Category Archives: Survival

Survival with a Smile

Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
–From the movie 300.

A little over a week or so ago I was called in a meeting room at my workplace and handed a huge challenge.

I was laid-off.

Since then, I’ve been trying to get my feet underneath me as well as sticking to my strong beliefs that all challenges are actually opportunities.  What can be learned?  What can be changed?  Over the past few weeks, however, this is proving to be a bit difficult.

I’m a firm believer in applying a survival mindset to all of all Life’s challenges, not just situations in the “wilderness.”  A lot of things happen when you hear your weekly take home check is going away.  Every one of those thoughts have a common denominator of Fear and it’s no different from learning you’re lost twenty miles into the mountains without a map and no food.  The physiological responses are the same.  Your system is flooded with stress hormones, your vision narrows and, if you get carried away, you can make a mistake.  You have to slow down; take stock in what you have.  Fear can be overcome.  It can be managed, worked with, and if ignored can make your situation worse.

One of the ideas I had straight off was to use this blog as a vehicle for me to chronicle the next steps and as a venue to express what I, and my family, are about to go through.  I hesitated at first.  Why?  Well, the above part about making a mistake by reacting in fear was a big part of that hesitation.  Fear is sneaky.  After sleeping on it for about six days, I realized that even that hesitation had been brought about by fear.  I was worried about what people might think.  I was worried I might say the wrong thing or take the wrong tone.  I was concerned it might not be taken well.

Then, I realized what I was doing.

I’ve decided to go ahead with it, lay it on the line.   My main thought is what better way to show people how to maintain a positive attitude of grounded happiness than to go through something most people do not equate to “pleasant.”   There are a lot of challenges in front of me, now more than ever before.  The thing about a lot of challenges is that, to me, it can also mean equally rampant opportunity.   I can decide to wallow in the enormity of those challenges or I can decide to take a grounded mental attitude and suit up.   It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be all rosy and pleasant.  There are some damn difficult decisions coming up on the financial calendar which are far from “fun.”  (One of which will be a hard lesson in learning to let go of some key important but ultimately material items.)  What it does mean is that I have to carry a much different attitude about those decisions when the time comes.

The opportunities I have currently? What resources do I have?  First off, I have an amazingly supportive wife.  I have children that are awesome and who unknowingly (and knowingly) make me smile every day.  I have a wide reaching network of friends and allies.    In all of those things, I am as wealthy as Midas.

I have more time to focus on multiple things that mean a lot more to me than what I was doing previously.  I can get things organized which have been dormant for many years.  I can spend more time with my kids before they grow up and fly from the nest.  I can get back to more writing.  I have an opportunity to take all the things that I have worked on privately and apply it, test it.  If me taking the time to get this down helps someone else down the road in a similar position then I think it’s the best possible result of the whole situation.  Matter of fact, it’s what Jane McGonigal of “Reality is Broken” would call an “epic win.”

To me, it’s a matter of not accepting the status quo, perhaps taking a hit now in order to be better later, in believing that in the middle of a devastating situation you can find everything you need to come out of it better and stronger then you were before.

It’s about survival with a smile.  Or, if all else fails, perhaps just a stalwart grin.

I look forward to being able to post here about the upcoming adventures, the rough struggles and the eventual victories.  I won’t promise they’ll be pretty and I’m definitely not going to promise to use nice language.  What I will promise is some perspective, some amusement and that, most importantly, we’ll get through this one way or the other.

Stay tuned…


Memorium for a Gentle Soul

I’ve been dreading this post for a long time.  However, because I’m scared of it, because I dread it, it is something that needs done.  It’s been sitting on my chest for several months and it’s time I take care of it.

I will warn you going in – this post is long and it is emotional.  You see, it has to be.  It’s the only way to get it all out.  As I am fond of saying to friends and family, “the only way out is through.”

~~~   ~~~~   ~~~

In late July of this year my best friend, an eleven year old lab/husky mix by the name of Pooka Grasskiller, passed away.  I knew he was getting older and I was sadly anticipating emotional vet visits and watching him begin to slide downwards.  In regards to his age and health, I said numerous times to friends as well as to Pooka himself, “The next few years are gonna be rough.”  I hated the concept of having to watch his body give out on him, on watching him disintegrate to his age.

Last year, it was obvious his back hips were hurting him.  He was moving slower and slower.  We took him to a vet visit and, except for the obvious failing back hips, they gave him a clear and clean bill of health.  Even then, I tried to walk him a bit more, make sure to sit with him and just to soak up what time was left with him.

It all started in a northern Indiana town.  I’d found him, as a puppy, on the side of a residential road.  I’d been going about my normal business as an all-purpose handyman for my girlfriend’s father after a recent move.  I’d questioned the move but as it were things looked good.  It was temporary but the end promised to be worth it.  It ended up to be a move filled with depression and confusion since nothing had gone the way it was supposed to go.  I was fighting the good fight though and had stopped at a coffee shop to fill my travel mug.  It was a sunny October day but there was still a chill present.   I thought another cup of warm coffee would do me some good.  With coffee mug warming my hand, I was going to my car when I saw two men down a side street walking away from a small, black, fuzzy creature that was following them.  They were yelling at it and waving their arms, obviously not wanting to be followed.

The creature left the sidewalk and wandered, unknowingly, under a parked car and into the street.  I flew out of my car and jogged towards it.  Getting closer, I could see it was a small oblivious lab puppy.  I waved at a oncoming car to stop and I got down on one knee, calling to it.  Without hesitation, the puppy ran up to me, tongue out and happy.  I scooped it up and while it licked my face I spoke to the men.  They said it had been following them about a block.  Otherwise, they didn’t know anything about it.  I asked around.  No one knew the dog.  I took him home, fed him, played with him and tried over the next two weeks through the local shelter, the vets and the paper to find the owner.

No one wanted him.

Read the rest of this entry


What is it that makes you, well, YOU?  We are told early on, “define yourself”, “understand yourself”, “be yourself.”   We take to it with great zeal.  “I like thunderstorms!  I like ponies!” or “I like outer space so  I wanna be an astronaut.”  As children, we’re sometimes told what to like.  We take it to heart.   “If you’re from here then you have to love football,” or “Any good child of the family needs to like grandpa’s chili.”

We also learn to define ourselves by what we don’t want or like.  “I don’t like tomatoes and I don’t like the color blue.”  We tell ourselves this.  We tell other people.  And, as the years go by, as we hear it over and over, things get locked into place.

Our pain defines us as well, emotional and physical.  Initially, pain is a teacher.  It teaches us what NOT to do.  But, if we hold on to what caused that pain, it can become a handicap.  It can twist us.  A child may have been stung by a bee.  “I hate all bees!” he proclaims loudly, “Bees suck!”  Someone else might have had their heart broken by a lover with blonde hair.  She might tell herself,  “I’ll never date a blonde again!  They can’t be trusted!”

If we don’t, from time to time, take a look at the definitions that we’ve given ourselves we run the risk of getting trapped within them.  We miss the wonder of watching bees work a field of flowers.  We pass on the blonde friend of a friend who could be our soulmate.  In this hectic world,  it seems easier to just keep running ever forward, from one hectic emergency to the next.  Do This! Go here!  Buy that!  Buy This!  We don’t take the pauses we need and we get locked into the very definitions we’ve given ourselves.  We get so distracted we forget to pause, to reflect.

Hopefully there comes a time when something inside you causes you to stop.   A moment when you question things,  when you become curious.  “Wait a minute, maybe I DO  like the color blue.”  Or, “Why do I dislike bees again?”  It might take months, it will probably take years.  This is redefinition and it’s those very moments which keep you young.  If you ignore those moments, brush them off as fancy, than you’re on a declining path to stiffness and true “old age.”

You’ll notice I put “old age” in quotes.  It’s because I’ve met 80 year old people who knew how to think like they were 20 and I’ve met 20 year old people locked into frozen and old-school mindsets.  The body ages but ultimately it’s the state of mind which defines our youthfulness and this state of mind is powered by curiosity.  If you want to stay young then you have to stay curious.  Curiosity supports  redefinition.  Redefinition feeds curiosity.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Recently, I was dealing with yet another wave of stress and I was blessed with a moment of pause.  It came out of nowhere in the middle of a very hectic, depressing and blustery day.  I asked myself, sitting in a heated car, in a warm coat, and sipping on a tepid cup of coffee two simple questions.  “What the heck am I stressed out about again?”  And, “What is driving my discontent?”

The questions caused me to focus internally.  It wasn’t the cold.  It wasn’t the tepid coffee.   What I found was that much of my issues of the day were being driven by old pains, old limits.  Old items that were, quite frankly, worn out and no longer applicable.  I realized I had a choice to redefine them.  I was choosing to define them out of fear, or, more importantly, the fear of perceived pain and stress.  It was my call not only how I perceived them but also what I chose to do with that very perception.

I could choose the old model and wonder why I my blood pressure was so high or I could redefine things, redefine myself, and hopefully make a better choice.

Oddly enough, it was just that simple.


Time is a Test

I have so much to say, so much to write here yet I have no time to do it no matter how hard I try.

With luck, I will be able to post again here soon.

Keeping and Losing the Cool

I wish I could say my return to  survival thinking and awareness came about because of some pulse-pounding adventure.   I would love to relate a gripping story where I was stuck hanging off a cliff or being lost for six days in the wilds of Burma.  Nope.  It was nothing that spectacular.

I locked my keys in a car.

Though it’s no tale of high adventure, it IS crucial as to why I’m here.  I was just outside Denver, Colorado with my wife.  She had been able to come along during a business trip and following the three days of work we took our rental car up to see the mountains and Estes Park.  It was an amazing and memorable day.  At the end of it, we stayed with a family member for the evening before heading to the airport early the next morning.  The stay was relaxing and the homemade dinner a perfect end to our trip.

Sunday morning we were up early and quick.  We were 40 minutes away from the airport and had timed it to arrive roughly two hours before take-off.  Everything was going smoothly.  I took the bags to the rental car and began placing them in the hatchback. As I  shut the hatchback, my camera bag full of expensive and fragile equipment started to tumble out.  One hand was free, the other contained the car keys.   Reflexively, I tossed the keys down and grabbed the falling bag with both hands before it could hit the pavement.  The speed of my reaction surprised me.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I re-placed the bag, made sure it was secure, and shut the hatchback doors.

And realized the keys were inside the hatchback.  Read the rest of this entry

The Practice of Survival

I think it’s very interesting that within 24 hours of kicking off this blog my main computer decided to go belly up. Of course, it decided to do this during the holidays and a tight financial time. No chance of buying a replacement. Funny thing to happen to a guy who is trying to talk about the natural world around us by writing on an internet blog. The comedy is there. You just gotta look for it.

The whole week has been an exercise in frustration and, more importantly, how to deal with that frustration. I know just enough about the inner workings of a computer to be dangerous. I’ve spent more than 12+ hours trying to jury rig other parts from other systems to no avail. I tried option after option and nothing worked. And then, a deeper frustration set in.

It arose from the fact that I had no idea how connected to my personal computer I had become. Not just the internet and it’s myriad diversions but the whole kit and kaboodle; writing, photography, visual art, communication, and all sorts of other personal projects were located on one machine. My creative content, except for the last few days, had all been backed up and was not the subject of my frustration. It came from the fact that I didn’t feel like I could do ANYTHING. It was not necessarily the truth but it FELT like the truth.

And, briefly, I will ask you to think about the same thing. How connected to it are you? How prevalent is it in your life, your work, your daily interactions?

It was maddening. I felt a deep urge to throw my hands up and I gave into that urge for two days. I cleaned off my desk of all tech, took it downstairs, and, in depressed disgust, gave up and walked away. It was during a short walk that something hit me. I was doing the number one no-no, the big bad thing, the top of the list in stupid moves which gets people killed in survival situations. I was giving up.

Didn’t I just post about my respect for a coyote to survive in any situation, and not only survive but thrive? Wow. Talk about a lesson! It wasn’t about giving up. It was about adapting. Here was a survival lesson couched, very covertly, in my very safe and warm everyday life.

I didn’t have to go into some remote wilderness setting to practice survival. Nope. Survival walked right into my living room, kicked in the door, stole my computer, and waltzed right back out. It could be the equivalant of someone’s car going dead in the middle of a blizzard on a mountain road and it comes down to the simple theme in all survival situations. You think you have something and now, you don’t.

How do you survive the transition?

Every expert, book, and webpage will tell you that in order to survive that transition you have to stay calm and you cannot ever, ever, ever give up. When trouble hits it will be your mindset that gets you through to the clear. A little luck will always come into play but you cannot rely on luck.

You have to rely on attitude.

It might be said that comparing the relative minscule loss of a personal computer to fighting for your life against the elements in a real survival situation is ridiculous. I want to be clear about something. I’m comparing the mindset carried within these situations. In turn, I’m also asking you to think about how this similiar mindset plays itself out in your everyday life? How often do you get the chance to practice this mindset in the safety of your everyday life? Perhaps take a moment and think back. When did a simliar situation offer itself for you to handle? I think, if you look at it, you’ll be surprised to see it comes up more often than you may realize.

So, I’ll apologize in advance for a small delay in posting and the lack of images. I’ve adapted and am currently writing this in notepad on a much older shared computer. I’m not sure when things will change back up. It could be tomorrow. It could be next summer. But, like someone in a survival situation, I will just have to wait it out and adapt to the surroundings.

I’ll just think of it as daily practice.