Weekend Update – March 20, 2011

Well, it’s been a week since my last post.  For those of you who look forward to reading these posts each day, I apologize.  It’s just been one of those weeks where my wife and I crashed down to earth, physically exhausted, and I’ve been completely unable to focus.  Hopefully most of that is behind me.  Because quite honestly, I’ve missed our time together.  You folks give me a lot to look forward to each day.

First of all, thanks so much for all of the heartfelt thoughts on the passing of my mother-in-law.  Between that and my daughter losing her unborn baby two weeks earlier, it’s been a tough month.  But it really helps to be able to write about these things, and you folks have been there with a smile and some kind words that really hit the spot.  Thank you.

Tomorrow is my grandson’s birthday.  He’ll be eleven this year.  It’s hard to believe he’s that old.  He’s the kind of kid who wants to grow up, but still enjoys being young.  He loves to play outside, and isn’t too big to give Grandma & Grandpa a kiss and hug, even if his friends are watching.  I know those days will come to an end all too soon, but I also believe we’ll always have an extra special relationship because of the closeness we’ve shared over the years.  I sure hope so anyway.

A couple of you have asked about the household projects I wrote about a few weeks ago.  They’re coming along – mostly painting and trim work so far, and I’ve got a lot left to do.  But I’m doing what I can to get these things done before the weather gets really good, because I don’t plan to spend a lot of time in the house this spring and summer.

For those of you on the other side of the equator, I guess you’re enjoying the last days of summer.  I hope it’s been a nice one.  Around here, the roads are a testament to how brutal this winter really was.  Salt has a pretty nasty effect on pavement, and my first few rides on the motorcycle have taught me to keep a close eye out for potholes, because some of them are deep enough to really mess up your day.  But warmer weather is poking through, and I got to take my first group ride of the year yesterday.  It was cold, but still nice.

My plan is to get back on track this week with daily blogs.  It’s amazing how mental stress can leave you so physically exhausted, but I think the worst is behind us and we’re trying to get back to normal.  I have a feeling we’ll re-define the meaning of “normal” over the coming months, but I’m looking forward to seeing where the road leads. 

That’s about it for now.  Thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past month.  It’s meant more than I can begin to say.  You folks are the reason I write this blog, and I always look forward to our time together.  Thanks!

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Weekend Message – March 13, 2011

It’s been another tough week.  I’ve mentioned before that my 88 year-old mother in law was living with us for the past year.  We’ve known for some time that her days on this earth were coming to an end, and a little after 2:00 this morning she passed away.  It was a very peaceful event, and we all know she’s in a better place. 

For the past week, we’ve had nurses from Hospice around the clock.  I can’t say enough for these folks.  They were absolutely amazing, and they made sure her final days were comfortable, while preserving her dignity to the end.  We will be forever indebted to them.

As for Jane, I could tell a lot of stories, and I’m sure I will in the coming weeks.  She was a unique individual, and I can honestly say that in the 33 years I’ve known her, I never did fully figure her out.  I think that’s how she wanted it.  But you always knew where you stood with her.  Always.

It’ll be hard to adjust, especially over the next few days.  Life with an elderly person, especially one with advanced dementia, presents a set of challenges that you can’t begin to comprehend until you’re in the middle of it.  But it also gave us a lot of special memories, and plenty of laughs.  We’ll hold onto those memories as we move forward and adjust to a life that doesn’t involve breathing treatments, wheelchairs, and babysitters.

It’s funny, a week ago before things went downhill, Jane was really concerned about the time change to daylight savings time.  At least a dozen times in three days, she asked us when the time was going to change.  For the past couple of days, we’ve wondered if she somehow knew that was her time.  Some people seem to have a sixth sense about these things.  And as fate would have it, she passed away twenty minutes after the time change.

Knowing Jane, I think she just refused to go in the dead of winter.  And yes, it’s technically still winter for another week, but I think somehow the time change represented springtime to her.  And she wanted to blossom in the spring.  It’s strange how these things work.

And as we welcome the somewhat slow arrival of spring, we’re also looking forward to putting this winter behind us, especially the past two weeks.  Things happen for a reason, and we all go through heartaches in our lives.  But the important thing is, we also have those moments of joy, wonder, and magic that make life special.  And along with those moments come memories – lots of wonderful memories.

I should probably say rest in peace, but if I know Jane the party is just beginning.  A lot of people have been awaiting her arrival, and I’m sure there’s a pretty intense reunion going on in Heaven.  For now, we’ll hold down the fort here.  But it’s nice to know we’ve got one more person watching over us in case we mess up.

So thank you Jane, for everything.  We’ll miss you.

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Have A Couple Of Seats!

My weight loss program has been experiencing technical difficulty.  I say that because technically I should be losing weight.  But either the scale is playing an early April Fool’s joke on me, or I’ve been eating entirely too many sunflower seeds.  At this point anything is possible.

I haven’t been to the gym in a week, and I’m sure I won’t get there for at least a few more days.  You know how it goes.  You spend the day working, just waiting for 5 o’clock so you can go home and relax.  Dinner is in the oven, and you kick back with a cup of coffee.  By the time dinner is finished, there’s something good on TV.  Well, “good” is a relative term.  And just about the time you’re getting ready to pack up the gym clothes, this little voice goes off in your head and says, “It’s open tomorrow.”

I’ve found that once I get to the gym, I’m fine.  In fact, on the ride over I get a little feeling of excitement, knowing I’m doing what I should be.  It’s motivating myself to get up off the couch that gives me trouble.  There are just too many other things I’d rather do.

They have a marker board at my gym where they post these little messages designed to convince us that we really need a personal trainer.  Yes, personal trainers cost extra – in the sense that beachfront condos cost extra.  We’re not talking pocket change.  This involves a down-payment and credit check.  I’m not sure what they do if you default, but if the guy who collects is as big as some of the trainers, I don’t care to find out.

The sign a few weeks ago said that one in twelve people have a gym membership, but only one in five actually loses any weight and half of them work with a trainer.  Well, according to Ellen Degeneres, 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.  So there’s almost a 50/50 chance they’re not being completely honest.  And if they are, these gyms are making a LOT of money from people who never show up.

Which begs the question – why?  What is it about fitness and weight loss that is so appealing that we’re willing to plunk down our hard-earned money and spend the evening sweating when we could be drinking beer and playing cards?

Well, let’s face it. We live in a world designed for skinny people.  Have you ever tried to fit into the coach seat on an airliner?  I can, but only if the armrests are up and the seat next to me is empty.  Even then they have to shift baggage to the other side of the plane.  If the flight is full, my belly counts as a piece of carry-on luggage.

You may think I’m joking, but a few years ago I was getting ready to take a puddle-jumper to Kalispell, Montana.  Apparently nineteen seats is more than enough to handle that destination.  If you’ve ever been there, you’d understand. 

When I got to the ticket counter the guy leaned over the counter to get a better look, then assigned me a seat in the back, dead center.  As we started to taxi out, I moved to the seat next to the window.  The co-pilot spotted my move and made an announcement.  “Please stay in your assigned seats so we don’t disturb our weight and balance.”  I wish I was making that up.

The reason airline seats are so small is twofold.  First of all, airlines are cheap.  Wider seats means fewer passengers.  If they could get away with jamming an extra seat in the lavatory, they’d do it.  As it stands, a couple of airlines are charging passengers to use that seat already.

The other reason our world is so small is because engineers are anorexic.  They design things to fit themselves.  How wide should the seat be?  “Hey Eugene, let me measure your butt.”  Those are words you won’t hear on the shop floor.

And it’s not just the airline industry that’s stuffing us into smaller spaces.  Slide into a booth at any restaurant.  If you’re even mildly overweight, the table is pressing into your belly.  And this is a place that wants to sell you a full meal plus appetizers and dessert.  Here’s a tip.  You stand a much better chance of selling me dessert if you seat me at a table that doesn’t make me feel fat.

That’s the thing I never could understand.  The restaurant industry is doing everything they can to fatten us up.  My wife took me to the Cheesecake Factory a while back.  They make good cheesecake.  Really good.  I could feel my arteries harden with the first bite.  Then I went to the gym and spent two hours trying to work off the calories it took me forty seconds to consume.

Something about that just doesn’t seem fair.  Why is it that all the good things in life are bad for us?  I think it was part of God’s punishment for the things Adam and Eve did long before I was born.  Adam was sitting in the Garden of Eden one day, picking at his dinner, and God said, “Adam, you don’t seem to care much for broccoli.”

“You’re right, God, I don’t like broccoli a bit.  I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it tastes like crap.  Among all your creations, it’s got to be the nastiest …”

Zap!  Broccoli was loaded with iron and a host of vitamins, making it one of the most nutritious foods we could eat.  So nutritious, in fact, that women throughout history would force their husbands to eat it in the hope that it would keep them in the work force a little while longer.

Then God saw Eve, slowly savoring history’s predecessor to the Hershey bar.  She was in heaven.  “Eve, I’ve noticed you really like chocolate.”

“Oh my God, you have no idea!  It’s so delicious!  Where did you ever come up with such a recipe?  Of all your creations, it’s got to be …”

Zap!

You’d think with all the artificial enhancements at our disposal, somebody could invent beer-flavored broccoli.  I’d eat that.  But in the process they’d remove all the vitamins and add seven-thousand calories.  That’s just the way it works.

And apparently, people in the food and clothing industries aren’t talking to one another, because for everything they do to make us fatter, nobody is making it any easier to find clothes to cover that fat.  Why is that?

When it comes to clothes, they have special stores for people like us.  Or we can look for the sign that says, “Big & Tall” or “Plus Sizes”.  It’s just a nice way of saying, “Hey fat people, your stuff is over here!”  Though I have to admit, it’s a little flattering to pick through a stack of 5XL shirts to find one that’s small enough to fit me.  That’s what I call creative marketing.

But the fact remains, this world isn’t made for overweight people.  And I don’t see that changing any time soon.  We may represent the majority, but we’re the ones who have to change.  If not for our health, for the simple fact that we need a comfortable place to sit.

Diet and exercise are part of the program, to be certain. But a sense of humor is equally important.  As I’ve mentioned before, laughter burns as much as 500 calories per hour.  That’s about the same as a steady run on the treadmill.  And a good belly laugh can exercise every one of the body’s muscles at the same time.  No machine in the gym can do that.

More importantly, a sense of humor fights the urge to get discouraged when things don’t go as planned, or when we fall off the wagon for a week or two and slide back the other way.  It happens.  The important thing is knowing where you’re headed, and having a little fun along the way.  And if you can do that, you’ve already won.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Humor, Laughter | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

The Blunder Years

It’s been said that teenagers are the reason some species eat their young.  I’m assuming that came from somebody who had an unruly teen in the house.  Just one.  Because when it comes to teens, you don’t need a whole litter.  One is more than enough.

Teens are a form of life that exists somewhere between childhood and getting a clue.  And much like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, there’s a metamorphosis involved.  The problem is, they don’t spend that time in a cocoon to keep them under wraps and protect the rest of us.  They just make us wish they did.

It’s not that I don’t like teens.  I do.  To me, teenagers represent the future of our world, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.  But watching teens is like watching waves at the beach.  Most times they come and go without much fanfare and they don’t leave too much destruction in their wake.  But you always know that somewhere out there lurks a rogue wave that can really screw things up.  Some of them grow up to be politicians.

My daughters seem to have a much more vivid recollection of their teenage years than I do, and it wasn’t that long ago.  It’s not that I’m too old to remember.  It’s just Mother Nature’s way of preserving what little shred of sanity I have left.  Which probably explains why Dad doesn’t remember too much about my high school days.

High school graduating classes will typically vote one person “most likely to succeed.”  Well my class voted me “most likely to serve time.”  Okay, I’m kidding.  To most of my graduating class, I was “Dave who?”  I had a small group of friends, but I pretty much kept to myself.  And I wasn’t a bad kid, but I got in a little trouble on occasion.  Nothing involving the police, so it could have been worse.

I grew up in the seventies, and back then we were still in an era of tranquility left over from the sixties.  School violence was pretty much limited to the locker room bully or a couple of guys fighting over a girl.  Most of us smoked pot, and underage drinking was a bit of a problem.  But that was pretty much the extent of our misconduct.

It wasn’t that we didn’t get into trouble.  We did.  In fact, most of us probably wanted to get in a little more trouble, but we just didn’t quite know how.  We knew there were things in life we were missing, but we were still just a too naïve to take that next step.

But to our parents, the trouble we got into was bad enough.  Back then it was absolutely devastating to find out your kid had tried marijuana.  Today it’s like, “Is that it?”  I’m not saying it’s something we’ve come to accept, but it’s not the social sin it was when we were growing up.  It’s funny how time changes our perspective.

I think of some of the things my daughters did, especially my oldest.  It seems to work that way.  The older ones tend to be trailblazers, setting off into uncharted territory with nothing but a sense of adventure to guide them.  Their younger siblings sit back and watch to see where the mistakes are made, and the severity of the consequences.  Then they use that information to keep from making the same mistakes themselves.  In other words, they’re just a lot better at not getting caught.

As the father of two daughters, nobody ever accused me of being too permissive.  And I wasn’t known for an overabundance of trust, especially where boys were involved.  I told my oldest one time that I was going to buy an old car and never bring it home.  When she asked why, I said, “Because you’ll never know if that’s me in the rearview mirror.”  I was dead serious.

I could tell you stories, like the time I flipped out when my daughter put on a pair of shorts to wear to the race track.  In my mind she was just trying to look good for the boys.  And fifteen years later, one word comes to mind … DUH!!!  A teenage girl trying to look attractive?  You mean like they did when I was her age?

And maybe that’s part of the problem.  We look at the things our kids do and we’re reminded of how we were at that age.  I know the thoughts that ran through my mind when I saw an attractive girl.  And boys haven’t changed much over the years.  If anything, they’re bolder now than we ever were.  That’s okay.  I’m old enough to own a gun.

My oldest used to get so upset with me for sneaking around to find out the things she was doing when she was sneaking around.  “That’s not fair!”  I’m sorry, who’s writing the rules?  Because it seems to me that kids aren’t always that forthcoming when they decide to break the rules.  “Dad, I’ve decided this rule about not drinking sucks.  So when I go to the party Friday night, I want you to know I’ll be breaking that rule all night long.  Can I borrow the car?”

So sometimes we have to employ a little creative strategy of our own to stay on top of what they’re doing.  I probably carried that to an extreme at times, but I had their best interests at heart.  I’ve often told my daughters that I’ll apologize for any time I’ve ever hurt their feelings or done something completely wrong, but I’ll never apologize for doing what I thought was right.

Now that they’re a little older, they’re finally starting to understand a little of what was going through my mind.  Not that they agree, but at least they can understand.  And it’s funny watching my oldest with her son, who is a mere two years from becoming a teenager.  I could swear I’ve heard some of those words before!

Yet, as a grandparent who doesn’t have to deal with the daily discipline, I can step back and look at things from a different perspective.  I remember thinking my nephew was the spawn of Satan as he chased the girls around the yard with a pocket knife, and my dad saying, “Oh, he’s just being a boy.”  Funny, I hear those words a little more often these days, too.

And as I look back on my own days of raising two daughters, I can laugh at some of the things that were such a big deal to me.  My mom used to always ask, “Will it matter twenty years from now?”  I never fully understood those words until I became a grandfather.  That’s okay.  As I recall, she didn’t always feel that way when I screwed up.

The thing is, kids aren’t that different than they were when we were younger.  They have more to occupy their minds, especially in terms of technology and entertainment.  Of course, we can always use that technology to our advantage.  “You’re at Becky’s house?  Her mom is there?  Take a picture with your cell phone and send it to me.  Now.  You have thirty seconds.”

But kids are way ahead of us on that.  It doesn’t take them long to realize they can store a whole album of cell phone photos to fit any situation.  The picture they send may be months old. Which brings us back to square one.  At some point, we have to loosen the rope and hope for the best.  And that requires trust – lots of it.  Or just tell them to have somebody take a picture of them in the clothes they were wearing when the left the house.  See, I’m not entirely gullible!

Life is all about passing along the torch.  Our parents passed it to us, and we’ll pass it on to the generation that comes behind us.  We do the best we can to prepare them for that day, to teach them how to carry that torch without setting something ablaze.  But in the end, we have to have faith in them to do the right thing.  I think I’ve carried the torch pretty well.  And as I look at the two I raised, I believe it’ll be in pretty good hands.

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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Weekend Message – March 5, 2011

What a week it’s been.  It’s been a roller coaster ride to say the least, but we all made it to the weekend, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

For those who just jumped on board, the week started on a really high note as I was enjoying a tremendous response to the article I posted on February 25.  All told, nearly 10,000 people viewed that piece.  For any writer, that’s a dream come true.  Then came Monday, and the news that my daughter had lost her unborn baby.  We may never know the reasons why, but the important thing is we still have one another.  And we have another little angel to help us through the rough times.

Thanks so much for all of you who offered your thoughts and prayers, and for those who offered prayer in private.  It means more than I could possibly say.  My daughter is back home and picking up the pieces.  It’ll take a while, but she’ll be okay.  We all will.

And thanks to those of you who offered your opinions last weekend when I asked for feedback on my writing.  I think the general consensus was that you prefer a mix of humor and inspiration, so that’s what I’ve tried to deliver this week.  Every day I wonder what I’ll write about next, and every day something seems to pop into my head.  If a day comes that you don’t hear from me, you’ll know the muse took a day off.  Hopefully that won’t happen any time soon.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my grand plans for tackling some household projects, and I’m happy to report that I have gotten some things done.  Not the things that were on my list, mind you.  My wife discovered the paint section in our local hardware store, and that one moved to the top of the list.  So last weekend I painted our bedroom, and this weekend I’m moving into the hallway and living room.  Seems the old “honey-do” list never runs dry.

For any of you who are in the southern Ohio area, I’ll be performing at the Dayton Funny Bone next weekend (March 10-13) with headliner Greg Warren.  This is my home club, and it’s always nice to be with old friends.  I’ll be hosting the shows, so my time onstage will be short, but I’m sure we’ll have a good time.  If you’re in the area and could use a laugh, come on out.

Thanks again to all of you for coming along, and for sharing a really emotional week with me.  If you’ve found any inspiration in my posts, I hope you’ll share the link with a few friends.  Remember how parties got started when you were in high school?  “Psst … party at Dave’s house tonight!”  Well, this is pretty much the same.  And the more the merrier, so don’t be shy.

Be sure to stay tuned for information on the new Health & Humor website.  If all goes well, it’ll be up and running within the next ten days, with daily features from lots of different writers on topics that will help us all find a little more humor and make the most of life. 

That’s it for now.  Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your day.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Dave

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What Are You Worried About?

Comedian Ron White tells a funny story about flying from Flagstaff, Arizona to Phoenix.  Shortly after takeoff, the plane experienced engine problems and had to return to Flagstaff.  According to Ron, the guy seated next to him was losing it because “apparently he had a lot to live for.”  The nervous passenger asked, “How far can this plane fly on only one engine?”  Ron calmly answered, “All the way to the scene of the crash!”

The plane landed safely, and the only casualties were the inconvenience of an unplanned travel delay and a few vandalized seat cushions.  But I’m sure there were some tense moments onboard, especially among those seated in the back of the plane.  Few things are more nerve-wracking than going through a potential emergency where you’re only along for the ride.

Worry is a natural reaction to situations where the outcome is unknown and potentially unpleasant.  There’s not a person alive who can honestly say they never worry about anything.  We’re all guilty of letting fear and uncertainty take control of our thoughts, at least to some extent.

My pastor is probably grinning as he reads this, because it’s proof I didn’t sleep through last week’s sermon.  And as he spoke, I realized this is a topic that absolutely has to be covered in the context of health and humor, because laughter is the natural enemy of fear.  The two don’t exist very well together, and when you put the two head-to-head, laughter usually wins.  At least for the moment.

In his sermon, my pastor said worry is the advance interest we pay on troubles that seldom come.  That’s a powerful statement.  Other people have modified that to say worry is advance interest paid on a debt that’s never collected.  Either way, the meaning is about the same.  It’s energy spent dealing with a reality that may never come to pass.  So why do we do it?

First of all, because we’re human beings with a brain that can process a scenario as it unfolds and recognize the possible consequences.  Even animals worry.  Take dogs, for instance.  With most dogs, you can tell just by the way they act that they’ve done something wrong.  It’s not a guilty conscience.  It’s anticipation of the inevitable consequences for what they did.

We had a dog years ago that had a bad habit of leaving unwanted “gifts” around the house.  He knew he would get in trouble for it.  So he started learning to hide it.  For a while he tried hiding it behind the couch.  Then he learned to hide it behind a door.  Smart, huh?

So one night we put him in our room and shut the door, thinking he’d wake us up if he had to go.  No, he went behind the door.  The closed door.  The door that I had to drag through his pile of you-know-what so I could get to the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper.  Before I even got out of bed, he was hanging his head with his tail plastered against his belly.  He knew.  And his worry was well justified, because Daddy collected payment on that debt. 

Sometimes worry can’t be avoided.  Like when you’re waiting for the results of a biopsy.  Telling somebody not to worry about their health is like telling me to just reach down and pet that nice little rattlesnake – it won’t bite.  And the truth is, maybe it won’t.  Well, in my case I’m sure it won’t, because I’ll be somewhere in the next county.  But it’s about impossible to wait for test results that may indicate a potentially fatal disease, and not worry.

So yes, there are times when worry is justified.  But that doesn’t mean we have to welcome it like a long-lost relative.  I’ve known people who just aren’t happy unless something could possibly go wrong.  “What if we have a flat tire?”  We’ll put on the spare.  “What if it’s flat?”  Then we’ll walk.  “But what if it’s raining?”  Which is a perfectly reasonable question coming from somebody who goes through life with a dark cloud over their head.  For some people, it’s always raining.

But for others, you wonder if it ever rains.  There was a woman in my church who had terminal cancer.  But to look at her, even to talk to her, you’d never know.  Della had been through a rigorous round of chemotherapy the previous year, and had decided to accept her fate graciously instead of going through that a second time.  I can’t say I blame her.

Any time you asked how she was doing, she’d smile and tell you things were going pretty well.  I still remember her telling me that the doctors had told her she wouldn’t live more than a few months without chemotherapy, and she felt better now than she did then.  “So what do they know?”  She was just the kind of person who cherished each day as a special gift. 

One night last year I was turning my motorcycle around in a parking lot and lost my balance.  It fell over on my right foot, causing two fractures and a nasty sprain.  My ego was as bruised as my foot.  A couple of days later, I got a card in the mail from Della, wishing me a speedy recovery.  I never got to thank her for that card, because two days later she went into Hospice and the next week she was gone.  And I’ll never forget that in her final two weeks, she was more worried about my foot than her own health.

I watched my own mom deal with terminal cancer, and I can honestly say I never saw her worry about what was coming.  She was concerned for us, that we’d get through it okay and that we’d stay close as a family.  But for her own welfare, she rarely showed any fear. 

Less than a month before she passed away, we went camping for the first time as a family.  That night we had some vicious thunderstorms, and then the tornado sirens went off.  As we were rounding everyone up to go to the shower house, I offered to carry Mom to my truck.  She said, “I’m staying right here.  What do I have to be afraid of?”  She had a point.

It’s all a matter of perspective.  Like my pastor said, worry is the advance interest we pay on troubles that seldom come.  Should we pay attention to weather warnings?  Absolutely.  Should we be concerned about medical tests, bills that can’t be paid, or a child who’s having problems in school?  Without a doubt.  But it’s important to give those concerns just enough focus to allow us to take the appropriate steps to minimize the risk.  Anything more is counterproductive.

Instead, ask yourself three simple questions.  First and foremost, “Can I do anything to change this?”  If the answer is no, move on to number two.  “What is the worst thing that can happen?”  Be realistic.  This isn’t the time for doom and gloom.  And finally, “Have I done everything I can to minimize the impact if the worst does come to pass?”  Just by answering those questions, you can begin to relax.

We all worry.  The key is not letting worry so completely consume your life that you forget to live.  Bad things will happen, and sometimes there’s little we can do to change that.  But more often than not, all the worrying in the world won’t keep them from happening.  All it does is cloud our senses and make us less prepared to deal with the outcome.

Remember that laughter is the natural enemy of fear.  And laughter can be hard to find when you’re worried, but that’s when you need it the most.  So make time to put worry on hold.  Watch a funny movie.  Go out with a friend.  Play with the kids.  Work in the garden.  Take a swim.  Cuddle with somebody special.  Anything to give your mind a break. 

Laughter won’t make your problems go away, and it won’t keep you from worrying.  But it does make those problems easier to face.  And sometimes, it’s just the little extra boost you need to put you back on top. 

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

Posted in Laughter | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

We’ve Got Names For People Like Me

In yesterday’s column, I mentioned that I ride a motorcycle.  It’s a big bike.  The industry calls it a heavy cruiser.  I call it a hog.  Either way, it’s my favorite form of transportation.  Unless it’s cold or raining.  And I’m not so sure it would be a lot of fun in Florida’s love bug season.  But I used to have a tee shirt that read, “You can tell a happy biker by the number of bugs in his teeth.”  It’s something I’m willing to try.

I bought my bike two years ago.  Before that, it had been 33 years since I’d been on a motorcycle.  And everybody had something to say about it.  If you buy a sports car or motorcycle at the age of 51, everybody assumes it’s a midlife crisis.  It’s not.  Getting my ears pierced at 53?  Well, maybe.

It’s funny, of all the people who should have been concerned about me getting a motorcycle, my wife was the one who said the least.  Of course, this is the same woman who once gave me a gift certificate for the office of Jack Kevorkian.  Another time she offered to pay for skydiving lessons.  But three times in the previous year, our local skydiving school was in the news because one person made it to the ground a whole lot faster than the others.  So while she may have been trying to ease me into a midlife crisis, it’s possible she was trying to help me skip it altogether.

And what is the big crisis anyway?  I’ve seen a lot of older men driving Corvettes, and not a one of them looked overly distressed to me.  In fact, judging by the swimsuit model seated next to them, I’d say life was pretty good.  And the girls looked happy, too.  Maybe that’s because they knew the Corvette would be theirs someday, and they’d still be young enough to drive it.  But that’s not for me to judge.

It’s funny how we slap labels on people when they don’t conform to our values or fit a certain mold.  If an older woman dates a younger man, she’s a cougar and he’s a boy toy.  If a younger woman dates an older man, she’s a gold digger and he’s … well, we don’t really have any names for him.  But his ex-wife does.

And it goes beyond just differences in age.  My oldest daughter’s boyfriend is a hillbilly.  I say that with complete confidence that he won’t read this and sneak over in the middle of the night to paint my front porch a lovely shade of black.  He knows we think the world of him.  Besides, I’ve never actually seen him read.

But the fact remains, he was raised in the hills of Tennessee.  Spend thirty seconds talking to him, and you’ll quickly figure out that he’s not from the big city.  Discuss a dinner menu with him and you’ll know he’s seen his fair share of dirt roads.  But he’s got a heart of gold, and to us he’s family.  So I guess that makes me a bit of a hillbilly too, doesn’t it?

Besides, if you knew my mom’s family … whew!  Not only have these folks seen a few dirt roads, some of them still think asphalt is a medical condition.  These people grew up deep in the woods in clapboard shanties with a tin roof and no plumbing.  My uncle bought a “house trailer” and people accused him of showing off his money.  Funny, when he parked a brand-new Cadillac out front, nobody said a word.

It’s all relative.  And in that part of the country, they’re ALL relatives.  Pick up the local phone book.  Two hundred pages, and only six family names.  You do the math!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  Mom would have gotten a laugh out of that, and some of these lines are just for her.  She was the only person I’ve ever known who could watch Deliverance and get homesick. 

But the thing is, we all tend to spot the differences in people quickly, and whether we want to or not, we form an initial opinion on that basis.  That’s just human nature.  The trick is to look beyond those differences and find out what lies inside.  Because the truth is, most times we’re not really that different.

I was in the Navy toward the end of the cold war era.  Back then, Russia was the big bad boogey man.  Everything we did, every move we made, was to protect our country from a surprise invasion by the Russians.  They were “the enemy.” 

One day while we were patrolling the Indian Ocean, the captain made an announcement that we were letting a Russian cruiser come alongside.  I grabbed my camera and ran to the port side to catch a glimpse.  I looked around and saw a hundred shipmates lined up against the rail, shielding their eyes from the sun, looking through binoculars, and taking pictures. 

Two hundred yards away, there was the enemy, casually cruising along as if daring us to make a move.  I remember looking at their guns and missile launchers just to be sure they weren’t pointed at us.  They weren’t. 

Just as I was ready to leave, a shipmate offered me his binoculars.  I put them to my eyes and it was like looking in a mirror.  On the Russian ship I saw a group of sailors lined up against the rail, shielding their eyes from the sun, looking through binoculars, and taking pictures. 

In that moment, I came to know my “enemy.”  He was a sailor.  His home was a big gray boat.  He worked long hours, ate crappy food, and slept in a crowded room with a bunch of other sailors.  He missed his home and he missed his family.  He wanted health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.  He was me.  The only thing that separated us was geography and the leaders we would follow into battle if the time ever came.

This world is filled with a lot of people.  No two are quite the same, but then again we’re not so different either.  It’s easy to form opinions, but not so easy to change them.  That’s why it’s so important to open our minds and embrace the diversity that surrounds us. 

Is a 53 year-old with earrings and a motorcycle suffering a midlife crisis?  Is my daughter’s boyfriend a hillbilly?  Is a sailor from a rival nation itching for the chance to take a shot at me?  Maybe.  But the truth is, probably not. 

I often thought if our ships had gone into port together and we met in town that evening, without uniforms or flags to cloud our senses, I bet we would have had a great time together.  Language may have been a barrier, but there’s something to be said for a pat on the back, a cold beer, and a few hearty laughs.  It would have been a memorable evening.

Alan Alda once said that when people are laughing, they’re usually not killing one another.  And as I look at the turmoil in our world today, the significance of those words is astounding.  So simple, and yet so true.  Can laughter stop wars?  I think it’s possible.  Wouldn’t it be nice to find out?

Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon

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