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What Happened When I Shut Off My TV?

My New Year’s resolution was to add joy to the world, not see what joy I could get out of it. Part of adding meant writing.

Between Suzie and I, my Mom, our son and two dogs, I needed space to write without distraction and with a full house there was only one place left. Yep, the room with the television. So, I moved the cable box out and turned it off to see what would happen.

Nothing. Nothing at all happened.

It was boring and long and quiet and eventually sad. It wasn’t the lack of TV that was sad. It was the long stretch of me doing nothing with no excuses.

Except think, a lot of thinking was going on. Then I had a mind-bending, future-changing thought.

I realized I’d always been doing nothing. I was just doing it with the TV on.

Now, when I’m staring off into space with a blank look, I’m not doing nothing. I’m writing. Though it looks almost the same it’s anything but.

I’m contributing, not consuming. I’m trying to add the joy instead of flipping channels to the next distraction.

I’m serious about my New Year’s goal. I still watch TV with Suzie. But I watch it less and only the shows we love and only after I’ve done something good.

But things have changed. Nothing never happens at my house anymore. There’s always something.



Photo Credit: jambina via Compfight cc

Adventure Blog Courage Creativity Dreams Encouragement Featured Stories

Safe Harbor – A Dream Parable

My First Big Dream

It all started with a determined dog. Our beagles, Dep (AKA Deputy Dog) and Mike (no idea where this came from) wanted to do what they were born to do – chase rabbits.

Our house on Sunny Lane Drive (Yes, Lane Drive) backed up to a huge meadow that stretched the size of ten football fields to a distant creek and woods beyond.

To the neighborhood kids this endless sea of grass became a football field, baseball diamond, battlefield, pirate island and blank canvas for endless imaginary adventures.

It Smelled Like Adventure

To our dogs it was a rabbit paradise so close they could smell it. They excelled in plotting escapes and we often came home from school to the sound of distant baying and an empty yard.

This led to an ongoing battle of wits and fence experiments by my dad. One of these was a five-foot-tall roll of two inch redwood pickets, wired together and pointed at the top. It smelled like adventure.

Dreams Splinter

Dad, ever the instigator, gave the leftover piece to my brother and I and he soon discovered a way to pull out the wooden slats. They made enviable pirate swords and Roman spears and quickly became the weapons of choice in any pre-revolutionary imaginary battles.

But they were rough cut and few things annoy a pirate or gladiator like having to stop a battle and get his mother to tweeze splinters out of a manly hand. Eventually we came to see the advantages of games with splinter-less guns or death rays and the fence slats were stacked and forgotten.

Until One Day

I don’t remember what boredom or book inspired me to try and build something out of the discarded wood. Dad gave us access to his hand tools and I began nailing the rough redwood slats together to see what I could make.

Starting with three, then two then one, I found I could make a fifteen foot tall flagpole that was fairly sturdy. But there were three more slats left. After some thinking, an idea sparked and an image popped into my head.

I Had A Vision

The three pieces could fit into the bottom of the flagpole and suddenly I had a yardarm, a crosspiece for a sail. I had it finished in no time and couldn’t believe how sturdy it was. I wondered if it would hold a sail?

By this time my obviously indulgent Mom was home and I excitedly talked her out of a bed sheet. Folded into a triangle, it just fit. I couldn’t believe that I now had a fifteen foot tall mast and sail!

Landlocked Doldrums

I was out of slats. I had no boat and was landlocked in my backyard. The nearest water was a muddy creek across the field. I was done.

But I had this great, amazing thing. Would it really hold wind? Inspired, I experimented.

With a long rope to the top of the mast and another rope to the end of the yardarm, I found that I could stand the mast, hold it up with one rope and adjust the angle with the other.

If only I had some wind. But sadly the house and trees of the backyard blocked the breeze. The sheet just sagged.


Curiosity drove me. The back field was high grass at that point. I ran for the front yard and discovered a slight downdraft from gathering clouds. Could it work?

It would be a public spectacle. People driving by and my friends could see my crazy experiment. If it feel apart, ridicule was likely.

But this thing was the biggest, most beautiful thing I’d ever made. I had to try.

Setting Sail

The sun went behind a cloud and it looked like rain. So, I drafted, cajoled, nagged my big brother into helping me carry it through the gate and around the house.

I found my spot. I gauged the wind and hauled to. The mast rose into the gathering wind from the storm clouds.  The wind filled the sail. It billowed – then quickly pulled me flat!

The force was staggering. But it worked!

Fair Seas

I gathered myself and tried again. I’d have to lean back farther and wrap the rope around my forearms. I lifted . . .

Music played. Crowds roared. Fireworks blazed. The sail swelled and I held it up. The ropes popped tight and the sheet snapped in the wind.

My backyard scraps became a ship driven before the storm on tossing seas. I adjusted the angle and felt the force change. I was actually controlling it.

Land Ho!

It was quite a spectacle for our little street. Cars slowed. Mouths gaped. Kids pointed. But no one, no one laughed.

The mast never gave way. The ropes held. The sheet didn’t slip. I sailed my private schooner into the afternoon. I joined the ranks of sailing men with salt in my veins. As ship’s captain, no one outranked me.

Until my Mommy called. It was starting to rain. She wanted us safe from lightning. She wanted her sheet. Landlubbers never understand.

 The Lessons

  • Dreams must be given safe harbor.
    • They must be nurtured and encouraged. Newborn dreams are easily crushed.
  • You need the tools to experiment.
    • I could make a sailboat out of scraps but I needed hammer, nails and a borrowed bed sheet.
  • You need the courage to try.
    • Moving a dream into reality makes it public. Failure is a real possibility.
    • Dreaming isn’t for wimps.

I’d like to say I bought my own boat and sailed to the Caribbean. I have friends who have raced and used their sailboats as a tax write-off and second home. My musical pursuits took me indoors and farther from the coast.

I never, ever forgot the day I became a sailor. The salt gets in your blood.


Photo Credit: trix0r via Compfight cc

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Dream Week!

 Everything worthwhile is done against the odds.

There are few things as powerful as a dream. The idea of what can be is so magnetic, so intriguing, so motivating that it acts like an inner compass guiding you to unknown lands.

Ephemeral as a sail, when it’s hoisted in your imagination it creates a more solid, viewable, virtual world that you can explore. It’s a place you can taste and smell. You can feel the power of the wind in the taut ropes transferring power to the mast and pulling the hull through the breaking waves.

It’s a way to visit the future before you get there, a sort of time machine, a way to get the lay of this future land that you have set sail towards.

It allows you to toy with ideas. You can experiment and turn the future over in your mind, to look at it from all angles. You can try to find the downsides and problems you will face. You can stop on a dime, change things, discard ideas, add ideas and experiment some more. You can do all of this without cost or momentum. There are no constrictions or limitations but time and imagination.

You can put a dream down and do something else without fear that it will dissolve or be forgotten. It’s too powerful to leave for long. It will call to you. It will insist on some attention.

When you come back to it things are still as solid and vivid as if it were a real place, because in your mind it is real.

The power of a dream is that you don’t have to know how to get there before you start the journey. Man dreamed of flight long before the Wright brothers made it possible. But the destination is so intriguing that you have to find a way or make a way.

It’s like a travel brochure to an exotic island. You’ve never been there but you can see it in your mind’s eye. You can imagine swinging in a hammock with warm tropical breezes and a cold glass in your hand. You can smell the coconut oil and hear steel drums playing in the distance.

That’s what makes dreams important. They are the future in the present. They are time machines. They are the virtual laboratories of your real life.

Welcome to Dream Week! This should be fun.



Photo Credit: paul bica via Compfight cc

Adventure Blog Change Creativity Featured Stories Travel

Road Trip! You’re Invited


Now that I’ve decided to dedicate a significant amount of time to finishing my book, I want to include you in the process. The easiest way to do that is to subscribe by email in the right hand column. There will be goodies.

Though the book means fewer long form posts here, I want to add more ways to stay connected. I plan to give you excerpts of what I’m writing. I will also add a newsletter with some material too long to include on a blog post.

Lend A Brain

Soon, I want to ask for the help of those who are interested in correcting and proofreading the manuscript. Being slightly dyslexic makes this a non-starter for me. Yes, I’ll actually give those who make the commitment parts of the unreleased book in advance for free. I figure if you’re proofing for free it’s the least I can do.

I also want to keep you updated about my Kickstarter project that’s in the works. I’m mulling on the video now. If it is successful then I can write faster with fewer distractions. This could be fun.

Format Change

In order to keep my nose to the keyboard I’m going to include more photos and some video. I’m a visual person and love art. It can be very uplifting and even make you healthier, as I’ll be pointing out. More fun stuff.

Music has been my creative home for most of my life and I haven’t yet included it here but that’s about to change. There are some great musicians and wonderful music on the way.

I’m going to be asking your opinions about some things and will start to include some polls to get your thoughts.

Special Guests

I will also start including some carefully selected guest posts from some of the great people I’ve been meeting. There are some wonderful encouragers out there that you need to get to know.

These are the people that keep me going. I can’t wait to share them. They will be worthwhile.


I know, you’re asking how all of this will help me focus on writing? The entire point of this exercise to to allow me to concentrate on finishing the book and now I’m adding tasks?

Well, I can’t do all of this immediately. It will take some time. I’ll change things and add things a little along the way.

The point is, I’m doing this for you. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself.

Rather than take a lonely trip to a mountaintop in Tibet to write, then showing back up years later riding a yak with a long beard and handmade clothing, I’d rather have your company on the trip.

(virtual) Rooaad Triiip!

My son, the English scholar, is currently in Portugal on a writing trip with his friends and professors. I’m not sure what they do on these trips or how it helps them write but I say we give it a try.

Maybe we could all go to an internet beach and soak in the figurative sun together, or possibly we could rent a virtual villa in Tuscany and speak bad Italian to each other. If we could really all pack up and travel while writing, where would you go?

Anyway, pack your digital bags, subscribe by email, and let’s set off on a creative yak-free adventure. Who knows what we’ll see?


P.S. – Someone just texted a correction on my Musical History page. See, I told you I needed your help!

Photo: Tuscan Cyprus by Maarten Van Hoof via Flickr
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59 Reasons For A Playcation!

Vacations are recess for adults. It’s playing hooky for people out of school. They are a reward for all your hard work.

You don’t really need a reason to take a vacation. But if you haven’t taken a vacation lately then maybe you need some inspiration.

Without going into scientific studies and thinking too hard, I could only come up with fifty-nine reasons to take one.

I’m sure there are more. I’ll let you know when I get back.

Assuming I come back . . .

  1. It’s fun
  2. It gives you perspective
  3. It reminds you how wide and varied God’s green Earth is
  4. You will renew your spirit
  5. You meet new people
  6. You might eat something weird – and like it.
  7. You see wildlife
  8. It’s fun
  9. You live longer
  10. You have less stress
  11. You are less depressed
  12. You have fewer heart attacks
  13. It’s fun
  14. You’ll hear some new music
  15. You might dance
  16. You reconnect with loved ones
  17. You might just spice up your love life
  18. You are more creative
  19. It makes home look better
  20. It makes you smarter
  21. You will work harder when you get back
  22. The anticipation is as beneficial as the event
  23. You will learn something
  24. You will see new scenery
  25. You will smile
  26. You might pretend to be a secret agent
  27. You will be more flexible
  28. You might try something new
  29. You will see more possibilities
  30. You will solve more problems
  31. You could laugh
  32. You will be more productive
  33. You will be less lonely
  34. It heals emotional wounds
  35. You will see nature
  36. You will remember why you’re working
  37. You might enter the creative flow state
  38. You will come up with new ideas
  39. You will explore new options
  40. You won’t feel your life is slipping by unexplored
  41. You won’t feel left out the next time someone says carpe diem
  42. You will exercise your inner explorer
  43. You could lower your blood pressure
  44. You might take some embarrassing pictures
  45. Your inner child will get some exercise
  46. You could surprise your kids
  47. Or your spouse
  48. It stretches your imagination
  49. It prevents burnout
  50. You could sunburn something
  51. You might ride something fun
  52. It improves your mental health
  53. It relaxes you
  54. You might get wet
  55. You will find muscles you’ve forgotten about
  56. You might have an adventure
  57. You could read that book you’ve been saving
  58. You will be happier before, during and after
  59. It’s fun!!
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The Change Button

The Dream You

What if you had control over your life? I mean really had control? Say, for example, that you could decide what you want to weigh and would be that weight? What about money? Or love? What if your career path was up to you?

What would you do? Who would this “dream you” be?

If You Could Push A Button?

You are probably suspicious right now but hang in there for a great secret of life. Science backs it up.

The answer to that question matters – a lot.

What if it were easy?

Taking control over one thing

Yesterday, I started with my desk. I hate paperwork. Kind of funny for a writer, but true. Not blank paper. I love that. That is my surfboard just sitting in the corner waiting patiently for me to play. Weird, I know.

I hate paperWORK. Receipts, federally mandated forms, taxes, legal documents. Because of my Mom, I’m awash in it. Everything she does generates mounds of it. So, it piles up on my desk, waiting in a bad way.

When I want to grab my surfboard and run, it yells at me,”Hey surf boy! Do your homework! You’ll just feel guilty out there. You can’t have any fun until you finish (insert long list of very responsible activities).”

So, what did I do? I cleaned my desk.

That’s right. I did it. You can’t stop me. I’m a rebel.

What’s that got to do with any of this? Here it is. Wait for it . . .

It was a small change I control.

Pow! Take that paperwork! Bam! You don’t own me! There’s a desk under there and I’m not stopping until I remember what color it is! I am the King of Paperwork!

Whew. Sorry, I got a little excited. Man, what a rush. Breathe.

You see what happened there? I got emotionally charged. I took control of something. I changed my life. It felt good.

So, did I finish it all? Are you kidding? It’ll take me weeks. But here’s what I did do.

I took control of my creative space, my work area. The papers are organized in stacks on a bookcase I already had. I threw a bunch of the garbage away so there’s less of it.

I did more than I imagined I could do. I have a clear path to get through it. I have energy. I have a desk (espresso colored). And one more thing . . .

I Believe I Can Do It!

Science shows that big change happens like dominos. When the first small thing falls, you get momentum for the next. Pretty soon,”Pow! Take that!” You get the large, creative, emotional side of your brain involved and big things happen.

Think Super Bowl comeback. Momentum shifts. Hope springs. Soon, you’re unstoppable.

Hang on. We’re just getting cranked up here. I can’t wait.


Book Update

I haven’t talked about writing a book here until recently but I have been working on one. I wanted to make some progress before raising any expectations. But this weekend I reached a watermark for myself.

I’ve now written 103 pages.

I’ll have to write another two or three hundred pages, edit and then re-write before it’s a book. Crossing the hundred page mark makes it larger than a blog and more than a pamphlet. So, I guess I have to admit to what I’m doing.

I’ve actually gotten much farther than this on a previous version before I scrapped the entire thing. This time seems better. In the end, though, that will be up to you.

My job now is to deliver it.

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Fighting Distractions

I hope you all are recovering well from your chocolate hangovers the day after Valentine’s Day.

I, myself, have decided to take the advice of Dr Daniel Amen, psychiatrist, author, brain expert, and catch up on my sleep. According to him, before Edison’s invention people slept an average of nine hours every night. This, he says, is what our brains actually require to stay healthy.

So, this morning I got to sleep late and feel smart about it. Nice to have a healthy excuse.

I also am taking the day off from a major blog post to work on Suzie’s book. I hope for a long writing weekend.

Who knows what distractions will vie for my time. So far I have the temptations of perfect weather and a car full of gas.

I will be strong.

Being creative by myself without a deadline is different from working for clients at a quiet studio where progress is measured by the hour. Here, nobody is watching.

So, I decided to tell you. Now I have to write. You’re watching.

If you feel inclined to pretend to be a demanding client and verbally look at your watch and tap your feet to keep me on task then feel free in the comments section.

Or you could just encourage me with shout-outs and cheers.

Have a good weekend. I’ll report in Monday.

Photo:  Ohio Scientific Computers Challenger 4P by Easterbilby via Flickr
Adventure Blog Connections Courage Creativity Encouragement Perspective

The Most Creative Thing You Can Do

We are all creative.

I know, the world has taught us that there are a few people who are “creatives” and we have been assured, in a million subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that we are not them.

There is one American Idol – this season anyway – and it is conspicuous that it isn’t us.

We don’t have crowds of adoring teenagers cheering us in bleachers. There is no marching band when we ride down main street in our non-convertible, not waving to the nobody not watching. Police do not stop traffic to let us parade through. They have other intentions with us.

Randy Jackson didn’t call today – again. His people didn’t even call my people because I am my people.

And the thousands of young, energetic, hopefuls who line up for the show all seem to have talent. It sometimes seems the world is drowning in talent and they all are better than me at something.

That’s the secret.

You see, we are all talented and creative. Stop laughing and rolling your eyes. It’s true.

But instead of creating a song that will be gone in a few frenzied weeks, you are creating a life. And maybe a family that will continue for generations.

Because of this, you are more important than stars creating tomorrow’s oldies. Or next week’s karaoke.

Don’t expect to hear this from a “star” or their promotion team or the networks. They are busy promoting people who have signed contracts that allow them to get some of the money generated.

The hidden message is this:

You are not as talented as these people, so give up and buy their stuff. It’s easier.

This is a lie. You are talented and creative in a way that no one else is. Here is the truth:

Only you can create your life.

You won’t hear that on a commercial either. They are trying to sell you something that will fix the problem they created that you didn’t know you had.

The hidden message is this:

You are broken and not good enough. Only buying our product will help.

No wonder countless studies link watching TV to depression and low self-esteem. The more you watch, the worse you feel.

(Example 1, Example 2, Example 3)

They actually have a financial interest in making you feel bad because those bad feelings motivate you to action – buying their stuff.

Again, I repeat the truth:

Only you can create your life.

Today, I am determined to act instead of react, to choose instead of follow, to create instead of buy.

There is no one like me or you. To try to be someone else or let another control my life is to insult the Creator that made me.

To be cowed into non-creative consuming is to give up the thing that makes us different, unique, special.

You are not a copy. You’re the original.

You are not an Elvis impersonator. You are not a Michael Jackson clone doing tricks for tips on Hollywood Boulevard. You are not a hanger for look-alike celebrity swag.

Be brave. Be you.

There’s more to you than you think.

Much of life is invisible in the short term. You don’t get the results in a few minutes. Consequences are not immediately obvious. But you are making a difference.

The world is changing because of you. It shows up slowly but it’s real. You see glimpses of it along the way. Soak them in. That’s reality.

The final results won’t be in for years. Then you will have the perspective to see it. Then you will realize that your decisions created your life. Live well and the ripples will spread far and last long.

This weekend I saw it.

I saw the results of a lifetime of painting the hard way. I saw a musician whose greatest legacy is not written in music but in people’s hearts. I saw survivors wrestling life from destruction.

I also saw a major star so wrapped in self-loathing this person can’t leave their bedroom, paralyzed with fear, lonely and depressed.

You write your story.

Every day that goes by you are creating a life. Be original. Don’t look for inspiration on TV.

Look to your dreams.


Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung
Photo by See-ming Lee via Flickr

Blog Connections Courage Creativity Emotional Encouragement Endurance Health Mental Never Give Up Physical Stories Stress Success

The Ballerina of Auschwitz – Part Three

Edie Eger was discovered by an American soldier from the 71st division after being left for dead among the dead. Her hand moved. He saw it. Given the scene, the timing was spectacular.

She had survived Auschwitz, slavery and then Gunskirchen Lager. She was rescued at last.

With food and medical attention, her physical body began to heal. Her sister had survived with her. Edie discovered her other sister had been hidden by her music teacher and had escaped capture.

She met a Czech freedom-fighter in the hospital. They fell in love and were married. Against doctors advice, she became pregnant and began a family.

But she was left with searing memories. She had lost her parents. At seventeen, she had endured things that caused hardened soldiers to look away. She had to find a way to survive the internal wounds.

For years she pushed the experience aside and concentrated on living. Others had done the same. Some never talked about the experience again. It was overwhelming and to think about it meant going back there mentally. It meant giving the Nazis power all over again.

Then, at age forty, she felt the need to help others survive. She decided to go back to school and study psychology – which meant dealing with her past. It meant forgiving, not for their sakes but for her own.

In the end she was no longer a prisoner. She became Edith Eva Eger, Phd.

A lifetime of perspective and treating others has allowed her to distill her own experience down to seventeen thoughts. These diamonds, formed under the greatest of pressures, are powerful survival tools that also apply to daily life. This is her gift to us:

Contrary to popular belief, there are no victims in this world – only willing participants. You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. And everyone has the power to change at any time. Here’s a sampling of some survival skills for you to think about and reflect upon:

  1. Every problem is temporary.
  2. The quality of your decisions determines the quality of your life.
  3. Dire conditions allow opportunities for inner growth.
  4. Adversity is what life is all about. You have the power to use adversity to your advantage!
  5. Blame and condemnation seldom produce positive change and almost always make things worse.
  6. Others only have as much power over you as you let them!
  7. The most obnoxious person in your life is often your best teacher.
  8. Aggression and passivity are two of the least effective behaviors to effect a solution.
  9. To find freedom we need to forgive.
  10. Forgiving is a selfish act to free yourself from being controlled by your past.
  11. Cooperation requires a lot less energy than competition or domination.
  12. Every situation can be viewed from many perspectives. Is there a pattern to the way you view most situations?
  13. Focus on seeing the world the way it could be, not the way it is.
  14. Take responsibility for the responses you make.
  15. Turn problems into challenges and crises into transitions!
  16. You may walk through the Valley of Death but don’t set up camp there.
  17. To lead full lives we need to get in touch with ourselves, discard our limiting beliefs, and shed our prejudices.

For more information you can go to Edie’s website, watch interviews here or download a PDF of her story as re-told by several different authors.

I welcome your comments . . .

The Ballerina of Auschwitz – Part One

The Ballerina of Auschwitz – Part Two

 Featured photo: Auschwitz by fedewild and Budapest Opera House interior by Roger Wollstadt via Flickr