One Year Sober or How To Face Your Fears Without a Crutch

So today marks the one year anniversary of the last time I took a drink. Many people have asked me why and I think there are a lot of assumptions out there. My hope is that this little drop of virtual ink can clarify things.

First, a little history. I started drinking when I was 13 or 14-years-old. Not sure. Might’ve been earlier, might of been later. Again, not sure. Needless to say, I was young. I still remember it vividly. I was surrounded by all my good friends. I scraped up a little money and some (not all) agreed to get me a forty. All 100 lbs of me drank that bad boy up. Needless to say, I spent the night passed out, throwing up my guts. But it felt good so I persevered.

All though drinking may have been peer pressure for some, it was not for me. I drank because I wanted to. I drank, got wasted. Had good times, some bad, but mostly good.

My teens turned into my twenties and I kept on. And then I got something that everyone in Arizona seems to get. I got a DUI. The process literally took years. Took forever to get sentenced, then go to jail, then all the stuff afterword.

Luckily I never hurt anyone or myself. But it was one of the more stressful times in my life. Which, funny enough, led to more drinking.

I cannot tell you when but the drinking went from just something to do and morphed into a form of escape. I looked forward to getting hammered on the weekend. Not because I was some alcoholic who needed to get his fix but because I was so upset with the realities of life. The weekends were a time to check out from the real world.

What I didn’t realize at the time was, I was slowly reinforcing to myself that life was horrible. My self dialogue was nothing but negativity. I was overwhelmed, over-worked, and stressed. The booze gave me a time out. It also, however, led to compounding those negative feelings. I was overwhelmed, over-worked, and stressed because I was tired, unfocused, and emotionally drained from the drinking. How’s that for irony?

Did I realize this? Heck no. I was in such self denial, it wasn’t even funny. In fact, I told myself I just needed to drink more and take a little steam off. I justified it to myself like a master, when in fact I was making myself a slave to a brown bottle. My libationary liberator had become my captor.

Now let’s move on to the meat and potatoes of this here thing; why? Why did I stop drinking? Was it religious? My health? Something that happened? The short answer is yes to all.

We’re going to move to my health for a few moments. As you know, I have the 3 H’s; hemophilia, Hepatitis C, and HIV. Now, if I were to tell you to list the things you’d want the least of, most people would probably say 1. HIV 2. hemophilia, and then coming up at the end would be 3. Hep C. Au contraire, mon frère. The thing you should want most is HIV. My t-cells are high and my viral load is undetectable. Yes, undetectable. HIV has a horrible stigma but the realities are with today’s medications (for me a single pill!), HIV is no longer as lethal as it once was. Tops on your I-don’t-want list should be Hep C. It attacks your liver and causes a painful death. No fun. The good news is, God has also granted me good health on that front too. I am a healthy boy. Sorry to those wishing me my death.

In fact, in about three years there should be new medication to eradicate Hep C. No viral load with the prospect of being Hep free. Wow. I’m a few years away from being able to have children “the ol’ fashion way” without harming my spouse or children. Amazing huh?

But I wouldn’t get there if I kept drinking.

I remember talking to a doctor once about my drinking. I’ll paraphrase.

Me: “So how much can I drink?”
Doctor: “Nothing. You can’t have anything to drink.”
Me: “So you mean like only on weekends?”
Dr: “No. Nothing.”
Me: “By nothing you mean just on holidays, right?”
Dr: “No. By nothing I mean just that. Not a drop. Ever.”
Me: “So what you’re trying to say is, how many beers exactly can I have in a month?”
Dr: … [slams head into clipboard]

You get the idea. For my health, I’ve known that I should not be drinking. But I just kept going and going.

Have I done embarrassing stuff while drunk? Yeah. Should I have stopped for my health? Yeah. But these two things wouldn’t change my course. Heck, I’d still be drinking, regardless of the risks to my reputation, health, and general safety.

So that’s when God intervened.

I remember when I first started drinking. It went from Thursday through Sunday. And not drinking drinking. But getting to’ up from the flo’ up drinking. But then, like everyone else, age kicked in. Four days turned to three, three turned into two. I finally cut my drinking in half to just getting totally hammered on Fridays and Saturdays. What progress!

Eventually, it became once a week but even then it was too much. The hangovers became multi day events. One night of drinking made me feel crummy for days, not hours.

And then it happened, I had my first panic attack.

I didn’t know what it was or what was happening. The world became a very scary place. Trivial things like driving became nearly impossible. I could barely make it to a friend’s house to get to the evenings drinking. As soon as I got there I took the anxiety away… by drinking. Like Fat Bastard said, “it’s a vicious cycle!” I was anxious because I drank, I drank to escape from the anxiety.

I’ll spare you the long winded details, but needless to say that for over five years my emotional health was down the drains. Busting my butt at work then drinking on the weekends, just running on fumes. The anxiety was, and is, one of the worse things to ever happen to me. Thoughts of suicide were not uncommon but mostly I led a sad and dreary life. One that I was totally responsible for!

Everyone knows that I’ve always been a big reader. I started reading stuff to get my life in order from the unmanageable mess that it was. I kept coming across a subject time and again. Energy. And I had none. Zero. I looked into how to better my energy and found that I was taking one of thee worse drugs ever: caffeine.

I can cure 95% of all insomnia, right here, right now. Ready? Stop drinking caffeine. There. Now go to sleep. Seriously, I was taking every sleep aid I could. But I was so jacked up on uppers (caffeine and sugar) and downers (beer and beer) there was no way I could get sleep. So if you “suffer” from insomnia yet drink soda or coffee; congrats! You actually suffer from stupidity and self-denial. Dr. Hernandez in da house! (That’ll be 200 dollars please.)

Candy, soda, tea, iced coffee. These were all the bad guys I was putting into my body. As soon as I stopped, voilà!, I could sleep (that’s twice I’ve written in French in this post. Pardonne moi. Dang it!) Plus, my anxiety got better. Hmmm… maybe other things I’m putting into my body are hurting me too.

I read more. I took Lucinda Bassett’s from Panic to Power program. Read me some more, kept drinking, but I was reading. Finally, enough was enough and I just had to cut back.

I went two weeks without drinking and I remember how great I felt. I hadn’t felt that good since I was a child. I still had my panic attacks, sure, but knew that the booze was causing this too. A party or some event would come up and I’d drink again. Feel like garbage for days again. Then I would drink after a few weeks. Sound stupid? Yeah, it was.

After a while, I gave in to God’s will and took the hint: stop drinking.

It had been about two months without drinking and that’s when I found out my friend Jessie Grossman had passed away. On the 15th of October, we buried her. The next day we were to have a small family gathering. I told my buddy Barry, her husband, that if I drank that night, I wouldn’t be able to make it the next day because of the anxiety. He understood and told me, “do whatever you have to do to get through today.” So I did. I drank. We laughed and we cried as we remembered. And I of course stayed home the next day.

And now, here we are. One year later. Feeling better than I have in a long time.

I don’t even crave it. When I see it in the supermarket I just think of what a waste of money it was. When I see other people boozed up, laughing at things that aren’t funny, I can’t believe I was once that guy.

Now, I’m no snob on his high horse. I think people who drink are perfectly fine. If you can do it responsibly, by all means, knock yourself out. Been there. Done that. Moving on. Like Cedric The Entertainer says, “I’m a grown ass man dog!” I need to act like it. And for me, that means no booze at this time.

Will I ever drink again? Probably not. Funny, life is so good now, drinking will interrupt the buzz I’m on now. Cliche, I know.

So I’m grateful God has given me this lesson for a myriad of reasons.

It has made me braver.
Having to feel fear like someone is trying to kill you when all your doing is flying in a plane is fortifying me, making me stronger. God wants only strong men in heaven so He is putting me through the coals now.

I can fight temptation better than most.
While you look at that cookie or that bag of chips and dread, I smile. I know that that’s just the devil and his little tricks. And I’m not falling for it like I used to anymore.

It has made me more independent.
No longer do I need alcohol or any other mind altering agent to find happiness and cower in refuge. Not only can I not use it to hide from my fear, it forces me to face the day and enjoy it. If I see a cute girl I want to talk to, no more liquid courage. Just me and my wits. My true self. As it should be.

So God did all this while saving my life. Had it not been for the anxiety, I’d be drinking right now instead of writing this. And I’d be dead in less than ten years.

But instead God saved my life and made me a better person, all while remembering a friend.

Hard not to believe in God.

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“Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value.”

St. Teresa of Avila
(1515-1582)

Her feast day on the calendar of saints is today, October 15th.

My Only Regret

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My only regret is… I don’t have one, yet I am still full of regret.

Let me explain.

Everything I’ve done in my life, whether good or bad, has been a lesson to learn from. All the pain and anguish that I may have suffered has been a positive, making me the man I am today. I feel horrible for those I may have wronged but I now truly believe that God has forgiven me, even if others (and myself) have yet to forgive me.

So why am I still filled with regret? Well it’s because of a choice that was taken away from me; a choice I never had. I regret I could never enlist in the Navy.

As a kid growing up, lots of guys wanted to be in the Air Force, flying jets. Some, wanted to be Marines or soldiers, kicking down doors. Me? I wanted to sail the seas.

Top Gun may have peaked most kids interest but to me, the submarines in The Hunt for Red October absolutely fascinated me then and now. These machines are the size of buildings, dipping and diving around the deep. Powered by nuclear power plants. Are you kidding me? No gas for these beauties. Oh, and enough nuclear weapons to take out a continent. What isn’t cool about nuclear submarines. Heck, they’re even painted in a sick flat black.

But, because of obvious health reasons, I could never serve.

God has other plans for me and who am I to question Him. I was not given that path for a reason.

There are other reasons too. I am very grateful to this country and would have loved a chance to defend her. Serving one’s country is the best way to tell her “thank-you.” I’m a smart guy with tons of talent. I know the anti-war crowd thinks that putting our best and brightest in harm’s way is a waste. The fact that I could never use my talents for my country makes me feel like I’ve wasted my talents.

Whenever I see a veteran I am grateful just like everyone else. But I also carry a little jealousy and, of course, regret.

I know that there are other ways to serve our community. I can be a good citizen to my neighbors. Live a crime free life. Help those less fortunate than me. In all, I hope that being a good American citizen is enough to thank her. I wish I could’ve served a bigger role.

At the end of last year’s Camp HONOR (our hemophilia summer camp) we have a tradition to end camp called the pinecone ceremony. Every camper and staff member goes up in front of everyone and says a few things of what the week meant to them. I of course dedicate my pinecone to the most important thing in the world – the Arizona Cardinals – but one of our board members, Jim Durr, dedicated his to his son. Jim also has a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease. His son was on his way to become a sailor. After the pinecone ceremony, I spoke to Jim and told him about my heavy heart about not being able to join the Navy. He shared with me that he too wished to serve but how proud he is that his son will be able to live out his dream. Who knows, maybe on day I’ll be able to share in Jim’s pride and live vicariously through my sailor son.

So if you ever see me with glossed over eyes looking at the ocean, it’s not the seagulls that are moving me but the warships in the horizon.

And, as always,
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!

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Talk To Strangers

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Twice a week, every Monday and Thursday afternoon, I go to physical therapy at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Due to the complications of hemophilia, I have severe arthritis in three joints. My right ankle from being a child and always spraining it, my left knee when I hyperextended it playing football as a kid, and my right elbow that was shattered as a teenager when I was assaulted by a police officer.

My physical therapist is Heidi and has healed so many people and made them walk again, I’m sure she received her training from one of the apostles. As I arrived for my PT, there was a girl walking on the treadmill. I always use the bike, but last week I graduated to the treadmill since my joints are now stronger. I was looking forward to the treadmill but this young lady was using it, so I went back to the bike instead.

Having hemophilia has exposed me to a lot of people with cancer. Don’t believe me? Just look up a cancer doc. They are almost exclusively called hematologist/oncologist. Cancer docs are blood docs and blood docs are cancer docs. I won’t go into why this is but trust you me, it was and is a blessing to people diagnosed with hemophilia. Every med student wants to cure cancer, no one one to work on hereditary bleeding disorders that effect zero-point-no-one of the population. So by default, we with hemophilia get some bright guys and gals who work on us.

When people witness or hear about my dealings with hemophilia, a lot of sympathy gets thrown my way. Please, no need. All my life I shared waiting rooms with kids suffering from cancer. I was going to make next year’s annual appointment, most of them would not.

The girl on the treadmill was obviously recovering from cancer. Her hair was nearly buzz cut short, but growing back. I could not see her face because she had on a medical mask on and the physical therapist was gowned up as well.

While she walked, I peddled. I decided to multitask and check my e-mail on my phone. I read a great post in my in-box by Chris Guillebeau, author of one of my favorite books, The Art of Non-Conformity. The name of the post is Most People Are Good. You can read the post here. http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/most-people-are-good/

In it, he basically challenges the notion that children shouldn’t talk to strangers, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a strange concept to grasp at first but it makes total sense. Most people are good and not to be feared. All we do as adults is place our jaded outlook on kids. We tell ourselves, “I’m telling little Cindy not to talk to strangers to protect her,” but what we are really saying is, “I trust no one and only see and expect the worst in people and little Cindy needs to learn to have that rotten perspective like me too.”

One day, my mom, my niece, and myself were traveling somewhere in my car. My niece had done something wrong and my mom and me were piling on her. From the back seat, full of stress and frustration, she yelled, “OK!”, as to say enough. And she was right. We were filling her with self doubt, needlessly hammering a point she already knew.

Too many times, we adults think we have things figured out. In our attempts to help we at times harm more than often.

The little girl finished with the treadmill and sat down to start on some upper body exercise. That was right about the same time I finished reading Chris’ post. And like on queue, she did not listen to what all those scary adults told her and she talked to a stranger; me.

“Don’t your feet hurt?” she asked me.

“Yeah,” I answered, “but I know that the more I do this, my feet will be stronger so they’ll hurt less later.”

“How long are you going to be on there?”

“15-minutes. And you? How long were you on the treadmill?”

“25-minutes.”

“Wow! Hopefully I get as good as you one day.”

Even though she had her mask on, I could see her facial muscles make a smile.

I smiled too.

Most people are good. The stranger that talked to me today reinforced that.

The Man Who Did Not Die

The Last Jew in Vinnitsa (1941)

Last night I went to my first, full symphony. It was part of The Phoenix Symphony’s Rediscovered Masters series, celebrating the works of brilliant men who survived or lost their lives during the horrors of war.

That evening’s official headliner was violin virtuoso Concertmaster Steven Moeckel. He conducted the third and final piece by Mozart. You can read about his perfect performance here. Before that was the evening’s titled piece Suite for Threepenny Opera, composed by Kurt Weill, a German Jew who fled to America to avoid Nazi persecution. However, the best piece of the evening was the first, Study for Strings by Pavel Haas.

As of late, I’ve been listening to a lot classical music. Going to a symphony has been something I’ve always wanted to do and that morning I received an e-mail that that evening’s performance had tickets available for only $18. Without giving it a second thought, I paid the 18-bucks and went about my day. After seeing the United States draw against Argentina I quickly made it home from the bar for a quick change and proceeded to the symphony.

I went by myself. Whenever I go on one of my solo adventures, there’s a mix excitement and nervousness.

As I picked-up my ticket from will call, I knew full well that I was going to be in the nose bleeds since I bought the least expensive ticket possible, in the D price range. To my pleasant surprise, I was placed in the fourth row. Later I realized, that being that close to the musicians is considered a bad thing, but not to me! The acoustics were great and being able to see the ensemble at that close a range was wonderful. I even had the opportunity to make eye-contact with some cute violinists. Excellent.

Sitting there, taking in the new sights and the sounds of the musicians tuning their instruments was overwhelming, in a great way! That’s when I read my program and first learned of Haas’ story.

A Czech Jew, he suffered under Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. As the situation worsened for the Jewish community in his country, he saved his wife’s life… by divorcing her. You see, she was not Jewish and to save her from the growing oppression of Jews he had no choice. The closest thing he ever did for her was let her go.

Eventually he was arrested and taken to Theresienstadt, the Nazi’s propaganda ghetto that they regularly showed film of to display to the world how “well” they treated their prisoners. While there in the the prison, now named Terezin, he wrote the piece Study for Strings. Nazis even had film of one of the performances to show their “humanity”.

Shortly after that film, he was transferred to Auschwitz and promptly killed in a gas chamber.

Reading about this before the performance only heightened my nerves. I was a ball of energy, filled with conflicting emotions of excitement and sadness; joy, at my external surroundings and internal reflection, on learning his story.

Then the concert began.

I was expecting a sad, somber piece, considering the conditions he lived in. It wasn’t. Neither was it an over-joyous Nazi contrived propaganda piece. When you listen to it, you get the sense of anxiety and confusion. It was, and is, a work of perseverance. Although tomorrow is uncertain, one can also take away it’s fighting spirit. The work is a fight, no question, and does not claim victory. But it neither concedes defeat.

In October of 1944 he was murdered inside a gas chamber. A death too cruel for an animal, and yet that’s how he met his end. Naked, choking to death with others, surprised at the cruel deception, clawing at doors that would not open. But he really didn’t die that night.

For one night, nearly 70-years after his death, he shared his joy and love for life with me and thousands others. His hands were at work once again through the fingers of musicians. He smiled again through the faces in the crowd. And at the end, we thanked and celebrated him with applause. Celebrating not only his masterpiece of music, but also the masterpiece that was his life.

His life was taken away by an act of evil and cruelty. But his spirit and legacy will live on forever. And that, no one can kill.

Pavel Haas (June 21st, 1899 – October 17th 1944)

Resolve To Not Have A Resolution

 

We humans are capable of greatness. --Carl Sagan

The purpose of this post is to help you make your goals and aspirations more attainable and in turn, more possible in coming true. Whether you want to learn a new skill set like a new language or fly a plane, or if you want to reach your own personal goals, be they fitness (lose fat, gain muscle), learn to be a writer, etc., this posts aims to help.

First Things First: Who The Heck Do I Think I Am?

I am by no means a role-model who has climbed Everest, made my first million at the age of 18 or has expertise in any one field. In fact, I am one of the most flawed individuals in need of help I know.

I have, however, done a lot more than many. I taught myself guitar (just campfire good, but better than most) and a third language, Portuguese. This year I started on my path towards the American Dream; I started my own business. I have also faced some of my fears (learing to finally swim) and have become a faster reader and type at higher speeds. All these things did not just come to me. I worked on them and all had their difficulties. But I have had lots of success, and if you are interested in learning a few of my short cuts and most importantly, what not to do, then please read on.

Make Mistakes. It’s OK.
I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
–Michael Jordan

All the great home run hitters also have another stat that they lead in that no one likes to talk about; strikeouts. To succeed in anything you have to make mistakes. A lot of them. It is very uncomfortable and this discomfort, I believe, is the #1 reason people fail when trying new things. Why? Well tell me if you enjoy any of these things.

-Looking foolish to others as you struggle.
-Feeling dumb. Getting frustrated.
-Not making any perceived headway.
-Getting bored.
-After failing and failing, you try again and fail again.

Now imagine all this happening… everyday. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Well anyone who got good at anything had to go through all these trials and tribulations. And if you want to succeed at any of your goals, you will too. But I do have some good news. It’s not as bad as it seems.

Reframing
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
–Wayne Dyer

Reframing is a word that came from the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) world. Basically, it means taking a different spin on things. I just like to think of it as, quit being such a negative Nancy and see the good in everything. This positive outlook spills over to other aspects in life, so that’s another plus.

If you are trying to learn a new skill set, like say, learning a new language, it’s easy to fall back on all the negative stuff. “Why can’t I remember that word?” “I can’t try my Spanish with a native speaker yet! I’ll look stupid!” “I just can’t learn a new language! Some people are better than others at learning that.” And the pity pot goes on and on and on.

Are some of those things true? Sure I guess. But you should look for other truisms as well. “When I DO learn that word I’m just that much closer to fluency!” “If I speak Spanish to her, I’m sure she’ll appreciate that I’m trying! Plus I get to meet new people, make them smile with the fact that I am trying to learn her culture, and if I do make mistakes, great! I know what not to do the next time!” “No one is hard-wired at any certain skill sets. If someone can do something, then I can too! There’s a term for people who think some are better than others… racists!” and so on. These are also a very much true and more so. Plus, they make you feel better, and are infinitely more likely to create results in your goal. After all, making excuses never got anyone anywhere.

Working For It Is Better Than Getting It
All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea.
–Napoleon Hill

There’s an example that goes like this. You were dirt poor and worked your way through college and started your own business. It was hard and filled with more heartache than joy. After years of penny-pinching and sacrifice, you saved up enough money to buy your dream car, a Lamborghini. You also just happened to enter into a raffle and won the exact same car. You now have both in your garage. If one was stolen or destroyed, which one would hurt more? The first one right? It represents a whole lot more than just a car. That Lamborghini is your goal in a sense.

We respect men like Gandhi and Dr. King not jut because of what they taught, shared and believed, but because of the trials they went through. And they were both molded into the characters that we revere today because of those struggles.

You might think it’s unfortunate that we just can’t take a pill and in a few weeks lose all body fat and be ripped like 1980’s Schwarzenegger. I think it great. Good things come to those who work hard and when you reach any part of your goal, however small, you are doing more than the next man who just sits there and waits.

You Deserve Squat
Deserve your dream.
–Octavio Paz

Most people think that life owes them something. It doesn’t and that’s a good thing! Someone is not spending their days working on a way to make you financially, physically, or emotionally healthier. “But I’m a good nice person!” Well the world is still going to run you over. “Well I’m a mean, defensive, bitchy person!” Well that same world is also going to run you over. You’re just going to be more miserable.

Nothing is just going to fall on your lap. It’s there though. All you gotta do is take it.

Gettin’ It Done
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
–Eleanor Roosevelt

Now that we got the right state of mind, how does one exactly tackle these things? For starters, be stubborn.

I remember when I was learning guitar, man, I made a lot of people angry. I’d go everywhere with my guitar and play the same chords and the same song over, and over again. People would try to politely tell me to stop. But nope, I kept at it. My stubbornness was rewarded and I can pick up a guitar and play a thing or two. Am I good? Not really! Am I OK getting by and able to learn any song I wanted in a few weeks time? Sure. And none of that would’ve been possible had I not had a thick skull and brushed off the naysayers.

Just Do It!
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
–Benjamin Franklin

Seems obvious right? Well most things are. Wishing to learn Japanese isn’t going to make it so. Reading about Hiragana, buying Manga, getting a Kanji tattoo, these are all superficial things. Get out there and freaking do it already! How ever small the step, it’s still a step. When you do hit a wall, get excited! You’ve done it before and know how great it feels.

Put Yourself Out There
Life is not accountable to us. We are accountable to life.
–Denis Waitley

One of my favorite language learning books is Benny’s Fluent in 3-Months guide. One of the best bits of advice was to go out and make a language blog. The rational behind it is if you put yourself out there, you are more likely to do it. Seriously. Think about it for a second. I want you to think for a moment what goal, resolution, whatever!, you would like to accomplish or be better at by year’s end. Got it? Good. Go post it on facebook to all your friends and family to see. Not so ready to do that are you! You’re afraid that if you fail, everyone will hold you accountable. And that is exactly why you should. I’m not saying you start a language blog like I did, but I do think you should put yourself out there. It is a great motivator. And for those of you wondering, my goal is to learn Russian in 2011. So there.

Make Your Goals Smaller, More Realistic
To be realistic today is to be visionary. To be realistic is to be starry-eyed.
–Hubert H. Humphrey

And finally, the title of this post is, “Resolve To Not Have A Resolution” and I mean exactly that. Resolutions are usually these intangible, long away goals that are not very well planned out. I want to lose X pounds this year is too vague and too far away! You need to make your goals two things, a) shorter, and b) better defined.

There is nothing worse than a goal the size of twelve months! It starts plenty of bad habits. For one, there is no pressure to start. I mean, you have a year right? And if you do start right away, it’s easier to fall off. I mean, you have a year right? Goals should be a month-long, preferably a few days and weekly ones.

With Russian, I hope to have Comprehensive I of Russian Pimsleur done. However, if I get 10 to 15 of the 30 done, I’ll also be very happy. The point is, that’s more of a measuring point I would like to reach. What I plan to do is at least one hour (two half-hour units, the same one, twice a day) of Pimsleur a month. Will I have all 30 Units done or just 10? I’m not sure, but even if I just get up to 10 I will already be conversational! And that’s 10 more Units I have ever done and 10 more than you!

That’s All Folks!

And that’s about it. There are other things I did not go over and each of these things I touched on were so brief, each have had books written about them. But I hope this give you a primer on how and where to start.

The bad news is, you have the biggest hurdle in your way. You.

The good new is, you have the greatest ally in the world. You.

Thank. Full.

I give thanks to a full and complete life. I don’t say thank-you enough, but I do feel I appreciate life’s everyday miracles. And yes, everyday is a miracle, filled with new and exciting things. Sometimes, the worst part about a day is that it has to end.

I am thankful for my mother. She is the best thing to ever happen in my life. Her selflessness is appreciated. She is my hero and sets a very high, nearly unreachable bar for the rest of us shmucks.

I am thankful for my dad. I know all I do is talk bad about the man, but people forget, he’s my dad! That’s the relationship all good sons and fathers have! And even though I give the man grief, I am more like him than not. He may never know it, but I love him so much for being a strong man, protector, provider, and leader in my life.

I am thankful for my sisters. And also, I am thankful for being the youngest and only boy. Especially the only boy part. My sisters have stood by me when I was at my worst. I have pushed them away in a million small different ways and they have always came back with a hug and love. I am a spoiled, entitled brat. And I thank them for that 🙂

I am thankful for my nieces and nephews. They’re innocence is a constant reflection on what’s wrong with me and the world. There they are, uncorrupted and happy. I envy them. And that is one of many reasons why I love them.

I am thankful for my country. I live in the greatest society ever conceived by man. A brave new idea, that freedom, not government, is to be trusted and in charge. This roll of the die may have created anarchy and disorder, but instead, when man is left and released of his shackles of government, kings, and dictators, he is free to grow himself and his community to unimaginable heights.

I am thankful to our veterans. There are a lot of men who died a not-so-pleasant death just so I could be here, typing this for your eyes. From the man who fell to a musket under the British several hundred years ago, and to the kid who fell today in Afghanistan, I thank-you for my freedom.

I am thankful for being Mexican. No, not political but ethnically. Being a minority in this country is pretty cool. Everyday is like one big episode of, “Man, white people are weird!” We are a fun, family orientated, patriotic folk that enjoy a good time. I said it once, and I’ll say a million more times: Everyone wishes they could be Latino. And every Latino wishes they could be Mexican.

I am thankful I am good looking. Sorry for the vanity people, but I am a good looking man. Going through life can be hard enough, walking around with a mug like Sam Cassell doesn’t help.

I am thankful for my Kindle. It’s a small bundle of kick-ass.

I am thankful for my sense of humor. I crack myself up all day. I hate smiling but I can’t help it when my inner monologue makes a witty observeation.

I am thankful for spell check. U wuld knot wont 2 reed dis iff i hadent yoosedit.

I am thankful for my hemophilia. And all the pain and suffering that came with it. I have an outlook on life that I wouldn’t exchange for the world. And every friend I know is somehow related. Which leads me to…

I am thankful for my friends. I only surround myself with nearly equally awesome people as me (sorry, but science has proved that no one is on the same level of awesome as me). They get my grief but that’s only because I don’t know how to express myself better.

I am thankful for being a man. Being a dude is great. We can still make babies at 90 and we know how to drive 😉

I am thankful for women. Holy moly do I love chicks. They are the most frustrating creatures on earth but man, are they fun to… well you know. The more girly a girl, the better. A chick who watches sports, drinks beer, curses, etc., might do it for some guys, but not me. I like a women who embraces her femininity. Skirts, lace, perfume, makeup, the color pink, wine, and all that other crap that I don’t understand I love. I don’t get it, but keep doing it ladies.

I am thankful for Capitalism. There is always someone out there, waiting to make something better and cheaper. And we reap the rewards. Fabulous.

I am thankful I love to read.

I am thankful for being a Republican. Just means I’m not stupid and aspire to be a man of good character. Society owes you nothing. The reason you suck is not because of what has happened to you, it’s because you suck. And just because you suck, doesn’t mean the rest of us need to suck. It means you need to stop sucking.

I am thankful for the internet. The amount of knowledge and growth at our fingertips is amazing. What’s even more amazing, is how many people waste it on shallow connections via Twitter and facebook.

I am thankful for our immigrants, regardless of their current legal status. Funny that we live on soil that did not belong to us with people angry that some people are speaking an Iberian language from a peninsula 2000 miles away instead of an island language that is equally as far. If you are in America, and not Native American, you are the product of illegal immigration, somewhere down the line. Don’t let your xenophobia get in the way that they are just like you. It’s an insult to God, American history, and your ancestors.

I am thankful for Harrison Ford. Dude was Han Solo and Indiana Jones. C’mon now. That’s pretty awesome.

I am thankful we live in peaceful times. You may think I’m crazy but I just think you don’t appreciate history. Some might say the end is near, with the wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. That’s just selective reasoning. Sure there’s AIDS, but that had nothing on the plague. And there may be places on the globe that are currently in states of war, but compared to conquerers past, that’s nothing. The slaughter of millions and enslavement of more would happen on a yearly basis, not anymore. Just because you’re a negative Nancy doesn’t mean I have to forget history and have your irresponsible appreciation of time’s past. Those victims deserve better.

I am thankful I have rhythm. When I see other people “dance”, boy am I ever thankful.

I am thankful I take risks.

I am thankful I face my fears. The other side of that scary hill is pure happiness.

I am thankful I knock on doors. Most people are so scared to ask… anything! Are you looking to hire someone new? Will you go out with me? Where’s the restroom?! These and many more questions have people petrified. You want more out of life? Then get it! It starts by asking ’cause nothing is going to magically fall on your lap.

I am thankful for my Kindle. I already said that? Well I’ll say it again. It’s that sick.

I am thankful I found myself back to my Catholic faith. I am no longer an angry man, and that is a gift attainable, only through God and his one true church.

I am thankful for Jesus Christ. No one has ever been more ridiculed and shamed, tortured and suffered more than Him. And He did it all for you and I. It is a debt I am trying to pay yet will never be able to. But I am trying.

And finally, I am thankful for me. The Dali Lama once said, “If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others.” True dat. I’m done with second guessing myself. I’m done not believing in me. It CAN be done. You want to stop me? Good luck. Playing it safe sucks and I know anything is possible. Why? God is on my side. America is on my side. There is nothing I can’t do. And for that, I am truly thankful.

Ronald Reagan's "It Can Be Done" Placard

What are you thankful for? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear.

Just Talk About It

Ahhh... delusions of grandeur

Nike says, “Just Do It” but most people are of the mindset of “Just Talk About It”. We live in a world of big dreams and small actions, and I for one am tired of it. Take for instance, Post-inspirational-quotes-on-facebook, girl. She sucks. These ladies (and in all fairness, some guys) spend their free time researching online motivational quotes and then present them to their audience (friends) as something people should take away. Really? You mean I’m supposed to get energized because your lazy ass came across a quote while you were sucking the Dorito’s cheese off your fingers? Well shit. Excuse me while I go skydiving Gandhi.

I think they do this for several reasons. For one, it resonates with them in a personal level in what they believe they are (they’e not). It also is an ego feeder, “Hey everybody! Look at how deep, smart, complicated, and motivated I am!” Then other gals working on their own ass-blisters can post, “Wow chicka! That was deep, smart, complicated, and motiving!” Then they text each other offline about Glee.

In this great post, Corbett Barr talks about how people are cheapening, what were once, great words. Anyone can just grab these and pass ’em along. What I want to hear is your words on how you overcame, built, something.

I have lots of quotes up. And I read them all the time. Not so I can show others how to think, but for me! One of the most famous quotes that a lot of people use is:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
–Albert Einstein

I love that one too. People always post it, as to say, “Hey, dumbass over there. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it and try something else!” Why do I have it up? So I can tell myself, “Hey, dumbass in the mirror. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it and try something else!”

Sorry to be so blunt (no I’m not) but if you are just another one of the many people going through the expected motions of life, that’s fine. Truly it is. It’s your life and I’m happy if you’re happy. But please, don’t expect me or anyone else to be moved or touched because you have internet access and came across something catchy.

If you do post a quote, please, reference it to how it pertains to something in your life. Why do these words strike a chord with you? What pass experience, good or bad, relates to it?

From now on, every time I see or hear someone doing this, I will always referance one of my favorite quotes from one of the greatest minds in history:

“D’oh!”
–Homer Simpson

What Is This Exactly?

So. You’re probably wondering what this blog is all about. Well, try not to over think it. The purpose of this blog is a release of my thoughts, feelings, and ideas. That’s really it. I’ve addressed everything from politics to fashion. So don’t be surprised if one post is about Ireland and it’s declining economy followed by a post about Project Runway. That’s also why I created my language log site. That blog deals with one subject only; learning new languages. It’s something I’m passionate about, good at, and deserves it’s own little corner of the World Wide Web. On the other hand, this site is a firehouse for me scratching my brain itches. Haven’t you always wanted to get something off your chest? Well, I have, and it… feels… great. These are my ideas, and to finally put them in a succinct, printed manner is a wonderful feeling.

Sure, if I wanted more readers and possible monetization, I should pick a central theme and run with it. But that’s not what this is. It’s my online journal and that’s that. If you don’t like it, well then you suck because I’m the essence of awesome wrapped in a very attractive package of flesh.

Extinguished Flame

Myself and Jessie at her wedding

So it’s been a few weeks since my friend Jessie Grossman unexpectedly passed away at the age of 29. I can’t possibly put her life and the memories she gave me into words. And that’s not what I’m trying to do with this post. Heck, I still can’t comprehend that she’s gone. I will just simply write what I’m feeling now, at this early time of dealing with loss.

Here is one small story. We buried Jessie on Friday, October 15th. The day before, I went to church.

I was full of anxiety. I had drank the night before, trying to digest the incomprehensible news. I barely made it to church and grateful I didn’t have a panic attack. I decided to light a candle for Jessie, so I went to the church shop. Don’t worry, Jessie was a good Jewish girl but loved other cultures and customs. Her house had images of the Virgin Mary while her hands would be painted in Mehndi. All my Jewish friends would not like it if I lit a candle in their memory inside a Catholic Church. But I am confident that Jessie would be bouncing in happiness. Inside the shop, there was three different sized candles. The medium sized one, which would burn for five days, was a bright red unlike the other two which were white.

Since I’m new to my faith I didn’t know (and still don’t know!) if I did it right. But I went into the cathedral, placed the candle where a sliver of sunlight would hit it and lit the candle with the wicks provided there. I kneeled and prayed a little prayer. There was no knee rest, so it was pretty painful. After a few words to God to take care of her, I did the sign of the cross and left church, this time with less anxiety and a clearer mind.

I came back about a week later. I knew that it was over five days but I was sure that the candle would still be there. It wasn’t.

The reason I tell this story is not to talk about myself. You see, Jessie was with me through all of that. I arrived full of anxiety because I had not done the smart thing in taking care of myself, just like Jessie would. I picked the red candle because it was loud, demanding and deserving of attention; also Jessie. I went in there not really understanding yet appreciating everything. Unsure, yet resilient to go forward. Jessie and Jessie. And after leaving I felt better than I had arrived. The same effect Jessie had on me.

Finally, when I went to see the candle, it was gone. Just like her. Nothing for me to see, no warning. Just gone, with me and my wits left to try to understand what happened.

Like a candle, Jessie’s life was bright and beautiful to see. Painful at times… calming in others. That was the duality in the beauty and tragedy of her life. It burned brighter than most. It also burned out quicker than most.

Like that candle, her flame will never be lit again. We will never see her beauty, nor her feel warmth.

But just because she’s gone, doesn’t mean that her fire can’t live inside of us. Her light lives on inside those she touched, for her fire and passion for life was that potent. Her light can still illuminate our minds and calm our souls.

I still fail to fully understand that Jessie’s gone. Maybe it’s because she has really never left.

Common Misconceptions

The red line represents the path of the Sun, through the year. The red/green is the Earth’s path. The place where these two cross, is the spring equinox.

I’m using this blog post to talk about three common misconceptions/misunderstandings. These are very prevalent and I come across them what feels like every other week. If I don’t address this, for once, I’ll go crazy.

What’s Your Sign? No It’s Not

Whenever a girl begins with, “Do you know what my horoscope said?” you can answer confidently, “That you’re crazy.”

I guess that my love for astronomy and the skeptic in me combine for a really frustrated guy when it comes to astrology. I can’t even begin to count the ways how dumb it is. But the best part is, all these folks that think they know their signs, don’t.

There are many different branches of astrology and many that are much older, but the one that we use here in the States is what’s called “Western astrology”. This system of the twelve constellations came around the 2nd century AD. And in Western astrology, sometime ago, someone got lazy and stopped looking at the sky because the position of the stars had changed! It takes the earth 27,000 years to go through all 12 different zodiac signs. It’s substantial enough that no one really noticed that the position of the constellations changed, yet it’s small enough that the small change is noticeable after only a few hundred years.

There are a few people that use the correct form of Western astrology, called Sidereal astrology. However, most Americans use the out of date version, Tropical astrology.

So what is your real sign? The table below should clear that up.Continue reading “Common Misconceptions”