Monday, March 27, 2017

Life Observation # 184 Smiles

Life Observation # 184 Smiles 
Found on a small walk today bringing a smile to my face.  The lines on my face are from a lifetime of smiles.   
Life’s a journey . . . measured in smiles!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life Observation # 183 Life is what it is

Life Observation # 183 Life is what it is

Life is what it is . . . and you have the immense good fortune of being here, right now, to live it.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ten Life Lessons learned from Living in Alaska and Hiking

Over the past forty years, I've developed a deep love for mountains.  No matter the season or the location, there's something about towering peaks and deep valleys that (although terrifying with their steep cliff faces and inclement weather) inspire me.  It started off simply enough.  After the Army and a time in Atlanta working in law enforcement and as a paramedic, I started teaching myself to hang glide.  This started on small training hills in the Atlanta area then moved to nearby mountains in north Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.  Many hours were spent flying over Lookout Mountain, Tut’s Hang Glider Heaven in north Georgia, Grandfather Mountain and playing on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, both in North Carolina. 
Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Eventually, I started flying in competitions first in the southeast but quickly started flying the professional circuits all over the world.  There were many times the weather turned un-flyable so whether alone or with friends I would hike and climb the mountains nearby.
Hang gliding Moab, Utah

Some might have said I wandered around aimlessly, uncertain about how to conduct myself in the “real world.”  I flew hang gliders about ten years competitively before I got that “real job” as a corporate pilot after getting my pilots licenses.  Wherever I traveled, there were always trails to hike or mountains to climb as I seemed to always look for that high peak or overlook on the trails I wandered.

I changed careers and eventually moved to Anchorage, Alaska leaving the South for places and distant horizons up North.  After taking a fishing trip to the Kenai River in 1987, I decided there would be adventure and excitement in the far north.  I had settled into a mediocre job in Atlanta.  Watching people go through their same routines and the traffic drove me crazy.  I longed for a different lifestyle which would be at a slower pace.  Although easier, you always had to prepare for anything because of the extreme conditions in Alaska.  I wouldn't be satisfied until I saw the sun set on distant horizons. Alaska, “the last frontier,” promised spectacular sunsets on breathtaking mountainous horizons.
Alaskan Fireweed Plant, Alaska Range

During that first year, I was in constant awe of the beauty around me and it continues to amaze me after living there for almost 20 years. I wouldn't look at the mountains, oceans, lakes, or the sky the same way after experiencing them all first hand.  The Aurora (Northern Lights) is truly a thing to behold as God paints the heavens in colors and shapes dancing across the sky. 
Northern Lights

While I could in no way be labeled an avid outdoor person, I really enjoy the time spent outside doing all sorts of activities.  I've learned a few things from simple mountain exploring, fishing and hiking that I've accomplished so far.

1. Always be prepared.  As clichéd as it seems, preparedness is the key to both hiking up a mountain and life, in general.  Plan carefully so you know what you are getting into.  You won't regret packing your rain jacket or the extra bottle of water.  Similarly, you won't regret the blanket or food you threw in your car during the winter for emergencies.  Adapt to things you come upon to make the best out of bad situations.

2. Remember to breathe.  You've started up a steep incline, and your legs are burning. Take a deep breath.  In and out, in and out, let the air fill your lungs.  In and out, in and out, slowly exhale.  Repeat this process and you'll be okay.  Works the same in life, you're late to work.  Your computer deleted the important file you need.  Whatever the case may be, just remember to breathe.  Bring plenty of water, it cannot be emphasized enough that hydration helps so many things, your body, muscles, and your ability to think clearly.
Turnagain Arm View

3. A little discomfort can be healthy.  Your muscles are cramping, your side aches and you can't seem to catch your breath.  You're calling yourself every type of crazy for attempting this hike to fly off this mountain in the first place.  It's a freakin' mountain! How can you climb a mountain to fly off it?  But you can, and you will.  The discomfort and the pain will make you stronger.  In life, it's important to push ourselves outside our comfort zone.  We grow by attempting what we think we can't accomplish.  Who knows? You just might surprise yourself; I know I have many times in my life.   

4. Appreciate the beauty.  I've learned it's important to take a few minutes, no matter where your hike goes or where life takes you.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in the destination; we forget how beautiful the journey is.  It's a breathtaking, dizzying and crazy ride we're all on. Take a few moments to revel in it.  As the Kenny Chesney song “Don’t Blink” reminds us . . . I've been tryna slow it down, I've been tryna take it in; in this here today gone tomorrow world we're livin' in.  Don’t Blink”.  Stop and rest as often as you need allowing yourself to take in all the beautiful things in your life.
Katmai NP Caldera Glacier & Mt. Griggs

5. Go your own pace.  When I first started hiking, I was terrified of going slower than others and holding them up.  One day, I decided it shouldn't matter.  I vowed to no longer let fear hold me back and stop me from going on new adventures.  Embrace your pace, and don't compare yourself to others.  You will enjoy the hike and your life so much more if you embrace who you are and where you are.  There's no need to go faster than you're comfortable going.  There's no need to belittle your accomplishments and measure them against others.  But, if you are part of a team with like-minded people it can make it more fun being able to share the experience with others.

6. Don't let fear stop you.  Many years ago, there were times I turned down an invitation for a hike or flight off some distant mountain due to fear: fear of looking incompetent, fear of the arduousness or fear of the mountain itself.  I wish I hadn't let fear stop me in those early days.  In life, as in hiking, don't let fear hold you back.  It might be more than you're used to, but attempt it anyway.  Regardless of whether or not you succeed, there is beauty in the attempt.  To be paralyzed by fear is to stop appreciating the beauty that surrounds us.  Look for it each day in so many things!

7. Just keep moving forward.  You are half-way up the mountain.  Your legs are aching, you are out of breath and you don't think you can take another step forward.  Regardless of the challenge, whether it's a work project or a marathon, you can do it.  Take a small break.  Step back, look around and appreciate how far you've come.  If you've made it this far, a few more steps won't hurt.  We all have tragedies in our lives but you have to “keep on keeping on!”  Moving forward gets us past the bad times, keeps us in the NOW and allows us to heal.  If you concentrate on just taking one step after another, you’ll get there in the end.

8. A little is better than nothing.  There are some days I'm just not feeling it.  But, I try anyway.  I've found it's better to attempt a small hike than to sit at home, stewing in whatever emotion I'm feeling.  So get out there, go for a walk or read a book.  Grab that cup of coffee (Baileys preferred).  Put on some music and shake it off.  Music is the fabric that holds our lives together, play it often.  We all have those days, but sometimes the activity, the people and the beautiful wilderness are all we need.  Open your mind to be alive in this moment for it is gone in an instant and no one wants to miss out on life.  It’s important to enjoy the process of what you’re going through even if it does not seem so at the time.  That is growth and with it comes happiness.
Placido Flamingo at Mt. Washington, BC

9. You gain perspective at the top.  The hike is rigorous and harder than you expected. You're ready to turn back, but you keep pushing forward.  The same applies to life.  The new job might not be what you expected.  The move to the new city isn't as seamless as you hoped, but you persevere.  At the end, you're able to gain perspective.  Maybe the new job wasn't what you were passionate about.  Maybe big city life isn't for you.  You tried, though.  Through trial and error, you've gained clarity and a new perspective on what is important in your life.  Onward to the next mountain!
Rainbow Peak, Alaska

10. Revel in your success; you’ve earned it.  You made it!  You reached the top of your mountain.  You got that promotion at work or accomplished some other life goal.  Congratulations!  Instead of rushing to the bottom or moving on to the next task, take a breath; give yourself a few minutes to realize how far you've come and how much you’ve accomplished.  Revel in that success. You are amazing.  Throw a little party for yourself, even if it is in your own mind at the time, as you still have to walk back down or go on to other things (tasks).  Reflect on how far you’ve come and don't be afraid to celebrate your accomplishments.  Be your own cheerleader. Others may not recognize what you have done for many do not know the minute details of our lives. But, you know and you've more than earned that right.

These are the Life Lessons we all need to make our way in this world.

Hiking, mountain climbing, or any activity like life, isn’t just about getting to the top and taking a photo to prove you did it.  Although that’s a part of it, you also have to make sure you enjoy the climb itself.  Changes and growth come with living a purposeful life for yourself and those around you.
Several years ago I came south from Alaska to hear some “Old Friends” play a reunion concert in the north Georgia Mountains at Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge.  There were hiking trails to the upper and lower falls as well as scenic vistas from many locations on the property.
I remember watching the sun melt into an opal sky, relishing the whipped feather like clouds, sat on the quaint balcony of the resort watching the mountains stare back at all of us who came to see Cullowhee* play that weekend.  Gradually, the night went ablaze with moonlight and we wrapped ourselves in the music.  It was nothing less than magical. It was so real, like I woke up in wonderland.  We bit the crisp wind, rejoiced in the music and heaved at the silence with each other after the music ended.  No one wanted the night to end.

The empty spaces in the night were mine to unfurl.

That night was like an assertive live song trying to speak to me.  Speak through me.  Speak with me.  The drama warped my being leaving a subtle shiver in my thoughts.
The lullaby of nothingness echoed in my consciousness the rest of the night.  I made a promise to be back whenever I feel the need to be surrounded by these timeless beautiful mountains and the music it brings with it.  With a speck of dusted stars in my eyes, I bade the night good-bye.
Moonlight through the trees

*Cullowhee was a group of friends who played all over the southeast during the 80’s. They still get together for reunion concerts for the many friends and fans who have loved their music over the years.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Life Observation # 182 On Demand and its recurring ad themes

Life Observation # 182 On Demand and its recurring ad themes

While I was at mamas recently I started trying to catch up on several television shows since I’ve not had “live tv” for several months.  On Demand is a great thing to allow you to catch up on things that you have missed over the last season.

I like the Dick Wolf Chicago series “Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD”.  Great writing, story-telling and the cast on all three shows are interesting to watch and I especially like the crossover shows story lines.  There is depth to things much like Steven Bochco/Michael Kozoll’s “Hill Street Blues” in the early 1980’s.  Both series are shown on NBC so I guess quality television seems to be still around.

That production quality might not seem to carry over in its commercials with On Demand.  I have been watching all three Chicago shows as I catch up and there are repeated commercials for Viagra, Sprint, and Cialis shown multiple times per episode.  They thankfully are not the standard 60 second commercial but a briefer 20 or thirty second one quickly covering the subject.  I think the demographic is not the under 35 year old crowd especially all the ED commercials.

Sprint uses the old ad man “Paul” from the “Do you hear me now?” Verizon commercials who is now pitching the new Sprint plan with better coverage and bashing Verizon a little bit too.

The Cialis commercial left me wondering . . . if it really worked so well wouldn’t the couple be in the “same” tub together enjoying the sunset?

I noticed this latest batch of Viagra commercials have the different women (usually about 15 years younger than the man shown, what’s up with that?) all going for the “standard” pose lying across the bed.  I’m wondering why in these latest commercials none of the men’s faces are shown.  This differs from the earlier ones with the various occupation men in them.  There is the jogger, the bridge builder, the cowboy, the guy who sails his boat alone, camper dude who can make a fire, and the fisherman who has been away commercial fishing getting back to his wife.  All of their faces shown; the bridge builder usually plays a bad guy in movies or television shows and gets killed off at the end.

It kind of reminds me of many years ago the lady who did the Preparation H commercial who could never get more work after that since she was known for her hemorrhoids.  “Breaking Bad” co-star Bryan Cranston’s 1980’s Preparation H commercial didn’t keep him out of work but possibly helped get him out of some “tight” situations on his BB show.

The things that I ponder?


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Life Observation # 181 . . . Mother’s Love

Life Observation # 181 . . .  Mother’s Love

Remember what your mother taught you, it came from the most sacred place of love that exists.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Self-Discovery or Self-Reflection or is it a little of both?

In the Zac Brown song, “Quiet your mind” it starts out:

“I hear the waves
Sun beatin' down on my shoulders
It's a near-perfect day
Wishin' I wouldn't get any older
They say that it's gone 'fore you know it

Quiet your mind
Soak it all in
It's a game you can't win
Enjoy the ride”

There’s something to be said for slowing things down a bit, ridding yourself of the clutter and noise of everything going on around you.  Sometimes it’s hard to make progress on our journey of self-discovery in all the chaos around us.  There are times that through the chaos it forces us to reach out to those places where we may not want to venture.  I believe that when people are going through difficult situations in life it causes them to search a lot more.   They search life and search their soul.  When you’re searching, you’re suddenly a lot more open to the world around you, to the possibilities, to things you never thought about before.   

When you’re happy, you don’t question the world so much.   When you’re lost, you question everything.   The very reason why is because it is so essential to human self-discovery.   If you're happy, if you're feeling good, then nothing else matters. 

I have always liked the movie Forrest Gump and the way in the movie that Forrest’s life is happenstance and wanders . . . only to find him in a place in time that has an effect on everyone around him.  Hopefully my life has had some effect on those I have been in contact with during my lifetime.

Is it dumb luck or destiny?  Some of both I suppose but it amazes me that our own lives sometimes make twists and turns that surprise us.  Did we have our own plan and it worked out or did things happen as dumb luck blowing in the wind much life the feather in the movie?  

Did preparation meet opportunity happen in the cosmos giving us unexpected results?
Could it be that simple?  I think not.  Everyone has a destiny, but the journey to find it is undefined.   Forrest is like the feather, blown around by the wind and does whatever he is told.  This journey, though random and simple, leads Forrest to many good things. He never knew where he would end up, but he reached it all the same.

Is that how life really is? 

Is the Zig Ziglar saying, “Success is not the destination, it’s the journey.” the way to tell us to seek out and enjoy what life brings ones way?

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for cultivating a fulfilling and meaningful life.  When you dig deeper, you can discover what it is you know, what you think & how you want to be in the world.  When you know yourself, really know yourself, you can live according to your values and passions, make a positive contribution to the world and simply have more fun.

In other words, once you know your priorities and perspectives, you can make deliberate decisions based on those things, intentionally creating a more connected life that is true to you.  Not reacting to life but being proactive in the positive direction one would like to take.

One of my favorite books over the years has been “Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach.  I have read and re-read it for 40 years now and it remains a sort of ‘Life Bible’ for me through the years.

It is a simple book and quick easy read but has many gems on how you should live life and treat other people.  Bach is an aviator and flying stories over the years has been his common theme in many of his books.  One of his early books was ‘Jonathon Livingston Seagull’ which was made into a movie.

I have after a period of time gone back and read things again and asked myself some of the questions and have been surprised by the changing answers over the years.  Was it maturity or circumstance that brought about the perspective swings? 

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

We all learn from our past, sometimes we repeat the past until we have more clarity on that which we seek.  We learn from the problems so at times I see where people create things so they can gain from the experience.

“Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”

This one seems so true for me as those that come in and out of our lives over the years allows one to see what place they may take in the ‘theater’ we call life.  Who is on your front row and who places themselves in the back?  Who moves around in your life theater being at the front row for you and possibly moves to the back no longer there for you?  Did their own circumstances make those changes or did something get lost in the relationship to make those swings?

“Remember where you came from, where you're going, and why you created the mess you got yourself into in the first place.”

We learn from our past or would like to think so.  What have you created to learn from?

Read the book “Illusions” by Richard Bach and see if you find meaning in his words, I know I have over the years.

To contemplate the power of questions — questions like “What do we need to learn to grow and experience life to our fullest?”  The questions we ask shape the lives we lead.

“Who am I?”

The exploration of this question helps reveal your essence as an energetic being; it also highlights our possibilities and reminds us that we’re more than our bodies.

“What do I need right now more than anything else?”

Too often I find we neglect what we most need to be happy and healthy.  For instance, you might need to sleep, a massage, exercise or rest.  Whatever it is you have to respond to your need.  Doing so will help us not only address our short-term needs but also, by extension, our long-term happiness.

“What meaning can I draw from this experience?”

Every experience has a purpose and potential lesson.  Of course, the lesson may be tough to swallow, but doing so prompts awareness, curiosity, compassion and resilience. In other words, focusing on the lesson will help us keep going in tough times.

“What feeling do I most want to have in my life?  What do I want to be doing more of in my life?  What do I want to be doing less of in my life?”

These three questions, they help us explore what we really want and whether what we’re currently doing actually reflects that.  For instance, we might want a feeling of peace and relief but keep signing up for high-pressure responsibilities.  When we’re creating a fulfilling life, it’s important to cut out the things that weigh us down and add the things that lift us up.

“What am I resisting, or attaching to?”

For many of us the fear of not being enough or not having something turn out the way we want shows up as resistance or attachment and prevent growth.  However, when you identify what you’re resisting or attaching to, you can refocus on cultivating acceptance and expansion. When we are not resisting or attaching, we are free to experience life fully.

“What are my gifts?  How can I share them with the world?”

For instance, your gifts might include a great sense of humor, playing the piano, acting with kindness, creating art and volunteering your time.  By being yourself you share one of your greatest gifts to everyone.  Expecting nothing in return is by far the best reward to yourself as you have freely given of yourself, no strings attached.

“How can I celebrate each day, or the moments of my life?”

We tend to forget that every moment is ripe with gratitude and gifts.  This question prompts you to take notice of the good stuff coming in; to pause to give thanks and mark the moments that uplift us all.  By realizing that the clock of our lives is a “NOW” clock with the only real time being this moment we are experiencing NOW.  

The past cannot be changed; the future is only a possibility until it reaches NOW.  

Neither exist in the NOW time.

Again, the questions we ask influence the quality of our lives.

Ask good questions and good things come into your life.  Questions fire up our curiosity and they also illuminate the depth of our soul and psyche.  This kind of reflection leads to growth, compassion, contribution and appreciation.

I think this is longer than I anticipated but do not want to lose this thought process by breaking it up into several posts.  This is probably longer than the typical bathroom break read.

“You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true.  You may have to work for it, however.”

The old adage “There is no free lunch” is so true about so many things in life.  It takes work, and many times it is hard work to make your wishes and dreams (goals) come true.

If you, like me are on this journey towards self-discovery, you are inevitably also on a journey towards a fearless expression, what I also call your natural expression unfolding.

Though a good part of self-discovery is about understanding your nature as the “spirit” (life-energy or stream of consciousness), that you are in your essence, this understanding is then used to burn through all the “hang ups” you have in your human nature, which you’ve created through holding on to fear-based/limiting thoughts, and thus realize your authentic expression.

Each of us is unique in our human nature, and so this discovery is very personal.
Only you can explore this discovery in yourself, you can’t trust anyone else (not even your intimate spouse or your therapist of 10 years) with it because only you can meet yourself 100%, no-one else can do that for you.

The deal is that in order to discover yourself you have to be willing to be fearless of what you discover, and how your life will change with these discoveries.  Of course, the more you discover yourself the more aligned you feel, and the more abundant your experience of life becomes.

It’s a fair warning that as you delve into this journey of self-discovery, you will reach a point (soon enough) where you realize there is no “U turn”; basically, when you see a truth about yourself, clearly enough, you can’t “un-know” it again, ever . . . it becomes a point of no return.  Of course, there is nothing more liberating than the truth, and you will discover that the more you simply go with your truth the more interesting/enjoyable, and aligned, your life becomes.  So this is not a “risk” rather it’s a path towards the freedom your being/heart desires so much.

Basically there are two ways to live:

     1.     You trade your inner freedom, or inner alignment, for a sense of pseudo-security.
     2.    You don’t compromise on staying true to yourself.

Both these choices are valid ways of living life.  I am not saying one is higher than the other, it’s just a choice you are making based on your present state of understanding/ awareness, and it’s where you are right now.

Of course, when you have a deeper awareness of your true nature as life-energy, you can’t help but make choice number 2 as your default choice, and a conscious movement towards choice 2 is a natural path of growth.

Also, when you make choice 2, long enough, choice 1 is no longer available to you because you lose the grip of your mind’s fear-based pull (which is required to live choice 1).  Choice 2 also takes you into the realm of fearless expression, but by “fearless” I don’t mean “reckless”, a better way of putting it would be that you live an expression aligned with your true nature which includes operating from a place of inner wisdom.  #1 You give in to your fears and cling to what feels like “familiar” grounds, rather than develop the trust in your life-stream’s intelligence and #2 to fully take care of your well-being/abundance as you live your truth.  You don’t realize that when you live your truth, you can’t help but feel abundant.

You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.”

What are your thoughts on this?  Life is about choice, and the different paths that each one brings with it.  Do some of the paths intersect at different points in your life, perhaps?  Does it bring with it another choice?

No road is long with good company.  Enjoy your friends and experience all of the twists and turns.  

Look forward to the journey . . . as Forrest would say, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mama whistling . . . her answer surprised me.

I came down to be with my mama who recently had a stroke and care for her while my brother had several trip already scheduled.  Spending time with mama has been a really great experience as we have talked on a variety of subjects over the last few months ranging from what makes you happy, loneliness, death of loved ones, and events in our family’s history.  

On my last several trips (over a couple years) to see her, I noticed how mama whistles as she does chores like cooking, putting dishes in the dishwasher, or shopping in the grocery store.  Just random notes or parts of songs I knew.  I've observed mama once in a supermarket when I heard her whistle, off key, "Strangers In The Night" in the produce section.  She went on and on, oblivious to everyone around at the time.  This made me want to assemble a troupe of whistlers "The Whistling Grandmas", who, dressed ala Mom circa 1960's, and whistled aimlessly through life.  "Appearing at bus stops and supermarkets near you.  8:00 B sharp (hehehe). 

When I returned to Alaska I started paying more attention to people in general and older people in particular to see if whistling was a common practice.  Years ago while growing up it was common to hear somebody whistle, young or old.  Young people usually don't whistle nowadays, perhaps because of the availability of music everywhere.

Now whenever I'm in a public place and I hear someone whistling, far more often than not it's a senior citizen.  I almost never hear younger people whistle.  Was whistling considered trendy in the 1940s and 1950s, or is there some other phenomenon that happens as you get older that makes you more inclined to whistle?

The majority of whistling I do hear from the oldster’s sounds like random notes and warbling, as if there was absolutely no attempt to sing a particular song.  It's not Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin; it's the senior citizen version of a kid bashing his fists on a Casio keyboard.  My daddy whistled and played a harmonica when I was young many night playing a couple of songs as he tucked us in bed.

It got me thinking that whistling is an ever available companion when working alone, walking alone, sitting alone or just BEING alone.  Whistling, like an ever faithful dog, never argues with you as to selection or ad-lib variation.  It allows one to enjoy melody and verse which is several stories above "yeh-yeh-yeh" and "shebop-shebop" from those old 50’s and 60’s songs.

With my mama and many older people who tend to lose their eyesight or have cataract problems could whistling be a form of sonar?  Sending vibrations out and back subtlety helping them find their way?  I don’t know but was a thought I had that might explain it.

When my sister and I were here several months ago we went to the grocery store with mama and after finding a couple bottles of wine for dinner my sister went off to a different part of the store when after a few minutes mama thought my sister was lost and started whistling and yelling for my sister trying to locate her.  We walked up and down several aisles before my sister hearing her whistle and calling for her came up and told mama that after she found the first item went for something else she remembered in a different part of the store.  A minute or so later as we headed to check out mama was whistling once again. 

So, could be, when you get to a certain age, you just don't care what people think, and want to hear tunes you don't hear anymore.

I asked her why she whistled so much and she laughed and told me because it felt good to her and that it deafened the ringing sounds in her ears. She said she had a tendency to whistle if it was quiet or no television or background noise was going.

I liked that answer, it made her feel good.  After surviving multiple cancers, strokes, and two husbands (21 years each) mama deserves to “feel good”.  

Whistling . . . it’s better than most doctors’ visits or medicine given these days.