My Mission Statement…

So, I took a couple of days off to recharge and get ready for the long road ahead in 2016.  As tough of a year as it was, 2015 didn’t end too badly. I started New Year’s Eve by giving a final pint of blood (and of course getting oh, about a half dozen Krispy Kremes and several cups of coffee back in return to get my caffeine and sugar levels back to their normal crazy levels!) then got a phone call I truly didn’t expect…from my sister. We literally talked about any and everything, and then about what our New Year’s Eve plans were. I had an invite to go downtown, but was sort of in favor of just chillin’ at my place. As we said our goodbyes, my incredible sister said seven words that just ended the year right; she said, “Mike, go on out, you deserve it!” My sister rocks, seriously folks, she does. I took her advice and headed downtown; besides, my buddy Ira was emceeing First Night Raleigh and it was great just to get the invite. Yeah sure, it was New Year’s Eve, but I had never seen that many people in downtown Raleigh before, like ever. I had a VIP Pass and believe me, I took advantage of it and roamed everywhere that normal people couldn’t. I stood backstage and then stood right next to the coveted acorn and watched them hoist it and drop it at midnight. While people hugged and screamed with the start of the new year, I simply lifted my head to the sky and smiled as 2015 disappeared into the dark night sky beyond the boom of fireworks that ushered in 2016.

Then, New Year’s Day, after I returned late from a shift at the store, I sat in front of my laptop and did something I didn’t do all through the month of December, nothing. I sat stone faced, my fingers arched over the keyboard, and nothing. Not a darn thing came out. Half of me ached to write something since I had just finished up the most successful month of blogging every day that I had ever had; but the other half of me said, “Not now, go to bed and think. Your blog readers will still be there when you get back.” My warm bed delivered the final knockout punch. The battle was over right then and there. Bed, One. Mike, No score.

January 2nd was a strange day. Sure, it was a Saturday so I wouldn’t be at the office, but I wasn’t scheduled at the store either. I had the whole day off. Cripes, I didn’t get out of my PJ’s until late in the afternoon when I went to pick my daughter up. So I brewed a big pot of Blueberry Muffin flavored coffee (big shocker I know) and sat around watching cartoons (another big shocker I know) It was then that my mind starting thinking, “Okay Rumble, what now? What’s your theme for 2016 gonna 1be?!” It was then that my simple little mind which thrives on pictures, found the perfect one. So, here it is; Ta Da; my official personal Mission Statement for 2016. I figured since every decent company has a mission statement, I should have a personal one as well. I’ve read that mission statements should be simple and state or demonstrate what a company or entity will do. I’ve also read that the mission statement should have a goal which is easily attainable. Well, based on that, I am pleased to report that even though the end of the year is still over eleven months away, I’m well on the road to attaining my personal mission statement since mine states two very simple things that I can do very well: Drink Coffee & Make Stuff Up. The other great and awesome thing about these two elements is that they work hand in hand…at least with me they do. I drink coffee. I make stuff up. Mission Accomplished.

Truthfully in fact, that is my goal for 2016. To Write. My call to action to write is also pretty simple, I’m running out of excuses not to. Last year, Don Vaughan, one of my greatest writing mentors, and the founder of the Triangle Area Association of Freelancers, literally tossed an envelope of MAD magazines at me and said, “Write something and send it in!” His reply when I told him that MAD was way out of my league was simple and blunt when he said, “Give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose!” And whenever I see Carol Winstead Wood, sister of the great Raleigh actor, Ira David Wood III, the first thing she says to me is, “How’s your writing? What are you writing?” So, as you can see, my mission statement was already being crafted long before I saw the cool Mission Statement picture!

That’s my challenge to all of you: write your own Mission Statement for 2016 and get crackin’ on it! And heck, if you need help, hit me up and I’ll help you…after all, I’m good at drinking coffee and making stuff up!🙂

My word.

The other day I broke down. No, I didn’t break down and drink decaf or anything silly like that, but I decided to try one of those crazy Facebook thingys called “Your Word for 2016.” Usually, I don’t do them because it’s just Facebook’s way of seeing your information, but this one seemed interesting so I gave it a try.

I didn’t have to answer fifty billion questions or give the exact time my daughter was born, all I did was enter my name and it spat back my so-called word for 2016. The word I was first given was Innovation. When I posted it to my page, one of my friends commented that it would be true innovation for me to invent a larger coffee cup, or an IV with a timer so that the coffee would start to brew and drip straight into my arm before the alarm goes off. That would be pure genius, and heck, I’d love to be the inventor for that, but the actual meaning of the word that the program gave was this:

Innovation. You will find inner peace and harmony. It will support you in your daily struggles and situations that may appear hopeless. This word will always show you the silver lining so that you won’t ever need to worry. It was chosen for you specifically, embrace it!

At first I thought this was the nuttiest thing I had ever heard in my entire life! This had nothing to do with innovation! Wikipedia defines innovation as: the process of making changes to something established by introducing something better, and as a consequence, new.

After a few minutes of utter confusion at the word, I did what I do best and put on a fresh pot of coffee, and I went all daring and tried a new flavor of coffee I picked up at the store one evening, Blueberry Muffin Coffee. Once my thinking cap was properly caffeinated, I took a look at the word again. This time it made a bit more sense. When you are struggling in a situation that appears hopeless, what do you do? You do everything to change that situation so that it isn’t hopeless anymore, and since innovation is the process of making changes to something to make something new, it makes sense that you want to innovate yourself to change and get out of a rut. And what happens when you get out of a difficult rut? You find inner peace and harmony! Blueberry Muffin 810186179-9Coffee, folks, Blueberry Muffin flavored Coffee. It’s what got my mind thinking straight…and made my apartment smell pretty fruity!🙂

That fruity Blueberry Muffin coffee also made the second part of the definition seem right as well. When you’re changing and making plans to fix and innovate something within yourself, you always look for the silver lining, that little something that helps you carry on. It’s very easy to stop doing something because you no longer see the point, but when you hit that point, don’t give up, look for the silver lining. It’s there, you just don’t see it because the thought of failure takes over. And like the last two words say, embrace it! When you move through a struggle, give yourself credit when you innovate yourself. You put up with a lot to achieve it, so embrace the “new you.”

The one word that stuck with me in that whole definition was the word hopeless. On its own, it’s well, nothing more than a hopeless word. It offers nothing; it’s a dead word. I hate it. Here comes the genius, so have another swig of your coffee or favorite adult drink, and get ready for this: take the word hopeless, and drop the less; what do you get? Yep, that’s right, hope; and that’s a completely different word that inspires you to go on because now you have a new weapon, hope. I used to counsel many people who told me their situation was impossible. I simply told them take the word impossible, and drop the im; and then look at the word again. The new word takes on a completely different meaning as well since now getting through a situation is possible when you take the im out of it. Kinda like the word hopeless, you just take a few measly letters out and it takes on a whole new meaning!

Like a lot of other people, tomorrow at midnight I will be happily kicking 2015 off the closest cliff and laugh hysterically as it drops down into the abyss along with all the previous years. So yes, permit me to just go ahead and wish you a year of innovation in 2016, and heck, just go ahead and embrace yourself even if you aren’t struggling. Goodness knows the whole world could use a big hug with so much nonsense going on in it today!

And yes, although I’m sure there are larger coffee cups and timed coffee IV bags already created, maybe I’ll innovate them, and get a billion gazillion bucks for doing so…and then, I’ll invite all of you to come visit me on the island of Bermuda, which I will buy and own using that billion gazillion bucks. And Blueberry Muffin Coffee folks, my empire will have lots and lots and lots of Blueberry Muffin Coffee!!

Friends

We all need them. They help us get through this strange and silly game called life. They give us company. They help us when we’re down; they cheer for us when we’re flying high. They tell us when we’re good; they’ll tell us when we’re bad. They’re simply called our friends. Some have many friends, some have only a few friends. The great thing about friends is that even when you think you’re completely alone, they come out of nowhere, just at the right time.

Back when I graduated college and went to work at an advertising agency, I thought I had found the best friends in the world. I was largely an introverted kid so finding a group of friends who hung out with me at the after work socials and took me out every Friday night was like a new toy; I liked it, and didn’t want to give it up. As my popularity at the agency began to take off, everyone just loved me. I was an easy target for anyone who needed a drinking buddy. The Friday afternoons sitting in my office uncorking a bottle of wine we’d received from one of the TV or radio stations became a weekly thing; followed by more drinking at the pub crawls we did once it was quitting time, the world was spinning out of control and quite frankly it was fun. I had these great friends who enjoyed going everywhere with me. My poor parents had put up with more than their fair share of seeing their son become a drunken slob. One Saturday morning, as I sat at the kitchen table trying to get over the Friday night hangover, my dad, in a last attempt to snap me out of it, sat down next to me, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” My chest hurt as those word became branded forever on my soul since I knew if I did show my dad who my friends were, he’d tell me what I really was…and I knew I wouldn’t like it. A few weeks later, I would experience the full impact of those words when the bottom dropped out, and reality paid me a visit, I got the “golden handshake.” Then those friends suddenly vanished. No one wanted to be around the guy who just got busted for being too much of the party animal. I stopped by the old bars I hung out at with my friends, they wanted nothing to do with me, I had officially become the Invisible Man. Suddenly though, two friends appeared out of nowhere who not only did things with me, but helped me as I went through the brutal withdrawal of drugs and alcohol, and believe me, it was brutal. It was my parents. They never complained. They never gave up. They never turned their backs on me. Heck, they even encouraged me to buy a car…while I was unemployed. “You can do it!” they said. “You can get through this!” they said. It took a year for the recovery to comp1lete; but during the ordeal, I realized who my true friends were, and who the fake were as well.

Fast forward to today. If my dad came to me and said “show me who your friends are”, I’d have absolutely no problem showing him. It was funny, just this past July when I called him on his birthday, he said “The people who gave me the nicest wishes were all your Facebook friends. They’re a nice bunch!” I’ve just experienced a life changing situation that showed me how incredibly lucky to have the friends that I do. Friends who found out simply asked, “How can I help?” and that’s the nice thing about it; my new place is furnished and decorated with things that came from friends. Real friends. The kind of friends a guy can be real thankful he has. And I’m thankful for every last one of you!

I can’t move….I’m not going to make it…

I wrote this one a few years back when submitting stories for a book dedicated to back pain. Never got published, so here it is to share. And yeah, it’s what I get for being a daredevil!!🙂

The water a couple of feet above me looked so calm and peaceful especially with the afternoon sun piercing down into the water creating kaleidoscope images that looked like they were painted across the face of the lake. I was however, unable to move having just landed in the water after jumping from a perch on a rock face some fifty feet up. “You came down straight as an arrow”, my brother-in-law Peter, who was cliff jumping with me would later say; but when I splashed down, my body curved underwater a little bit. In a split second, a cross-current took hold of me and violently snapped my body straight causing every single muscle in my back from my neck clear on down to my waist to lock up. It was in that moment of unbearable pain that I cast my eyes up towards the surface of the water which seemed so far away, and my mouth fell open and I silently uttered the words, “I can’t move…I’m not going to make it!”

I floated motionless and helpless, suspended in place by the very water I had just jumped into.  I felt the very breath of life leave me for a minute or two before my brain finally took charge of my body and instructed my arms and legs to move and get me out of the water. The pain climbing this wall of water to the surface above me was so intense I could feel my muscles screaming in pain as I moved them, and as it became harder to breathe and capture air, my lungs felt as though they were going to explode.  As the noise of the boats and the people jumping from the rocks into the water and those cheering them became louder, my brain pushed my body harder to make that final push to break the surface which looked like a sheet of glass. A rush of wind and fresh air filled my lungs as my head finally cut through the water and bobbed like a float at the end of a fishing pole as the boat my family was on approached me.  From the look on all of their faces, they all realized something was terribly wrong.

“Are you okay?” my panicked mother said. “Something’s wrong with my back, I, I can’t move it and I’m starting to feel cold” was my stuttered reply. “Well, we need to get you out of the water while you’re still somewhat mobile” Peter said; and with that he reached over the side of the boat, grabbed both of my arms and pulled me up out of the water and into the boat. The pain was so excruciating that I thought I was going to pass out, but it felt good to lay flat on a towel on the floor of the boat rather than at the bottom of the lake.

Once back at the cottage we were vacationing at, I was immediately rushed into my bedroom where a pain relief gel was put on my back. It smelled horrible and felt white hot as it sunk into my back to loosen my tight muscles, but was well worth it for the relief it provided. I also felt a bit more relieved when Peter came in the room and said that after he jumped off that very same spot, his toes tingled a bit from the force of hitting the water from such a height.

The trip back to Toronto, between sitting up and lying down in the car and the frequent stops because of the back spasms that constantly attacked me, was the longest I had ever experienced.  Like I felt that I would never get out of the water; I felt like the trip home would never end. When we did get home, it was the first time I never had to help empty the car. I was told to go lie down and rest my back.

A few weeks before this event, I had been to see my friend, Richard who is a shiatsu therapist. He was really great for working the kinks and stress knots out of a back. During the massage, he commented how straight my spine was. I now dreaded the phone call I would have to make to set up an appointment to get his opinion now that I had the accident.

As I walked into his office on the day of the appointment, he could see the pain creased across my face and took me straight into the therapy room. “Yep, you’ve really done it this time. Your spine feels full of knots and is no longer straight. No straight spine for you!” he joked as he massaged and worked on the painful pressure  points on my back, “it’s a good thing you came in when you did; at least I can work at relaxing your muscles so you won’t be in too much pain. You’ll be stuck with some pain for the rest of your life though.”

After a few visits, the pain did diminish a bit; but to this day, I still feel some pain especially when the weather is cold and rainy. Fortunately it is a minor pain and is more or less just a cruel reminder of what happened when I tried to be a “silly daredevil” as my mom called me. 

The year after the accident, while on vacation at the cottage, Peter and I did return to the same spot…and yes, since we both were branded with the title “silly daredevil”, we did go jumping. This time however, we jumped from rocks that were much closer to the water.  As we stood on a rock with only a drop of a couple of feet to the water below, we looked up to the perch where we jumped off and hurt ourselves the year earlier. Peter’s toes tingled and my back tingled from my neck clear on down to my waist. We both agreed we weren’t enough of a “silly daredevil” to dare going up and jumping from that spot ever again!

In the home stretch…

Here it is, the last week of the month. Heck, it’s also the last week of the year! Only a few more days and my blogging challenge for December will be done. No worries now, just because I’m in the home stretch to meet the challenge, doesn’t mean I’ll stop blogging anytime soon; in fact, I think I’m going to keep at it because I know I can do it. Sure, I chose an easy month with two theatre shows to write about, and a major holiday, but that doesn’t mean anything, the biggest thing I learned is that when you set your mind to something, you can achieve it.

Being as I’m writing about coming to the finish line, I found a graphic that I looked at once, then twi1ce, then really liked it for the picture and for the great advice it gives: It’s not how you start that’s important; it’s how you finish. When I was in track and field in high school, I remember our coach saying, “start the race strong; don’t worry if you get a little weak in the middle; but make darn for certain sure that you finish the race strong.” That’s kind of how this month has felt. It started strong and I felt good being able to write something everyday; then, the middle of the month hit, work was very busy and I got home feeling weak, but now with all the madness of the holiday behind me, I’m feeling very strong as I look down the road to the end of the week and the finish line.

We can actually use the same strategy for every day of our lives. Start it strong. Set your goal. Let the pressures of the day push you to keep moving, and make sure you finish strong.Every goal we set is achievable if we want it to be. The interesting thing I kept saying to myself when reading the last four words, it’s how you finish, is that how you finish is determined by whether you finish at all. The happiest thing for me this month is that even when I didn’t think I could do it, I drove myself on and kept at it. What ever goal you set for yourself, just know that you can get it, but you can’t give up, and the greatest feeling is being able to see that finish line in front of you.

Boxing day…and no boxing was done!!

The chaos is officially over. At least until next year. No more Bing Crosby White Christmas, no more Elvis Presley Blue Christmas. All the horribly redone Christmas carols are no longer blaring in every store you visit. Heck, they’re even starting to put out the spring stuff; so not only can you get a 7 foot high cashmere Christmas Tree for 50% off, you can already get a head start on what kind of garden gnome or gazebo you’re gonna put in the backyard.

1So, back in my home country of Canada, December 26th was Boxing Day. And I honestly have to say, that after 30 years of living in the frozen tundra of the north, I still have absolutely NO idea what the heck Boxing Day is all about. Wikipedia has defined it as: a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their masters, employers or customers, in the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies. Yeah, sure I’ve heard that is the day when people commonly take boxes and stuff back, but then, most retailers will tell you that every day is boxing day since people just don’t return stuff on December 26th. They even tried to turn December 26th into a Boxing Day holiday and have the stores remain closed; that worked for all of like one year since everyone just got bent out of shape and renamed December 27th the day after Boxing Day. It was a vicious cycle, and fortunately, some genius convinced the rest to just let December 26th be the official Boxing Day or before you know it, Boxing Day would have become the day after Canada Day, and returning Christmas stuff in July is well, just plain silly.

Secretly, all us kids were hoping that Boxing Day would be just the picture on the left; a day of Boxing. One year, my friends and I decided that instead of a snowball fight on December 26th, we were going to have a Boxing Day Snowball Fight, which basically consisted of taking a bunch of snowballs and putting them in a box, then you just tossed the whole box instead of just the individual snowballs. Silly, yes, but it was sure fun. It stopped of course when the boxes began to resemble bomber planes.

1But in the end, it was Canada’s national sport that took care of our desire for boxing on Boxing Day. The NHL decided to broadcast at least one hockey game on the Canadian networks, and they timed it well so that the game started right after the Boxing Day dinner feast! Granted, there was some football on that day as well, but nothing beats a good boxing match during a hockey game!

One year on Boxing Day, my dad got both me and him a pair of boxing gloves and figured we could have a boxing day of our own. Well, I always sucked at boxing and when he was whopping the heck out of me,  I begged and said, “how about we just watch the Leaf hockey game instead?” The boxing gloves got hung up once and for all and we just became content to watch the hockey players get mad and box the heck out of each other on national television instead.

 

Maybe Christmas…perhaps…does in fact mean a little bit more!

1It’s a great line, and short of all those great lines that Charles Dickens wrote for Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, this line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best line for the season. I hope that Dr. Seuss won’t be upset if I change that line just a tad to “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…does in fact mean a little bit more!”

This Christmas was very different.  A change in life had me spending it in a completely different way than ever before. In the beginning, I was sad about it. I didn’t embrace the fun and the spirit of the season quite the same way. But, as the last part of the quote goes, “means a little bit more!”, that right there is the absolute truth. It really doesn’t come from a store, and isn’t all wrapped up in a great big present. Christmas is about the peace and joy that lives in our hearts this time of year, no matter what religion we follow.  While I didn’t get nearly as many physical presents as last year, it hit me as I drove home that I did in fact, get more presents than I thought. See, I spent the day in the company of dear friends who welcomed me into their home and treated me like their own family. Then afterwards, I spent a few hours with my own extended relatives and came home feeling more filled with the spirit than ever before. The few presents I received this year came right from the heart of those who gave them to me, and the warmth of their smiles and hearts showed me that it’s not about how much loot you bring home that’s important, the real loot is what’s in your heart.

The love of Christmas made the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes, and even changed an old skinflint like Ebenezer Scrooge into a better man; and that is my wish for everyone, I hope love, peace and happiness fill your heart, just like it did to mine!