Believing in Signs

 

signs

 

Some believe in signs from the universe and others believe in coincidences… I think it is more fun to believe that the universe sends signs to us… and I often get the feeling that something or someone is sending me messages. A few weeks ago I kept hearing references to Stoicism. You must admit that Stoicism is a pretty random topic for anyone to hear about but even more so from three different sources in the span of a week. So it grabbed attention enough so that I had to go and look it up to see what Stoicism really meant….

If you are like me when you hear the word “Stoicism” or “Stoic” you think about someone who displays little or no emotion when it comes to enduring pain or hardship.

And in some respects you’d be correct but that isn’t the only definition. In a nutshell the other definition of Stoicism describes “a philosophy based on a belief that we can’t control the things around us in life, we can only control our reaction to them.

I don’t know much about how the universe works…it’s just too deep a topic for me at this point in my life but from what I have learned is some people believe the universe speaks to us. It could be in the form of a quote, a conversation, something that you witness….

In my case a specific topic like Stoicism that through coincidence or not, keeps hitting me in the face for a few days.  So what can you make from these signs? I choose to take them as the universe is sending me a message to embrace and in a way asking me to consider embracing the Stoic philosophy:  Listen..you can’t control the things around you in life, so control your reaction to them.   I think that philosophy has merit and I’ll take that as a message received.

Triathlon – Signs and messages from nature

Triathletes spend a lot of time in the outdoors.  Tuning in enables me to be more aligned and at harmony with my natural surroundings.  I feel it also positions me to be more receptive to messages.   The trick is to focus out beyond yourself, extending your connection to what surrounds you.

Mark Allen a Champion Pro Triathlete spoke to his connection to Kona in the book Iron War.

Mark: As much as I loved Hawaii, and I did, the Big Island was just intimidating to me. The wind, the heat, all of that stark black lava… When I went to Nice, everything there just seemed so easy for me, and Hawai’i was so completely opposite. But I had no way to confront it, no mechanism for turning it around. So when I got to Kona, I went to a quiet spot down by the water on the run course, and I had a little conversation with the island. I said, “Hey, just let me be at peace and feel that same ease and grace that I feel everywhere else, but have never felt here before, and let me have a great race.”

Mark was keenly aware of the power of the island.  He tapped into it as an energy  resource that he later drew on when his resources were low.  I don’t want this blog to become a “Deep Thoughts” From Jack Handey episode … but more to state that we have the power to see and react to whatever we want to.

If you can believe the universe or nature is saying something to you, bend its message to fit your desire.  Our minds have a way of turning pain and suffering into comfort during the long hours on the swim, bike and run course.

file1Yesterday I participated in my 1st triathlon this year… The Cranberry Trifest in Lakeville Massachusetts.

I am always freaked out, stressed and cranky before a race and expend a lot of energy trying to calm down. My coach told me once to think of it as the body’s internal mechanism readying the body for the explosion of effort. Kind of like racing the engines ……

swim-at-cranberry-300x200The swim was one of those crazy zig-zag pattern races that tries to fit the overall distance within a smaller Pond/Lake courses. The race director cautioned us to beware of the “shallow” regions near the pinch points which meant that if you swam wide right you may end up running on a sandbar.   The deepest route was close to the buoys but as one might expect everyone wanted that route making it very crowded.

My plan was to stay the center, try to calm down and get relaxed… I knew I was risking the shallows a bit to avoid getting wacked in the head by slower age groupers in the wave before mine… Typically this is when I need to tune out the gitters and tune on “the flow”

turtleThen I saw it……….What the hell is that???   Is that a turtle? Wow ….now that’s cool….Then I start to wonder what else might be floating out here (snakes, piranha)…then it does a quick maneuver downward and heads quickly toward the bottom of the pond.

I’m now totally aware of everything around me… I don’t freak out but I do spend a few minutes thinking why mother nature sent me a turtle.

I reasoned that … I had a choices to make about this race…I can either pull my head back into the shell and hide in fear …..or dig hard and go deep…

Today you will not be fast…but like the rabbit and the tortoise …The tortoise will finish…and based on your spotty training regime this year that should be considered a win.

Recognizing and receiving information through signs depends on ones willingness to seek and bear witness. The universe is always here to help us, so let it help, and pay attention to what it is telling you.

file3I did finish the swim in fine shape, breezed through the bike and suffered on the run.. but I am grateful to my friend “Shelly” the turtle for delivering a message to dig harder and go deep within…  I couldn’t control crossing paths with a turtle mid race, but I did control my reaction to her and used it to draw on throughout the race.  

 

 

 

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Not a perfect parent.. and that’s OK

bumperWhen you love your kids there isn’t a mountain high enough that you won’t climb for them…but it doesn’t mean you’ll like the hike…..

I saw this phrase posted on the back of a car in the Pheasant Lane Mall parking lot today and laughed to myself…not because I felt it applied to my kids specifically but thinking it applied to myself as a parent…

I know I’m not a perfect parent…because as any kid will tell you that those two words “perfect” and “parent” rarely go together all the time, if at all.   But I wouldn’t say I was a bad parent either, just a good one I hope.

I am overly concerned with the little things like my kid’s catching a cold, so I have a tendency to ask over and over again if they need a sweatshirt…even in the summer time. I know it doesn’t sound all that horrible but over the years it can get annoying.

When it comes to holding the line on important issues is  when I question the kind of parent I am.

When everything is going wrong

When the world is spinning sideways and I’m feeling, “Okay, we are in Shit City and it is time to get out of town.

It still doesn’t mean I’m a terrible parent”  but it is time for me to take action as the Captain of this crew…someone has to right the ship and that someone is usually me…

Right or wrong I go into Parent mode… and….I’m sure I’ll not be getting the “He’s so cool” parent award.  (That would be Parent/Friend Mode)

Being a parent and at the same time a human being, means shooting for more success than failure. Trying to stay calm, but every now and then knowing you are going to melt down like soft serve on a summer day.. And sometimes just shutting down into quiet mode, even though you feel like saying more.

If I were to rewrite that bumper phrase it would go something like this:

I’m a Proud Parent of Great Kids, who sometime has to be a  “Parent Asshole”
And that’s OK…I love my kids…

Where words come from

words1I never know where some of the words I use come from.

For instance, At work this morning I got in a heated conversation about a work process that bothers the hell out of me and before I knew it…..out came  “if there is one thing that gets my balls in an uproar it is” blah blah blah…

The correct form of this idiom is, “Don’t get your balls in and uproar” which people use when trying to calm someone down a bit… It means don’t get so excited, be calm or cool it….   The visual always makes me laugh …. Which I think helps to cool tense situations…I don’t know where I heard the idiom … but I use it unconsciously, surprising myself sometimes, which I think promotes me to laugh.

words-at-workSoon after my rant a woman co-worker from a few offices over called me on the phone to say she’d heard what I just said …. I paused for a second …….and before I could apologize she belted out a big laugh and said: Gets my balls in an uproar that’s a “Classic” I loved what you said, you have a real talent for words!…I’m still laughing and I’ll be using that one as soon as I get a chance…

I thought to myself…bullet dodged…  Ok sorry about that, I said…  I think the coffee has me a little uptight this morning…   She replied.. “Well don’t get your balls in an uproar over it”… See its perfectly to the point..  I love it!  Talk to ya later…  I smiled to myself and replied …have a great one… and then I thought to myself I’m so glad she didn’t get her knickers is a twist over that one…..but knew enough to let well enough alone

malaphorI admit that maybe using slang idioms in the workplace is not the best idea…but I don’t believe we think about them before they slip…God only knows where they come from… but to be sure they are all point in the direction of our lower abdominal region……Don’t get your (panties, knickers, undies) in a (twist, bunch, knot), Pull up your big (boy, girl) pants….and sometimes idioms get combined unintentionally ways with another figure of speech producing an nonsensical result, referred to as a malaphor.  My 96 year old mother Mary is the queen of the malaphor…  Here are a few of her beauties.. fit to print

“Don’t go knocking on a broken door”…. (I have no clue what the hell this means.. but if I had to guess I’d say it means if its broken, leave it the hell alone) …..

“If you are gonna play with fire, your gonna burn your bridges” (meaning: you got what you deserve)

“Donny, you are getting really bald now, maybe you should try some of that “Viagra” stuff to cover the bald spots”  (I assume she meant Rogaine for my head here …any other hairy region is just too disturbing to consider)

I love the colors and images that words paint… nicknames, idioms and colloquial phrases make me laugh … they never get my balls in an uproar…

Lance Armstrong is back.

Lance bikeLance Armstrong is back on his bike …and I couldn’t be happier.   I have been waiting for more than 3 years for him to get back on his trusty steed … (Mano to Bike).

Biking can be a metaphor for life when you think about it. Those of you that love to ride bikes should remember what it was like when we were just learning to ride. Failure after failure before you stop crashing into your neighbor’s car…and then success!  You believed you could do it until you did it.  Mistakes and failures are human, and help mold us into who we become.

Life is like riding a bike…sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy, sometimes embarrassing…(Example: On my coaches instruction. I was told I needed to pee on the bike during an Ironman event not to waste precious time off the bike…if you have ever tried it.. let me tell you it is not a simple thing to do…But five hours and three hydration bottles into the bike leg, I had to go and decided I’d try on the next downhill to open a gap between myself and the rider behind me….On my downhill decent I let go… the flow and the speed from the decent created a giant Rooster Tail off the back, like what you see when you ride through a puddle… the embarrassing part here was the rider behind me made the mistake of using the downhill to close the gap between us…Let’s just say I was relieved when he pass me….)

Like us all, Lance makes mistakes…we are human…It is what we do…some like me make more than my fair share… but it’s the comeback from our failures that is the true measure of a life well lived, not the failures. His ride got off course…but now he is back on course and riding for the love of it versus for a stage win.
Everyone loves a great comeback story and I believe his is unfolding….

Lance Armstrong Speaks At The LIVESTRONG Challenge Ride

If you haven’t caught his podcast series both are fantastic… The Forward Podcast is a forward2great listen into Lance’s conversations with some interesting guests but is not about the bike…and his Stages Podcast is a day by day commentary on this yeastagesr’s Tour de France. Lance is candid, knowledgeable, human …as he fumbles through … with his sidekick “JD” Joe Rogan…a bike riding regular guy and DJ.

 

What is important here is Lance is back and he is moving Forward in his life. I believe he deserves a chance…. Those of you that know how imperfect we can be at times know the guy is paying his dues…. As far as I’m concerned me and Lance are good to go.. Forward…

If you still can’t find a way to be happy for Lance… Think back over your own life…

Someone once said: There is no success without failure, and a person who makes no mistakes is unlikely to make anything at all.

I think failure like biking is not about the falling down part. It is the staying down when you fall or the not getting back on part that is the real failure.

Mistakes are painful when they happen, but in retrospect never really as bad as they seem.  If you believe you can learn from your mistakes…then listen and learn from Lance because he has learn some valuable lessons and is willing to share with us..
I for one can use all the help I can get.

Well its time for a ride… 1st hit the head  …. so as not to leave a rooster tail behind….

Super Hero’s on the Half Shell

Before Spiderman, Superman, The Hulk and Cat woman became popular Catholic’s had to rely on the saints as our super hero’s. In my family Saint Anthony was our chosen holy super hero. His super power was to help find anything lost. It’s a tradition to conjure up his superpower by chanting  “St. Anthony, Saint Anthony please come around… something is lost and must be found”

I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as saying “Up, Up and Away” and leaping tall buildings in a single bound like Superman, but dam …It was a great way to invite someone with experience finding things to help you out in a pinch.   Like the milk money your mother repeated.. Do Not Lose This!…six times before you lost it on the way to the store.

Tony get’s Cement Shoes: In fact St. Anthony was such a big figure in our family my mother had me cement a statue of his likeness in our front yard to show the world that we were part of his holy gang and therefore under his protection…. Kind of like a God squad auxiliary unit …

Until ironically he went missing (was stolen) from our front yard… I can tell you though that praying to St. Anthony to help to find him doesn’t work.  Like all super hero’s he does have an Achilles heal.    Kind of shakes your faith in the saintly power there doesn’t it?

saint anthonyIt helps to understand that I grew up in a town with a dozen colleges in a 5 mile radius…and college pranks are common in our neighborhood. So the thought that Saint Anthony may be subject to prank was why I anchored his statue in a hole with a full bag of post cement when I planted him in our yard.

My mother was beside herself when she realized that someone had taken her patron saint…who would do such a thing?? What has this world come to??? she repeated over and over again.

My little brother decided to use my mother’s confused state to have a little fun… He called the house and my mother answered the phone…

Hello? ….

(in a gangsta voice) Ya Lady..   Listen up..

If you ever want to see Saint Anthony again …

Put $20 and two tuna fish sandwiches in a brown paper bag and leave it on the park bench across the street…  By noon today.. or else….click!

Little did he know that her instant reaction was to call was to the Cambridge Police Department Detective bureau … She is well connected there as most of the cops were members of the local VFW where she was president of the woman’s auxiliary.

Detective:  Mary, Mary…Calm down for a sec….sounds like one of your nit wit sons is playing a trick on you…  Since he asked for food it sounds like that little fat bastard Kevin… check with him and let me know.

I’m glad I was not home that day…because I understand that even the super powers of St. Anthony could have helped little brother find a safe haven from Mad Mary’s revenge.

And speaking of Mary… another popular Saint in my neighborhood was the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her super powers seemed to cross all lines as people prayed to her for just about everything.  She was a mother and like all mom’s she had the power to do anything and everything.. all you had to do was ask… and not make her mad of course.  Kind of like an all purpose Super Hero saint.

That’s why I believe she was the odds on favorite as far as statues in the front yard goes…  Her statues are loving referred to as “Mary on the Half Shell” or “The Bathtub Madonna” …

No matter who your super hero’s were or what there super powers are…I think having Saints on the half shell has taught me a few lessons..

  • Never going to find a guy named Tony who is wearing cement shoes, saint or no saint.
  • Never mess with a Mother … especially when she is in the bathtub.
  • Never request Tuna Sandwiches as part of a ransom demand
  • In order to be a Super Hero today, you need to come out of your half shell…

Up, Up and Away….

 

 

 

 

 

Something smells fishy

LegalGrowing up Catholic in Boston is was a given that on Friday’s we ate fish. To me the best place for fish on Friday’s was always Legal Seafood in Cambridge. Not the new swanky joint in Kendall Sq. I mean the old hole in the wall that was in Inman Sq. In 1968 the Berkowitz family took over a vacant space next door to their family market and made it a fish restaurant. Rumor has it that when the Pope said it was OK to eat meat on Friday’s the family was desperate for new business and had to expand or bust. The dining was no-frills, saw dust on the floors maintained that market feel. We had to pay for our meal before we got it and meals were served at white washed picnic tables, with white paper plates and plastic cutlery instead of silverware. But no one complained; the fish was superb, customers clustered together chatting, strangers and neighbors alike. That was part of the magic…The Fish and Clam chowder (Chowda) was and still is to die for ……..and everything else on the menu was fried (back before fried was bad) and we loved it with heaps of Ketchup and Tartar (ta da) sauce.  You can always tell a great fish restaurant if the place never smells of fish. Julia Child lived down the street and raved about Legal giving it class with what we called the high mucky muck crowd….

In the 1980’s Legal’s business was booming and the growing company was two weeks away from opening a big new restaurant at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston. The Cambridge location I am told was stocked to the hilt with booze for the grand opening (Hmm tons of alcohol and saw dust). During morning of January 16th, fire broke out at the fish market/restaurant/oyster bar in Inman Square and it moved fast and burned hot. By the time the fire was extinguished, the building was a total loss.

Comedian Lenny Clark also from the neighborhood sometimes mentions that fire in his comedy act.  It is important to mention that the Cambridge Fire Department was literally across the street from the Inman Sq. Legal Seafood. Lenny talks about the many strange things that happen in Cambridge and when referring to the legal fire he points out….

“Ya know if each of the fringing fireman on duty that morning, stood in the firehouse windows and whizzed in the direction of the restaurant,  we’d still be enjoying Chowda at Legal’s in Inman Square today”.  “God know those guys drink enough”.

I miss the old place and I miss the crowd…but I have to say…. the fire that burned Legal to the ground is the only thing that ever made it to smell little fishy to me.