A Short Vacation: Day Four

It was time to head back up north, but decided to take the long way home.

Here’s one of many nice beaches north of Malibu.

Drove into Santa Barbara to one of my favorite streets, State Street, for a little lunch, shopping and me snapping photos.

The photo above is for my Soundcloud buddy in England. It was in a store that sold random stuff.


Then headed up to Paso Robles, kind of Napa Valley South with lots of vineyards. 


And then, the glorious drive on good ole Interstate 5. I must have passed 50 trucks pulling double trailers full of tomatoes! Incredible state California is.

A Short Vacation: Day Two (A Walk in the Park)

“If you have a warm heart and you care for others you’ll be happy and the community in which you live will be happier too.” Dalai Lama (He posted this yesterday and I just read it before writing this blog – which I find odd given the lesson I learned today.)

Sometimes, but not nearly enough, I try to find lessons from my day’s experiences. I find it easier when I am away from my daily routine to be open to the possibility of learning a much needed lesson.

We are staying with relatives in Santa Monica, California which is a place much different from where I live… no chickens down here and a lot of people dedicating themselves to attaining 0 percent body fat and showing those bodies off while pretending that they are indifferent to the attention. 


This morning I went for a walk to meet family at the movie theater to see the new movie, Dunkirk. Right across the street where we are staying is Palisades Park which overlooks all of Santa Monica Bay.  Here is picture of last night’s sunset, in black and white, before I get back to my story.


As I walked through the park, I was thinking about how nobody in the park acknowledges your existence. This is much different from where I live. Here, nobody says hello or looks at you…nobody.  And, it is not just people of certain ages either. The children, young adults, and old people- they all ignore you.

As I was in deep contemplation about this social phenomenon, I came up to 3 people who were looking down at an elderly woman.  She was well-dressed in a white blouse and white pants and she was flat on her back. She had just fallen and another elderly woman companion in a walker was staring down at her. 

As is my nature, I walked over to see if I could help. Nobody seemed to know what to do and were afraid to touch her. I began asking her questions like “Are you hurt?” -“No, I am not.” “Why are you on the ground?” – “I fell.”  “Are you dizzy?” “No.” “Would you like to get up?” – “Yes, I would.”

With the help of two others, including her male companion who didn’t realized she had fallen, we gently lifted her up. She was a classy woman. She thanked us and went walking arm in arm with her companion, none the worse for the wear as they say in my neck of the woods.

I thought how strange that I was just thinking deeply about the disconnection of people in this park, in Los Angeles in general, and bam I come across someone who needed connection to others. This thought then came into my consciousness (and my consciousness sometimes has a real potty mouth), “Fuck, we all need each other whether we act like it or not.”  I have been in a life threatening situation where strangers who spent hours ignoring one another suddenly became very friendly towards one another. (It was in a hotel in the Bay Area during the 1989 earthquake.)

So I decided I would say, “Good Morning”to every person I walked by the rest of my way through the park. The response was underwhelming. Not one person out of the first 50 or so had any eye contact with me, even if they were kind enough to mumble back something inaudible. In their defense, 90% of them were hooked up to their cellphones with earplugs in their head.

The following two pictures I slyly took as I was approaching a person walking toward me. After so many rejections, I felt a little bit like a gunslinger in a western movie sizing up his opponent before drawing to shoot them only my bullets were “Good Morning.”



She shot me down.

Finally I came upon another elderly woman sitting on a bench apparently resting and looking at the ocean scenery. In her arms, she had a lot of greenery stuff without flowers on the end. It looked like some type of herb and they were wrapped in a waxed, brown paper like a florist might wrap up roses.  She was a bit heavy and when she tried to get up, without being able to push up with her hands, she fell back down on the bench. I thought, “Well this should be interesting. I wonder if she will scream for the police if I bend down to help her up?” 

In the interest of my social experiment, I knew I had to take a chance so without asking her permission I bent down, put my hands under her elbows and helped her up. She hesitated at first, but once up said, “Thank you,” and shuffled off.

A few more people ignored me or half-answered me and I started feeling like the park creep until I finally came across a young woman with her baby in a stroller. One last time, I said, “Good Morning!”  To my surprise, not only did she respond with a sincere greeting but also gave me a wonderful smile.

And that was my walk in the park. Next thing I did was to seek the sanctuary of a bookstore.


And I came across this quote on a card.


I thought that might have been my lesson for the day. Then I saw this tee-shirt and thought that would make good lesson too.


Let me conclude with a couple of shots because it took some time being patient to get these.


Finally, if you see this ugly mug of mine, tell me, “Good Morning,” or “Good Day,” because I think we need each other no matter how I might try to act as if I don’t!

A Short Vacation: Day One

Here are some photos and short videos of our walk in Santa Monica , California this morning – visiting family, going for walks, and resting up a bit. This morning we walked down to the Santa Monica Pier, the end or the beginning-depends on your perspective I guess- of the famous Route 66. (Last month we were on it in Flagstaff, Arizona while visiting the Grand Canyon.)

Right across the street where we are visiting.


Some old friends playing a game in Palisades Park.


Some plants and trees.


Southern California!


Cool house on the Pacific Highway (looking down from the bluffs).


On the Santa Monica Pier.


A couple of short videos…

And, yep still dieting… had Mongolian BBQ with mostly vegetables..it was yummy, but I was starving.


Finally on the walk back through the Promenade I saw these sandals in a Clark’s store window and it reminded me that I still want to learn to make sandals!


Checked my pedometer at the end and the whole walk was over 6 miles (10 km).

Diet Day 20

My fellow dieters and I decided not to get on the scales until our 30th day, so I don’t know if or how much weight I have lost. From the feeling of the pants around my waist, I would say – not much.  I would be very happy with just losing 6 pounds in the month.  That would seem like a sustainable weight loss to me.

However, besides possibly losing weight, there have been some other benefits including dealing with my very poor relationship with diet sodas.  I drank several…or more… a day.  I haven’t had one in the 20 days of dieting. I drink one 8 oz Coke made with stevia a day. My goal is to try to cut that down to every other day. There is 17 carbs in it and I am counting carbs pretty carefully.

The 2nd added benefit has been my blood sugar level – fasting – has ranged between 126 and 152.  This is down from over 300 at times and most of the time between 180 to 220.

The 3rd benefit is about the number of pills I take.  I take more pills at night than any one person should.  The latest pill, we call it the “pee pill” because it makes you urinate the excess sugar out of your system. (I promise, no poo updates!) Two days ago, I stopped taking the “pee pill” to see what might happen with my better eating habits. My fasting crept up to 152 from the 130’s, but I can live with that because the pee pill has some bad side effects.  It depresses me to take so many pills at night, so this is very good emotional news for me. However, I know that I will probably have to become more physically active to help offset the lack of the “pee pills.”

And, that leads to the 4th benefit, I started getting an ever so slight urge to workout again.  A few nights ago, I went downstairs and lifted weights and rode the stationary bike for just a few minutes. No need to overdue it, right? Then, the next night, I found my tennis racquet and went out and hit a few balls with my oldest daughter. The next evening, I went out with my youngest daughter (we only have 2 daughters) and we hit again, but this time played 2 games instead of just rallying (actually trying to rally, the balls were flying all over the place). I know 2 games don’t make a set, but it is a start. The girls were both very good tennis players in their day and I spent years hitting balls to them when they were children. It felt nice to get back on the court.  I followed that up this morning with a longer workout with the weights and stationary bike. Once upon a time, I used to go on 100 mile bike rides. It would be nice just to go on a 10 mile ride someday again.

Now I have had my bad days and bad moments too. Around Day 12 or so, I had a complete anxiety attack. I mean the kind where your entire body seems like it is attacking your mind. My craving for bread was seriously mental.  I couldn’t sleep and writing about it now still makes me feel that anxiety weirdness that is so difficult to explain. It feels like a form of claustrophobia, where you feel trapped in your own mind. Not fun.

I have a new compassion for people who are overweight at an unhealthy level… including myself.  I admire, I mean really admire, people who have quit smoking.  People who are trying to stay clean and sober are the strongest people in the world, in my book.  I have to stay on this path…with my fellow path walkers!

Best to ya,

Gary

This Photo Has Very Little To Do With This Post…I Think

Some random thoughts and actions seem to have some lessons for me, but I haven’t put it all together in my mind yet. Maybe you can help.

Context: For a few months I have been thinking about what I want to do when I retire from my current job. They call it an encore career. I still like very much what I do, but as I have stated before, I know there will be a time to move on.  So being a man who doesn’t like surprises, I have been in contemplation of my future.  I figure I have about 2 – 3 years to think about it.

Random Thought #1: One thing I concluded is that I need to make sure whatever I do, shall we say – as a mature gentleman – it needs to be aligned with my heart-soul. In other words, it doesn’t have to be for the money.  So far, so good, nice and self-aware I am.

Random Event #1: The recent trip to Sedona, Arizona had a quiet impact on me as I came to accept the possibility that there are certain areas where life energy may be more easily sensed, even if a bit unconsciously. I know, I know, a bit New Age sounding.  Yet, Native Americans have historically been open to this possibility too. As a registrant on the 1968 California Indian Roll, I am going to play the race card on this one and say, “Yes, the land may speak to us and you can’t call me crazy.”    It also would explain the miracles of Jesus for us skeptical believers of bible stories in that if one was highly in tune with God’s creation and energy, one could possibly use that energy in miraculous ways. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God…”

Random Thought #2: Once returning from Arizona, I had the strong urge to finally complete Richard Rohr’s profound set of teachings in his book, “Falling Upward.” I ordered it in audio form and listened every morning as I drove the 30 minutes to work.

Random Event #2: If you follow my Soundcloud music, you know that my father is struggling with parkinson’s disease (refuse to capitalize the p). So yesterday I decided to drive down to where my parents live and take my father for a little drive so that my mother might get some time to herself and my father might see some scenery. He spends much of his day sitting indoors. I thought the two hour drive from my house to his house might give me time to complete Rohr’s audio book. Which it did about 30 minutes after I left my house.

Random Event #3:  The very moment the last word was spoken in the audio book, which is all about learning how to live spiritually in the 2nd half of life, a bird flew directly in front of my car. The sickening thud disturbed me greatly. I don’t like to kill things. I felt guilty and I thought about that bird for the next 15 minutes or so. I thought how odd it was that I killed that bird the very moment I had finished a book that seemed to be calling to me for several years now. What an exclamation mark.

Random Event #4: As previously stated, being a man who likes to be prepared (except when taking long road trips), I brought 2 folding chairs so that I might be able to sit my father somewhere and he could enjoy the view. We headed up the west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains where I found a little restaurant where nice people prepared us a great lunch to-go. We continued up to the summit and we ate lunch looking down upon Donner Lake.

Random Thought #3: While helping my father eat his hamburger, which he thoroughly enjoyed, I kept telling myself to relax, accept his condition and enjoy the moment while realizing how lucky I am to still have my father’s presence in my life. It wasn’t easy for me, but I kept thinking of some of the lessons from Rohr’s book and that sense of harmony I felt in Sedona. Here is a photo of that moment.

IMG_3310

Random Event #5: I helped my father back into the car for our return trip home with a feeling…well, let’s call it pride, although I hate to admit that.   I got us back on the freeway and within 60 seconds of being back on the busy Interstate 80 and still thinking how well I did with just staying in the moment, I saw what I thought was a young, dead deer on my side of the road, really right next to me. I was wrong, it was not dead, but had just been hit by a car and her legs were broken. It was a very terrible thing to see. The poor deer kept lifting her long neck and chest up off the pavement, but couldn’t move the rest of her as she kept collapsing. She seemed to be trying to get up out of raw fear.  Besides feeling incredibly bad for the deer, I also felt very bad for my father and I thought, “Maybe that is how he feels at times? Where is my God now?”

So there you have it. Random events and random thoughts all creating some type of chain where beauty and understanding might exist on the other side.  Hey, maybe that title picture does make some sense after all.

 

 

Social Media and My Lunchbox

This dieting thing has got me thinking about a lot of different things…which usually trickles back to my own behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes. At the same time that  I am dieting, I am plowing through a book by Richard Rohr, a Catholic priest, titled, “Falling Upward.”  This is my 3rd attempt at reading it.  In the past I get all caught up in my own  idea of “goodness” and I get in a mental downward spiral where reading it is such a chore, exhausting even.  But, I keep getting called back to it. This, by the way, is very similar to my relationship with the Bible. I have a real Love-Hate relationship with that book.  So anyway, because of Rohr’s topic of moving into the 2nd half of life – which is not a chronological thing, but more of a spiritual growth thing – and because I am thinking about what else I would  like to do in life, I am starting to question my mindset beyond from just what food I put in my mouth.

fallingupward

(Stay with me here; my logic is often non-linear.) I enjoy many of the social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud (my favorite), Youtube, and WordPress. I am amazed at the number of countries where people have listened or read my words, whether in song, prose, or video/audio formats.  In Soundcloud alone, people from 236 countries have listened (or began to listen) to one of my songs. With my WordPress blog, this one, people from 43 countries have read what I have written. For a guy just hanging out in Northern California, this amazes me. Several of those people have become  important supporters of my creative growth and hopefully they feel the same about me.

However, it is the very quantification of social media that I just bragged about that is a stumbling block for me and I bet others too.  There is an “affirmation” trap built into all of those aforementioned social media platforms…the views and the so-called “likes.”  I began getting into social media as a way of trying to break away from an incessant form of self-criticism, including a concern about the opinions of others regarding my creative desires and attempts. It is so much apart of me, I fear my dna has been altered and this trait will be passed down to future generations.  To get over it, I decided to post silly things, rough recordings of songs, and some vulnerable exploration of self.  Yet, as often seems to happen when dealing with invisible powers, I soon began tracking how many plays, views, likes, and comments I received in any given time frame. It is as if I ended up back at the starting line with no progress being made, no real journey taken.

It is not Soundcloud’s fault, it is my own struggle with affirmation – which by the way even when I get it, it brings very little joy, I just want more of it. I think they call it the “Un-fillable Hole.” Richard Rohr would probably say it is more of a 1st half of life, ego-dominated, sort of thing. It might be very useful in the 1st half, but a true “threshold guardian” for those wanting to pursue a deeper journey into the 2nd half of life experience, where one recognizes their own soul. (Carl Jung’s disciples would enjoy Richard Rohr’s book very much as he refers constantly to Jung’s words and theories including the idea of two halves of life.)

Carl Jung

So where does this lunchbox thing come in? Well, it not just social media affirmations that is troubling.  Since starting this diet, eating out for lunch is not a very good choice for me- as our elementary teachers would say.  I need to bring specific foods to work to replace a previously carbohydrate-saturated diet and I had a perfect lunchbox at home to carry such foods. Problem is, I work at a university where very few people would carry a workman’s style lunchbox with them.  I became concerned what the casual observer or staff member might think. Would they laugh at the sight of me carrying a lunchbox which is more commonly found at a construction site than a university? (I have never in 20 years seen someone carrying one to work where I am employed.)

The first day I brought it to work, I stuffed it into my backpack and removed it once I was inside my office. I did the same thing this morning until I got out of my vehicle to enter the building where I work and I began to think about Rich Rohr’s lessons. I knew I was stuck in an ego-protected vision of myself and the only way to escape was to take out the lunchbox and carry it for all to see.   All seems kind of silly now that I think about it, but I think that is part of 2nd half of life thinking – it ALL seems kind of silly.  Developing a reputation, protecting your turf, expanding your influence, or maybe better said in social media terms – “getting likes, views, comments, and shares” are real hindrances in finding a deeper relationship with Life.

That is how social media and my lunchbox came to be connected, odd as it might be.

 

Diet Day 11…

Agh…Ok, maybe I should have thought this thing through a little bit better…I used to drink a lot of diet sodas during the day…it was my coffee…I haven’t had one for 11 days, instead I get 1 small real Coke a day (60 calories)…diet sodas are like mothers’ milk to me and I miss them..Also gave up all wheat-based foods such as bread and bread and bread. I miss my bread..trying to see if wheat is causing inflammation, so I need to stay with it for 19 more days….I miss sugar too, the kind that comes in CANDY!!!…evenings are the worse, I start wandering the house remembering how good strawberry ice cream tastes or some toast dripping with butter and covered with jam…in place of processed carbs I am eating more protein and although my chickens lay great eggs, the thought of eating another egg makes me queasy…unless it is used for the batter on French toast…as you can see I am having a meltdown….no diet sodas, no wheat, few carbs…Tomorrow Day 12… this is the longest I have stayed with something healthy for a long time…..I SO much admire all the people who quit smoking….People who used drugs and are now drug-free, you are my heroes. I think I need food rehab… in my Day 5 blog I wrote about being sad…now I am angry…angry like a toddler who wants to get their way…food-wise I am about 2 years old…Agh