Category Archives: Opinion

Listen Closely

I’ll start this post by commenting on the picture. This woman is beautiful, no matter what age she might be. She reminds me of one of my aunts, had she had the chance to live an entire life. “Everything’s eventual,” old age included. If we are lucky. A bit of advice? If someone timelessly admires you, take a minute to nod in their direction.

One of the sublime emotions that is hard to pin down is the let-down one feels when others fail to take advantage of the knowledge of someone right there who has been there and done that. At 54, after many failures, I bite my tongue quite often. If someone asks me, I tell them my story and do whatever I can to motivate them. I’ve learned that preaching entrenches people.

My healthier eating journey seemed like a miracle to some; to me, it was inevitable. I’m not saying I have all the answers and certainly not that I’m doing things correctly. But if that’s the case, very few are. No matter what else I’ve mismanaged, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, as well incorporated a staggering amount of better choices into my diet. I did all this without feeling hungry. That’s a success.

And because I did it, I know other people can do it too.

And a certain percentage can do it as easily as I did, without upending their life or putting themselves on a literal treadmill to do it.

I see people struggling and unhappy with their weight and some of the consequences it brings.

It’s needless for most of them. Not all, because some people have circumstances or medical issues that prevent them from accepting their body how it is and learning to be happy about it – OR, taking steps now, from where they are. If a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is what they would rather do, then get with it!

People aren’t going to change their habits unless they want to or are forced to by external forces. Wouldn’t it be simpler to listen to a dork like me now instead of waiting for a harsher force to intercede?

We don’t need complicated formulas, expensive supplements, a gym membership, or much of anything, not really, to lose a lot of weight. BUT if you do need those things to get you there, I’m not pointing a finger. If it gets you to your goal, for heaven’s sake, do whatever you need to, even country music. If you do it to prove me wrong, I’ll be happy for you. Success is a beautiful thing. People who’ve achieved a goal radiate in a way that others don’t. We all gravitate toward them.

If you don’t want to, that’s great. Stop paying homage to the diet rat race and stop focusing on external programs you honestly aren’t interested in. I’m here to tell you that you can do it in incremental steps OR with sweeping, immersive life changes. Something will work for you. Please keep trying! My penultimate post was titled, “You Fail Until you Don’t.” Whether it’s weight, work, or any other change you would like, staying where you are is the bigger problem.

But if you are interested, take a moment and pretend that I might know what I’m talking about. I can undoubtedly uncomplicate it in your head, which is ALL the battle, anyway. Once you commit yourself, the road becomes more apparent.

Here’s the first step: tell yourself that you’re going to make changes. Stop focusing on the things you perceive as failures. If you’re smart enough to love yourself for who you are, one of these days, tomorrow or 2026, you will succeed. If you have a fan in your corner, give that flame of admiration some encouragement.

Love, X

Unconditional Time And The Bureaucracy Of Living

There’s a meme that circles social media that says, ” Some talk to you in their free time, and some take their free time to talk to you.” It gets a lot of likes because it is pithy and hits a gong in our heads when we read it. Each of us tends to read it and picture others failing to appreciate us and share their time with us. If we’re truthful about it, though, we might also recognize a bit of hypocrisy in ourselves, as we are often guilty of the same inadvertent exclusion of people from our time.

Each of us has 86,400 seconds in a day, no matter who we are. We have to use our seconds from that bucket wisely. Work, sleep, eating, the “bureaucracy of living,” as I like to call it, and everything else that adds up to the sum of our life. It’s not easy.

It’s also a back-handed reminder to simplify your life so that you’ll have fewer obligations to keep you from having experiences rather than more things.

“Unconditional time” describes another person’s willingness to simply be in your presence, even while doing mundane things like grocery shopping, laundry, or any number of other things that fill our lives. People, of course, want to be with you if you’re on an exciting vacation or dining somewhere extravagant. It’s quite another for them to have the same spark to stand on the porch while you sweep it or on the couch while you fold your infinite laundry. If you’re with someone who asks, “What are you doing?” before sharing time and space with you, it’s probably best to carefully consider whether they are your person or not. And if you have someone who wants ‘to be’ in your space, regardless, you’ve found a rare soul. (Note: It’s toxic to insist that someone share all their time with you. That’s not what I’m talking about here.) It is the willingness to deliberately slice out time to share that distinguishes unconditional time from something else, much like the idea that love is accepting someone, even if they fail.

No matter who you are, it’s up to you to prioritize how you spend your seconds and your days. Therein lies the problem. If you demonstrate what’s important to you by what you do and how you allot your time, don’t be surprised if people fairly or unfairly make assumptions based on that behavior.

All of us feel like we should be apportioned two lives – or twice as much time. Our obligations often rob of us quality time or intimate time with those we appreciate or love.

For some, a little bit of the issue is time management. For most of us, though, we simply announce what is important to us whether we’re doing it consciously or not.

You get 86,400 seconds each day to divide up your life. Don’t let the bureaucracy of living blind you to the necessity of taking the time. You can’t “make time” anyway.

The average person can read this post in slightly under two minutes. That same two minutes is sufficient for some people to run 1/2 a mile. Take a couple of minutes to creatively reach out to anyone who might need to hear from you. Take an hour for others.

Love is infinite. But the amount of time you have to disperse it is limited.

Love, X

Carpe Vinum Like a MoFo

This morning, I drove across town, heading back. I felt like I had been on another planet for a day. In a way, I guess I had. Whenever you find yourself in a transition in life, try to take a moment to snapshot how you’re feeling. That feeling later morphs into comfort or consolation, no matter what the ‘after’ you find yourself in looks like. Life is going to sneak up on you anyway. And no matter what you’re planning, some of the things that you dread reveal hidden treasures – while other certainties end up fizzling or filling you with disappointment.

Yesterday, to my horror, I realized that pink fuzzy dice are prominently featured in the amazing book, “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.” It’s a good thing my set of pink fuzzy dice can’t read English, or their feelings would be hurt. To my delight, many things I like had their respective pages. “Everything is in bad taste to someone,” I like to remind myself.

I also became a fun memory for someone yesterday. He’d never had someone come in and say, “I want however much pico de gallo $20 will buy. I ain’t here to negotiate. Whatever it is, it is.” To my surprise, it was a LOT. And they threw in two bags of unrequested chips and salsa for free. After I paid for my order, a shorter Latino man came around the corner. The cashier pointed at me. (He didn’t know I was looking at him askance.) The Latino man looked in my direction. I waved like I was recently injured in the head. It was apparent to me that he had poked his head out to see ‘who’ ordered so damn much pico de gallo. He hastily retreated as I waved to him. I told the cashier in Spanish, “Does spying cost extra?” He laughed.

I’m also 100% sure that the two workers in the liquor store I entered thought I was trying to steal. Naturally, I made at least five needless and random tours around the smaller store. I thought about ducking below the top to REALLY draw their interest but don’t want to be banned from another liquor store.

On my walk yesterday, I discovered so many hidden gems, hideaways, and unexpected pleasures. On one dead-end side street, I discovered new and fabulous houses. The style was so odd that I realized I loved it. It’s not something I would ever choose, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m impressed. At the outlet of that street, I stopped and did pushups. The smell of the towering mimosa tree was unbelievable. I stood under it as the purposeful wind swirled the scent around me.

I also got reminded this weekend of how much turmoil some people have to endure. Some suffer so much invisibly that they don’t come out of it alive. Having done the one wise thing I’ve done in a year and going to counseling gives me an entirely different appreciation for those who don’t go when they need it. Right now, I am sure that someone will read this and be one of those people who secretly have a private feedback loop running in their head, the one telling them that there’s no point or that maybe they shouldn’t be here. Counseling isn’t what you fear it might be. But it can be the starting point. And so many people would benefit from getting a handle on their issues now. We don’t realize we’re at the beginning of an avalanche until we’re half-buried in snow. The best gift you can give someone is the confidence you need in yourself to be able to tell them that they would benefit from getting help. And if you’re the person needing help, give yourself the gift by confiding in someone that you need help.

I stopped this morning and bought two containers of chalk, one of which I almost entirely used, making a ‘small’ homage somewhere in Springdale. A couple of people witnessed me in action but said nothing to discourage me. It’s too bad I wasn’t wearing pants. (Just kidding about the no-pants portion. Although that much chalk residue is a real problem at times.) It’s not like chalk is graffiti; it’s as impermanent as we are, though we cavalierly pretend otherwise as we move around on the face of this planet.

Leaving the grocery store, I saw an older Latino man ahead. Both arms were weighed down with liquor store bags. I slowed, checked behind me, and tossed the myriad mess from my passenger seat into the back. Pulling up alongside the man, I rolled my window down. (Yes, my Spark has roll windows, which is something that I love the idea of.) “Hop in,” I told him in Spanish. He politely declined. I insisted and repeated my first line with a bit of salty language. He laughed and put the bags on the floorboard as he climbed inside. I saw that he had Harps bags tucked inside each liquor store bag. (For those few people who don’t drink, black liquor store bags are much stouter than their grocery store counterparts.) About halfway inside, he realized how small the car was. “Where are you headed? I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” It turned out he was staying a couple of miles up the road. I asked him he needed anything: money, food, a ride somewhere else… “No, but thanks,” he said. He told me he was working twelve hours a day and sleeping in the garage of one of his friends. I didn’t pry, but he volunteered that the last year was the worst year of his life. Without thinking, I said, “You’re paying the price now to have your life back.” He looked at me, and I realized that I probably touched a nerve. “Verdad.” He got out, picked up his bags. He nodded his head as a farewell as he walked up to the house.

I opened the garage door and fired up the grill to make grilled chicken breasts and portabello mushrooms. Almost immediately, a dog wandered up. For a brief second, I thought he was going to attack. Unexpectedly, he ducked his head and began to wag it back and forth, his eyes downcast. I kneeled and petted him like he was my dog, oblivious to the initial idea he might bite. After I finished petting him for a couple of minutes, he laid on the garage floor, content. I found some old smoked turkey breast and put it on the ground. He ate it, his tongue working across his snout long after he finished it. When I finished grilling, Guajolotero, as I named him, still was sprawled out on the garage floor. I cut up one of the huge chicken breasts, along with a portabello mushroom, and fed them to him. He ate slowly but thoroughly. Even though he still licked his chops, I petted him again. Afterward, he casually plopped down to rest again. Apparently, he adopted me. If that’s the case, I will hope he doesn’t expect freshly grilled chicken and mushrooms on the daily.

Two hours later, he’s still in the garage, chilling.

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“It doesn’t matter who you’ve been with, it matters who you end up with.”
Anonymous wisdom
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“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, if you’ve made amends as much as you can, it only matters who you end up to be. None of us are ever finished – and those who think they are, well, they are ‘finished’ in quite another way.” – X
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Something I learned in counseling.

Do you feel like you failed today, or worse, that you were a failure?

If you’re alive, you succeeded in doing something, even if it is the minimum necessary.

Tomorrow, survive again.

Stop expecting a dramatic crescendo of satisfaction from each of your days and eventually, gratitude for JUST the minimum will take root.
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I hope to get my hands on this door, to help in transition into something else.

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Love, X

Consistency

“You show up for work every single day regardless of whether you’re motivated or not. You do that because you’re a responsible adult, but when it comes to your training or nutrition, you allow your consistency to rely on your motivation. You have to get to the point where you realize your health and confidence are just as much your responsibility as something like your finances would be as well. When you finally make that mental switch, your actions will no longer be dictated by your emotions, and you’ll start making real progress.” – Chaz Spackman
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I’m 38 days into my pushup challenge. (And NINE months into my year-long eating commitment!) When I started, my right shoulder was hurting like a rejected suitor on prom night. Because I’m not too fond of the idea of ritual workouts (and gyms), I opted for pushups, even though my job robs me of most of my physicality. I do them in increments, no matter where I am and no matter who might be watching. (It’s more natural than standing there with a cellphone.) Some days, I stop counting. My friend Joe says none of them count until it hurts, anyway. I promised myself I’d do at least six weeks of this craziness. My shoulder feels much better, and I know something positive is coming from doing this, even if it’s to lose more self-consciousness. Whenever you make significant changes, you’re always going to draw scrutiny.

It’s transformational to make a goal, any goal, and just do it. I wish I’d had my epiphany twenty years ago; that time is gone. No matter who you are, surely there is some change you’d like to see in your life.

I’ve been accused by a couple of people of being suddenly vain. That’s not it at all. I’m a 54-year-old man who has acquired a renewed sense of confidence thanks to luck and a commitment to consistency. I want everyone to experience what it feels like not to recognize themselves and realize that so much of what stops us is between our ears.

Pick a goal. Walk. Run. Bike. Learn Spanish. Be kinder. Eat better. Write your story. Read more. Stop voting like an idiot (no matter which camp you vote for).

Acquire consistency in whatever it is you aspire to.

Almost all consistency is a decision.

PS No matter how successful you are or you become, remember that life is going to hit you with a hammer anyway. You can’t avoid the hammer but you can avoid wasting all the opportunities you have in front of you.

Money-Making Mugshot Idea

The Washington County Sheriff wasn’t too happy with my emailed plan to save money: offer professional mugshots/headshots at the jail. It’s so stupid that I guarantee people would pay for it. Yes, I’m ‘people.’ Please, take my money for this idea.
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P.S. You know you’re in trouble when you write a joke like the one above and legitimately fear that friends and family are going to get pissed about it. I mean no disrespect. We all have our struggles and I don’t judge. Unless you were arrested for something stupid, like putting your bag of weed in the metal detector bin before getting scanned. . Love, X.

Bathroom Stained Glass Window

As many successes as I’ve had in the last year, I’ve also had a few defeats. I’m absolutely not the person to conceal any of that from anyone who knows me. Being proud of my successes in no way conceals or denies the failures. At my age, I’ve peeked behind the curtains of so many lives that I understand better than ever that most of us aren’t following the playbook we imagined. More importantly, the shiny lives that you witness all have a stained glass window in their bathroom. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, it describes the way that mundane life intersects violently with the things we hold essential in our hearts – and the problems that living present. If you’re human, you’re going to experience the same problems that other humans share, even if we don’t see them. It’s easy to observe the world and people around us and deceive ourselves into not believing that what binds us shares more in common than what separates us.
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PS: Only in East Springdale can you have a crazy neighbor shooting bb pellets at your house (and arrows) while drinking. At 9 a.m. on a Sunday, which is bonus-level typical East Springdale.

Lunch Among Strangers

I left the bright sun behind me as I entered Mr. Taco Loco on Emma. A wall of scents and smells assaulted me. Because I can easily go without eating all day, I forget hunger sometimes. I risk admitting that because people have their filters and triggers that make such a statement sound like psychosis. It’s not. It’s just a fact. And it is an extraordinarily good thing for me and my life. I still love food, but I’m not food-centric anymore. Mr. Taco Loco is one of the places that let me healthily eat delicious food. Eating less grants me peace in moments that would have otherwise been consumed by wanting to eat, or worse, being too full.

I walked through the dark table and bar area. Ahead of me were two younger men, both avidly looking at the menu and comparing comments. After a minute, one of them turned and said, “Go ahead.”
I hesitated. “Are you having trouble deciding?” They both grinned and nodded. “What do you recommend?” I laughed. “Well…” I started and then mapped out two alternate ways to decide. The cashiers stood and listened to my sales pitch. When I was done, I said, “If you are not eating with cost being your primary factor, pick something with the type of meat you’d most likely be satisfied with.” Though it’s bragging to say so, they were impressed.

I went ahead of them and ordered—five chicken tacos for me, with lots of added pico de gallo. I’m not a barbarian, after all. The gentleman who started last week stood there, confident and smiling after just a week of training. “Are you still here?” I asked him, laughing. The other worker, a younger female, asked me if the order was for here or to go. I angrily pretended to ask, “It’s like that, is it? Am I not allowed to eat here.” It took a few seconds to realize I was joking. The new guy’s smile probably gave it away. I also confused them by not wanting a drink, which is now a common habit of mine when eating. When I returned to the counter to order a bowl of salsa, he told me that his female co-worker pointedly asked him if something was up, given my unexpected comment.

I threw out my tortillas and spread out the chicken and pico de gallo across the platter, adding onions, cilantro, lime juice, and Tajin. Since I brought three bags of PopChips with me, I opened those and used them as scoops. After a few minutes, I returned to get a bowl of salsa. It threw them off that I didn’t want any chips to go with it. I tipped them for the second time, which distracted them from further questions.

I sat a table away from the first-time visitors. They’d decided on my second course of ordering, choosing riskier and fuller selections. They were delighted. Once they had their food, I walked over and held up my large bottle of Tajin. “Since y’all are young, I’m going to save you some trouble. You can have a lot more flavor and eat a lot more variety if you find a seasoning you like.” I explained what Tajin was, then poured a condiment cup of it out. They thanked me as I went back to my table. After a moment, the younger man closest to me turned and said, “Hell, the difference with the Tajin-stuff is amazing!” His eyes lit up. “You can buy it at Walmart, too,” I told him, to ensure he would become addicted. Because I forgot to mention it, I also said, “Taco Tuesday, all the tacos are a dollar. You’ll love it!” I also made a mental note for myself to write Tajin Corporation and ask about commissions.

I ate my platter of minimalist craziness and considered eating the soggy paper left there too. As I left, the new customers said, “Hey, thanks!” again and gave me the thumbs up.

Though it’s hard for this to be true most of the time, it was true today: everyone was happy for even a brief moment.

PS I wore one of my rip shirts to work today. It turned out to be a wise choice.

A Follow-Up on Miley

Yesterday, I posted on my blog about the Miley Cyrus cover of “Heart Of Glass.” I hadn’t seen the live video until then. Several people commented, and all who did so loved the song. Regardless, such things are subjective as hell. That’s okay. There are times when I can’t explain why some songs earworm their way into my head and others don’t.

I also mentioned that Miley’s performance was sensual. It was.

More importantly, it reminds me that people will always bring their own filters to anything shared, voiced, or written.

Even if they are wrongly stretching words to mean things they don’t.

Take the word ‘sensual,’ for instance; it is NOT a congruent synonym for ‘sexual.’ It CAN be used similarly. But when someone deliberately uses ‘sensual’ in context, it doesn’t signal that the reader should infer whatever meaning they wish to, especially with the intent to change the intended spirit of what’s said or written.

In the spirit of honesty, this performance is very provocative. But it is her voice that is the focal point of the song for me. The internet is full of much more revealing content, if that’s what I’m after. Her song, “Midnight Sky,” among others, is certainly more focused on sexuality. I love that song, too.

We see a lot more skin at swimming pools and beaches. And tv shows, in catalogs, at Walmart, in commercials, sporting events, and just about everywhere else.

While I’m not one to brazenly advocate provocative behavior, it’s none of my business when an artist chooses to do so. I can click away. But don’t fault me for saying that a particular song is sensual. Or sexual, either, if I had been making that argument.

My sexual proclivities aren’t something that I expound on in public, but I could. We are all humans with similar desires and behavior. There is no shame in saying someone is sensual, sexual, or beautiful. It’s an acknowledgment of our senses. Being 54 doesn’t detract from my human response.

The whole point of my previous post was to say that the song resonates with me powerfully.

Love, X

And Miley Sings…

I’ve long been a fan of Miley Cyrus, even when she became controversial. I didn’t know her until after her Disney run. Her cover of “Jolene” opened my ears to her ability to sing.

Hannah Montana aside, I find her voice to somehow echo something in my head when I listen to her sing. Her voice certainly isn’t angelic or pure.

And along came her single “Heart of Glass,” a cover of Blondie’s hit.

The first time I heard this, I felt like it was the way the song should have been recorded in the first place. Whether everyone else agrees with me or not, but somehow I understood the lyrics with her version.

It’s raucous, a little uncontrolled, and 100% one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Broken voices always add an extra measure of something that I find compelling.

And then I saw the video of her singing live. I’ve honestly never thought of her as anything other as interesting and a singer with an amazing voice, one who constantly defies genres. Whether I’m supposed to say so or not, everything about her in this video is distilled sensuality. It’s hard to look away. I’m 54, but not dead.

I loved “Midnight Sky,” as well as “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” and “Younger Now,” too. If you want a treat, get on YouTube and give the Miley Cyrus – Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix) with Stevie Nicks a listen. She does a few other covers that are worth a listen.

I know Miley isn’t for everyone.

I hope she does a lot more covers, especially rock covers. Her voice bangs a gong in my head when I hear her wail.