Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYE 2

It’s thirty minutes till 2012 here in the Eastern Standard Time zone. I am counting the minutes to the new year, a ritual I have observed for as long as I can remember. New Year’s Eve used to be a lot of fun for me and I remember many of them. Sadly, the last fun one for me was the beginning of Y2K. I had a small party and brought in the new year and century with a few select friends.

I had a pretty good year but fell short of many goals. I am very optimistic about 2012 … it will be ‘my year’ on many levels.

I just re-read my post from the end of last year in which I explained my “process” and declared my keyword for the year. Three years ago it was “play,” two years ago “simplify” and this past year was supposed to be “focus.” Funny how the process post I wrote a few days ago declared “focus” as my word for the coming year. I definitely need it and so I’ll stick with that because I did not do a very good job of it in 2011. I have, however, done well with “play” for the past few years. No regrets about that at all.

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday, in part because it represents renewal. Out with the old, in with the new. For me, it’s out with the negative parts of the old but in with the positive learned experiences and lessons.

Thanks to my very special friends LS, PC and LVB who help me in ways that are hard to put into words. Happy New Year to them and to you, whoever you are. Thanks for visiting.

NYE 1

I'm in a writing and chatting mood today, like I often am on New Year's Eve.  I'll probably post more later and will likely text several friends tonight as midnight draws near.
Meanwhile, here is something I saw on facebook today.
Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Religious Thing

Religion is a personal matter in my opinion and that is why I moved away from most organized religions. I did, however, help start a Unitarian Universalist congregation fifteen years ago. I am no longer a member of that particular group but I still identify with the general principles of the UU denomination. It is a very open faith that explores wisdom from many faiths. Services are often inspired by those of other religions and cultures and some of my favorites draw from Native American beliefs.

A few nights ago I was reading a section I had marked years ago in a book called “The Wisdom of the Native Americans,” a collection of Indian oration edited by Kent Nerburn, a religion and art expert from Minnesota. This part is very much in sync with my beliefs.

The worship of the Great Mystery is silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking. … It is solitary because we believe that God is nearer to us in solitude and there are no priests authorized to come between us and our Maker. … Our faith cannot be formulated in creeds, nor forced upon any who are unwilling to receive it; hence there is no preaching, proselytizing, nor persecution, neither are there any scoffers or atheists. Our religion is an attitude of mind, not a dogma.

What it means to me is this: religion and spirituality are things we decide on for ourselves as individuals and not as a result of somebody else telling us what to believe. We can share our thoughts with others in conversation or group church services, but ultimately it all lies within us each as one person.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Risks

Everything in life involves some kind of risk. We risk our lives just driving to work every day. Travelling by plane, opening the front door, falling in love all involve some element of risk. I am not known as a risk-taker but I have certainly taken my share. I am usually more subtle about it and I tend to favor calculated risks. I want to fully weigh the odds before deciding to risk anything.

This is on my mind tonight because a few hours ago I had my final pre-op doctor visit before eye surgery. The guy who is doing the surgery has a very calm nature and inspires confidence. He also outlines in excruciating detail the risks involved in cataract surgery. I think I heard him say “the risks are very small” at least five times. I asked him if I was turning green. He said no. That kind of surgery is almost routine for most people but I happen to have another eye issue that increases some of the risks for me. Most people have good outcomes with this surgery and most patients are older than I am. Being younger than average and having a mild but incurable degenerative eye disease feeds into the negative side of my obsessive nature.

I read and re-read the informed consent form, asked my usual twenty questions, then signed the document. Knowing me as I do, I will continue to obsess for the remaining twelve days before he digs into my eye, removes one thing, inserts another and closes it. While I dwell on that, I will also remind myself that EVERYBODY I know who has had this procedure came away with good results. Everyone I know who knows somebody who has had this procedure said those people came away with good results. Friends, including one in the medical profession, encourage me and hopefully will to continue their positive thoughts as I annoy the shit out of them with my obsessive worrying. I predict that one or two days before the operation, the balance of my emotions will have shifted to the positive side and I will go there with confidence and achieve the expected good outcome.

Meanwhile I’ll try some humor to calm me and steer my focus away from the risks. After all, the surgery is all in the eye of the beholder. Here’s looking at you kid. See ya.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today Was Better

My first day back at work after the December Road Trip was much better than yesterday.  Things are too busy, as usual, but the work is fun.

I'm tired, so that's all I have to say for now.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Today Sucked

Warning: this post is entirely negative except for the very last part. I apologize in advance. I’ll be better tomorrow.

Today was crappy.

It rained all day.

I miscalculated today’s trek from Birmingham to Roanoke by 90 minutes, then encountered another 90 minutes of delays due to three traffic jams near Chattanooga and two more near Knoxville.

I respect truckers but I hate that I have to share the road with them.

Two of the afore-mentioned traffic delays involved accidents in which 18-wheelers were on their sides.

Some drivers are just plain stupid. Many others are bullies.

I was in a great mood when I started out this morning but that changed 30 minutes into my drive.

In the midst of a miserable drive I started thinking about how busy it’ll be at work when I return there tomorrow.

Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. You know I’m usually positive, so maybe I’ve earned this departure from the norm.

There is a positive.  Except for today, this December road trip equaled last year’s, maybe bettered it. I have awesome friends in North Carolina and Louisiana and awesome family members in Louisiana. I am blessed to have been able to spend time with them. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow I’ll focus on that and it’ll help me get through the day.

The Process Returns

It’s that time of year again, my faithful readers, where I begin my annual “process,” a month long look back and look forward evaluation of where my life is and where it is going. I start around New Year’s and continue through my birthday near the end of January. I have been writing about it since this blog began and have been utilizing this technique for much longer. Some years it serves as great goal-setting and other years it makes for a nice blog post but is ignored starting the next day.

This past year seems like the latter, partly because I don’t remember what I said last year (I’ll look it up before completing this post) and partly because action on one very important personal matter is still stuck in neutral. I know, however, that I spent more time with people who are important to me, which included some travel to Virginia Beach, Asheville and New Orleans. I saw plenty of live music, including concerts by U2, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Duran Duran. I connected with some old friends I hadn’t seen in years and went to a few pro sports events including the Nationals, Redskins and Capitals.

My road trips were interesting, with activities like beach walks, hiking to waterfalls, wine tasting at Biltmore, photography, a play, a movie and endless conversation. My local friend time was enhanced by my decision to drive to other parts of the expansive DC area like Fairfax, Arlington, Silver Spring, Woodbridge and Baltimore rather than just whine about my daily Frederick-Rockville commute rut.

So what’s on the agenda for the coming year? I am just beginning the process but two things top the list for the first three months: eye surgery and finally turning the page on that personal matter I mentioned. Between January and March, nothing else matters to me. Successfully reaching those two goals will affect April and May too. Some time in the next month I’ll figure out the rest of the year, but right now I need to focus on those two things. I don’t remember what my “word of the year” was for 2011, but the word for 2012 has to be “focus.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Home and Home

Well, time for the homeward part of the road trip. This is always the hardest part. I am very much connected to New Orleans and feel at home here but this hasn't been my home for a long time. My home is definitely Maryland but sometimes I don't feel a deep connection there. Even if I could make a good living in New Orleans, which I can't, I would probably still choose Maryland. 

People who move away from their home town or state often develop personalities and lives that are different from siblings or friends who stay behind. When they visit home, they are still connected but feel a bit disconnected. That's my story. I think I retained some of the positives of growing up here and discarded what I believe are the negatives. 

Visiting here and spending time with friends and family from the past help me appreciate them and the uniqueness of New Orleans. At the same time I appreciate the directions my life has taken. I am lucky to have the best of both worlds. 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my New Orleans road trip.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Know I Know

Men can be sensitive and emotional without having to surrender their man card. I am totally secure in that part of my own personality. I am just as much 'cave man' as the next guy but it's usually subtle. I choose to show more of the sensitive side.  Maybe that's a mistake. Tough shit.

All that is prelude to this:  Sometimes I get emotional when I visit New Orleans during the holidays. I was pretty cocky when I left this place decades ago. I knew there was so much more world to see, experiences to live, people to meet and things to learn. I was right. People here can be so narrow-minded and isolated from the real world.

Something I have learned since, however, is that people here instinctively know things others from elsewhere don't know. For example, having a good time is just part of the local DNA. Dancing to music in the street while holding a drink you walked out of a bar with. (bad grammar is part of life here too, by the way).

Acceptance is another one. People here accept flooded streets, corrupt politicians, humidity and mosquitos. New Orleans is in the Central Time Zone but there is an accepted yet unspoken thing you could call New Orleans Time. If you have a 2 pm meeting, don't assume it will start at 2. It might. It might not.  And it may seem that people are lazy and slow and not getting anything done ... till you wake up one day and see how much they did.

I don't really miss this quirkiness all that much in my present life but when I'm here It all floods back into my psyche. That sometimes produces an emotional reaction. Yeah yeah yeah, sensitive schmensitive.

Some of the emotional reaction likely comes from a disconnect between my present and my past. My life could have been very predictable and stable had I stayed here; it was moving in that direction till the end of high school. My adult life proved to be very unpredictable.

My present life is pretty exciting and sometimes I don't realize it till somebody else points it out. You get what you focus on and my goal is to focus on the positive. Allowing myself some emotion when I'm here ultimately results in my acceptance of the influence this place had and has on me. I left New Orleans but it hasn't left me. That's a good emotion. Shedding a tear when I hear the song in this post is a good thing.

I love to share New Orleans.  Friends who read this, be prepared. One day you will  visit here with me and see this place through my eyes. It will be one of your life's most memorable adventures. I'll try not to get too emotional.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Future

Wow, a five-hour gab fest with the cousins. This is the third time in three years my sister threw a small party for me and the cousins on Dad's side of the family. It is always fun to see what paths they have taken over the years and this time we just couldn't shut up. It was great. 

These cousins are all older than me so maybe I'm seeing into the future when I spend time with them. Some of the conversation is about our youth, some relates to our present, some is sharing various 'family secret' items we've picked up along the way. And I got to hear enough about medical stuff to last a lifetime  We all look like our parents did at our present ages, which is kind of amusing too. 

I'm happy to see I'm not the only one without children and some of us do not live in houses we've paid off. Three of us have not retired and two of us probably never will. 

Except for time in the military nobody in the room last night has lived outside of southeast Louisiana except me. I moved away a long time ago and lost touch with them. I am happy to be able to see them again and grateful that they took time to visit. Time is the most precious gift someone can give. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Interesting Lesson

When some people think about New Orleans in the six years since Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the town they think residents are crazy for sticking around and rebuilding. My take is different. I see a lesson in survival. 

I'm writing this while sitting on my sister's front porch in the Lakeview neighborhood, a part of town that sat in eight feet of flood waters for three weeks after the storm.      When I lived in this house as a kid this porch was three feet above the lawn. Now it's eight feet up. Damn flood ain't gonna mess with this house again. 

The street I'm looking at has better blacktop than before Katrina, the sidewalk is now smooth and level, unlike pre-K days when it buckled from uneven settling ground and the grass is green. I still clearly remember this scene six weeks after the hurricane. The street was torn up, the ground was brown with caked dirt leftover from the receding cesspool flood waters and there were abandoned cars in the median, parked there by evacuees hoping the vehicles they couldn't take with them would be safe sitting a foot higher than street level. 

What hit me this morning, however, as I look over this scene is this:  the trees and shrubs in the median are the same ones that were here that week I helped my sister throw away most of the flood-soaked  contents of her house. That week those trees looked dead. But they survived and now they thrive. There are many vacant lots around here but there are also many rehabbed houses. And many new houses. Many of the people on this block came back and rebuilt. Their lives survived. 

That is the lesson and inspiration. If you want something bad enough you can have it. People here have a "let the good times roll" mentality that often masks an incredible tenacity. I guess if you willingly live in a town that sits three feet below sea level and is almost entirely surrounded by water, you learn to survive. Either that or you're too lazy or stupid to move to higher ground. 

I don't plan to ever live here again but I celebrate the positive and continuing lessons learned from my connection with this unique place. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Road Trip Randomness

Today is the first day of winter and I'm wearing a t-shirt.  I woke up in Birmingham, Alabama, where it is 67 degrees at 8am.  Every now and then I miss living in the south.  After a week I come to my senses. 

The fitness room in this hotel actually had more stuff than just a treadmill.  Real weights.  Three mornings in a row of success in my new fitness plan. 

I'll be in New Orleans for the next few days, staying in my sister's guest room which was my room when were kids growing up in that house.  It is an interesting experience because after extensive post-Katrina renovation, the house isn't really the same as it was.  Yet in many ways it is.

I am stubborn yet flexible, cold and hot, emotional and lacking emotion, giving and taking, secure with dots of insecurity, logical yet artistic and all of that comes out during a road trip to my hometown.  Why?

I spent two and a half days in Asheville and did not take one picture with a real camera.  Kind of odd.  Being that wrapped up in conversation is something I don't get enough of.

Haven't taken any pictures in Birmingham either but that's because I only use this as a convenient stop.  And I have an interesting post-Katrina connection with the part of town I stay in.  Otherwise I don't care much about this town.  Sorry.  (not really).

Bet I take a bunch of pictures in New Orleans.  One of the most photogenic places on the planet.

Time to hit the road.  More later.  Happy Winter Solstice.  Happy Hanukkah.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 2011 Road Trip Randomness

Well, I’m on the road again, eating and drinking my way through the south. Here is the first round of random thoughts.

- I totally love Asheville NC. It feels like home. Have now visited six times. Would live there if I could make a living there, but that’s just not in the cards.

- Part of what I like there is a very awesome friend. We are just friends but feel free to use us as proof that straight men and women can actually be friends without any drama.

- Saw the David Sedaris-written one-man play called Santa Land Diaries. Awesome fun.

- Two doctors I saw last week suggested I lose weight and exercise five times a week instead of just two or three. That’s a challenge on a road trip, but so far so good. Most of my breakfasts so far have been yogurt and cereal; most other meals were salad-oriented. Wine and a couple of beers – well, this IS a vacation. But I have used hotel fitness rooms two mornings in a row and will do the same again tomorrow.

- This is my first paperless vacation. No paper reservations, no paper maps, no paper note-taking. Everything is on my iPhone. Cool and scary and the same time.

-  We visited a toy store.  Yes that is a propeller on that cap.  No I did not buy the cap (but I thought about it).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another One

And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from 1 to 92, although it’s been said many, times many ways …..



((Sorry about the commercial))

Monday, December 12, 2011

Naughty or Nice

So what is more fun, naughty or nice?

Most people think I am a nice guy. My own take on me is that I am a nice guy with a naughty streak. That’s funny to me because most people in my current circle of friends and acquaintances can’t picture the naughty side unless they’ve actually been around me during those moments. Those from my past who know what I’m talking about aren’t telling. Hmm, I wonder if Santa knows.

The up side to nice is that it is reliable, dependable and desirable over the long run. Honesty and trust are good qualities. And they’re boring, which is the down side. Naughty is a lot more fun. Or is it? Being nice has cost me jobs and girlfriends. My naughty side has led to the occasional slap in the face or embarrassing conversations. My naughty streaks were often fun, sometimes odd and definitely memorable. I can’t really talk about most of it. Sorry.

Naughty might be more fun but if given the choice, I’ll pick nice every time. Well, almost every time.

The correlation between naughty and nice and presents from Santa seems pretty fuzzy. I have received good and bad presents during both naughty and nice phases. No connection. No cause and effect. Doesn’t matter anyway. While I am grateful for gifts, the only thing I really want from anybody this year is a little of their time. For many of my closest friends and family members, time is more expensive than any gift card or shirt and a lot more precious to me. And it looks like I’ll get what I’m asking for. See, nice can be kinda nice.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back Roads

I'm going to see this guy and six other country music singers tonight, partly for work and partly for pleasure.  As I was watching this video a few minutes ago I was thinking about the two-lane backroad I live near.  Mine is a fairly well-developed state highway but it is only two lanes, it runs througn several small towns (the largest has a population of 3500) and sometimes there are large, slow-moving tractors slowing the pace a bit and reminding us that this county was and to some degree still is filled with farmland.  I sort of like the relaxed life of living here but I can't actually make a living in these towns, so I take two Interstate highways filled with traffic jams to my work place more than 40 miles away.  The commute is killing me.  I will be moving, hopefully early in the new year.  I'll miss the two-lane backroads but I will not miss the commute or the sense of isoloation or the ridiculous distance between where I live and where my real life lives.

Anyway, watch the video.  Pretty cool vid and song.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Good Point

The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.

-A. Einstein

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stand Up and Focus

That pesky holiday depression keeps sneaking up on me. Actually it’s more like regular depression. I think the real cause is that there is just too much on my plate and not enough time to get it done. I’m a bit of a control freak and big chunks of my life are not within my control this month. Way too much to do and way too little time to get it done.

Over the past twenty years I have read at least five self-help books and countless self-help articles, interviewed three different psychologists on my radio shows and even took one of the recorded Tony Robbins courses. All of that advice is pretty much the same and can be summarized in two thoughts: 1) you get what you focus on and 2) every time you fall, stand up.

We can choose to focus on the negatives in our lives and if we do, we will usually find more negatives. Conversely, we can choose to focus on the positives and, well, we will find more positives. That is the advice I give others and usually follow myself. I am self-aware enough to recognize my breaking points and if I’m paying attention, I can spot them before I reach them and do something about it. But sometimes I stumble. When I fall, I should stand up. Again, that is the advice I give others but sometimes as I’m wallowing in a negative pity party, I forget to stand up. Fortunately I eventually remember. Things might be a little blah for me right now but I know I have been much further down in the dumps than this. Every time I have fallen into the negative pit this fall (ironic name for this season, isn’t it?), I have stood up and grabbed onto something positive.

One more thing I remember from some self-help gurus is this: surround yourself with positive people and discard the negative ones. That’s a little harsh but it works. Or if you choose to keep a few negative people, make them a project; try to swing them into a more positive zone. I have a few “project” people in my circle. I don’t think any of them read this blog. And I definitely do have positive people in my circle, and some of the most important ones do read this blog.

I had a real up and down day today but one thing that helped me stand up a couple of times was a song. In fact, my favorite Christmas song, the one I mentioned a few posts ago … The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). I decided to find a few more versions and share them with you. Here is one I heard today. Enjoy. Happy Holidays. I am very excited that I will see at least two of my positive friends later this month.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ghoti

If your native language is American English, you might think it is a fairly easy language to learn. Remember, however, that you’ve had a lifetime to learn the nuances. But try to find logic in some of our language and you might understand why it is so difficult for immigrants to learn it.

Here are a few examples, starting with one inspired by my early morning hunger pains today.

Break fast and breakfast. I believe the terms are related, but the words with identical spellings have different pronunciations. When you eat for the first time after fasting for awhile, you break your fast. Break is pronounced like brayk, with a long a, and the a in fast rhymes with ass. But the 1st meal of the day, when you break the fast of not eating since dinner last night, is pronounced breck, rhyming with wreck, and fast said more like fust … shouldn’t it be spelled breckfust?

Here’s a threesome: Signature, nature and natural. In signature, the nature part is pronounced nah-tur. Actually the t is said like ch ... sig-nah-chur. Nature, referring to the great outdoors, is said with a long a, like nay-chur. Natural, which is related to nature, is pronounced with the na part rhyming with bat … and again the t said more like chnatch-u-ral (the ral sort of like ruhl). Easy, right?

National is another one that defies logic. Na rhyming with bat, tion said like shun, al said like uhl.

Laugh – the gh is like an f and the u is very quiet.

Women – ok, that should be pronounced woh-men but the o part rhymes with sinwimen.

Nation – there’s that ti sounding like sh again and a long a.

Which leads me to the title of this post … ghoti. The gh in laugh, the o in women and the ti in nation. Think about that next time you eat fish.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bucket List 3.0

The ‘bucket list’ concept has appealed to me ever since I first heard the term used more than ten years ago. I have been a list-maker as long as I can remember and it seems natural to list things I want to do before I “kick the bucket.” It is a logical form of goal-setting. Making lists for my career has helped me hit many goals, such as working in several big cities, hosting a radio show heard in multiple time zones, hitting certain income levels; list-making for personal goals, no matter how out of reach they might seem, makes perfect sense to me and is a great first step toward hitting the mark.

I have started bucket lists a couple of times in the past few years but was inspired to share this list this week by a recent blog post from my friend Eliz in Asheville. Here are some of the items I am willing to admit out loud.

- Hike the Bright Angel Trail into the Grand Canyon

- Visit the Tuscany region of Italy

- Learn to speak Italian

- Learn to play an instrument well enough to play in public (saxophone, piano or guitar)

- Have a conversation with a U. S. President

- Go cross-country skiing

- Spend a New Year’s Eve in Time Square

- Climb a rock wall

- Write and publish a book

- Write a song that gets recorded by a singer somebody has heard of

- Finish college

- Go on a Blues Cruise

- Narrate a Discovery Channel special.

- Take a week-long landscape photography course taught by John Shaw or David Muench

- Celebrate my 100th birthday

There are other items on my bucket list but they are too weird or personal to share here. So what is on your bucket list? Please share in Comments.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Words To Live By

Jimmy Valvano was a famous basketball coach, most notably during his years at NC State in the 1980s. Being the occasionally clueless guy that I am when it comes to college basketball, I never heard of him … till today. He was also a broadcaster and motivational speaker during his relatively short life. A friend posted a partial quote on Facebook and I made light of it. She responded diplomatically and posted a link to the speech she was quoting.

It is well worth your time to watch this 10-minute video, even if you have seen it before. He died of bone cancer at the young age of 47, less than a year after the diagnosis, and this speech was delivered as he accepted the first Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award about a month before his death. He apparently was an inspiration to the teams he coached but the things he said in this speech are an inspiration to me and others now. These things reinforce some beliefs I hold and often talk about. He sums it up better than I can.

Watch the whole video. This line is my takeaway from it:

There are three things we should do every day … you should laugh every day, you should spend some time in thought every day and have your emotions moved to tears, of happiness or joy. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a full day, a heck of a day. Do that seven days a week and you’re going to have something special.

Sunday TV, Campaigns and Football

My usual Sunday morning rituals include a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and watching parts of TV talk shows. I only watch a few minutes of those programs because they don’t really accomplish anything beyond giving political pundits air time to spew their carefully-crafted talking points.

Case in point: the CBS show this morning hosted by Bob Schieffer. He has been a journalist for more than fifty years, much of it on TV. He is smart, well-prepared and has pretty much seen it all; but like many of his colleagues, fails to dig deep enough. The segment I watched featured a strategist or executive representing each of the two major political parties. Schieffer asked the Republican guest about significant inconsistencies relating to Gingrich and Romney, the current leading contenders for a Presidential candidacy. His response repeatedly avoided answering the questions and re-stated the talking points, which basically is that their strategy is to make Obama a one-term President.

Schieffer asked the Democrat several questions relating to Obama’s inability so far to fix the economy and create jobs. The guest’s answers kept coming back to his talking points, which mostly related to members of Congress who he said continued to block the President’s efforts to fix the economy and create jobs. Schieffer thanked both guests and expressed appreciation for their appearance on the show. Maybe he was being sarcastic. It was obvious to me that the current strategy of both party’s representatives is to blame the other using quotable talking points while avoiding what I believe to be the real issue: politics over results.

Presidential campaigns tend to be more like auditions for the starring role in a four-year television series. We elect the auditioning candidates with the most star power of those who are up for the part. Obama-McCain, Bush-Kerry, Bush-Gore, Clinton-Dole, Clinton-previous Bush. Look who won each of those elections. None of them were great presidents, none of them delivered all they promised (although Clinton probably came the closest) and each of the winners in each race could have won American Idol.

Does a President really have the power to make things happen? To lead in a crisis? They do, but not in their leadership of their administration or Congress. Their strength is in leading the voting public to feel good about certain issues. That results in subsequent action by Congress and others. Clinton had plenty of missteps in office but he made us believe that the economy was the issue and that his background in economics could fix it. He left office with a balanced budget; he also made us wonder if he could finish a whole paragraph without telling some kind of lie. Bush seemed dumber than a box of rocks but he showed true leadership in the months following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He made us feel that our country could find a way to prevent another attack and in some way avenge that one. He played that patriotism card many more times over eight years, but he left us with the economic crisis we are currently in. Obama made us feel we needed change, a changing of the guard, a move to the other end of the boomer spectrum, a new world in Washington. But he doesn’t seem to have a passion for the job and that hurts him now and could hurt him more in the election next year.

Yes, I got all that in a ten minute segment of one TV show. The next segment was about penguins in the Antarctic. Much more fun. Then I switched to the Weather Channel. This afternoon I will engage in another Sunday ritual … watching the Washington Redskins lose another football game. I skip the post-game news conference with the coach – he seems to have the same “non answers” that are so common here in the Washington area.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sharing a Song

This is one of my favorite songs on Coldplay's new CD.  Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ho Ho Ho and Bah Humb….

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to admit having the problem. So rather than trying to ignore it, I’ll just come right out and say that I’m struggling with holiday depression. I go through this every year, so I’m used to it. Fortunately it comes in waves, usually just a few days or hours at a time, and not the months-long emotional adventure it used to be.

I’ve studied it, read about it and interviewed experts on my radio shows. I know plenty about holiday depression. In my case, part of it is a lingering set of mismatched expectations. I grew up in a stable, predictable family environment in which each holiday season was pretty much like the previous one. Mostly it was good, enjoyable and pleasant. Things changed in my adulthood, as it does for most people. My life is generally good but I’ve had periods of instability, unpredictability and dysfunctional family and personal situations. Those emotional and situational extremes fight with each other.

I don’t really expect the holidays to be great but I do want them to be. Last year I decided in advance that I was going to have a great holiday season, I defined what that would include in terms of people I would spend time with and activities I would engage in. The result? One of the best holiday seasons I’ve ever had. I spent time with two of my best friends, my sister and some of her friends, a former best bud from high school and two different sets of cousins, some of whom I had not seen in decades and whose children I had never met. All of this happened on a road trip and I didn’t have even a second of holiday depression for those nine days.

A similar road trip is on my agenda for this month. I’ll spend time with some of the same people and do some of the same things. There is a little bit of sadness in the cousin circle, including a death and a cancer diagnosis, but I think there will still be some joy in that setting. Maybe I’ll be the one to encourage that. It will be an awesome nine days right in the middle of the season. I’ll probably feel great for weeks after. But right now, tonight and maybe for the next couple of days, I’ll accept that I feel blue and am experiencing some holiday depression. For me, depressing that feeling would make things worse, so I am admitting the problem to myself (and I guess to you) and that should help solve it.