All Work and No Play. . . .

Most times, I try to keep things fairly serious here.  Partly, that’s just my nature.  And partly, I’m trying to be respectful of the Pursuit of Wisdom.  But, as the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  So to that end, here’s some fun for your Wednesday!

It’s always darkest before the dawn.  So if you’re going to steal the neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

No one is listening till you make a mistake.

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

And just in case you’re not smiling yet, I saved the best for last……

Don’t squat with your spurs on.

Enjoy a silly Wednesday!


Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru


In 2007, I had an idea for a story.  I got to wondering about reincarnation.  You sometimes hear people joke about who they were in a previous life, and they invariably say someone famous.  So I got to thinking about the current lifetime of a previously famous person.  What would that be like?

I began to research not only the publishing industry and creative writing, but also Peru because I wanted to set my story partly in Machu Picchu.  Even if I never ended up writing my story, I really enjoyed learning about this sacred site.  I mean, llamas, magical stones, a city in the clouds. . . what’s not to love?  Someday, I hope to get there in person.

I’m happy to say, though, that write my story I did.  Five and a half years later, I’ve completed the manuscript for a middle-grade novel.  With fingers crossed, I now begin part two of my journey:  the search for an agent and editor.


Friday Fun! Again! Again! Again!

On this day in 1980, at the XIII Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the US Hockey Team defeated the Russians and advanced to the gold medal round. Two days later, the US upstarts defeated the Finns to win gold.  The young US team–average age 22–should have had no chance against the four-time defending Russians, who hadn’t lost an Olympic hockey game since 1968.  But they had trained longer and harder than ever, had adopted some of the Soviets best tricks, and played with a rough checking style that kept their opponents off guard.

Their often-rocky path to victory was later chronicled in one of my favorite sports movies, Miracle, starring Kurt Russell as no-nonsense coach Herb Brooks.  In the early stages of bringing his team together, Coach Brooks frequently ran up against petty rivalries among supposed teammates.  Each player seemed more concerned with old college loyalties.  When he asked his players to introduce themselves, each man replied by saying his name and his university.

One night, immediately after an epic trouncing at an exhibition game, Coach Brooks lined his players up on the ice in the dark, empty arena.  He pushed to them to skate sprint after sprint, relentlessly blowing his whistle and calling, “Again!  Again!  Again!”  He pushed his players to exhaustion.  Finally, team captain Mike Eruzione had an epiphany.  He shouted out, “Mike Eruzione!”  Coach Brooks asked, “Who do you play for?”  Eruzione, bent and nearly broken, looked up and replied, “United States of America.”  Coach Brooks nodded and dismissed his team, which finally was a team.

For today’s Friday Fun, think of a time when you realized you were part of something larger, of a time when your old identity was burned away and a new you emerged.  In a paragraph or two, write about old you, new you, and what got you there.

Happy Writing!

Learning to Punt

I’ve recently had cause to reflect on my participation in sports. Turns out I’ve been competing in sports for over thirty years and coaching for twenty. I come from a sports-oriented family, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. Once I even heard my gratdfather mentioned on a local sports radio show. The topic was “greatest clutch players.” An old-timer called in and nominated my gradfather, who had been a local champion handball player. The caller said that if money was on the line, no one could match my Pop Pop. 🙂

Anyway, in all that time, I think the number one lesson I’ve learned is that an athlete must be adaptable. And that adaptability can be a great asset in one’s everyday life.

To me, a true athlete is a well-rounded person. For example, I never understood when people only trained for a narrow portion of their sport (i.e. a swimmer who didn’t also weight train or a runner who didn’t also stretch). It’s easy to see WHY people don’t also weight train or stretch or what-have-you. Those things are hard and take more time. And sometimes life gets in the way of your workout plans and you just can’t fit it in.

In general, though, I think stretching and strengthening and running and whatevering all have to go together. Teaching your body (and your mind, for that matter) different skills gives you a bigger toolbox for sports and for life. When we have to practice our balance and our coordination and our agility, we discover our strengths and our weaknesses. And we teach ourselves how to focus and have discipline.

It’s a bit of cliche to say that sports are a metaphor for life, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In all those thirty years, I’ve run, paddled, lifted, yoga-ed, jumped, and swum. I’ve raced distances from 50 meters to 50 kilometers. I’ve competed in long jump and hurdles, and I’ve done marathons. I’ve taught aerobics, coached weekend warriors, and competed internationally. These things don’t make me any better than anyone else; I think they just mean I’m pretty experienced in adapting to different demands of life.

And so, when my four-year-old wakes up at 4:15 a.m. and tells me that he prefers to be called Hugo now, I can sigh a little, but realize that I’m perfectly capable of punting. My plans for the day will have to wait.


Yggdrasill of Norse Mythology

The World Tree


Many cultures have a Tree of Life concept.  In Nordic mythology, the Yggdrasill is the World Tree which connects the nine worlds. 

The tree itself is believed to be an ash tree.  Ash symbolizes combining strength and wisdom during times of sacrifice (see Nature-Speak by Ted Andrews).  In fact, the Norse god Odin hanged himself from Yggdrasill so that he might achieve higher wisdom.

Below the Yggdrasill are three roots and three wells.  Running along the branches of the tree are four deer, representing the four winds.  At the time of Ragnarok (the end of the cosmos according to Nordic myths), the fire giant Surt will set fire to Yggdrasill.

I love how one story encompasses the four elements (earth, wind, fire, water), explains the connectedness of all things, and teaches about wisdom.  Now that’s an epic story.




There’s No Fun Like Friday Fun!

On this day in 1984, larger-than-life Broadway legend Ethel Merman passed on.  For today’s Friday Fun, try to belt out a coupla sentences the way Merman belted out a show tune.  She herself once said, “You may have done all right elsewhere, but you haven’t really done it until you’ve faced a New York first-night crowd.”

In 3-5 sentences, describe a time when you faced a “New York first-night crowd.”  What did you face, and how did you fare?

Happy writing!

Gardening by the Moon

For centuries, we lived according to the seasons and the rhythms of nature.  We observed Mother Nature and established our patterns accordingly.  Along the way, we discovered that the Moon, ruler of water and fertility, had certain effects upon the fruits of the land.  And so Lunar Gardening became the way. 

Here are a few principles to follow if you want to plant according to the Moon:

  1. During the period from New Moon to Full Moon, plant annuals that produce above the ground.  During the period from Full Moon to New Moon, plant biennials, perennials, bulbs, and root plants.
  2. In general, planting when the Moon is in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces (the water signs) is best. 
  3. For root crops, try planting when the moon is in one of the Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn).
  4. When the Moon is in Libra, plant flowers.
  5. Use the times when the Moon is in Gemini, Aquarius, or a Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) to do your weeding, plowing, or tilling.

Happy Planting!


Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone’s in a funk lately?  At the end of 2012, I saw post after post on Facebook by people who were all too happy to put the year behind them.  When I chat with friends, everyone has a story of a sick relative, a financial crisis, or a personal struggle with the blues.  The news headlines certainly reinforce my feelings that things are tough all over:  school shootings, acts of terrorism, even the Pope is stepping down because he says he lacks the strength.  All this “funk” reminds me of my vulture story.

A few years ago, I was out for a run on a country road.  It was early spring, so there weren’t too many leaves on the trees yet.  As I headed back home on my out-and-back route, I ran under a canopy of maples, whose branches reached across the road.  I looked up and saw four vultures perched on the boughs and peering down at me.  Perhaps I should have taken their presence as a commentary on my fitness level or the slowness of my run.  But instead, I ran straight home and pulled out my dog-eared, well-worn copy of Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews to help me figure out the meaning.

Vultures are seriously misunderstood creatures.  Most people think only of gross, nasty things that eat roadkill.  But think of the value of this service.  By fulfilling their role as scavenger, they limit the infection and bacteria from the dead animal that would otherwise harm other creatures.  They keep the environment clean and prevent the spread of disease.  The Greeks considered vultures to be the descendants of the griffin, who represented heaven and earth, guardian and avenger.  In short, vultures are all about transformation.  (Incidentally, the number four symbolizes “foundation.”)

Now, fast forward to last week and another vulture story.  While driving home from work, I saw four vultures again, this time on the ground, making short work of a dead deer.  The connection of this vulture scene to the earlier one got me thinking.  What did these two events, if taken together, mean for me?

In the first encounter, the vultures were just sitting; in the second, they were actively working their circle-of-life magic.  Four vultures could be interpreted to mean a transformation of foundation.  And that has certainly been true for me for the past few years.  I feel as if external and internal events have conspired to strip down all my old beliefs and philosophies, to make me examine what is really important and true for me.  After all ,when the going gets tough, we can’t afford the luxury of frivolous things.  It’s as if the friction wears away the unnecessary things.

So I’ve interpreted the first vulture encounter as a message saying, “now is the time to sit patiently, examine your foundation, and prepare for change.”  And I see the second, where the vultures were doing their work, as a message saying, “now it’s time to get to work and operate from that new foundation you’ve created.”

Whether it’s true or not, it’s still a good message to take to heart.  There will always be funk, always be roadkill.  And there will always be a time to sit patiently and reflect, just as there will always be a time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.

Friday Fun for Imbolc!

Imbolc represents the halfway point through winter.  Our ancestors would take stock of their pantries to see what was still viable and what needed to be tossed out.  For today’s Friday Fun, take stock of you own pantry, literal or otherwise!  Complete this sentence:

It’s time to refresh and renew, so today I let go of __________ and welcome in __________.