NOVEMBER 17 - DECEMBER 1, 2007
What's The Purpose?
Webster’s Dictionary says that purpose is “the reason for
which something exists.”
is not uncommon to hear of an elderly person who passes away
shortly after the loss of their spouse. We sometimes hear this
happening after the loss of their pet. While one could argue that
this is merely a coincidence, I would surmise that they lost their
will to live because their spouse or pet was their last reason for
living—their final purpose that gave their life meaning.
people talk about finding their purpose in life when the truth is
that we each have many purposes, not just one. The more reasons
you have for living, the more meaning you have in your life and
the quicker you get up in the morning. When you lose your reasons
for living—when you no longer feel meaning in your life—you
have no purpose to get out of bed each day.
People find meaning in
their work, in their children, in their partner or spouse, in
their hobbies, in their travels, in their volunteer work or clubs,
in their classes, in their art, writing, crafts, and even in their
pets. We don’t have just one purpose in life; we have a
hierarchy of purposes. Some are more important to us than others,
but all fill us with a sense that our lives are meaningful. Our
catalog of purposes teaches us that we are important in this
world, that we have a reason for living; and this sense of
importance gives us our will to live.
we get older, our purposes drop off on the wayside. We retire from
our careers. Our children grow up and move away. We either lose
interest in our hobbies or we lose the physical ability to
continue them. Our gardens go to weed and we leave our homes in
trade for the elderly community or nursing home. Sometimes, if our
multitude of purposes has dwindled, all we have left is our spouse
or our pet. So when either leaves this world before us, they leave
us alone with no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
lived to the age of eighty-nine at a time when most people
didn’t make it to forty. Here is a man who was a sculptor, a
poet, a painter and an inspiration to others. He never lacked a
reason to get up in the morning. He took on huge projects that
took years to complete, even in his elderly years. The Sistine
Chapel alone took four years, and he painted it while lying on his
back! But he made a commitment, and that commitment gave his life
all know a Michelangelo in our life. It is that person who is
bound with vitality. They don’t mope around with their shoulders
reaching for the ground. These are the people who are up early in
the morning singing and whistling and excited about their day.
They say hello to their neighbors and even talk to strangers in
the streets. They are fascinated by the wonders of nature and they
seem to feed off the energy of children. Yet, in reality, it is
actually nature and children who feed off their
cheerfulness, verve and spirit for life. And that is why we are
attracted to such purposeful people.
you want to feel more alive, commit yourself to purposeful
endeavors. A life without commitments is a life without purpose. A
life without purpose is a life without meaning.
projects that will take weeks, months or years to accomplish.
Accept responsibilities that you may even regret in the future.
Take a stand for a cause you believe in, and hold true to it
regardless of what other people think. If it fills you with
passion for life, then it will balance off the mundane obligations
that once filled your days. Committing yourself to purposeful
endeavors does not just add color to your life; it is the lifeline
that connects you to the Source of all that is beautiful and
you are unhappy, give yourself over to making others happy. Do
volunteer work at hospitals, shelters or nursing homes. Visit the
sick, elderly or terminally ill. If you are shy or uncomfortable
with people, do the same for animals. Animal rescue leagues and
shelters are filled with cats and dogs that suffer from a lack of
love. Just a simple smile, hug and a little attention can do
wonders to heal and comfort any soul.
doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do
something. Whether you help people or pets, create paintings or
books, grow gardens or plants, the only requirement is that you
make a commitment and follow through with a smile. Be willing to
open your heart and put love in all that you do. By simply showing
up and following through with your commitments, your presence,
intentions and passion will be felt and appreciated throughout the
world. And the ripple effect you create with your zest for life
will fill your own heart with an abundance of love. In effect, you
will have found happiness from a single purpose. Imagine the power
of several new commitments.
a lack of purpose can eliminate our will to live, then adding
purpose into our lives can increase our vitality. It doesn’t
matter if we are helping millions or a single individual, the
simple act of making one other person’s life a little more
comfortable, happier or filled with love is empowering beyond
belief because we get back what we give to others. On the other
hand, we can’t give what we don’t have. So your purpose may be
to bring peace and comfort into your own life. This, too, will
create a ripple effect that will influence the entire world. Yet
it all begins with one step—one commitment. Before you are faced
with the loss of your final meaning in life, plan ahead to
surround yourself with many reasons to jump out of bed each
morning with enthusiasm!
OCTOBER 27 - NOVEMBER 17, 2007
Surprising Spiritual Activity At A Psychic Development Workshop
Melissa and I once attended a workshop offered by a psychic medium
named Gordon Smith from Scotland. I didn’t go intending to
discover any profound ability in myself--in fact, I really stunk
at it--but I was curious to see how other beginners would rate. I
was quite surprised by what took place, so I thought I’d share
with you what happened that night.
The $40 workshop was presented at the First Spiritualist Church of
Quincy, Massachusetts, on a Wednesday evening. About forty people
attended. Gordon took us through several workshop experiments to
test our abilities. The first was an exercise where we attempted
to learn something about a stranger (our workshop partner) by
picking up information through their aura.
I was astounded at how well some people did. One attendee picked
up on his partner’s childhood trauma, another on her partner’s
honeymoon memories, and a third on her partner’s work-related
problems. In my case, my mind went completely blank. The best I
could hope for was that my partner had no past, but that wasn’t
The second exercise involved psychometry. Attendees held something
personal that belonged to a perfect stranger--like a watch, piece
of jewelry or a scarf--and they would see what information they
could pick up from that object.
Dawn, the girl who held my watch, said it was a gift I had given
to myself in celebration of something, but that it no longer held
the importance it once had when I first bought it. Not bad, I
thought. The watch was a gift that Melissa and I had purchased in
celebration of overcoming my five-year depression. The watch had
lost its significance to me because, at the time, it had been
several years since I overcame that horrible depression and I was
allowing myself to move on from it after having made peace with
that growth experience in my life.
Finally, Gordon tried our hands at mediumship. I happened to get
paired up with a guy named Craig for this exercise. I didn’t
know Craig personally, but I knew he was a healer at the church.
Craig wasn’t a medium, but had been offering his healing gift to
the church for years. The night of Gordon’s workshop, Craig told
me that he came to the workshop to see if he might have mediumship
abilities, as well.
Craig was the first to give mediumship an effort. I would go
second. When Gordon gave the signal to start, Craig sat with his
hands palms-up on his knees. This isn’t how most mediums
work--most mediums just start talking--but Craig was obviously
using his healing meditation methods to connect with spirit. I
think it was the best way he knew to clear his conscious thoughts.
Next, Craig’s eyelids began fluttering. Then his fingers started
twitching. He sat like this for a few minutes while I waited and
Slowly and peacefully, Craig opened his eyes. His fingers stopped
twitching. He told me he had linked with a man in spirit. I
thought to myself, jokingly, "Sure you did Craig; and I’m
Superman." I figured he was getting caught up in the moment.
Then he gave me some unexpected messages.
"The man here has a ruddy complexion. He’s rugged looking.
He’s wearing a plaid flannel shirt. I don’t know who he is to
you, but he is sitting beside you to your left with a hand on your
shoulder," said Craig.
I wasn’t sure whether to get excited or not. I knew that this
would probably be my father if it were anybody at all. He
certainly fit the description; even the plaid flannel shirt was
about all my father would ever wear. But this was pretty vague
information so far. I just listened without saying anything. Craig
didn’t wait for me to respond. He went back into trance for
thirty or forty seconds with more eye-fluttering and
When he opened his eyes again, Craig said,
"He’s telling me he had a problem with alcoholism. He’s
very sad for what that did to you." Right there I knew it was
my father. This is a message my father sends me every time a
medium gives me a reading, beginning with the first reading I ever
had. I keep telling my father that I forgive him for the
alcoholism, but this is either an issue my father continues to
struggle with or a signal for me to identify him as the spirit
"He’s very emotional," said Craig, visibly feeling
choked up by my father’s emotion. "I think he died about
four or five years ago," he added. At the time of this
workshop, that was correct. I was now really impressed that this
newcomer to mediumship was so accurate on his first attempt.
"He is still sitting beside you. I don’t know why, but he
is down low to your side." Craig quickly went back into
trance as if to ask my father why he was showing himself so low to
Craig opened his eyes again. "He has a hand on your shoulder.
He tells me he is down low to your side to represent how he looked
up to you while he was here. He says the two of you changed roles
sometimes. Does that make sense?" Craig asked.
It did make sense. My father suffered with severe depressions that
led him to self-medicate with alcohol. We changed roles because of
my father’s alcoholism. Sometimes I had to be the adult even
though I was a teenager because my father had reduced himself to a
vulnerable child drowning in a sea of despair and confusion. As I
sat with Craig, I recalled a recurring scene in my family’s
dining room as a child.
My father sat crying as he soaked his white t-shirt in tears. He
would plead with me to help him, to forgive him, to understand
that he loved me even when his words or actions hadn’t indicated
love. I would hold him for what seemed like hours while he sobbed,
me balling along with him. He was lost. I was bewildered. And
while Mom was working to pay the bills, I played adult trying to
release the pressure of my father’s burdens and fears,
comforting him during the darkest stage of his illness--the cry
for help. I held an arm around Dad as he dialed one alcohol
rehabilitation hospital after another, begging them to admit him
one more time. With each refusal, my father’s hope and presence
diminished. When someone finally offered to admit him, we both
sighed in exhaustion and relief, then rushed him to the hospital
My father eventually did stop drinking for twelve years before he
died at the age of sixty-three. I was proud of him for that
accomplishment. So it was difficult for me to understand why he
tortured himself endlessly in the spirit world with memories of
his drinking years. But, needless to say, I knew who and what
Craig was talking about. Dad’s message was loud and clear, and I
didn’t question that Craig had linked with him in spirit.
It was now my turn to give mediumship a go. I decided to try
Craig’s method and do a little meditation to get started. I
closed my eyes and attempted to clear my thoughts. I could hear
everyone around me giving messages to their workshop partners. I
felt like a log on a stage. My mind was blank as Craig waited
patiently for a message from beyond. I wondered how long I should
sit there teasing him with anticipation. I felt bad for Craig that
he got me as a partner. All I could think about was how well he
did linking with my father. In my mind, I thanked my father for
coming through so clearly. I contemplated the effect this night
might have on Craig, knowing that he would likely become a
powerful medium one day.
After about a minute, I opened my eyes and said, "I'm getting
absolutely nothing. Have you ever tried mediumship before?" I
don’t think Craig cared that I sucked at mediumship. I think he
was pretty excited about his own performance, too.
Melissa’s partner didn’t do too shabby either. At first she
had no success linking with spirit. So Melissa thought it might
help if she thought of my father, knowing he was a strong
communicator from the other side. She wondered if her partner
would pick up on his energy as she thought about him. Without
telling her partner who she was thinking about, it worked! The
woman immediately picked up on my father’s energy. This was at
the same time that Craig was linking with my father, too.
Wow! My father was in two places at the same time--same room,
different conversations. Being a spirit is so cool!
Melissa’s partner told her she was getting an older man who was
old enough to be Melissa’s father, but she knew from an earlier
exercise that Melissa’s father was still alive. This confused
the woman because she said the man was too young to be Melissa’s
grandfather but she was getting a fatherly energy from him. Since
I’d been with Melissa since we were kids, my father loved her as
his daughter. A few mediums have told me during my own readings
that my father always shows Melissa as one of his children; and to
my humorous delight, this always confuses the mediums when they
give me test readings.
Melissa’s partner described my father as having gray hair and a
button-down plaid shirt with a collar (gee, like a plaid flannel
shirt). She added that my father was showing himself with his arm
around Melissa and a smile on his face. She said he made her feel
happy and was joking with her. This was contrary to the
introduction Craig was getting from my father at that same moment,
but it was another side to my father that most other mediums have
You can probably imagine our surprise when Melissa and I swapped
stories on the ride home from the workshop that night. I found the
fact that my father came through to both beginner mediums in two
completely different moods a rather curious occurrence. Even more
significant, however, was the fact that both of our partners
linked with spirit. For a beginner’s workshop, that was
unlikely. My conclusion? Never underestimate your ability to
communicate with spirit.
Even if Melissa’s partner and Craig never improve their
abilities enough to become mediums by profession, they still must
have been blown away by their ability to get what they did during
this workshop. I’ve heard many people say that their art or
music talent isn’t good enough to make a living from it, but the
exercise in itself has personal benefits that are priceless. I’m
sure Craig and that woman left the workshop that night feeling
they would have paid a lot more than $40 for that experience. If
you have never had your own experience linking with spirit,
perhaps you don’t have a natural gift of mediumship. But then
again… maybe you do.
OCTOBER 6 - OCTOBER 27, 2007
A Loved One With Depression Or Bipolar Disorder
recently aired two shows on bipolar disorder. Having written one
book and one ebook on the brain disorders known as clinical
depression and bipolar disorder, I’ve heard from a lot of people
who are wondering how they can best support their loved ones
suffering with one of these two illnesses. This inspired me to
publish the following information from my first book on this blog,
which was written after I had overcome my disorder for five years.
Today I have been symptom-free for over thirteen years.
“Is there one
thing a person can do to best support a loved one suffering from
depression or bipolar disorder?” This is the question I asked my
wife, Melissa, to answer for me when I wrote my first book. If you
know our story, you are already aware of the immense love and
support she gave to me while I was struggling with chronic
depression. It took “us” five years, three doctors, fifteen
medications, two ECT specialists and twenty-one shock treatments
before finding a treatment that worked for me. It was Melissa’s
hindsight as my supporter during this experience that provided her
with the insightful answer to my question. This was her answer:
“The best thing
that anyone can do to best support someone who is suffering from
depression or bipolar disorder is to learn about the brain
disorder. Knowledge is the key to being supportive. Once you learn
about the disorder, everything else you need to do to help the
patient will come naturally.”
How do you get
this knowledge? You get it from reading books, ebooks and magazine
articles, attending support group meetings, watching television
specials about these brain disorders, and occasionally going to
the doctor appointments with the patient. Books are the most
convenient sources of knowledge, and there are dozens written
specifically about these brain disorders.
to me that you can help both the patient and yourself by
learning about the brain disorder that has affected your lives.
Here are a few examples of how your knowledge and understanding of
the disorder can benefit the patient:
help monitor the patient’s progress during treatment by
recognizing behavioral patterns or symptoms that the patient
might not notice.
have more patience with the patient because you will
recognize their undesirable behavior as disorder-related.
You will be
able to help other people in the patient’s life become
more understanding of the patient’s behavior, especially
those who are not willing to educate themselves about the
have better knowledge of what the patient should and should
not be doing so you can properly encourage and
motivate them toward the most beneficial action.
You will be
one of the few friends or family members the patient can
talk to who has an understanding of what they are going
you can help the patient learn more about the brain disorder
while you educate yourself. Learning about the disorder is
also one of the best things patients can do to help
The patient is
not the only person who can benefit from your knowledge about the
disorder. You the supporter, too, will gain tremendously from this
education. Your knowledge can free you from the emotional roller
coaster ride that comes with trying to support a mentally ill
family member or friend. The fact is that it is difficult not to
get caught up in the emotions that they are feeling because it is
natural to react to their mood swings and related
behaviors. The greatest reward you can reap from understanding any
brain disorder (mental illness) is acquiring the ability to detach
yourself from the patient’s mood and related behaviors.
The following are
some examples of the common emotions felt in reaction to a
patient’s disorder-related behavior.
These emotions can be eliminated through an educated
understanding of the brain disorder:
Anger (caused by the erroneous belief that the
patient’s behavior is purposeful.)
Resentment (caused by the erroneous belief that the
patient is to blame for making you miserable.)
Personally Responsible (caused by the erroneous belief
that you are somehow at fault for the patient’s behavior.)
Victimized (caused by the erroneous belief that you are
the target of the patient’s behavior.
Hopeless (caused by the erroneous belief that you have
no control over the brain disorder or the behavior that
results from it.)
perspectives of reality can be harmful to both the patient and
yourself as their supporter. This is why it is not only helpful
but necessary that you learn about the brain disorder that is
affecting both of your lives.
your new wisdom will be of great assistance to you when dealing
with the ignorant comments of people who know nothing about the
mental illness but insist upon giving you their useless advice.
The stigma of mental illness is unfortunate, but it is a reality
nonetheless. Unless you acquire an understanding of the brain
disorder appropriately, you will find yourself naked and
vulnerable when the advice of ignorance attacks you. People will
suggest tough love and herbal teas and you won’t know what to
believe. Before you know it, you might even find yourself
questioning the diagnosis. If this occurs, you will be more of an
adversary than a supporter.
have heard it said, “If you are not part of the solution then
you are part of the problem.” There is some truth to this
statement. The question to ask yourself is whether you are an
influence on the patient. If you are open about your opinions
concerning the patient’s disorder or treatment methods, then it
is likely that you are an influence on that patient. Therefore, if
your opinions are derived without a solid understanding of the
brain disorder, it is quite possible that you are contributing
more to the problem than the solution.
you want to be part of the solution, then you must learn about the
disorder that torments your loved one. It is that simple. As
Melissa said, “Once you learn about the brain disorder,
everything else you need to do to help the patient will come
believe that anyone willing to make this extra effort for the
benefit of another is a hero. There are very few people who will
take the time to lift a book or go to a one-hour meeting in order
to help another. That is why I hold such admiration, respect and
appreciation for the effort and support my wife gave to me.
Shortly after my
five-year struggle with depression had ended, I wrote an essay in
tribute to Melissa for the sacrifice she made. I hope it will
inspire you to follow her example. I titled this, Silent
heroes, angels and martyrs. Their deeds compare to those of
knights in shining armor. But they wear no armor, receive no
medals of honor, no trophies and no promises of reward. They are
silent, but they are not unrecognized. Who are these silent
knights? In my life, my wife is one. Her beauty alone guarantees
her many choices and opportunities. Her intellect opens many
doors. Her personality shines, comforts and heals. Her smile is
famous among her peers. Her love is unconditional and
unprejudiced. She is blessed with the capability to live any
lifestyle she may choose. She chose unselfishly. She chose me.
ago, my wife learned of my mental illness. Our world together was
crumbling with emotional and financial difficulties. Yet she never
considered escape. She held strong. She provided hope,
understanding and unlimited support. We changed roles. She became
the pillar upon which I depended. As I slept in avoidance of my
hellish thoughts, she became provider, nurse, therapist, friend
and lover all in one. At my weakest moments, she also served as my
salvation from suicide.
My wife is
clearly a knight in shining armor. And yet her deeds were done in
silence. Her sacrifice was not in vain. She expected nothing in
return. She acted without a selfish thought. She boasted of my
successes, but never spoke to her own credit. My struggle for
mental health became her struggle. Without any complaint or
self-pity, she carried me through five years of combat until my
spell of insanity surrendered.
In tribute to
my wife and every other silent knight: your deeds may be silent,
but they have not been unrecognized. A million thank yous…
Because so many
people have asked me advice about dealing with clinical depression
and bipolar disorder, I finally recorded every bit of advice I
have to offer into one easy-to-read ebook. You can learn more
about it at www.HowToBeatDepression.com
SEPTEMBER 15 - OCTOBER 6, 2007
Seeing God In Everyone We Meet
While on vacation last week, Melissa and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Boothbay Harbor, Maine for our 21st anniversary dinner. The place is named 93 Townsend for its address on Townsend Avenue. We stumbled upon it last year and instantly fell in love with it. It has an elegant-yet-relaxed ambience and an old-fashioned, handcrafted bar that seats up to 20 people. This year we were pleased to snag up one of the two tables beside the front window, just as we had the year before. What never crossed our minds, however, was that these tables sit right next to the bar.
In a classy joint like 93 Townsend, you wouldn’t expect a patron should need to consider seating strategies away from the bar. It didn’t even occur to me when we sat down and a man seated by himself at the end of the bar started talking to us.
The hostess had just
seated us and mentioned something about turning down the lights. I
hadn’t noticed, but I guess they were a tad on the bright side.
Ten seconds later, the lights dimmed and the atmosphere grew
“Wow, you two have some pull around here,” said the man seated
at the bar. He was only three feet away from me. “You walk in
and the lights go down. You must be important people.”
“We’re not important,” I responded. “We’re just distant
relatives of Moses. It’s our favorite trick.”
The man laughed. “What other abilities do you have?”
“Oh that’s it. Moses got all the good stuff. We can only dim
That was it, so I thought, just a little friendly banter between
patrons. The man began to talk to the bartender as we looked at
our menus. After ordering our meals, Melissa picked up the Trivial
Pursuit cards and began asking me trivia questions. I got lucky on
the first three, which never happens; but I was stumped on the
fourth question. That’s when the man at the bar blurted out the
answer. I looked to my right and he seemed a little embarrassed.
“I’m sorry. That was rude. I just couldn’t help myself,”
“Hey, that’s fine. I was never going to get the answer,” I
But the man’s disruption did have me wondering how long he’d
been listening to our conversation. Let’s just say it was a red
flag that had me questioning if our request for this table was a
The man’s trivia answer was in response to an Entertainment
question about a movie from the 1950s. This got the man talking
about old movies, which then got him talking about the days of
radio when his family would gather and listen to radio broadcasts
in the living room. His favorite show was Gunsmoke. Melissa and I
admitted that we never knew it was a radio show prior to being a
popular TV hit. He then gave a rather lengthy discourse on how
John Wayne turned the part down. At this point, I wasn’t sure if
he was talking about the radio show or the TV show. This then got
him talking about William Shatner who played a role in Gunsmoke,
the TV show, which somehow got the man doing impersonations of
what I guess were present-day Shatner comedy routines. This is
where it got a little weird.
The man’s storyline had a tendency to drift. I remained friendly
but guarded, waiting to figure him out. I’d been in this
situation before and knew that once you let the cat in, it’s
sometimes near impossible to get him back out the door.
The man then led us into a rather intellectual conversation about
the psychology of storytelling, comparing imagination-stirring
radio with imagination-negating TV. There was an interesting story
about New York University offering a course on psychology and
cinematography. And this was when I recognized that certain words
in his vernacular were in stark contrast with his appearance. This
man was an intellectual in sheep’s clothing.
Observing the man as he spoke, I estimated he was in his sixties.
He wore tattered jeans and an old tee shirt, which were out of
place for the restaurant. Then I noticed he was drinking a glass
of wine, which seemed out of place for his appearance. I think it
was the dainty wine glass that appeared too sophisticated for his
old-boxer physique. His hair was gray and shaved close to his
head. His hands were callused. His arms were muscular. And his
voice was gruff like Rocky Balboa’s manager, Mickey.
As he chatted about one subject and then the next, Melissa and I
learned his life story. His name is David. He is originally from
Vermont. He left there 18 years ago when the company he worked for
closed. He got in his pickup truck and drove to Boothbay, Maine,
looking for work. He found a job as a carpenter’s assistant.
That position led him to working as a handyman-slash-caretaker for
someone’s home while taking carpentry jobs on the side. When his
primary employer objected to his taking side jobs, he asked for a
raise because he wasn’t earning enough to repair his broken-down
pickup truck. They refused the raise so he started working for a
construction company that paid better, where he continues to work
At least that’s the story I deciphered. Besides needing a
dictionary to look up some of David’s words, I also needed an
iron to flatten out his line of thought. Not everything was
entirely coherent. I now questioned how many glasses of wine
he’d enjoyed before we got there. Either that or he had a
brilliant mind that was moving much faster than his mouth could
David kept apologizing for talking so much, but then kept on
talking. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. On the one hand, I
enjoyed his company. On the other hand, it wasn’t the romantic
anniversary dinner I had intended. I half expected he’d give us
our privacy when our meals arrived. But for ten minutes after my
Lobster Macaroni & Cheese and Melissa’s Lobster Risotto sat
on the table, David was still on a roll. His oration continued
from politics to sociology to religion.
It seemed that Melissa and I were not the only people to notice
David’s rambling. People around the restaurant kept staring. I
even saw the bartender secretly pointing our way while talking to
another couple seated halfway down the bar. She had given me the
googly-eye three times already as she walked by with drinks in her
hand, as if to ask, Do you want me to ask him to move? But I
ignored her stares as if I didn’t notice because I didn’t want
her to say something. And I know Melissa well enough to have felt
certain that she didn’t want to embarrass the man. Besides, our
meals were still piping hot. So I waited to see what would happen
once we began eating.
As odd as the experience was, the more David talked, the more
Melissa and I liked him. He was smart, funny and gentle. He had
his opinions but he wasn’t judgmental. In fact, his words
revealed a compassionate character inside a man who simply loved
people. I actually think he might have been a bit lonely, which is
probably why he was sitting at the bar in the first place. And by
this time, I knew he wasn’t intoxicated. His social cortex was
merely lubricated by the wine.
I surrendered to the possibility that David might talk through the
entire meal. By this time, I no longer minded. And when
Melissa’s eyes twinkled at me briefly--as if to say, “I think
he’s sweet”--I knew she didn’t mind, either. That’s when
my meal had cooled enough to eat it without searing my tongue, so
I took a few bites. And in a twist of circumstance, I looked up at
David to see his back to me. He was facing the other way to let us
eat in private.
I was tempted to speak to David out of kindness, as I was sure he
was aware of the bartender’s googly-eyes and the other
patrons’ stares. He was too sharp to not have noticed. But I
took the moment to focus on Melissa. I knew we could talk to David
more after the meal. The food was absolutely lovely. They
couldn’t have crammed more lobster meat into those dishes. And
later, when we were done eating, I brought David back into the
At one point, while David and I conversed, the bartender quietly
apologized to Melissa for our disrupted meal. Melissa told her not
to worry, that we were content. And when the conversation turned
to current movies, David and Melissa were having a blast sharing
their favorite titles with one another. That’s when I saw the
bartender ringing up our bill, so I walked down the bar and
quietly requested that she put David’s bill on ours. I wanted to
express to him with a gesture that we appreciated his company, but
I didn’t want him to know about it until after we had left. The
bartender seemed surprised at my request. I think it finally
occurred to her that we actually enjoyed talking with David.
When I arrived back at the table after paying the bill, David was
telling Melissa that his favorite movie of all time is Pay It
Forward, a movie about random acts of kindness. Chills sprinkled
down my spine. We chatted a little longer. But when David pulled
his credit card out, Melissa and I said our goodbyes.
“We’re really grateful to have met you, David,” I said as I
shook his hand.
“The pleasure’s all mine, Bob,” he said. “I feel like the
two of you are old friends.”
Maybe we are, I thought, as David took Melissa’s hand, bent over
and kissed it gently. He suddenly appeared nervous. His brain got
in the way of his instincts. He looked at me to read my reaction.
I smiled. He relaxed. And Melissa gave him a big hug. David’s
eyes turned misty. I wondered how long it had been since he’d
Melissa and I then grabbed our doggy bags and left. And as we
walked out the door, David hollered to the bartender in his
gravely voice, “I’m ready for my check, please.”
Warmly, Bob Olson
AUGUST 25 - SEPTEMBER 15,
Mattress Shopping: A
Lesson In Sales
About two and a
half weeks ago, Melissa woke me up with a kiss saying, “We need
a new mattress.”
Now, we had just
made a string of purchases ranging from new tires for the car to
X-rays for our dog to a wedding gift for my sister and more, so I
wasn’t real keen on spending money for a new mattress. It seemed
like such an unnecessary purchase. After all, we’d been sleeping
on this mattress every night and it seemed fine.
Melissa said that
her back hurt and she didn’t sleep a wink the night before.
“One bad nights
sleep?” I asked. “How do you know it’s the mattress?”
“It just never
occurred to me before,” said Melissa. “And now that I’ve
realized it, I don’t think either of us have been getting a good
night’s sleep in a long, long time.”
It was true.
I’d been complaining about being tired for so long that I began
to think it was normal.
The next night, I
was now conscious of the “possibility” that we needed a new
mattress. By morning, I knew Melissa was right. It was as if the
moment I became conscious of it, three years of sleeplessness hit
me all at once.
“Oh my God.
You’re right,” I told Melissa. “This mattress sucks!”
So, the following
Saturday, off to the mattress store we went. I figured it
couldn’t cost too much. Our last mattress cost only 450 bucks.
We arrived at one
of the mattress chains in our new, local shopping plaza. I knew we
were in for a sales pitch, but I also knew I’d learn something
about mattresses. That turned out to be a humungous
understatement. We were there for an hour-and-a-half.
From the moment
we walked into the store, it felt like I’d stepped into the
1980s. I didn’t realize stores still used the scripted sales
pitch. The salesman, Jeff, yelled hello from across the room. I
yelled hello back and asked how he was doing.
terminally incredible!” said Jeff.
incredible? I wasn’t sure if I should congratulate him or offer
my condolences. By the time Jeff made it across the showroom
floor, I had flashbacks of buying my first used car. He’d
already made a pitch for not talking price before talking needs.
Then we need a new mattress that doesn’t cost much more
than our last mattress,” I said.
Jeff just smiled,
resisting the temptation of asking what we paid for our last
mattress. He then got back on script after only a tiny pause.
“Have you ever
tried a Tempur-Pedic®?” he asked.
interested,” I shot back. In our minds, they were simply
weird and expensive.
saves us some time. All our mattresses in the showroom have two
sides, a plush side and a firm side. I’m going to have you try
both sides to determine which one you like best.”
Jeff led us to
the front of the showroom where I could see the prices were
escalating. So I began to walk toward the rear where the cheaper
mattresses were hidden.
“Why don’t we
start with these less expensive mattresses and work our way up,”
Jeff had a quick
response explaining why it makes more sense to begin with the
“better” mattresses and work our way down. Being a salesman of
days past, I couldn’t help but to follow his lead. Commissioned
salespeople have stressful jobs. While some of my friends go into
combat mode with commissioned salespeople, I, instead, have
empathy for them.
strategy worked. Although he eventually showed us his cheaper
mattresses, they now felt cheap and hollow, besides being
dreadfully uncomfortable. Knowing I was now looking at a mattress
that cost much more than $450, I began asking about the “Zero
Percent Financing For One Year” signs that were sprinkled around
the store. Since the conversation went from model choice to
financing, Jeff was sure he had made a sale.
While I was
certainly motivated to buy a mattress, I prefer not to make a
sizeable purchase without walking away and thinking about it.
It’s not a rule I follow, just a preference--if I can get myself
to do it. You might call it wisdom that comes with age. I call it
acute buyer’s remorse from past impulsive purchases.
I also thought
that this might be the time in our life to graduate from a
queen-size mattress to a king. Since I was now realistically aware
of the actual cost of bedding, I realized that a mattress is an
investment. We determined that our last mattress lasted 13 years.
Well, it probably lasted ten; it just took us 3 years to notice it
had turned into a lumpy sack. Nevertheless, this new mattress was
going to determine how we slept for the next decade. And, being
the big softies that we are, we allow our 80-pound dog to sleep
with us (I know, we’re nuts). So a king-size bed would really be
After telling us
about financing, Jeff was already thinking about ways to spend his
commission. That’s when I dropped the bad news.
“Now that we
know which mattress we like, we need to decide if we’re getting
another queen-size mattress or if we’re going to move up to a
king. So we need to go home and do some measuring.”
Poor Jeff. He
suddenly looked bewildered. As a former salesman, I knew there was
really no way for him to talk us into buying that day. Our reason
for not buying right at that moment pre-empted his sales close.
But Jeff didn’t let that stop him since all commissioned
salespeople are trained that 91 percent of potential customers
will never return if they walk out that door. That’s why some
salespeople seem so assertive.
“Ho, ho, hold
on,” Jeff stuttered. “Let me call my manager.” And he ran
across the showroom to his desk before we had a chance to respond.
Ah, yes, I
recognized the “Appeal To A Higher Authority” tactic was about
to take place. This means that Jeff would now pretend that he was
our buddy who was appealing to his boss to get us a great deal.
Unfortunately, Jeff had already made several claims in the last
hour that he was in charge of the whole store. He had even claimed
that he made all the decisions about which mattresses the store
carried. By calling his manager now for permission to give us a
special deal just seemed contradictory.
should have left right there, but we were both raised to be
polite. Most people are, which, of course, good salespeople know.
So we waited as Jeff pretended to make a phone call and talk to
someone. To be honest, some people just aren’t cut out for
acting. Jeff then acted all excited and came rushing across the
showroom with enthusiasm. It was like watching community theatre.
said she can let you have a king size for this price.” He then
showed us a yellow sticky note with a price on it. “She’s
actually putting her neck on the line for you because the
difference could come out of her own pocket if you returned it.”
That’s when I
knew we weren’t buying a mattress from Jeff. I can tolerate a
canned sales pitch. I can even tolerate a spiel for the
“Extended Warranty,” which we had to endure. But I can’t
tolerate a salesperson lying to make the sale. Once a salesperson
reveals that he’s a liar, what else has he been lying about?
We thanked Jeff
for the amazing deal he managed to get us and made our attempt to
leave. That’s when he manically began to create small talk. I
think he was trying to establish rapport, but it seemed a little
late for rapport building.
Jeff began to
tell us about the $30,000 Dodge Cougar with a HEMI that he bought
his wife, the $8000 Jeep his father bought Jeff’s daughter but
then blew up in his field because she was arrested for DUI, then
how his daughter was afraid of her grandfather (no kidding), then
several other things that I fail to remember because my brain got
all fuzzy as Melissa and I inched our way to the door, then both
held the door handle, then both held the door open, until finally
the phone rang and it broke his verbal stride enough for us to
escape. We instantly became part of the 91 percent.
Two days later,
we went to a bedding store without commissioned salespeople.
Marissa, a gal who oozed integrity, gave us the pros and cons of
the various mattresses. She genuinely seemed to care that we
bought the best mattress for us. Ironically, we purchased a
Tempur-Pedic® and we absolutely love it. Weird and expensive?
Maybe. But hey, the 20-year warranty will last until I’m 64. And
now that I’m actually sleeping at night, I have a better chance
of living that long.
Word to wise
salespeople: Integrity has taken the place of canned, manipulative
selling. No training required.
Warmly, Bob Olson
AUGUST 4 -
AUGUST 25, 2007
Ratashooty? Guns & A Gas Mask In A Children’s Flick
Melissa and I
recently took our four-year-old nephew, Ryan, to the movies for
the first time. We had purposely waited because he’s a sensitive
little guy and tends to get scared easily at movies if there’s
any violence. This was first discovered when his grandmother took
him to see Cars and some inappropriate previews for
children scared the daylights out of him.
In light of the Cars
calamity, Melissa and I waited for just the right movie to see
with Ryan. Ratatouille seemed the perfect fit.
I had done my
research on this movie and was quite excited about seeing it
myself due to all the raving reviews. Everyone was saying this
movie was as enjoyable for adults as it was for children. Just
look at some of these comments from critics:
finest ‘toon in the Pixar canon,” said Lou Lumenick of the New
“In a sense, Ratatouille
is a story about fulfilling one’s dreams, about going beyond
preconceived boundaries and following your heart,” said Bob
Bloom of the Journal and Courier in Indiana.
And Colin Covert
of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said, “I defy you to name
another animated film so overflowing with superfluous beauty.”
even got a 96% approval rating by movie critics at
RottenTomatoes.com. Compare that to Spider-Man 3’s 61%, Shreck
The Third’s 42%, or even Harry Potter And The Order Of
The Phoenix’s 77%. With a 96% approval, I just knew Ratatouille
was going to rock my nephew’s world.
Melissa and I felt honored to
be bringing Ryan to such an incredible movie. I could just imagine
him getting the DVD one day and remembering our special day
together as he played it over and over again.
smart. To avoid the risk of any issues, she and Ryan went out for
popcorn during the previews while I stayed in the theatre saving
our seats. As I watched the previews, I just knew Ratatouille
was going to be good because even the previews were light and
funny—absolutely nothing disturbing in the least.
ended. Melissa and Ryan stepped back in with their popcorn. And
Ryan and I exchanged grins of excitement.
Within minutes of
the movie beginning, the main character, a cute rat named Remy,
got caught in the kitchen of an elderly woman with his buddy. It
was a comical scene where Remy was looking for just the right
herbs and spices for a recipe he was going to make. But when the
elderly woman spotted them, she grabbed a shotgun and began
blasting bullets at the little rascals. However, she didn’t just
take a couple pot shots. Granny began demolishing her entire
apartment by blowing holes into walls, furniture and dishware.
wouldn’t have given the bullet fest a second thought. But
knowing that Ryan is sensitive to violence, I looked to my right
to see how he was doing. He was covering his eyes with his tiny
fists while tears poured down his cheeks and into his popcorn.
Melissa and I
looked at each other with our eyes wide open as the Granny
continued blasting away.
“Is all this
necessary?” I asked her.
“I’m going to
take him into the lobby,” said Melissa, as she began to grab her
purse and stand up. But before Melissa had a chance to maneuver
Ryan out of his booster seat, the violence subsided.
Remy was now out
of the elderly woman’s apartment and running for his life. As he
ran, he passed by mouse holes where he could look into apartments
and see what was going on in each one. Some of the scenes he
passed were comical, especially for adults--although I don’t
think Ryan understood the comedy. But his gaze was once again
transfixed on the screen and he was no longer crying. Melissa
eased back into her seat and began to relax. I was thinking to
myself, Thank goodness we made it past that part of the movie.
As Remy continued
to pass by apartments, he stopped at one scene that showed a young
couple arguing. The girl was holding a pistol and waving it around
like she might shoot the young man. She then fired it into the
air, shooting a hole in the ceiling, at which point the couple
embraced and began kissing passionately.
Melissa and I
exchanged glances once again.
I questioned if
we should wait it out until the story of Remy cooking for the
restaurant began or escort Ryan out of there before we caused him
permanent nightmares. Two seconds later, Remy was outside the
building. I began to pray silently, “Please, God, no more guns,
no more guns.”
that Remy had cleared the building, I assumed he was safe. The
fearful rat began to catch his breath and I began to relax in my
seat again. Just as I began to unwind, the elderly woman was back,
literally with a vengeance. But now she was wearing a gas mask and
blasting her shotgun like a madwoman. I didn’t even need to look
at Ryan to see how he was doing. The gas-masked, crazed lady even
had me frightened.
Before I could
take my eyes off the horror, I heard my nephew crying again. I
looked over to see Melissa handing me the popcorn with one hand
while simultaneously helping Ryan up out of his chair with the
other. The girl sitting to the right of Melissa was now sobbing,
it,” Melissa said. “We’re out of here.”
As we walked out
the theatre door, there was a father consoling his daughter who
had buried her face between the trashcan and wall. “It’s all
right, honey,” he whispered. “It’s just a cartoon.”
I found the
manager and asked for a refund. After all, all this happened
within the first ten to fifteen minutes. “I thought I was going
to a children’s movie, not a movie about Dirty Harry’s
grandmother,” I said. She didn’t say a word, didn’t even
look at me, but gave me twenty bucks out of the cash register and
I wondered if
Ryan would someday get the DVD to this movie and watch it safely
in his own home. It occurred to me that even if he was no longer
scared by the violence, his memory of our special day wouldn’t
be what Melissa and I had hoped for.
really given the “violence in movies” debate much thought
because it never affected me, personally. However, this incident
certainly had me wondering if the guns and shooting were necessary
in an animated, children’s movie about a rat who was following
his dream of being a chef.
JULY 14 - AUGUST 4, 2007
The Secret To
Buying The Perfect Gift
Michael and Cheryl, recently invited Melissa and me to attend a
Fourth of July barbecue on a boat. This wasn’t just any boat.
Michael’s parents had chartered a 157-foot yacht with 4 floors
and a crew of ten people. This was all very exciting, of course,
as Melissa and I had never been on a yacht of any length. And
since we had only met Michael’s parents briefly in the past, we
looked forward to being able to spend some time with them.
On July 2nd,
it popped into my head to bring Michael’s dad one of my favorite
cigars. I’m an occasional cigar smoker and was recently given
the absolute best cigar I’d ever smoked. So I had this intuitive
push to share my recent find with Michael’s father.
Now I normally smoke a nice little
cigar named La Gloria Cubana, which costs only $6 at my barbershop
in Kennebunkport. But when some close friends (Cooper’s owners,
see previous blog entry) gave me a birthday present in May, they
got me a cigar named La Aurora. And once I smoked it, this new $15
cigar suddenly made my $6 cigar taste like dirt. So I now had a
new, favorite cigar that I could get for special occasions. And
attending a barbecue on a yacht seemed like just the right
It was all so simple. My
heart wanted to give my friend’s father one of my favorite cigars in
appreciation for having us on his yacht for a barbecue. That was it, until
my head got in the way of my heart and messed everything up.
Suddenly I realized that
I couldn’t give Michael’s father a gift of appreciation without giving
his mother something, too. So I asked Melissa what we should get his
mother for a gift and she quickly responded with, “Well, if you’re
giving him your favorite cigar, I’ll give her my favorite tea.”
Great. Problem solved,
right? Nope. Now it occurred to me that they might not like cigars or tea.
I had to call our friends to find out.
“…and we just wanted
to bring a token of our appreciation to Michael’s parents for inviting
us, so I wondered if his dad likes cigars,” I asked Cheryl by phone.
“Oh, yes, that’s a
wonderful gift. He doesn’t smoke them often, but he loves an occasional
cigar. That’s really nice of you. He’ll be thrilled,” said Cheryl.
Now the way my neurotic
mind works, Cheryl’s enthusiasm was delivered with much higher octane
than I anticipated. After all, I was only giving the man one little
cigar--a simple gesture. Did I make her think that I was going to give him
an entire box of cigars? Let’s see, 24 times $15… Oh God, I hoped not.
Even though I knew Cheryl could care less what I gave her father-in-law, I
had to water down her expectation in case I had given her the wrong
“Now don’t get me
wrong, I’m only giving him a couple cigars. (One sounded cheap as I was
saying it to her, so now one cigar grew to two cigars.) It’s just a
gesture of appreciation. And how about Michael’s mom, does she drink
“She loves tea.
That’s a perfect gift,” said Cheryl.
So now I had a plan. The
next day, I went to my barbershop to buy “two” of my favorite cigars.
But as I drove there, I realized that I needed something to put the cigars
into—a nice container of some sort. I couldn’t merely hand the man two
cigars. That would be barbaric. And this is where my mind started
When I arrived at the
barbershop, I recognized that there was no cheap way to package these
cigars. But I saw some nice wood and leather cigar holders—average
I thought, I set out to give a simple $15 cigar and it’s turned into
two cigars and a leather case. No. I can’t do it. This is getting
Then my barber said the
cigar cases were half off.
Excellent! I’ll get
it and be done with it, I thought
That’s when I noticed
that cigar holders are for either one cigar or three--nothing for just
two. Surely I couldn’t put only two cigars in a three-cigar case. That
would look foolish. So I decided to get three cigars and the leather case.
And as I grabbed three La Auroras out of the humidor, it occurred to me
that Michael’s father might want to smoke one with me. That presented a
new problem. I certainly couldn’t smoke one of the cigars I just gave
him. Therefore, I grabbed a fourth for myself so I could enjoy a cigar
with Michael’s dad on the yacht without having to smoke one of his.
Okay. This is all
going to be perfect, I thought.
As the barber was ringing
up my cigars on the register, Melissa walked into the shop. She had been
waiting for me in the car and was wondering what was taking so long. She
saw me purchasing four cigars and a leather case.
“I thought you only
came in here to buy one cigar?” she asked. Of course, she knows me
better than I know me, so she wasn’t all that surprised.
“Well yesterday, after
talking with Cheryl, I decided to give him two. But then I wanted
something to put them in, and all they have are these cases. But the cases
are for either one cigar or three. And I’m not going to give him two
cigars in a three-cigar case. That would be silly. Plus I had to get one
cigar for myself just in case Michael’s dad wants to smoke one with me,
as I’m not going to smoke one of the cigars I just gave him.”
I explained all this
to Melissa, I realized I was spiraling out of control. Melissa looked at
me like I was nuts, then looked at the case and the cigars.
“Those are fat cigars.
Are they going to fit in that case?” she said.
Both my face and the
barber’s face turned perplexed. I opened the leather case to find that
the cigars didn’t fit. They were too fat. They were thin and pointed at
each end, but really thick in the middle. Melissa and I proceeded to try
every case in the barbershop; the cigars wouldn’t fit in any of them. I
paid for the cigars and left without a case.
“What a bummer. And
they were having a half-off sale, too,” I said to Melissa as we got into
the car. “I’m going to the cigar shop down the street.”
Melissa knew I was now on
a mission and didn’t try to stop me.
“Great. I can walk from
there to go get the tea,” said Melissa. “I’ll meet you back at the
car.” She didn’t want any part of the predicament I was causing
When I went into the
cigar shop, I had one of the cigars in my pocket. I explained to the bored
teenage clerk my quandary and he was only too happy to pull out all their
cigar holders from the glass display. After twenty minutes, he found one
leather cigar case that worked. It was for three cigars, but it would only
hold two of the fat cigars I had purchased. And it was 30 bucks—no
half-off sale. I didn’t care. I would have paid twice that to be done
with the dilemma.
As I stood there at the
counter paying for the cigar case, it occurred to me that Michael’s
father might not own a cigar cutter, or might not have one with him. How
is he going to cut the cigars on the yacht? I wondered.
I looked at all the nice
cigar cutters on the counter, which also averaged $30. Then I imagined
Melissa’s expression if I bought one. I could almost hear her asking,
“What, no lighter?” I caught hold of myself and bought a cheap cutter
for 3 bucks and grabbed a book of matches. I decided I’d only give them
to Michael’s dad if he needed them.
The next day was the
Fourth of July. The yacht was fantastic. The barbecue turned out to be
some of the most scrumptious steak and lobster I’d ever tasted. And
Michael’s dad appeared to have liked the cigars and leather case I gave
him. It was raining outside, so we didn’t have a smoke together. But, at
one point, he came up to me and gave me two of his favorite cigars.
I later learned that his favorite cigar costs $50.
Oh great, I
thought. Now my $15 cigars are going to taste like dirt to him.
JUNE 30 - JULY 14, 2007
White Dog: A Love Story
ago, on Thanksgiving Day, my dog, Libby, met her boyfriend,
Cooper. Libby’s a Labrador mix. Cooper’s an English Golden.
And the gods were surely smiling when they brought these two
Libby was a mere
ten-weeks old, her pink, sutured belly still exposed where she’d
been shaved and neutered just two weeks prior by the shelter. She
was clumsy, bouncy and tough, and she hadn’t yet learned that
her needle-like teeth could be hurtful. Cooper, a year older,
outweighed Libby by seventy pounds. But, like the gentleman that
he is, he remained on his back while wrestling with her, patient
and tolerant of the pain her stinging bites inflicted.
the time of her life, and surely reminiscent of the
rollicking she’d enjoyed with her siblings just two
weeks prior, Libby grabbed hold of Cooper’s cheek until
it stretched two inches from his jaw. When the pain grew
unbearable, he gently placed his massive paw on her
five-inch-long body to tackle her and gain some feeling
back in his face. Unaffected by the defeat, Libby broke
free of Cooper’s hold, lunged for his head once again,
then sank her teeth into his other cheek. With a mouthful
of fur and skin, she ran with it as if she could carry it
across the yard. When Cooper’s hide stretched to its
limits, Libby’s body snapped back toward him and a
little blood appeared on Cooper’s silk-white cheek. I
remember hearing him wince slightly as us human spectators
cringed in empathy.
Libby at 9 weeks
Cooper lives two houses
down from my in-laws, which is only ten minutes from our home. So whenever
Melissa and I visited, Cooper came running over. He was always delighted
to see his new friend. If he were in the house when we arrived, he would
bark incessantly until he was let out the door. More often then not,
Cooper was panting and barking at my car door before I had a chance to
shut off the ignition and let Libby free.
The feeling was mutual,
of course. We couldn’t drive down Cooper’s street without Libby
yelping in anticipation of seeing him. It broke my heart when we drove by
Cooper’s house on our way to town. Seeing her face in my rearview mirror
morph from excitement to despair was painful to watch. Though she’s more
intelligent than I sometimes desire, she could never understand how I
could be so cruel as to drive by without a visit.
Over the following two
years, Libby and Cooper bonded like best friends. They’d meet other dogs
at the beach and on their walks, but none ever matched up to their soul
mate. More frustrating than anything for each of them was that no other
dog knew how to play properly.
The canine lovers had
their own choreographed way of playing. First Libby would run circles
around Cooper—she must have some Greyhound in her genes—and then they
would lightheartedly brawl. Libby always remained the aggressor while
Cooper tolerated being tackled and twisted. Though Libby never tired of
her playful cheek pull, it was evident that he didn’t either. While it
undoubtedly numbed his face, it seemingly warmed his heart as well. And,
every so often, on that rare occasion when Libby wasn’t looking, Cooper
would grab hold of her cheek and yank. Us humans in the audience would
cheer because the underdog just caught a break. And regardless of her pain
and embarrassment, Libby always seemed to smirk in admiration of his
courage and reflexes.
As Libby turned three,
she hurt herself playing on the beach. It was a partial tear to a ligament
in her right knee. The injury slowed Libby down for the most part, though
you’d never know it when she was in the company of Cooper. As their
owners and referees, we kept the play dates as low key as possible, but
Libby would always pay the price in the evening. After twenty minutes with
her boyfriend, she could barely walk on her right leg at night. I know she
felt the price was worth paying, which is why we allowed it at all.
Visitations for Libby and
Cooper went from a normal three times a week to once a week. And this pace
seemed to prevent further injury. But this past May, Libby’s injury took
a turn for the worse. She and Cooper were grazing together in a field.
Cooper came back; Libby didn’t. When I looked to see where she was, she
was laying on the edge of the field licking her right rear leg. For the
next few weeks, she only walked on three legs.
Since Libby’s last
injury, she and Cooper rarely see one another anymore. Since she can’t
contain her excitement over seeing him and only wants to run and wrestle
in spite her pain, the few moments the two friends have seen one another
have been brief and controlled. The last time Melissa and I stopped by to
see Cooper’s owner without Libby, Cooper barked at us in anger for five
minutes. He missed his favorite girl and simply could not understand how
we had the nerve to show up there without her. I explained that Libby was
home healing, but my explanation had little effect on his annoyance with
We then returned home to
witness Libby’s face upon recognizing Cooper’s scent on us. Her
reaction withdrew any doubt in my mind that animals have the capacity to
grieve. The sorrow that washed over her face was instant. And she, too,
was now disgusted with our insensitivity.
Libby will be four in
September. The doctors say she’s much too young to have a torn ligament.
The reality is that she’ll get better—a little. But she and Cooper
will never play like they once did. If Libby can learn not to jump and run
when she sees her boyfriend, they will get to see one another more often.
In the meantime, she’s healing.
The last time we got the
two dogs together for a visit, Cooper clearly understood Libby’s injury.
He was gentler and made an obvious attempt to keep her calm. When her pain
forced her to lay on the grass, he followed suit. And as I sat on the
porch—myself grieving for her loss, their loss and mine—I looked over
to see Cooper licking Libby’s face. It was this sweet gesture that
helped me to realize that things could be a whole lot worse for Libby.
After all, they still have each other.
Warmly, Bob Olson
JUNE 9 -
JUNE 30, 2007
When I was a
teenager, I used to have a little business named Olson Odd Jobs. I
started the business in high school and continued it into college.
I used to mow and rake lawns, do small landscaping projects, clean
out garages and attics, move pianos and appliances, seal
driveways, wash windows and clean rain gutters. I eventually
offered only the latter three services because they earned me the
most money for the least of amount of time. But I understood that
there was a reason people paid me so highly for these jobs: they
were all household tasks that most homeowners hated or feared
loathed getting all black and sticky while sealing driveways,
despised making their arms and elbows ache while washing windows,
and absolutely feared getting onto ladders and leaning over
rooftops while cleaning foul-smelling, mucky mud from leaf-clogged
rain gutters. Oh the things I would find in those gutters: mice
skeletons from a cat who left presents by the owner’s bedroom
window, small toys from bored boys who liked to throw things, and
even a set of keys--I’ll bet there’s a good story behind that
one, unfortunately the homeowner never divulged it.
My most memorable
gutter-cleaning story left me with a valuable lesson that I’d like to
share with you. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten, so I regard it as
most appropriate for this blog.
My favorite customers
were the Blakelys, a sweet, retired couple who had a house set deep in the
woods. There wasn’t a neighboring house within sight and it was so far
off the road that you couldn’t hear any traffic. I loved working there
because it was such a peaceful place to work, although I probably
couldn’t have articulated why I liked it at that age. Nonetheless,
because it was so peaceful, I liked working there on my own, rather than
bringing one of the chatterbox high school kids who often worked for me.
Consequently, when Mrs. Blakely called me to clean their gutters one year,
I decided to go it alone.
Normally I never cleaned
gutters without a helper, just in case I fell off the roof or ladder. This
time, however, I figured Mrs. Blakely would be around since she was always
home when I worked there. But no sooner did I arrive when Mrs. Blakely
exited the house announcing that she was leaving and that Mr. Blakely was
out golfing. I guess she assumed I didn’t need her to be home because I
was working outside and would only be there a short time.
As I listened to the
dissipating sound of her muffler as she drove away, I really didn’t mind
that Mrs. Blakely had left me alone. It was an early summer morning; the
air was moist; the sun was awakening; and I was soaking in the tranquility
of the solitude. So I took my time unloading my mile-long ladder from my
foot-long Subaru Brat and leaned it up against the gutter. It wasn’t
until I stepped onto the roof--accidentally kicking the ladder as I swung
my leg around--that I knew I was in trouble. I watched my ladder slide
down the gutter and fall onto the ground, appearing to move in slow motion
yet there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop it. After feeling relieved
that the ladder didn’t smash a window or tear off some shingles on its
descent, I looked down from the rooftop to my ladder below, realizing my
The Blakelys’ home was
an odd design. It was long and angled and the gutters seemed like they
never ended, even though there were no gutters in the back of the house.
Plus, due to the fact that a large weeping willow shaded the house, the
gutters were packed with little buds that fell off the flailing branches
when the wind blew. So when my ladder slid off the roof, I figured I would
just clean the gutters from the rooftop and someone would come home long
before I was done.
Two hours later, I was
done and nobody was home. This, of course, was at a time in history when
pocket cellphones were just some soon-to-be-rich person’s vision. With
no neighbors around, I sat on the roof with my garbage bags full of leaves
and waited… and waited and waited and waited.
I thought about the
customers who were expecting me to arrive. I thought about the bees who
had me cornered without an escape route. And I thought about my late
morning snack, then my lunch, then my afternoon snack--all sitting in a
cooler in my Subaru. As each hour passed, I felt hungrier, hotter and
hopeless. Still, I was present enough to enjoy the quietude and simply
relax until I was rescued.
Seven hours after kicking
my ladder off the roof, Mrs. Blakely pulled into the driveway. When she
got out of her car, she looked up at me on the roof inquisitively.
“Hi Bob. What happened?
Did you have to come back?”
“No, Mrs. Blakely. My
ladder slid off the gutter and fell to the ground. I’ve been stuck up
here all day.”
“Oh, you poor boy. Why
didn’t you just use the painter’s ladder in the back? I’m pretty
sure it’s still leaning there.”
I cocked my head and
stood there in a moment of silence. Then, without saying a word, I walked,
no ran over the roof to the backside of the house, the side with no
gutters. And there it was, a tall and shiny ladder. I’m pretty sure I
heard it say “Idiot”. Or maybe that was me. I walked up to the peak of
the roof where I could see Mrs. Blakely on the other side looking up in
“I can’t believe it.
I didn’t expect a ladder to be there, so I never even looked.”
She looked up at me,
holding her hand in front of her face to block the sun and said,
“Sometimes the answer to our problems, Bob, is right around the corner.
We just have to believe it exists or we won’t even look.”
I stood there in silence
thinking about the lesson. Mrs. Blakely smiled and walked into the house.
Warmly, Bob Olson
MAY 12 - MAY 26, 2007
In The Flesh
have a lot of new subscribers to this newsletter, and so I know
there are many of you who do not know that, from 1989 to 1994, I
endured a clinical depression that lasted for 5 nonstop years. I
suffered with a hereditary brain disorder that causes a chemical
imbalance in the brain. Long story short, my brain chemicals got
so unbalanced that doctors couldn’t find a way to make this
chronic depression go away.
beginning of 1994, I had tried just about every possible
medication that offered hope to end my suffering, more than 15
medications in 4 years. When we ran out of possibilities, my
doctors and I agreed that electroshock therapy (electroconvulsive
therapy, or ECT for short) was next in order. I was scared, as you
might expect; but since my irrational thoughts increasingly
focused on suicide to escape my pain, shock therapy offered the
hope I so desperately needed.
ECT doctor said some patients feel better after just a few shock
treatments. I had three treatments, but felt no relief. So they gave me
more. Six, no improvement. Eight, still nothing. Twelve, nada. After
seventeen ECT treatments, they decided to try something new. So far they
had given me unilateral shock treatments--administering an
electrical stimulation to one side of my brain. Now they would try bilateral
ECT--administering the stimulation to both sides of my brain
just four bilateral treatments--21 shock treatments in all--my doctors
decided to go no further. The bilateral ECT had caused me some disturbing,
although temporary (I hoped) memory loss. And since I still saw no
improvement in my depression (I still prayed I would die in my sleep), my
doctors decided to go no further. And this is where the story of this
week’s blog begins.
my depression, I was encouraged to take walks as much as possible because
exercise is a proven mood elevator. It was usually too difficult to drum
up the energy, but I made the extra effort on beautiful days if at all
One sunny day, even
though I had begun walking from our home, I no longer recognized my
surroundings. Being just weeks after my bilateral electroshock treatments,
it was now common that I would drive to the store or doctor’s office and
get lost. My memory loss was sporadic; but when it occurred, it was as if
random memories just went blank. Fortunately I always remembered our phone
number and would call Melissa to guide me home. This particular day, I had
gone for a walk in the neighborhood and was lost. And, although there were
plenty of houses around, I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for
directions. How do you begin to explain that, especially when depression
causes such low self-esteem? So I walked and walked, but didn’t
recognize a house or barn or street sign.
kept walking and finally found a highway I recognized. I decided I had no
choice but to walk along it toward my home. Inexplicably, I now remembered
how the highway led to my home. Yet after walking down the highway for a
mile or so, I realized I was miles from my exit. I wanted to crawl up and
die right there, but had no choice but to try to find a shortcut through
the woods. As I attempted to climb over a six-foot fence on the side of
the highway, I heard someone yelling.
said a voice behind me. “Hello, young man. Are you lost?”
looked behind me and there was a man who had pulled over on the side of
the highway and was talking to me.
man was driving his elderly mother to her eye doctor for a checkup. She
had recently injured one eye and wore a black patch over it. With her one
eye, this woman had seen me walk by her house earlier and had mentioned to
her son that I looked lost. When they saw me trying to scale the fence by
the highway, they were sure of it. Lucky for me, they pulled over to offer
me a ride.
had to stop,” said the man. “On the other side of that fence is 80
acres of swampland. If you got lost in there, and you likely would have,
no one would have ever found you. It’s so thick with trees and swamps,
you would have been lost in those woods in no time.”
in the forest. What a metaphor that would have been,
I thought to myself.
story does not end here. As the man and his mother drove me home, they
asked me how I became so lost. I briefly surrendered the story about my
depression and how the ECT had affected my memory. The mother related to
my story because her sister had once lived with depression. She explained
that her sister had suffered for years before finding a medication that
helped her. Then she told me the name of that medication.
couple weeks later, I sat with my doctor in his office trying to choose
which medication I would try for a second time. As mentioned, I had
already tried everything on the market before the ECT. Since my encounter
with the man and his mother was still on my mind, I suggested that I try
the medication that had helped her sister. Although I had tried this
medication before without success, my doctor said it was as good a choice
days later, my depression lifted. The medication worked. That was
September 17th, 1994. And, this summer, I will be celebrating
13 years of depression-free living.
I’ve written two books to inspire and educate both sufferers and
supporters about the brain disorders known as clinical depression and
bipolar disorder. Although one was published in 1999, I have included both
books into one ebook so that patients and their loved ones can download
this life-changing information instantly. You can read about and purchase
this ebook at www.howtobeatdepression.com.
APRIL 28 - MAY 12, 2007
You, Ruth Harper, And Goodbye
Melissa and I walk our dog, we have this habit of waving hello to
every car that passes. In the last three-and-a-half years, we’re
getting to know most of the people who live on the street (partly
due to this practice), but there are still plenty of tourists,
construction workers, landscapers, delivery drivers and sightseers
who drive by surprised by our gesture. I often wonder how many of
these people think we’re nuts seeing two strangers waving at
them like old friends. You can learn a lot about people simply by
witnessing their reactions.
recently came across an article that I wrote over ten years ago
when we still lived in Massachusetts. It was published in the
Worcester Telegram following an ongoing news story about a
hit-and-run accident. Police were pursuing the case for over a
week and eventually caught the driver, but the sadness of the
story hung in the air like senseless tragedy often does. This
woman possibly would have lived if the driver had stopped and
called an ambulance.
like to believe that my writing has improved since the early 1990s. And
the insights I wrote about seem fairly commonplace to me now. All the
same, coming across this story made me smile, so I simply had to share it
with you. The article was titled: Thank You, Ruth Harper, And Goodbye.
A recent newspaper article featured a story
about a woman who was hit by a car and died. It was a hit-and-run accident
that occurred just up the street from my home. Although we didn’t know
the seventy-five-year-old woman, my wife, Melissa, and I could not help
but to feel deeply disturbed by the news of her death. Let me explain
A couple years ago while I was driving down
my street, I saw this same woman walking her dog. Her back was to me, but
as soon as she heard my car, she turned and waved hello. Hesitantly, I
waved back -- I was afraid she would realize I was someone she did not
know and think I was strange waving back at her. But, in the time that I
thought about it, she was far behind me.
The next time I saw this woman walking her
dog, she again turned at the sound of my car and began waving to me. Not
so surprised this time, I waved back with enthusiasm. It felt good to have
a new friend in the world who I could wave hello to.
This went on for some time. I was excited
for Melissa to witness this kind woman’s greeting, so one day when I
spotted the woman down the road, I forewarned Melissa that she was in for
a treat by exclaiming, "Oh, there’s my new friend..." As I
drove by waving, Melissa waved along too with a curious look on her face.
In time, this woman became a part of our
lives. We always enjoyed waving to her as we drove home. As our schedules
changed, we didn’t see the nice woman anymore. And Melissa would often
comment, "I wonder where our friend is today." As silly as it
may sound, we felt a sadness whenever we drove down the street without
The newspaper interviewed the man who found
the woman’s body. The man said he didn’t know the woman, but he
normally saw her on his way to breakfast -- she always waved to him as he
drove by. This particular morning he didn’t see her. On his return from
breakfast, he noticed her body on the side of the snow-covered road.
Although he phoned the police immediately from his cellular phone, her
injuries were fatal. She was pronounced dead at the hospital a couple
Melissa mentioned to me that she felt
compelled to go to the funeral services.
"But we don’t even know her," I
said, not admitting I felt the same impulse.
"I know," she responded, "I
just feel like we had a connection with her." I agreed, of course.
And it was then that I discovered a little lesson about life.
I don’t know if this sweet woman was a
little nutty or just unusually friendly, but her simple gesture of waving
hello to every car that drove by somehow touched people. I know she
touched Melissa, myself and that man who found her on the side of the
road. I’m sure there were many others.
I drive by many of the same people day
after day and feel nothing. Heck, I have worked with people day-in and
day-out and felt less connection with them. Perhaps if they had just
returned a smile now and then it would have been different. Instead,
sometimes the best part of my day was when a stranger waved to me on my
I’m not suggesting that we all begin
waving hello to strangers, but I can think of worse habits to start.
I’ll bet there are many people who have exchanged derogatory hand
signals to strangers a lot more often than they have waved hello. Why
are we so uncomfortable waving hello to people we don’t know?
Have you ever smiled at someone in the hall
at work, or on the street, and had them just stare blankly at you?
Doesn’t that feel lousy? Why are we so cold to one another? Especially
when it feels so good to exchange... well, I guess I’ll call it an
expression of love.
Couldn’t a wave hello be considered a
gesture that sends a little love? A smile might fall into the same
category, although I think it’s safer to smile at someone than to give
them a big wave. So a wave must send more love than a smile. And a hug
would be sending even more love. And I guess a kiss would hold a mountain
Ever hug a child? Ever be hugged by
a child, one of those great big bear hugs? It feels so good it makes your
spine melt. Children don’t hold back their love until adults teach them
to. That’s why nobody hesitates to wave or smile at a child -- we know
the child will reciprocate. Maybe that is our problem. Maybe we fear that
others won’t reciprocate the love we send.
Perhaps the reason we sometimes stare
blankly at a person who smiles at us is because we are caught off-guard,
even suspicious, of anyone we don’t know who is sending us love.
"What do they want? They must want something from me? Am I being
manipulated here? I must beware."
By the time we think it through and realize
that there are no strings attached to their smile, the person is gone and
the moment is over. Now we have hurt that person. Sure it’s a minor
hurt, but we rejected them just the same. When we finally get a second
chance to smile at that person at a future date, they’re gun shy and
look away. They don’t want to risk being rejected again.
An individual only needs to be rejected a
few times before he or she will stop waving and smiling at strangers
altogether. Before you know it, nobody’s exchanging love with anyone
they don’t know and trust. The result is the world as we know it -- a
world that needs more people who are not afraid to wave and smile at one
another. Our world needs more people like that nice old woman on my
street. Yet, now we have lost her.
With the help of this loving woman who
wasn’t afraid to wave hello to everyone passing her on the street, I
learned a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, she had to die before I really
thought about it. I guess, though, it’s not unusual for death to teach
us the most important lessons about life. Thanks to this wonderful soul, I
have learned a lesson while I am still healthy and alive. Thank you, Ruth
Harper, and goodbye.
was a simple article with a simple message, but I received a lot of
positive feedback about it. In fact, three of Ruth Harper’s family
members read it and called me. One granddaughter left me a phone message
in tears. She had just finished reading the article and said between
sniffles, “I never knew that about my grandmother. Thank you so much.”
had forgotten about that article until recently. But I think of Ruth
Harper often. Every time a stranger drives by me and Melissa without
waving, obviously bewildered by our gesture, possibly thinking that we
have mistaken them for someone else, I think to myself, “Next time they
drive by, they’ll know we were waving at them. And they, too, will feel
good to know they have a new friend.”
maybe they’ll just think that we’re nuts. Either way, they’ll be
Warmly, Bob Olson
7 - APRIL 28, 2007
Trying To Avoid Anna
Filaktik: A Day In My Life With A Deadly Allergy
Having once lived in Los Angeles, Melissa and I love to return now and then for a visit. The last time we were there, we stayed in a quaint little condo in Santa Monica that was within walking distance of a cool outdoor shopping area called the Third Street Promenade. And within this grouping of hip stores are several restaurants, including one that I particularly like called Johnny Rockets--a 1950’s style hamburger joint that unintentionally almost killed
We were vacationing with our two nieces, ages 15 and 17, and the four of us sat down at a table outside the restaurant that overlooked the vacationers and street musicians. After ordering a #12 hamburger with fries, I decided to get a chocolate malt to really set the mood. And this is where my problems began.
Since I’m deathly
allergic to peanuts, peanut butter and peanut oil, I asked the waiter if
he could wash the blender prior to making my malt, since they also make
peanut butter malts on the same machine. He assured me he’d do it
himself, which got me thinking, “Nice. Big tip for this guy.”
When I got the malt and
began sucking it down like a six-year-old, I noticed something unusual was
getting caught in my straw. “Cool! Marshmallows,” I thought to myself.
“This must be something new they’ve added.”
On the sixth marshmallow,
I said to Melissa, “This is odd. I think they’ve added marshmallows to
their chocolate malts.”
Melissa, who was in deep
conversation with our nieces, stopped in mid-sentence, “What do you mean
there are marshmallows? Are you sure that’s what they are?”
“I don’t know,” I
replied, and I bit into one. That’s when my day turned a corner. The
little marshmallow-like substance was actually dry peanut malt powder that
had stuck together because it wasn’t blended enough. Having eaten five
of these marshmallows already, I knew I needed immediate medical
attention. This was the largest amount of peanut anything that I’d ever
eaten, and I’d been in emergency rooms more than once after eating much
This is when the waiter
came over to ask if our meals were okay. I asked him why there was peanut
malt in my chocolate malt and he said that the cook spoke Spanish and must
have misunderstood him. I didn’t bother to ask the waiter why he
didn’t do it himself like he had promised. Instead, Melissa and I knew
we needed to react fast.
I quickly asked if there
was a pharmacy nearby and was told there was a vitamin store one block
down. I ran to the vitamin store while Melissa paid the bill and got
directions to the nearest hospital. Because time is of the essence in
these situations, I asked the vitamin store clerk where the Benadryl®
was located rather than search the shelves for it myself. He had it stored
behind the counter and told me that all they had was Benadryl® Allergy & Cold medicine.
I grabbed the package
from the clerk’s hand, looked at the dosage amount and downed four
capsules before paying. I then threw ten bucks on the counter and told him
to keep the change as I ran out the door and back to Johnny Rockets. When
I got there, Melissa had already obtained directions to the nearest
hospital, but she also called her brother, Scott, (who lived nearby) to
drive me there, since finding anything in L.A. can be a time-consuming
Walking halfway back to
our condo where we were to meet Scott, I remembered that I left my
sunglasses on the restaurant table. Our nieces quickly volunteered to run
back and retrieve them. Yet two minutes later, when Melissa and I got to
the condo, my allergy symptoms had escalated quicker than they ever had
before. By this time already, just minutes since biting into the
peanut-powdered marshmallows, my face was swollen to where my eyes were
closing up, I was sneezing and coughing, my lungs felt like they were
filling up with fluid--which was causing me to wheeze--and I could feel my
throat slowly closing from the swelling.
I now knew I didn’t
have time to wait for Scott. With city traffic, there was no way to
predict how long it would take him to get there. I decided to drive myself
to the hospital using the directions Melissa had obtained. Melissa had to
stay behind to wait for our nieces. Again, although they were only minutes
away, every minute counted.
I jumped in our rental
car and drove down the busy, city street. Melissa was told there were 11
traffic lights to get to the emergency room of a teaching hospital. If I
were forced to stop at each one, I risked anaphylactic shock, and, at
worst case, cardiovascular collapse, which basically means death. So I
hoped that I’d hit a lot of green lights… I didn’t.
On any other given day,
the streets of Los Angeles are riddled with police. Not this day. Although
I was extremely cautious, I drove through red lights hoping to save myself
time and, perhaps, get pulled over by a police officer who could give me a
police escort. Yet no police were in sight. I drove through 8 red lights
without drawing the attention of so much as a meter maid.
The directions were
accurate and I found the hospital despite my increasing symptoms. That’s
when something happened that I had never experienced before. Just as I
walked through the emergency room doors, I began to white out. This is how
I knew my allergy had escalated to a new level for me. By “white out,”
I mean that everything in my vision was disappearing into white and my
hearing was becoming silent. A few seconds later, my vision and hearing
returned. And this kept happening every few minutes.
I told the intern who was
managing the emergency room patient-intake that I was experiencing a food
allergy to peanuts and needed immediate attention. She told me that she
would be right with me, but didn’t respond further. A minute later, I
explained my predicament again, stressing to her that my allergy had
already escalated to dangerous levels. She wouldn’t look at me, as if I
were annoying her, then she said, “I’ll be right back” and exited
through a door.
I didn’t know if she
was retrieving help or stepped outside for a quick smoke. Normally, in the
4 other peanut-related emergency visits of my past, I was escorted to an
emergency room where a team of doctors and nurses quickly converged with
injections, an EKG machine and who knows what else. Here at the teaching
hospital, I was told to wait while my sight and sound continued to
disappear every few minutes.
When the intern walked
back through the door, I was relieved. She said, “Come with me.” She
then led me to a bench in the hallway and said, “Wait here, I’m going
to see if anyone is available to help you.”
I thought, “Huh? See if
anyone can help me? She hasn’t even told anyone I’m here?”
She quickly disappeared
around the corner as everything turned white, once again. I was sure I was
going to die. When my vision and hearing returned, I was having difficulty
catching a breath. The wheezing now sounded like snoring. My throat was
nearly swollen closed. I was lightheaded to the point of being dizzy. And
my eyes were small slits from which to peek through.
I called Melissa on my
cellphone. “You need to get here fast. They’ve got me waiting in the
hallway. I don’t think the intake intern understands food allergies.”
I didn’t want to alarm Melissa any more than necessary, but I now felt
helpless. Nevertheless, at this point, they were just leaving the condo.
Finally, a doctor came
flying around the corner, as if he had just found out about me. His eyes
widened upon looking at my condition, and he grabbed my shoulder and
walked me to a gurney. He began asking how long it had been since I had
ingested the peanut substance, what medication I had taken and how much of
it. When I told him about the Benadryl®
Allergy & Cold medicine, he appeared alarmed. I handed him the box
that was still in my pocket.
“How much did you
“Four,” I said. “I
wanted regular Benadryl®
but the store only had the allergy and cold,” I added.
“These have Tylenol in
them,” he said. “You’re okay having only taken four, but if you had
taken too many, the Tylenol could have shut down your liver. That would be
a much bigger problem than what you’re dealing with now,” he said.
Within seconds, the
doctor gave me an injection of epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline,
to administer the fight-or-flight response and keep my heart going. This
caused my whole body to shake and become really cold. It also made me very
emotional, and tears began running down my face as my hands, arms and legs
began to shake.
A nurse came up to me and
said, “You’re going to be okay. This makes your body do strange
things, but it’s saving your life. It’s a good thing you got here when
you did. With food allergies, every second matters.”
“I wish your intern at
the front desk knew that,” I thought to myself. But I didn’t have the
energy to say it out loud and explain.
The doctor then gave me a
mega-dose injection of Benadryl®,
which stops the allergic reaction. Now that I was beyond the shaking and
shivering caused by the epinephrine, this new injection made me very
sleepy and sort of dopey. At one point as I lay there, I opened my eyes to
see about a dozen young doctors and nurses staring at me. My chocolate
malt debacle had become a learning example for the students.
When Melissa came into
the emergency room, she instantly fell to tears. She’d been through this
before, but it’s something you never get used to seeing. The swelling
had caused my face to distort in grotesque ways. Plus, now that she could
let go of her worries and fears, her emotions came to the surface.
Minutes later, the
medication put me to sleep while it and the IV bags of who-knows-what did
their work. As I slept, Melissa sat by my side for four and a half hours.
All she could do was watch the multitude of medical emergencies that came
and went. Six hours after my arrival at the hospital, it was time to
leave. I thanked the doctor and nurses for their kindness and
capabilities. Then I was given 5 days of steroids and the ever-helpful
advice to “Stay away from peanuts.”
Now why didn’t I think of that?
Warmly, Bob Olson
MARCH 17 - APRIL 7, 2007
Can People Really Change?
A couple years ago, when Melissa and I decided that juggling one
vehicle between the two of us was more trouble than it was worth,
I bought myself a pickup truck. It's one of those double-cab
pickups with the back seat, so with the cab and the six-foot bed
it's twice as long as a small car, which makes it difficult to
drive and even harder to park (it's longer than most parking
It's really not driving the truck that is difficult; it's turning
the truck that is a challenge. The truck is so long that you have
to make wide turns or else the rear wheels cut off the corner. If
you've ever seen a tractor-trailer make a turn, you get the
picture, though that is on a much bigger scale. I recognized this problem of making a
right-hand turn the very day I got home from buying the pickup
truck. There is a telephone pole on the right corner of our
driveway, which is very close to the road. If I had turned too
quickly, which I almost did, I would have caused the bed of my
truck to hit the telephone pole.
Melissa never fully got used to this necessity for wide turns. I
don't think Geometry was her favorite class. So, whenever she
drove the truck while I sat in the passenger's seat, I'd notice in
my side mirror how closely the rear bed came to hitting things
like telephone poles, fire hydrants and fences when she made
"I couldn't have placed a finger between that pole and the
truck bed," I often teased her, usually in shock that she
cleared it at all.
"Oh, don't exaggerate" she'd say, amused at my concern.
"This is why I don't like to drive with you. You're so
worried about your precious little truck. I cleared it, didn't
And she was right. She always cleared it. Nevertheless, we
tantalized one another like this for two years. Then, last week,
it finally happened. Melissa added a telephone pole-sized dent
into the right side of my truck while pulling into our driveway.
She now understands the geometrical concept, but at her emotional
expense. She thought I was going to be upset and it crushed her to
have to tell me that she just caused thousands of dollars in
damage to my much-adored truck.
Melissa walked into the house as I met her at the door. I didn't
know what happened.
"Hey, honey. What's up?" I said. She looked pale and on
the verge of crying.
She was silent, as she slid her back down the kitchen cabinets
until she sat on the floor, head into her knees.
"What, what? Are you all right?" I pleaded.
"I just hit the telephone pole with your truck."
"Oh my God, are you okay? Is Libby okay?"
"Yes, yes, we're fine. It happened turning into the
After all our conversations about this exact incident, all my
warnings, it must have been really hard for her to say it. I
couldn't help but to break out in laughter. As I laughed, it
occurred to me that my truck bed had a big dent in it and I was
laughing. Was I delirious? Shouldn't I be upset, bummed out, angry
or, at least, annoyed? I was disappointed, sure, but I really
Melissa could only crack a smile while I laughed. I think she was
confused by my reaction.
"I thought you'd be mad. After all, you warned me about this
a million times," she said.
"That's why it's so funny. But, honestly, I'm a little
surprised myself. All I feel is relief that you and Libby are
okay. Sure I love my truck, but it's just a bunch of shiny metal.
It can be repaired. It's really no big deal."
It had been a long time since anything like this had tested me.
There was a time in my life when I would have been upset, even
angry. Yet I was so detached from this that I didn't even go out
to look at the dent until the next day when I needed to drive
somewhere. Looking at it didn't change how I felt. I was simply
pleased to see that the truck was still drive-able.
As I drove down the road in my newly dented truck, I thought to
myself, "I'm actually glad that this happened. It's given me
the opportunity to recognize how I've changed." And, oddly,
whenever I see the dent, it reminds me that I've grown, if even in
a minor way. I may just leave that dent there for a while and wear
it like a gold star on my forehead.
Warmly, Bob Olson
MARCH 3 - MARCH 17, 2007
Publishing & The Perks Of The Longer Path
to an article by Joseph Epstein in the New York Times, 81% of
Americans say they want to write a book. I fell into that category
in the early 1990s. I was so impassioned to share my story of
overcoming depression that I actually wrote a book to inspire
others. It was a short book, but it was book nonetheless.
an impatient, hate-to-wait kind of guy, I originally
self-published the book. Waiting to find a publisher seemed like
waiting to win the lottery. I had always succeeded by taking
action quickly and I wasn’t about to change at this point in my
life. So, just a few months after writing the book, I had 2000
copies sitting in my office.
quickly began selling the book over the Internet, making $12 per
copy on a $15 book, which earned me a few hundred dollars a week.
Melissa then began selling the book to local bookstores. That’s
when she showed the book to a bookstore buyer who asked if he
could show it to his friend--an editor at a small publishing
house. Two hours after Melissa got home that day, the
publisher’s editor-in-chief was calling with an offer for an
advance and publishing contract. Less than six months after
writing the book, I had become a published author. Ironically, now
that I was earning a published author’s royalty, I earned only
75 cents per copy. There’s a price to pay for prestige.
Almost a decade later, I experienced a different scenario. After
ghostwriting books for other people for years, I decided it was
time to begin writing my own books again. So, last September, I
made a commitment to write a book proposal for a new book on
had never written my own book proposal before because, as I
mentioned, I’m an impatient, hate-to-wait kind of guy. But this
book on spirituality was important to me and I had set my sites on
one particular publisher. This is the top publisher in the
spiritual and self-improvement field, so I had to write a book
proposal that would really grab their attention. Lucky for me, a
4-time New York Times bestselling author agreed to help me write
the best book proposal possible.
began the proposal in early September, worked on it for an average
of 6 hours a day, and finally finished it in early January. If I
had known it was going to take this long, I doubt I would have had
the patience to even begin. In fact, I thought it was done in
early October until the bestselling author who was mentoring me
kept challenging me to make it better.
you want to be published by this publisher, Bob, you have to make
it nearly perfect,” she said. “This is an industry that is
getting more and more competitive.”
I removed the embellishments, added some details, improved the
wording and presented it to my mentor around Halloween. She liked
the changes but then suggested new ones. After a few more weeks, I
presented to her what I considered to be the final version just
before Thanksgiving. After praising my edits, she recommended that
I rewrite one of the sample chapters. I told her that I no longer
wanted to write a book on spirituality, instead opting for a
murder mystery about a New York Times bestselling author who went
missing. She wasn’t intimidated and we continued the slow,
grueling process of editing the proposal over and over until my
impatience eventually surrendered. I gave up on trying to rush the
process and trusted that everything was happening as it was meant
submitted the 44-page proposal to the publisher in early January
and waited for their reply. Unlike my first publishing experience,
when the editor-in-chief was calling two hours after Melissa
dropped the book off, my proposal was followed by silence. After a
few weeks, I contacted the publisher just to make sure they had
received it. They did. Of course they hadn’t looked at it yet,
so I had to wait some more. By the end of February, I began
thinking about how I could have written the entire book in the
five months that I wrote the proposal and waited for an answer.
But this is how the publishing business normally works. My first
book contract was a fluke. Waiting and wondering is the usual
story of most published authors.
this past Wednesday evening, I got an email from the publisher’s
president. I was both excited and afraid to open it. I hesitated
thinking about its potential for either elation or frustration.
When I couldn’t wait any longer, I read the email. In a single
sentence, it announced that they wanted to publish my book. I sat
in silence, memorizing the moment before calling Melissa into the
office to read the email herself. She and I will celebrate this
the work has just begun. I still have to negotiate the contract,
which is a tedious, joyless task. Then I have to write the book,
which should take about 6 months. Then comes the editing stage,
where the editors make you change your carefully chosen words just
because they can. And then, possibly a year from the date I
complete the writing, the book will be released to the public.
This will likely be about two years from the time I first began
writing the book proposal (September 2006 -- September 2008).
guess this is why only 1% of the 81% who say they’d like to
write a book ever actually fulfill the dream. It’s a whole lot
of work and waiting. Of course, it all seems worth it to me now.
Somehow getting published this time around feels so much more
satisfying than my first publishing experience. Perhaps the longer
journey has its perks. For me, it was the lesson in patience that
made all the difference. Like a horse that’s been broken, I had
to surrender to the process. I can’t say that I’m officially a
patient person now. But I have learned that, like friendship and
risotto, some of the best things in life take time and they are
definitely worth the wait.
Warmly, Bob Olson
FEBRUARY 17 - MARCH 3, 2007
The Law of Distraction
If people in my
home state of Maine weren’t paying attention last year, they
might have thought we went from fall to spring by skipping right
over winter. Call it global warming or just plain luck (I loathe
winter), but I only used my snowblower once in all of 2006. Yipee!
So I hoped this year would be much of the same.
Looking at my
ten-year-old snowblower this past December, I noticed it was
looking sad and rusty. I wasn’t sure it was going to start this
year, as I had to pull the starter pulley dozens of times last
winter before I could get it to work. Nevertheless, this year, I
kept procrastinating bringing it in for a tune up until it was too
late--Wednesday it snowed about twelve inches.
shovel like the old days. I’ll enjoy the exercise,” I told
Melissa. So I shoveled after the first couple inches fell, hoping
to remove the flakes two or three inches at a time. Yet somehow
the storm turned up the volume, and before I knew it, another ten
inches had fallen. “No problem,” I said to Melissa, as I
pulled up on my belt while doing my best Don Knotts impression,
“I’ll have the driveway shoveled in a jiffy.”
As I began to
shovel this time, however, the snow was made of lead. Honestly,
someone must have mixed ball bearings in with the snowflakes
outside my house. After exactly three minutes of shoveling, I said
to Melissa, “I’m going see if I can get the snowblower
going.” She handed me the key to the snowblower like she had
known this would happen all along.
We got into the
barn and checked the snowblower for gas. Yup, the tank was filled
with year-old gas. Melissa looked at me, “Is that bad?” It was
bad. But it didn’t really matter because I didn’t have any
fresh gas to use.
“This is going
to take about a hundred pulls before this thing starts,” I
predicted to Melissa.
that,” she responded. “Didn’t you just watch The Secret?”
I ignored her comment and began pulling the starter pulley.
I pulled and
pulled, but the snowblower didn’t even twitch. I pulled with my
right hand. I pulled with my left hand. I fiddled with the choke.
I pushed on the primer switch. I moved the gas lever up and down.
Nothing worked, not even a sputter. I caught my breath and pulled
some more until little beads of sweat began to form on my
pulling on this thing about a hundred times, I admitted defeat.
“I surrender,” I told Melissa, and I put my cold hands into my
pockets. She looked at me kind of sadly, knowing that I’d just
worn myself out for shoveling.
My eyes opened
wide. “Oh my God,” I said.
matter?” she asked.
I pulled my hand
out of my pocket, holding the key to the snowblower. “I forgot
to put the key in.”
I put the key in
the snowblower, pulled the starter pulley three times, and it
fired up and ran like a brand new machine. I looked at Melissa
with a smirk and raised my shoulders. She made sure I learned my
lesson by saying, “You said it was going to take a hundred pulls
before it started. You got what you asked for.” I was too tired
to respond, but in my head I saw the evening news headline, “Man
Chases Wife Through Kennebunkport With Snowblower.”
FEBRUARY 3 - FEBRUARY
How I Ended
Three Years Of Itching
Over the years,
many people have asked me to recommend a medical intuitive. Yet,
until now, I’ve never had any reason to test a medical
intuitive. Recently, however, I consulted one with surprisingly
positive results. Medical Intuitive Anthony William helped me
identify and heal a problem I suffered with for three years--a
medical issue that even my general practitioner could not diagnose
problem was that my skin periodically broke out in a small area of
hives, as if a hundred tiny mosquitoes launched an all-out attack
on a two-inch patch of my body. Sometimes the patch of hives
appeared on my arm; sometimes it was on my back; and other times
it was on my leg. The hives would come, drive me nutty for five or
ten minutes, then quickly go away. In the beginning (three years
ago), I only experienced this once every two weeks. Over time, it
occurred more often--once a week, then twice a week, then, at its
worst, two or three times each and every day.
In the three years
that I suffered with this issue, I consulted numerous people to
diagnose and treat the problem. I began, of course, with my family
doctor. He was stumped as to the cause, so he recommended changing
all my soaps and detergents. I did what he suggested and saw no
improvement. As time continued and the condition worsened, I
decided to try other approaches, each time hoping that one of
these people would know how to help me. I saw a naturopath, a
nutritionist and a variety of alternative practitioners, all with
different ideas, but none of their suggestions put an end to the
As the problem
worsened, I began to investigate medical intuitives. In all my
research, this one guy’s reputation simply shined--Anthony
William. Person after person told me that Anthony is ethical,
compassionate, very healthy himself, and extraordinarily gifted.
All this praise came from people who had outstanding reputations
in the spiritual field themselves. So I booked an appointment with
a “wait and see” attitude. I continued to be skeptical, but I
was over the telephone. Anthony’s gift is like that of a psychic
medium, yet he specializes in helping people heal (he’s been
doing this since he was a teenager). As a medium, Anthony works
with his spirit guides, and since spirits aren’t limited by time
or space, readings can be done by phone. Anthony’s spirit guides
scan the body of his clients, relay their findings to Anthony, who
then relays these scan results to his clients. It is a rather cool
experience to learn about your body’s health, especially when
Anthony validates conditions of which you’re already aware. He
told me that I had a severe case of mononucleosis about 30 to 31
years ago (he was dead-on accurate). He knew I dealt with
hypoglycemia (right again). And he saw a pea-sized cyst in my
neck, which I could feel with my fingers and had noticed long ago.
So, being a blog,
I’ll cut to the chase. Anthony identified the skin problem as a
food allergy to wheat and dairy, especially cheese (oh no, not
cheese!). Then he recommended a diet specifically designed for me.
Not a weight loss diet, but a nutritional diet. Because most of us
in this society could eat much healthier, Anthony recommends
various improvements in eating habits to many of his clients (yet
all different). I wasn’t thrilled with all the fruits and
veggies I had to eat (and the absence of nachos), but I gave it a
shot. In fact, I have now continued this way of eating for over
Within a couple
weeks, I was feeling relief. The hives only came a few days a
week, rather than every day. Within two months, I was feeling much
better. There was barely any sign of the allergy, so I knew
Anthony had gotten it right. In three months, my hives had stopped
altogether for the first time in three years. And, ever since,
I’ve been free of itchy hives except when I eat a “lot” of
cheese, which I still occasionally do. A little cheese won’t
bother me. But Fettuccini Alfredo or an entire serving of nachos
as meal reminds me that allergies don’t go away, you merely
I can’t tell
you how much of a relief this is to rid myself of this problem.
It’s like these annoying little mosquitoes were pestering me for
three years, and now they have finally gone away.
Aside from ending
my three-year suffering, there were three major bonuses that came
along with my new, nutritious eating habits. One, I went down a
pant size. How many people would mind doing that? Two, I now love
eating these better foods. If I cheat from my diet on the weekend,
I wake up hungry the next day because my body is used to foods
that provide much more nutrition. Overall, this new awareness
about what foods are best for my body and what foods to avoid have
led me to feel healthier. And finally, three, and the most
unexpected bonus, I was able to lower the dose of a medication
I’ve taken for twelve years (with my doctor’s approval and
delight)—a medication that I’ve had to “increase” every
three years! This was an incredible bonus that I believe resulted
because my body is no longer gunked up with pizza, nachos and
pasta. Better foods equal better digestion.
Of course, not
everyone who goes to Anthony needs a new diet. Some need
supplements, others need mainstream medical treatment, still
others might be doing something, taking something or eating
something that is harming them. My case is only indicative of a
small percentage of Anthony’s clients.
I’m not the
kind of guy who recommends seeing a medical intuitive over your
doctor. But if your doctor can’t help you, like in my case, or
if your doctor has determined your case is incurable, or worse,
terminable, what harm is there in stretching your skepticism and
trying a medical intuitive? You’re grounded. You’re in control
over what advice you’re going to take or reject. And I’m
telling you that I’ve now had amazing success with Anthony’s
gifted diagnosis and recommendations. It took me years to even try
a medical intuitive, yet it has proven to be a blessing and a
relief. Anthony William has earned my personal recommendation.
(no “s” at the end of William)