What’s a Bed of Roses Without a Few Thorns?

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

There have been several segments on the news this week about a sudden boom in the RV business, in both sales and rentals. It seems people have figured out that open air just may be good for you, not to mention a little bit of recreational exercise. Besides, most campsites are a little more than six feet apart.

I think this may be the first time in my life when I was actually ahead of a trend. Not by much, mind you, but enough to convince a salesman that the winter months may not be the best time to hold out for a higher price. We got a pretty sweet deal and were still able to find enough toilet paper for a weekend outing. You’d think they could have thrown that in.

As we near the completion of our first full week on the road, I have to say I couldn’t be happier with our new lifestyle. I’ve figured out this whole setup thing and can now have us leveled and hooked up in fifteen minutes. And, after a little over 2000 miles, my wife thinks I’m a fairly decent driver. That last one is nothing short of a miracle.

Sure, it’s not the same as living in a house. It’s more confined, the air conditioners are a little louder, you can’t take a Hollywood shower, and the spin cycle on the washing machine shakes the whole house. But the scenery is a lot more enjoyable and if you don’t like your neighbors, it’s only temporary. I can live with a few minor inconveniences.

Sometimes, it takes a crisis to make us appreciate the simple things. Okay, an RV may not be one of life’s simple pleasures, but it is one way to become a little more grounded and shake off some of the daily stress. It’s about families enjoying one another instead of the TV. It’s about bonding with nature and breathing fresh air. And it’s about emptying tanks full of stuff we’d rather not think about.

With anything, you take the bad with the good. For myself, pulling a valve every couple of days to empty a tank beats mowing the lawn, so I’m not complaining. But there is no change we can make in our lives that won’t come with some inconvenience. The question is whether the sacrifice is worth the gain.

And it’s that way with anything you do. A bigger house means more cleaning and maintenance. A new car means bigger monthly payments. A business means giving up some of your free time. And a boat, I’m told, is a hole in the water you throw money into. I get that completely. Our new lifestyle certainly isn’t cheap. But it’s simplistic, if that makes any sense.

Life is short, my friends. If there are things you want to do, waiting around won’t make them any easier to achieve. Besides, there’s something to be said for doing things while you’re young enough and healthy enough to enjoy them. The longer you wait, the greater the chance it’ll never happen.

That doesn’t mean you chuck it all and go for broke. But figure out what needs to be done and get moving. It may take ten years. So what? Wouldn’t you rather get those ten years out of the way now? I’ve mentioned before how hard it is for me to envision getting to my goal weight by losing a pound a week. “At that rate, it’ll take two years!” Ah, but if I’d started two years ago …

Set a goal. Work toward it. Understand and accept the sacrifices and be sure you’re willing to make them. Test the water if you can. It may be as easy as putting half your wardrobe in storage or turning off the TV a couple of hours every night to read a motivational book. Some sacrifices are simpler than others. But they can also be the hardest ones to make.

I’m fairly certain a lot of these new RV owners will be like the New Year’s crowd in the local gym, or the hundreds of thousands who start a new business every year. It’ll be fun for a while, but at some point, reality will check in. And that’s okay. They’re learning. And they’re gaining a better perspective on which dreams they want to chase, and which ones they’ll leave for somebody else.

You never know unless you try. I’ve been married for 40 years because I took a chance. And those 40 years have been a learning experience of their own. There were times we wanted to drain the tanks and move on. But the sacrifices have been worth the result. Define your dreams, make the sacrifices, and reach for the stars. We’re only here for a short time. You might as well enjoy it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Slow Down and You’ll Get There Faster

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

For those of us here in the US, it was a long weekend – one that traditionally marks the beginning of summer. Vacations, beaches, and backyard cookouts. And sunburns. Lots of sunburns. I used to think you had to get through the first sunburn of the year in order to tan. But if you live where I do, suntans only last a year. Then you have to do it all over again. I think I need to find a better tan.

But a tan is like a lot of other things. The faster you build it, the quicker it goes away. The quickest, and safest way is a like spray painting your car with watercolors. It never looks great to begin with, and it generally lasts until the first good rain (or shower). Then it’s gone, with just a blotched reminder that you tried to do something the easy way. Sure, you can spray it on again. But it’ll never look quite right.

Then there’s the strategy of burning once so you can “get it out of the way.” You can also get some of that old skin out of the way as well. In fact, you and a friend can peel off an entire layer in a single afternoon. If you’re lucky, the layer underneath is a little tanned and you can start building on top of that. The process is both painful and non-attractive. Not the ideal way to get what you want.

Or you could just take a 15-minute walk every day or so some work in the yard. It may take a while, but sooner or later that bronze glow will start to take hold. No spray, no burns, no peeling skin – just a gradual transformation that will stand the test of time. It may fade a little during the winter, but next summer you’ll have that foundation, and the next tan will be a whole lot easier to build.

In our microwave society, instant gratification is the name of the game. I remember dial-up internet, where it took twenty seconds for a page to load and you could spend upwards of a whole minute downloading a file. Now, I’m tapping my fingers and complaining if that hourglass spins for five seconds. “Come on, slowpoke!” Five more seconds and I pull the plug for a “hard reboot.” Sound familiar?

I’m that way with a lot of things. If something needs to be done, I want it done now! Unless, of course, I’m the one doing it. Then there are special dispensations for slow starts and excessive breaks. Or, in the case of my weight loss, abrupt halts. And it’s all because I want instant results. If the starter spins for three seconds, I’m pumping the gas. And don’t even get me started on slow-brewing coffee.

I think a lot of us are much the same in that regard. We’ve become so accustomed to two-day delivery that we’re on the phone to customer service if it takes three days. Almost nobody plants a garden anymore, because you do the work today and don’t see any results for at least a few weeks. Unless, you’re me. Then, the weeds start popping up in a matter of hours.

But sometimes, the slow and methodical approach is the best. It’s like the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The bunny ran far ahead and then took a nap as the tortoise kept up a slow but steady pace and ended up winning the race. It’s like that slow tan, or repeatedly losing a single pound. I’ve done that. Only problem is, it’s the same pound. Maybe I need to lose a different one.

Nobody likes to wait for good things to happen. But sometimes, that’s the best way to achieve long-lasting results. You can infuse money into a business with a single visit to the bank or a weekend inventory reduction sale. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way. One is a temporary fix that requires repayment with interest. The other lays a solid foundation for continued success.

It’s okay to want things now, but sometimes slower is better. Don’t be so focused on the results that you short-change the effort. Do the right things consistently, and the results will come. It may take a little longer, and you may have to make some corrections along the way. But when winter inevitably comes, that strong foundation will still be there, waiting to be rebuilt even better than before.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Who Made You The Expert???

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I read a post yesterday from an acquaintance who excitedly announced she was now earning a full time living as a writer. I remember the feeling the first time somebody paid me to write. Okay, it was technical stuff – how to build an auto-chuck assembly for an electronic engraving machine, but from that day forward I could call myself a writer. Mom would have been proud.

When I first started creative writing, I wondered what qualifies a person to call themselves a writer. A few well-intended friends said, “If you write, you’re a writer!” Okay, so I’m a writer. I’m also a cook, a driver, a babysitter, and a trash-taker-outer, in case you were wondering. But what I learned is there are no real qualifications. You know, like running for public office.

Writing is a lot like stand-up comedy. You do it for free until somebody says, “Hey, I’ll give you a few bucks to do that again.” A “few bucks” being the key phrase. My first year as a comedian I made zero. Nada. Zilch. My second year I made $300. Woohoo!!!  By then, I’d logged a total of 36,000 miles doing shows for “exposure.” IRS sent me a letter saying don’t quit your day job.

I still remember when I got my first pay as a creative writer. I was being paid very well for the technical stuff – probably in the top 1% of technical writers in the nation. It was just me and that other guy. And then I got an assignment to write three articles for a magazine, offering advice on career choices for young men. I told them don’t even think of becoming a writer.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of freelance work. If you’ve ever taken the ASVAB test to join the military and wondered who wrote those stupid questions, the answer would be me. All told, I’ve written over 1500 questions for that test. It’s not necessarily the kind of gratifying work that gets you a ton of fan mail, but it sure does pay well. And I still can’t pass the test.

When I started writing humor, I submitted to newspapers across the nation. I got a lot of great responses. In fact, I made it to the final round of editorial consideration for a regular spot with a major syndicate. I could have made upwards of $30 a week! But that was at the very beginning of the newspaper decline, and nobody was buying humor. So, I gave it away for free.

A friend, who’s now a published author and regular columnist, once asked, “Do you ever feel like we’re just faking it?” Yes. All the time. Writing and stand-up comedy are a couple of those things you just pick up on your own. Sure, you can take classes or get a journalism degree. But that doesn’t make you a good writer. It takes passion, patience, and a really thick skin.

The same is true of a lot of things in life. You find something that captivates your interest and just do it. Maybe you get good enough to get paid, and maybe that pay is enough to live on. Thankfully, I never became a good enough plumber or mechanic to get paid. That was never my thing. But writing, speaking, and entertaining have always been my passion. So, here I am.

I see a lot of people who want to expand their horizons but think they don’t have the necessary qualifications to do it. To be fair, some things do require formal training. Brain surgery comes to mind, as well as flying, dispensing pharmaceuticals, and mixing explosives. It all depends on the consequences of mistakes. Never trust a chemist with one hand missing. I’m just saying.

But a lot of things can be learned on the job. It’s called, “Fake it till you make it.” The lack of recognized credentials doesn’t mean a thing. Most of the best-known authors don’t have a formal education in writing. Most of the highest-paid musicians learned on their own. And, according to TV, a fair number of actresses started out as waitresses in the Cheesecake Factory.

With the right amount of passion, there are few obstacles you can’t overcome. Whether it’s writing, performing, parenting, or running your own business, the skills you need can be learned. All it takes is passion – the desire to achieve a personal goal, and the determination to do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

That’s it for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

It’s What You’re Not Eating That Counts

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off nicely.

By this weekend, most of the nation will be once again open for business. Of course, “open” doesn’t mean what it did a few months ago, and there will be varying levels of engagement for the time being. Like, instead of sitting on top of one another waiting for a table at the restaurant, you have to wait in your car. At least McDonalds has a drive-thru.

Most people appreciate the fact that they’re able to get back to some semblance of a normal lifestyle. You know, working, shopping, getting a haircut, and lining up at customer service to complain because the store is out of Cheetos. I’m kidding. They have plenty of Cheetos. They even have paper towels to clean your hands after you eat them. But now they’re out of meat.

I read an article a few days ago about food shortages and rising meat prices, and the health benefits of cutting back on the meat. Especially red meat. They don’t like that one much at all. Naturally, that’s the one I like best. Why did broccoli have to be so healthy? I think it was God’s way of keeping us from eating too much. Boy, we tricked him on that one.

But, as I read the article, I realized I could probably get by with a lot less meat in my diet. I can say that now, because we have health insurance again and if my wife has a stroke reading this, we’re covered. Yes, I love meat. To me, a meal without meat is like a bathroom without toilet paper. Sure, it’ll fill your basic biological needs. But you certainly wouldn’t look forward to it.

That said, my tastes have changed over the years. I like a good steak, but I prefer seafood. In fact, the last several times we went to a steak house, I ordered salmon. I like chicken, but I prefer small slices in a hearty salad. And if I had to go a whole year without eating pizza, I don’t think I’d miss it. But I love fried Spam. Still, that’s not technically meat. I’m not sure what it is.

Tastes are a part of our culture. We generally tend to crave the foods we ate as children, no matter what they were. And, depending on where you were born, those foods may be very different. I see people in documentaries grinning from ear to ear as they eat fried cockroaches. That’s one way to lose weight. Not by eating them … by watching someone else do it.

That said, I think I may be ready to make some changes. In many cultures, meat is more of a garnish than a main course. Seafood is a big part of the diet, and so are fruits, vegetables, and those things they call “legumes.” I’m not sure what they are, but it doesn’t sound very appetizing. Maybe if they came up with a better name, like bourbon-glazed steak beans.

I’ve always appreciated a good salad, but my wife complains about the way I make mine. I like all the goodies – fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, blueberries, dried cranberries, eggs, meat, cheese, nuts, and loads of bleu cheese dressing. Yes, I know how much cholesterol is in that. It’s still a lot healthier than a Big Mac. Besides, that’s not technically meat, either.

But, as the article pointed out, when we reduce our intake of meat, we need to replace those nutrients somehow. As bad as meat can be for your heart, it’s also one of the best sources of vital nutrients. Iron and protein are at the top of the list, followed closely by vitamin B12. All three are important, especially if you like being able to get out of bed and function.

And, wouldn’t you know, vitamin B12 is only available through animal sources. Well, that and “fortified” breakfast cereal. So, if you just replace your steak with Cheerios, you’re good to go. Otherwise, it may be time to supplement. Besides, Cheerios don’t go well with a baked potato and sautéed mushrooms. I’m just saying.

I’ve been taking plant-based vitamins for several years. When you get to this age, you think about all those poor choices over the years and start looking for ways to ward off the evil spirits. I never really thought I’d make it to retirement. Now that I’m this close, I’d kinda like to enjoy it. And being sick all the time isn’t my idea of fun.

We all love certain foods, whether they’re good for us or not. And most of us will live to a ripe old age, regardless of the foods we eat. But aging and living aren’t the same. Living means to enjoy an active, vibrant, and healthy life. And that all begins with nutrition. Give your body what it needs, and it’ll return the favor. Besides, you’re gonna be with it the rest of your life.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

If You Know Why, You Can Always Learn How

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Well, the repairs on the RV only took a few hours. Less time than it took me to drive it there and back, and let’s not mention the cost in gas. Warranty repairs aren’t always free. But it’s back, and ready to go. They fixed almost everything. What’s left requires $3 in parts and another six minutes of labor. In other words, they’ll bill the factory $712.

The one thing they didn’t fix is the satellite radio. I was right. The antenna wasn’t hooked up. Apparently, there’s no antenna TO hook up. That’s a factory option nobody told us about. Seriously? With the price tag on that thing, they couldn’t install a $50 antenna and tuner? I’m glad I asked about the steering wheel. I’d hate to pay extra for that.

I could cry and write a bunch of letters, but it won’t do any good. So, I’ll just fix it myself. I can install an antenna in less time that it would take to drive it back to the dealer, and for a fraction of the cost. They wanted $260 to give it a wash. I wish I was making that up.

Things usually cost more than we expect, and they’re never quite as simple as we think. That’s why, when we see something that’s really simple and doesn’t cost much at all, our first thought is, “There must be a catch. It can’t be that simple!”

When I replaced the front hub on my old truck, the instructions made it look easy. “Remove the three bolts shown and slide the old hub out.” Yeah. They forgot to mention a sledgehammer, jackhammer, gear puller, and other “special” tools required, plus all the colorful language that goes with it. It took four hours, and now I have to go to hell. But I saved $200.

It’s that way with most things. When I decided to remodel our bathroom, I convinced my wife it would be done in two days. Hey, it’s her fault for believing me. We’d been married 25 years, so she knew better. Well, it took eight days, and that didn’t include the trim. See, when the room is usable again, that’s when I stop. Trim is just for looks. That part took a year.

Which is why she stood so firmly when I said I wanted to build a house – you know, with my own two hands. I know how it’s done. My grandson and I built a shed from scratch, and it’s beautiful. Still missing some trim, but hey. And a house is nothing more than a big shed with electricity & plumbing, right? I can do that. I’ve got books that make it look really easy.

And I think that’s why we tend to doubt ourselves so much when we get ready to take on something new. Sure, it LOOKS easy. Any dummy can do it. But I’m not just any dummy. I’m a special kind of stupid! Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard people say that. Then you show them how it’s done, and they prove their original point. So, we hire an expert.

But not a one of those “experts” was a pro the first time out of the box. They made mistakes, broke things, installed them backward, and didn’t use the right words. I wondered about that as my brain surgeon told me goodnight. He said, “I just did the same surgery a half-hour ago!” Yeah, but are they still alive? Details, doc … I need details!

Well, even a brilliant brain surgeon had to learn somewhere. We tend to sell ourselves short sometimes and say things like, “That’s just not my strong suit. I’m a dummy when it comes to that!” No, you’re not. You just haven’t been taught how.

I talk to people all the time who want to start a business. When you ask what kind of business, some have a general idea, some can draw out details on a napkin, and some have no earthly clue. And years later, most of them are still talking about it. Why? Because they weren’t born with the required knowledge, and they’re not willing to learn as they go.

Colonel Sanders started his business with nothing more than a recipe and a dream. Sam Walton started with one small store in rural Arkansas, and Albert Einstein couldn’t speak fluently till the age of nine. Not a one of them was “destined” for success. But that didn’t stop them.

And it shouldn’t stop you. Find a mentor. Read some books. Learn as you go. If knowledge is all that’s standing in the way, get some. Develop your talents. You’ve got what it takes. All you have to do is put it to use.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

You Can Only Make Mistakes If You Try

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

This weekend, we took the motorhome for a drive. I’d like to tell you we spent the weekend relaxing in some exotic campground, surrounded by nature’s beauty. But the truth is, all we did was drive it back to the dealer for some repairs. Yes, it’s only two months old. Apparently, the people in the factory get in a hurry sometimes and … well, you know.

I knew this before we even went shopping. When you take something with all the features of a house and bounce it down the road, some things settle and others work their way loose. New RVs are notorious for this. Which means it’s not really the RV or the miles bouncing down the road or anything like that. It’s what happens in the factory on Friday afternoon. “Miller time!”

For instance, I turned on the XM radio to find there’s no signal. Apparently the antenna never got hooked up. One of the dash fans didn’t get wired up. And the cover to the wiring panel is lying loose in the electrical bay. These things don’t happen from the road. They happen simply because somebody was in a hurry and didn’t quite finish the job.

It’s funny, when I do that it’s simply a matter of oversight. I was so focused on the job that I missed one minor detail. Give me a minute and I’ll fix it. No big deal. Unless I’m putting new brakes on the car. Then it gets to be a little more serious. But most of those spare parts aren’t needed anyway. Besides, all brakes make that sound when they’re new. Trust me.

I’ve had this conversation with my wife more than once. She’s never there when I’m taking the car apart or splitting my knuckles and smashing my thumb as I gingerly fit stubborn parts together with a six-pound sledgehammer. But the minute I finish, she’s right there inspecting the box of old (and new) parts I’m getting ready to throw away. And she doesn’t miss a thing.

We all tend to cut ourselves some slack when we’ve done the best we can and still miss the mark. But when somebody else is doing the work, we’re not so forgiving. My grandson cut the grass Saturday. He even bagged up all the clippings. It looks great. Except that one spot in the corner of the driveway by the garage. Yes, I pointed it out. He said he’ll get it the next time.

Which is why the RV is sitting outside a service bay at the dealership. Somebody missed a few things, we pointed them out when we took delivery, and they said, “We’ll fix that when you bring it back in.” Who says I want to bring it back in? And I have to be honest. It’s a small list, and nothing of any real significance. Overall, they did a really good job. At least the brakes work.

It’s easy to spot the mistakes in somebody else’s work. We’re good at that. It’s even worse when the job is being done correctly, just not the way you’d do it yourself. “Why are you mowing the grass that way? It’s better if you just go back and forth!” I don’t even watch anymore. I just listen for screams. As long as he can finish with both feet intact, we’re good.

And you know, sometimes we need to be equally forgiving of ourselves. There are things I do every day that I wish I’d done a little differently. As a writer, I don’t like going back to read things I’ve previously written because invariably I find things I could have expressed differently. Not necessarily better – just different. And the more you tweak it, the more you mess it up.

We shouldn’t hold others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves, and the same is true in reverse. Perfection is an elusive and impossible goal. Sure, we should try to be the best we can, and we should expect the same of others. But that means accepting mistakes graciously – ours, and theirs.

Pick up the pieces and move on. If the Notre Dame can suffer such a devastating fire and be restored to its original glory, there’s not much in our lives we can’t fix. Dust yourself off, figure out what went wrong, and fix it. Your goals are still out there waiting. And every minute you spend crying over spilled milk is a minute you’re not moving toward them.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Reality or Opinion? It Depends Who’s Doing the Talking.

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Yes, I played hooky yesterday. We had the little ones, and they get here early, and my granddaughter is going through a “Grandpa’s girl” phase where she likes to cuddle in my lap, and … well, when the little guy asks you to make him some eggs, you make him some eggs. Hey, I don’t make the rules! Like Mongo said, I’m just a pawn in the game of Life.

Okay, we’ll see how many people get that last movie reference. When it comes to slap-stick comedy, that was one of my all-time favorites. Crude? Yes. Edgy? Like a razor blade. But a perfect example of how ignorant we can be when we choose to be … well, you know … ignorant.

I think about that a lot as I read the posts on social media each day. In the past week, I’ve removed a few more people from my list of contacts, simply because they insist on showing a side of humanity that really doesn’t need to be shown. In some cases, I even agree with their general perspective. That doesn’t mean we have some God-given right to be rude about it.

Whether we like it or not, we’re judged by the words that come out of our mouth. Or, in this case, the words that fly off our keyboard. It’s one thing to be passionate. But when passion yields to insolence and outright disrespect, we’ve crossed a line. And the worst part is, all it does is beg an equally unpolished response from somebody with an opposing point of view.

It’s been pointed out to me that nobody likes it when you correct them on social media. It doesn’t matter if the story is an outright and easily proven lie, we’re supposed to just be quiet and let the manure spread. All too often, we’re more interested in being heard than speaking the truth, especially if that truth challenges what we want to believe.

We see this all the time, and not just in sensitive topics like politics and religion. Years ago, I was looking for some freelance writing work and I got an offer to write reviews for a company’s products. I asked how it would work – would they send me the product to try out and I’d write a review on it? Would I get to keep the product? Can I write a review for a Lamborghini?

As it turns out, they would send me a list of features and “marketing bullets” about a product I’d never seen, and then pay me to write lavish reviews about it. And I could make even more money by writing negative reviews for their competitors’ products! That’s how it really works out there, folks. And then they stiffed me on my paycheck!

I’m kidding. I’ve been desperate for cash before, but never that desperate. But you know, there are a lot of things I’d never do that other people do every day. I bet you can say the same. Morals and principles are only as strong as the people wielding them.

When I read reviews, I generally skip over the best and the worst, and focus on what’s in the middle. Even if they’re genuine, the best usually sound like, “We just bought this last week, used it once, and it works GREAT!” And the worst are from people who could stumble into a pot of gold and whine about their aching toe.

It’s one thing to spew hate and misinformation, with no consideration for the people it affects. It’s another thing to blindly welcome such thoughts into the sanctity of our brain. If you fill a glass with clean water, it’s crystal clear. Add one single drop of ink, and it’ll never be clear again. And the more ink you intentionally drop in, the darker it gets.

The movie I was referring to earlier is one that illustrates the ignorance of racial bias, more accurately than we’d care to admit. Thankfully, not too many people turn to that movie as a documentary to support their beliefs, because it’s so intentionally over the edge that nobody in their right mind would see past the slapstick mockery to find any inkling of truth.

But how often do we allow negative thoughts into our brain, simply because they fit our preconceived notion of reality? And how often do we go looking for more of those thoughts to bolster our opinion? There’s no shortage of ink, friends. The only question is, what color?

Manufacturers pay writers to come up with the perfect words to convince you their product is the best. Politicians do the same thing, and even other governments if it suits their interests. If you want an informed opinion, you have to inform yourself. Dig deeper. Ask questions. Challenge opinions. Above all, trust your instincts. The truth is there. You just have to want it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved