Road of Life: a Road to Mastery

I realize that my life consists of finding new activities and then mastering them. For example, at 7 or 8 years old I picked up a guitar. I am certainly not a virtuoso now but I have dedicated countless hours to understanding and finding a level of mastery over the instrument. As a point of fact I have probably spent more time studying and mastering the guitar than I have anything else in life. Later in life came dating. I failed at it miserably. The very few times in my teens and twenties that I had a chance to go out with a girl, I said all the wrong things and usually repelled the female who was with me. But I studied it and read books (The idiots guide to relationships) etc.

Eventually I was in a steady relationship that lasted over a year. When that one fell apart I had a little more mastery and so on until I met my wife. We both work at marriage, it takes two. In my opinion, she and I both have gained a knowledge of marriage and relationships and that has kept us together. The guitar, relationships, blogging, writing reviews, getting paid to blog, relaxation, maintaining a healthy diet, … these are so many more human activities are the things I seek to master. Tomorrow there are sure to be new challenges. The meaning of life to me is to seek out new things and master them as best you can. If that sounds hard, you don’t understand me correctly. There is triumph through difficulty and there is nothing like the joy of mastery. Now that I have had this revelation about my life, I suppose it’s good I’m a blogger so I can leave behind some of these breakthroughs I make.

Online Journaling: Setting Aside the Time

This is a post that addresses my recent absence from journaling in this blog and how I intend to remedy that. I usually set goals with the idea of what I want to do guiding me. Tonight I realize I have fallen short of my goals many times because I have bitten off more than I can chew. Tonight I am making some blogging goals that I feel I CAN do. Not everyone has the time, resources, and gift of stability to write lustrous posts every day. Besides that, while I do love blogging so, I recognize that other areas of my life deserve just as much if not more attention. So … tonight I am very glad to be posting something. The something I am posting is within the confines of what I “CAN” do regularly: journal. See you tomorrow, if everything goes as planned.

My Life as a Slightly Slower World Tour

The 4 years 1988-1992 were my rock and roll years. I was a singer/songwriter and guitarist trying to make music for money. My vision was simple, to make the music on the other side of the records I listened to growing up. Still, becaise I knew others who achieved that goal, it allowed me to see that goal wasn’t everything. In fact, I learned that all paths really lead us to eat foods of the world and find our own form of influence.

I met and worked with Dave Sharp of the Alarm and grew up as friends with Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. Both people I know personally and I thought they had achieved my utmost dream of going on a world tour. I don’t recall them being any better off than me. You can only sleep in one bed every night. You can only put your leg through one pant leg at a time. Now, so many years later, I realize that in a way I started my own world tour in my mind back then in 1988. I didn’t sell any t-shirts but it was hugely successful. It goes on still today.

For example: when my wife takes me to the Thai place and I try a yellow curry for the first time, or any variation on that. When I go on a small local vacation it is like the Bahamas for me. I don’t write much music these days but when I pick up my guitar and play my old riffs to an empty tall ceilinged room, I am enjoying all the great stuff a world tour can offer. I see that now. The good news is I didn’t have to ever go on a world your to see the influence of my teaching, my fatherhood, my love for my wife. I can see that is all happening now without a tour bus, without millions of dollars. When someone said “the best things in life are free,” she/he was correct. You can have them here at home in your own front yard or on a tour bus to somewhere seeking something that is fleeting and maybe even, not real.

Vulnerable Journey

I’ve discovered something about myself in the past week that is really liberating. While it may sound simple to some, I have learned that it isn’t the end product that is the most important part of my teaching. I know this and yet that has been my focus for most of my years on the job. The most important things are moments every day along the way in life’s classroom. While I’ve been aiming at touchstones and measuring progress by them, the moments have rippled by often unnoticed. That’s where the vulnerable part comes in.

Living in the moment is by its nature a vulnerable thing. A master craftsman can teach with a scant system. I’d like to think I could present a lesson with nothing more than a chalk slate. Of course, technology can be helpful. I have learned that the bravest part of teaching is walking into the unknown. If I planned everything, the lessons wouldn’t be as effective. I am learning an art and I can see that now. It is not about appearances but rather connections with learners who need my teaching desperately. When they look back at 4th grade, they won’t care about any awards their teacher won. They will remember his willingness to make himself vulnerable, willing to fall and get back up again to meet them where they are in every moment.

The River

I’ve found there are too many duties in life. Whether it be a job, cleaning the house, putting in a yard, or even getting to the doctor when you’re sick, we are constantly inundated with demands. This can take a toll on our productivity and health levels. I started practicing meditation about a year ago in varied forms. Now, I do a textbook form of the Relaxation Response twice a day and it allows me to mentally slow down and analyze life’s rich demands. Prioritization is important but it’s also good to imagine your life as a river. The river just flows. Even as it sleeps, or you might say it never truly sleeps, the river flows to the sea somewhere far away. Until our river passes over the bend (when we die) we can never increase or decrease our flow speed. All we can do, thankfully, is “be the river.” When we make goals and achieve them, we are flowing. When we fail, we are flowing.

We will always have priorities and responsibilities vying for our attention, but we must never forget the reality that our life is a river that we have very little power to change. You might call this concept a surrender and it is. I also see it as an empowering liberation. Once you realize you cannot alter much in your life, you can celebrate what you have “as is.” When your life begins to seem like roaring rapids, you can slow down and accept that life is having its way with you. All you need to do as a river is pay attention to where you are going. I think you’ll see more beauty than you ever imagined as you let the river run its course. I also think you’ll find it in places you never thought to look, as well as in the usual focal points. When you don’t slow down and let things flow, you are blind to the beauty of life.

To my Niece Upon High School Graduation

I hope none of these sound bossy :) You are a great kid and some of these advices probably aren’t necessary but all are true to me. I wish someone would have told them to me at your age. Anyway, I wasn’t around for your upbringing much for the past 10 years or so but I definitely think you or any college kid would benefit by these pieces of advice. I’m not sure what the high school diploma requirements are but you graduated so you’re off to a great start! Enjoy the next chapters of your life. FIRST: School – Don’t think you are missing out if you miss partying. Everyone in college has to study the same amount. If you miss a party you will be more focused and less likely to flunk out (as 46% of your graduating class year will). A little celebrating is fine but … Get school done, there’ll be time enough for partying when you have the best career. The main reason I am able to support my family (cost wise) is because of my college not because of lame parties I went to.

Work – Learn a way to “leave work at work.” Avoid socializing too much there. It is your means to an end. Making a couple good friends at work is fine but you will save yourself a lot of trouble making solid boundaries between “IRL” and work. This is true when you start your career but also while in a part or full time job in college. Last, look into a good online school. They are showing up everywhere these days.

Fun – Do fun things! These keep your smile real and your bones healthy. Avoid alcohol or drugs to have fun. Many kids nowadays have bought into drugs and they will be sorry. I’ve been to some of my friends’ funerals who died of drugs.

Love – LOL. Me? Giving advice on this? Well yes. Enjoy time with guys but remember people come and go out of your life while in college. “Hold on loosely” is a good mantra. Treasure your experiences, I encourage you to have them. Be smart and all that. It is the experiences of dates and getting to know someone that you will call upon when you are one day married. I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had with love. This is because they helped me understand what a relationship is. After nearly 10 years of marriage I am still working to figure that out.

Other – Spirituality is highly over rated. In fact, it makes some people insane. My advice is to spend quiet time with yourself on a daily or weekly basis. Keep a journal. All the religions of the world have still yet to show us proof what happens after 80 years or so when we die. For that reason, ignore the pamphlets they give you as you’re walking across campus and live with joy within those 80 years. Replace the word “spiritual” in your life with “relaxation” and “peace” and you’ll be better off than anyone in any church. The most important focus a young woman can have is finding a good career after college. I know you will knock em dead!

All the best kiddo, I love you.

Uncle Damien

Give Your Spouse the Little Things

It’s the little things that make your marriage solid. As with any relationship, a marriage can have its challenges. My wife do our periodic standoff every so often and it’s getting to be less taxing now that we’ve been together for 7 years. We also make sure to spend quality time enjoying each other so those tough disagreements aren’t fatal to the wonderful union we enjoy. I take notes on the things she likes and the things she doesn’t. Once in a while I surprise her by driving her down to a great steak restaurant. Other times I will stretch my movie tastes and go to a sappy chick flick :) Don’t tell my guy friends, but I actually like some of those!

She also is looking out for the things I like. I can remember one fight we had a long time ago where I decided to go to work without resolving it (which is willpower for me, I am a bit of a control freak). When I got home, candles were burning, my favorite food was on the table and she was wearing the sexy clothes I had told her I liked. Needless to say, we resolved the fight. My lesson? If your spouse wants to go through the Sierra Designs Tents at a show you are attending, visit that one! If there’s time, she will attend your preferred place!

Keep an eye out for those “little things” your spouse enjoys and don’t save them for a rainy day, give them to her/him now.

What Blogging Was in 1995 and What it Has Become

The blogger over at Writing Aspirations made some hefty points about blogging back in in 2007. Some I agree with, and some I am on the fence about. At any rate, it inspired me to share my take on the internet and writing, it’s been a long, strange trip for me.

I started writing on a personal website in 1995. I started it free at Geocities (now defunct), and I didn’t even have my own computer. I accessed the page through California State University Fullerton’s computer lab. As I recall they had MAC’s. I’ve since become a PC guy. Geocities separated sites into categories based on broader interests. Because mine was literature and writing (I was an English major in my last semester at the time), they gave me an “Athens” addy. I remember advancing through the other websites and finding sites ranging from highly busy with too many graphics moving to standard written sites where the personal webmaster seemed more conservative. I remember my first webpage was a diatribe on what my named meant (Damien) and a history of how the “Omen” portrayed it in a false bad light. Seems like 100 years ago! Geocities had an extensive help system that taught me basic html, ie: item in bold and how to make a link, colors, pictures, etc. It was web design for the average joe, and I used it to post the little things going on in my life (and occasional big ones). It was so exciting to learn new tricks, like how to post an animated GIF next to something, how to use a background image, etc. I sent my updated pages with “ecolumns,” as I used to call them, to family and friends on my address list. It was a great way to connect with the people I knew and loved. While with Geocities, I also learned a lot of code secrets from Dynamic Drive.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I discovered phpBB forums. These replaced owner’s manuals and personal websites. I was, at one time, a posting member of 20 forums. My handle was “jeeptravel,” and you could find me in a search posting on anything from High Desert issues to plumbing to Jeep repair. They were great, but my interest waned when posts seemed to be lost after a few replies. There was no permanence to forums, it got boring. I guess it depends on the forum you frequent, but the ones I went to seemed to dribble down to a core of members that weren’t always as interesting as the technology of the forum made you think. This is an important point when considering the blog question of 2007. I started a few forums of my own through PhP. When you purchase a personal website from a server host like Top Class Host (one of the best and cheapest I’ve found), they automatically include “fantastico” which allows the user to instantly install a forum, blog, or any number of awesome sql database driven items. I use them now to host my blog. Specifically I use WordPress software included in the hosting package. I pay $6.95/month and it is well worth it for the freedom of tweaking I have with my blog and storage on my website. That brings us to the state of blogging in modern time.

Before starting my own “not free” hosted site, I blogged off and on for several years at is an awesome free service, but there are MANY great free blogging services out there to check out.

Now for my point (sorry for the long history, thanks for reading this long).

Speaking to the question of the blog phenom being a passing fad: I must answer with a cop-out, yes and no.

Yes, the trend of signing up for a free blogging service and writing posts like “Yikes I broke a nail,” will inevitably fade out.

It will grow boring for folks just as MySpace has begun to fade in its popularity. The veneer of technological “wow” will wear off (hmmm three w’s in a row) and these folks will either A) continue to keep their blog as a way to communicate with contacts, or B) Shut it down or abandon it in favor of some new technological toy (I don’t know what that will be just yet).

On the other hand, I must reply “no,” it is not a passing trend because great writers are using it to create “ecolumns” for family and friends more than ever before. It is, in essence, a literary renaissance revival. Everywhere across the globe people are writing. It is a phenomenon of communication . . . like the free website was with geocities and other providers but on a WAYYYYY wider scale. Those who remain blogging through 2007 will be those people who are both good, thoughtful writers AND who are also internet savvy. You have to be with blogging. Keeping up with terms like “trackback” and “ping” is a tough endeavor, if you don’t like computers. But a little interest goes a long way.

In 2010 I made almost 6k on my three blogs. I write for a few Pay to Blog type companies. I also make money through Adsense. For me, blogs continue to hold my interest and they pay me money. Where will they go from here? Only time will tell.

Power of Mantra

This post will introduce a series of posts I’m writing on looking at life a little bit differently, namely the practice of having an open mind. First, let’s talk about mantra.

Having a mantra, or saying to repeat, as you start your day can really help get you in the mindset to win at life.

I’ve been writing about psychology and inspiration here since December of 2006 and in the process I’ve done a lot of homework I love to share. Mark Twain once said: “When I turned 20, I was amazed at all my father had learned in ten years.” Our perception of the world is filtered through our point of view. If we have an open mind as we travel through life, we transcend much of the trouble around us. When we get older, we can’t just buy memory to become smarter or faster. We can however, adopt certain practices that make our memory more keen. One invaluable tool in keeping an open mind is to have a mantra. This can help toward a simple understanding of an often complex set of circumstances.

Remember when you were younger, about junior high age? You could run around all day: boys at the football field, girls at the mall or maybe the softball field. (Of course I don’t mean to sound like all women wanted to be at the mall but many I knew did). At any rate, physical activity back then had very few consequences. I would run 5-10 miles on the x-country team and have no soreness whatsoever the next day. Well, now fast forward to today. I can barely run a mile without needing to stop and gather myself. Part of that is my fault for not exercising enough. Another part of it is just plain aging. Even as a youngster; however, practice had its place. Running those hill workouts paid off when I won the races. Our minds need practice too. A mantra can be part of that life-changing practice.

A key to sharp mental acuity is reflecting on the way we feel about the world. Our mind processes things differently as it is accustomed to do. The good news is that as long as we practice the right mental things, we never need to suffer the way we do in our physical aging. In fact, if we stay mentally “worked out,” we can be more enlightened the older we get. Kind of cool eh? So, just to clarify the big picture here:

Physical Practice = Winning races/competitions

Mental Practice = Seeing the world the way it is.

One mental exercise we should engage in is the practice of having an open mind. Just like running one mile and skipping the rest of the week will not make a young runner any stronger, so we are made “mentally flabby” when we neglect this practice. The time this verb “practice” is most vivid to me is when I get angry or when I get disappointed or otherwise discouraged. It’s in those moments I can hear that inner psychologist on the couch in my mind say: “Calm down, this is what practice is all about.”

When and how to use a mantra to keep your mind open:

  1. When we are out of sorts it comes from 1 of 2 sources: a) Internal – we have a chemical imbalance happening and need food or medicine to balance it out -or- b) External stimulus has disagreed with us in some way. The first step therefore is to determine which source is bringing you down. For example: Would a glass of water help? Some peanuts? You make the call there. This step is kind of like a stop and regroup.
  2. The second step is to ACT to accept the cause of the problem. It could be your blood sugar or a person in your face. Either way: ACCEPT the cause for what it is.
  3. The third step is a mantra. A mantra isn’t a middle eastern mystery, it’s just a phrase that has good energy for you. Remember the little engine that could? His mantra was: “I think I can, I think I can.” You can use many mantras that already exist or make up your own. I really like the mantra: “Is that so?” Eckhart uses it and recommends it in his book. I recommend it as well.

Other things you could say are (for example): “That’s one way to look at it,” “This too shall pass,” etc. I know you are creative because you’ve read this far. I encourage you to pick a mantra, write it on a card and when you lose your peace in the day, read the card, say the card, BE the card. I think you will as I have that the mental and spiritual rewards are mammoth. Another interesting thing to look into is making your own acronyms.

When you exit a room of dissent and feel like you’ve made a contribution of peace, it’s one of the most powerful victories you can imagine.

Following the Old School Way

I know I am a little late to discover the iPhone but I recently did for the first time. In this post, I touch on how I feel it will increase my feed reading. That daily activity is of high value to me. It increases my knowledge of people out there I enjoy and it also gets me more ideas to write in my own feed. I would hope people follow me as well but I am more concerned these days with who I should learn from and network with. If you are like me you have a busy schedule. Between teaching and being a dad as well as a husband and online writer, my plate is full 24/7. There have been times when I have been standing in line at the doc or the dmv that I have wished I could read my blogroll and news feeds while waiting. I’ll share with you that when I get home, sometimes I just “mark as read” many feeds I just don’t have the time or energy for. When my wife got her iPhone last year, I thought briefly it might be the answer to my feed-reading-time problem but I never really thought about it more than that. Some of you may have read on Facebook or Twitter that my wife got me an iPhone for my birthday this week and I am seeing some real hope for reading a lot more throughly.

I have been a little gun-shy about exploring the iPhone because I haven’t had the time yet. But, after a few days and a few lines, idle time between obligations, etc., I have learned the iPhone will squeeze more content from my reading time. I could never read the tiny feed view on my LG but now I can go through more content in a given day. LG was old school. Some people see it as worthless but it’s still good. The iPhone is just like that. This means I will have more information and more access to networks that for me have grown dormant. I look forward to following the old school way: reading blog posts. Following folks on Twitter is just the beginning. Being able to actually click the posts they leave and subscribing to blog feeds is where I want to go. The trick is not who to follow, it’s who to let go. I’m very pleased with my iPhone and plan to write more about how I use it as creation/invention continues. I can hardly wait to learn more about this device. If you have any iPhone tips and tricks on this or any topic, I’d be much obliged if you shared. What do you think of the word “follow?”

Commonly Misspelled Homophones

Hopefully this post will help people understand the commonly misused spellings of these homophones: to, two, and too and there, they’re, and their.

Hopefully this post will help people understand the commonly misused spellings of these homophones: to, two, and too and there, they’re, and their. I wrote a series of worksheets on these for the Cerritos College Writing Center when I worked there at age 26 in 1996 :) My then boss, the director of the writing department Beverly Whitson-Cotton, thought so much of them, I heard a few years later from a co-teacher they were still being reproduced and passed out. I made them after seeing the same errors over and over again. It was easier to just hand them a handout instead of say the same thing again and again.

Here’s basically what the handouts said:

Homophones are words with the same sound but different spellings and different meanings. Two commonly misused words are the homonyms:

to, two, and too -and- their, they’re, and there

to=a preposition, or a a directional type of word: “I am going to the store.” It is also a form of an infinitive verb such as “to run” or “to play.”

two=the number

too=a modifer meaning “in excess.” (This one’s easy to remember because it has an “extra” o, as in an “excess” o)

there=a place

they’re=a contraction … “they are”

their=possesive pronoun: “their car … etc”

Well, I’m sure my old worksheet was much better but that’s the basic run-down. I make typos all the time but I know the proper usage of these words. Do you? Another great resource I recommend for common errors and helps with writing is Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Patch of Orange Groves

my family and I sure appreciate what one man’s dream (Walt Disney) did with a patch of those orange groves.

A journal entry from January 2, 2007.

I left the High Desert for a while today. Wife and I took the kids to Disneyland and it was really great. The main point of this trip was to get my son on a scary roller coaster (California Screamin’). He’s 8 going on 30 and walks around acting like he’s the smartest, toughest kid around. That’s why I was astonished that he refused to go on it.

We spent time on kiddie rides, and even Space Mountain (which I coaxed him kicking and screaming to go on last trip) but he maintained a nervousness about that whiteroller coaster over at California Adventure.

I finally forced him to go on it, and now of course . . . it’s his favorite ride in the world!

My baby girl loved “A Bug’s Life” and “Snow White.” Because we have annual passes, we didn’t stay that long. It was WICKEDLY crowded. If you know what fast passes are, we checked the fastpass return time for “Space Mountain” at 11am and it was 7:30pm!!! All the ride lines were about an hour. This isn’t too bad, you talk in line, it’s cool in an old fashioned way. Plus people hear you talk and comment and you meet new friends who you never see again once they get on the ride away from you. All the rides were cool. My favorite was “Soarin’ Over California.” I love the part where you fly over the Orange Groves. You can almost smell the citrus as you soar like a hang-glider.

The drive down the hill to Anaheim (about 1 1/2 hours from where we’re at), the familiar OC freeways, the park, and dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack made me realize how fortunateI am to have been brought up in Orange County. I miss it sometimes. The average house is probably worth about 750K to 1 mil. That tends to keep me in the High Desert. It all used to be an Orange Grove once upon a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Many years later, my family and I sure appreciate what one man’s dream (Walt Disney) did with a patch of those orange groves.

Thanks Walt.

Love Trumps Guns

The shootings in Las Vegas floored me but I’m not spouting anti-gun talk.
I am speechless in a way I haven’t been in years. I think it’s time to stop macro talk and focus on loving others in every micro way possible. That has to have an effect right?

Love trumps hate.

I know I won’t convince any gun lover they are wrong. I’ve tried until I’m blue in the face. They thing they are protecting themselves. How can I argue that? I’d like to see guns made illegal and government seizures of the crates made illegally. Wouldn’t it be better to at least limit the number of guns out there?

Beyond the gun debate, which wouldn’t have stopped this shooter in Vegas, I’m off to pursue love of all people. Compassion and caring shall be my banner. Even if you love guns, I still love you because you’re a person in the human condition along with me.

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
Not Rated | 1h 30min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror | 19 July 2014 (Japan)

In a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father’s sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.
Director: Randy Moore
Writer: Randy Moore
Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez

I watched this weird film last night. I must admit I didn’t stay up late enough to finish it. Maybe I felt like I’d seen enough by 10:30p. It’s shot in black and white and the director is very new. He hasn’t done a whole lot other than this. Most the scenes seem forced, the acting is not too convincing. I really really liked the concept though and would recommend that horror and sci fans watch it.

It’s about a family staying at Florida’s Disney World, visiting the park, riding the rides. All the while, the father keeps being drawn to watching a couple of adolescent French girls who are constantly hugging and giddily riding rides like Dumbo and Space Mountain. Among all this, the father “sees” things differently. For example, a sign with Mickey smiling will suddenly melt into a frown. I really was curious about why but seriously, the movie is SLOW and I gave up. It does get the weird tag from me so that’s a plus. If I wasn’t so tired, I might have finished it.

I read a few reviews on IMDB which were very entertaining and I also read the ending on Wikipedia. If you aren’t going to see this movie but are slightly curious I recommend doing the same, I’ve linked those pages below. Like I said, it’s a cool horror/sci fi concept. The problem is the apparent lack of skill in delivery. HAVING SAID THAT, it is kind of cool as an independent film if you can leave your critical expectations at the door.


Wikipedia summary of this film.

IMBD user reviews of this film.

My review Escape from Tomorrow (2013) appeared first on Riley on Film.