Life

life

Are You a Modern-Day Chicken Little?

Learn the Danger Signs of a Sky-is-Falling Persona

Chickenlittle2

According to the fable, Chicken Little believes the world is doomed after an acorn falls on his head. “The sky is falling!” he proclaims to everyone he passes on his way to see the king.

CL persuades others to buy into his tragic belief, but eventually this chick loses all credibility.

I’ve seen my fair share of modern-day Chicken Littles. For them, everything is a fire drill – even mundane, insignificant drivel. And, they believe, it all deserves immediate attention.

Folks initially take heed and treat them with respect, but eventually, they tune ’em out.

Because most offenders aren’t even aware of their “issues,” here are some handy danger signs to watch for:

  • “High priority” is the default setting on your Outlook account.
  • Your life plan is modeled after The Battle of Midway.
  • You call in sick to work when it’s partly cloudy.
  • You find Lady Gaga’s music to be quite understated. 
  • You’ve never forgotten that nasty flu shot from 1993.
  • Your mother’s great uncle once met the Pope.
  • Each time you watch “The Wizard of Oz,” you’re convinced the Wicked Witch will finally kill Dorothy.
  • You were one of those kids who believed he was dying everytime he got a bloody nose. 
  • You’ve heard the sun is gradually burning out.
  • You think you have the most amazing dog ever.
  • You can’t spell (or say) the word “subtlety.”
  • One time, during that terrible snowstorm, you nearly fishtailed.

Chicken-little

P.S. The same principles apply to Henny Penny as well.

 

See related post: My Exclamation Point

Laughing at Chuckles the Clown

When Hilarity Takes Charge.

Chuckles

“Chuckles Bites the Dust” ranks as one of the most beloved 30 minutes in the history of television. The classic episode first aired in 1975, during the sixth season of the legendary Mary Tyler Moore Show. 

Mary spends most of the show berating her colleagues for making shameless jokes about the untimely demise of Chuckles, the WJM-TV children’s clown who’s killed in a freak accident (dressed like a peanut, he’s crushed to death by a rogue elephant…)

While Murray, Lou, Ted and Sue Ann can’t help but be utterly amused by the scenario, Mary is completely offended and sees no humor whatsoever in Chuckles’ sad situation.

Yet during the most somber occasion of all – Chuckles’ funeral – Mary absolutely can’t control herself and bursts out into a full-on belly laugh. 

As they say, timing is everything.

I’m reminded of an incident in high school when my best buddy Bob and I were interacting with the school librarian (affectionately nicknamed ‘Bird Legs’ by an uncredited but insightful alum).

BL was lecturing us about the challenges of shelving quartos (oversized books), a topic she clearly found both serious and riveting.

And let me just say it took every ounce of strength I had to quell the burning desire to burst into hysterics. My body quivered, ached and yearned to be freed from its forced captivity.

Finally, I reached that point of no return and started laughing convulsively. Rather than dare look at Bob, I simply placed my hand in front of my face – as if that would conceal the shaking shoulders, flushed face and guttural sounds.

I can’t fathom that Bird Legs didn’t know exactly what was happening, yet she just continued her lecture on large books. Which, of course, acted as jet propulsion fuel to our hysteria.

Never was I so grateful to hear the tone that signaled the end of class.

I suspect it may not have been BL’s first encounter with hysterical students. And although she probably didn’t appreciate our poorly timed revelry, the incident did forever create a special place in our hearts for libraries, quartos – and birds.

Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains actually “get ready to laugh” whenever we hear laughter, suggesting that the activity is meant to be shared.

Individual senses of humor vary, but laughter is universal. On average, people do it about 18 times a day. It’s so embedded into our humanity that babies laugh before they speak. Beyond producing endorphins that make us feel better, laughter also can relax muscles, lower stress hormones, boost the immune system and prevent heart disease.

Lots of physical and emotional benefits, to be sure.

If only it could be corralled.

Birdlegs2

 Mary Tyler Moore 20th Anniversary (Chuckles excerpt begins at 1:20):

Learn about the psychology of laughter from UCLA Professor Sophie Scott:

 Tips to stop laughing at inappropriate times.

 

 

Life Before Running Water

Water

It was really tough growing up in a house with no running water. Each day, one of us would have to rise before dawn, walk for miles to the community well, and fetch the day’s supply of water. Those few gallons had to accommodate our family’s daily routine of drinking, bathing, washing and cooking. The next morning, the whole process would begin again.

OK, that scenario is a total fabrication. I actually grew up in a comfortable suburban home with numerous working spigots and sinks. Water was plentiful and pure and completely taken for granted.

What we didn’t have was Internet access – or even a single onsite computer.

That’s because my ‘80s youth preceded the digital age.

To anyone born in the last 20 years, my Internet isolation probably seems as primitive to you as a life without running water seems to me.

Yet we managed just fine, as we were completely oblivious to the technological advancements awaiting the next generation.

I sometimes wonder what my grandpa (who died when I was a little boy) would think if he were suddenly transported into our 21st century world. Undoubtedly, he would be amazed and overwhelmed by our “modern” lifestyle, clothing, food, music, recreation, and especially our technology. To someone who truly lived a large chunk of his childhood without access to running water, our world would seem positively opulent.

Yet I have to believe he’d also be disappointed by what’s been stripped away from modern life and culture.

Grandpa might yearn for the social interaction that was so common in his day. A true sense of close-knit neighbors and face-to-face community that defined daily life.

He also might crave a return to the more physical demands and expectations of his era. When exercise was strongly embedded in daily life, and it served as both a physical and mental workout. When sweat was valued.

I think the facet of life Grandpa might miss most is a slower, simpler pace. A time when time was savored instead of raced. When the concept of multi-tasking would’ve been considered an absurd notion. When life wasn’t hurried along.

Though few of us would opt to return to the days of no Internet (or running water), there are definite trade-offs to the “advances” we now enjoy.

Think it’s time to go take a leisurely walk. Minus the iPod or water bottle.

When I’m One-Hundred-And-Fourteen

Kimura_1875946c

You’re looking at Mr. Jiroemon Kimura, of Kyoto, Japan, who just celebrated his 114th birthday on Tuesday.

Not only does that qualify him as the world’s oldest man and last surviving male from the 19th century, but it also advances him a full 50 years past the ripe old age referenced in The Beatles classic “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

A 15-year-old Paul McCartney penned that catchy tune, which declares life-long devotion to a lover. From his teenage vantage point, 64 most certainly would seem ancient. 

In 1967, when the song was released, the life expectancy of a U.S. male was 67. Today it’s about 76.

Mr. K. blows both those figures out of the water.

This man has witnessed two turns of the century, two World Wars, a Depression, Holocaust, ~30 Olympics games, and numerous other world events.

His living legacy spans four generations: seven children (five of whom are still alive), 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren. His marital history is a mystery.

Reports say Mr. Kimura spends the majority of his time in bed, but wakes up early in the morning and reads newspapers with a magnifying glass. He enjoys talking to guests and following live parliamentary debates on television. 

And, of course, he has a Facebook fan page.

The key to his longevity, Mr. Kimura says, is to eat healthy and in small portions. He’s particularly fond of red bean cake and rice.

And he’s nipping at the heels of the world’s oldest person, Besse Cooper, of Monroe, Georgia, who’s just four months his senior. Not to be outdone, she, too, has a Facebook fan page.

“Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I’m One-Hundred-And-Fourteen…”

 

 

 

When Tree Huggers Meet Jesus Freaks

The Confluence of Holy Week + Earth Week 

Treehug3

This is the week when Jesus Christ and Mother Earth collide.

For billions of Christians, it’s Holy Week, honoring the final few days of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.

For countless environmentalists, it’s the annual campaign for promoting awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.

Both groups will commemorate sacred milestones on Friday, April 22: Good Friday and Earth Day. In fact, it’s the first time ever that these two “holidays” are occurring simultaneously.

Some might find it sacrilegious or ludicrous to compare a 2,000+-year tribute to the crucifixion of a Savior with a 40-year-old anniversary of a bunch of green fanatics.

Yet. as someone who aligns with both groups, I find the two quite complementary.

My faith inspires my desire to be a responsible steward of the Earth, and vice versa. It’s my love for God that compels me to honor His creation. Conversely, it’s when I savor the beauty and majesty of the Earth that I’m naturally drawn back to the source and ultimate sustainer of our world.

Strip away the politics and hyperbole (on both sides), and you’re left with two movements that really shouldn’t be in conflict.

And increasingly, that seems to be the case. The Green Christian movement is a growing grassroots network of faith-based environmentalists. They, too, believe their commitment to ecological principles and practices is an authentic act of worship to God.

It’s my prayer that we “Jesus Freaks” and “Tree Huggers” continue to lower our walls and open our minds and hearts to one shared reality:  we are standing on holy ground. 

Feet

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.
     –  Genesis 2:15
 

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this week also marks Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Although I don’t practice Judaism, it’s an important part of my heritage, as my dad’s family is Jewish. 

—– 

Learn more about the Green Christian Network.

Make an Earth Day pledge.

 

 

 

 

Stop the World, I Wanna…

Hammock

Ignore my alarm clock.
Rediscover my old record albums.
Powerwash something.
Dance like an idiot.
Adopt a dog.
Roll around in the grass.
Take a risk.
Remove the trumpet from under my bed.
Scoff at my e-mail.  
Sing in the shower.
Plan my next career.
Forget my age.
Toss a Frisbee.
Get lost in a book.
Play a practical joke on someone(s).
Eat lotsa chocolate.
Go back to bed.
Whistle.
Remember what it’s like to imagine.
Juggle.
Talk to God.
Try to write a song.
Blow bubbles.
Build a fort.
Write a thank-you note to a former teacher.
Go swimming.
Smoke a cigar and pretend I’m important.
Study the sky.
Kick my laptop.
Learn to play the guitar (and/or piano).
Get to know my neighbors.
Open a really expensive bottle of wine.
Avoid Walmart.
Hang up on a telemarketer.
Get sidetracked.
Crank the A/C.
Try to figure out Gary Busey.
Find a hammock.

Count my blessings.

Shower

This post was inspired by Let’s Blog Off, a community of bloggers united around a common theme. I’m honored to add my perspective to the mix. 

 

 

Pumping Up with the Partridges

The_partridge_family-show

You can learn a lot about a guy by checking out the music on his iPod.

Mine includes a diverse mix of classic rock, ‘80s pop, Christian worship, current artists and a few left-field head-scratchers thrown in for good measure.

I primarily use the device to fuel my early-morning workouts, and this eclectic tuneage caters to my audio cravings du jour. Buried within this mix, however, is also an unexpected favorite that has made its way into heavy rotation. 

While my fellow muscle-heads are jamming to Linkin Park, AC/DC and who-knows-what-else, I’m often cranking to the sunny strains of “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “I Woke Up in Love this Morning.” Nothing gets my blood pumping quite like a Partridge Family chorus. I’m partial to the Up to Date album, which is the one that showcases all the Partridge birthdays on the cover (David Cassidy’s is this Tuesday, by the way).

Although it’s been well documented that the Partridge recordings actually feature Cassidy, Shirley Jones and a bunch of unknown studio musicians (rather than the complete TV family), I’m still a sucker for those catchy choruses, cheesy lyrics and infectious harmonies. Besides, I always did suspect that Tracy Partridge couldn’t shake a tambourine to save her life…

I think of my guilty pleasure as the musical equivalent of mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s comfort food that brings back positive childhood memories and contentment.

Unfortunately, it’s probably also grounds for my immediate dismissal from the neighborhood gym-rat association.

What the heck, it’s worth it. C’mon get happy.

 

This is the Story of Philip the Fly

Fly

When I was a little boy, my favorite stories centered around a clever insect named Philip.

Our Philip the Fly anthology included dozens of tales of adventure, heroism and just a little bit of mischief.

I think the coolest thing about Philip was that I always felt as if he knew me personally.

And in a sense, he did. You see, Philip the Fly came from the mind of my dad.

I’m not entirely sure when Phil made his debut, or from where he came (dad wasn’t exactly known for his creativity), but this winged protagonist was always available to star in a new story – seemingly on cue (also not an innate skill of dad’s). Nothing could comfort or satisfy this 3- to 7-year-old kid quite like a zippy fly with a personalized tale to tell.

Philip the Fly taught me about the power of a story.

Dad may not have been trained in English literature or creative writing, but he did possess that innate human longing for a good yarn.

Since the beginning of time, every culture on Earth has shared lore from generation to generation. Stories have been used to amuse, to entertain, to educate, to inspire, to provoke, to titillate.

And although the form factors have evolved from oral histories to cave drawings to snarky blogs, the core elements of captivating stories are remarkably constant. They inform us by engaging us – through our emotions and our innate desire to connect with others.

It’s sad to admit that I can’t remember many details of Philip’s escapades – and since my dad is deceased, they’re locked away for at least a while.

What I will always remember, however, are the feelings of anticipation, excitement and satisfaction that those encounters brought to my life.

Thanks, Philip. Thanks, Dad.

 

This Fool’s Dilemma

Istock_seriouswithcone

For a guy who seldom takes anything seriously, April Fool’s Day presents quite a quandary.

You see, I live my life through a perpetual barrage of jokes, fibs and short-term fabrications. Ask any of my colleagues (past or current), and they’ll likely attest that whatever comes out of my mouth is not to be trusted – at least not without careful scrutiny.

So what’s this poor sap planning to do on this annual hoax-welcoming day? 
Join the crowd for some “business as usual”?

How ho hum is that.

Nope, this year, I’m going rogue. My goal is to endure April 1 without exuding a single shred of revelry.

I’ll live like a total dullard. 

And I’ll do it all on a Friday.

Now don’t taunt…

 

All My Favorite People are Broken

Don’t worry, I won’t be naming names. But let’s face it, most of us are a pretty sorry lot. And the rest just hide it better.

Which is why I am so entranced by a song on Over The Rhine’s latest – and probably greatest – CD. It’s called “All My Favorite People Are Broken,” and like most OTR songs, it’s pithy, profound and hauntingly beautiful. 

The overall gist of the tune is: you’re messed up, and I’m messed up. And that’s OK. We need each other.

Now that’s a message I need to hear.

Lyrics