Au revoir 2013 and Bon Jour 2014!

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Now that 2013 is finally over and 2014 is here, it’s time to look back at what I did (and didn’t do). There were many firsts last year and I was busy as a little beaver. While I notched some major accomplishments, there were many things that slipped through the cracks.

In January I began taking yoga. I was in a 2012 post-holiday slump and needed to break out of it. I also realized I hadn’t been exercising as much and I was three months away from heading back outside to cycle (so long as the weather cooperated.)  I needed to take every opportunity to keep myself in shape and yoga helped a great deal.

In February I began the editing process for my first children’s book, The Voyage of the Sharky Sloop and the Quest for Orange Marmalade. I had written the book the previous fall and as soon as the calendar flipped, it was off to the editor for her review.

March was a rather busy month. To start off, I celebrated my one year anniversary of being debt free! As I wrote in my book, Islands of Happiness, which was published in November of 2012, it was the best decision I had ever made. And I am still debt free to this day (soon to be celebrating my two-year anniversary in eight weeks!)

Also in March, I began writing my second children’s book, Red Stocking the Pirate and the Search for the Golden Cutlass. Which I will be sharing more with you when I chat about 2014.

April-May: I put these two months together for the simple reason, I was busy rewriting my first book, writing my second, taking yoga and trying to find some time to cycle!

In May, I headed back to Europe for a vacation to The Netherlands. When I left here, it was in the 50’s and rainy. When I got to Amsterdam, it was in the 50’s and rainy! I thought I would get some sunny warmer weather… but no! I will be writing a post about that trip, so I’ll keep it short here, I had a good time, the people were very nice but I did not get outside as much as I would have liked… because of the cooler weather and so much rain. Oh well.

June-July-August: More of the same. I did finish my second children’s book and put it away. My editor and I feverishly worked toward completing The Sharky Sloop. In July and I hired an illustrator to create the interior art.

September-October-November: I was in panic mode. The interior art was taking much longer that I anticipated and it looked like the book would not come out before the end of the year. Thank goodness for YOGA! Since I was short on projects, I began writing my third children’s book and completed it in late November. This one will be coming out in 2015 (I hope!) The final round of editing on The Sharky Sloop book was completed and the interior art was in the last stage… the art was finally in color!

October I hit the big blue skies and visited New York City. It was my first visit there and from the moment my feet hit the ground I was whisked off. I saw the Broadway play Newsies, which was very good, especially from the front row. I spent a lot of time in Central Park, made it to the top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and had lunch a Carnage Deli (HUGE sandwiches!) but very good!

December: A lot more yoga… And on December 18th, my first children’s book was published! As soon as I approved the final proof and saw it on Amazon, I felt the weight of the world just lift off my shoulders.

2014:

With the New Year just three days old, I am eagerly looking forward to what this year will bring and what my priorities will be.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that I have not made any New Year resolutions. Let’s be honest, good intentions aside, they last only a couple of weeks anyway and by late February/early March they are gone by the way of Disco. Instead, I have several priorities that I will be focusing on in my free time and work to keep that list to a dull roar.

Last year, I did not spend as much time writing posts as I would have liked. I am not going to drudge up all of the reasons, but let’s just say that I am focusing more on writing posts and hope to keep the momentum going through the year.

I am going to celebrate my second year of being debt free! I will continue to look for more ways to live a smaller but more productive life.  I have come across several more websites about minimalism, travel and some exciting others that I hope will keep me focused and on track.

As for exercising, I am continuing with yoga, swimming and as soon as the warm weather returns, cycling.

On the travel front, I am mulling over going to Ireland, Portugal or Spain. As you know, January is when I begin making my travel plans and those are the front-runners. I have my Rick Steves’ books waiting at the library to be picked up. I will reveal my choice in a post once it’s completed.

As for writing, I am beginning to edit my second children’s book and with the experience from the first, I will not be waiting as long to start the interior art. I hope (but don’t hold me to this) to have it out by September-October of this year (finger’s crossed.)

With the New Year just three days old, it would appear I already have a lot going on… Calgon take me away!

Let me hear from you and what you are up to!

Peace dudes!

Mike

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A review of the books I have read lately.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Below are several books that I have read lately.

I picked up this book after Tammy Strobel from Rowdy Kittens wrote a review about it on her blog.

There is much to like about this book from the first to the last page. It’s more than a run of the mill rah-rah inspirational book about writing. The author, Brenda Ueland, not only is she an accomplished writer but she also spent considerable time tutoring her students; helping them become better writers and inspiring them to continue writing. She feels that everyone can write and has something important to say. Throughout the book, she mixes in stories to support her points and you get the feeling that you are sitting in the room listening to her lectures.

I was on the fence about if I should continue writing, once I was finished with the book, I felt that it was something that I should not stop doing.

This next two books are a departure from the first one and are about history. I know, history is boring,.. or at least that is what we have been told. Maybe you had a very boring history teacher, the class was tedious and you did not see the point and how it would make your life better.

There is a line, that history is written by the ones who won. But there is and always will be two sides to the story. Often, there are facts that are left out that are rather inconvenient and are best left to die on the vine.

I liked both of the two following books about American history during our colonial period.

An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean

Persistence of Empire: British Political Culture in the Age of the American Revolution

Walden, or Life in the Woods

This is a departure from the last two books and should be no surprise that it’s here. I had to read Walden twice. The first time, I did not completely understand what the point was. I picked it up again and read it slower this time and I caught much more than I did the first time.

The Winter of Our Disconnect

This last book I found very interesting. Susan noticed how her family was moving farther apart and one of the causes was technology. As an experiment, she cut the cords on technology and unplugged her family. She is heavily influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and it shows.

I really liked this book and every parent should pick this book up, read it and then do the same with their family. You may reclaim your family like she did.

If you have any book suggestions, please pass them along for the greater good!

Peace Dudes!

A week in London and it was not enough.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

I love to travel and had the chance to visit London England two years ago. It never fails,  there is always more things to do and see than there is time. We landed at Heathrow airport on Saturday and took the rest of that day to get settled.

On Sunday it was off to Greenwich to see the Queen’s House:

The National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. Admission to all three are free and you should take advantage of as many of the free options as possible. London can be very expensive.

On Monday, we headed off to see Windsor Castle. It’s about an hour and change train ride from London and then once at the train station in Windsor, it’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk to the castle, more of course if you stop to take photos!

This is a view of the country side surrounding Windsor Castle. It is so beautiful, it was not difficult to set up the camera and take some amazing photos!

On Tuesday, it was a day trip around London. We were able to get front row spots to catch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Yes, the policeman on the horse is pointing at me to get out of the way. And yes, they mean it too. This is the band that precedes the guards.

Each and every one are active duty soldiers in the English Army.

It is quote a spectacle and their lengthy walk ends up at Buckingham Palace. Where they will go through and take the place of the guards on duty. The crowds gather hours before to be able to see and take photos.

Here is a different view of Big Ben with the London Eye peaking over the buildings.

Then it was onto the Tower of London. This is where the crown jewels are kept. We were not allowed to take photos. It is definitely worth the time and entrance fee to see them.   

Of course, right next to the Tower of London, is the Tower Bridge.

We ended the tour with a boat ride up the Thames River and were let off near the London Eye.It was a very nice day trip around London. If you are able to visit London, there is so much to do you cannot go wrong picking these or so many other things to see and do!

Wednesday was very uneventful… laundry day and checking out the town of Islington where we were staying.

On Thursday, it was back to London and this time we had Piccadilly Circus and Green Park on the agenda.

Green Park is next to Buckingham Palace. Getting off the tube at Piccadilly Circus, you can easily walk down to Green Park.

I really liked Green Park. For a very busy city, it’s a very quiet place. During the summer, there are deck chairs you can rent and log in some R&R!

Friday was a R&R day and to pack to leave. We left early on Saturday morning. One tip, if you take the tube/Underground, carry change so you can recharge your pass. The machines would not take paper currency! We almost did not make it to the airport!

I do love England and hope that I am able to go back. If you have any photos or tips you would like to share, please do!

Peace Dudes!

5 simple activites for a fall afternoon

By Mike Aux-Tinee…

Simple activities can bring about the most joy and happiness.

Hot chocolate: It’s cold out, the sky is overcast and the temps are blustery. It is the perfect time to find your favorite mug, put on some water to boil and mix up some hot chocolate.

I like to keep my hot chocolate pretty simple, just a hint of peppermint, a few marshmallows and hold the whipped cream.

Last visits to the park: Before the temperature hits the take my breath away mark, I like to spend the last moments of fall admiring mother nature working her magic. With fewer people around, I feel as if the park is all mine. I like to sit on a bench, close my eyes and listen to the wind blowing through the trees and rustling the leaves.  

Baking: Chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies are some of my favorites.  Plus, you need something to go along with your hot chocolate. What could be better than a warm from the oven cookie, or two.. or three? The house smells better, it is always warmer in the kitchen when you bake and you can share with your friends and family (or not)! 

Taking the dog out for a walk:

Even man’s best friend needs to get out of the yard and stretch their legs. With colder weather quickly approaching, exercise for the both of you will be at a premium.

Take a nap: After a long day of drinking hot chocolate, taking a walk in the park, baking cookies and then once around the block so Fido can stretch his legs, I need to take a nap to recharge my batteries.

There are so many benefits to taking a nap, reduced stress, your body is able to ward off illness and you will be in a better mood.

Sounds like a very nice way to spend the afternoon. How do like to spend your fall afternoons? Please leave a comment and share with everyone else. 

Peace Dudes!

Has anyone seen the ice cream man?

By Mike Aux-Tinee

Each summer I look forward to the semi-weekly visits by the ice cream man. As a kid, I believed he possessed higher mental powers that told him it was time to come through the neighborhood. When I would hear his bell I would drop everything and make the mad dash out the door, (I would not slobber like Pavlov’s dogs). My mother would  encourage me to try something different this time around. When I caught up to him I would trade the money I saved for my favorite ice cream. It was the most beautiful arrangement I knew at the time.

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That arrangement has continued to this very day. Well, that is not really true. It has lasted until his last visit LAST YEAR! I have not seen his truck nor heard the bell ringing since.

I do not know why he has not come back. Things were going along pretty good, we would meet and trade for what the other had. There are other substitutes and I do suffer with them through the lean times  (when he stops coming around for the year). I know the world will not end and a little less whining might make this a better place. 

In a vain attempt to get my tasty frozen treet, I went as far as to visit the company’s website to try and locate another ‘supplier‘ to fill the void. I put the product locator through the motions and I was successful! There is a grocery store that carries my beloved treat and this store is just…96 miles away and in a smaller town! What in the world? Why do I need to travel almost 100 miles and to a smaller town?  I thought there were benefits living in the concrete jungle; this is where the good stuff should be, right?? Things are not looking so hot for us home gamers.

I need to find a way to resolve this perplexing problem or it will be a long summer. Here is what I came up with:

1. Figure out another way to get the goodies sent to me. I thought about calling up Mr. Warren Buffett and working out a deal where some of the ice cream treats could be shipped to me on his new railroad. I know his railroad has refrigerated cars and one box would not take up that much space. I would not even mind waiting for the train to pass by so the conductor could hand them off.

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2. Start a letter writing campaign. It could not hurt to start writing letters again; as this is becoming a lost skill. People really like getting mail and if someone in a cube farm somewhere gets a nice-nice letter they might be more inclined to help. A letter might come back with an apology and maybe coupons for some of their other products. 

The first thing you need to before you start sending off letters is to evaluate your writing skills. It is embarrassing to send off a letter full of spelling and grammatical errors (just as an F.Y.I, spell check does not exist on paper). If you would rather be more daring you can start your own blog.  It is very exciting to write a post, click the publish buttonand have someone ‘out there’ read it.  Before you mail the letter or click the publish button put it away and come back to it later. What I thought was funny or earth-shaking one day was not all that great once it had time to simmer on the back burner. No sense is sending along something that does not help your case.

3. Listen to your mother and try something new. This is not the same as throwing in the towel and giving up. You should never give up on something you really want so easily. Following her advice could payoff in HUGE dividends for you. It is exciting to try something new, you could find a new favorite or at the very least look like you are making the effort.  Which would make your mother very happy.

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This is how far life can take you and return you full circle.

Peace dudes!

Acknowledge your inner rebel…. express your individuality.

By Mike Aux-Tinee

I admit, I have an inner rebel and I am not afraid to let it out and give it time in the sunshine.

Like most things that are penned up for too long, it will break out. Then its off to the races like a delirious zoo animal for the fence line and freedom. But no worries, I have an expertly trained staff that will recapture and return it before it gets too far and does too much damage, (I hope)!

I believe my inner rebel has provided the best advice I have ever received:  always be yourself, no matter what.

It is a remarkable little piece of advice, that if misapplied could cause a person a lot of problems. (I know a lot about misapplication of this).  When correctly applied, it can provide for an exciting and … hey, how about you let yours out and you fill in the adjectives!

What is confounding to me is, how creative, dynamic and just down right positively cool we humans are. But then we are forced to box up our individuality and put it away. That is a tragedy that the Greeks should create a play about.  I know, there are societal pressures that compel us to keep a lid on it. But really now.

We have been conditioned from a very early age to conform or face ridicule and possible exclusion from the group. To a child, to be excluded is the end of the world. We grow up, wanting to belong and feel accepted to whatever group we are a part of, even when we really should turn on back and head for the exits.

I can always tell when someone is not under ‘the influence’ of their inner rebel. There are three readily observable signs to detect when someone is repressing their inner rebel and not expressing their individuality:

The first thing I notice about a person who does not let their inner rebel out, are the words they use when they talk. Do you know how many words there are in the English language? Try this one on for size, according to ask.com there are between 750,000 to one million words in our language. With so many words to choose from, why do people insist on limiting their word choices AND using words someone else has come up with?

I am by no means perfect and have been known to over use certain words, one of my favorites is dude. One day a friend of mine bantered, “Mike, you really do use that word a lot and asked if I could run with something else for a while, just to give him a break”. Well, feeling defensive, I gave him a history lesson on the word and I was just making sure it did not die off.”  He was rather shocked and bewildered at my diatribe.

Do you notice people using the same words in their daily conversations? Even to a point of misusing them just to sound like everyone else? Most of the worst offenders reside in corporate America, this is the place where buzz words are thrown around like  baseballs at spring training.

Really? Who sits down and comes up with words like, bandwidth and attempts apply it to anything other than radio? I did look it up and here is what I discovered: the resources needed to complete a task or project.  Why couldn’t have someone just said.. well that? Or hey this is what we need to finish the job or project?

When I hear words like this coming out of someones mouth, my respect for them just drops off the meter. Then, I classify them as a (F-based action word) moron.

The second thing I notice about a person who is repressing their inner rebel  is what they wear. I am sure, I could write an entire post about this one, but I will keep it as brief as possible.

Try this little exercise, take someone’s yearbook and show it to them after they graduate. Watch them grimace, wince and cringe as they flip through the pages.

Does anyone remember parachute pants, girls dressing like Madonna or the disco suits of the 1970’s? I know, those of you who jumped in feet first are shaking your heads and the embarras-o-meter has just been pegged.

I read an article recently that surveyed women in their 20’s and 30’s about their opinions on men’s clothing. They said, (not verbatim) those t-shirts with the crazy prints… are just not it. In fact, the lovely ladies do not take you seriously and toss you out of contention. If something like that is going to eliminate me, time to put the brakes on and move in the other direction. I do need the head start.

The third thing I notice about the repressed inner rebel; are the activities they participate in, just because.  It is  common for them to participate in the same activities as friends, coworkers or the boss. While getting time in front of the boss can be beneficial for your career, spending too much time can blur the lines of the employee-boss relationship.

I love to play sports, but just not the same ones as my friends. Why? Because we all  have different skills and abilities. If one or the other really cannot measure up, then bring on the teasing. Its just like an elephant’s memory, it never goes away and the stories get longer and more exaggerated as time goes on.

It is time, to turn out who you really are and start expressing your individuality. Do not fear what other people may or may not think about you. Hey, someone once thought climbing Mt.Everest was a dumb idea. How cool would that be to get that merit badge! Not to mention the cool stories you could tell the ladies while you are wearing your three piece English tailored suit, sipping Jim Beam and Coke! (HINT: women love a sharp dressed man)!

Once you know what to look for, you will walk around in complete amazement. But two pieces of advice, do not stare, it makes you look creepy and walk slower, you will be prone crash into things, making you look clumsy.

Peace Dudes!

Oh yea… about the photos… I left them out on purpose! Just letting out my rebel yell!

What the Grateful Dead have taught me about success.

By Mike Aux-Tinee

I just finished reading a book by Dennis McNally entitled, ‘A Long Strange Trip, the Inside History of the Grateful Dead‘. For a Dead Head like myself, this was an interesting book. The author went further than just re-telling the bands’ thirty plus year history.

For the Grateful Dead, it was about the music and the people who came to see them. They wanted to be musicians first and foremost.  What surprised me was how the band continued to develop, learn and experiment with music. Their approach was different and very unique. It keep them going when other bands had been gone for a long time.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the Grateful Dead and everyone who reads the book may come away with something different. This is what I learned from the Grateful Dead about being a success.

The first lesson is to learn everything you can about what you are doing:

There exists a hurry up and teach me mind-set. Show me what I need to know so I can be out there with everyone else.

It does not matter what you are doing from playing sports, to being an actor or being the leader of a really cool band. To be competent requires hours and hours of practice. Rome was not built-in a day and you will not be able to jump in feet first and be a success. Also, there is no mystery potion, wiz-bang gadget or short cut to the desired outcome. Just accept the fact it takes time.

The people we are watching have taken a long time to get where they are. That is the part of the process we miss out on.  Just remember, anything that is worth anything is worth waiting (and working) for.

  Grateful Dead 

The second lesson is to have a side project:

This is an excellent opportunity to foster personal creativity, investigate an interest and avoid burn out.

Whether it is gardening, reading or improving your photography skills, doing something else is important. Whatever you choose, make sure it is unrelated to your primary activity. For example, you if are an accountant and a not for profit is looking for volunteers, elect to be a volunteer coordinator, write press releases or offer to organize events. You will gain invaluable experience that may open other doors of employment, make new friends or just allow you to relax.

The third lesson is to have as many contacts as you can:

This is the one thing the band was never short on. They always knew someone and you should too.  I have always been told, “You can never have too many friends”.  

Do this today, head out and make a new friend, learn to play nice-nice with them and lastly be sincere, (people can tell when you are fake or faking it).  You never know when something will happen and you will need someone’s help.

Grateful Dead

The fourth lesson I learned is to have fun:

This quote sums it up, “If you ain’t having fun, it ain’t worth doing”.

Of course, I did learn a lot more from them that I could share with you, but then I will not have much to write about in the future. If you really want to find out what is on my mind and a peak into future posts, get out there and pick up the book.

Peace Dudes!