Celebrate Christmas IX/X

It is that time of year. That time when most of my spare time is focused on getting Celebrate Christmas ready to go.

We are running two shows this year, December 14 and December 15 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Ontario.

We used to run one show but we sold out the past two years and for this year we are going to offer two events along. We will also be honoured with a very special guest appearance by my good friend Trevor.

This will be my final run for Celebrate Christmas. The event has come a long way from when I first started it nine years ago. We hosted the event at Bay Park Baptist Church and the first year looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

Regardless of what it looks like, each year has been special in its own way. We share the joy of Christmas and the reason for the season with so many people. The music we share is our gift of Christmas to our family, friends and neighbours.

There will be certain things that I will miss in my retirement years. Celebrate Christmas will be at the top of that list.

No More Excuses. Tomorrow Never Comes.

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That was the subject of an email I received from TRX Training.

I first started using the TRX Suspension Training System when I was working with a personal trainer. Sadly, my personal trainer, after 5 years, decided to leave me for another career. Very sad, but I am slowly getting over the loss.

I have fallen off my core conditioning program and I could lay the blame on a multitude of factors. I could lay that on not being able to find another personal trainer. I could lay the blame on having too many competing priorities. Really, though, laying blame is more about finding excuses than making something happen.

With a lot of issues in life, stress inevitably creeps in. And stress can do weird things to perspective. I have been in a bit of a funk lately and blaming my lot in life: too many issues, too many commitments, not enough time, too busy. Many of the things that are important to do in life are getting dropped because I am too busy.

Too busy being stressed out.

I need to remind myself that life is not my enemy. My thinking is my enemy. If I want a different experience, I must change the way I think.

Lorraine bought me a book last night called The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha.

“You need to read this book and you need to act on it.”

No more excuses. Tomorrow never comes. Time to get on with it.

Brexit And Other End Of The World Issues

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It seems a bit tiring, doesn’t it? The fear. The uncertainty. The volatility. Today it is Brexit. Tomorrow it will be something else.

This is not only echoed in the media that we read and watch but also in the everyday issues that we face. How important are these everyday issues really?

Ask yourself this question: will it matter a week from now? A month from now? A year from now?

Once in a great while an issue may well be that important. But, for the vast majority of the time, it simply isn’t.

This is a hard and important lesson for me to learn.

Life Is Not An Emergency

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Sometimes we’re looking too far ahead and we begin to worry about how we are going to get there while other days we’re creating too much stress by saying yes, too often. We find our plates completely full. Whatever the reason, we’ve got to slow down and breathe.

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Too many commitments and not enough time. It does come about by saying yes too often. Looking out to the future can create dissonance by making the current journey out of step with that vision of the future.

I really struggle with patience which is another way of saying that I find it very challenging to slow down. My personality is such that I expect to get everything that needs to be done in a day, well, done. If life throws a curveball, then I react poorly. I get angry, frustrated and guilty. All at the same time.

I have been experiencing an extended period of stress over the past few months. In looking at the literature, there are a number of things that can help manage and reduce stress. I need to incorporate a few of them into my daily life. This list comes from the Canadian Mental Health Association:

There is no one right way to deal with stress. The tips below are common strategies that are helpful for many people. Try them out and see what works best for you. Remember to look at both short-term and long-term solutions when you’re dealing with stress.

Identify the problem. Is your job, school, a relationship with someone, or worries about money causing stress? Are unimportant, surface problems hiding deeper problems? Once you know what the real problem is, you can do something about it.

Solve problems as they come up. What can you do, and what are the possible outcomes? Would that be better or worse than doing nothing? Remember, sometimes solving a problem means doing the best you can—even if it isn’t perfect—or asking for help. Once you’ve decided on a solution, divide the steps into manageable pieces and work on one piece at a time. Improving your problem-solving skills is a long-term strategy that can help you feel like you’re in control again.

Talk about your problems. You may find it helpful to talk about your stress. Loved ones may not realize that you’re having a hard time. Once they understand, they may be able to help in two different ways. First, they can just listen—simply expressing your feelings can help a lot. Second, they may have ideas to help you solve or deal with your problems. If you need to talk with someone outside your own circle of loved ones, your family doctor may be able to refer you to a counsellor, or you may have access to one through your school, workplace, or faith community.

Simplify your life. Stress can come up when there are too many things going on. Learning to say no is a real skill that takes practice. Try to look for ways to make your to-do list more manageable.

Learn helpful thinking strategies. The way you think about situations affects the way you respond to them. Unhelpful thoughts, such as believing that everything must be perfect or expecting the worst possible outcome, can make problems seem bigger than they really are.

Learn about stress management. There are many useful books, websites, and courses to help you cope with stress. There are also counsellors who specialize in stress. There may be stress management courses and workshops available through your community centre, workplace, or school.

Start on the inside. Practices like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or breathing exercises can help you quiet your mind and look at problems from a calmer, more balanced point of view. With time, these practices can help you manage your response to stressful situations as they come up.

Get active. Physical activity can be a great way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Activity could be anything from taking up a new sport to walking. The most important part is that it gets you moving and you enjoy it—it shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you experience barriers to physical activity, try talking to your doctor or care team for ideas.

Do something you enjoy. Making time for hobbies, sports, or activities that you find fun or make you laugh can temporarily give you a break from problems. Listen to music, read, go for a walk, see a friend, watch your favourite movie, or do whatever makes you feel good. This can give you a little mental distance from problems when you can’t deal with them right away.

Yellow Brick Road

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As I get older, I become more and more convinced that we each have a purpose in life. We have our own yellow brick road. A path we follow on our journey of life.

There is joy, there is sadness, there are forks in the road. And sometimes there are roadblocks, challenges that force us to think differently about our lives.

And yet there really is no choice but to follow the yellow brick road.

Wisdom

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My wife gave me a calendar as a gift this year, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

I keep it at work. And I read it every workday. I catch up on the dates I have missed whenever I am away from the office.

There is a surprising amount of wisdom in this calendar. Today’s thought in particular:

Which is wiser, optimism or pessimism? Optimists understand that no one has a crystal ball and that no one can accurately predict the future. Along these lines, they know that although pessimists feel confident that things won’t work out, they are only guessing and assuming that this is true. Optimists believe that, because no one really knows what’s going to happen, it’s far wiser and makes for a more pleasant and joyful experience if one is optimistic, if one assumes the best.

If your energy is primarily negative, if you continually look for flaws, problems and verification that life is essentially bad, then where will the bulk of your energy lie?

A Commercial Driver’s License

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I have been working on getting a commercial driver’s license over the past few months. In my spare time. Because I often have so much spare time that I find myself thinking about things to get. Like a commercial driver’s license.

There is a backstory here. It has to do with eventually getting ready to retire. I am not getting any younger these days and, before we know it, Lorraine and I will have to start thinking about what we will do in our golden years.

We have, of course, already given it considerable thought. We do intend to become snowbirds in our retirement years but we really do not want to be locked into a fixed property in one of the southern states. We would rather have our mobility and a little condo on wheels.

We are getting a motorhome.

We decided to get it now so that we could get used to operating the vehicle and begin taking some of our vacation breaks with it. Sometime over the next few years, we’ll take longer trips during the winter and perhaps forget to come back until late spring.

The type of motorhome we purchased is a Class A Diesel Pusher. It is a large coach, 40-feet in length and weighs in at about 36,000 lbs unloaded. In the province of Ontario, you are required to obtain a Class D commercial driver’s license if the weight of the vehicle you are driving exceeds 11,000 kgs or about 24,250 lbs. You also have to obtain a Z endorsement if the vehicle has air brakes.

Turns out that driving a motorhome in the retirement years can take quite a bit of work just to get licensed.

I had to pass an eye test. I had to complete a physical and submit a medical report. I had to write a test specific to operating large trucks and tractor-trailors. I had to write a test on air brakes. I had to be tested on my practical knowledge of air brakes on a tractor-trailer. And I had to pass a road test driving a large vehicle over 11,000 kgs.

Over the past eight weeks, I chipped away at each requirement. I passed all of the tests and I now hold a commercial driver’s license.

I really wondered whether learning to operate large commercial vehicles would be relevant to operating a large motorhome. After completing all of the training and testing, there is no question in my mind that I am far better prepared to take ownership of the motorhome and operate it safely.

Although I sometimes grumble at government rules and regulations, having to get this license before operating a large motorhome makes a lot of sense.

Arizona

I was down to Arizona for a speaking engagement at the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale. I really love the southwest. It is just a beautiful part of the world. Here are a few shots from my all too brief time at the resort property. Lorraine was able to join me and I hope she also enjoyed the time south. The very last photo of this series was the view from our hotel room. I could get used to that view.

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