The Deck

Keith returned home from Peace Corps looking like he should be modeling underwear for Calvin Klein. I told him he looked absolutely fit. Playfully, he credited chewing coca leaves every day. Then he told me about The Deck.

I rather make the best of my surroundings than go to the gym. I choose to do general exercises that require no equipment or weights.

My fitness routine is often changing. I’ve never forgotten Keith’s Deck workout, and lately, it found it’s way back into my life. I love it and today I’m sharing it with you. You might want to use The Deck to mix up your workout.

Here’s How To Create Your Own Deck

Dig into that junk drawer and pull out a deck of playing cards. It doesn’t have to be a complete deck. For example, this current set of mine only has 30 cards. O’well, good enough.

First, I write down on a note card the cards: ace, two, three, etc.

Next, I write an exercise next to each card: abs, push-ups, lunges, etc.

Then I shuffle the cards and complete the workout in random order.

I don’t always (actually rarely) make it through the entire deck in one sitting, but if I can make it through a deck a day, I know I’m doing great.

I try to make fun games for myself. For example, if I can complete a deck of cards before 7 p.m. I give myself a gold medal. At the end of the week I try to achieve five gold medals.

Want the perfect Deck just for your fitness level? That’s my thing. I can help you with that.

From Morning Moves

Sunday Newsletter: Beginning Again

This week I heard myself use the word starting over to refer to myself. I don’t exactly remember the context.

Such as: I’m starting over with dating and romantic relationships.

Or, I sometimes look at my financial responsibilities and say, I’m starting over financially during these heavy single parenting years.

I’m not going to say, starting over anymore. The more appropriate word is beginning again. It feels more positive to me.

I make this distinction because it’s impossible to start over. I have never lost all of my previous work. It’s in me forever.

This applies to love, relationships, business, employment, parenting, and all aspects of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical fitness. The wisdom, experience and lessons I have learned along my inevitable path of life find it’s way into whatever I choose to do next (whether I like it or not). With this perspective, it’s more accurate to say I’m beginning again.

Here I am beginning again. Interestingly, it feels like a strange intersection at what I’ve both figured out and can’t figure out – unless I keep tearing it all down some more, and begin again, again.

To begin again is to become an amateur. I write that sentiment lightly, but that’s how I feel – like an amateur. I’m engaging in this authentic pursuit of myself without pay and without bias and full of passion.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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How I Stay Alive Today and Look Forward to Life Tomorrow

Here’s how I resolve to keep the flashlight turned on in the dark. It’s how I inject life into what I do as opposed to just going through the motions like a zombie.

Did I do my best to set my goals today?

This morning my goal was to wake up with five deep breaths, say my “ground of being” intention, pray for my loved ones, find a couple things to be grateful for, drink water and do my push ups and sit ups. I know that if I can do those handful of things off my list when I wake up, I’m on my way to getting just one tenth better, and for each day in a row that I get one tenth better, it compounds, and by the end of a year or three, that makes for significant improvement – life changing improvement. My real goal is to keep my improvements compounding.

Did I do my best to make progress today?

I define “progress” by assessing if I made my life happen today. When I make my life happen I am present with my kids. I am kind to my kids. I am engaged at work. I am writing thoughts and ideas in my journal. I am prepared for the day with enough nutrition that I am not in a situation where I have to compromise with Subway or the corner greasy spoon. I am following up with people and connecting with new people and doing my due diligence. I am doing what is right and asking useful questions. I am assessing projects (and even sometimes relationships) and asking myself if it’s time to stick or quit. I am asking if this is a dead end or a place I should leap. I trust these things make life happen.

Did I do my best to make meaning today?

For me, making meaning might be a conversation overheard, a scrap of story a coworker, friend or family member shared. It could be a dream I had and usually is when I do recall my dreams. It might be a twinge of a memory I have that longs for reconciliation in my journal. It might just be a resonant line that’s been replaying itself and needs to be quickly jotted down. Making meaning is remarkable communication and there is a craft in that practice that has always stayed with me among life changes. It’s writing this blog right now.

Did I do my best to be grateful today?

We gon’ do our best/ Never let it rest/ Till our good be better/ And our better best/ Said I don’t drink coffee/ For they say It’s just not right for me/ But what makes me irie/ Is if I could get a little piece of tree/ And build One good spliff/ Me and my little brothers We take a ride/ Gonna teach them/ All the lessons that I have learned in life/ * Ziggy Marley from “One Good Spliff”

My big thing since New Years has been “gratitude alchemy.” There’s like one hundred different ways to practice gratitude and it seems like before the year is over I will have tried them all. I think the number one reason I have gotten serious about gratitude is because all the happy elderly folks I know are artists at turning a negative thought into a positive thought. I want to live to be age 100. It requires “grateful alchemy.” It’s what saves a life, any life, your life, my life. The more and more practice with this and it will become routine to execute on positive thoughts. Being grateful helps us execute on positive thoughts.

Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

The relationship I have with myself comes first so that’s where I start. Being integrous with my word is important to me. I ask things like, Am I making promises I can’t keep? Am I procrastinating on something that another person is counting on me for? I know that if I am integrous with my word that my relationships with others will automatically improve. I know that if I am practicing being kind and grateful my interactions with people and my relationships that matter to me will thrive. I do my best to review these things every day.

What am I doing in my last minutes before sleep?

I used to crawl into bed and open Facebook or Instagram or the Weather or the News or chase a link to an article on my phone and get mindless for 10 or 20 minutes. I thought that was a shitty habit to have. In doing so, I’m making myself susceptible to someone else’s thinking. It’s not an intentional way of being so I stopped. Now, I still open my phone but I go through this list^ I’ve just shared with you. I ask myself all these questions. I take a few moments to write any last thoughts, which I write on my phone. I’m such a “fat fingered” typist with my phone I have to go slow and be thoughtful, and this makes me drowsy. It’s a great way to fall away into deep rest.

Cheers to a good life. To me, a good life is being happy in the moment and looking forward to the next. This is my current practice to having a good life.

This post is from the healthy living series. 

Sunday Newsletter: Coming of Age

No one ever heard her subtleties or mistakes as keenly. No one heard her the way she most deeply heard herself, so brilliant, so vulnerable, so insecure, so confident, so longing, so seeking, so creative, so much like me that I bet the house and left one dream for another, and that is how I came of age.

What was that?

Let’s call it trading character for destiny. In the movies, it’s a helplessness you can’t resist rooting for. In real real life it’s rewarded if there aren’t any tangible sacrifices. Consequently, most were disgusted with me, some even called me a monster.

She loved my accepting, appreciative, nonchalant ear. I loved her cavalier swagger and her breath. To this day, I have never smelled perfume without thinking about how intoxicating it was to unbutton her shirt, kiss the nape of her neck and be sent into a different realm of consciousness.

She loved my indifference to politics and religion but fierce worship and intention to written language and remarkable communication, and the way that mixed with my wide, strong back and work ethic.

I loved her small adjustments, the way she embarrassed people who misunderstood and underestimated her because they only saw her flawless fashion and beauty.

She loved how I could stop time, isolate a moment and feeling helpless to resist. I liked that she never did. Not once ever. She was as much a romantic as I. She appreciated that I could bask in my own version of a superpower, and I appreciated that I was never implicated or encumbered for doing so.

I liked the way she prepared herself for a date, pretended as if I wasn’t there. It was a part of her art, to entertain as others watched. She never once asked if this was the right dress or if that was the way her hair should go. She never doubted herself in a mirror. I’d never witnessed the privilege of true beauty up to that point.

We loved each other – because together, for a brief moment in time – we functioned above the small fraction of our capacity to live fully in the totality of love, of caring, of creating and adventuring through what might otherwise be a dull life. We found one another, and the timing was terrible, but it was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever encountered.

The love I had committed to up to that point, in all it’s limits, loneliness and lack of knowledge of myself, resulted in confusion. It was more of a need attachment from the boy I was when we met.

This lover taught me that love is an emotion that can be a true response to an emotion, and therefore an active expression of what is felt, and can never be learned, just acted out and acted upon.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Writing from the Core

The first day at workshop, John said something unusual.

Our instructor asked us why we’d chosen to enroll ourselves in such an endeavor. What we hoped for?

John told us he was dying of a rare form of cancer.

At that time, he was still feeling good. He said he was here to finish up something before he passed. He’d written several love letters to his wife. He wanted our help to get them “right.”

This was a three part writing workshop that I attended for those in transition with change, divorce, loss, grief and growth. This was about three years ago. I wanted to explore my life story: all the tales, myths and metaphors so I could better compose what I saw when I looked back, and so I could redeem my story up ’til that day, and so I could look in the mirror and re-imagine the future.

In order to do this work, we gathered from poetry, stories, free writing, silence, discussion, participatory exercises to stimulate reflection, self understanding and our own depth of healing and hope.

Powerful stuff. Important, worthwhile work.

That’s when it dawned on me that writing isn’t exactly about writing. It’s about remarkable communication. It’s about accomplishing something with language that is important in our precious lives. Writing is a means towards something bigger no matter how poorly we feel. That writing workshop was a place where we gave one another our fullest attention. The act of doing so is one way to advance dreams.

I have always said that writing is life work not desk work. This means that writing from our core and listening from our core is an act of optimism, it’s a way for us to clarify what we need to do. Then use writing to move in that direction.

No “writers workshop” required. Most people will never go to a writers workshop, but we all have a life to live. We all collect the small bits of life, add thoughts and responses then declare it precious. We all do even if we don’t realize we are. We do. We are meaning makers.

Life work is about finding the reason a particular encounter stayed with us. It’s narrowing our way deeper until we understand what happened there. Because it’s not random that you forget so many things throughout a day but specifically remember others. There is something in that which reveals who you are and what you are here to do.

That’s what I believe. That’s why I have a healthy practice of writing from my core almost every day.
If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like lots of white space and no directions, here is a short step by step start to find your first ink mark on the blank page.

1. Make a list of all your encounters from the day. Include the encounters you’ve had with your self. For whatever the reason, write it down fast. Keep sentences short.

2. Put a star by the item on your list that summons to mind a story, a conversation, anything memorable.

4. Write “the story of your thinking” of this encounter. You may begin by describing your understanding of why this encounter stayed in your mind. It might be something in particular that someone told you. It could be a description of an interaction you had.

One way to think of this: You’re home at dinner time gathering with friends, family and/or loved ones and find yourself telling about your engagement with this encounter. Something worth telling happened. What is it? What did it reveal that you know to be true?

I believe the world needs what only your stories, your poems, your voice and your vision can provide? I am amazed at the influence personal stories of others help me understand and experience human connections. I can’t get enough because I don’t think the whole story will ever get told without your voice.

Lastly, if you hear a voice telling you that you aren’t a writer… Please!

Understand that you have what you need. We all do. Whatever your experience – if you’ve written a note, a letter, a postcard, a Facebook status update – you can share your story.

Or like John, you can work with others to get the communication “right” and have something to pass on.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Sunday Newsletter: Dead Weight Poems

I sometimes write poetically, but I’ve never considered myself a writer of poetry, and yet I have collected poems that speak to me my entire life.

What I have here isn’t what I would call poetry. Instead, I consider them small “ditties” that I’ve whittled.

I call them “Dead Weight” poems because after awhile, these “ditties” want release else I’m just lugging around dead weight. These little pieces are the forest floor of my journal.

These “ditties” are in constant production. I try to let them sneak out the back door yet would also betray myself I didn’t post them here. It’s the documentarian in me that uses these “ditties” to mark time.

I call this collection of two “Wave One” because that’s enough (but not all) of the content I think one should gulp in one sitting.


Dead Weight Poems Wave One

 

Impatient Heart

My impatient heart
has wanted nothing more
than to rise up, and rush

into all the unsettled

complacence. That might be the anxiety

of perpetual insecure attachments,

or of falling in-love itself,

but oh how genuine the love making is!

I’ve lived one woman at a time,
scattered episodes,

I have not resolved
the impermanence of love.

And. I have so often felt foolish because

​the deck
​in​side my heart
shuffles
​and there I am living the opposite of what I said.

I don’t know

what to make of aging once my children have gone.

My heart both fears

and longs for
doing the same handful of things

with the same person,

both settled

and unsettled,

living
day
to day

until

death

do

us

part.


Last Parts

The best part of us
drank toasts for better days,
leaned into our best selves,
loved on the weekends,

staggered

shoulder to shoulder
down empty streets at 2 a.m.
balancing our way

together

home
where our private parts
pushed and pulled

together

as if to erase
an inevitable reality
that we hoped we
wouldn’t wake

resentful

with nostalgia.

 

wave one | wave two

Saying “Yes” to Lucan

One time not long ago, when he was mad at me he said he was “walking to mom’s.” I let him walk out the door. 10 minutes later I could not find him anywhere. I called 9-1-1. A police officer found him four blocks away. We met at the corner of Southworth and Center – both my son and the cop waiting for my response. All I could say was “Thank you” to the officer. I held my son’s hand the remaining streets home. I asked him if no one would have stopped him did he really think he could make it all the way to moms. He said “No.”

Life is our teacher. Experience offers us a lesson each time. I’m glad I didn’t tell him “No don’t you dare walk out that door.” I can’t both protect my boy from life and give it to him too. I won’t squeeze out the life that should be let in.

At the grocery store today, he hid in the toilet paper. I’m never sure whether to be freaked out that a predator could take him or pissed off because I know that’s my kid pushing the limits to see the other side. When I finally found him, he said, “Can I?” as if anticipating the pissed off version of me. I don’t always smile, but today I did and I said, “Yes.” He smiled too. Let me NEVER take this beautiful boy’s innocent smile away from him.

Then he tore away with abandon out of the TP imitating the character we both love and watch together, The Flash. He made it 10 or so paces before attempting a hair pin turn toward isle 13, but was side swiped by a cart being pushed by someone unaware that a 49 inch blur can suddenly appear in front of your path. He took the hit like an NFL running back but remained on his feet before screeching to a halt at an end cap aquarium of gold fish. I gave him the “dad look” but he smiled so I smiled back – shaking my head.

I give my boy a long metaphorical leash. He demands it. The space he takes to find himself is his own. He doesn’t need to always hear me say “No.” He doesn’t need a lecture or a warning. I do plenty of that as it is. If I scolded him every time I felt inclined to do so, I’d only steal what is most natural to him at this age: seeking the joy of the calling.

He needs to hear me say “Yes.” I trust my boy. I trust life. Sometimes, I force myself to trust when I tell him “Yes.” I trust that, for now, he will learn more from my “Yes’s” than he will my “No’s.”

Morning Moves – Break the Pattern

We all feel anger, fear, worry, upset or stress.

We all travel back in time and feel regret about something or another.

We all travel into the future and feel a worry that hasn’t occurred.

We feel these things for our job, relationships, children, health, etc, etc.

We have all had situations where we snap at someone, but it wasn’t them, it was our current state of being. We have all been there. It’s normal.

The Difference is How Long We Stay In That Negative State of Being

How long are you staying there?

The difference is our habitual patterns that we unknowingly ride into those self defeating states of being. The entire reason why I share these “morning moves” is so you can start your day off with a “move” that positively influences your state of being.

I’ve been sharing one PHYSICAL ACTIVITY that you can perform each morning immediately out of bed so our mind and body is in alignment to have a good day. That starts with optimizing our posture.

Think of it in these terms…

…if we’re in a depressed state of being consider your posture. Our shoulders are slumped, our head is downward, our breath is shallow, we’re quiet, we’re slow, we’re heavy not light.

We know this for two reasons:

1. we’ve all seen it in others and

2. we’ve all spent a part of our life practicing to be that way ourselves.

Take a few days to stop and reflect about this for yourself.

So if we can “just” (simply) and radically change our bodies (posture) first thing out of bed, we’ll tremendously improve our state of being. Because exercise – even just one simple movement like the ones I offer you – forces our shoulders to be pushed forward, our head to be upright, our breath to inhale deep. We’ll be intentional with our voice. Our body’s direction and expression will be happy, strong, soft, light. That’s the idea behind the “morning move” practice. For me and for a lot of people, it’s physical movement that is best for accomplishing this.

Try These Alternative (that are not physical) “Morning Moves”

Your morning move doesn’t have to be physical. That’s not the only game in town.

There are three other “muscles” you can flex first thing in the morning that will help you step aside from negative feelings and thoughts. There are other morning moves that produce good posture, alertness and a positive state, and you can practice this habitually to replace the old pattern of bad thoughts. Those three other muscles are the mental, emotional and spiritual muscle.

Remember, we want to break an old pattern and replace it with a better one.

Recently, I’ve changed my morning routine away from a physical movement.

The greenhouse season is in full swing. We’re planting every day, all day. It’s game on! I love it. So I wake up and I want to get right to work. I’m into it. The great thing about greenhouse season is that it’s a game to see if you can make less mistakes from the season the before. Now that the season is under way, I am excited about this game. As soon as I wake up I want to get crackin’.

I don’t want to exercise or write in my journal. I’m not saying I don’t do those things. I’m just not doing them first thing out of bed. Instead, my first move is into emotion or into laughter as I prepare myself nutritionally. I have about 20 minutes.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve been connecting with in those first 20 minutes out of bed.

Humor

Laughing is good. How many times do your children laugh per day? Compare that to how many times us adults laugh per day…

These videos recently have made me laugh:

Anything from Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

This Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battle between Joseph Gordon Levitt, Stephen Merchant and Jimmy Fallon was funny

I find most of Louie CK’s comedy humorous. This skit especially about Love and Relationships

This one is great if you’ve never seen it. Newhart could solve a lot of personal issues with this therapy. You don’t need drugs.

Reply with the comedy videos that make you laugh out loud.

All of the above are funny. They make me laugh. Laughter makes me smile. Smiling changes my posture. Laughing also releases “happy chemicals.” I’d love to explain from a scientific standpoint what happens when you laugh… but I’m not that fluent. Suffice to say it’s something about laughter that has always proven to have a powerful and positive effect on physical, emotional health and wellbeing. It heals and renews the mind, and works fast to bring mind and body into balance. Great way to start the day.

Music

Music is great too. For morning listening, I use Spotify and lean toward music without words.

Here are two albums currently in rotation:

Deep Focus Indie Rock Alternative Electronic (Music for Concentration, Intense Studying, Perfect Concentration, Brain Food, Music for Study, Productive Morning, Afternoon Acoustic)

Zen Medidation Music Academy

I haven’t pulled myself away from these albums either:

Bob Dylan – New Morning

John Mayer – The Search for Everything (wave one)

Reply with the music you have in rotation.

Poetry

Or I feed my mind with poetry, which I consider spirituality.

I love poetry because I love language and remarkable communication. I also love poetry because it allows me to be constructive in connecting to pain (mine or the universal pain we all have felt). Poetry helps me to discover more about myself and how I want to connect to life. Here are

The Layers by Stanley Kunitz

I Went Into the Maverick Bar by Gary Snyder

Traveling in the Dark by William Stafford

The Things You Do Not Have to Say by William Stafford

River Teeth: An Introduction by David James Duncan

Send me your favorite poem.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Sunday Newsletter: What Now?

I have entire days (weeks even) without experiencing the discomfort of emotional pain or anxiety or regret. Everything feels so real. It’s as if I can touch the texture, shape and temperature of my emotions, and of life in general. Nothing is tainted with worries.

My ex girlfriend was at church a couple Sundays ago holding hands with another man. There was no finger on that trigger. I saw my ex for who we all are… people just trying to fit the puzzle pieces together. I wanted to wish her good luck.

I’m currently celibate, not dating. There are some Friday nights I stay home. I no longer worry that I’ll be alone. My own company has never been better.

Money is tight. I crunch the numbers to make sure the budget works but I don’t stress about it anymore. I have enough. I am making my life happen.

I cry nearly every day. There always seems to be something that moves me. Such as movies, something my children say, a story that a friend shares with me, the ways of the world. These tears feel natural so I let them flow unchecked.

I laugh much more too. I laugh with my children. I have discovered greater depths of joy. I am feeling genuine gratitude for what seems like the first time in my life.

When I meet someone, I stop and listen like I know them. I am making friends and acquaintances with people I wouldn’t normally think to do so with. My prejudices are slowly fading.

If I do notice that I am feeling regret about the past or anxious about the future, I have this healthy habit of stepping aside. I hear myself saying, “I notice that I am…”

This immediately puts distance between me and my thoughts. Then I invite whatever derivative of fear that I’m feeling to sit down. It sits at the dining room table of my mind, and I never offer it any service. After awhile, that feeling stands up and walks out. Good riddance.

Or if it doesn’t leave, I recognize that this is a perfect opportunity to follow my own advice (following your own advice, btw, is wisdom), which is to replace the bad thoughts or the fear with gratitude, or 10 ideas, or 50 push ups… anything to break the pattern.

I think I’ve cured myself of having the disease to be “right” about things too. Here’s what I think now when I have a disagreement or a strong opinion. I don’t actually have a lot of disagreements or as many opinions, but here’s what I do when it happens.

I think:

A. I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong so many times. I might be wrong now too.
B. It’s not black or white. There’s a middle ground here. There’s a third option. Hmmm.
C. How much does it really matter? Like, if I were to die tomorrow, would it matter to my life and loved ones?
D. How much of what I’m talking about do I really know anything about? (usually not enough)
E. Will I actually change their opinion? (NEVER!)
F. Don’t push

I don’t have to be right. I just have to be kind. Because we either learn our lessons now or we learn them later. Or we pass them on. My mom always has called me a late bloomer, but as a man and a parent, the buck stops with me. I’m doing my best to not pass on bad things to my kids.

The thing that I’m working on right now is feeling okay with everything being okay.

I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay

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Love Songs Door to Door, Like Caroling

We were door to door love song caroling on Valentine’s Day evening.

What a concept, eh?!

It was Alicia’s idea after reading a blog post of mine that reflected on Valentine’s Day. I think I called it the Christmas of love and Alicia commented “I want to sing love songs door to door 🙂 like caroling…”

So we started PM’ing each other and decided to make it happen. We had a good crew turn out for the event.

Ben was on guitar. Don had a singing bowl. Alicia and her daughter, Corinna and her daughter and me and my Ella were on vocals.

We chose the songs and practiced at Alicia’s house before hand for about 45 minutes. We were good enough. We learned songs like Love Me Do by The Beatles. Can’t Help Falling in Love with You by Elvis. A handful of others too that you would recognize. We made it to about 8 houses.

We also carried a little boom box that plugged into a smart phone so we could play “Can’t Stop That Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. We played that song if kids answered to the door.

One such experience was when a Latino family arrived at their door. It was a mother and four children, three of them were daughters about the same age or a little younger than our daughters. The mother told us that none of them spoke English. We turned on “Can’t Stop That Feeling” and just danced.

At first, I don’t think the family knew what to think or do. Our daughters were dancing. They love that song. Then the Latina daughters began dancing with our daughters. It was like a love explosion. Music was our universal love language.

Our hearts were SO filled up to the brim with this experience. We gave love and we were given love in return. The Beatles were correct when they sang, “In the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.”

This experience of mine reminded me (yet again) how important it is to be kind, give love, spread joy, share smiles.

Peace, Love, Dove,

SIDE NOTE: This week I’m skipping Morning Moves and I may skip it next week too… My routine has changed now that the Greenhouse season is upon me. That might be a good topic to write about… Routine Change.