A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Once there was a cattle rancher who was hauling a load of horses from northern Utah to his ranch in southern Utah in the mountains near Richfield. He ran out of gas about ten miles north of Nephi on the way to Richfield. He pulled over onto the barrow pit on a slope that soon proved treacherous because the horses were bucking so hard my colleague feared that the truck would tip over. Car after car of people all dressed up to attend the Manti LDS temple went by him without slowing down or stopping. My friend was getting desperate. Then, out of nowhere, a battered pickup truck stopped. A whiskered man with a cigarette dangling from his lips asked my friend, "Having trouble?" "I'm out of gas," my friend replied. "I've got a barrel of gas in the back of my pickup so I'll fill you up." And so he filled the gas tank on my friend's truck. "Let me pay you," my friend said. "No, no, you don't need to pay me, the stranger said." "Then at least let me buy your dinner" my friend replied. "Just help the next man in need," the stranger said as he drove off.
The longer I have thought about this modern retelling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the more lessons I have learned. First lesson is that samaritans come in all shapes and sizes and colors and appearances. Second lesson is that samaritans expect no recompense, nothing whatever in return. They cross the road and lend a hand without expectation of any return. Their attention is focused solely on helping someone in a difficult situation. Thus, we learn that when we do something for someone, we should have no expectation that they will repay us, not now, not ever. We should have no expectation that they will do something we want or expect them to do as a result of our beneficence. We should have no less love or appreciation for them if they do not do what we hoped they would do. The Good Samaritan crosses the road, helps someone in need, and goes on his or her own way. Many times a person who has been the recipient of an unexpected good deed will, in turn, look for the next person to help, and then the next one, and then the original Samaritan may be repaid through a ripple effect of good deeds and helpful actions. Too often we may be full of what we think is good advice or helpful suggestions and we may feel hurt if someone avoids our suggestions or pays no attention to them. But if we are a truly good Samaritan, we will help someone no matter what their circumstances are, no matter how they may react, no matter what they may do. The doing of the deed with love and without prejudice or reservation is the pure act that truly defines the Good Samaritan.
Velna and four children among the marigolds at Penn State. Sorry Kim isn't in the picture.
Today is the first anniversary of the October day in 2015 when we gathered at Velna's bedside as she breathed her last mortal breath. Before she left, she asked, "Why is everyone paying so much attention to me?", and "Dwight, you must pay the tithing," and "Dwight you must send out the birthday cards." And then she was gone from her earthly struggles and constant excruciating pain from so many ailments. For her last several years, day by day Velna was thankful to see each new day despite the chronic and debilitating pain that wracked every part of her body. She still did not want to leave. I never could reconcile how such a beautiful and totally innocent person could be called upon to suffer as she did. Day by day I did my best to take care of her needs, to cheer her up, to prepare her meals, to arrange her bed at bedtime, to get her pills when she needed them, to spend days and hours recounting our family history, our prized jewels of memory of our life together and the lives of our children. When I told her that I wish that I could walk better after losing my balance several years ago, she said with tears in her eyes, "Dwight, I can't walk at all."
Velna was first and foremost a wife and mother. Her children were her greatest challenge and her greatest blessing. She never lost sight of the end goal, of the blessings and permanence of the family unit, of the love that bound us all together. She welcomed each grandchild, each great grandchild, each wedding, each graduation, each event in each family member's life. She never failed to send birthday cards with dollar bills to each of her posterity. When she could hardly walk even with a walker, she said, "Dwight, I've got to go to the store and get some more cards." She faithfully read each post on this blog, looked carefully with appreciation at each photo I showed her, admonished me for being too wordy, and studied carefully each foot long grocery store and Costco receipt to see where we may have paid too much or not gotten what we thought we had. She clipped the coupons in each Sunday paper, did two daily crossword puzzles, and then, no matter how much pain she was in, showered and fixed her hair and applied her makeup. She would come out afterward into the living room to her chair in so much pain from lifting her arms to curl her hair and apply her makeup and it took her more than an hour to recover. But she never wavered. As she lay dying, she worried about her hair, and our wonderful daughter in law Susan found a brush and comb and straightened out her tangles until she once again looked beautiful. She did not want to leave us looking anything less than perfect.
In all of our 63 years together, I rarely heard her criticize anyone. When I would make a critical remark she would say, "Oh he (or she) isn't so bad, look at it this way." She was a peacemaker. Despite differences, she always forgave everyone and never held grudges. She never made an unkind remark or looked down on anyone. She was always calm, always had a loving disposition. I went through our life together not always appreciating just what a remarkable woman I had been fortunate enough to spend my life with. Velna blessed the lives of everyone who came in to her life. She taught by quiet example, not with cross words. She had a board to spank the kids with that got hidden away in the freezer for years and which she never used. I feel her influence each moment of each day in my life, and know that Velna would or would not approve if I did this or that and for all I know she is still watching me and I may have to account for my actions again some day.
I will write more about the progress I have made during this last lonely year and about the events that have happened since you left. But I wanted to take this special opportunity to, once again, pay tribute to Velna's wonderful life, to our years of beautiful life together, and for the good that she did in all her days. I am so grateful, Velna, that you have the terrible pain released from your body even though I miss you every moment of every day. But we know the outcome of our lives, don't we? God bless you, dear girl, and thank you with all my heart for sharing your life with me, the greatest blessing of my life.
Since reading has been a bit difficult for me later, I have watched enough Starz Western movies to become an expert on making them. Thus, I am happy to offer my considerable expertise on this matter to anyone else who might want to film an oater.
To begin with, and most important, we must consider the actors, actresses, scenes, paraphernalia, and Western gear necessary to film an oater, as follows:
First, and most important, we need a saloon. Two would be better, but one will do. The reason is that usually all the important shootings, killings, gunfights, and action take place in a saloon. In the saloon we need a robust bartender with a shotgun, a piano playing "Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight," a card table, and some fake whiskey which everyone is always drinking gallons of. (bad grammar, but this is an oater).
Next we need some semblance of a Western town, fake or otherwise with store fronts, boardwalks, a couple of tumble weeds to blow down the street, and some horse pooper scoopers because no horse is ever allowed to defecate on the street in an oater.
We need a bank to rob.
A jail with a sheriff and a deputy.
A doctor to dig out all the bullets and buckshot in all the folks who get shot in the saloon and on the street in case they get challenged to go out on the street and be a man.
An undertaker to make wood coffins and bury all the folks who get shot. Actually, I learned that no one actually gets shot, they just get paid to act like a corpse that had the whatever blasted out of them as they fall across two card tables, all the time without a single spatter of blood or body parts.
Boot hill, where they bury the fake corpses who by now have been expelled from the movie set because after all they are now deceased and have gone home to watch TV and spend their acting fee for being a corpse on pizza and beer.
A minister or someone who can recite a scripture or two over all the folks being buried in Boot Hill.
Black mourning dress for mourning all the fake burials in Boot Hill.
We need two or three women actresses, maybe a school teacher, a saloon girl, and a rancher's wife who has been done wrong and greets all callers with a shotgun.
A general store which stocks bullets, cloth to sew long dresses to drag in the dirt, oats, gumdrops, boots, spurs, and everything you need to be a schoolmarm, rancher, cowboy, or bad guy.
Some really rotten looking evil guys wearing black hats and with big sneers like they know they can shoot better than anyone and who will likely end up being a corpse or corpses before the movie is over.
Some good guys who can twirl their guns quickly and can outdraw anyone cheating in a poker game or threatening them in the saloon or out on the clean street.
A stage coach parked outside of town which can come roaring into town in a cloud of dust at a moment's notice and disembark two lovely ladies who have ridden a mile in the coach and therefore haven't mussed their makeup or gotten their beautiful dresses dirty or dusty along with two or three mysterious looking men, one of whom has two hundred wanted posters out on him for doing evil deeds in five states.
A hotel, or at least rooms above the saloon where more shootings and hanky panky can take place.
A whole bunch of horses.
Cowboys who can ride lickety split out of town the moment they are enlisted in a posse to chase a bank robber, kidnapper, or other rotten person into the hills where they will be gone for two or three days or weeks eating beans.
A ranch house for either a good guy rancher or an evil rancher who is rustling cattle and making life miserable for everyone else in the oater.
A train station with a toy train that goes choo choo and which hauls folks off to jail in distant towns and brings in the mail.
Choose a plot: (1) bank robbery; (2) cattle rustling, (3) horse thievery, (4) murder in the saloon or on the street, (5) some combination thereof.
That's pretty much it. John Wayne didn't take any sass and merely knocked anyone across the room after which they got up and thanked him and behaved themselves thereafter. Gene Autry sang songs and strummed his guitar. Clint Eastwood had a beautiful sneer and never lost. You can work out some variation. Oh I almost forgot, you may have to dress up a few Indians who usually just end up being shot off their horses after they get themselves done up in feathers and such. Good luck on filming your western. I could have been a great oater actor but I'll just have to be satisfied with being a country and western singer.
From September 17 1932 in a little two room house in Penrose Wyoming where I was born t0 September 17 2016 in my comfortable home in Utah has been a long and eventful journey. We may always wonder if we could have or should have done more with the gift of years and life we have been given, if we could have done something different, if we could have been a better dad, if we could have been a more loving and helpful spouse. Some times our good intentions and fondest hopes withered on the vine. And some times we reaped the blessings of life that far exceeded anything that we may have felt entitled to receive.
Yet this birthday today is different than any of my other birthdays. I woke up to an empty house. No one was there to give me a hug and wish me happy birthday. No one was there to make my favorite birthday cake with brown sugar frosting and give me a handwritten birthday card full of love and special birthday wishes. I pulled the blinds and looked out on the expanse of Lone Peak and Mount Timpanogos and wished that Mother Nature had endowed me with some pretty clouds to photograph for my birthday but, alas, she was stingy today and the mountains all had the familiar Plain Jane look of boring similarity.
I have thought so often of the pretty 16 year old blonde girl I took on a blind date in January of 1950 the first week that I came to Laramie to attend the University of Wyoming. And then three years later we got married and embarked on a journey of work, school, more work, more school, children, moving around the country, loading the kids in the back of our station wagon and traveling to Michigan, to Washington, D. C., to Pennsylvania, to Washington, back to Wyoming, and every place we could go around thia beautiful country.
I suppose my 84th milestone is an appropriate time to take inventory. If I had to tell you what I think my major accomplishments have been in my life, I would have to say that my most outstanding accomplishment was marrying Velna Black. And then the next major accomplishment that both of us together achieved was to raise our family of five children and to move past the trauma of teen age certainty and watch our children get educated, find a spouse, go to work, raise their own families, and live honorable lives. I give most of the credit for how my children turned out to my wife, whose patience, long-suffering, and quiet means of displaying a no-nonsense disciplinary atmosphere seemed to be the key to what we accomplished. My family is my most precious heritage and the greatest gift that life has bestowed upon me.
Yes, I am proud of my educational accomplishments and four college degrees which Velna and I achieved together and which I would never have been able to succeed at without Velna's hard work and faithful, non-complaining, support. And I am proud of my 45 years of teaching thousands of students in four universities. I loved my college students and I miss seeing them every fall, for a few days at least, after having been retired for 16 years. But what a wonderful and inspiring journey I had through the halls of academia and the classrooms full of students who didn't necessarily want to study economics but who often, years later, wish they had paid more attention.
So it has been a long journey from hoeing sugar beets and milking cows and traveling two hours a day for eleven years to go to school to the all-night work sessions to get me through the University of Wyoming and then Montana State and then the University of Michigan and then to my first teaching job at the age of 22 in two classes of 90 students each at Colorado A & M when I was given the textbook on Friday and told to be ready to teach on Monday. I wondered how I ever got to the University of Michigan the first day I arrived on campus and walked, spellbound, around the beautiful and impressive campus and felt that I had been more at home hauling hay in Penrose Wyoming.
Now my task is to make the best of my remaining days. I try to be of help to people with my photographs and with encouraging little tag lines of message each day and many people have told me how much they appreciate these photos and messages. I wish I was a better cook and get tired of some of my not-s0-hot culinary adventures. I wish I knew where Velna had kept everything and I wish I had someone to ask how do you do this or how can I fix that or how do I pay this bill and where did you file that and should I add more of this or that to what I am cooking and how do you tell when it is done and did you see the moon come up and would you look at my pictures I posted today and read my comments and what can I get for you and here are your pills and did you finish your crosswords for the day and what would you like for lunch and someone to tell how much I loved them after living together for two months shy of 63 years. But I am blessed by my children and their spouses and my grand children and my dear neighbors who check on me and bring me a loaf of bread, a container of soup and check on me to see if I am well and who tell me they will do anything for me any time I need them. I am learning to cope with life better than I have and I am starting to feel a little better after eleven months of what my physician tells me is "adjustment disorder" which puts a blinder on you when you lose your spouse and causes you to struggle each day feeling crummy and not knowing what to say when everyone asks what do you mean feeling crummy and you say I just don't know how to explain it any better I just feel crummy.
So I thank all of those who care about me and care for me for the incredible and wonderful gifts of love, of compassion, of help, of endurance, of patience, and I thank my family for their wonderful examples of good lives and lives spent helping others and raising good families. I am rich from the blessings of love and caring I receive daily. I don't know whether I will last for another birthday so I wanted to write this message while I am still here. Above all, I have the memories of Velna and her patient and loving example of kindness and compassion for everyone she ever came in contact with. And this, in conclusion: I love the psalm which tells us that, though we may weep at night, we will find joy in the morning. And this, one of Velna's favorite hymns, consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. What more could we ask for? My message would not be complete if I did not acknowledge the abiding love and admiration I have for my parents and my grandparents. My mom and dad worked so hard for so many years against overwhelming odds of making a bare-bones living. They were not able to help me through college, but my mother wrote letters of love and encouragement to me every week for the four years I was at the University of Wyoming and those letters together with my weekend dates with Velna were what got me through college against overwhelming odds. Not a day goes by without remembering, remembering, treasuring. And my beloved five siblings, as all six of us have bonded into an iron-clad and special fraternity that brooks no nonsense and which gives us the means of continuing through our trials and tribulations.
Now Velna would criticize me for being too loquacious, too verbose. But I had to say what I wanted to say. With my love and appreciation to everyone to takes the time to read my 84th birthday message. (signed) Dwight M. Blood, Penrose Wyoming.
Education, learning, and books have always been an important part of my life and the life of my family. My grandpa Wasden (mother's dad) had a 3d grade education and yet, despite his meager financial resources, subscribed to several daily newspapers, including Salt Lake's Deseret News, as well as magazines like National Geographic and a dozen others. When I went home one summer to the farm in northwest Wyoming, grandpa asked me what I had been reading, and I told him "The Diplomatic History of the United States." He asked me if I had the book and if he could read it. I loaned it to him and I am sure he read it from cover to cover. My dad quit school in the 9th grade. Yet he read all his life and when he quit farming and milking cows, reading became one of his passions. He read almost the complete works of Dickens, numerous works of history and biography, and for fun, he read every western by Luke Short and Louis L'Amour.
I loved school and books and reading from the time my older sister taught me to read a year before I entered first grade. When I was in high school, from which I graduated at the age of 16, I decided for some inexplicable reason that I wanted to be a college teacher. So that is what I became, teaching in four universities for a total of 45 years. Throughout my life, learning has been important. College degrees are important, also, but circumstances prevent everyone from getting a college degree, at least when they are young. Marriage, children, work, and illness can stand in the way of a college degree. Just having a college degree does not guarantee making the person with the degree better or smarter or more useful than those without degrees. I wouldn't trade some of my dear friends with minimal educations for some of the lumps I worked with in college who were so impressed with their doctorate degrees and the number of journal articles they published.
So I decided to count up the college degrees in my family. As near as I can tell, My children, grandchildren, and spouses of children and grandchildren, have collected 18 bachelor's degrees and 2 master's degrees with 4 more bachelor's degrees and 1 master's degree pending in the current school year, for a total of 25 degrees from Brigham Young University. One grandson and two spouses of grandchildren received degrees from the University of Utah. We have four with degrees from the University of Wyoming: me, my son Russell (J.D.), my wife Velna who labored for years and finally received her degree in her mid-30s, and my mother, who was truly a pioneer when getting to Laramie 450 miles from Penrose Wyoming was truly a miraculous accomplishment. I have another degree from Montana State and my doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan. Granddaughter Michelle's spouse, Josh, has a Ph.D. in biogenetics from UT Southwestern. Son Jim has a master's in international relations and a J.D. degree from George Washington University. His wife Sharman has a master's degree from Stanford. Granddaughter Whitney has a degree from Texas Tech, Courtney's husband James has a degree from Texas Tech plus a nursing degree, Tyler's wife, Michele, has a degree from the University of Colorado, and Tyler will earn his degree from UTEP in the current school year.
If I have counted correctly, that makes a total of 39 college degrees in my family. Again, I can't emphasize too strongly that I am not assuming anyone with a college degree is better than anyone without one. As I said above, not everyone finds themselves in circumstances that permit completion of a degree, at least at one or more times of their lives. What matters most, however, is that, no matter what our circumstances, we continue learning one way or another all of our lives. In my day, I graded correspondence courses for 15 years. Now students have access to infinite numbers of online courses that are automatically corrected. Books and information are as close as our iPhone or iPad. We don't have to go to the library and spend hours in a handwritten card catalogue and hours more searching for volumes in a five story library. My mother earned her degree at 57. My wife was in her thirties and my daughter in law Lani persevered so she could celebrate her bachelor's degree with those earned by her four daughters.
Continual reading and learning are what is important. We should never quit reading and learning. And then, what is even more important, is what we do with our reading and learning and whether we are prepared to make a difference in our lives and, especially, in the lives of others. The difference we make is more important than having our walls plastered with college diplomas. Love, consideration, help, compassion, teaching one another, are all virtues that outshine college degrees any day. Nonetheless, I urge everyone to continue learning and perhaps one day, you too, will have a diploma to share with your posterity.
Life is a continuing story of choices. Decisions are a part of life that we cannot escape. Some decisions are easy and routine and we don't have to think about what to do. Others are difficult, ripe with consequences, and plagued with uncertainty. We can, however, take a major load of difficulty away from decisions if we always focus on doing the right thing.
Doing the right thing may not be the choice that will be of the greatest material advantage or give us the most convenience or result in what we had hoped for or dreamed of. Yet a clear conscience is worth more than any advantage we may have otherwise gained. Some times we may be confronted with a choice that clearly could be to our advantage if we took one path. Yet, if we end up taking advantage of someone else, or hiding information that we know but that we should have also told others about, we may gain an edge or get what we wanted to do but we will never feel that we did the right thing.
The path to a clear conscience when making choices is to ask ourselves, " What is the right thing to do here?" . We need to forget about any result that may help us or end up taking advantage of others just so we can get what we wanted but always leave us with a cloudy feeling that, some how, we missed the boat and the advantage we gained is a hollow victory plagued forever with doubt and regret.
Dear Velna, who read my Do List tasks every day through the first 287 tasks and who told me every day that I should use fewer words, here is one of the shortest tasks I have written. Yet, I think it makes the point and I know you have already approved it.
Task Number 298: Always do the right thing. That way you can sleep nights without worry, look others in the face and know you have been honest with them and haven't taken advantage in any unfair way, and continue on with a smile on your face. Keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
I had a clear and unambiguous dream last night. Ninety nine percent of my dreams vanish into thin air, or are troubled nightmares, or are about looking for something or walking down an unknown road. But this dream was one of those rare dreams that was so crystal clear I could remember every detail when I woke up.
What I dreamed is that I was giving a presentation to a large group of people about the importance of photography in genealogy. My first camera was a baby brownie at the age of 13 or so and for some mysterious reason I have bought dozens of updated cameras over the years. I graduated from black and white box cameras to 35 mm cameras and Kodachrome and ultimately to digital cameras. When I was young I took photos of my four sisters, brother, parents, the farm where we lived, the river near by and other scenes. As it turned out, those photos are the only photos my siblings have of our growing up years. Unfortunately, I or no one else ever thought about making sure I was in some of the photos since I was the one who took almost all of them. Today those photos are treasures of great price. Many of the most priceless memories I and my siblings have of our childhood are locked into those wonderful images of our youth. In turn, those photos become an additional treasure to our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and so on down the line. Of course, one of the difficulties in those days was the fact that I had to take my little rolls of film to town to the drug store and pay to have prints made. Since I had no money, every roll of film developed was a precious and valued gift. Then, with 35 mm., we had to have the film developed and converted to slides. And that was expensive in the days when $1 may have meant an hour and a half of work.
Today we live in an age of photographic miracles. Anyone with a smartphone can take thousands of good photos if they will take a few minutes to learn how to use the wonderful camera in the phone. Digital cameras by the dozens are available at all price ranges. We can take an infinite number of photos for free, basically, and delete generously the duplicates and bad photos without paying to have them developed.
One problem today is that so many people don't take photography seriously. A few quick clicks and a fast post to Facebook and photography is over. While instant gratification on Instagram, Facebook, and other media outlets can be a valuable means of communication and can provide enjoyment to many people, the popularity of instant and transient photography is not going to be much help for family records and genealogy. Unless some effort is made to preserve these photos and make them available to family and others, all of the instant photography is going to vanish into thin air.
Digital photography offers a multitude of ways to preserve and distribute photos. The two most important ways, to me at least, of saving and distributing photos are these:
Storing on CDs and DVDs and distributing these discs to family members and others. Even these methods may be outdated by continuing technology shifts so we have to stay up-to-date on the latest methods of saving and storing photos so our descendants don't end up with a pile of unusable discs.
Print photo books. Printing photo books offers the most permanent and attractive way of saving photos, although the number of photos saved in photo books is likely to be significantly smaller than the vast numbers of photos you can save on CDs and DVDs. Dozens of photo book printing outlets exist. I like My Publisher and Artifact Uprising. Many people use Shutterfly. Shop around on the internet but check the ratings before you settle on a printer. By printing some of your best photos from Facebook and your phone memory every few months, you can be sure that you can save your images for another day. It's important to let others know how they can order copies of the books you publish if you don't just give copies to them to begin with.
So far we've talked about new photos that we are just taking now. The biggest treasure trove of photos, however, is likely to be held in shoe boxes, old albums, hard drives, on CDs and DVDs, dresser drawers, old trunks, and wherever else people saved the gems of their lifetime. Now is the time to resurrect these photos to their rightful place in family lore, history, and genealogy. Most people don't have any idea what to do with them. The best thing to do is to find some one who will scan these photos into a form you can use to print photos and photo books. Some libraries have scanners, and some photography companies will scan your shoe boxes full of photos. I have about 40 old photo albums that my wife put together over many years. If I die before doing something with these photos, none of my children or descendants will ever have an opportunity to see them. So I splurged and bought the Kodak flatbed scanner which many commercial scanners use. The miracle of this scanner is that it will scan a page in a photo album and then separate the photos on that page into separate photos just as if you had scanned the photos individually.
By taking a little time now to manage and distribute current photos and to find a method to preserve old photos, you can bestow a priceless gift to your children and to future generations. You can find much information on line about printing, scanning, and storing photos. Delaying too long can mean the loss of a valuable heritage. Doing something about your photos can provide an incredible boost to anyone doing family history or genealogy.
And that is what my dream was all about. Maybe there was a purpose to my dreaming this dream. I like to think that maybe there was a purpose.
Many of the most annoying events of daily life can be avoided if we take steps in the first place to keep things in order. Here are just a few examples of situations that become nagging pains in the neck and troublesome tasks:
Hundreds or thousands of emails piled up on our computers.
Password frustration from not recording or keeping track of 2 zillion passwords.
Not paying attention to bill due dates and getting charged late fees.
Postponing urgent tasks until the last minute when it is too late to remedy situations appropriately.
Avoiding fixing leaky faucets, broken light fixtures, sagging hinges, and countless other little annoyances around the house.
Not paying attention to your car and ending up with a flat tire, a stalled engine, and a tow truck.
Postponing necessary doctor's visits so that your life gets complicated from something that might have been avoided in the first place.
If you are a student, cramming all night before exams because you were too lazy to study ahead of time.
Avoiding making amends or apologies and letting personal relationships fester.
Clogging your mind with garbage. You know what I mean. Avoid time wasters and enjoy mental happiness.
Leaving papers and mail lying around instead of taking care of stuff in the first place and thus avoiding nasty clean up and sorting out chores.
Quit being late for everything. Try being 5 minutes early and see how much stress that relieves.
Simplify your life.
Quit buying so much stuff that you may use only once or twice or not at all and then have to store, insure, take care of, repair, and otherwise waste a whole bunch of time looking after.
Follow basic health rules for eating, exercise, sleep, medications, and daily routines to save yourself possible grief and misery and unexpected doctor and dentist visits.
So what have I left out? Surely following as many of these suggestions as possible would have saved me considerable misery and frustration over the years. What takes only a few minutes or an hour now could save untold amounts of time and expense to take care of things later.
Task number 298: Change your habits and avoid clutter. Don't even think about throwing that paper or pair of socks on the floor. Good luck, enjoy a simpler and less complicated life, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
One surprising benefit from my kids forcing me to buy an iPhone was my pleasant discovery that the iPhone had a built in steps pedometer. I have been relatively successful in losing weight by following the simple rule "eat less", but I hadn't paid much attention to the second cardinal rule of daily life "move more." Once I started monitoring my steps on a daily basis, I was shocked to see how sedentary I remained even though I thought I was moving around enough during the day. Once this bit of information sunk in, I remembered reading about how Nelson Mandela, the South African hero, kept himself in good physical condition while confined for many years to a tiny jail cell. My ability to walk normally vanished, probably permanently, when a severe vertigo attack landed me in the hospital two years ago and wrecked my balance. I move around fairly well with a cane, though it is difficult to manage stairs and high curbs.
So thus began my quest to increase my steps. I first ramped my walking up to 3,000 steps a day, then 4,000, then 5,000. On some days I managed 6,000 steps. Steps became a game and not a chore. Every time I got up, I would move around for a few minutes. Going to get the mail and walking with my cane beyond the mail box nets me nearly 1,000 steps a day. I know I feel better and that my legs are stronger so I can stand in the kitchen and do chores around the house without any leg pain or discomfort.
If you are a couch potato, start eating less and moving more. You don't need to read ten diet books and 50 exercise books although using common sense in choosing the right foods to eat less and knowing which exercises are right for you so that you don't overdo or cause muscle damage are still important to know about. But anyone can take more steps, and taking more steps is such a powerful step (no pun intended) in the right direction, that you will be soon motivated to expand your transition from an overweight couch potato to a healthier, thinner, happier person. And, miraculously, I always find that when I succeed at one thing, like taking more steps and eating less, that so many other things that improve my life become almost automatic, easy to do without much thought, and then I remain grateful for my kids forcing me to buy an iPhone and for following my own simple rule of eating less.
OK Velna, who always chastised me each day for writing too-lengthy do list tasks, this one isn't so long, but I hope it makes a point. Doing simple things can benefit our lives and the lives of others in so many ways.
Do List task number 298: Take more steps. Start moving, start taking steps, get a pedometer or use your iPhone, and quit sitting still for hours at a time. Your health and well being are too important and too valuable to ignore. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
One of the reasons we don't achieve our goals is because we fail to measure our progress. We know we need to accomplish something. We think about it, we remind ourselves about it, we worry about it, and then nothing happens. Nothing happens because we put the task out of our minds. We forget about it. Until we realize that we haven't done anything, we haven't made any progress. And yet we keep telling ourselves that some day we will get around to it, we will actually do what we have long needed and wanted to do.
I taught college students for 45 years. Perhaps the most frequent question I was asked was "How can I improve my grade?" My most direct answer always was "Be sure you learn the material." Then I would make a few suggestions: Keep up with the reading assignments. Come to class regularly. Listen to the lectures. Take notes. Review over and over again until you can explain the material to some one else. Students would listen and agree with what I said. Sadly, however, only a fraction of them would take me seriously enough to actually follow through with my suggestions. The penalty for not following these suggestions was failure to achieve a higher grade or perhaps even to maintain their original grade. Those who made a real effort to dig in and learn the material could see tangible progress that could be measured not only in higher exam scores, but in a higher level of self confidence and interest in the course once they conquered their learning hurdles and began to understand the complex problems of economics.
When we are trying to lose weight, we need to weigh ourselves regularly and record our weight. If we are not losing weight, or perhaps if we are even gaining weight, we are not doing what we need to do to lose. We are not eating less nor are we eating more wisely. Progress comes when we take the necessary steps toward achieving our goal and then keep up our efforts consistently and without telling our self fibs such as "I know I am not eating too much and yet I can't lose weight." But once progress comes, a feeling of success permeates our minds, and we not only find that losing weight is easy but also that we are more eager to tackle other projects and make progress toward their completion.
Frustration often sets in when we do not see the progress we sought. Progress, however, can be achieved in small, though measurable, steps. We may need to reassess our goals and set a more realistic goal. Losing one pound a week will mean a loss of 52 pounds in a year. Studying a textbook can be done one or two pages at a time if we just make sure we understand what we have read before we go on to the third and fourth pages. Exercising and moving more to regain our health can be achieved if we start with only a few minutes a day, a few hundred steps. Then we measure our progress and keep going
Follow the Rule of One to begin making the progress that has escaped you up until today. One step. One nasty chore we have postponed. One page in a book or a manual that we need to learn. One entry in a journal to record your progress and your problems and successes in achieving your goal. Just one. Then the second, and the third, and the 100th, follow more easily and we lose the frustration we have felt for so long in postponing something we have known that we need to do but have never really started.
Task number 297: Measure your progress. Keep track of how you are doing. Write it down, don't just think about it. Make progress your watch word. How am I doing today? Have I accomplished anything toward my goal? What do I need to do differently? How can I succeed. Progress is a wonderful accomplishment. May you succeed in your efforts toward whatever goal you are seeking. Good luck and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We all have a basket full of wishes. We wish we were thin. We wish we had a better job. We wish we could get an A in the course we are taking. We wish we felt better. We wish we had enough money to pay our bills. And on and on and on. Yet so much of the time our wishes appear for a moment and then disappear as we just continue doing the same things we have always been doing. And then, some day, we may rue the day that we kept postponing making a change or starting a project or taking the first step toward reaching an important goal.
Last year I lost nearly 70 pounds after I started my Do List. I had tried for 30 years to lose that weight, without lasting success. By writing my blog each day, by expanding my do list I found that I expanded my resolve. My commitment became more firmly entrenched. I focused on what I needed and wanted to do which, basically, was to eat less. By switching my mindset from permanently passive and wishful thinking to the active let's-do-it mode, I succeeded. One pound at a time. Day after day and week after week. And then last October my wife died and for nine months I shifted back into the passive mode. I just couldn't concentrate on anything, let alone my continued quest to lose weight. But at least my weight stayed constant at 250, I did accomplish that much since after decades of yo-yo dieting I had never before been able to hold my weight constant even after I lost a few pounds.
Then about two weeks ago I decided to resurrect my Do List job that I began last year and try to finish out writing about the 365 tasks that would make my 2015 Do List complete. And guess what? After scarcely two weeks, my weight dropped from 250 to 246. Imagine, weighing 246 for the first time in 30 years or more. When I began writing again, I began focusing once more on what I wanted and needed to do. As I wrote each day, I became anchored to a firm commitment to get back to my original goal of ultimately reaching 220 or so. How could this result happen after being locked in at 250 for nine months? Actually, my result seemed to occur like magic. I didn't do anything different except think about, and write about, and think some more about how I needed to get back in gear. I needed to leave the Land of Wishful Thinking and enter the promised land of actual accomplishment. And it was easy. If no one else ever read my Do List blog posts, if no one else ever tried to write daily to reinforce what they need and want to do, if no one else ever tried to change their habits and do something different, if no one else ever followed any of my Do List assignments, writing my daily Do List tasks would be of infinite value to me because writing this blog has been the key to my success in accomplishing something that has eluded me for so many long years.
With every five pounds I lose, my health improves. Though I take blood pressure medication, my blood pressure is easily controlled now. I am at less risk for a bundle of health risks. I feel lighter. I can move more easily. I have greater self respect. I had a dozen or so health tests and measurements at the hospital yesterday and every one of them was within normal levels.
I feel that I can't let myself down. I can't go back to the overweight person I was for so long. The exhilaration of getting on the scales and seeing a 4 pound drop this morning after nine months of wishful thinking was worth more than I can tell.
My blog has been about making small changes. One step at a time. One task at a time. One day at a time. Simple rules. A firm commitment to do the day's task, to making the first step. After even small progress begins, a miracle often happens because after trying so long and so hard to get started, then our progress moves on auto pilot, on cruise control, and we just keep going, miraculously, after being stalled for so long.
Today's task: Graduate from wishful thinking. Stop being passive. Create a miracle in your own life. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.