me. Although when I read it, it seemed that this certain issue included feelings of guilt. It had certain religious connotations to it. Was not sure I wanted to go there. Been fighting that one since I was a kid.

This morning I heard about Last Putter Syndrome (LPS). Although this is not a medical term it again describes me to a tee (no pun intended). It simply refers to the last person to putt on any given hole. (here you thought I was not going to mention golf) I thought about it and it made sense. As the last person putts the others in the group are getting ready to leave the green, putting head covers on putters, picking up the pin, or a host of other activities. Wouldn’t you know it? I missed my putt. I have LPS.

So what now? I have all these things, these maladies, these syndromes I need to deal with. And the more I check symptoms on the internet the more issues I have to deal with. I actually think I went through menopause last week. You may laugh, but I had the symptoms. For the moment it feels overwhelming. Perhaps I need the help of a professional. Then again, perhaps I can help myself. I will try that. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe For Success

I was golfing with a friend the other day. On one tee box I teed up the ball then stepped back to assess the situation. I did a play by play commentary on what I saw. There were the trees on the left side. There was a green surrounded by bunkers. Must have been a par 3 for me to be concerned about bunkers around the green. There was a river between me and the green. And there was a strong left to right wind. After having said all that I started saying “this is a recipe for disaster”. Before I had a chance to say disaster my friend piped up and said “success”. I stopped my pre-shot routine, stepped back and asked him what he had just said. He repeated that this was a recipe for success. What a wakeup call that was.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to golf with another neighbor. One I had not golfed with before. When we got to the 17th hole he told me how that hole was his nemesis. He could tell exactly what would go wrong. And trust me. Everything he said would happen, did happen. Not sure that ball will ever see the light of day again. As we walked from tee box to green he talked about how when you picture a bad shot you surely will have a bad shot. We talked about losing our confidence when we come across certain holes that have created problems in the past. We get spooked. We picture disaster. Our body seems to go spastic. Our brains turn to mush. It’s as if we had never before swung a golf club.

Watching TV the other day I saw a commercial featuring Florida Orange Juice. I have seen the commercial before and may have mentioned it in a previous blurb. There are actually 3 of them featuring a mother, a father and a son. The commercial depicts any one of the 3 pouring orange juice in the morning. Sitting around the table with them are people that they will be involved with during the day. Sitting around the table with the father are the newspaper carrier, computer techy, his secretary and his daughter. Each of them informs the man how they will be involved in screwing up his day for him. That is like knowing each morning what will all go wrong that day. That would be a recipe for disaster in my books. I suspect there are days that I would go right back to bed if I knew what was awaiting me. ( I wish someone would have given me a heads up this weekend on what would all go wrong with my golf game. I would have stayed in bed)

They say golf is 90 % mental. You can talk yourself out of any shot. When I look back at many of my experiences I suspect that I talked myself out of a lot of success. I have this ability to just see the hazards. We visualize disaster. Many times when we have had an inordinate amount of challenges we become like my neighbor did on that 17th hole. We become spooked. Always afraid of what may be lurking around the corner. And when we actually succeed at something we think we were lucky. We think it can’t be. We look back and try to figure out how that could have happened.

We need a shift in attitude. A paradigm shift as it were. Go from our negative, toxic way of thinking to a positive, uplifting thought pattern. We know things can and will go wrong. That is part of life. How we react, how we handle negativity and how we move on from adversity will define our life. Remember, we are good. We can make that shot. We have before. It can be a recipe for success. Make it a good one.
“Dare to dream, dare to try, dare to fail, dare to succeed”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Men Know About. . . .?

My daughter got a book given to her by a patient. That night when she got home she showed it to her mother. I noticed the title from where I was sitting and was instantly intrigued. Sounded interesting, although I was a little suspicious. The title of the book is “Everything Men Know About Women”. Some of you may have seen it, even read it. When I finally had the chance to peruse it I obviously read the back cover first. It spoke highly of the author and his knowledge on the subject. It mentioned frequently asked questions about the subject. So I decided to take a chance and opened the book.

The first page was blank. The second page was blank. The third page was blank. I was thinking to myself that the author had a sense of humour. That’s a good thing. After turning a few more pages I finally came to the realization that the entire book was blank pages. Ha ha. Funny. But it did get me thinking.

So what do men know about women? For those of you who think that I will answer that, well. . . it aint gonna happen. Trust me, I am no expert on this although I do have some thoughts. Most of these thoughts are best left unsaid. I golfed with a couple on Monday and made the mistake of making a snide remark about women’s tees and equality. I was reminded that they are no longer called women’s tees. They are now known as the advanced tees. Goes to show what I know about women. Enough said.

So if I can’t talk about that I will make some comments about men. Perhaps make excuses for us males not knowing more about women. I googled the title of the book as I wanted more information on the author. A few points of interest. First off, the author of my daughter’s book was not the first author to venture there. After some research, and I use that term loosely particularly in light of the subject, I noticed that the other authors had the same information. None. Secondly, and I am serious, the first site I went to listed numerous books that were for sale. It was a “book store” site. The third book in line was “How To Live With A Big Penis”. Perhaps that answers the original question. What do men know. . .? Need I say more? And yes, I realize that that title can be taken in more ways than one.

Last year, enroute to Toronto, I passed the time reading the latest issue of the MacLeans magazine. Came across an interesting point. Apparently men started using protective cups in 1874. It was not till 1974 that they started using helmets. It took us 100 years to realize that our heads are important too. The good news here is that we are making progress. Albeit rather slowly. Who knows what nuggets of knowledge we will pick up in the next 100 years.

So let me close off here before I really get in trouble. I admit it. As a man I am only capable of so much knowledge retention. I am reminded of the closing scene of every Red Green show. You know the one where all the guys are sitting in the basement of the Possum Lodge? They close with the following statement; “I'm a man, but I can change, If I have to, I guess”. That is what I am going with. Now, all I have to do is remember my wife’s birthday. That will be a good first step. Make it a good one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Next Chapter

When does one chapter end and the next one begin? I suspect I was probably taught this in high school English. I may have missed school that day. I enjoy reading novels. It is interesting to note how different authors utilize various patterns when it comes to their writing. James Patterson keeps his chapters very short. Two, sometimes three pages. Someone like Robert Ludlum, on the other hand, writes long, drawn out chapters. Each to his own.

Speaking of writers and English, do you realize that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 54,000 words? Not sure if that means anything to anyone till you hear the next fact. The average American, and I suspect this applies to Canadians as well, has a working vocabulary of only 3,000 words. Wow. What a difference. Perhaps that explains why I never could get into Shakespeare. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry". Like really. What does that mean? Although when I read it a number of times I think I get the drift. There is a whole new topic there.

Life is a book with many chapters. I suppose, depending on experiences, chapters will be of varying lengths. There may or may not be consistency to the chapters as life unfolds. Some chapters may be filled with happy experiences. Some chapters, perhaps, will relate sadness. But whatever the case, chapters are written. Many times we wish for a new chapter to begin. We get tired of what we are dealing with. We wish for renewal. Sometimes when I would commiserate about life and wish for a new chapter I would be reminded not to wish away my life. Other times I want time to stop. I enjoy the moment and don’t want it to pass.

The problem arises when we finish a chapter but, instead of starting a new one, we keep rereading the last one. Truth be told, I find myself, on occasion, going back numerous chapters. It is virtually impossible beginning the next chapter as long as we dwell on the last one. I find myself doing that too often. Dwell on the past. Usually it is not because the past had something positive about it. Rather, I dwell on negative stuff. Stuff that upset me and keeps upsetting me. And the more I dwell on the past the more the future becomes over whelming. Interesting how that happens.

So the challenge becomes to move on to the next chapter. Focus your energies, focus your desires, focus your everything on the here and now. Become part of the present. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy what life has to offer. And when life offers us something we do not like, deal with it, fix it and move on. Make the negative experiences short chapters. Because when you really think about it what is the use in re-reading the last chapter?

Talking to a friend the other day, and he is an academic, he was telling me about a book he was reading. He said that he had not been able to become engaged in the book reading the first chapter. So instead of tossing the book, which I have done, he jumped to chapter two. Found out that the book was actually enjoyable. What a novel idea. (no pun intended) I know that in life this may not be a reality. We need to finish one chapter before we go on. But, perhaps, we can wrap up the bad ones, be innovative in finding a conclusion and move on to the next. Make it a good one.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are You a Senior?

I went up to Hecla for two days of golf and some rest and relaxation. I have a good friend who owns a cottage up there. It is fun to get together with him. Enjoy some good food, golf, and lots of chit chat. It is interesting how talking with an old friend makes you realize how much your life has changed.

The first day up there we went to the golf course. It was absolutely pouring. With modern technology we were able to check radar and knew that the rain would end shortly. And end it did. The sun came out and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. What was somewhat troubling is, when I went to pay for my green fees, the person behind the counter asked whether I was a senior. Excuse me. A senior? Do I really look that old? I quickly looked around to ensure my buddy had not heard that. He was out of earshot. I politely said I was not. I paid and left.

The following day we went again. My friend paid and then it was my turn. Again. The question. Are you a senior? The same person too. It was like, hello. I was not a senior yesterday and I really have not aged that much. This time my friend was standing right there. He cracked up laughing. He got some perverse joy out of that. I knew I would never live that one down. And to think. He is older than me. Go figure.
This thing called aging is bad enough without others thinking you are much older than you really are. I have enough reminders without questions like that. Almost a year ago I became a father-in-law. This September I am going to become a grandpa. That means I am old. Or at least older. I was told last week that I had a poor memory. When I suggested it was because I had too much going on the person just looked at me and said age probably had something to do with it. I seem to groan a little more each morning when I drag myself out of bed. My aches and pains are worse. So I must be getting old. BUT I AM NOT A SENIOR.

When I look in the mirror I often see my father looking back at me. That may be good or not so good. What it is, is the significant lack of hair on top and what there is, is getting rather grey. When I compare myself to my parents, when they were at the age, I remember them being really old. I seem to want to go to bed much earlier than I used to. Have lost the ability to sleep in. Need to watch what I eat. There is the fiber thing. Watch the sugar intake. Was reminded again of my salt use. Health becomes more important. Exercise is imperative. And what’s with those lumps on my feet. So, yes, I am getting older. BUT I AM NOT A SENIOR.

In retrospect I should have said yes. It would have saved me a few bucks. Perhaps it would have eased the pain of knowing I am getting close to being a senior. The reality is we are all getting older. Some more graciously than others. As for me, I know I am not a senior. I have a new motto. I intend to live forever- and so far, so good. Oh, and you should know. The friend who laughed at me? I wupped his butt in golf. So there. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Investing In Hope

I bought a lottery ticket. I am dreaming of what I will do with 47 million dollars. After all that is what the jackpot is tonight. Can you believe it? 47 million dollars. I should really cancel my tee time for tomorrow morning because I will be busy spending all that money. Not sure where to start. I know many of you could and would help me.

Last week my daughter started sharing with me how she would spend that kind of money. She had an extensive list. She promised to pay off our mortgage. Right on. She had all kinds of plans. After she had listed many of the things she would do she looked at me and informed me that she had spent most of it. I chuckled. I told her that what she had just told me she was going to do would cost her approximately a million dollars. Plus, I added, in the meantime the interest on the balance of the money had already returned her more than she had spent. I told her she would have to try harder. Spend more. And spend faster.

My son and I talked about this the other night. You must be thinking by now that’s all my family talks about. Not really. You see, I was doing some paper work. Cleaning out my wallet. Doing my GST. I came across a ticket I had bought last November. An indication of how often, or should I say seldom, I buy a ticket. You see, I have this theory. As long as I don’t check the ticket I am a winner. I can dream big. I can think of all the good I would do if I only won. Seems to me that the big guy upstairs would want me to win so I could carry out all these good deeds. Yeah, right. Me thinks not. I suspect that winning that kind of money could have a detrimental effect on anyone’s life. Some say money does not buy happiness. I think I would like to try.
My son calls this an investment in hope. He tells me that when I purchase a ticket and don’t check the numbers I have hope. Hope for all financial woes to disappear. Hope for something better than living from paycheck to paycheck. In general, hope for a better life. However, I do notice that he has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Me thinks he is kidding.

I am reminded of the story of the fellow who was convinced that the world would be a better place if he won the lottery. He was a strong believer in a higher being and prayed diligently that he would win the lottery. After all, he told God, he would help others, he would be unselfish. As the weeks went by he prayed harder each week but never did win. One day he just could not take it anymore. He became angry with God and told him so. This time God answered him. Simply and quietly suggested to the man to help him out and buy a ticket.

Sometimes I find myself thinking that I really do deserve to win. Of course, each time that happens I meet someone who deserves it much more than I do. So I need to get back to the real world. Do my job. Earn that paycheck. The only question left is, do I check my ticket or do I wait? In the meantime if you really want to win the lottery make sure you buy a ticket. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

There Are No Pictures

I spend a lot of time golfing with a couple who live just up the street. The two of them golf together on a regular basis. It is interesting to see. There are certain dynamics in that relationship that we could all learn from. It is common practice, at the end of a round, to shake hands with the rest of your group. This couple, regardless of circumstances, regardless of how the round went, will give each other a kiss. As much as that would be a good practice for all couples I am not sure I know many that could pull it off.

He has a down to earth, realistic approach to golf. He knows all the techniques. He follows golf closely, reads all the golf magazines. Tries to learn from what he sees and reads. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But he sticks with it. She, on the other hand, has a different approach. She has her own pars that she guns for. The 11th hole at Kingswood is a tough one. It is part of a four hole stretch that is sometimes referred to as Amen Corner. It used to be the 9th hole before changes were made to the “track”. So her par for the hole is 9. If she gets 9 or better she is ecstatic. If it is worse than 9 she just mutters “amen”.

The other day, when she showed significant excitement after one hole, he gave her a dry look and suggested that there are no pictures on the scorecard, just memories. I chuckled. Then I thought about it and, in my usual way, drew a life lesson out of that.

We often take pictures to go along with our memories. Whether it is at a wedding, on a vacation, at family get-togethers, when nature shows off her beauty, or many other occasions when life gives us a Kodak moment. However, there are times when a camera is not available, something happens to fast to snap a picture at just the right moment. For an example, try taking a picture of lightning. We miss the moment and are left with only memories. Trust me. Sometimes that is a good thing. I can only imagine some of the pictures I would have if a camera were always around. It would bring back memories of events that are best left forgotten. Those embarrassing moments. Those “oh crap” experiences. Sometimes a poor memory is a good thing.

You know that certain left hander that I have often referred to in the past? The guy that I used to compete with, or at least tried, in a weekly golf outing? The one that found out last fall that he had cancer? The good news is he had surgery and is cancer free today. He has struggled this year to get back on the golf course. But like I knew he would, he fought back mentally and physically to overcome his setback and get back on the course. He went out by himself this last week and, wouldn’t you know it, got a hole in one. That’s the good news. The bad news is he was by himself. I recall last year, when I spent many an hour by myself on the golf course, thinking it would suck getting a hole in one if nobody was there to witness it. The feat is the same. The memory will always be there. However, that is an experience that is most fulfilling if it is witnessed by others, particularly your usual golfing buddies. I am betting he wishes that he had a picture. A video even.

Life gives us many memories. There are good ones. There are bad ones. The key is being able to filter out the bad ones and focus on the good ones. Sometimes we need reminders of the good things that have happened in our lives. To forget about the bad experiences. And if we are lucky, we have pictures, not just scorecards, to bring back the good memories. Make it a good one.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

How many remember that song? Quite a catchy tune. Found out this morning that this song is typical of many of the songs I know. I can sing along but never take note of the lyrics. I suspect I could probably sing along with this one if I heard it on the radio but when I printed off the lyrics I was rather surprised. The lyrics, as a whole, seem rather disjointed. I think I get the message but the cadence (now there is a new word for you) seems off. The word, as defined by the dictionary, means a recurrent pattern. Not sure whether that helps. I am sure my left handed musician friend knows what I mean. Often when you read poetry there is a certain flow to it. The lyrics in this song do not have that flow.

However, there is a message in the song. The message simply speaks about someone who seems to be tired of the rain. Tired of the blues that come with the rain. Talks about a conversation with the sun. Telling the sun that “he’s” not doing his job. Telling us that just because the rain keeps falling there will not be tears. Just keep smiling. “Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin.” It would appear that the composer is referring to life. Perhaps he has had an inordinate amount of challenges in his life. He seems to be tired of the challenge. Would like the rain to stop and the sun to shine. Hey, I think I can relate.

Heard a good saying the other day. “Some people feel the raindrops and some people just get wet.” I recall as a child wanting to run and play in the rain. It was refreshing. Even today there is a certain beauty to rainfall. The dark clouds that move in. The sound of rain on the rooftop. The fresh smell in the air. It settles the dust. And when the sun comes out after a rain shower even the birds seem chirpier. It livens things up. It is almost like a new beginning.

I have felt overwhelmed by some situations I am dealing with. It has created some unwanted feelings. Feelings of anxiety. Feelings of inadequacy. Forced me to do an inventory. Had to say no to some work. Had to really push myself to wrap up a few cases. And suddenly it was like the sun coming out after the rain. I felt better. I felt refreshed. The clouds had moved. It felt like the birds were singing again. A day or two after my feelings improved I ran into another challenge. But it was manageable. I did not run from the raindrops. I let them fall on me. I got wet but didn’t mind. I was reminded again that “we do not see things as they are we see them as we are”.

As I wrap up these thoughts I can see rain clouds approaching. It has been very hot. The grass looks brown. We could use some freshening up. Grain producers are concerned. What looked so promising is now becoming a challenge. So we need the rain. And when life hits us with rain, when we feel overwhelmed, take a minute to pause and feel the rain drops. Don’t just get wet. Always remember; “life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain”. Make it a good one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Tim Horton’s Start

What is it about coffee? Why do I feel the need for coffee first thing in the morning? What is it about that black, bitter liquid that gets me going every morning? (inject sound of me taking a sip from my third cup) Do you ever take the time to look at a coffee carafe which has sat idle for a day with yesterday’s leftovers? I don’t get it. I remember back on the farm we would drink instant coffee. Crank up the hot water tank so it was hot enough. It was quick. But I also remember what the cups looked like after a while. Like I said. I don’t get it.

I remember growing up we had a rule in our house. We could not drink coffee till we were 12. Not sure what was magical about that age. Perhaps it was the old myth about it stunting your growth. Stunting your growth? If that is really true me thinks there is a health issue and we shouldn’t drink it at all. All my friends could drink coffee whenever they wanted. Not fair. See? I have been scarred for life. Let me think. Perhaps their growth was stunted.

I have always enjoyed Tim Horton’s. I hear people debating which coffee is better. Not sure that I have a strong opinion on that. Not that long ago I had three of our kids with me on a quick trip to the city. They wanted a Starbuck’s. Okay. I had never tried their coffee so I agreed. Went through the drive through. Ended up paying twenty bucks for four coffees. That seems rather excessive. Actually that seems rather obscene. Way beyond my pay grade. To top it off the coffee was not good. Actually what I like about Tim’s is their muffins. More specifically, their raisin bran muffins. Although each time I order one of those I just know the cashier is looking at me and thinking there is another old f%#t that’s not regular. So it may have some added benefits. I still like the taste. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

Early yesterday I ventured out for a round of golf. I had sat on the deck and enjoyed my coffee in the company of my wife. I had visions of grandeur. I could feel it. I was going to have a great round. But the start was not that great. Found water on the first hole. Found water on the second hole. Not what I had hoped for. Not what I had envisioned. When I finally finished the second hole one of my playing partners looked at me and commented that I had had a Tim Horton’s start. Made no sense to me. What the heck was he talking about. The he explained. I had started out with two double bogies. That meant I had had a double double start. Just like a lot of people like their Timmie’s. Two creams, two sugars. Those that spend hours in a Tim’s line up will understand.

Life is like that. Sometimes when we get up in the morning we have visions of a great day. Then things go wrong. How often do we just simply say it’s going to be a bad day and carry on with that attitude? Yesterday I kept the faith. I knew I could still recover after two bad holes. And to a degree I did. Shot what seems to be my average round. So that meant there were some good holes. So I didn’t par the course. But it was a beautiful day. An enjoyable round. Now all I do is think about what if. That is not good either. I need to think about the next round. Enjoy it. Think big. Think positive.

As for Tim’s and coffee? Perhaps I need to revisit that one. Do you know that when you hit the age of 50 you have spent the equivalent of 5 years waiting in line? What a waste. And coffee? Not sure of any nutritional or other benefits. But I still like it. Make it a good one.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pat Yourself On The Back

I sat in on an interesting session on self-care this week. It was a reminder of what we all need to do to live life to its fullest. We often talk about how busy life is. Not simple, the way it used to be. We are constantly on the run. Making it from one commitment to the next. Nothing is ever good enough. We can always do better. Our expectations for ourselves are out of this world. Our expectations for others often become unrealistic. We try so hard to keep up to the Jones’.

There is some irony in that. Keeping up to the Jones’. What are we really trying to achieve? What do we really know about the Jones’. (My apologies to anyone reading this whose name is Jones) We know nothing about them. Outside appearances don’t tell the real story. Did you ever watch the show Keeping Up Appearances? It was funny. In a comedic way that show symbolizes what many of us do on a daily basis. Try and fool the people around us. Try to get them to think we are someone we really are not. It is tiring. Interestingly enough when you google the show the first thing that pops up is Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Now, wouldn’t that be a challenge. Pretty sure I don’t want that.

In our discussion, at our monthly support group meeting, we talked about stress relievers. One of the challenges given us was to think of something we felt we were good at. Excuse me. Think of something I am good at? Would that not show arrogance? The first thing that came to mind was the person who once informed me he was not arrogant, he just had a certain level of abrasive self-confidence. Sounds like arrogance to me. Anyway, back to trying to think of something I am good at. In my mind, of course, I thought of many things I am good at. But nothing I would ever dare say out loud. At least not with people around. The group leader asked us all, individually, to share our thoughts. I saw a lot of participants nervously looking around. Fidgeting in their seats. No one wanted to talk. Finally I quietly suggested that I was a good listener. Instantly qualified that by saying my wife would probably not agree. Gave a nervous chuckle. Then hung my head. That was tough. Did I really think that? Did I really say that out loud? Then I thought, Heck yes. I am a good listener. I have to be in my line of work. I take pride in that. As I should. I patted myself on the back. It felt good.

Many of us that face challenges become despondent and question our sanity, our abilities, our self-worth. One person I like golfing with will often say, after a bad shot, “I am such an idiot”. Not true. Nobody is an idiot. Sure, we make mistakes. We screw up. We wish things could have been better. We wish we would have made better decisions. But hey, we all make mistakes. The key is to get up, dust ourselves off and carry on. We all have positive qualities. We all are worth something. And instead of dwelling on the negative dwell on the positive. Go ahead. Pat yourself on the back. And always remember, if the grass on the other side of the fence looks greener it is probably on a sewer field. Or, as has been suggested by my son, grass is greener where you water it. Some truth to that. Make it a good one.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nothing Runs Like A Deer

I am sitting in my office on a dreary Saturday morning, listening to the rain fall. Wondering what to do today. I had plans. But, of course, the weather will change those plans. I know, all of you are thinking the plan was to golf. Not so. Not this time. Although I did get an invitation for a game. Wait a minute. Had an invitation to go last night. One for this morning. And another one for tomorrow. How cool is that. In the last year or so I was becoming accustomed to playing by myself. Not so this year. Being in a new community has its benefits.

You need to know that I declined the invitation for this morning. I was going to help my brother-in-law help my father-in-law. Annual tractor show. Although I am not into antique tractors I knew this was an opportunity to help out. An opportunity to meet old friends. You see, the tractor show is in a community we lived in thirty years ago. And, obviously, gain some much needed brownie points. But, I suspect, the show will be canceled. My wife just suggested it would be a good day to clean up the car garage. Not what I had hoped for.

Okay. So I said that I am not into antique tractors. I will admit that I love hearing old, two cylinder John Deeres. Not sure why. They actually give me flashbacks to another time. You see, my father was a grain farmer. We farmed about 700 acres. Nothing big. But 700 acres none the less. One year my father decided we needed another tractor. I remember neighbors having nice tractors, with cabs, air conditioners, and duel wheels. So of course my imagination went wild. Soon we would be in that bracket as well. Well, things turned out different. My father came home from an auction with a Model R John Deere. A two banger. It had a cab. No air conditioner. No duels. Talk about a fantasy going right out the window. And to think, we just bought a John Deere lawn tractor. Paid close to what my dad paid for his Model R.

The new to us tractor did provide one benefit. It meant we had to have a bigger deep tiller. We went to a 12 footer. Think about it. A whopping 12 feet wide. We thought it was huge. Now picture this. The fields we had to work with that massive deep tiller were 160 acres. That means they were half a mile by half a mile. So I would head out to the field on a smaller tractor, because I did not have my drivers yet, fire up the two banger, and away I went. I would go up and down that field all day. We had to remove the back of the cab to get some air circulation. All that did was create a dust trap. It was hot. It was dusty. It was loud. And it was boring. No radio. Which was a good thing because we would not have been able to hear it anyway. All we could do was think. And with the noise and dust even that was difficult. At the end of the day I would look back at the field and it was difficult to see whether I had actually made any progress. Then it was off home on the other tractor. All to do it again the next day. And they say those were the good old days? Me thinks not. No wonder I need therapy.

How things have changed. Now we live in an era of big tractors, sound proof cabs, GPS, humongous air seeders, high clearance sprayers and other high tech equipment. Farming has become so complicated. So has life. Could we not make life simpler for ourselves. Think about it. Perhaps those were the good old days. Now, I suppose, it’s off to the garage. Perhaps if I get that done quick enough I can watch some golf on TV. After all, it is the U.S. open. Make it a good one.

Monday, June 4, 2012

When You Hit A Good Shot

Finally our infamous spring winds have died down. There were some days that it felt like every shot on the golf course was against a gale force wind. Became quite a challenge. That seems to have changed. Had a couple of really good golf days. And they are becoming more frequent. All is good. The basement project is finished. Many more items on the “to do” list. Nothing to urgent. I can start taking advantage of the golf course.

As I have lamented about before, I had some struggles with my golf game. Swings that used to come naturally seemed to have left. I blamed it on the wind. I blamed it on sore muscles. I blamed it on not playing enough. I had lost my intensity. Last week I was playing a round (two words) with a friend when I did hit a good shot. I made the comment to him that there was nothing to the game of golf. He quickly responded by saying someone once told him that just because you hit a good shot you should not start thinking you are good. Talk about a quick trip back to reality.

I was golfing with the kids yesterday. One was struggling with his game. Actually turned out that both of them were struggling. He ended up getting a birdie on a hole. His attitude changed in a heartbeat. I told him the same quote I had heard earlier in the week. Brought him back to reality too. Then he looked at me and said that, at the very least, I should let him bask in the joys of a good score till he screwed up the next shot.

You know me. I started drawing comparisons to life. I seem to need to find a life lesson in everything I do or see. How often do we experience struggles in life. Hit a bad shot. Have a bad score. Happens often. But we recover. We know we are better. And so we carry on trying to do better. And often we do. But, there are times when it seems that this round of golf called life is just one bad shot after another. We see all the hazards. We see the potential for disaster. We don’t swing freely. We tighten up. We hold back. We lose our confidence. And just like golf, when that happens, we have even more trouble.

Many of the people I deal with are facing just that. They have become spooked. They have lost confidence. They know that there is trouble around every corner. It seems that nothing will ever go right again. I can relate. I have been there. It becomes a struggle. It is debilitating. Even when something good happens we always know it is like the calm before the storm.

There is a second part to this. We must also change our way of thinking about ourselves. Sometimes it is okay to think we are good. It is okay to pat ourselves on the back. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming neurotic. We lose our self-esteem. We feel even worse about our failures.

But I also know that there is hope and there is relief. Just like my golf game, I know that with continued effort, with a pile of resilience, we carry on. I know that tomorrow I may hit a few bad shots but I also know that I will hit some good ones. And when I keep my head down, when I swing with confidence, when I visualize something positive, I will play better. So go ahead. Pat yourself on the back. Swing with confidence. It will work out. This morning I only had one double bogie. Things are improving. Oh no. There I go thinking I am good. Disaster lurks. But I am going to have fun. Make it a good one.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The 90/10 Rule

I am getting ready for another support group meeting. We will be focusing on stress management. I suspect some will question the necessity of covering that topic, again. It is good to have refreshers. It is good to be reminded. I need to utilize stress management tools on a regular basis. A large part of stress management is recognition. The better we are at recognizing stress overload, the sooner we realize that our life is out of balance, the sooner we recognize that our emotions are not right, the sooner we can deal with it and regain a sense of control, a sense of balance, a sense of peace.

Each time I prepare for this topic I find myself looking at how stress affects us physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. I suspect many of us can relate to headaches, fatigue, anxiety, frustration, a lack of perspective, loneliness, and confusion. These are but a few of the signs of stress. Often times we will dismiss aches and pains as something that just happens. I often find myself saying its age related. How often do we find our emotional gas tanks empty? We need to work on whatever it takes to keep “gas in the tank”.

I discovered a new way to deal with physical aches and pains. Due to a lot of physical work I have done lately, I was experiencing intense muscle aches. Sure, I can deal with the aches and pains. But what I find difficult to accept is when my golf game suffers. I was finding that I could not swing a golf club normally. Not good. It was becoming increasingly frustrating. Couldn’t keep away from the double bogies. I finally let my wife make an appointment for a deep muscle massage. Not sure whether the massage left me feeling better because it actually works or whether it hurt so bad it was a relief when it was done. Interesting, to say the least. But, I survived. That same evening I played a round of golf. Right from the outset I noticed that my swing seemed to be much more fluid. Perhaps there is hope. But I digress.

What really hits home is when I see how behaviors change when stress is experienced. We become reckless. We become verbally abusive. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. There are more and more idiots on the road. Wait a minute. That is just my road rage kicking in again. I do notice, however, that when I am feeling stressed, feeling under pressure or upset with something going on in my life my tolerance level goes way down. I really need to keep watch over that.

Stephen Covey writes an interesting piece on the 90/10 rule. His thought is that only 10% of life is made up of what happens to us. The other 90% of life is decided by how we react. Really? Think about it. It makes sense. He uses an example. You are eating breakfast with your family. One of the kids is careless and spills juice on your shirt. You have no control over that event. What happens next will be determined by how you react. You get angry. You yell. You upset the family. Causes stress in everyone else whose agendas for the day get messed up because of that one incident. Your kid misses the bus. You are late for work. Nobody can do anything right. In short, the day is a disaster. Imagine now if you had responded in a gentle manner. Accidents do happen. Life could have been much easier. In essence, approximately five seconds of your life dictated the rest of the day.

Sounds like stress to me. So the 90/10 principle is simple. It is a matter of practising it. Just remember, it is not the event but rather our reaction to the event that causes stress. It could change your life. Take it one day at a time. Make it a good one.