Fighting the Funk — An Exercise in Doing What I Need to Do

A pile of scrap paper used to sketch out a blog post.
I can’t help it — even if you put a scrap of paper next to me, I’ll start scribbling ideas like a madman. It’s like a sickness 😐

Do you ever feel like your life is out of control and you don’t know how to fix it?

If you’re anything like me (and I hope for the good of humankind that there aren’t too many out there like me), you often keep so much on the plate that you don’t know where one item stops and where the next starts on the to-do list! In my case, it wasn’t even until recently that I managed to schedule time in to visit the doctor and the dentist (check ’em off of the list, by the way!) — partly due to dealing with an illness with a very visible effect; but largely due to constantly having so many things on the go and never knowing which one to attack.

It’s enough to drive someone mad.

Finding the Right Solution

Casey Palmer with his Canon 60D, taking some pictures of the fruits of his labours
Me, camera in hand, shooting something interesting. I get that work.

I’d say I know myself pretty well, and so here are some of the things contributing to the issue at hand:

I procrastinate

Unless someone’s lighting a fire under my ass to get things done, I tend to let things fall to the wayside. It isn’t easy to get me angry, but surprisingly, the angrier to get me, the more like I’ll do what I’m supposed to do just to prove you wrong.

I’m weird like that.

I’ll take the path of least resistance

I’m not conflict-averse in that I don’t have the balls to take someone on, but more often than not, it just doesn’t interest me to fight you. I don’t often come across people who actively try to get in the way of my accomplishments, so I don’t waste any energy fighting when I don’t need to.

Just don ‘t keep stepping on my tail, though. It’s like someone once told me — even though a bear might be hibernating, it makes it no less dangerous!!!

I’m a man of action, not planning

On top of the fact that I don’t exactly have a love for planning, with everything that I’m trying to do, I rarely seem to have the time to do it (even if I wanted to)!

I’m a man of action, but when there’re so many things requiring my efforts, it’s almost as if the sheer volume of the things to do cancels out the progress I make on anything else, and sometimes I walk into days feeling like I haven’t gotten much further than the one before.

It’s not all bad, though — I am a hard worker, and once I sink my teeth into a project I like, there’s no deterring me from it until I see it through. Keeping up that drive, the willpower — the momentum — that’s the hard part!

When you have a ton on your plate and you don’t feel like doing any of it, you’ve only got one option — you have to fight the funk.

Fighting the Funk

Source: Uploaded by user via Jared on Pinterest

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately — between job changes, cold weather and the hot mess that is my calendar, things blur more as more things get piled on. While February’s has all sorts of awesome lined up with trips to Buffalo and Vegas, parties and events starting to show up and my ambitions ever-relentless, it doesn’t look like things are going to get any simpler!

But it doesn’t have to last forever — there’s a secret to surviving a funk! The secret to getting past these overwhelming moments and avoiding slipping into a nervous breakdown that’ll tear apart all the stuff you’d been working on — is taking a look behind you and realizing how far you’ve come already.

A Blast from the Past

Who's that boy?

If you asked 20-year old Casey Palmer about where he’d be a decade later, he wouldn’t have imagined getting married. He wouldn’t have imagined working jobs with real responsibilities, using social media as a way of forging real relationships with others, or trying to push the envelope on so many fronts.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally starting to see how all the time I spent working on creative pursuits, leading volunteer teams and balancing jobs has helped make me who I am now. And while I’m not yet where I want to be, I’m more confident than ever that I can get there.

February — and the rest of winter altogether — it can definitely get you down… if you let it. Or you can celebrate the successes you’d have so far. You can relish in all those little victories and let them propel you to even greater ones.

So I see you, winter blahs, and I’m telling you to shove it —I’ve got work to do and I’m not about to let you stop me.

One month down, 11 to go.

Let’s get it.

–case p.

TV — Why Can’t I Quit You?!

Casey and Jon at Disneyland, 2oo6.
To be fair, I think “Space Ranger 2” had done this ride before. At least a few times!

I did it again, didn’t I? I pulled the entire “holier than thou” routine again, and now it’s come back to bite me in the ass.

I used to be a staunch agnostic in my high school days, only to end up being baptized in 2008.

I used to be firmly against drinking until the age of 20, and now have no problem with having a beer with dinner.

And for a few years recently, I was firmly against the idea of TV and anything it had to offer, but that too would soon find me being a hypocrite….

TV, the Greatest Frienemy I’ve Ever Had

I spent the better part of my childhood in front of a TV: Saturday Morning Cartoons, afterschool video games with my friends, and growing up on the sitcom gold that the 90s had to offer.

But growing up brought the Internet. YouTube. Every possible reason to be out of the house and not keeping up with what the major networks had to offer. (Though, with comic books having been a huge part of my upbringing, cartoons and anime still found their way into the mix — even ’til today!)

It wasn’t until only recently that I got too busy for TV! Living in Mississauga. Dating in Toronto. Hanging out at tweetups and working my day job when I wasn’t doing everything else — who had time for TV?

That is… until Netflix made its way into my life….

The Netflix Fix — I’m a Slave to the Screen!

I can’t remember how it happened — one day I was on a week-long free trial at my parents’ place in Mississauga, and the next thing I know, I’m married, living in Toronto, and using my iPad as a second monitor to watch the massive list of shows that people have recommended to me! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some amazing stuff out there (you have not lived until you’ve seen Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock!), but I can’t help but feel that I’m only filling my life with more distractions and trying to justify them by consuming them very efficiently.

With that said, it’s not so bad. I only have these shows left to get through:

  • The West Wing
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Dr. Who (Series 3 on)
  • Torchwood
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Downton Abbey
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • The Mighty Boosh
  • Little Britain
  • Life on Mars
  • The Young Ones
  • Black Adder
  • Scandal
  • The IT Crowd
  • Kings
  • Vikings
  • Misfits
  • The Newsroom

…okay. Maybe it’s a little bad.

–case p.

To Infinity and Beyond – Why You Should Make Me a Space Axetronaut!!!

The picture of me on the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest voting site.
Because space is the final frontier… and I’m not there yet!

To help me in my quest to become an Axetronaut (a term coined by my friend Christine), you could not bother reading this post and just vote for me at http://bit.ly/SpaceCase, but I’ve got a story to tell.

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How cool would it be to go to outer space???

A while back, I’d put a quote up for discussion on my Facebook from Penelope Trunk, author of The New American Dream:

It used to be we had a midlife crisis. Then we had a quarterlife crisis. Now we have a
constant crisis. Adults feel overwhelmed by the idea of trying to construct a life that
works. And the core of this problem is that the goal of happiness is feeling vacuous. It’s
just hard to say that. It’s hard to say you are not trying to get what you were raised to
get. It’s hard to say you are not playing the game you were taught in school – for twenty
years – to play.

In her book, Penelope surmises that we’re not actually looking for happiness in our lives — we’re just looking to keep things interesting. We get so wrapped up in our daily routines and trying to live at a certain standard that we forget to change it up now and then. To try new experiences, go new places, meet new people — we somehow convince ourselves that we’ll be happy if only we can keep things constant and meet a specific goal.

You’re kidding me, right?

No, the universe out there is so much larger and more complex than we can even fathom — yet me limit ourselves to the files on our desks. Or to our social media rankings. Bank account balances.

All things that won’t matter a lick at the end of our lives.

What we will have until the end are the experiences that make us unique. The experiences that make up the very foundation of who we are.

Our jobs do not define us.

Our stuff does not define us.

But we cannot choose whether our experiences define us — we are the sum of our experiences!

Axeing You to Make Me an Axetronaut!

The header image for the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest.
Only 2 Canadians can make the cut. Will I be one of them?

With all that in mind, I want to find my way to outer space!

While I’m not a fan of popularity contests (I’ll take feats of skill or luck over “Who ha the most Internet friends” any day), some prizes are too cool to pass up so easily!

But why send me to space? Why should I be one of the ones to represent Canada in one of the first commercial flights among the stars? Well…

1. I PROMISE TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE EXPERIENCE

Anyone who’s seen me in the midst of a new experience knows I’m like a kid at a candy store. My eyes light up, my energy levels spike, and I soak it all in. I’m not there to say I was there — I’m there to get everything I can from the experience I’m in! This would be no exception!

2. YOU CAN FREELY BE AMUSED BY MY COMPLETE LACK OF SHAME

No holds barred, y’all. If I need to upchuck my lunch after a ride in a centrifuge, you’ll be there. If I have a really embarrassing crotch-to-face collision while in zero gravity, you’ll be there. When I write, I’m here to help you experience what I experience, both good and bad. And if you trust me to go to space? It’ll be ridiculous.

3. I REP CANADA, THROUGH AND THROUGH

I’m proud to stand by the re and white colours of our flag. I’d love to show what Canadians are really made of and that even though we can be nice and polite to a fault, we’re also tough contenders when it comes down to it! Space would be the perfect arena to prove this!

How it All Works

The three stages for the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest
One year. One chance. Thousands of votes.

So we have 8 months to show that we can rally enough support to send us to Space Camp. You’ll see below that you can only vote once, so the real mission here will be to convince you guys to share my http://bit.ly/SpaceCase link with as many people as possible in that time! I’m somewhere around 200th now, but in that time, trust me — we can do some serious damage!!!

For a more detailed look at how the entire contest works:

Stage 1 — VOTING

  • Voting runs from January 9 – August 31, 2013
  • You can only vote once over the 8 months, meaning you want exposure to as many people as possible and not just harping on your friends to vote for you daily! (i.e. I’m going to badger you lot to share the heck out of the link instead!)
  • The Top 2 Canadians who advance to Stage 2  will be announced on or before October 31, 2013

Stage 2 — SPACE CAMP

  • Stage 2 is held at the Axe Apollo Global Space Camp in Orlando, FL in December 2013
  • Winners can meet winners from promotions in other countries, and take part in authentic astronaut training missions (including: a flight in an L39 Albatross Mk11 jet, a session in a G-force centrifuge simulator and a flight on  a zero gravity-inducing aircraft)

Stage 3 — ASTRONAUT SELECTION

  • The winning Canadian Axetronaut will be selected by January 31, 2014 based on 3 criteria:
    • MENTAL APTITUDE – BASED ON PERFORMANCE IN WRITTEN TEST
    • PHYSICAL APTITUDE – BASED ON PERFORMANCE IN 3 MAIN EVENTS AND ASSAULT COURSE
    • AXE SPACE CREW TEAM FIT – DEDICATION, ENTHUSIASM & TEAM SPIRIT
  • The prize: A flight on the X-COR Lynx sub­‐orbital space vehicle, now under development by X-­COR Technologies
  • Selected by January 31, 2014
  • Launch site: Currently anticipated to be in the United States, or the island of Curaçao.
  • The X‐COR Lynx sub-­orbital space vehicle: Currently anticipated to be ready to carry private passengers on commercial space flights from late 2014 onwards; Space Flight is planned to take place between January 1, 2014 and January 1, 2017, if it happens at all. (If the flight cannot take place by January 1, 2017, the Space Flight prize will be cancelled and Promoter will award the winner a cash prize of about $85,000.

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TL;DR

Me. Space. Doing crazy stuff. Think about it!!!

Later gators,

–case p.

Operation: Fix Yo Face

A meme I made of my face affected by Bell's palsy

Though I’m known for being lucky, it’s important to remember that there are two kinds of luck. 2012 saw a lot of great luck — the spoils of which will carry over into 2013 — but I’m at a man of extremes, and the other shoes had to drop sometime.

I was planning to come out swinging in 2013 with blogs, new content and a fire that the world hadn’t seen before. 2012 had been ramping up to some serious moves, and I was excited to show what I was capable of!

But then I got sick.

You don’t need to be grievously ill to get thrown off your game; some illnesses, while not life-threatening, can deliver a real blow to your ego and confidence.

So enter — Bell’s Palsy.

Two-Face, or, My Battle With Bell’s

A profile shot of my face affected by Bell's Palsy
“We thought we could be decent men, in an indecent time.” — Two-Face, The Dark Knight, 2008

It came out of nowhere — one day I was fine, next thing you know, I’m losing hearing in one ear. Then it turns into an external infection, sharp headaches and on New Year’s Eve, suddenly I can’t move the entire left side of my face.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on all sorts of meds trying to kick the sick, but nothing managedseems to stick. (See what I did there?)

Dealing with the bouts of pain and decreased abilities that come with Bell’s has definitely been a challenge, but I’m trying all sorts of methods to win this battle. Doctors, vitamins, facial massages, acupuncture — I don’t take something like this lightly, but we often need to show patience in the face of adversity and just see it through.

Me Sick? That’s UNPOSSIBLE!

A look at the antibiotics I've been on these past few weeks.
Ciprodex, Cephalex, Valtrex, oh my!!!

Palmers are generally very resilient human beings. My little brother Adrian has survived through countless illnesses in his youth, while my baby brother Brian managed to get into all sorts of trouble and emerged unscathed. Me, I’m rarely sick, never broken any bones, needed surgery or had to go to a hospital outside of volunteer shifts and the odd illness.

So you can imagine how disconcerting it is, being sick with something that sleep and a few extra litres of water just won’t fix.

Being diagnosed with something potentially incurable is never any fun. The waiting. The “will it? won’t it?” thinking that you go through while you’re stuck with the symptoms. Thinking that if you can just get through this one, you’ll make sure it never happens again!

At first, I felt self-conscious about it and didn’t want to speak to anyone. I didn’t want anyone seeing me at anything less than 100%.

But these are the hurdles that we need to overcome in our lives day after day.

“I’m not smart enough.”

“I’m not cool enough.”

“I’m not handsome enough.”

Rock the Bell’s

In its own twisted way, I feel like this has been a lesson in getting over myself. A lesson in getting past my exterior and focusing on becoming better in general. While I’d love to regain full motor control of my face, if it takes weeks, months, or never even heals — I still have a blog to write. A job to do. A life to live with my family and friends.

A facial flaw is not the end of the world.

So while it slowed me down, it’s time for me to get back on my game and do what I came out to do in the first place — create awesome content in 2013!

I’m far from invincible, but Bell’s Palsy ain’t gonna break my stride. 2013’s all about the promise of the future — not dwelling on the troubles that plague us today.

How’s your 2013 looking so far?

–case p.

2013: The Journey So Far.

A self-portrait of Casey Palmer in a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt.
Casey at 14 still wore sweatshirts with Mickey Mouse on them and was working on pioneering the selfie. 1997, y’all. Please believe it.

To try to do 100 things in a year is an ambitious goal. Not the most novel idea ever, but ambitious! And not the not only is it more things than weeks in the year, as was pointed out to me…

…but it’s one thing every 3 1/2 days. In fact, with me posting this on January 6th, you could argue that I’m already behindDoomed to failure with goals far loftier than my schedule will allow!

Let’s slow down a sec, though — this mission isn’t as impossible as you might think!

2012 vs. 2013

#HoHoTO group shot!
A joint picture between #TeamTrolling, #TOCrew, and whoever else we were partying with that night!

I’d love 2013 to be a game-changing year. I started sharing some of the ideas I have for the next year with friends, and they often ask: “What makes a game-changing year?” Is having a kid? Changing jobs? Blogging more? Blogging less to plan more? Planning less and doing more?

Trying to limit what will or won’t make a game-changing gear to a specific definition is dangerous business! If we judge whether a year is a good one by whether we make a certain amount of money, or attend a certain party or even carry out a specific goal… we eliminate the possibility for so many other things that we can add to our lives!

2012 was an insanely busy year for me. I pushed myself to fit more into my schedule and be involved in things I’m interested in more than I’d ever done before. But it was one of my best years, too!

But I didn’t enter 2012 with a plan. When I finished 2011, I was worn out from trying to run a daily blog — ready to take a break from writing and blend into the background. On top of that, I got married, travelled, spent a lot of time at tweetups, commuted between my current house and my parents’ home in Mississauga constantly, changed jobs twice — all this may have been a little over-ambitious.

But 2012 brought unexpected wins. Unforeseen opportunities. Reasons to post often. Stronger friendships. Insane adventures.

It also brought daily Man Lessons. More photography sessions. Tighter scheduling. Sarah and I needing to get a little smarter about how we spend our money, effort and time.

So this time, I made a list to keep track of the things I’d like to do, so that I wouldn’t let another year breeze by while blindly trying to figure out what I’m doing!

6 Days Down, 98 Goals to Go.

So back to my point — intentionally or not, I’m right on schedule! In fact, I can say that I’ve already gotten a couple of the items on the list done!

#14 — Update my résumé

There’re goals that’re intentional — the ones you need to plan and set some time aside to do — and some that just happen due to forces outside of your control!

For those not in the know, I’ve been in my current day job temporarily — and the time is up. But when word gets out that you’re becoming a free agent, it can really grab others’ attention!

So with updated résumés making the rounds and my LinkedIn up to date, I consider #14 done and done!

#43 — Turn My Negatives and Slides Into Digital Images

This one was much easier than I anticipated! I thought I’d need to go to the Toronto Reference Library or hire someone to do it, but turns out that with a little update, my scanner become quite the beast!

Let’s call this one done for now — I got all the negatives I’d liberated from my parents’ over the holidays scanned in; the only things to do now are grab my parents’ and parents-in-law’s negatives; see if I left any more at my parents’ next time I’m there.

But for now? Case closed.

Other Updates

#53 — Eat breakfast more often

Don’t know if it’ll be a habit for life, but I’ve been making sure to eat breakfast every day since the start of 2013, and don’t intend to stop anytime soon! If I could pair this up with #9 — cook at least one meal, I’d be well on my way to not snacking on ridiculous food anymore!

#91 — Transfer all my external storage to an SSD Drobo system

Now that I know that Drobos run on a proprietary software system (which can lock you out from your files if the Drobo starts failing), I’m going to look for at some other solutions for backing my data up.

T0 2013… and Beyond!

So what will 2013 bring?

What I do know is this 2012 taught me that if I really want to pursue the things that I passionately believe in, I need to reshape my life and find the time to work on them. The real question is — what am I willing to do to make that happen?

Good luck to everyone trying to make something happen in 2013 I don’t know about you, but I’ll definitely need it!

–case p.

A November to Remember, Verse 4: Of Motive and Movember

Jim Sullivan, special guest speaker, sharing his story of surviving prostate cancer
Jim Sullivan, special guest speaker, sharing his story of surviving prostate cancer.

What’s the difference between a good person and the ones to be wary of? Or a good and an evil action? What helps us to draw the line between right and wrong in anything we do?

Reasoning. Intent. Motive.

Motive. Motive makes all the difference. It defines the things we do for personal gain versus those we do for people simply because we care about them. It’s why we look down on the common thief yet admire Robin Hood. Motive defines how we are perceived, always working in the background behind every decision we make.

So Is It WRONG To Be Selfish???

From L-R, @AmandaBlake9, myself with the GOTSTYLE prize pack, @michaelkim, @fastdrvr
We can all be a little selfish sometimes — as seen from my notoriety for winning stuff….

Yesterday we took a look at selfishness. When I brought forth the idea that selflessness is completely possible, I got some interesting counter-points, like:

“There’s no such thing as true selflessness. The act of giving or pursuit to assist others is in and of itself a means of self indulgence.”

Justin Baisden

“Being selfish is an important part of our own survival. If we don’t always consider ourselves first, the probability of our own survival declines immensely. I don’t even know that it’s a bad thing. Our social conditioning throughout the ages is that the strong survive. ”

Zach Bussey

“Yes, people derive satisfaction from doing things that benefit others. But I think in many (if not most cases) we would do something “selfless” because we genuinely want to see someone else benefit/prosper/succeed.”

Erik Kingissepp

Summarizing:

  • everyone’s a bit selfish — so what?
  • we need selfishness to survive
  • selfishness  isn’t the root of the problem; the real problem is when our self-interests don’t align with the interests of the greater population

I’d agree with Erik, though, and would argue that motive is the key difference between selfishness and self-interest.

My reasons for being at The Big Give definitely started out as selfish — my notorious luck in full swing, friends had already told me that I’d be going home with a ridiculous amount of swag on top of whatever else I happened to win. To me, attending wasn’t even an option. But there’s a blurry line between our selfishness simply adding to our lives… and that selfishness negatively affecting the lives of others. It’s fine to do something for your sake alone now and then, but too much of it will make you unpleasant company to just about anybody.

With that said, the very next day, it was time to change the tune. Amanda Blake, a friend of mine, was throwing one of her After Work Drinks Toronto (#AWDTO) events,  where she’d asked me to attend as the official photographer. And because I like Amanda and the great person that she is, I said yes. But why else?

#AWDTO Movember Edition: Selflessness Is Possible

Family. Friendship. These are the kids of bonds where the entire idea of selflessness comes from. We’re taught from a young age that if we behave; if we do what we’re told — our actions will equal to rewards. But as we grow older, we discover the inequities in life. We find out that sometimes no matter how hard we try, we’ll see no improvements to our lives — sometimes there’re simply no rewards for the blood, sweat and tears that we put in!

The simple fact: it is so easy to get screwed over in life!

So why do we help if it’s unrealistic to expect anything for what we do?

Because we can be selfless. We can do things for others simply because we like them. And because this is completely possible, events like #AWDTO: Movember Edition can exist. Above, Zach pointed out that selfishness is important to our survival. But he also commented on the nature of selflessness and where we’re going next:

“[W]hen you’re able to consider others and give back… everyone goes “Hey that’s awesome good for you!” and we give praise… because we recognize that value in doing it. Our new world of having plenty (in Canada at least), is teaching us to do more… social good, giving back, charity, caring for others etc. 

Overnight will we all become charitable/giving/caring/selfless etc… no. Takes time to reprogram ourselves… but it is definitely taking hold in the collective consciousness.”

— Zach Bussey

 Giving a Little Mo’

In the course of 24 hours, I’d gone from seeing people clearly out for their own interests, willing to nearly trample one another to go home with a bit extra — to a different kind of crowd altogether. Some where there to support friends. Some to network. Some people eyed the prize table as soon as they came in. But the glitz was gone. The glamour was absent. In the end, there was just a room full of people just looking to have a good time.

And we would. We would meet new people We’d learn about the experiences of a prostate cancer survivor and why it was important to support the cause. Some of us would win prizes, all of us would leave a little changed — and I don’t think that anyone was worse off for it.

Organizer and DJ Andrew Lo playing the music for the party
Not only did he help organize, but DJ Andrew Lo was on the 1s and 2s for the night’s party!

So if anyone tells you that we’re all inherently selfish, or say that everyone is ultimately out for themselves — I want you to remember this: a selfish world cannot work. If we all cared for ourselves alone and never for the people that we care about, society couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t collaborate. Ideas that need more than one person’s abilities wouldn’t happen as often. Humanity would stagnate.

We all need each other to keep growing in this world. So let’s all be a little less selfish and make it happen!

–case p.

Next in the series: That time when Casey and Sarah took a little break to cruise in the Caribbean and what it taught them about themselves and WHY they appreciate Toronto.

A November to Remember, Verse 2: Of Resting, Wrestling and Lessons

A shot of me at the Walmer Retreat taken by Niki
Casey Palmer in the early days of Movember with little but a 5 o’clock shadow upon his visage!

Ask anyone I know, and they’ll tell you that at times I’m totally an overgrown kid. I let my imagination run away with me, I rarely let myself by limited by the concerns that most adults focus on, and believe that life isn’t worth living if it isn’t kept interesting.  It’s hard to get me to sit still if you haven’t given me a task to focus on, and I rather do things until I’m totally wiped out than waste a single moment sleeping.

I don’t wanna grow up — but we don’t stay young forever.

Ain’t Getting Any Younger

Let me tell you a bit about my church.

With a congregation of about 150-200. Black, White, young, old, rich, poor — we cover multiple spectra.

Every year, we go up to the Muskoka, ON area for a church retreat — a weekend dedicated to worship, togetherness, and maybe most important — rest.

The encouragement cards we fill out for one another to keep everyone going through the hard times.
One of the big takeaways of the weekend are the encouragement cards we fill out for one another with kinds words and thoughts.

I’ve been 4 or 5 times now, and while I’ve enjoyed it every time, I don’t know whether “restful” is something I’d call it from my experience.

But that could have something to do with my unexpected role as a makeshift babysitter for the church.

Misadventures in Makeshift Babysitting

Some of the younger ladies at church basically trying to find out how strong my back is.
The upside to this? At least I know my spine is strong.

It’s been going on for too long to remember when it started, but for some years now, I’ve served the role of an unofficial mascot for the kids at church. While I’m not ready to have kids of my own (though to hear most  fathers tell it, who ever is?), I have a huge soft spot for kids. If a child in a stroller waves at me or says “Hi”, I go into instant smiley-face happy mode and do the same back.

Oh God. I’m channelling my mother. Ugh!

Anyway, for the reasons I stated at the beginning, children seem drawn to me. I play their games. I speak to them like equals and not dismiss their ideas. I never underestimate them, as kids are capable of more than you could imagine. And so, out of just about anyone in the church, I’m the one they flock to after the Sunday services.

But after an hour of being chased and pulled around the sanctuary; poked prodded and jumped on; and generally fulfilling my role as a walking, talking jungle gym — I’m exhausted.

There’s another guy who helps out — here’s 14 or 15, and I wish I had his energy. But here I am in a body that’s been well-used these past few decades, and I’ll admit — it needs its rest!

But if I’m in need of a nap after an hour… imagine how I’d be after a weekend???

A Time For Rest

The main hall where we grabbed our grub!
By day: A dining hall for all to enjoy. By night: My refuge to try to scribe some thoughts out.

Apparently, I haven’t quite grasped the meaning of the word “retreat” yet.

[hr width=”75%” ]

re·treat

[ri-treet]

noun

3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.
5. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.
Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/retreat?s=t
[hr width=”75%” ]

Thinking about my retreat experience and the fact that I’m horrible at finding rest leads me to a question — when’s the last time you had some time to yourself?

I mean really had some time to yourself — spent some time being by yourself and doing what you want to do with your time?

I’d bet that few of us get the opportunity. So many of our lives get filled with so many responsibilities, questions, worries, woes and other such complications that we get very little time to do what we want to do.

That’s part of what I think retreats are for, but somewhere along the line I forget this and keep doing what I always do. Play the role of the jungle gym. Stay up late having conversations with just about everybody. Essentially, do anything but rest.

I Know This is Supposed to Teach Me Something…

There’s a lesson here to learn. One might be that maybe I am ready to have kids and I just don’t know it. Maybe it’s that life is about balance and we aren’t forced to take on every role that’s thrust forward at us. But for me, I think the most important lesson is probably this:

It’s okay to rest. Go get some.

 How about you, readers? Are you overachievers? Do you have kids and knew when you were ready to have some? Think I’m totally off-base? Drop a comment. Let me know. And I’ll let you know if I think you’re wrong 😉

Until next time,

–case p.

A November to Remember, Verse 1: A Close Shave and The Novel That Never Was

The tree we purchased for Christmas 2012
The tree we painstakingly purchased for Christmas 2012.

Every year. Every year we go through this.

We near the end of the year, wondering where all the time went and lamenting all the things we failed to do over the months. We plan to close out the year with a bang and swear to make a better effort to hit our goals in the next year. Year after year we try, but invariably repeat ourselves time and time again. So while the year’s already seen a lot of awesome in my life, I’d told myself back in January that this would be the year I rocked Movember and NaNoWriMo, earning fame, riches and glory in the process!

It’d all started so well.

I’d thought, “Grow a moustache and raise money for charity — that’s not so hard; I grow facial hair all the time anyway. And write a 50,000-word novel? I write, like, every day. I can do this.”

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had the drive, determination and direction to make it happen — I was convinced that if anyone could do it, someone who was so used to juggling multiple things all the time was the perfect person to do it!

It’s funny, the things we can convince ourselves of and yet be so utterly wrong.

Movember, or “Why Did I Grow This, Again?”

The facial hair that I DID manage to grow by the end of Movember 2012
Not a double-forked goatee by ANY means, but distinguished, nonetheless 🙂

In the end, I was able to do some good, raising $175 toward preventing prostate cancer and supporting men’s mental health, and another $430 through the team I’d created for the initiative — the Central Agency Clustachios (a play on the name of the place where I work).

While a pleasant outcome, I can’t help but feel that I could’ve done more. Being honest, 70% of the money I raised came in the last two days of November, after I’d received enough pestering at work to rally some troops for one last go at getting donations. Between events, trips and a hefty workload, I lost sight of the goals I’d originally set and — as can often be the case in our lives — tried to make up for lost time.

If I learned anything from Movember, it’s two things:

  1. It’s impossible for me to be everywhere. Life is full of opportunities and responsibilities, but I also need the energy to take them all on. Prioritization and being realistic are skills that will be necessary to being successful in my life; and
  2. No man is meant to grow facial hair for 30 days straight. You just get to a point where it’s itchy as hell and you wonder why you started doing it in the first place.

Better luck next year, right? Hopefully I’ll be able to go the way of friends like Amanda Blake and help organize events for the cause!

Putting the “No” in NaNoWriMo

A view of the mess that's on our table right now as I try to sort through literally PILES of stuff.
And they ask why I didn’t pull NaNoWriMo off…

Even though I wrote a ton of words in November, none of it really looks like a novel.

NaNoWriMo is an ambitious little initiative, and these sorts of things need dedicated time to make them happen — even more so when creativity needs to come into the mix!

With being away half of the month and at events almost every other day, I thought I could still pull it off. But I forgot to account for work and the huge things they needed me to do this past month. I forgot to account for the fact that one can only work so hard before fatigue catches up with them. I forgot to account for the fact that life goes on with or without the blog posts I put out!

So, my dear NaNoWriMo, unfortunately you’re gone ’til next November, ’cause this one wasn’t your time to shine! In fact, NaNoWriMo, let’s play you out:

The Lesson

So what did I learn? I learned that November is not to be underestimated!

It may not be the flashiest month. Not nearly enough people look forward to celebrating the sacrifices that war veterans made to keep us free and keep us safe, so most people treat the month like a write-off and just buffer time before they get to Christmas. It’s not usually even wintery enough for the ski and snowboard types out there.

But, you’ve gotta learn to treat November with respect. It has more than enough to keep you busy if you’ll let it, and when you finally reach December and everything doesn’t look the way you expected, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Because honestly, is there really anything else that one can learn from November?

–case p.

Next Verse: We’ve all gotta get rest sometimes, but even the best plans to get our sleep on can go awry!

I AM NOT A FOODIE: The WVRST Night of My Life

WVRST-1-of-7
You’ll probably need to hit WVRST multiple times — it has a LOT of options to offer!

As Lisa McPhee would tell you, the west side is the best side. While I can’t completely agree (since I rep the Danforth these days), there’s plenty of things it does right.

Like sausages made from animals that make no sense being on this end of the world!

Welcome to WVRST!

Planning for the WVRST

Trevor and I had been planning to go to WVRST for a good while now, but never seemed to get around to it. However, on a day where our schedules got flushed down the tubes due to oversleeping and being too tired to bother doing anything too nuts, getting this item off of the to-do list didn’t seem like — wait for it — the WVRST idea!

Making the Best of the WVRST

One thing to keep in mind about WVRST is that it’s not your typical restaurant. Yes reservations; no wait list — just a lineup; no specific waiter or assigned seating — just a bunch of benches where they bring your food to you after you order and pay for it at the front counter.

And maybe it’s because they keep things so simple (i.e.  a beer hall-style restaurant that serves mainly beer and sausages) that they actually manage to understand customer service!

We did get there without a reservation and had to wait in line, just like everybody else. While some people were told an hour’s wait when we were at the back of the line, it was only 15 minutes in reality. And in those 15 minutes:

One guy was a complete jerk and wouldn’t let a German tourist pass to ask the guy manning the stairs a question about the wait time, causing her and her friends to leave angrily

Ironically, the jerk and his friends would leave angrily almost immediately after, helping shorten the line by about 10 people between the two groups

Even better, almost immediately after they left, one of WVRST’s staff came out with a ton of free fries, offering them to us to apologize for the long wait! Note to all restaurants: if patrons are waiting in line to get into your establishment, they’re probably hungry. A little food can go a long way in making that wait better!

From Better to WVRST

We got in and found some seats, but damn that place is loud!

One thing I forgot about King Street West is how trendy the area is. We’re not even 30 yet, but we were easily some of the oldest people in the room! It was a very different crowd than what I’m used to having around, but everyone looked to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.

But back to the food.

I went to WVRST to try something different, so I got some elk and kangaroo sausages, washing it down with some Church-Key beer from Campbellford, ON. The beer was a bit bitter to start with, but the sausages made it a lot sweeter! Not being a foodie by any measure, I could always tell the difference between a hot dog and a premium sausage I’d get from a butcher, but I never really appreciated the difference between different kinds of game.

What I can tell you is this — while I enjoyed both, the elk was definitely more to my tastes, with a pinch more spice and other spices. Because of the free fries, we didn’t get much more than just the sausages on buns, but next time I’d love to try some currywurst and duck fat fries!

So if you’re ever in the mood for something different, I recommend WVRST. With efficient staff, tasty food and a large list of international beers, I think it’ll do well to sate most people’s appetites. Well, you know — as long as they eat meat.

Seriously, check it out. What’s the WVRST that could happen???

Wvrst on Urbanspoon

–case p.

The Power of “We” — Finding Better Ways to Get to Our Goals

IMG_6924
We wouldn’t have reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and back without our team of porters!

I find life funny — many of us have very similar goals to one another, but the world is a finite place. There’s only so much time, so much money — in short, there’s not enough resources out there for everyone to have as much a they’d like. The way we’re going now, some people will  come out empty-handed!

So why aren’t we pooling our resources and working toward collective goals?

Lesson 1: The Needs of the Many

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

–Captain Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982

One of the huge flaws with our current society is its strong focus on the individual. We’re told when we’re young that we can be the best. We can be on top. We can be better, faster and stronger than anyone else around us. And while I’m sure we can, the better question is whether we need to be the best, or can we be just as amazing as a handful of people who we work with?

Lesson 2: “Help” is Not a Taboo Word

Somehow, many of us have convinced ourselves that asking for help is somehow a sign of weakness.

Which is probably one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard.

No one person can possibly be the best at everything. My ability to run fast makes me well-suited for sports like dodgeball and ultimate frisbee, but utterly hopeless at volleyball. I can figure out the most fiendishly complex puzzle games you offer me, but will be the first person to be picked off in a first-person shooter. We are all good at different things.

So — why the heck wouldn’t we ask people for help in areas where we know we’re not that good? Much like I alluded to in my last post, there’s definitely a fear element involved that both holds us back from asking for help and makes us reticent to provide it. And because of this, we all wind up clinging to isolated paths where the odds are against us and we can only succeed so much.

If you don’t believe me, it’s purely logical at the basic level — 2 people can do in 12 hour what 1 can do in a day. 4 in 6 what 2 can in 12 and so on. By pooling like resources, not only do we improve our chances of reaching our goals, but we also afford ourselves a quicker turnaround if/when we fail, since it won’t take as long to carry out the changes necessary to make something successful.

If you have a group of people genuinely dedicated to helping each other, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved!

If.

Lesson 3: Good Help is SO Hard to Find

And therein the problem lies. Theoretically, this is all good and fine, but finding people who commonly believe in the same goal and are willing to put time aside to work at achieving it is not easy. Everyone has different priorities. Everyone has different levels of effort that they can contribute. Finding the right people to align yourself with isn’t easy but here’re some places to start your hunt:

  • Twitter: People are constantly talking about their passions on Twitter! Find out how to do an advanced Twitter search and look up keywords that’re specific to your field. Chances are that you’ll find people in your neck of the woods trying to do some of the same things that you are!
  • Networking Events: Even when they’re focused around certain areas of interest, it’s rare for people to have one interest alone. Find a solid networking event and discuss your ideas until you’re blue in the face. But remember — I said discuss; a discussion requires active contribution and listening in order to work. If you’re nothing more than a loudspeaker, people will eventually tune you out.
  • Facebook Pages and Other Forums: Finally, there are Facebook Pages and Internet forums on pretty much any topic inconceivable. Find some that align to what you want to do and make some connections!

The world’s a very big place, but we’re a very big population with some very big ideas. There’s room enough for all of us, but only if we choose to work together and stop trying to carve out small pieces for each and every one of us. It isn’t sustainable. If isn’t smart. It doesn’t even align with our best interests as a society!

The power of “we” will always be greater than the Power of “Me”. We need to spend less time being ourselves for the sake of ourselves and more to keep our communities strong. No one is an island — so why do we try so hard to convince ourselves otherwise?

–case p.

[This post was written as part of Blog Action Day 2012, focused on the topic of “The Power of We”]