Friday, March 12, 2010


Daylight Savings Time kicks in Saturday night (actually, early Sunday morning), so I thought I’d share my seven things to do this weekend to prepare for Spring (which officially begins next Saturday).

One. Before you “lose” an hour to this annual ritual, assess and evaluate your progress on those New Year’s Resolutions you made, or their lack thereof, and adjust accordingly. Personally, I find Spring Resolutions are a lot easier to hold onto. The days are getting warmer, brighter and “longer” and it seems a lot more conducive to pursuing new activities now, than it does in the middle of colder, grayer and “shorter” days.

Two. Walk around the outside of your home. Make a list of all the things that need attention. New paint? Clean gutters? Landscaping? Dirty windows (just add this one to your list. Trust me, they’re very probably dirty)? Foundation cracks? Whatever it is, it’s a little easier to notice before everything greens up and “hides” the things that need your attention.

Three. Walk around the inside of your home. Look at things with an eye toward cleaning, uncluttering and renewing. Especially check inside those “closed” spaces – closets, under the sinks, attic, pantry. Those spaces tend to collect things as time goes on, things that may no longer be needed, useful or worth the space they are taking. Look at your interior living space as you would if you were moving in for the first time. Do you really want that slow-cooker that you haven’t used in years taking up precious cupboard or counter space? Get rid of it. Tired of that avocado color in the kitchen? Re-paint it. Those three pair of parachute pants still hanging in the back of your closet? They’re not likely to come back in style, so, get rid of them.

Four. Walk around your car. Make a list of those things you’ve been wondering about over the winter. New wipers. That rattle underneath the car. That “weird” smell you get when you brake hard. Oil Change. VACUUM THE INTERIOR. That hazy film that has covered the interior windows. Yeah, those kinds of things.

Five. Walk around your neighborhood. After you get home, realize how good walking can be for your health, and possibly getting to know your neighbors better. Be seen, be friendly, be healthy. Walking is good for you. Start a Spring routine and follow it through the rest of the year as well.

Six. Do a tool inventory and check. From your toolbox to your toolshed, figure out what you have, what condition they’re in, what you need to do to get them in good shape, and what new tools you need. Lawnmower need a tune-up? That rusty, old saw need replacing? Don’t have a sparkplug socket to take care of that engine? Have 23 screwdrivers but no hammer because it broke last time you used it? Now’s the time to take stock.

Seven. Check and change your batteries. Wall clocks. Electronics. Flashlights. Alarm clocks. Phones. Smoke alarms. So many things have batteries that may need replacing. By checking them now, before you really need them, you can save yourself some aggravation later. Don’t have a battery-life indicator? Check some out on And consider re-chargeable batteries. If you go through batteries like my family of five, they more than pay for themselves in short order.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to push your clocks ahead an hour Saturday night, just before you go to sleep.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


“I wasn’t a very good scout when I was a kid,” his letter started. “In fact, I was a very bad one. Even though I enjoyed the meetings, activities and camps, I also stole money from the dues box – ten cents per week per kid, candy from the quartermaster’s canteen, and cheated to get the few merit badges I wore. No one ever caught me and I never confessed, until now.”

I wondered where this was going.

He continued. “Time passed and I grew into adulthood. I got married and had four children. Three sons and one daughter. As they reached scout age, I realized that the Scouts had taught me more than I deserved.” Here he enumerated many of the things he had learned and put into practice as an adult, husband and father.

“I encouraged my children to become active in Scouting,” his letter said. “And they all did very well and while I am still ashamed to say I am not proud of my years as a Scout, I am very proud of my children’s years as Scouts.” Here he enumerated the scores of merit badges his kids had earned, the right way, along with the many life lessons they were putting into practice.

His letter ended: “Enclosed please find a check for $1,000. I am sorry for having stolen and cheated during my early years but I am very, very thankful for the life lessons learned and practiced, even if it took me years after leaving the Scouts to learn them.”

I wanted to share this story with my readers because it illustrates a simple moral. Sometimes the seeds we plant in one season will produce fruits that others will eat in another season.

The Scouting Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


“Can’t the government do something about how obese I’ve become? I mean, it’s obvious I can’t do anything about it myself. I’ve tried diet after diet and I just keep getting fatter and fatter and fatter.”

“So what do you want them to do?”

“I don’t know. Something. I just don’t want to get any fatter even though I know I will. Could you pass me the butter, please?”

I watched as he buttered his second freshly-baked sticky bun with pecans, drizzled with a thick buttercream frosting. He washed each bite down with a huge gulp of Diet Coke®. He was on his third free refill.

The waitress came by and asked him if he was “going to have another?” I assumed she was asking about more soda since he was about halfway through his glass already. He told her, yes.

My assumption was wrong. It was another sticky bun.

“Thanks,” he said. “And could you bring me another Diet Coke®, please? Oh, and some more butter. Thanks.”

Okay. I’ve seen people eat huge amounts of food before, and not all of them were obese. In fact, in my teen years, I could consume massive quantities of food in one sitting, and I was fit and trim. But this spectacle was bordering on the ridiculous.

He started his breakfast with a bacon-wrapped sausage and waffle appetizer. Followed by the meatapalooza four-egg omelet, topped with cheddar and hot pepper cheeses and a hollandaise sauce. (The meatapalooza omelet included real bacon bits, three kinds of sausage, diced ham, diced Spam®, pepperoni, taco-seasoned ground beef, butter-sautéed onions and mushrooms, and gyros. Yes, and gyros). It also came with a huge helping of home-style, pan-fried potatoes drenched in “the best pork gravy east of the Mississippi.” On a separate plate, he ordered his chocolate chip pancakes with a couple pats of butter on each pancake, and he ordered the five-stack. He skipped the maple syrup. However, he dipped each forkful in a side bowl of warm strawberry compote.

I think we can all agree that this young man was eating way too much food, especially for a man of his size (I’m guessing near 350 pounds). And it was the wrong kind of foods, especially for someone who was complaining about getting fatter and fatter.

But the two things that surprised me most were not his size or the 49 pounds of food, fat and fizz he was consuming in “one” meal.

First, was his opening salvo, “Can’t the government do something…?”

Really? The government?

I’m certain we don’t need another bloated bureaucracy, tucked deep within the fatty folds of a Department of Corpulent Re-Education and Downsizing, to tell us (or force us to do) what we already know.

Second, was his lament that he didn’t want to get any fatter, “even though I know I will.”

And that is probably the primary reason he has, in effect, given up. He has undoubtedly endured more than enough failures at losing weight that he now mentally expects that he will just continue to get “fatter and fatter and fatter.” It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. He lives down to his expectation.

So for those struggling with extreme weight loss goals, here are three tips from my upcoming book on dropping 50 pounds or more.

Be Still. Take a deep breath and quiet your mind. The negative self-chatter that so often clutters our thoughts can damage our health as much as the negative eating can. Never “just eat.” Take a moment before each meal, and if necessary before each bite, to quiet your mind and be thankful for what you’re about to eat.

Be UnStill. While being still deals with your mind and emotions, being unstill deals with your body. You already know this, but I’ll say it anyway. Stretching to reach the TV remote is not exercise. Lifting your leg to find that M&M® you just dropped is not exercise. Bending down to get that bag of chips on the bottom shelf, is not exercise. And walking out to the car to drive out to the mailbox at the end of your driveway to get your mail, is not exercise. Check with your health-care provider and begin moving. And move a little more each day.

Be Aware. Do you know exactly how many calories you eat per day? Per week? Per meal? And I do mean, exactly. One of my favorite night snacks used to be a bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi® with ten Ritz® Crackers topped with some aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese. I never bothered to actually count the calories, but I “figured” there were probably about 200 to 300 calories. And then one night, I really figured it out. My nightly snack, which I counted as “not being very much” was actually 795 calories. And if I had a second Pepsi® it was over 1,000 calories. Just for a “little” nightly snack.

This is by no stretch of the imagination, any sort of comprehensive weight loss system. It’s just a few tips to get started. These were the three tips that I began my pursuit to get from nearly 500 pounds down to my target weight of 210 pounds. You can do it.

Get started today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


It was a fairly easy commute this morning. The three lanes of freeway traffic were flowing along at about 65 mph. There was, of course, the natural ebb and flow of cars merging, changing lanes, exiting, speeding up a bit, slowing down a bit, but for the most part it was an easy commute.

That is, until Methuselah decided to merge from the entry ramp to the freeway.

Within the time and space of about ten seconds, the millennigenarian managed to find an opening in the traffic and drive in.

Unfortunately, when he actually was in the freeway lane, he was not driving at 65 mph, or even 45 mph, or even 30 mph. No, he was the head-stuck-in-his-shell tortoise lumbering into the fast lane of hares, but this was not about “slow and steady wins the race.” This was about fast and ready keeps the pace.


Followed by a chain reaction of similar screeches as driver after driver after driver slammed on their brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of them that had already slammed on their brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of them.

Methuselah, oblivious to the sights and sounds of accidents being averted by the scared and angry drivers behind him who somehow managed to avoid a horrendous pile-up of accidents, continued to slowly accelerate until he managed to reach about 50 mph, still under the speed limit for that stretch of freeway.

As I thought about what happened, I realized that what bothered me the most about the incident was the apparently complete lack of awareness by Methuselah as to the conditions of the traffic he was driving into. Or maybe he had a complete lack of caring. In either case, it was dangerous. That he was oblivious to the flow of life around him, made me more aware of the flow of life around me.

Traffic, conversations, moods, productivity, relaxation, tides … almost everything has a flow to it. And I believe that the more we are aware of the flow of life, the more easily we will be able to adapt and swim with it, or become strong to swim against it.

What matters is that we are aware.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I backed into the parking space at the library, as is my usual habit. (I find it much easier and safer to back into a parking space than to back out). As I gathered my things to bring in, I noticed a rather unusual sight.

Dressed in a suit was a thirty-something young man, picking up trash outside the front entrance. It’s not that he was picking up a few pieces, he was picking up a lot. Eventually he picked up what looked to be the source of most of the flying trash: one of those plastic grocery store bags that had apparently been dropped near the entrance and then had emptied half its contents as the wind whipped it around.

In the couple of minutes that he spent gathering up the trash, there were about a half dozen people who passed him on their way into the library. No one helped. In fact, only one seemed to really notice him and what he was doing, but offered no help.

He finished his task, dropped the bag in the trash can, and walked into the library.

I saw him again, inside the library, and recognized who he was. He was a vice president of a locally-headquartered international company with scores of millions in annual sales. He was, as he always was, impeccably dressed. Tailor-made suit, starched white shirt, silk tie, highly-polished shoes. He was GQ-style from head to toe.

Yet he was outside a public library picking up trash a few minutes earlier.

I walked up to him, told him what I saw and asked him why he did it.

His answer was simply, “Because it had to be done.”

And I realized that one of the reasons why he was a highly successful individual was because he practiced, as just about every other highly successful individual does, one of the keys to enjoying a high quality of life. He does the things that have to be done. It didn’t matter to him that other people did not do it, or that the library had a maintenance person whose job included such a task, he was there at the time it needed to be done, was able to do it, and so he did.

As you go through this week, think about the opportunities to contribute to your, and others, quality of life. When the opportunity presents itself, and it will, take advantage of it.

Simply, because it has to be done.