Out With The Old, In With The New

I’ve eaten too many chocolates this Christmas. And too many chips and cookies and crap. And like many others, on January 1st, 2010, I’m going to resolve to myself to stop consuming so much and lose a few pounds, especially before my annual trip to the spa the first weekend in February. I can’t possibly lie on the massage table looking like this.

I always tell myself that I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. That’s because I pretty much never stick to them. Does anyone? I mean, the intentions are earnest, but the flesh is weak. Why do we put ourselves through the torture of yet another disappointment?

People don’t only resolve to lose weight, they resolve all kinds of things in the New Year. And I often benefit from it, for instance, because people often decide to learn something new, and some of them end up coming to me to learn guitar. January is always a busy month, almost as busy as September when people go back to school and back to work. Thank goodness, because Christmas often leaves me scraping the bottom of the bank account barrel. The flurry of new students starts to dwindle by the end of January, though, as they start to face the reality of learning an instrument. I can tell pretty quickly if they’re going to stick to it; learning anything takes a little practice. It doesn’t have to be a lot of practice, but some people start coming in every week to tell me they haven’t practiced at all.

I always tell them that practicing guitar is like flossing teeth. It’s not easy to get into the habit, but it doesn’t take a lot of time and the benefits are great. But even that little bit of time every day or even every two days, becomes overwhelming for some, and they start to feel guilty or embarrassed at their lack of commitment. Many of them, instead of saying that they just don’t like it, end up politely coming up with other reasons for quitting. And I just have to say “It’s okay, it’s not your thing, no hard feelings!”

When we resolve to learn something new, it’s always with the right intention, just as with resolving to lose weight or go to the gym regularly. The follow-through is the real challenge. We have lots of enthusiasm in the beginning; it’s fresh, new, and we feel good about ourselves for doing it. The good intention waxes, and then it wanes. And sometimes we find out that what we thought might be a good idea is not really our thing.

Which is why I always tell a new student to rent a guitar for a month instead of buying one, and to commit to a month’s worth of lessons. Then at the end of that, they can decide if they want to continue. As far as I’m concerned, if they’re not getting any pleasure out of playing, it’s not worth the money!

Maybe that’s the same attitude we should take with our other New Year’s resolutions. Try it out for a month and see how we do, and give ourselves permission to let go if it’s not our thing. It doesn’t mean we have to give up any hope of learning something new or losing weight or getting in shape; it just means that what we have chosen may not be the right fit. So for the month of January, I’m going to commit to eating healthier and getting more exercise.  Are you with me?

We’ll see how it goes 🙂


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The Real Joy of Christmas

{{en|}}Image via Wikipedia

One of my favourite events of the year is the annual Christmas Drive-Thru that CHEK Television and a number of local sponsors put on every year to raise money and donate clothes and toys and food to the Salvation Army.

The last two years it’s been a live broadcast from a local hotel during the news hour. Instead of commercials, the news cuts to the hotel, where CHEK staff and other volunteers happily unload all kinds of donations from people’s cars, while the Salvation Army band plays Christmas carols. My job has been the same over the past 16 years or so; I direct traffic.

I love directing traffic. I’m usually not where the real hubbub is, I’m out of the shot of the cameras and the “celebrity” staff and the unloading. But I get to see the look on driver’s faces as they are approaching the main event. I direct them with a happy smile and wave them through, and they usually have big grins on their faces, looking forward to giving their donations and maybe catching the eye of one of our better known on-air personalities.

Sometimes they look a little confused because they are not sure which way to drive through, so I make sure they know where they are going. There have been a few incidences over the years when people did some pretty wacky turns or ended up on a curb in their confusion. Sometimes as they are approaching from a block or so away they start to slow down, so I enthusiastically wave them over until I see them speed up, a little more confident that they’ve come to the right place.

I try to catch them on the way out too, and thank them and wish them Merry Christmas. It’s the best job ever, and even when it’s cold or wet or miserable out, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

So the other day when I went to my father’s care facility to spend the annual Christmas luncheon with him, I understood the grins on the volunteers faces as they worked tirelessly to feed everyone and sing songs and make merry. It was a huge job, even with an army of volunteers. Not only did they serve regular meals to everyone, but they served special meals to those who had special diets. The staff delivered the medications to all of those who needed it, and a lady sat on the piano and played Christmas carols, while a volunteer Santa visited and had his picture taken with every guest. We shared a table with a brother and sister who must have been in their 70’s or 80’s, whose 103-year-old mother was also there. She was deaf and in a wheelchair, but you could tell by the twinkle in her eye that she was definitely with it!

This is the time of year when the best comes out in a lot of people. I know, I know, the worst comes out in others, but I’m going to do my best to ignore that part of the season. Instead I want to focus all of my attention on the people who do so much for others this time of year, whether it’s volunteering at a care facility, or standing in the cold ringing a bell and taking donations. I’m going to contribute by patiently letting the driver in my lane, even if he didn’t signal first, or opening the door for someone who’s got an armful of packages.

Let’s face it, Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people. Maybe in some way, it is for you. So if you’re feeling the need, do something for yourself by doing something, no matter how small, for somebody else.

And have yourself a Merry Little Christmas 🙂

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The Dirty Business of Climate Change

The first Earthrise photographed by humansImage via Wikipedia

I really don’t like how politicized climate change has become. Whatever your opinion is, you’re automatically labeled a right-wing extremist or a lefty tree hugger. If you believe that climate change is a natural, as opposed to a human-made occurrence, you’ve got this set of scientists to prove it. Those who believe that we humans are to blame for this have another set of scientists to back them up.

Whenever I read climate-related stories posted on the internet by anyone other than traditional news sources, I try to research who’s writing it and, even more importantly, who pays them. It’s amazing what you find out when you spend just a few extra moments digging around. Now I’m not saying that all scientists are paid to make their claims, but a lot of them are certainly sought out by particular companies or organizations once they make their opinions public.

The rest of us poor sods are left without really knowing anything for sure, and unable to trust what we do hear. It’s not a very good idea to confuse the general public, and it’s really stupid to fight in front of us because it makes the whole problem seem BORING. Throw your scientific jargon, your charts and geographical terms at us for too long and we simply nod off. When you start to see our stifled yawns, you can bet you’ve blown it as far as your cause is concerned.

I don’t doubt for a second that we could do a lot more to take better care of his place we call home. We really are pigs, we human beings. In fact, pigs are cleaner. Those of us here in the western hemisphere are the worst slobs. We don’t think twice about dumping garbage and sludge just about anywhere, especially all of the stuff that we’ve grown tired of (we have TOO MUCH stuff in the first place!). We pat ourselves on the back for filling the blue box (recycling, for those of you who don’t know the term!), and for putting a compost in the back yard. But we appear to prefer our kids to sit inside and play video games, rather than make them go OUTSIDE and play in the dirt. Kids should play in the dirt. How are we going to raise a generation that cares about the earth when all we’ve taught them is that the playground is full of bad germs and creepy crawlers? Kids are getting TOO germ free.

As you may have guessed, I tend to lean towards humans having some responsibility when it comes to climate change. I come to that conclusion by my own logic and reasoning, however, because for the life of me I could never hope to argue about it scientifically. A very large number of humans on this earth are just like lazy teenagers who won’t lift a finger to clean their rooms. That’s enough evidence right there, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not even sure that scientists always know what they are talking about anyway, for one simple reason: they are human beings. It is human nature, when we have a theory, to fight to the finish defending it. We don’t like to be proven wrong, even when we are. You don’t hear much about scientists jumping from one side to another in this debate either, unless it is in retrospect; “I USED to think this, now I think that…”. Yeah, right.

I don’t like big, dirty companies who’ll do anything to get out of cleaning up after themselves. But neither do I like loud-mouth activists with their holier-than-thou pronunciations, trying to make me feel bad about myself. I already feel bad enough about myself, thank you very much.

Both sides disgust me! And that’s the main problem with any discussion about climate change these days…it has become ugly, and neither side is appealing in any way.

Unfortunately, this polarization effect is going to get in the way of anything major being accomplished in Copenhagen. What we really ought to do is put the scientists on both sides in a big hot room to duke it out amongst themselves, and take all the money away from them. We’ll see who “wins” that way. And the rest of us should just get back to business in our yards and start cleaning up our own crap.

There. I’m feeling much better.

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