Tag: Choice

Two Hundred Days

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“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

I think at one time or another, most people have set some sort of goal for themselves. The goal may be social related, health related, intellectual related, or any one of another few dozen subjects. The goal might be a group goal where there is a bit more accountability or it might be personal/private goal. Regardless of the type of goal or the situational circumstances for implementing the goal, I’m going to assume that most people attempt to come up with some sort of plan.

A plan. Most people can develop a plan. Does it have to be a perfect plan? No. It just needs to have an end goal. So we can develop another plan. We all experience plans both on a professional level and on a personal level. Not taking away from anyone’s planning skills but developing the plan is the easy part. Executing the plan is somewhat more difficult and what eludes many of us.

So people, with that theme in mind, this is my attempt at an inspirational and slightly motivational post. If it helps one person. Great.

I woke up Sunday morning and had my coffee with creamer. My wife and I were getting ready to go exercise down near the river. She was going to walk and I was going to run for a while then double back and walk with her. As I logged my drink into an app I use called MyFitnessPal, I was greeted with the following information:

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Two hundred days in a row. I made a plan and executed it, adapting and readjusting as needed.

For whatever reason, last year I gained weight. It’s probably the 4th or 5th time that has happened in my life and each time it has, I go through a short period of losing weight to get back to where I was. It has been somewhat easy for me to do that since I have participated in athletic activity most of my life.  A few years ago that changed for a number of reasons I don’t care to get into and as a result of that, I became the heaviest I had been in years resulting in a number of medical issues, most of which were being attributed to that extra weight.

If you’ve been reading me at all, you know I quit smoking in January of this year and have been on a hiking and walking craze for a while. Two hundred days ago today, I came up with a plan and executed it. It involved changing my eating habits and exercising, which really is not rocket science. Numerous meals throughout the day, increase in metabolism, the right nutrient balance, and get off my ass and exercise like I use to. Yes, I planned on a caloric deficit to do this but I planned to do it in a safe and nutritional way, hence the food and exercise tracking app to support it.

Over that two hundred days I have lost 52 pounds. That’s 52 pounds over 28 weeks. About 1.86 pounds a week. Slow and safe weight loss.To some people that might not seem like a lot and in reality it’s not but try strapping a 50-pound bag of dogfood to your back and see what toll it can take on your body just walking.

The fact that I’m bringing up weight loss as a measure of success is only for a means of what those 52 pounds mean. Those pounds mean my blood pressure has been normal for months now. Those pounds mean clothes I had put away now fit. Those pounds mean my back isn’t hurting everyday like it was. They mean I can walk or run without putting extra stress on an older body that has seen its fair share of abuse over the years. And no I won’t discuss the eighties. They represent hours of sharing in cooking duties to avoid the easy out of getting fast food. They represent hours of lifting weights and miles walked or ran. Those 52 pounds simply mean that I executed the plan. And I was rewarded for it.

A perfect plan? Who the hell knows but I can tell you it’s worked for me and that’s exciting. More importantly, I see excitement in the eyes of my wife, or my kids, or my dogs each time we are going to go do something involving physical activity. Just as importantly, I see excitement in my own eyes when I look in the mirror.

In doing this, I owe my family many thanks for participating in this journey. My wife has her own story and I’m loving watching her write it each day. She’s also shared her Fitbit friends with me. Long story but it makes the journey that much more accountable.

I think the journey has to be unique for each person. What I can tell you though is that it is doable and there are plenty of tools, resources, and people for support. I can also tell you that it gets harder each time to lose weight. My reality is that I will always have to always exercise which really isn’t a bad thing. I will also need to eat healthy foods. I read once that that isn’t such a bad thing either.

Now on to more exciting goals like reading four books this month or get a couple thousand words written this coming weekend.

B

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If We Were Having Coffee #16 – Country Roads

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If we were having coffee, I would have a few choices to offer your today. I have a breakfast blend, a flavored French Vanilla coffee, and an espresso blend. For creamers, we have Sugar Cookie and Italian Sweet Crème. I’m going with the espresso blend and the sweet creamer. I’ve come to enjoy Italian Sweet Crème with espresso blend. I think it takes me back to a sidewalk table of some not so crowded cafe in Europe.

So let’s step out on to the back porch and enjoy the morning breeze. It’s not a European cafe but I do have a small table with comfortable outdoor chairs.  Besides, it’s so much cooler on the porch right now than it is in the house. One window AC unit and a few fans aren’t offering as much as nature is doing by herself outside after much needed rains over the last few weeks.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we went to our first Pig Roast a few weekends ago. One of my coworkers and good friends had it at her place. She lives out in the woods, a few towns and villages away from our place which amounts to a few county and back roads away. Like every other place within a twenty-mile radius around here and probably with a number of ways to get there. There are also number of means of transportation to get anywhere including ATVs and snowmobiles. Or Amish buggies.

Country Roads. You can drive here for hours seeing so many things for the first time yet never leave that twenty-mile radius, even though it might actually be the second time. Or fifth. I’ve been in this area now for nine years and am just starting to fully appreciate it. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe my eyesight is getting better. Or maybe I’m just changing.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve done a lot soul searching lately. Reflections on the past, accounting of the present, and directional guidance towards the future. Somehow this has led me back to a poem I read as a kid. Middle school or high school, I don’t really remember. Most likely it was explained to me by a teacher, put out there for further discussion, and thought about in a manner consistent with my age at that time. Yet here I am years later revisiting the same poem with new eyes. Older eyes. And hopefully wiser eyes.

The poem is Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and I would venture to guess if you are reading this post, you are familiar with the poem. Like most poetry, lyrics, stories, etc., the depth of our understanding a particular piece of work might come from the author, or those enlightened few who knew the author, or those over educated few who would have you convinced they knew the author therefore they know the meaning. Or maybe the author is happy to let the reader or listener derive their own meaning and provoke thought.

That is how I feel about this poem. Whether you take this poem literally, metaphorically, or subscribe to the notion that Frost wrote it in jest; this is a life poem that should provoke thought.

Most people I’ve ever talked to look at this poem in two ways. Either Frost was content with the path he had taken, or he had regret for the path he had not taken. Sounds simple enough to my non MFA type mind. I enjoy the challenge of complexity but embrace practicality of simplicity.

If we were having coffee, I would suggest that the poem offers something to each belief. And a solution. Something my technical mind grasps. When I picture two roads diverged, and in the manner described at the beginning of the poem, I picture a fork in the road. A fork being less than ninety degrees. If you’ve ever studied geometry, and have an understanding of statistics, then there is a good chance you might come to the conclusion that the probability of those two roads intersecting once again is very high. Or, maybe you live in the country like I do. With hundreds of country roads, going all different directions, with more forks than a school cafeteria, yet somehow connected and often leading back to the original road.

What does all of this mean to me? It means it’s possible for us to enjoy both roads. Still. To have no regrets. To see where it all takes us. Adventures that are waiting, and often with us seeing or experiencing something new. Or other times our seeing or experiencing wonders we’ve already enjoyed, or at lease should have yet now are approaching as though it were the first time.

Just like my writing at a later age. Or my renewed interest in my guitars. Or more simply, like the country roads I explore each week.

So, how about you?

B

Country Roads

Country Roads

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part-Time Monster

Pics courtesy of Pixabay

Do, or do not. There is no try.

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“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

For anyone seeking inspirational guidance or motivation, there is no shortage of information out there to help an individual or group pursue a desirable goal or achievement. That information may come in the form of famous quotes, one liners from movies, written works, slogans, or music. There is also no shortage of individuals or groups willing to offer guidance and/or motivation. They might be professionals (speakers, authors, educators, etc.) who receive a fee for their actions or they might be family members or friends seeking nothing more than the enjoyment of helping or watching someone succeed. Those same friends or acquaintances might even be on the same journey or endeavor. Your running club, the gang at the gym, your writer’s group, or your classmates. There is also a third person offering guidance or help. Yourself. Wait, that’s the first person. And yes, that’s my attempt at writer humor.

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“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” – Thoreau

I’m thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. I have numerous friends at any given time trying to elevate their lives and I am always respectful and supportive because at any given time, I am usually trying to do the same. Currently, I’m writing, refocused on my health, and recently agreed to pursue a professional certification at work. The writing has no end goal other than finish, then start the next, then finish, and repeat. The focus on health is for no other reason than I want to be around for some time. The certification is another story. I don’t need the certification. I have many years of experience, a degree, and have always taken on more responsibility than originally asked. I’m at that stage of my career that is comfortable and secure provided I perform and remain relevant. Due to some added job responsibilities, I felt I needed to study up on some new things as well as refresh my memory on others and in doing so, was offered an opportunity to take a course leading to certification. I have plenty of motivational sources for writing and my health but the certification effort will be solo and with that, so will my motivational source. No worries there.

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I’m also thinking motivational speak this weekend because I am trying to be there for my son. Last August we were dropping him off at college and here it is already finals week. His first year of college is almost over with and I have been sending him short texts offering words of encouragement as he crams for finals. That is probably all I can do at this point. He’s endured hours of motivational speak from both me and my wife. I say motivational since most of it was meant to be encouraging but some of it was more facts of life type speech. I won’t call them lectures. More of a life talk and that is always harder but my wife and I have not wanted to sugarcoat anything with our kids.

Fifty percent of the kids he graduated with last June that are going to college, will not finish. At his orientation for college last year, the staff let us know that approximately twenty percent of the freshman class would not return for their sophomore year for a number of reasons. Facts of life. Through research of our own, along with what my son has learned this year from others, there are certain classes in the program he is in that will weed out students from continuing in the program. After next week he will have completed four of them. There is another critical one next semester but I’m confident he will do OK. He is on an academic scholarship that demands a certain GPA be maintained in addition to being in a program that demands a specific GPA be maintained for all classes taken related to the program. My son is well aware of this and well aware of the consequences should he not meet those requirements. The program GPA is what it is and there is nothing mom and dad can do about that one. The financial scholarships are what they are and cover a good portion of his costs. The rest is being paid by student loans and Mom and Dad. We’ve made it clear that we will not make up the difference should he lose his scholarship. This is a partnership in my mind between the school, the government, my son, and my wife and me and there are expectations for each vested party. One of those Dad things I say to him all the time is there is no practice life. This is it and what you do or don’t do counts. Or maybe I’m repeating something I heard in a movie or song, or something I read or some other life lesson I try to share hoping he makes the connection and seriousness of it all. That and reminding him to enjoy himself and make memories in the same conversation. It all seems to be a contradiction of sorts.

My son gets all this. He budgets and balances his time. He reaches out for help if he needs it and he crams when he has to. That impresses me. No safe zone, no sugarcoat, no bullshit. He is realizing something now that takes others years to even conceptualize. His hard work in high school only gave him the opportunity he has now in college. Nothing more. The rest is up to him and only him and that demands more hard work.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes or passages I could share with him this weekend. Most of them I have already shared. My personal favorite is something many attribute to Nelson Mandela but is actually a passage from a book by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” 

In classic tasteless fashion, as can be so prevalent in my household at times, I opted for words of encouragement that were not so profound but still offered some motivational insight:

“Time to nut up or shut up.” – Tallahassee

Photos courtesy of Pixabay and GoErie

 

 

 

If We Were Having Coffee #13 – Daylight Savings

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a hazelnut flavor. Creamer was on sale too so we have a cafe mocha, French vanilla, and a sweet cream (my personal favorite as of late). I’ll have a dark roast with sweet cream. It’s Bliss, or so the brand name says.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I haven’t had a weekend coffee share in months. Yet here I am, up an hour earlier than usual so I thought I might join in. Wait, am I gaining an hour or losing an hour? Nine years in the Northeast and you would think I’d have it figured out. I never had these problems living in Arizona.

I remember seeing a poster once that somewhat explained it. It stated that only the government would believe that cutting a foot off the top of a blanket and sewing it back on to the bottom of the blanket would yield a longer blanket. That explains it. The government.

Speaking of government, I really wanted to write a piece this morning about a government related topic: politics. A teacher in high school once told me there were two topics to avoid when writing and I’ve tried to adhere to that advice over time. Politics was one of them. It was only two topics back then, probably more now. So… no political piece from me. Suffice it to say my only red hats are Cabela’s or Arizona Cardinals. And, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid. Still it all makes me sad and has me walking around mumbling “WTF” a few dozen times throughout the week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that today is ten weeks since I have had a cigarette and almost two weeks since I have been off the patch. Although I have a son in college, my youngest is still in Middle School. I need to be around for a while. Not smoking also makes food taste better and my nightly coughing fits are gone. Maybe it will also improve my 5K times.

Now, back to figuring out if I am gaining or losing an hour today. I know tomorrow I will be heading in to work in the dark once again.

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Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

Clock photo courtesy of Pixabay

 

Right, Wrong, and the Power of Influence

Sicario

Sicario

Friday night was date night for me. My wife and I did something we don’t do very often – we went out by ourselves. We decided on dinner and a movie in a city about twenty five miles away from us. Although our town has great places to eat, we only have one theater that shows two movies and neither really appealed to me. After a wonderful dinner, a large beer for me and disappointingly strong margarita for my wife, we went to a Movie Theater nearby that has eight theaters. After living here for eight years, it was our first time there. I wanted to see Sicario. If you are a fan of Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt, or Josh Brolin, I would highly recommend it. The story takes place in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Juarez, all cities I am very familiar with and I found myself trying to find markers I recognized. Only the aerial view of Juarez stood out to me. I found out later that the majority of the movie was shot in Albuquerque and the Juarez street scenes were actually filmed in Mexico City. You have to love Hollywood.

Despite being an action movie, Sicario dealt with a deeper issue that prompted a conversation between my wife and I on the drive home that evening. We discussed the ethical behavior and decisions of the main characters during the movie. Some of this was to keep me attentive driving country roads in the dark but most of it had to do with questions raised by the actions of those in the movie. I enjoy when something I see makes me think. Usually, I read a book and comment that it would make a great movie. This movie would make a great book.

As a writer of fiction, I can create fictitious characters, cities, or worlds. I can bend some writing rules to suit my own needs to create my own style. I can explore morality and behavior, leading the reader to consequences or non-consequences. I can write the past, present, or future with a mixture of actions or customs that are either factual or made up yet plausible. I can borrow from tried and true formulas of other writers in specific genres: good guy gets the girl, reluctant hero coming to the aid of those that ask, good triumphs over evil, the pursuit ends in capture, sleuth solves the crime, true love prevails, and so on.  Or if I was creative enough, I could devise my own formula that defies the norm yet still attracts readers. For the most part, I can do whatever I want to do… within reason. It’s fiction. What I can’t do is plagiarize. Why? Because it’s wrong. Period. That would be cheating. Yet we see and are exposed to cheating on a daily basis.

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I had a poster I special ordered once. There is a photographer who covers Le Tour de France who takes the most amazing pictures of the riders and countryside that fill this epic race. I took the poster to Michaels and had it framed in a very expensive frame with no glare glass. It hung on my wall for years and was an inspiration to me on what was possible when someone has the drive and determination to succeed. To win against the odds. And then it all came crashing down and that expensive frame sits in a closet somewhere less the poster that I ripped up and tossed in the garbage. Some might argue that his winning served a greater good, benefiting the philanthropic efforts he is a part of for cancer. I would argue that it didn’t. More cheating was exposed throughout the sport and I haven’t watched it since despite religiously tuning in each July for over fifteen years, not missing but a few stages of the race.

“We are more likely to cheat if we see others doing so. We tend to conform to accepted norms of reasonable behavior, rather than adhere to strict rules.” – Evan Davis

I get an executive briefing each day from a professional engineering society I am a member of. There a number of briefs regarding inventions, innovations, and contracts that involve major manufacturers throughout the world. Recently it contained a brief regarding a major car manufacturer that had cheated on their emission testing. This bothered me not only because it’s a company I have always respected but because it took a substantially large group of engineers and decision makers to collaborate and pull this off. I won’t speculate as to why this decision was made because I can’t fathom the thought that it was even up for decision. There are rules in place because society deems them necessary. If you’ve ever driven in or near Los Angeles, it’s easy to understand why (and I’m only picking on LA because it was the first city I visited where I noticed smog for the first time). It was an abuse of power by some, it was cheating, and it was wrong.

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A private email server being used by a government official. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you know what I am talking about and this is the moment I might upset a few of you. That’s not my intent and it’s not political. This is also the time where I probably need to make a disclaimer and state “these thoughts are my own” although I feel my thoughts are in line with the code of conduct paperwork I sign off on each year. I am not a direct government employee but work in the government division of a very large company. My division builds key equipment and components found on aircraft carriers and submarines in addition to equipment used in nuclear plants. Because of this, there are strict rules I have to abide by. There are procedural rules regarding everything involved in acceptance or non-acceptance of component parts and/or finished assemblies. There are also strict procedural rules regarding how we conduct business, both general everyday business activities and how we communicate and work electronically. Is some of it inconvenient? Yes, but what is at stake overrides any inconvenience. There are lives that depend on the following of these rules. My job also depends on my following the rules. This is black and white to me with no grey area so I don’t buy into anyone at any level not following the rules.

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So where am I going with all this? Back to writing of course. As writers, we have a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything. This can be through works of fiction or non-fiction we intend to publish or simply through a blog post. We can draw on the events of the past, the present, and of probable or not so probable events of the future to create a story or simply to talk/rant about something. Those events can be feel good events or they can be events we deem morally wrong, subjective to the individual interpretations we all derive from them. Throughout this process, we can play with our own perceived ethical or moral behavior in a manner that might or might not influence at all. The potential for influence is there though and with that comes accountability and responsibility. I’m not suggesting tossing artistic creativity by the wayside. I’m only suggesting, that much like the examples I mentioned above, or the everyday influences of leaders, athletes, teachers, coaches, parents, and newscasters to name a few, we all have the potential to influence. Don’t abuse that power.

People have a choice of what they can and can’t live with, what they see as right or wrong, or what they are just indifferent to. Is it always black and white? No, sometimes it is grey. I can live with grey occasionally when the argument for it is compelling enough.

Now to go punish my main character for bad decisions…

images found on google images and Pixabay

Choice Overload

There are probably one hundred food choices within a couple mile radius of me at this moment, and thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision where to eat. My eyes were bigger than my stomach last night and I bought a burrito with two tacos and the burrito alone filled me up.  Easy decision tonight: leftovers.

I’m traveling for work this week and find myself in Houston Texas. Back home in New York, we don’t have many restaurant choices in the small town I live in. If we want something different, we usually travel to a small city about thirty miles away from us.  As a family, this can still be a dilemma because not everyone agrees on where to eat.  Majority rules, a decision is made, and somebody settles for something on the menu that obviously wasn’t their first choice. When we travel, be it a day trip or longer, we will always choose a restaurant that we don’t have access to in our immediate area. It’s an unwritten rule and everyone buys into it.  Where we differ is the degree of adventure we are willing to subject our taste buds to.  My oldest son and I will try most anything. My wife and youngest son however are a little less willing to try new things.

So why is it when I travel on my own and have nobody to please but myself do I find it difficult to make a decision on what or where to eat most of the time? I asked myself this question tonight and had to think about it, realizing that most of my indecision is coming from places I might travel to where there is a “choice” overload.  I would equate this to having three hundred plus channels and not being able to figure out what to watch on television. Often, I will be at a hotel that has a restaurant inside or attached to it or has a few eating establishments close by making the selection process much easier. Other times, I am at the mercy of a local who has picked a restaurant for us to eat at. Here in Houston however, the area I stay at is called the Energy Corridor and there are restaurants everywhere. Driving is problematic during rush hour and a short trip to a restaurant can take forty five minutes. It’s not the type of place to keep driving around looking for a place to eat.

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Our company has a very generous policy when it comes to dining out while traveling on company business. I don’t abuse it and usually only have one or two meals at restaurants. The other meals will be takeout and typically low cost. I travel to Houston about three or four times a year and the hotel I stay at is an extended stay hotel with a kitchen so I will also buy groceries for breakfast and sometimes grab a meal from the “pantry” as they call it and have a microwavable meal. My feeling about spending company money on food is to spend it as though it was my own. I would not eat $40 or $50 meals on my own so I don’t expect to do that on the company’s dime.  Yeah, moral me.

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As I stated earlier, I don’t want to eat a restaurant that I can eat at back home. So my first night here is always a no-brainer. I checked into the hotel, unpacked, and headed out to the nearest Whataburger. If you know me, this is a given. One burger, less than $5, and 790 calories of my daily diet is gone. If you have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a Whataburger, you understand.

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Night two involved my driving around which was a big mistake. I wanted Mexican Food, saw a place called Taco Cabana and ordered what turned out to be enough food for two nights. Meal cost? $11.

Tomorrow will be my last night here and I will eat at a restaurant. My plan is to stop there on the way back to the hotel after I get off work. I saw a Japanese restaurant today that a few of the employees at our sister company recommended to me. If I pass that, I have about twenty more choices along the frontage road before I hit the street I need to turn on to get to my hotel.  If I remain indecisive during that drive, I’ll get to the hotel and walk to a restaurant. There just happens to be about five or ten within walking distance. Taste of Texas, Pappadeaux Seafood, Pappasito’s, Fuddruckers, some deli, and so on, and so on. More decisions… although I am only willing to walk so far. Choice overload.

I know one thing. I will eat.

How about you? Is your choice of dining establishment an easy decision?

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Photo – Pappadeaux

 

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