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Category Archives: Life

New Year, New Possibilities

Welcome to 2013!  It’s a fresh new year.  What are you going to do with it?

Think about that for a second. It’s not an idle question. The whole year lies before us, ripe with possibility. It’s a time for just a little nostalgia about the year just past and a lot of hope for the year ahead.

Remember, January is named for the Roman god Janus, a two-faced deity able to look to both the past and the future at the same time. That’s what this first week of the new year is really all about. It’s a time to learn from our mistakes of the last year. It’s a time to make new mistakes, and learn from them too. And of course, it’s time for new triumphs as well.

What do you want to change in 2013? Do you want to lose weight, gain weight (not a problem for your humble Walrus, alas), learn to speak Spanish, run a marathon? Go for it! All you have to do is take the first step and your journey will begin.

If you’re content with your life as it is, that’s fine too. Be happy. If you’re not, well, what better time is there to change than right now?

Most of us have no idea how much power we have at any given time. If you want to change your life, you have the power to do that. If you want to change the world, you have the power.

To paraphrase John Lennon, you say you want a resolution. Well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan. Lots of folks are making resolutions, vowing to change some aspect of their lives, great or small.  Many of those resolutions will be forgotten by the end of the month, if not by the end of the week.

Forget resolutions. Don’t waste your time on them. If you want to change something, make a COMMITMENT. Commit to being the best you that you can be. Commit to positive changes in your life. Commit to making the world a better place.

Obviously, some things will be easier than others. It’s a lot easier to drink less coffee, for example, than it is to change the world. But if you truly commit, you can indeed change the world too.

Think about where you were at this point last January. What’s changed in your life since then? Sift through those changes, learn what you can, leave what you must and commit to embracing all the possibilities 2013 has to offer.


Just Another Day

So this is December 13.  It’s no longer 12/12/12. It’s not Friday the 13th. Heck, it’s not even the Mayan Apocalypse date.

In other words, it’s just another day. Nothing special, right?

Well, maybe. No, December 13th, 2012 doesn’t have its name up in lights like those other dates.  But like every other day, it’s not as ordinary as it might appear.

Somewhere, someone started a new job today. Someone decided to quit their old job. Someone decided to go back to school.

Someone mastered a dance step today. Someone finally hit that note. Someone found the right words for their novel.

Someone was born today.  Someone got good news from their doctor.

Someone, somewhere, said “I love you” to someone else for the first time today.

Yep, it’s just another day. And whether we realize it or not, that’s something really  special.

Requiem for a Twinkie

The Twinkie is dead.

So it goes. Another icon of my well-spent youth gone, the victim of changing times.

There have been many over the years. Record albums. Turntables to play them on. Typewriters. Burger Chef restaurants. But the Twinkie hits home in a way the others didn’t.

For a significant part of my youth, Twinkies and their Hostess Brands brethren — the cupcakes, the Ding Dongs (and King Dons) and Zingers — were my breakfast food of choice. First with a healthy little carton of milk, later with Diet Coke, and even occasionally with coffee, Twinkies were well and truly the breakfast of champions.

It started in elementary school. It continued through college and well into my 20s. Honestly, if I had a dime for every Twinkie I’ve ever eaten, I’d be the next Warren Buffett. And now they’re gone, maybe for good. I’ve lost a friend.

Granted, not one that was good for me. Sponge cake, mystery filling and enough preservatives to keep them fresh at least through the end of the Mayan calendar obviously don’t qualify as health food. But there’s no denying the taste, the texture, the thrill of knowing they’re bad for you and eating them anyway. There’s just something about that little yellow pound cake thing filled with creamy goodness that’s addictive.

You want decadence? Try the ultimate indulgence, the classic fair food known as the deep-fried Twinkie. The simple act of dipping a Twinkie into batter and hot oil raised the people’s food into a great American delicacy worthy of royalty. My very intelligent wife, the health conscious one of the family, allowed me to have only one a year. One spectacular treat, on one glorious day. It was worth enduring the remaining 364 days just to experience it.

And now it’s gone. It doesn’t matter anymore. Just like that.

I had what might have been my last Twinkie a few days before the liquidation of Hostess Brands was final. I grabbed the last package on a shelf at one of the convenience stores I pass on the way home from work. Eating it was a bittersweet experience, recalling scenes from my childhood, scenes that now seem a little farther away.

Sure, someone’s likely to buy the brand, and eventually the Twinkie and its siblings will return to the shelves. But it won’t be the same. As with most other resurrected brands, only the name will remain the same. The experience won’t.

Then again, if it’s deep-fried, it might work out OK….

The Benefits of A Little Seasoning

Ah, youth. That golden time of life when we’re at our physical and intellectual peak. The time when we think we can take on the world — and often do, with winning results.

And yet, there’s something to be said for aging as well. With age sometimes comes, if not wisdom, at least a more mature, complex worldview.

Think of it in terms of food. Some things just taste better with a little time to season. Cheese. Wine. Good Kentucky bourbon.  It takes a little while to knock off some sharpness, to mellow the disparate ingredients together into something more enjoyable.

Such is the case with people too.  While there are certainly exceptions, most people in their teens and early 20s simply lack the life experience to process life events and prioritize them.

We had a coworker here at Walrus Widget Industries a couple of years ago who was fresh out of college, and of course, that meant he had all the answers. He knew the latest techniques, the newest methods, and of course, knew many things we oldtimers couldn’t possibly know.

He was happy to tell our entire four-person department how badly certain things were designed, and that he couldn’t understand why they were done that way — as he sat next to the person who designed them.

He had no self-doubt, no modesty, false or otherwise. He knew best, and expected to be treated as the special person he knew he was.  In other words, he was annoying as hell.

He reminded me of someone — me.

I was exactly the same way when I was his age. I was arrogant, I was outspoken, I knew best. In other words, I was every bit as annoying as he was.

It takes a while, and a few hard knocks from life to learn that your place in the universe isn’t quite as exalted as you think it is. It takes a little time to season. You learn to get along with coworkers, to temper what you say, to get along with folks you have to be around 8 hours a day or more.

And you learn that not everything is a crisis or a tragedy.

Said coworker came in one morning quite irate. Seems he had received a speeding ticket on the way to work.  From the moment he entered the office, he was complaining bitterly about the injustice of it.  Continuously. For more than a half hour.

When I gently suggested that all of us had been there, done that, and that he shouldn’t let it ruin his whole day, he responded that I had just ruined his whole day.  In fact, he didn’t speak to me from that point until he left eight hours later.

I’ve noticed something similar in social media and blogs lately.  From my vantage point, best described as comfortably middle-aged, I’ve noticed some of the younger folks do a lot of what I’d call whining.  They seem to be of the opinion that everything that happens to them is of epic proportions.

Case in point. I recently read a blog post written by a woman who was having a bad day.  She had a minor fender bender. She had a minor problem with her bank. Her computer broke — under warranty.

She called it her WORST DAY EVER.

OK, I understand where she’s coming from. I was once a college student too.  A costly breakdown of my ancient VW was catastrophic at the time.  This was the Dark Ages, BPC (Before Personal Computers). But I still had typewriter malfunctions to deal with. Money was tight, time was tighter and there was always too much to do.

At that time, maybe I would have described the day the battery fell out of my VW — on the Interstate, at 65 mph — as my Worst Day Ever.

But here’s the thing — with a little time, that event became something to laugh about. And life quickly teaches us the difference between things that seem big and things that ARE big.

Fender bender? Not a big deal

Broken computer? Not a big deal.

The day my Mom died while my wife was a thousand miles away getting ready to go into the hospital for a life-threatening procedure? THAT was a big bleeping deal.

I’d probably call that my Worst Day Ever.

It’s all a matter of gaining perspective.  And with that perspective comes a new appreciation for the good things in life as well.  That’s the trick. When you’re forced to confront some of the truly bad things in life, you discover the sheer volume of good things — and good people — all around you. Things are seldom as bleak as they first appear.

And my young blogging friend, I truly hope that day you described IS your worst day ever. For if it is, you will enjoy a truly blessed life.

All the (Walrus) News That’s Fit To Print

A cousin gets a new home!

Back to Basics

Sometimes you just gotta get back to the basics of what really matters in life.

My lovely bride and I had an opportunity to do just that  over the weekend. We picked up some friends at the airport who had flown down to spend some quality time at the beach. We drove them to their rented beachfront condo, helped them shop for groceries and other necessities for two weeks, then went out to dinner together.

It was a fantastic evening. Our friends knew a lovely little beachside seafood restaurant where we sat on the deck, watched the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico and shared tales of adventures past and future.

The food was ok.  The cover band was good, playing songs from the past 30 years or so. And of course, the company was wonderful. We go back a long way with these folks, so we had plenty to laugh and reminisce about as we dined.

And for at least a little while,  the four of us managed to forget the concerns of job stress, bills, wayward pets destroying the furniture and all the myriad  issues we all face daily.  We really did have everything we needed — our spouses, our friends, a beautiful sunset, good food and drink and music.

Sometimes, life really is that simple.

Take A Stand Against Bullying

By now, you’ve likely heard of Jennifer Livingston. She’s the La Crosse, Wis. news anchor who received a snide letter from a viewer commenting on her weight. A small-minded individual took her to task for being overweight and not being “a suitable example for this community’s young people.” It was mean-spirited, it was arrogant and cruel.

Rather than suffer this fatuous fool’s remarks in silence, Livingston took to the airwaves in a four-minute tour de force that put her antagonist in his place. You can watch the full video of her response here. (Note: you’ll have to see a 15-second commercial before the video begins.)

Congratulations to Livingston for standing up to a peanut-brained bully. Her example can be an inspiration to all of us. And it’s fitting that this is National Bullying Prevention Month.

Sure, bullying might seem like a trivial thing to many of us. But how many of us remember being bullied when we were younger? How many of us had days when we dreaded going to school because our tormentors would be there? I’d venture to guess most American children were bullied at some point in their lives.

And in a world where you’re desperate to fit in, such hostility can be devastating. Suicide among young people now reaches the middle school level. And more ominously, so have school shootings. Is there anyone among us who doesn’t wince when we recall how insecure we were at that age?

Some say anti-bullying campaigns are nothing more than so-called political correctness. But as Livingston notes in the video, it’s a major issue for young people, and young people might not have the inner strength to shake off hateful comments. Livingston tells them they can be strong. She urges them to learn from her experience that “the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

So come on, folks. Watch the video. It’s well worth 4 minutes and 20 seconds of your time. Then take a stand in your own community. Be as strong as Jennifer Livingston. Tell the would-be bullies that such behavior won’t be tolerated.

If it prevents one — just one — teen suicide or school violence event, it’s worth it.

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