It’s Been Awhile…

I’m still alive!

No, really.

To say that I’ve neglected to post anything for a while would be an understatement. My apologies. As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, Life has a way of introducing itself like a teenager with a newly minted drivers license and WAY to much confidence: It goes way too fast, danger seems to be everywhere, you’re terrified in the passenger seat, and when the car comes to a stop you barely have enough time to catch your breath before the light turns green again.

A bit much? Maybe, maybe not.

I have people who haven’t seen me in a while asking me what I’ve been up to lately, how I’ve been, and have I “been staying out of trouble”, like I’m a convicted felon out on bail and every move I make could potentially land me in the clink faster than Wile E. Coyote’s plans fall apart to catch the Roadrunner.

Here’s the short answer:

  1. I’ve been working both at my place of employment and working on myself. Sometimes working on yourself is a much harder task as you think you know yourself pretty well already and people in general don’t like change or having to admit there is work to be done in the first place. What have YOU been up to lately?
  2. I’ve been doing between “Pretty OK” and “Could Be Better”. Never too much on one side of that spectrum, but managing. How are YOU doing?
  3. I always laugh inside my head when someone asks if I’ve been “staying out of trouble”. Well, I haven’t been arrested for any crimes, I haven’t broken any laws, and I haven’t terrorized anyone or made anyone’s life harder… so I would say I’ve been “staying out of trouble” pretty damn well. Have YOU been staying on the straight and narrow?

I’ll make a more concerted effort to post on a more consistent basis. I started this blog in order to, well, have more order to my life and to have an outlet where I can share parts of my life, interests, and whatever else pops into my head. I hope you don’t mind. Apologies for being a bit self-reflective this first entry back… but I just want you all to know where I stand.

On two feet.

Ba-dum, pshhh!

(Nobody ever said the dumb humour was going anywhere!)

That’s So Nice!: Random Acts of Kindness

Every day on the news we see people going out of their way to make these grand gestures to brighten someone’s day or to show a person/business/organization/etc that they care. I think its wonderful that people can create these intricate and elaborate ways to be nice to others. I think the world could use more niceness.

Do you know what else it could use?

More random acts of kindness.

“What do you think these people are doing, the ones that make these grand gestures? Aren’t they random to the person its directed towards?”

Sure, of course it is. What I mean is, the random acts of kindness that take no planning. The kind that just spring up in the spur of the moment… that catch both you AND the other person by surprise. Something that is done without any thought of attention-seeking, credit, or profuse thank-yous.

Random acts of kindness can be anything; opening a door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in a busy line when they have fewer items (or more if you have nowhere else to get to), or even putting a few extra coins in the parking meter next to yours when you see its about to run out. Sometimes RAoK can be something that nobody else sees you do, but they experience after the fact.

Shoveling someone’s walk-way early in the morning after you finish yours, so they don’t have to go outside when its freezing cold. Paying for the person’s coffee behind you in the drive-through, just because it might make their day. We should all strive to do more, without the needing to take credit for something.

I believe that in our technology-reliant society, people have come to equate kindness and being nice with over-the-top encounters that are recorded and posted across countless social media platforms for likes and shares… when in reality, the most meaningful and true RAoK are ones that don’t have an alterior motive (ie: going viral online), but instead are done simply because, well…

Its kind.

Raising The Bar: Health Food Quality

I think at some point we’ve all had a “Protein Bar”.

One of those things we see in the supermarket, gas station, health food store, or at conferences we may have attended. From each place, out of each kind, they all seem to have one thing in common: They all taste horrible.

I’ve yet to run across a “healthy” protein bar that isn’t packed with sugar, is either hard as a brick, crumbles like sand, chewier than a block of paraffin wax, or tastes like every bad decision I’ve ever made in my life rolled up into a soul-melting glob.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“But I’ve had some that weren’t bad!”

Until you look at the contents of the bar… then you being to question everything you know.

I realize that all of these bars and such have been approved by whichever agency covers these things, but couldn’t we just make a few changes for the good of everyone:

  1. Keep the ingredients pure. No extra sugars, additives, and the like. Just raw ingredients.
  2. Make the texture something that doesn’t resemble corkboard or styrofoam.
  3. MAKE IT TASTE GOOD. Seriously, do away with the “chocolate peanut butter” flavour because you’re not fooling anyone. ANYONE.

I honestly didn’t have much of a point here, except that I bought one today when I needed a snack and for the $4.49 it cost me, I regret every single body-shuddering bite.

Definitely time to “raise the bar” on quality.

Its The Little Things: Small Joys

Do you remember the feeling you got as a kid when Mom or Dad came home from work or the grocery store with a toy or a treat for you? How about when you found a few extra fries at the bottom of the fast food bag? Its the little things; the small joys that brighten our day and give us that temporary lift that can do anything from simply make us smile to change the course of how our entire day’s outlook will be.

As kids, we have them fairly often (whether we realize it or not) but as adults, we have them as well. They just simply change into something else.

Now, as an adult, the small joys and bright moments that I’ve experienced personally have come in these ways (amongst others):

  • Getting a device that organizes and keeps my spices in order.
  • The first thing you cook in your new frying pan after the old one had more scratches than a record from a club DJ’s music set.
  • In the same theme, using your new oven pans and not having everything stick to them.
  • Lets be honest, finding fries at the bottom of the bag is great no matter how old you are.
  • Opening up a bag of ANYTHING and not having it do that weird rip half-way down the bag after one small tug.

I believe that we should do our best to try and appreciate these moments as they come and remind ourselves that even when we’re having bad days and when things look grim, that these moments will come again.

What kind of small joys or bright moments have you had?

 

A Heavy Discussion: Real Weight Talk

I’ve been heavy all of my life.

Even as a kid, I was always the biggest one in the playgroup. Not tallest, mind you… just biggest. I ran the slowest, I was the kid lagging behind everyone on the bikes, and I was always the first kid asked to either get off the sled because I was holding it down or the first kid to be asked to play goalie in soccor because I blocked more of the net. It was a combination of inclusion and exclusion that was both confusing and (sadly) the norm.

Being overweight has always been a part of my life, although I never blamed my parents for giving me junk food or not encouraging me to go outside and gets some exercise. It was just the opposite: My mother would always tell me and my brother to outside and play it was a nice day outside… and we did. In fact, our only rule (besides my father’s ever-present “Don’t Talk To Strangers” and “Don’t Pet Any Strange Dogs”) was be home before dark.

As I got older and went through elementary school, middle school, and highschool, I also had one other constant in my life:

Bullying.

From an outside perspective, it just seemed like kids being kids… except from the inside, it was far less harmless and far more insidious. Children, for those of you who aren’t aware, can be very cruel. I don’t know if its due to how parents raise thier children, environmental factors, peer pressure, or external factors affecting their behaviours in a negative fashion, or combination/mixture of the above. What I do know, is that often times they can be unrelenting. It could be comments about how slow they are, how big their clothes are, what they’re eating at lunch (and how much), and other specific things. Its never a general poke here and there. Its a pointed, precise, and often personalized type of torment.

After going through this from the ages of 6 through 18, you would think a person would have become used to, or at least numb, to this kind of psychological (and often physical) abuse. I’m here to tell you that you never get used to it. Ever.

Once I hit 18 and had graduated college, I figured “I’m an adult now. I don’t have to endure the ridicule and shaming anymore”.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

It turns out that as you shift from a kid and teenager into an adult, the abuse simply transforms and adapts to new surroundings and environments, much like a virus or disease does. Just when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, a new strain shows up and decides to reintroduce itself to the system in new and terrifying ways. There were fewer direct comments about what you ate or how much, but instead they were sly (and snide) comments like “That’s a big lunch!” or “Oh, are you eating for two?” in a lame attempt at being cruel masked with insipid humour.

To this day, I’m extremely uncomfortable eating in front of anyone except my mother, the most supportive and wonderful person I know. One thing that a person that is heavy all of their life develops, is one particular thing: A Defense Mechanism.

Some people choose to be angry at life and people around them and shield themselves with an angry and defiant “I don’t care what you do, say, or think about me” personality, or in my case… humour. As a matter of personal and psychological survival, I erected an iron-clad wall around myself made up of humour, jokes, and the happy-go-lucky funny guy. I deflected and dodged insults and uncomfortable conversations and situations with the grace and skill of Neo from The Matrix. I made sure nothing could touch me and I worked day and night to cultivate the wall I’d built to ensure there were no cracks where things could get through. What I failed to realize, is that in constructing this wall, I was unknowingly trapping myself in. I didn’t want to ever admit it, but being alone seemed safer and less likely to hurt in the long run. After all, who could ever want to be with someone as big as I was?

One day, however, something changed. I had gone in to see my Doctor (of many many years) about something and we had gotten onto the topic of weight. What you have to understand, is that this Doctor was the first one I had ever seen who didn’t automatically judge me based on my apperance and didn’t attribute everything wrong with me to my weight. He listened, advised, and most of all, he understood. This particular visit, he suggested a program through our respective healthcare system that could only be accessed by a doctor’s referral:

The Bariatric Program.

The first thing most people think off when they hear that word, Bariatric, is “tummy tuck” or “stomach stapling”, of which both couldn’t be far from the truth. The program, I was surprised to find, was not just a “lose a pile of weight and then get operated on”. It was a combination of quite a few things, namely the mental health aspect. I wasn’t aware there was one, until I was introduced to it. For a procedure of that calibre, they want to ensure that a person will be able to mentally ready before-hand, and even more so I think, afterwards. Life will be different. Food amounts taken in, vitamin regiments to combat malabsorption, perhaps even things you can’t eat anymore. They wanted to make sure that a person knew that having the procedure done wasn’t a magic solution where, if one were to go through with it, that suddenly life would be like the end of a romantic drama where you got the girl and rode off into the sunset.

Life isn’t like that.

After being in the program and being exposed (in a good way) to the myriad of things to consider and exploring the mental health aspects of it all, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be doing it, but I’ll be going into it with a clear head and no magical results afterwards. I’ll still have my demons that have haunted me from childhood around, but instead of having them riding piggy-back and whispering in my ear, they’ll instead (hopefully) be a distant echo that isn’t holding me down anymore.

Talking about this has taken (excuse the pun) a weight off of my shoulders.

Card/Board: The Games We Used To Play

I was born in 1978, but I grew up in one of the (in my opinion) greatest eras for entertainment:

The 80’s.

I’m not talking about music or television, of course (although lets face it, the music and TV shows were awesome), but rather card and board games. Those cardboard (THE LAST PUN I SWEAR) boxes of bright and colorful squares, circles, dice, and plastic figurines were a staple of almost every household. They were the cure for our boredom (SEE, NO PUN) on vacations, afternoons after school, weekends with nothing to do, and evenings spent with the family. Yeah, we did that.

Some of the games we used to play are still around today, but they weren’t something that we threw into a closet and forgot about, or a box sitting in a storage container across town; these were facets of our lives that we sought out and kept in a special place in the home that we could access when we wanted to have some fun (if it were too hot/cold outside or if it were raining to hard to play in).

Below, I’ve listed a few of my favourites that involved very few fights with my brother:

Monopoly

Everyone that I’ve ever met has played this extremely well-known and popular board game. Most of the memories people have of Monopoly isn’t the joy of learning about real estate and buying properties, but instead the thrill of crushing the souls of every player and bankrupting the one person you have chosen to be “your worst enemy” during the course of the game (typically a sibling or a cousin). Also, we learned how to be paranoid and untrusting towards “The Banker”, as we were always certain they were embezzling at some point.

Scrabble

Before “Words With Friends” became a thing, Scrabbled ruled the roost as the game that intellectuals would play to enhance and improve their vocabulary and linguistic skills. Lets be honest though: We all spent more time arguing with each other trying to convince the other party that the word we were trying to slip past everyone for a triple letter/word score was legitimate and “totally a word I saw in a book, dude”. Scrabble dictionaries didn’t help due to claims that “its not in the book, dude. Its a word, I wouldn’t lie!”.

They were always lying.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

I’m going to be frank: This game was nothing more than a socially acceptable domestic way to let four kids make as much noise as they could possible generate in a 5 minute span without getting into any trouble. It didn’t matter who had the most white marbles at the end… we just wanted to CREATE CHAOS.

UNO

While I didn’t play until the mid-90’s, this game has been around since 1971. The official goal of the game is the be the first player to reach 500 points while getting rid of the most cards, then calculating how much each card is worth at the end of each round. Each person had their own take on the rules, much like Monopoly players would, and the outcomes were always fun (if not ridiculous) in nature.

Probably the most popular thing to do was to wait until your chosen “worst enemy” of the round was down to their last couple of cards, thinking they were soon to be victorious only to have their entire life choices put into question as they get hit by the always-terrifying but never expected Colour Change Draw 4 card. I swear it destroyed souls, lives, and friendships… at least until the next round.

I played this with a small group of friends in highschool from 1993 until 1996 every day at lunch and often in the school library, often blocking out everything around us and only getting shocked out of our intense mastery of timing and strategy by the school bell.

All of these board and card games reminded us of one thing once the winners and losers were revealed and the rounds finished:

Until Next Time.

 

Digital Melodia: Musical Shifts

Music.

It’s the one of the things in our lives that can either bind us together in harmony (puns already!) or cause discord (I swear I’ll stop) and tear us apart. People can become very passionate about their musical tastes, and in this passion we find a number of different kinds of musical aficionados:

The Casual:

Listening music is an enjoyable past-time when the opportunity presents itself. While no particular genre is chosen, they tend towards easy listening and (if feeling bold) some cool rock. Nothing too rambunctious or peppy… just smooth.

The Nostalgic:

While aware there are new styles of music out in the wild, this individual would rather listen to the same familiar music they’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years. Occasionally they might dabble in something new, but typically their playlist is what most people now would refer to as “classic” or “oldies”.

The Underground:

Listening to music that most people may have never heard before, these individuals choose artists and bands that play in small clubs, hidden venues, and concerts that normally don’t show up on Ticketmaster. They enjoy the live performances and the intimate atmosphere they create. They don’t do it to be “hipster”, they do it because the music makes them feel things that commercially produced music that gets pumped out en masse could never do.

The Classicist:

You guessed it: Classical music is the bread and butter of this individual and the charming dulcet tones of violins with a piano’s tickled ivories (get your mind out of the gutter!) are what drives their musical mojo. Eschewing all other types of music in favour of this well-aged auditory art form, they are more than happy to stick with strings and brass for the rest of their lives.

The Eclectic:

Anything and everything is fair game. No musical style is off the table and they believe that every genre has something new and exciting to offer from country to grunge-polka-metal-ballet (if thats not a thing, give it a couple of years… I’m sure it will be). They may not know the names of every band, artist, or full discography out there, but they enjoy almost any music they come across. They may have their favourites, but they’ll never say no to trying out something new.

And in closing…

I find that regardless of the type of music you listen to, we can all find common ground somewhere. After all, isn’t music about enjoyment and expression?

Lets all get tuned in.