The Game of Life: What’s Your Score?

There’s been a strange turn in our local newspaper, the Arizona Republic. Let me explain. They’ve recently relocated the obituaries to the back of the sports section. Yes, that’s right. You can now check game scores while you peruse the passing of your neighbors. How convenient!

Smile for the camera

The redesign of the obits started weeks ago. First, they enlarged the photographs. I get it. You want to see the face of your loved one. But most of the photographs aren’t professionally shot. The enhanced size looks grainy. And as we older folks know, it’s hard to capture a flattering photograph. We need proper lighting and a bit of photoshopping. Aunt Gert looks as if she was caught by surprise. Uncle Milton seems to be in the middle of chewing. So why, for heaven’s sake (I had to throw that in), make the photograph larger?

The whole thing has got me thinking (uh oh)

By placing the obits in the sports section, is the Arizona Republic confirming that life is but a game and there are winners and losers? Is your age at the time of death the ultimate score? If you’ve reached 80, 90, or 100—have you officially won—making death the eternal booby prize? Or, are the winners determined by the length of the obituary and the scads of relatives who adored you (though they never came to visit)? Does your obit dominate the page, attracting the most attention? And if you’re dead, does any of this truly matter?

I guess winner is a relative term

Few obits seem to provide the most interesting highlights from a life well-lived. I’m not referring to the marriages or the children or even the jobs held. Those are facts. Our lives are shaped by our challenges, hardships, and lessons learned. If you were a parent, what tips can you pass on about raising children? If you were a caretaker for an elderly parent, how did you sustain your enthusiasm? If you succeeded in business, what secrets did you learn about working with people? Just imagine what a terrific read that might be. To capture a snapshot of the living, breathing, thinking human being—and not just some vital statistics.Continue reading . . .    

Late Night Buying Spree…What’s Your Pleasure?

I was up the other night unable to sleep. It happens. Not often, but enough to know that late night television is jammed with 30-minute infomercials. Celebrity promos encouraging us to purchase all sorts of products. From Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty (let’s just agree the woman is gorgeous and even after 30 years she looks practically the same) to Leandro Carvalho’s (I have no idea who he is but he’s very enthusiastic) Brazilian Butt Lift, which finally answers that burning question of why everyone from Brazil has such a firm hiney.

Stair Stepper

In 1990, before anyone ever heard the name Kardashian, I purchased a mini stair stepper promoted by Bruce Jenner. It looked like a wonderful piece of exercise equipment and sure enough, I stepped my way to the nightly news for three weeks until it started to leak grease all over my carpet. By then, the little stepper was making a high-pitched, whining noise. It sounded like I was killing a cat. I wrote Bruce an angry letter complaining about the poorly built stepper and wondered how an Olympian could ever promote such a piece of junk. Needless to say, he never wrote back. As I learned later, his wife Kris had negotiated the deal. So, in a way, I was an early-adopter of the Kardashian business model. No comment.

And I Should Have Learned My Lesson…But I Didn’t

Next, I fell victim to a very senior Hugh Downs. This was well after his retirement from the prime time news magazine 20/20. He was promoting a two-volume edition of alternative medical treatments. The pitch: cures the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know. As a healthcare administrator and part-time hypochondriac, I couldn’t resist. At 2:00 a.m., I placed my order. When the books arrived, they were essentially bundled scientific research papers. Pretty much unreadable to even a guy who had a B.A. in Biology. Continue reading . . .    

Smile … It’s 2018!

It’s the start of another year and I am feeling tremendously energized. For those who know me well, this is an odd turn of events. Typically, I’m miserable this time of year. Not only because there is another Brad birthday looming, and really, who wants to be another year older, but because the notion of the New Year requires us to focus on making some monumental improvement in our lives. That just puts too much pressure on the month of January. Especially when you can choose any time of the year to make improvements. Perhaps, every day. Okay—that’s too much for anyone. But you get my drift.

So why would I be happy?

I’ve never been one to have New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t operate that way. Instead, as issues arise, I like to make changes. It may take me a while to get there, but eventually, I figure out what to do. If you don’t believe me, you can just check with any of my former therapists. Yes, there have been more than one. I’m certain they’d all give me an A-plus rating. I was especially good at timely payment. Which proves that anything can be solved if you throw enough money at it. Mostly, your resolve to make a change.

The author’s journey

But I think the real motivator has been the insurmountable odds of ever being a successful author—and in an odd way—it’s freeing. If it happens, it happens, but it’s so darn unlikely, everyone kind of feels sorry for you. I like that. I like that a lot. Sympathy can be immensely gratifying. And I also love a good challenge. Because when you’re at the bottom—the only way ahead is up—and since everything is still new—it’s very exciting.
Continue reading . . .    

Five Thoughts from a Distracted Writer

I’ve been struggling lately with my powers of concentration. I’m not sure if it is an “aging thing” or just that I’ve been distracted by the production of my second novel, After the Fall. Either way, being anxious and uptight doesn’t seem ideal for the flow of one’s creative juices. I don’t drink, though I’d probably benefit from a shot every now and then. But I digress. My point here is that though I’ve been distracted, I’ve continued to spot things along the way that have troubled me. So I thought I’d share them with you today.

Please tell me . . .

  1. Why isn’t corned beef spelled corn beef?  Unless it’s my terrible hearing or lingering New York City accent, I’ve never heard anyone say corned. It just doesn’t happen. And why corned? Is it a nod to peppercorns? Do they even use peppercorns in the preparation? Isn’t that how they make pastrami?
  2. Why can’t they make a lightweight leaf blower to use in the house? Something that would blow all the dust into a corner, leaving the lamps and knickknacks in place? I think it would make the cleaning process go a lot quicker. My walkway always looks fantastic after a good blast.
  3. At what age is it okay to speak back to your elders?  Growing up, I was told it was never the proper thing to do. To this day, I follow the rule. But honestly, there seem to be fewer and fewer people around who are older than me. Does this mean that I can now forget all about it?
  4. Everyone has been so happy about Prince Harry’s engagement—I can’t help but feel the loss of JFK Jr. After all, he was our American Prince equivalent and it doesn’t seem as if anyone has stepped up to take his place. Maybe we don’t need such icons in America. Zac Efron and Justin Bieber…well, it’s just not the same.
  5. Does anyone really buy meat at Whole Foods? I can’t imagine shelling out that kind of do-re-me. If you do, I want to know how it compares with the meat at your neighborhood Costco or Sam’s Club. Write and let me know. Or better yet—invite me over for a taste test. I’ll bring dessert.

And Now . . . a Shameless Promo

My goal for 2018 is to get my second novel, After the Fall, into your hands. I’m hoping it might have a March 2018 release date. Of course, much work remains to be done, but I feel confident that the novel is solid. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the elevator pitch: the one-minute recap that writers use to telegraph that their novel is a must-read. What I can say is that I love the characters and I’m hoping that you will too.Continue reading . . .    

Why is the Television so Darn Loud?

There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.

Yes – I know

If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.

Commerce in Action

I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .    

Why is the Medicine Cabinet in the Kitchen?

The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.

Why is the drawer full?

At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill? 

Medicine Cabinet

We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.

Expiration

Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .    

Is Your Refrigerator A Mess?

I wish my refrigerator was spanking new. Perfectly clean with all my favorite foods lined up on shelves that sparkled. Labels facing front so that you can read them. Tupperware neatly stacked. No crumbs or wet spots anywhere.

A little OCD?

Yes, I’m neat, but not a neat freak. I don’t mind if a drawer is messy—as long as it’s closed. The bedroom closet may need some straightening up, but not every day. And frankly, I’m okay with the state of the garage. Of course, it’s easy to pass through there quickly. Really—who lingers in a garage? But the refrigerator feels different. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time looking inside of it.

Voila!

Think of how a trained chef dresses a plate.  It’s more than just the food—it’s about eye appeal. How the colors balance. How the shapes contrast. It’s lending an artistic eye so that everything presents in an appetizing way to heighten the experience.

Older Models

The fact is, older homes come with older refrigerators. I’ve tried taking apart our refrigerator and washing out every nook and cranny. I’ve even tried ordering new shelves and drawers, but everything is out of stock. Discontinued can be such an ugly word. Continue reading . . .    

Don’t Save it for Good

Years ago, a wise family friend shared with me the phrase, save it for good. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. But I knew from the tone of her voice and facial expression, that saving it for good was not a great idea.

Life is short

Perhaps there are clothes hanging in the closet that you’ve never worn. Or unplanned vacations that you hope to take one day. Or friends you’d like to visit—but have yet to find the right time. Then you know all about saving for good. Waiting for that perfect moment to savor life’s pleasures.

Control is an illusion

It’s often said that life is what happens as we’re busy making other plans. John Lennon sang about it in Beautiful Boy. And so, my wise family friend was trying to convey to me that it’s a mistake to save it for good. We truly only have this moment. Not yesterday…and no promises of tomorrow.

Take it to heart

I’ve tried to be mindful of that counsel, even though I often fall short. I tend to save it for good, anticipating something better is coming. It’s like being an inverted optimist. Never quite satisfied with today and ever hopeful that tomorrow will be brighter. I sometimes wonder if I occupy that quadrant alone.

Now take a few moments to enjoy John Lennon’s beautiful rendition. http://bit.ly/2usLFUQ

 

 

Does Anyone Know a Good Handyman?

Gee, it’s awfully hard to find a handyman or handywoman these days. Someone affordable, who can provide electrical, carpentry and plumbing services. I’ve searched, asked neighbors and friends. No one seems to have a recommendation. How can that be? Meanwhile, doctors, lawyers, and financial planners seem to be everywhere. Always advertising their services. You can hardly turn around without tripping over them.

American Airlines

On a recent trip to San Francisco, the in-flight magazine profiled The Top Doctors in America. I’d never considered flying to Nashville to meet an orthopedic surgeon. Or to Los Angeles for a plastic surgery consultation. Or to Baltimore to visit an Ob/Gyn (but then that would be just silly). Pages and pages of physicians reaching out across the country. Each one guaranteed to be the best in his/her field.

DUI?  

And relaxing in front of the television watching Judge Judy (I’m a sucker for a woman who says kerfuffle), the commercials begin for lawyers. Lots of catchy tunes. One rides a motorcycle without a helmet and sports an extremely tight tee-shirt displaying a buff physique (I’m just saying). Another pair is a husband and wife team. They seem happily married, smiling for the camera (but who can really tell?). Then, there’s this huge office staff, one after another claiming to represent the law firm. That explains why, if you call,  you’re guaranteed to never speak to the two lawyers they’re actually promoting. That seems odd.Continue reading . . .    

Mahjong Anyone?

On July 4th, friends invited us over to learn how to play Mahjong.

Mahjong!

The game my mother and her girlfriends played when I was growing up. I remember those ladies laughing and calling out tiles as I passed through the kitchen on my way to the refrigerator. I’d hear “two crack,” “three bam,” “five dot,” as they rapidly went around the table. They’d smoke cigarettes, sip refreshments and talk endlessly. Often their voices would rise in excitement, rolling into laughter. I never knew what they were talking about—and if I happened to linger too long—I was told to keep moving.

My turn

So, it was with great interest that I accepted the invitation to join a group of friends learning the game. After all, I thought rather arrogantly, how hard can it really be?

It was hard. Very hard.

And as I played, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. How did she ever carry on a conversation and play this game? How many rounds did she endure before she no longer needed to concentrate? And why is this game so much harder than poker? 

American version

It seems that there are two versions of Mahjong. The American—which I was learning—and the Chinese—which was being played by a group of men seated behind me. I’m guessing the American version is easier—but being new to it—it was like learning Hebrew (and that’s hard). The other guys kept saying it’s like playing gin rummy. I know gin rummy. I get the comparison. But this was beyond gin rummy. If you don’t believe me, check out the video explaining the basics. http://bit.ly/2uuMSqYContinue reading . . .    

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