Friday, April 23, 2010


“Everybody stand up,” the facilitator said. It was a one-hour workshop on Living Beyond Limits and we were near the end of the session.

“Within the next two minutes,” he continued, “I’m going to let you experience for yourself the truth of what I’ve shared with you this hour.”

He explained that in the hundreds of workshops he had given and of the thousands of participants to whom he had shown the technique, only 23 were unable to successfully complete the exercise.

“Lift your right arm straight out to your right and point. Keeping your arm straight out, and your feet firmly planted, turn your body as far as you can and note the spot at which you are pointing.”

We all did so.

“Face forward,” he said. “Close your eyes and see that spot in your mind. With your eyes still closed, notice a new point about two to three inches to the right of that spot and point to it.”

We all did so.

“Open your eyes,” he said. “Now lift your right arm straight out and point. Keeping your feet firmly planted, turn your body and point to the new spot.”

Again, we all did so.

“Is there anybody who was not able to end up at a point past the first spot?” he asked.

No. Everyone had pointed to a new spot beyond the first point.

So how was it that we were able to turn our bodies farther than the point we had first established was “as far as you can” go?

Four things:

One. By talking about the thousands who had completed the exercise before us, the facilitator established for us a more than 99% probability of success. Even though we didn’t know what the exercise was, we felt fairly guaranteed of success.

Two. We established our baseline physical “limit” – the first point. It was a somewhat arbitrary, self-established limit. Despite being told to turn as far as we could, we stopped at a self-imposed comfort point.

Third. We mentally established a goal beyond the first one and we saw ourselves reaching the new point.

Fourth. Because we believed that we were going to succeed, and because we had visualized ourselves reaching the new goal, like thousands had before us, we responded in accordance with our belief.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The irony was too perfect.

Parked just across from me was a beautiful 2010 Cadillac Escalade. Duly appointed in leather, chrome and all the niceties that wealth can afford in a luxury, platinum edition SUV, there was no subtlety in the message that this vehicle communicated. In the middle of its back window was a big window sticker that stated: “Bring It On. Vote Democrat.”

Parked next to the Escalade and appropriately to its right, was a 2009 Toyota Prius in that Silver Pine Mica color that says, “Be Green.” It too had a big window sticker on its back window, and it proudly proclaimed: “Oh It’s On. Vote Republican.”

So let’s repaint this picture.

On the left was an ostentatious, gas swilling (15 mpg), “Yeah, I’ve got money” SUV that shouted: Vote Democrat.

On the right was an unpretentious, gas stingy (nearly 50 mpg), “Yeah, I pinch pennies” hybrid that shouted: Vote Republican.

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


OMG. Look at them, I thought. They are sooo cute.

They were slowly walking toward the Whole Foods Market, hand in hand, and every now and again would look at each other with that ooshy smooshy “I’m so in love with you” look. There is something about the zeal and purity of true love that transcends the work and worries of the day.

As I am wont to do, being a writer and all, I waited for an opportune moment to approach them and ask them a few questions.

It didn’t take long. They had sat outside to enjoy some of the fresh fruit and bottled tea they had just bought.

“Good morning,” I said. “I’m a writer and I was hoping I could ask you a few questions. Would that be okay?”

They looked at each other, smiled and almost in unison, said, “Sure.”

“You two seem so much in love,” I began. “How long have you been dating?”

“Dating?” she responded, as they both began to laugh. “Son, we’ve been ‘dating’ since our Junior year of high school but we’ve been married for almost 61 years,” she rather happily said.

“Sixty-one years. Wow, that’s great,” I said. “But you two seem like you just fell in love.”

“I did, son,” he said. “Just this morning. Just like I do every morning. When I wake up each morning, I give God thanks for two things. One, I thank God I’m still alive and then I thank Him that I have one more day with my beloved Hildie.”

“Oh Fred,” Hildie said, in that Wilma Flintstone sort of way.

“Well, it’s true Hildie and you know it,” he said to her. “Look at her, son,” he said to me. “How can I not fall in love with such a beautiful woman with each and every breath I take?” I nodded in polite agreement.

He went on. “She is my sunrise that gently wakes me every morning, giving me warmth and light for the day ahead. She is my dew that refreshes me and prepares me for the day’s growth. She is my shade under a maple tree that cools my brow from the mid-day heat. She is my soothing brook that renews my aching feet after a hard day’s work. She is my cup of tea that refreshes the lips. She is my candlelight that softens whatever harshness I’ve endured during the day and she is my blanket that keeps me warm through the cool night.”

“Oh Fred,” she said again, still in that Wilma Flintstone sort of way. “You’re just getting all poetic again.”

“Does he do that a lot?” I asked her.

“At least once a week,” she said.

“For sixty-one years?” I asked. I tried to do some quick math in my head, but that just wasn’t working.

As if to answer my unasked question, Hildie said, “That’s 3,521 poems he’s written me over the years, and I still have every one. From the first one he wrote on the one-week anniversary of our first date to the one he gave me two days ago.”

I sat there in stunned silence and awe.

“And I cherish each one,” she added. She looked at him, smiled and her eyes sparkled in a way that, were I not sitting across from her, I would have said was ‘shopped (as in a photo manipulated with Photoshop®).

Fred turned to her, smiled, and his eyes glistened with what I can only describe, rather poorly, as a man deeply and profoundly in love. Suddenly I felt very awkward, as if in the middle of something that shouldn’t have a middle.

“Um … Uh,” I stammered. “Thank you for sharing,” I said. “And congratulations.”

I sat in my car, occasionally shaking my head in near disbelief at the thought of someone writing a poem a week, and more, for more than 61 years. And all for the same woman. And she, saving each and every one, treasures as much for her heart as for her mind.

Treasures, I’m sure, that she cherished so deeply in her soul, that when she died and went to Heaven, they would still be there into eternity.

Treasures, I’m sure, that came from so deeply within his soul, he had no choice but to tenderly lay each word upon paper to present to the love of his life.

They expressed a love for each other, so unconditional and unending, that surely no thief could ever steal, no adversary could ever kill, no thing could ever destroy.

Perhaps they found the answer to the eons-old question: What is love?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


He leaned back in what had to be the most comfortable recliner ever created. The light shone behind him in that Hollywood way that makes the hair look like pure gold. He drew the Cohiba Behike slowly under his nose, as if savoring each millimeter of the hand-rolled silken leaves. Then with a quick and confident move he cut the cap.

He said, “light,” and before the word had even finished leaving his mouth, the white flame appeared just below the tip. As he rotated it, the leaves took on a glowing ring and he gently blew on them until he had rounded ash on the tip.

He put it to his lips and with a master’s touch, gave a puff outward. He then closed his eyes and drew an inward puff.

As he exhaled the smoke, it seemed to rest around his head like some heavenly halo.

“Mmmm,” he said simply. “It is good.”

At least that’s how I imagined it might look like, after hearing a little girl ask, “Why does God smoke, daddy?”

She and her dad had just exited from their minivan emblazoned with a bumper sticker that proclaimed: Do What Jesus Would Do.

Obviously, she had made the connection. If daddy smoked, then God must smoke. Which provoked my image of what God would look like stoking a stogie. Yet as strange as that must seem, her daddy’s response struck me even stranger.

“Because God is under a lot of stress, honey.”

Wow. Really?

Your little girl is thinking God smokes and the best answer you can come up with is that He’s under a lot of stress? Somebody needs to issue a recall on that guy’s bumper sticker.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Having recently sprained the little finger on my right hand, I’ve been compelled to give a lot of thought to handshakes. Especially since some well-intentioned gentlemen have caused me some pain in the process.

Oh, not the kind of pain that makes me physically grimace and wince and squeal like a little girl (because that would not be manly), but the kind of pain that makes me mentally grimace and wince and squeal like a little girl (because in space, at least the space in my head, no one can hear you scream.)

In my life, I’ve shaken literally thousands of hands. From the dirty yet appreciative handshake of the beggar I brought to McDonald’s for a hot lunch and cold drink, to the clean and manicured handshake of a multi-millionaire who invited me into his lakeside mansion for cold-cuts and hot tea. From the weak to the strong, from the literally insane to the genius inane, from the powerless man on the streets to the most powerful man in the United States (the President), I’ve experienced dozens of different kinds of handshakes, including some that aren’t really handshakes.

I like to think that I have the best kind of handshake, an “old school” gentleman’s handshake. Neither particularly memorable nor offensive, it is a simple yet appropriately firm grasp of the hand.

But where on that handshake spectrum, do you think yours is and how many have you cringed at? Consider some of the possibilities:

The Bone Crusher. The Air Brusher. The Cold Fish. The Wet Fish. The Limp. The Bump. The Two-Finger. The Two-Hander. The Grasp-Bump-and-Pat (starts with a hand shake, then you pull each other forward and bump chests while patting each other on the back). The Come-Here-You (no handshake, just a hug – whether you want one or not). The What-Was-That. And my favorite handshake I love to hate – The WTF (where it sometimes starts with a handshake and then progresses to fist bumps and jazz fingers and air waves and arm-thingies and twists and turns and, you get it – WTF?).

And for the women who think I’m being sexist when I use the term “gentleman’s handshake.” Please. My wife and I have raised three strong, independent and successful daughters. Sometimes I call them my girls. And sometimes I call them my guys. For me it’s rather non-gender-specific. So in this instance, a “gentleman’s” handshake is not gender-specific or restrictive. I’m just not so politically correct that I find it necessary to refer to it as a “gentlewoman’s” handshake or a Ma'amShake or some other such silly reference.

Man or woman, when it comes to a handshake, all I really want to know is three things:

Do you believe in yourself?

Are you confident in your abilities?

Do you have a weapon in your hand?

If your answers are yes, yes and no, respectively, then give me a handshake that conveys that and forget all the other crap.

And if you grasp my hand and you notice a muffled scream emanating from the back of my head, don’t worry about it. That’s just my little finger being re-sprained.