Talk To Strangers More

My Happiness Project blueprint suggests that I talk to strangers more.  You never know where it might go…..but to do it well, one has to engage the stranger in a way that starts a dialogue and then enables you to sit tight, observe and enjoy. morning Abby and I made a trip to the post office downtown and afterwards we decided to stop nearby at the Commune Community Coffee Shop for some dark roast ice coffee and a blueberry muffin.

Seating was tight but for the comfy leather chairs in the right side window area.  We sat down and exchanged greetings with what proved to be an interesting woman named Susan, wearing a long red summer dress, wide brim straw hat and sandals.

I’d noticed her in the same spot many times before and wondered why she or anyone would spend the day plopped down in a coffee shop…guessing she might not have an internet connection at home.. But, isn’t it a good assumption that everyone on the planet has internet access?

Although she looked ready for business, laptop open, phone plugged in and charging my guess was that she was more whiling away her day leisurely looking busy.  Anyone wearing a wide brim straw hat inside on a sunny day to me is more about leisure than labor.

Making ourselves comfortable, I cut the muffin in half and then cut one of the halves into quarters.  Before I could quarter the other half Susan said “the muffins here are excellent …  to which I asked..Oh would you like a piece?  She paused…looked at me, smiled and said “why yes, I’d love some, why not”?

I lifted the plate for her to choose a slice.  She started to choose one of the quarters ….hesitated ….then reached over the two quartered sections and snatched the whole half of the muffin.

Abby and I were both left smiling  ….what an interestingly unexpected move she made, one as skilled as any play I’d ever seen dealt in Three Card Monty.  Without skipping a beat Susan proceeded to hijack the conversation…she literally did all the talking as we listened to her life as an artist/photographer/art studio proprietor/ friend of a friend of Mick Jagger….

Abby and I sipped ice coffee and nibbled on our 1/4 segments of blueberry muffin …like parents playing tea party.  I think I even lifted my pinky as I munched on my muffin sliver.

Meeting Susan proved to be the highlight of our morning.  We laughed about our encounter with this fascinatingly wonderful stranger all the way home.  She was interest, funny, and entertained us with stories of her very colorful life experiences.  She gave us what I consider three dozen muffins worth of fun in our very short interaction.  We laughed, dined and sipped together whiling away the hour…

As Happiness blueprint items go Talk More to Strangers is a good one.  It’s full of surprises depending on who you meet.  As we said our good bye’s…I thought about what had transpired during this process;  My takeaway from talking with Susan the Stranger was:  In life it’s not so much the size of the muffin a person takes that counts….. it’s the crumbs they leave you with that brings happiness.  

For more interesting info on Susan see:




Kindred Spirits: “Some souls just understand each other upon meeting.” –n.r.hart


I recently met a friend who shared some of the same odd experiences that I do. The other night Abby and I dined with both new and old friends until late in the evening. During the conversation I happened to mention that I love to drink white Zinfandel wine, which for some reason is considered a low-grade wine and isn’t served everywhere…aka anywhere… From across the table our friend Roberta yelled OMG your just like my husband Reg …he complains about that all the time.   His friends even make fun of him for liking such a girly drink.

See Reg said, I told you I was not the only guy in the world who likes Zin! I agreed and offered…What’s wrong with Zin anyway’s a mellow, sweet wine that does not give you a headache …??? If people are snobby about wine..why is Sangria considered cool?… isn’t that a cheap wine also? What about two buck Chuck? That’s got a cool vibe… From my point of view there is no reason a wino can’t be considered a wine connoisseur.. they both drink a lot of wine and have budget based preferences.  So ease up on the Zin people!

Reg and I agreed that regardless of what others thought we liked what made us happy and were not dissuaded by others critical view. We laughed about a number of things we had in common and it made me realize that kindred spirits are all around us when we open ourselves to being happy with simple things.  Reg and I will stand together to bring the world white Zin… Join us and “Be in with Zin!!

Finding similarities in the mind of others and realizing that you knew your way around their minds long before meeting can bring happiness.  Build your tribe.


Image Credit to Foodists  likemind-vancouver

Getting Focused on Happiness

I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a personal Happiness Project.  I learned a little about the process from Ted Talks and articles written by Gretchen Rubin .  In a nutshell the project aims to help develop a habit for focusing on things that promote personal happiness.  Over coffee my wife and I discussed the basic building blocks of what happiness means to each of us.  I quickly became aware that each of us has widely different ideas about what we each felt are the base level assumptions required for a happier life.  She had lots of suggestions to share for what would make me a happier person…but had difficulty coming up with 10 items for herself.  This category of my blog will be dedicate to capturing the things I discover during the project which promote a happier life for me.

Note: The timing for this project seems right as I am just about a month into retirement.  I can’t imagine being happier than I am right now but realize that like anything in life that is valuable tastes sweeter when you at it.  I spun around in circles trying to figure out how to get started …created a Happiness category on my blog space then took the dog for a walk along the boardwalk downtown to get motivation.


On our walk I stopped to peek through the new  box near the harbor masters station house.  Staring me straight in the face was this book ….which I took as a sign to get started (AKA ….kick in the butt) … I guess happiness is out there waiting for us…we just need to start working on it… I took the book and will be sure to return it once I look it through… in case there is some other happiness project wannabe that needs a push…



A Twenty and Two Tuna Sandwiches ….

My mother always loved New England churches and not just because she’d played Beano (Bingo) in almost every one of them. Her favorite church though, was on Arch Street in Boston. It was special to her because it’s the Shrine of her patron saint, St. Anthony the patron of lost things.

arch street

Whenever my mother misplaced anything important keys, money, one of her sons

she would repeat the St Anthony prayer… St Anthony, St Anthony please come around…. something is lost and it cannot be found.


Then if it was found …she would walk to Central Square (about a mile or so), take the downtown train into Boston to Arch Street, make a donation and say a prayer of thanks to St Anthony.

To her praying to find something and then finding it made St Anthony into a superhero who could solve her problems. …But she told me that you had to have faith and be polite for St Anthony to hear your prayers.

It never worked for me if I joking said..Hey Tony, Tony Look Around …I lost something and it must be found.

My mother was firm in her belief in St Anthony … known also for his power to save lost souls… if you have met any of her sons it is easy to understand why.

One day I got a call to help her install a statue of St Anthony on the postage stamp of grass in front of her house. She loved the three-foot statue of Saint Anthony and asked that I cement it solidly in the ground so … ironically it did not go missing.

Using a full bag of concrete I set his feet firmly in cement shoes …mafia style.


St Anthony stood tall on Allston Street for many years protecting our home, family and our possessions. Probably because he stared directly at her house Mrs. Tavilla our neighbor also became devoted to St Anthony. She would stop by leave flowers and a prayer every so often.

And then it happened… she woke up one morning and St Anthony was gone. Whoever took him must have had a time pulling the 95 pound cement shoes I fit him with out of the ground…

All that remained was a crater where he once stood and my mom was devastated.. Mostly disappointed to think someone would steal something so special to her. She never found it funny when we suggested she Pray to St Anthony to bring himself back…

Kidding her was our way of trying to make her feel better but we underestimated the deep affinity she had for St Anthony..

A few weeks later my brother Kevin thought it might be funny to call the house and disguise his voice as he delivered a ransom demand.

He said “Hey Lady if you ever want to see St. Anthony again put $20 dollars in a brown paper bag with two tuna sandwiches and leave it on the park bench across the street”. Then he hung up…


I’m sure he had a good laugh… but little did he know that her next call was to the Cambridge Police to report the ransom request… they listened to her story and knowing our family all too well and said: “Mary someone …probably one of your boys is playing a prank on you” why not give them a call and let us know if you find out. The demand for two tuna sandwiches might have been a tip off for them.

My mother never found out who stole her St Anthony but over time forgave them. That was her superpower .. she had the power to forgive.

Ya know, I would pray St Anthony if I thought for sure that she was lost and could be found.   But I know she’s not lost …. Mother Mary is in heaven with Tony.

This was her Eulogy…..


The Steel Lady

MaryMotorcycle2-1My mom passed today at the age of 96…about a month short of what would have been her 97th birthday.  Anyone who knew her would tell you it was an experience knowing and being around her… She shot from the hip, straight true and direct… I’ll miss her strength, infinite capacity to forgive and her ability to take a direct hit and keep moving attitude towards life. To me she was steel..strong, supportive and fiercely protective of her 12 grand and 6 great grandchildren.  To her each of her grands were the most beautiful, intelligent and talented beings to every walk the earth….  Pride met its match with Grammy Mary…

My mothers favorite author was Danielle Steel. I always found it curious that a woman taken out of the 7th grade at the age of 11 to work as a domestic servant would become an avid reader of novels. I’ve never read one of her books personally because I supposed if “my mother” was reading them ….they had to be trashy love novels..and it wasn’t until I actually cracked the cover of one in her room to read the authors Bio that I realized there was more literary merit there than I realized.

My curiosity was more about why this author and why only her?  God knows there is plenty of trashy novels out there…  The best answer I could come up with was that I found a number of parallels between my mom and her favorite author. They both have full and particularly interesting lives….each worked hard in support of the homeless, deeply loved dogs and suffered the loss of their sons.

IMG_1504My mom was born and raised in East Cambridge Massachusetts… Her mom emigrated from Canada with her two older brothers and a sister who died before she was born. Through the Great Depression she worked as a maid to support her mother. When and World War II broke out, she worked in the Watertown Arsenal as a crane operator and as a fork lift operator supplying war ships in the Boston Navy ship yard.  She often talked about driving through a snow shower of asbestos used to insulated the ships while passing her brother who also worked building and repairing ships.

Although times were tough growing up she never failed to keep moving forward. Raising five boys mostly on her own she managed to find ways to scratch out a living, feed her family and give back to others. My mom was a lifelong member of the Woman Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW), Gold Star Wives, The Marine Corps Cooties an auxiliary order to the VFW and has worked to support charitable organizations raising money and donations of food, support and clothing for the poor and sick.

One of her favorite activities was to visit Children’s hospital wards in the area dressed as a clown.  She loved to see them smile as she passed along toys. Mary also fed the poor in area soup kitchens, sold poppies & raffle tickets, made pot luck dinners and baked goods to support a wide range of charitable efforts. I found it ironic that a woman who grew up below the poverty line, worked 2 jobs to support her family for many years, living paycheck to paycheck felt such a need to give both her time and money to others in need.

She loved animals particular her dogs Buddy and Beauty which were a gift from her mother to keep her from being lonely.  With a working single mother she was left alone to mind herself at an early age.  She would spend the day in the neighborhood stable watching, talking with and helping the Irish blacksmith’s shoe and tend to their horses… She always said their Irish brogue’s sounded like music to her….  Mary Lorraine Tisdale was named after the Blessed Virgin Mary….Her mother made a promise to the Virgin Mother that if she gave her a girl she would dress her in blue until she was 7.  I can only imagine the state of those blue dresses and high white boots after a few hours in the stables…

IMG_1505Since her passing this morning many in the nuring home asked to stop by and to pay their respects and say goodbyes to my mother…beautician’s, aids, nurses, administrators and patients…. lined up to kiss, stroke her hand and offer a story of what I refer to as a Mary encounter. She will be missed…. It was a great ride… Thank you Mom for everything…  Love Donnie


Laughter might be the best medicine… but hickeys and knee jerking seem to help too..


I have always been a bit curious about non-traditional medicine but frankly haven’t ever needed it. Over the past four weeks however, I have been suffering with a sore and swollen left knee, which has got me looking for a get well plan.

When I get an injury I tend to use fuzzy logic derived from my cave man ancestors i.e. I first ignore it, then try running it out… then I bike on it and even more ingenious, I run a road race to really test it…and to no one’s surprise, it doesn’t get better and in fact has gotten a bit worse.

So I’m thinking it is time to get serious …and reluctantly make an appointment with a conventional Orthopedist… AKA …knee specialist.  Up until the moment I make that appointment things are bad but as soon as I hang up the problem seems to get better.  So, of course I cancel…. then it comes back.  To avoid appearing like a total tool job, I figure 7 days is a practical re-injury period,,,

I have no problem with an Orthopedist but that suggest something is seriously wrong which leads to X-rays, MRI’s, Meds, Physical Therapy (PT) and possibly surgery if it is an Meniscus or ACL injury.  Logically I understand that all those are the standard options if I want to get back to 100% but this injury just doesn’t feel that serious… even though it has been pestering me for over 4 weeks…ya that’s right a month already and I am just now feeling like it is time to get serious…..and mainly because it is impacting my training now which produces stress.

It’s crazy but my usual common sense has been replaced with “man logic” which has me Employing Feelings Over Logic…. which is a classic psycho/biological struggle with guys. For decades we have been accused of thinking more with our knobs than our brains.

I remember hearing Robin Williams joke about it saying:  “God gave men both a penis and a brain, but unfortunately not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.”

 I know it is time to do something other than stretching to get on the mend… so either I go conventional medicine and get myself to the Ortho or to try something else…. My wife recommended I try an alternative approach… Why not see if my Chiropractor can help?
I’ll ask if they work on knees..

Chiropractor’s it seems are mainly associated with spinal adjustments so why consider this route for a knee? We called the office to see if he worked on knees and his response was very interesting:

“Ya, tell him to come over and see me sometime…I work all the joints.. ”  Coincidentally, I remember hearing that same invitation while patrolling the red light district overseas as a Military Policeman..

Dr. P seems to have cared for just about all our friends and neighbors. I was induced further when my wife noted that his pedigree included being a big road biker who specializes in sports injuries.  I thought to myself what the hell…he’s not going to cut, XRay or drug me so what’s the harm?

Engaging the Alternative…

After an overall examination of my knee and a review of the circumstances that lead up to the injury my journey into the Alternative world of medicine began. His diagnosis was knee effusion or swelling of the knee around the meniscus … He surmised that the outer meniscus sustained a squish type injury …like a hitting a piece of liver with a hammer.

phelpsThe treatment ….Knee Hickeys
If you watched the Rio Olympics you may have witnessed Michael Phelps sporting what looked like red/blue polka dots on his back and shoulders. I remember thinking at the time that Phelps had gone “nutso” in his attempt to recapture Olympic glory.  His back and shoulders were covered with purple suck marks a result of an ancient Chinese Cupping treatment.  I wasn’t quite sure what the theory was behind this treatment but if it is good enough for a pro like Phelps then it is good enough for this nut-bag too.

Treatment #1 – Cupping – Suction Cups

Cupping has been around for thousands of years, but when Phelps brought cupping into the mainstream the world took notice and it peaked my curiosity. The marks result when blood is pulled up to the surface during cupping. Here I am now having this therapy applied to my knee and thinking Oh sh%$… maybe this is too far out for me! This is where the feelings process goes to hell in a hand basket and logic wants to kick back in and I begin asking questions.

Question: Hey Doc…so what is happen right now?

Answer: These cups are creating suction on the skin over the painful area. It is used to promote healthy, oxygenated blood flow to an area of the body that is inflamed, tight, or painful. The skin is gently drawn upwards by creating a vacuum with the cup. The cup(s) stay in place for 5-20 minutes. Cupping is used to treat scarring, muscular-skeletal disorders, spinal conditions, and connective tissue concerns. It decreases swelling, reduces inflammation, and relieves tight, painful muscles. It also pulls toxins from the tissues of the body and is mildly painless.

My thoughts here were…If I survived prom night at Hickey High… I can get through this…


Treatment #2 – EMS – Muscle Stimulation

knee stimAfter the cupping we moved to electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), or muscle stimulation, is a chiropractic therapy typically applied to someone who has a lot of pain or spasm in the area of injury or complaint. The approach for me was to stimulate the muscle in the knee area in conjunction with the increased blood flow resulting from cupping. E-Stim as it is called reportedly stimulates muscle contractions to control pain, strengthen muscle, and reduce spasms and inflammation. It reminded me of the time my brother had me test a 9V radio battery by ticking my tongue between the connection points. But when Dr.P cranked up the charge …it was like he attached jumper cables to a car battery sending  my knee muscles to spasm city…

Additional Home Care Recommendations – After the initial appointment my post treatment care plan called for the following:

  • Stretching 30 minutes before and after any exercise
  • Spin (low watts higher cadence 85 – 90 RPM) on my bike to thoroughly warm up the knees before any running
  • Ice 3x a day
  • Drink Black Cherry Juice for knee joint health

Result – I’ve had three office visits to date and I am making progress…

  • Pain – knee pain and stiffness is down considerably
  • Training – Back on training plan albeit a modified rehab focused plan
  • Adjustments- I asked Dr. P to throw in an “out of whack back crack” in for added measure..  OMG…I heard more cracks than a dominatrices whip back there….

Conclusion – There may be something to this Alternative medicine thing.  I plan to follow through to learn if it solves my knee issue.  As I think through the plan of action I believe the quality of being patient with myself is what I need ..    My past annoyance with the slow process of healing has been a struggle for me, but as they say “time heals all wounds”…

As far as  Alternative Medicine…I’d say ..If you find yourself down on your knee…try a little suction and stimulation it might help you feel better also …






The Retirement Rookie


I’m a week into my retirement and I’m feeling very unqualified to answer the many questions I’ve been asked.   How does it feel being retired? What’s it like? What’s your plan? Are you going back to work? How does you wife feel about having you home all day? And on and on…they never stop …but what’s worse is I don’t feel qualified yet to answer any of those questions… other than to say I Love it!

Really …I can say….so far so very, very good…

Love having time for myself…

Love spending more time with my wife and family…

Love not feeling rushed all the time…

Love having time to enjoy working out more….

Love getting things done around the house…

Love having Saturday ever day….

As I get more skilled in my new role, I hope I’ll feel more qualified to answer questions.   To get better prepared I’m working on a set of retirement core competencies:

  1. Not sweating the small stuff
  2. Appreciating the little things
  3. Being grateful for life’s gifts
  4. Living in the moment
  5. Keeping a healthy relationship with others
  6. Avoiding all things stressful
  7. Maintaining a positive attitude – and smiling more (lately this has been a daily automatic response)

Maybe ….if I ever do decide to go back to work again (ya right) …I’ll be a more qualified candidate. But for right now I’m hoping to keep the job I have …Senior Retirement Rookie Well….Gotta run for now… its time for my extended coffee break..