Looking Back to see our future.

It feels like every day I talk to people that are disillusioned and/or frightened by the potential of the future of this country. It is obvious to me that they were either not paying attention in history class or they just don’t remember. Then I hear from others that are looking for a path back to a “Better Time” that is either inaccurate or at the very least naive. For the remainder of this article I will refer to these people as “MAGAs”, short for “Make America Great Agains”. For my part I smile and think back to the time in history that they referenced and remember the similarities and difficulties that we still face today. I like to go back and remember too, but for different reasons. I look for patterns in human behavior and the patterns in politics and financial institutions.

I would like to take you on a quick glance backwards and see what the future holds, because you can see the most curios things in the looking glass. I would like to start with the election of 1900. I will present the political and social atmosphere and see if you recognize some of this. The Republicans ran on an expansionist World Power platform, having just won the Spanish American War. They wanted to invest in the Panama Canal and condemned the Democratic Party for attacking the 15th amendment to the Constitution by passing Jim Crow laws in the south to restrict the vote of African Americans. The Democrats were anti-expansion, anti-Panama Canal, and looking to strengthen the laws to inhibit voter registration in certain states. Sounds kind of upside down as far as what is being done today, but still very similar.

The Republicans won and when President McKinley was assassinated shortly after the election, we ended up with Theodore Roosevelt for President . Teddy fought to hold businesses accountable to their employees and began to regulate big business. He passed anti-trust laws and began building the infrastructure of our country. Teddy also recognized the importance of the free press and although he referred to the press as “Muckrakers”, he never tried to suppress their ability to investigate and print the corruption in government.

Let’s move on to the presidential election of 1912. During this election the Democratic MAGAs controlled the White House and Congress, and wanted no economic oversight or government involved in the economy. They deregulated the banking industry and eliminated any oversight of the New York Stock Exchange. This attitude created a huge gap between the wealthy and the working class. It also set the stage for the largest economic crash ever. The Democrats also tried to practice Isolationism and keep us out of WWI but we ended up fighting in the War to End All Wars anyway.in 1919 the Democratic Congress passed the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. But They also ratified the 18th amendment that prohibits alcohol and regulated Drugs sales. The 18th Amendment gave rise to the biggest organized crime syndicate our country has ever seen.

The Roaring Twenties where a time of chaos in the country The Movie Birth Of a Nation was all the rage and people began to dress in white hooded robes and march in the streets, This began a reign of terror in the south. Thousands of clansmen marched on Washington and New York. And a white nationalist movement came out this, that can still be seen today.

In 1929 the Stock Market and Banking collapse which was brought on by the deregulation of these highly corruptible organizations devastated the economy and brought to an end the unregulated growth and unscrupulous practices of stock speculators.  But this collapse brought on a more Socialist attitude in the country as the people embraced the “New Deal” and Voted into the White House Franklin Roosevelt and he ran on the promise that the Government will have your back. Roosevelt brought in Social Security and a promise of Jobs as the Country worked to increase it’s infrastructure. Roosevelt also wanted to be involved on the world stage but The Congress and Senate wanted to pass Embargoes and freeze assets of Japan and a travel and economic Embargo of Germany. This sent a strong message but in the end was ineffectual. This also led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as it was seen as an act of war by the Japanese. But these policies where implemented as a response for the aggression by the Japanese in Indo-China. We also saw the rise of foreign Fascist Governments using modern multi communications to control the public dialog and the media. There are a lot of modern day similarity, but that’s another article.

1940’s brought on the Second World War and the rise of the war economy as we geared up for the inevitable involvement in the war. After the War we emerged as a world leader and began a period of economic growth in this country that was fueled by a belief in a positive future by the average citizen, and an explosion in the population. The national debt was incredible but that did nothing to slow down the economy as we began to rebuild after the war. Truman Called for an end to segregation and in 1949 NATO was formed.

1950’s we saw this continued feeling of prosperity and possibility but this was tempered by the expansion of the threat of communism. Eisenhower was voted in as President fresh from his victory in Europe and began the most incredible infrastructure construction the U.S. has ever seen. Eisenhower, a Republican, also Desegregated the Military and called for a national  Civil Rights act to bring equality to all Americans.     100 Democratic Congressmen signed a “Southern Manifesto” to stop the dismantling of segregation. The Korean Conflict gave birth to the separation of North and South Korea because we didn’t want to upset the Chinese who where backing the Communist North Koreans. MAGA’s love this time period and think this is what we need to go back too, but I don’t think they would be willing to go through another World War to get there, at least I hope not.

1960’s JFK a Democrat runs on a ” Possible Bright Future” platform for the first time. The republicans ran Richard Nixon who was part of the old establishment in Washington and seen by many younger people in the country as part of the problem with Washington. John Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson became president carrying on the fight for civil rights and if it hadn’t been for our continued involvement in the Vietnam War I believe he would have been held up as the biggest proponent beside Lincoln for human rights. The 60’s where scary for a large portion of the population over the age of 40 the MAGAs where looking to go back to the 50’s and Nixon promised them just that.

1970’s Nixon, a Republican, is in the White House, a notorious anti communist and lets face it a bit of a racist. He is a pawn of big oil and he sends our country into the worst oil shortage we had ever seen. He used the Vietnamese as political pawns and caused huge protests in the streets. He also began talks with China and Russia calling it “Detente”. Nixon was involved in a cover-up exposed by the free press, that forced him to leave office and we ended his time in office with Gerald Ford. Ford was a truly nice person but an ineffectual leader. On to Jimmy Carter probably one of or most intelligent Presidents. He designed Nuclear Submarines and Nuclear reactors. Carter was a man driven by religious belief and always believed in doing the right thing. He attempted to bring down Opec by reducing our usage of foreign oil and reducing the oil shortage in the country. Unfortunately Carter was too nice and an ineffectual politician. During his tenure Carter focused more on foreign policy and unfortunately had a contentious relationship with congress when trying to pass domestic legislation. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter told them this would be the end of Detente.  Most People don’t know this but Carter tried unsuccessfully to enact a National Medical Insurance.

1980’s Hello Ronald Reagan… Ron Reagan is one of the Presidents MAGAs love to talk about. Which I find most disturbing, Its like they weren’t even there. The republicans love to talk about Reagan like he was a progressive President. But Reagan ran a fear based campaign and kept telling everyone that would listen that He was going to make America Great with questionable economics (Voodoo Economics) ,deregulation of big business whiched caused the closing of plants and the end of the steel industry. Large companies were bought and sold off in pieces and there where massive cut backs in the military including the closing of multiple bases around the world. Unlike other presidents that have closed bases, Reagan didn’t offer anything to the towns who’s income depended on those bases. We also got Iran-Contra and the War on Drugs from this era. the rich got richer and the middle class started to disappear. This era also gave us George H.W. Bush and off to the 90s we go.

1990’s George Bush’s popularity is in the decline and again the people are ready for change along comes William Jefferson Clinton a young Kennedy like figure charismatic and intelligent, Clinton  promised an exciting future and like Kennedy sold the story in just the right way. Most of us remember how that all turned out and still plays out in our politics today.

2000 George W Bush I don’t even know where to start between war and economic decline into a second depression it’s just too depressing to think about. then along came Barrack Obama. promise of a new America, an America of equality and a future in green technology and a leader on the world stage. But here come the MAGAs again calling them selves the Tea Party and the Alt Right and talking about making America Great. Are you seeing the pattern …  I could start with the plague followed by the dark ages and go on to the age of enlightenment but the pattern of death and rebirth just repeats itself throughout history. So the next time someone says they want to make America Great again ask them, When were we great? And why would we ever go back? The most positive political eras have always focused on the future never the past. People that want to glorify the past tend to have an agenda i.e. Hitler, Richard Spencer, Most religious leaders including ISIS, They use false memories and alternative histories to put forward their agendas based on fear and distrust. Just be careful of these people they never have your best interest in their heart. One final note, I asked my 103 year old Grandmother (born 1898) when she was alive would she like to live in a decade from her past. Her answer was worth volumes “No! Although I’ve seen amazing things in my life, I also lost a lot of loved ones to diseases and war. I like it now.” Gram was right, I like it now with a world of possibilities.

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3 Easy Ways to Eat Well

Like most people my life gets busier as I get older, and more demanding of my time. Well I had to get creative with food ideas and meal planning if I wanted to continue to eat healthy food and not go back to grabbing easy food that has been chemically altered so I can make it in a micro wave.

1. Most of us have a Rice Cooker or Crock Pot in a cupboard somewhere collecting dust and being neglected. Break it out, clean it off and read the instructions. You will see that you can make delicious and healthy meals without being in the kitchen for more than ten minutes.

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2. Food purchases that are healthy and don’t require a lot of work. There are a lot of fresh foods that require little or no prep time and can be cooked or eaten raw. Raw Vegetables as snacks are delicious, fruit will give you energy and I like to have an after work snack to get my energy levels up so I can keep going without a nap. (Naps are important at my age).

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3. Left overs. Like most men I live on leftovers because I don’t have time to cook and lets face it, some things taste better the second day. So when you do cook , cook for several days.

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You can alleviate a lot of food anxiety by using these easy methods for keeping your diet on track .

 

Diet for Exercise

Exercise will only do so much-you have to change what you eat in order to help your body build healthy muscle and reduce body fat, while not giving up nutrients and energy. Sound impossible? Well, if you listen to the large corporate food companies that specialize in processed food, it is. The food you put into your body has a immediate as well as cumulative affect on your body. Yes,food does both. Think about it-a cheese burger will fill you and make you feel full, but long term, the saturated fats and cholesterol will accumulate in your body, and continued exposure to these types of food can have negative affects on your overall health.

So if you can build a negative affect over time, shouldn’t the opposite be true? Of course it is. I know healthy food is expensive, but so are medical bills for heart by-passes and cancer treatments. Not to mention medications for high blood pressure and diabetes. There are multiple studies that tie diet to heart disease  and colon cancer, among other things. So what is your health worth to you?

What I’m saying is that if you could prevent having to take these medications and treatments, would you? And how much is it worth to you? Make smart choices, do your research and have fun with it. Food should be delicious, and preparing and eating it should be an enjoyable pastime shared with family and friends- after all it is a huge part of many people’s history. So try different recipes, experiment, do things from scratch. You know, like we used to do before chemicals. Change from a meat based diet to a vegetable based diet that has meat as a side dish. You  will be amazed by how much lighter and more energetic you feel, your skin and hair will improve, (not to mention your “regularity”) and the money you will save on all that meat will more than pay for the vegetables. Yesterday I saw a Ribeye steak at the store and they wanted 13$ for one steak. I could feed a family of four on that with healthy food.

Don’t forget to eat your carbs! Carbs are important for your body and your mind. Yes , your mind.

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your brain needs carbs to function so don’t go cutting carbs out of your diet. Just make sure they are healthy carbs.

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Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and nutrients so in the beginning I would say indulge, you have some catching up to do. Remember food is fuel so just like your car only give your body the best fuel you can and don’t overfill your tank.

One of my favorite recipes is for Brussel sprouts

Shred two cups of sprouts very thin

Sautee sprouts with 2tsp of olive oil

1tsp of chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste’

Cook on medium heat till soft.

this will make a nice side dish and can compliment anything.

Getting Caught Cheating on Social Media.

This is probably the most important article I have ever written for two reasons. First, it is a way to make right some of the pain I have caused my wife, and second to keep someone else from making this horrible mistake. About a year ago I began investing my time into building an online presence. I wanted to see if I could make money by creating a web sight and building  a following on different social media sites. I even began this blog as a way to communicate ideas and pass on information for people of my age group who have a like minded approach to life. What happened was never wanted or planned for.

When I began to connect online with people on Face-book, Instagram, and especially Twitter, some of these people were helpful and supportive, but there was a darker side of social media that I became involved with that I didn’t plan on and never saw coming. I became involved in several inappropriate online relationships that I now realize were toxic to me and extremely destructive to my marriage. I began to resent the people close to me and to turn instead  to those online presences were I could get constant validation  and adoration. I began to build a following of people, especially women, who would always praise and admire me, and  I could block anyone  I felt wasn’t contributing  to my daily dose of flattery. It was like a drug, having my ego stroked on an almost daily basis. I gave and received approval and acceptance of my stupidity and hubris. I can see why people become addicted to social media and why society puts so much time and effort into it. But beware-the social networks are not reality. Reality is most likely sitting next to you being ignored while you spend hours on Face-book and Twitter. I ignored and lied to my wife for months while flirting and having inappropriate relationshops with other women. I even went so far as to publicly post hateful and untrue things about my wife to complete strangers to garner sympathy and attention. For this I am truly sorry.  I was addicted to social media and I was willing to ignore and hurt my family to garner attention from celebrities and strangers.

Was this reality?  Of course not! Those people’s beliefs and likes or dislikes have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone’s personal relationships are healthy. In fact, I would venture to say that our fascination with the trivial and mundane actions and opinions of the social elite, or any perfect stranger, is counter-productive to a healthy psychological existence.

There is another side of social media that I would like to address. There are people that treat the internet as their personal playground for having on-line affairs, and it is all too easy to become involved in this type of behavior. It can begin with an innocent comment or joke and quickly denigrate into what can only be described as emotional cheating. Even if you don’t ever act upon it, the fact that you are willing to go to someone other than your spouse for comfort, support and affection is cheating. I was guilty of this behavior, and I am extremely lucky to have a wife that has forgiven my online indiscretions and lack of good judgement, and given me a second chance. Realize that anything you put on the internet has the ability to affect the lives of so many around you, including people you will never meet. The pain it can cause can be immense and irreversible.

There is an old story of a mother who brings her son to a priest because he continues to use foul language and say mean things to others, and she doesn’t know what to do. The Priest thinks for a moment, goes to retrieve a feather pillow, and gives it to the boy. He then instructs the boy to go outside, rip open the pillow and throw the feathers to the wind. When the boy has finished, he goes back into the church, to the Priest and his Mother. The Priest then asks the boy if he has done as he asked, to which he replies “yes!” with a big grin. The Priest then instructs the boy to go retrieve the feathers and put them back into the pillow. The smile quickly leaves the child’s face and is replaced by a look of fear. The Priest asks what is the matter, to which the boy replies “That’s impossible! The feathers are everywhere, scattered in the wind!” The Priest smiles and says “Exactly, Just like words”. The Priest goes on to explain that words are just like feathers, once released into the wind they can never be retrieved. So be careful with the words you release upon the world, they can never be retrieved, and their damage can likely never be undone.

I was reminded of this story when I watched the anguish and pain on the face of someone I love very much ( My Wife) as she read some of the things I had posted on social media. I can never take those things back, all I can do is apologize for my actions and ask  forgiveness…although  I don’t think that most of the people who are self proclaimed kings and queens of social media will ever feel the need to do that. But you know what- I’ll never know. You see, I have deleted all of my social media accounts and began a new life where I spend my free time with the loved ones who mean everything to me, and very little time (meaning none) paying attention to social media.

Back and neck pain.

I have touched on my struggle with back and neck pain and I am ready to say “I am pain free”. Yes I am pain free for the first time in 30 years. For the last three years I have been working towards a goal of pain free, medicine free health. Well I was able to achieve a success in some measure due to a very simple belief that my body could repair itself to some degree if given the proper care and nutrients. Now there isn’t any easy path, or quick fix, or miracle drug. They don’t exist! The real key is steady growth and constant care of your body and mind to achieve your optimum capacity for health. Some of you have read my post on back pain and exercises to alleviate some of the pain. I have also touched on the importance of diet in the equation for better health, also you have to stay positive mentally with your goal always in sight,  and the final ingredient is staying active.  You have to stay moving in a positive direction as much as possible.

In this article I am going to touch on a little bit of each aspect. I am going to go old school and quote a little Hippocrates.

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Excess in any aspect of your life is never a good thing. To achieve my goals I had to remove anything that was taking to much of my life and find a balance. I also had to address the issue of food and nutrients. A well balanced diet is the key to giving your body the nutrients it needs to repair itself. Don’t waste your money on some nutrient rich supplement when you can actually eat food that is good for you and lose weight at the same time.

Exercise: I have talked about finding an activity that will keep you active and flexible for about four hours a week. I chose Martial Arts, but Yoga, Dance, anything that will keep you moving and active is a plus.

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Focused exercises on the area of injury are also a must. You have to work the area of damage in order to activate the bodies repair mechanism and build a stronger guard against further damage.

Keeping a positive attitude during this process is as important as diet and exercise. When you are stressed and depressed your body doesn’t produce the proper amount of chemicals to allow for nutrient absorption and muscle growth. Something as simple as just saying to yourself ” You can do this” is all it takes. Seems pretty easy, but can be the most difficult hurdle. See “Happiness and Letting Go”

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It sounds strange but sometimes we can create or own disease. Yes through stress and poor lifestyle choices we can make ourselves physically ill. Make the choice to live a healthier happier life and you will find yourself making good positive choices and  living a pain free, drug free future like me.

 

The Human Touch

Since the time of birth, we as a species crave human contact. There have been extensive studies done with primates that prove the need for physical contact.Without contact these primates exhibit anti social behavior. Symptoms of anxiety, were reclusive and exhibited social deficits. The primates that were raised with a mother but no playmates exhibited fear and aggressive behavior. (See Dr. Harry Harlow Rhesus Macaques.)

These studies have been the cornerstone for psychological development studies in children raised in situations were their early development and lack of attachment have been a direct source of aggressive, anti social and in some cases violent behavior. You can disagree with the analysis of these scientists but I am going to carry it a step further. I believe this carries on into every age in growth and development.

Have any of you ever met someone that exclaims “I don’t like to be touched” I know I have met several people that have made this statement. and I have noticed they have the same character traits as the subjects in these studies. Almost to the person they claim to be loners because they like it that way. Or they don’t have any personal relationships because they “Can’t relate to people”, or they “don’t work well with others”. This type of behavior is in my opinion anti social and can be dangerous.  The last person I met that made these types of claims attacked his room mate with a hatchet and shot himself in the head. He was 27. I also believe that boys raised in a home with a strong matriarch and no strong positive male role models have a predisposition towards misogynistic tendencies. I remember talking to the Rev. Cecil Murray who at the time was the leader of the First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles just before to the Riots in L.A. and he hypothesized that the downfall for young black youth in America was the lack of interaction with positive role models for  young men in the African American community. murray217

At the time I believed he was on to something and I still do, but I think there is another part of the equation. I believe that a nurturing home can break this cycle of distrust and violence. I know, the old “Nature verses Nurture argument”, and yes there are people that are just born with a chemical and developmental deficiency in the brain that will cause violence and negative behavior. But that is another argument for another time.

I am going to put forth the hypothesis that continued separation from loving human contact into adulthood can cause even more issues. Failed relationships, depression, addiction, and violence. As a parent this is a concern, as it should be , that my child not fall into this downward spiral, and take out his anger on society. It has become almost a punchline about the twenty something that lives in his parents basement with no friends and trolls the internet all day and night. Or the comic book aficionado that pours over his books all day and night and only converses with others on subjects like Batman vs Superman. The ability of these people to become reclusive and given access to huge volumes of information and like minded people has given rise to a new type of social outcast with violent tendencies.

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Now lets throw access to deadly weapons into the equation and you have a recipe for a deadly killer who doesn’t consider other people as important or even human in some cases. You can see where this is going. Can you imagine what happens when these armed sociopaths are let loose on society. most of us don’t have to, we have all seen it play out on the news over and over. The only thing that I can come up with that is even a viable solution, is to put yourself out there and make a difference when you can. We cannot afford to sit on the side lines and watch the slaughter of the innocent. Right now it seems to affect males more than females, but those lines are starting to blur, and I’m beginning to see young women showing these same signs as the gender barriers are becoming less and less. You can’t expect the Government to help. They have proven that, with their funding cuts in mental health care. The schools don’t have the necessary funding to address this serious issue, even though they are the unfortunate battle ground for most of this violence. It will fall on each and every one of us to make the difference.

‘What can I do?” well, that’s a lot  easier than you think. If you know someone that is suffering, show them kindness, let them know you are there for them, “No Matter What”. pull them out of their shell. It is hard work but well worth it. If you can show one person that suffers that they are not alone and that they matter you could save lives. It will take patience and compassion to make a difference, but this has to happen. I can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch this tragedy play out and I am challenging any one who reads this to try and make a difference. All it takes is a “Human Touch”

For You Kelly, I wish now, I had done more.

It Works If You Work It.

This is going to be short and sweet. My name is Don and I’m an alcoholic. Back when I first got sober those words held so much power over me. I was a mess, my life was in upheaval and I was 42 years old. I started thinking recently why I started drinking in the first place. Self esteem seems to be the number one reason I started drinking. You see I had no self esteem for many reasons. Alcohol allowed me to open up and release the person inside I wanted to be. having spent the last ten years going to meetings and listening to others, I realized that this is the reason most people start drinking. They don’t like who they are and alcohol allows them to be someone else. That is of course until it stops working and they become that drunken mess we all know and love. Now some of you might be wondering why I would write about this on a blog about turning fifty. Well there are some of us, Even at fifty that struggle with substance abuse. Just know this ” It’s never to late to say no more”, to spend more time with the ones you love with out the drinking. You will find you will argue less and smile more. Remember this they love you as an alcoholic, or addict, and they will love you even more as a better version of you. This isn’t about change, this is about being a better version of the person you already are.

I know there are some of you saying ” I only have a glass of wine when I get home from work” my question is Why? there are better ways to decompress. and have you ever felt irritated when you don’t get a glass of wine. Or thought ” Man, I could really use a drink.” these are all excuses to drink. I’m not trying to get people to stop, My issues are not your issues. I’m just asking that every once in a while instead of the drink spend some time hugging your family. You will get the same good feeling as the glass of wine and your body will thank you. Your family might think you lost your mind but you will feel so much better afterwards it will be worth it. If Anyone would like to get sober please contact me through this blog and I would be honored to take the time to be of service to you and get you in touch with the people that can change your life. Hugs to all that struggle, and all my love to those that struggle with them.

Music is my Panacea

I can’t think of a time or moment in my life that music wasn’t attached. Music brings back feelings and memories faster than anything else for me. I can’t think of a moment or person in my life that doesn’t have a song attached to them. My lifetime play list has a mixture of everything in it. Every artist from Puccini and Mozart to Bowie and even Herb Albert. I would hazard a guess that there is a song you associate with a certain person or event in your life. Music as a artistic medium is powerful and universal. There isn’t a culture in the world that doesn’t have music as a cornerstone of that culture. We use music to celebrate, to lament, to pass time, to show allegiance, and to mark emotional triumph. I.E. the song We shall overcome, Immediately we think of Martin Luther King and the struggle for equality. I find myself turning to music more and more to express my feelings and remember happy and sad times in my life. The other day some one sent me a music video on Facebook that was about loss of youth and regret. I immediately felt their   pain without having to be there to experience it. Having known this person for a really long time, I sent back a video of REO Speedwagon’s “Take It on the Run” which was the song playing in her Carmen Ghia on my Prom night. A really happy memory for me, and hopefully for her. I don’t know if she got the reference but every time I hear any song from “High Infidelity” I think of her.

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I had a cat pass away a few years back. She was an ugly little cat and only was sweet to me, and she hated my wife. (long Story). She became ill and I held her while the vet gave her the shot. On the way home I turned on the radio and Hall and Oates “She’s Gone” came on and I had to pull over and began to cry. To this day I can’t hear that song without tearing up. (Stupid Song)…. Anyway I’m sure there are songs that touch each one of you in some way or other.1035x819-halloates-1800-1386947504

This begs the question then… Why would the school district put so much into sports in the school system, but so little funding on the arts and music programs. shouldn’t it be the other way around. Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids about healthy and creative expression of their feelings and not putting so much emphasis on potentially harmful sports. And while I’m on the subject, Why aren’t we teaching Martial Arts and Meditation in the schools. Kids that have tools to calm their brains and protect themselves, what a concept. To radical? maybe but these are the standards in Asian countries and they don’t have kids running down school halls with automatic weapons. OK that got dark quick.

The main reason for this disproportionate use of funds is money. Schools make money off of sports. that is it. It has to be, otherwise they wouldn’t spend so much on these programs. If anyone else has an answer for this I would love to hear it. I would bet that if you asked any artist why they started in music they would say school. These are the people that are sowing the tapestry of our lives,(except Kanye, I cant imagine anyone wanting him to speak for them) When have anyone said Time Tebow reminds me of the day my son was born. Or John Elway makes me think of my first love, Eww.

Self Realization and Fulfillment

I have found in my life that many times I have changed paths of attaining happiness. Some paths were spiritual, Some were physical, and some were mental. The problem I had in my youth was the fact that I listened to the people that had different views of what was important to them. This however was not what was important to me. The “Question” then becomes what is important to you? Well…. I thought, when I was younger, that career was important, but that can be confusing when you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. (not sure I’m there yet) I spent my youth going from One job to another, and college was a waste of time for the most part. Colleges need to streamline their curriculum to only include the courses you need to get your degree and quit adding bullshit courses that have nothing to do with your area of learning. Its just a waste of time and money.

As I got older money , I was told was the most important thing, and the ability to acquire money was the path to happiness. In my search for the almighty dollar I meet a lot of like minded people and came to the realization that I wasn’t happy and I was constantly stressed and the people I met weren’t happy either. As I got older most of these people are now trading in their wealth to try to regain their health and happiness. Seems a little backward to me, trading your youth and health for money that you will then use to pay to try to heal all the medical problems you got from the stress and long hours you had to give to attain your money. Does anyone else see the problem with this, or is it just me? On a side note I always found this study interesting. This is a chart of diminishing return for money spent vs. happiness

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As I got older and got married, started a family, I realized I was spending less and less time with my family and more and more time at work. This was not the family model I wanted for myself or them. Growing up in a family were my father worked a lot and was gone for days at a time I remembered what that was like. I would have gladly given up all the nice things we had for a better relationship with my father. With both parents working it becomes even harder for a child to have a healthy relationship as they grow when all they see growing up is two parents chasing their careers and fighting over money when they were home at the same time. I didn’t want that as my son got older than four so my wife and I talked about it and came to the conclusion that we would choose happiness over wealth.

Now that being said I am not suggesting anyone live in poverty, no what I’m suggesting is scale back your life style, cut out the extras that don’t mean anything to you. Spend more time with the ones you love and build strong positive relationships with the ones you love. By doing this we discovered that we could cut back our hours at work by almost half. This is huge! My wife was able to cut back to only 20 hrs a week from forty plus and I could cut back to forty five hours a week from my usual seventy two hrs a week. We still had more than enough money to pay the bills and money for retirement and vacations. Our marriage was stronger and we had more time to spend with our son.

Now I want to touch on the spiritual side of my journey. I was raised an Irish Catholic and consider myself recovering Catholic now. I realized at a very young age that there might be more than one answer when it came to spiritual happiness. So I embarked on a journey of self discovery of spiritual realization. And yes I dabbled in mind altering psychedelics in the seventies. I lived in the Haight- Ashbury district in San Francisco for a while I dabbled in other religions and beliefs, and ended my journey realizing that everything I needed was within me. I settled on Buddhism as a belief system because through the years I saw that life gives you back what you put into it. I wanted to have a happy, positive existence so I figured I had to put happy, positive thoughts and actions into my life. Buddhism seems to be the closest thing to this belief system. So when someone asks I simply say Buddhist and wait for the look of disbelief on their face. I’m not going to get all warm and fuzzy here I just wanted to explain my position.

My physical journey began when I started buying slip on shoes so I didn’t have to bend over to tie my shoes. Some times something so small can be the trigger you need to make a life changing decision. I made the decision to try to reverse the damage I had done trying to attain some imaginary dollar amount before it became a medical issue. I embarked upon a journey of physical health through proper diet and exercise. I also found a sort of spiritual peace through this fitness program centered around Martial Arts.

Now, lets pull all this together into something that makes sense. Three things had to happen for this to work.

  1. Focus on whats really important to you. Family, relationships, etc.
  2. find a spiritual belief system that works for you.
  3. Make a commitment to take care of yourself through a proper diet and exercise.

You will find if you can pull these things together you will have a life filled with love and possibility. You will also have time to pursue your passions what ever they may be. You stress levels will go way down, you wont try to control every aspect of your life and the lives of the people around you. Also you will have time to give to others that need your help because for what ever reason their life is out of balance. There is no greater joy in life than being of service to others. So live your life with purpose and joy and it will positively affect everyone around you.

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The Baking Gene

It seems every year I have this unsettling urge to bake around the holidays. I don’t know when this started, I don’t know where it comes from, But it begins when the temperatures start to drop here in central California around the first of December. I will bake on an almost daily basis right up until the week before Christmas then it just stops. My family has gotten to expect this bounty of sugary delights every year and begins stock piling flour, butter, sugar (brown and white) and of course eggs. There will be a stock pile of other things like nuts and fresh fruits also but not for healthy reasons.

I don’t make the same things every year, and I don’t take requests, although they try, because this is a compulsion. I never know which direction my whimsy will take me, so I never know what I will be baking from one day to the next. I usually start slow, Banana breads and assorted cookie dough.  and work my way into candies petite fores and pies. by the end of the three week binge of sugar and flour confections drizzled in chocolate and caramel and butterscotch. I don’t want to see a cake or pie for months. I think the trigger is Thanks Giving, I always start baking a few pies for the holiday and about a week later I have worked my way into a baking frenzy.

Now I have to inform my dear drooling readers that I have trained and worked as a pastry chef. I’m not talking about the person that decorates your birthday cake at the grocery store, I’m talking professionally trained Pastry Chef. Years ago I worked in a Michelin starred restaurant as the pastry chef and even got mentioned in an article in Gourmet Magazine. But, I left that life a long time ago and now find myself with a compulsion that pops up once a year. (like a really sweet smelling Aunt that shows up to visit for the holidays). So I have come to the realization that it happens and started thinking, “Hey maybe I’m not the only one”. If this is true and there are others out there then I am here to help.

First lets talk about setting yourself up so you can fulfill your addiction to baking without giving up hours of your life standing in a kitchen. “Mis En Place” is everything! Some of you are saying whats Mis En Place? well Mis En Place is the ingredients you will need to make your master piece. We, however, are going to take it a step further. For most cooks and chefs,

Mis en Place looks something like this.images (11)

But I am going a little further because there are certain things you can make ahead of time and all you have to do is bake them off or assemble the finished ingredients.

Cookies are a perfect example most of the time spent making cookies is in the baking, what I am suggesting is make your dough ahead of time, wrap it in plastic in a long two inch round tube and refrigerate until needed. By doing this when the urge to bake hits you just have to cut the cookies to the required size and bake off a batch. Easy Peesy! so instead of all the cleanup of baking from the beginning you just have to clean one pan. This will cut your kitchen time in half and you can make an assortment of different doughs so that when the need strikes your in and out in twenty minutes.

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The same can be done with sponge cake. With a little preparation you can bake off several sponges at once the freeze them until needed. some of you are asking what the  hell am I going to do with a frozen sponge? well sponge cake can be very versatile and you would be surprised at all the different and creative uses for sponge cake.

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You can roll it with fruit our cream filling.

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You can make one of my favorite delicate petite fors. You can also make cakes. One of my favorite is a Chantilly Cream and fruit compote filled naked cake.

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With the proper time spent setting up your Mis En Place you can be a rock star in the kitchen. Once you have the basics down try something a little harder. Remember though baking is not cooking, baking is chemistry with a delicious outcome. Weights and Measures are in the recipe for a reason, these are not suggestions, these are chemical equations. Do not deviate from the recipe or you will pay the price. Soundtrack: “Evil Maniacal Laugh” Just remember this is about creating not killing yourself to make others happy. Pastry is art!