Scott Firefighter Stairclimb coin

I think being grateful is a good way to reduce stress and combat depression. But it is easy to forget to be grateful. Unfortunately the opposite is not true. It is easy to develop a negative attitude. We don’t have to remember to be negative. The downers of life can simply lead us there. But they don’t have to.

So I’ve decided to take action. I am creating a habit of gratefulness.

Habits are formed by repeated practice until they seem like the most natural thing to do. But in order to build a new habit you need someway of reminding yourself to practice it. Here’s mine:

I now carry in my pocket a memorial coin my son gave me. It is from his first Scott Firefighter Stair Climb to raise money for leukemia research. Each year he dedicates his climb to me. And two weeks later I do the civilian version, called The Big Climb, with him.

Anyway, I have a rule that every time I touch that coin I will think of something I’m grateful for. The coin gets touched at least twice each day: in the morning when I put it in my pocket and the evening when I take it out. That means that every day I have to come up with a minimum of two things. Of course I reach into my pocket during the day to fetch keys, change, etc. Sometimes I find myself just fidgeting with the coin for no particular reason. So I might touch that coin four or five times a day. That’s a LOT of thank you’s.

It is already making a difference in my attitude and thinking in general.

So give it a shot. I’ve heard of one person who uses a small rock. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s an object of special significance to you.

But don’t chose something too large or Mae West might think you’re just happy to see her.

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Hi. Sorry I haven’t written in awhile.

You know that rabbit hole I’ve mentioned before? Normally when I see myself getting too close to it I run the other way. But this time I sat down, dangling my feet over the edge.

Depression is nothing to flirt with though. I was in that hole once and there is no way I’m going back in. But this last couple weeks I got close. Too close.

The writing – my book, my two blogs – stopped. This can happen from time to time for quite normal reasons. But the rabbit hole is different. Maybe I should call it a black hole because depression can suck the creativity right out of you.

The signs where there. I let my hair grow too long, I went for a couple weeks without shaving. And showers, well, lets just say my daily routine skipped a few days – actually more than a few.

I had to laugh though. When I finally did step away from the hole and looked in the mirror, Professor Dumbledore was looking back.  I looked twice my age and that’s saying something since twice my age would be 130.

I do let myself go some times in the shaving department. I mean, when you’re at home by yourself pounding out words on the computer who cares what you look like. I’m sure my wife and kids do but somehow they’ve adjusted to my screwy idiosyncrasies.

This time though I went into bizzarro mode. I had Einstein hair and a beard no mother could love.

Anyway, I’m back all showered and shaved. The old bedraggle guy is replaced with this extremely handsome young man. (Hey, it’s my blog. Let me live the fantasy.)

I’ll try to get at least a few posts out each week. Thanks to all you Leuk fighters for sticking with me.

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cat and dogThis has nothing to do with leukemia. If you’re a long-time reader you know that many of my posts are just about my thoughts on life.

Well, this ones about cats and dogs. Specifically why I think dogs are the best.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: a dog looks at his owner and says, “he feeds me, shelters me, and loves me… he must be God.” A cat looks at his owner and says “he feeds me, shelters me, and loves me… I must be God.”

When you come home your dog acts like you’ve been gone a week. His ears perk up and he wags his tail so fast you think it might fall off. It’s like your daily arrival home is the major event in his life: “Master, master, you’re home! I’ve missed you so much. Where have you been? I love you, I love you, I love you. Oh, I hope you’ll pat my head and feed me now. You’re the best!”

You come home to your cat and it’s like, “So where the hell have you been? If you think I’m jumping out of this chair and coming over there you’re sadly mistaken. I couldn’t care less that you’ve finally managed to drag your fat ass home. Okay, I guess I’ll rub up against your leg but I only put on this act to get you to feed me. Feed my now or I’ll scratch you. Humans are so stupid and boring.”

And just try calling your cat. You say, “Here kitty kitty,” the cat says, “Let’s see, I can probably fit you in on Thursday, but today you’re out’a luck.”

Call your dog and he comes running. You whistle and call, “here boy, here boy” and he bounds over. “Oh my god, he’s calling me! My master actually wants to talk to me. Oh, I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful owner. Pant, pant, pant… I’m coming! I love you, I love you, I love you!

Now admit it. You know this is all true.

I bet the first word that comes to your mind when I say ‘dog’ is “Loyal”.

The first word for cat? … “Snob”.

Sorry cat owners, but from my perspective dogs really are man’s best friend. Cats? Well you don’t really own them… they own you.

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My son and I had a Father/Son cruise to Sucia and Patos Islands this weekend.

When we arrived at Sucia all the buoys were taken. I was going to hook up on the rope line (a thick rope with tie rings anchored in the bay). But Guy encouraged me to set anchor instead. Luckily I’d practiced anchoring last weekend, but this was the first time I’d be anchoring the boat and leaving it while we rowed ashore.

We easily got the anchor set hard and headed for the beach. It was dark by then and we walked to another bay on the island, sat on a log watching the boats and the stars. It was one of those quiet times I seldom get to share with Guy.

By the time we came back I was happy to see our boat hadn’t dragged anchor and drifted out to sea. I’m much more confident about anchoring now.

The next day we motored over to Patos only a few miles from Sucia. The small bay had only two buoys and those were taken. Other boats had already set their anchors there making it too crowded for us to drop anchor.

So, we sailed around the island finding a small beach to anchor by. We rowed in but, after a small trek in the woods, we couldn’t find a trail. So we climbed, skidded, slipped and splashed our way along the rocky sandstone shore until Guy spotted a trail.

It was a long hike along a well worn trail that finally reached the Patos Island Lighthouse on Alden Point. There is a long history behind the light house and you can read about it in The Light on the Island: Tales of a Lighthouse Keeper’s Family in the San Juan Islands [LIGHT ON THE ISLAND 50TH ANNIV] [Paperback] by Helene Glidden.

On the way back to the boat the trail ended. The tide was up by then so we had to force our way through dense brush, stumbling and often falling along the way.  I got stung twice as I passed a hidden hive. A bit painful but no big deal. Then, just a short distance from the beach I stepped in a hornets nest. Guy, who was walking about 20 feet ahead of me, might have inadvertently stirred them up and by the time I reached the hive the nasty buggers attacked from all sides.

The bees ignored Guy as they followed me all the way down to the beach where I dove into the water, wiping the bugs that still stuck to me with their stingers buried in my skin.

Back at the boat Guy counted the stings, at least a dozen on my back, face, and arms. We stayed the night back at Sucia attempting to sleep as rolling waves rocked the boat. We didn’t get much rest but by morning at least the itching pain was gone. We sailed back home joking about our misadventure.

Oh, by the way, during my mad dash through the woods to get away from the bees I lost my $200 prescription sun glasses and my hat. I’d gotten that hat at Disneyland. It was a baseball style cap with a small image of Mickey Mouse on it. I liked that hat.

Damn bees.

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