Realistic New Year’s Resolution Planning

lazy

Before you all rush around making ridiculous and unachievable resolutions to live better, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce smuggling plutonium, or tackling whatever other demon plagued you last year, you should heed my realistic advice.

These simple tips will make achieving your New Years goals a lot simpler:

1.   Make your win easy

There’s nothing worse than gearing up all through the Christmas season with weight loss, reduced vices, treating others nicely, then finding out you’ve over extended your self-motivation and can’t do any better on January 1st.  You should start around Halloween with over-eating, smoking 3 packs a day, drinking on the job, etc.  That way, if you even go back to more normal self-destructive patterns, you’re way ahead of the game!

2.     Aim low

“Reach for the moon!  You may not get there, but you’ll be among the stars”…what a bunch of fertilizer!

starsHow can you reach for the moon?  Most arms are no more than 3′ long…the moon is over 200,000 miles away.  Not gonna happen.  And the ‘stars’ are WAY farther away than that.  How can you be among the stars if you couldn’t even get close to the moon?  It just doesn’t make any sense. Guaranteed failure.

Reach for the fridge – it’s right there in your house…even has a handle on it, made just for your tiny little arms.  I bet you can achieve that goal without looking like a lunatic.

 

3.    Don’t tell anyone your real resolutions

Sure, the so-called experts will tell you that getting your friends and family to help you with your goals will help with networking and support.  How has that worked for you so far, my friend?  By telling everyone, you just set yourself up for public humiliation when you do fail. Not a great motivator, is it?

Tell them something that you know you can achieve without even trying…like ‘I resolve to enjoy my leisure time more in 2016’.  See?  That’s something you can get your friends to cheer about when you spend an entire weekend on the couch, binge-watching Supernatural on Netflix!

If your real goal is to double your income, lose 40lbs, and feed the children on the streets of Calcutta, you’re not only going to fail, you’ll disappoint your friends.  Don’t disappoint your friends.

In the end, we all want to find a way to improve our lot in life….let’s not set ourselves up for utter failure.  Make small, ‘fall-off-a-rock’ simple wins that may help us just feel a tiny bit better about ourselves.  Doing that may just help us to stretch our tiny little arms a bit closer to that stupid moon.

Happy New Year!

Bone-head New Years Resolution

screw upBy now, all of you should know that my actions have pitched me a bit off course a few times.  Most of the time, these things happen out of my control, but occasionally I’ve deliberately and single-handedly been a total bone-head.

But hey!  Every new year allows us to clean the slate and start fresh.  An amnesty of the soul if you will. How refreshing.  How inspiring. How delusional.

Instead of setting myself up for failure with resolutions to lose weight, call my mother more often, and being more organized, I thought that this year maybe I’d just try not to do the same stupid stuff I’ve done in the past.  That seems more realistic.

With that in mind, and with a nod to the 12-step programs, I thought I’d share some of these less-than-stellar moments of my life so that you, dear reader, can help me to steer clear of the shoals, make amends for my past indiscretion’s,  and maybe avoid them yourself.

BUT, just for the sake of plausible deniability, one of these things did not involve me (unfortunately though, they are all very true).

WHAT’S THAT SMELL?:  I once conducted a business review with an owner, all the while standing there with a big pile of dog poop on my shoe.

TALES FROM THE DEEP: For a stunt, I once ‘borrowed’ a ceramic swordfish off a front lawn, threw it in the lake then nearly drowned myself trying to get it to swim to the surface….alcohol and peer pressure may have been factors.  And I brought the fish back.

OOPS!: While doing work at a grocery store, I completely tipped over a 40′ aisle of groceries by mistake.  The crashing merchandise missed a mother and child by a couple of feet. I never went back there again.

THE PURGE: After a night of celebrating for the completion of my job training, I arrived bright and early at my first customer sales call and threw up at their front door…while they were standing there to meet me.

CAREER SUICIDE: Golfing at a company event, one of our executives would hit the ball into the woods and immediately run in after it while the rest of us waited to tee off.  Late in the game, when this happened for the 15th consecutive time, the others assured me it was okay to go ahead and hit while he was rooting around in the foliage.  Just as he stepped out of the woods,  I sliced the ball hard, directly at his head.  Only a small branch saved his life and my job.

FLAME-OUT: For Christmas one year, I accidentally caught the yard on fire after throwing a flaming turkey about 10 feet into a snowbank.

DID YOU GET THE LICENCE OF THAT JACUZZI?: I ran myself over with a bathtub on the lake.  We were entering it in a ‘bathtub’ race and while testing it, the front dipped in a wave and threw me over the front.  It kept going, right over me.

YES, DEAR: At a convention, I accidentally pocket-dialed my wife while a group of us were making ‘comments’ about a model search going on in the adjoining hall.

BYGONES: I took my best friend snow skiing once.  It was his first time, but because I was such a jerk, I took him down the double-diamond run.  He still talks to me.

9-11:  When I was training for a low-risk sales job, I was admitted to the hospital 3 times on 3 separate occasions – once for severing an artery.

WHAT AN ICE HOLE!: One winter when I was a kid after a freezing rain storm, my friend and I strapped on our hockey skates and raced around our block on the frozen sidewalk.  As we got to one stretch, I saw that one of the driveways had been cleared of ice.  I stopped but didn’t warn my friend, who raced past me.  You could see the sparks for miles.  He had to buy new skates.

EXPLETIVE EXCUSE: Coaching a kids soccer team, I had one troubled player who had a real potty mouth. At a tournament, I told the other coaches that he had Tourette Syndrome so we wouldn’t be disqualified for swearing.

INAPPROPRIATE GIFTING: Yes I did.  For either Valentines Day or Mother’s Day (I’ve blocked out much of it), I bought my beautiful bride a………wait for it………gym membership.

Whew!  That feels better already.  Achieving my New Years goals should be dead easy with that kind of history.  Can you guess which one if these true stories didn’t happen to me?  No fair for those of you who were victimized in one or more of them…I will block your responses.

Wish me luck!

PS:  The statutes of limitations has expired for most of these, so don’t call the cops.

The Red Suit Conspiracy – believing in Santa

WARNING:  THIS BLOG MAY MAKE FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAT IF LITTLE ONES READ IT.

As a kid, I was pretty gullible.  I tended to think that what anyone told me was the truth, otherwise, why would they say it?

I also spent a lot of time getting sucked in to things.  Maybe that’s why I hate gambling so much.  Not that I have a moral stance on it, but just because I’m lousy at it.

When you’re really little, like pre-school or Kindergarten aged, Santa is like God to you.  What an incredible being, who rides around at night in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, leaving presents under the tree for every kid in the world. It’s no wonder kids run screaming from him at the mall.  He’s super human!

Of course, toddlers don’t think in practical terms.  We are told about Santa, we see the gifts, so therefore, Santa is real.  Simple.

As you get a bit older, you start to see some cracks in the Santa story, though.  Mostly, it’s from older kids laughing or beating up some poor sucker who blathered that they still believe.  Who wants that kind of Christmas gift?

I remember when I lost my ‘Christmas Virginity’.  It took a while, much like my rea…..never mind.  Anyway, it started out with little things like opening the gifts with Santa’s signature on them, then going to our cousins house to see similar Santa gifts with different hand writing on the presents.  That sure seemed odd.

Then there would be Christmas Eve when we were tucked not so neatly into our beds, and I’d hear what sounded like Mom and Dad stumbling down the stairs with something big.

I spent some serious time contemplating this dilemma.  I mean, on one hand, for every Christmas up to now, the manifestation of the great and powerful Santa was clearly evident.  Shopping malls had him on display, Christmas specials confirmed his existence, and our parents and older family members assured us that he was very real.  Then, as sure as the sun would come up, presents were littered around the tree.

Being the gullible kid I was, and knowing I was gullible, meant that I had to take serious stock of things.  I didn’t want to be that kid getting beat up in the school yard for believing – especially if it wasn’t true.

So, I weighed the evidence before me.  The gifts showed up as promised every year, with no trace of them in the house before I went to bed, and all the television, radio, and adult conversation said he was real.  It’s what I was raised to believe.

On the other hand, the idea that one man could circumnavigate the entire globe in one night flying around with magic reindeer, stopping at virtually every house on the planet, and little elves making cool toys like etch-a-sketch and rock-em-sock-em robots didn’t seem very likely.

So, it came down to one key factor.  Was the Santa story a magical truth or an elaborate hoax?  When faced with this at the age of 8 or 9, I decided that the only logical explanation was that he must exist, simply because I concluded that there was no way an entire adult world could support such an elaborate ruse for that long.  Not a chance!

I was happily resolved with my results until one day when I was playing at a friends house, and he said to me, “I don’t believe in Santa.  Do you?“.  Gulp!  The acid test.  Could I stand behind my conviction?

No!  Of course not.  I blurted out, unconvincingly, “No, I don’t either.

Just then, my friend’s mother walked in and scolded us for telling the secret when his little sister was just in the other room.

Wait a minute.  I was lying when I said that I didn’t believe.  Now, this lady unwittingly confirmed my worst fear.  Santa didn’t exist after all.

I was quietly heart-broken.  All those dumb adults really could keep the secret.  So much for logical deduction!

Through adolescence and early adulthood, I was wise and smug about Santa.  I would mentally criticize parents who tried to convince their kids that the jolly old elf was working hard up at the North Pole, so they’d better be nice…..or else!

That is, until I had kids of my own.

When you have children, your cynicism about things starts to soften.  You start to immerse yourself into their wonderful little fantasy worlds.  And along with that, you begin to rethink your stance on the whole Santa conspiracy.

I took a logical approach to Santa, just like I did when I was 8. Putting aside for a moment, just who Santa is, lets look at things:

  • He still comes late at night, delivering gifts to children – CHECK
  • He works all year in his ‘workshop’ so the kids will have gifts under the tree by Christmas – CHECK
  • He brings joy and amazement to little children on Christmas morning – CHECK

I think that if you put a few details aside, like the little reindeer, and the North Pole, Santa is every bit as real as us.  I think we, in our smug, all-knowing youth, had it completely wrong.  The little kids were right after all.

Santa does exist.  There is no conspiracy after all.

Great, old St. Nickolaus, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey who is said to have given gifts to children at the time, was only the first in a very long line.

Now, those honoured enough, and who have a hint of that childhood belief, work all year long in their own ‘workshops’ (office), along side the ‘elves’ (co-workers), and deliver gifts on that magical night to their little children.

What an awesome job to have.  Being Santa Claus. If all those parents slogging away all year, then standing in line at the mall don’t believe in Santa, they are as lost to the magic as any child who stops believing at an early age.

Let me stress that Christmas is NOT about giving and getting presents, or going into debt while burning through your credit limit at the mall.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that spirit, however, bringing joy to children seems like a pretty nice way to celebrate God’s love for us.

Don’t give up on Santa.  He’s real, and he’s in each of us.  The sleigh and red suit may be gone, but what he did, and what he represents is as real as ever.

Merry Christmas!

The Bank Note

Have you ever really looked at your bank statement?  Charges for service, convenience, withdrawals, writing cheques, paying bills, etc.  This is our money, and we’re being charged to get it, use it, or move it around.  Great gig if you can get it!

I was looking mine over a while back, and found a bunch of vague fees and charges for various things that I didn’t understand.  So, I called up my bank with a few questions.

Thank you for calling ‘Monolith Bank’. This is Patty.  How can I help you?”

Hi, Patty.  I was just looking at my latest bank statement, and saw that there are were bunch of miscellaneous charges on it, adding up to over $25.”

“…Yes..?

Well, since I don’t write more than one cheque per month, don’t use my overdraft protection, or really do anything other than have money come in and go out, I don’t know what these charges are for.”

What is it you’re not sure about with these charges?”  Patty asked, showing early signs of frustration.

Since you feel that you need to take this money from my account without my approval, I should at least know why, right?  I want you to explain each one of these charges to me”.

We can’t do that”, she explained.

Well, if you can’t tell me what these are, I’m not paying them”, I tried to say as evenly tempered as I could.

We can’t explain them all.  It would take too long.  I’ll go ahead and reverse the charges on your latest statement”.

Really? Thanks! I’ll call you again next month.  Thanks, Patty.” Then I hung up quickly.

Maybe I won that little battle, but I know I’m losing the war.  You can’t beat the banks.

During a radio segment on business earlier this week, the announcer noted that a major Canadian bank posted it’s quarterly earnings (profit).  This bank made over $1 billion dollars in a 3 month period.  Wow!  Many countries don’t have this kind of GDP.  That’s an astounding number, and makes you wonder just how fat the bank is.

In the same sentence, the radio expert noted that since the earnings were slightly less than they expected, the bank announced that they would immediately lay off over 1,000 employees.

Huh?  Did I miss something?  A bank makes over a billion dollars in 3 months, but because they didn’t make as much as they thought, they’d send 1,000 families into financial crisis.

Here’s another thing that doesn’t seem to make sense either; loans.  If you need money, you probably don’t have it, or you wouldn’t need it in the first place, but to get a loan, you need to show that you don’t need it, or they won’t give it to you.

Then, if the bank gods look favourably on you and decide to allow you to borrow, the poorest will pay the most for that loan.  Again, if you’re better off, the loan costs less, but if you’re on hard times, they’ll charge you more.

Now, I’m no fan of the ‘occupy movement’, and I certainly don’t subscribe to a socialist view on the world, mostly because it’s not realistic or attainable.  As long as there are people, some will always rise to greatness and some will always fall to destitution.  It’s as sure to happen as the sun coming up tomorrow.

But at some point, you have to wonder what it would take for these financial giants to stop the ludicrous blood-letting that it puts its customers through.

Over the next few months, a bunch of my former coworkers will discover their employment fate as my old company winds down operations in Canada.

This has become a common tale lately, as other companies announce downsizing and layoffs just ahead of the Christmas Holiday season.  We’ll likely see more announcements in the new year after the holiday seasons’ tallies are completed.

When a company loses money consistently for a period of time and there’s no immediate rebound on the horizon, you end up in this predicament.  It’s just economics.  And it sucks!

I hope that business leaders faced with these decisions, really dive into the real cost of downsizing, and it’s impact not only on the emotions and finances of its employees, but also the larger effect of what happens as a cascade effect on the economy as a whole.

In 1914, Henry Ford announced that he would start paying his employees a princely sum of $5 per day, pretty much doubling the average wage of the day.  This accomplished 2 things for Mr. Ford:

  1. It reduced attrition.  Losing skilled workers was very expensive from a retraining standpoint, and it slowed production
  2. It meant that once the other manufacturing sectors caught on, people could afford to buy his cars

This thinking revolutionized the manufacturing sector, and gave birth to the American middle class.

I’m not suggesting that companies like Sears suddenly decide that if they double the wages of their workers, things will get better for them.  The concept of maintaining a working class, however, becomes a fundamental necessity in order to provide a source of income for itself.  It’s a bit selfish, I guess, but if people are out of work, they’ll stop buying from you.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  There are other jobs out there, and when you get thrown into the ocean from a burning ship, you might be surprised at how good it feels.  Most will get picked up by a passing boat.  With any luck, it’ll be a luxury liner, and not a garbage scow.

As I said earlier, I’m no economist, and I’m certainly not a captain of industry – minds greater than mine are in control.  That doesn’t mean though, that I don’t have a voice or options.

Patty can expect a call again soon, I can move my money to a fee-free financial institution, and when I’m out shopping later today, I might even check my lottery ticket.

Fingers crossed!

Folklore, Flaming Turkeys and Family Traditions

Welcome to my first blog.

Life is full of silly little events and happenings that we often dismiss or forget about over time.  Occasionally however, our normal everyday events can sometimes create the most memorable, lasting impressions on our families and friends.  I think this is how some of the greatest legends that long ago were retold around campfires and grew into supernatural or completely unbelievable folk-tales.  I have had the pleasure (although the jury is still out) of having several of these unique opportunities occur over the years.  I have one story, which is completely true (to the best of my recollection) that I have repeatedly been asked to retell – coincidentally, around above mentioned fires, usually after too many adult beverages, or on long car rides with the kids.

My story starts about 10 years ago, when my wife and I were hosting Christmas Dinner at our very small semi-detached house.  If you’ve ever hosted a family dinner, you know how stressful it can be.  Multiply that by a gazillion (that’s a real number – I looked it up!), and you get a sense of what Christmas Dinner hosting is like. The first step is an entire remodel of the house; painting, plastering, moving furniture, cleaning places that any self-respecting guy doesn’t even go, let alone sponge-mop.

We were really excited about our ‘turn’ at hosting my family this particular year.  Although my family isn’t huge by European standards, we usually run into the high-teens on head-count, and no one is what I’d call a light eater.  It’s also important to know that I have 3 brothers, all of whom are over-achievers, highly competitive, and sarcastic…..like dictionary definition sarcasm, not the pedestrian type.

Friends of ours had returned from a trip south of the border, and insisted that the best turkey they’ve ever eaten was a ‘deep-fried’ one.  WHAT??  Deep-fried turkey?  That was an insane thought – clearly an American tail-gate phenomenon that had no business on the respectable tables of a conservative Canadian table.  Of course, lacking all clear judgement, I borrowed their deep fryer for this years feast.  Now, I know what you’re thinking – recipe for disaster, right?  Wrong! I’m a responsible guy…

Using my talented food-service skills (and a few ‘Google’ searches), I found a great recipe for deep-fried turkey using a dry rub under the birds skin, and then soaking it in a bourbon mixture to pickle the bird for a few days before the big event.  Yum!

To be sure I wasn’t going to fail in front of my watchful, blood-thirsty family, I did a ‘test boil’ with the deep-fryer, using a chicken….smart, eh?  Well, it cooked perfectly in about 20 minutes and tasted great.  Excellent – man, I am GOOD!

Christmas day came – along with about a foot of fresh snow. I had set up an elaborate station in my backyard on a cement basketball pad, complete with overhead lighting, side walls to control the wind and snow, the soon-to-be infamous deep fryer, and a barbeque that played host to a ham (this might be a good place to tell you that my wife is a genius, thinking that some extra food might be a good backup plan.  Just in case).  Family arrived in stages, each one hoping they weren’t the last ones, since the disgrace of being the latest group is akin to being tarred and feathered and strutted through town.

Things were going great!  Liberal amounts of beverages were being consumed, the ladies were busy preparing vegetables and other stuff that for some reason should be on the table, but never gets any real credit.  The meat is the big show.  As it goes, so does the entire meal.  No one leaves the party saying ‘I must get that salad recipe from you’.

I had the deep-fryer chugging away in the back yard.  The ham was cooking slowly next to it on the barbeque.  It was time.  Like some sacred ceremony, I retrieved the beautiful bird from it’s bourbon bath and prepared to lower it into the peanut oil hot-tub at precisely the right temperature. I could almost hear a chorus of Angels as I lifted it out of the cooler it rested in. It would be a 40 minute oil bath, ending in a mouth-watering creation that Martha Stuart would be envious of.  How exciting!

Apparently, there is some chemical reaction between boiling oil and bourbon that I don’t recall hearing about in grade 10 science class.  Maybe I was off that day.  Anyway, as I lowered the fated bird into the oil, it seemed to reach up and grab the bourbon with a fury of anger and intent.  The oil shot upward, and over the side of the deep-fryer, spilling down and hitting the open flame below it.  Did I mention the open flame?  Anyway, apparently there is also some chemical reaction with fire and oil.  Another missed science class, I suppose.

As the oil hit the flames, the fire moved like lightning up the sides of the deep-fryer, igniting the entire contraption, down onto the oil that now covered the ground, and shot up, engulfing the doomed, bourbon-soaked bird that I was still holding.  There’s probably another lesson about fire and alcohol, but I’ll save that for another time.

As the fire covered the turkey, I panicked, and leaped backwards, quickly lifting the turkey out of harms way.  In doing so, my foot slipped on the oil-soaked ground, throwing me off-balance.  The turkey was now fully air-borne, looking like some Viking fire weapon or demon caber-toss thing, and it flew, fully on fire like a small meteorite across the yard, landing in a large snow-bank, making a perfect turkey-shaped hole like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon.  There’s another science lesson here – snow puts out fires.

By now, I have a missing turkey, a good part of my backyard is on fire, and I’m laying in a small pool of burnt oil, slipping like Bambi on ice, trying to get my footing.   I do finally make it to my feet, and frantically grab handfuls of snow to put out the fire.  Eventually, the angry oil subsides, so I take the opportunity to dash back into the house, letting my concerned family know that we don’t need the fire-bombers after all.  Turns out that despite all of this fire and brimstone going on right outside the dining room window, not a single person noticed the carnage going on in the back yard.

As for the turkey, well, it looked like a bowling ball with wings, but we did manage to harvest a bit of breast meat….and everyone loved the ham.  I think I mentioned my wife the genius, right?  I also recall more than a few people asking for the yummy salad recipe that year as they left.