Friday, December 19, 2014

"Frankie Say Nia" Possible Tour Dates

River and I are getting ready to hit the road again. Well, actually River has no idea what's going on, but I'm looking forward to it. I've already figured out the "why?" That is, I've determined what I want to offer (I posted that here). So now begins the phase when I find out some minor details like Who's interested in What and Where I'll be going and When.

I want to start the process by putting together a very rough draft of what my schedule looks like for 2015.  This is a fantasy list, including all of the cities I hope to visit. Once I begin collaborating with producers all over the country and it starts coming together, these proposed dates will very likely shift around a bit. But this gives us a good starting off point and a general time frame for what I'm planning.

If there are any major issues showing up for you in this schedule, please let me know and I'll do my best to adjust to it. The sooner we discover these things, the more likely it is to be changeable.

I look forward to creating and planning and playing with so many old and new friends and colleagues across the country. 
If you see your city on here, I probably have you in mind as a producer.  If you don't see your city on here and you'd like to have me come and share my work there, please contact me immediately and I'll do my best to add you.
If you think you might want me to be in town for two days (or more) but you don't see enough days listed near your city, please let me know as soon as possible.
If you see your city, and we have worked together in the past, but you can't or don't want to produce for me this year, please let me know so that I can find another producer or scratch that city off my itinerary.
I have inserted a few 'extra' days of padding about every five days or so. From experience, I know that things tend to take more time than I originally plan for, and the frequent buffer days help absorb the domino effect sometimes caused by such changes. The days are added at random, so don't be surprised if you see two days by your city and you don't need them. They'll get used up somehow.

Using this as a starting point. Let's tinker for the next few weeks and see where it settles.
If there is a major shift in timing, I will post an updated schedule here. But for now....
March 20 - April1

  • Kick off Event in Seattle - March 20

  • Portland - March 21
  • Hillsboro - March 22
  • Eugene - March 23, 24
  • Ashland - March 25

  • Sacramento - March 26
  • Bay Area (south) - March 27
  • Santa Barbara - March 28, 29
  • San Diego - March 30
  • Los Angeles - March 31

  • Las Vegas - April 1
    April 2 -18

  • Phoenix/Tempe - April 2, 3
  • Sedona/Flagstaff - April 4, 5

  • Durango - April 6

  • Santa Fe/Albuquerque - April 7, 8, 9

  • Amarillo - April 10
  • San Antonio/Austin - April 11, 12
  • Corpus Christi - April 13
  • Houston - April 14, 15,16
  • Dallas - April 17, 18

    April 19-30

  • Oklahoma City - April 19

  • Wichita - April 20

  • Boulder - April 21, 22
  • Lyons - April 23

  • Lyman - April 24

  • Boise - April 25, 26

  • Pullman/Spokane - April 27
  • Bellingham - April 28
  • Anacortes - April 29
  • Port Townsend - April 30


    SEATTLE (rest)
    May 1 - June 20

    June 21 - July 6

  • Sandpoint - June 21
  • Hayden - June 22

  • Missoula/Helena - June 23
  • Billings/Red Lodge - June 24, 25, 26

  •  Fargo - June 27

  • Minneapolis - June 28, 29, 30

  • Brookfield - July 1

  • Iowa City - July 2

  • Chicago - July 3, 4

  • Lansing - July 5

  • Youngstown - July 6

    July 7 - 24

  • Buffalo - July 7
  • Albany - July 8

  • Newfane - July 9, 10

  • Nashua - July 11

  • Portland - July 12

  • Boston/Cambridge - July 13

  • July 14, 15, 16

  • July 17, 18, 19, 20

  • Colt's Neck - July 21

  • King of Prussia - July 22

  • Baltimore - July 23

  • July 24

    July 25 - Aug 4

  • Richmond - July 25, 26
  • Virginia Beach - July 27

  • Raleigh/Durham - July 28
  • Greensboro/Charlotte - July 29

  • Rock Hill - July 30

  • Gainesville - July 31
  • Miami - Aug 1
  • Tampa - Aug 2

  • Atlanta - Aug 3, 4

    Aug 5 - 22

  • Cullman - Aug 5

  • Little Rock - Aug 6

  • St. Louis - Aug 7

  • Omaha - Aug 8
  • Lincoln - Aug 9

  • Fort Collins - Aug 10

  • Salt Lake City - Aug 11

  • Reno - Aug 12

  • Yosemite National Park - Aug 13, 14, 15
  • San Francisco Bay Area (North) - Aug 16
  • Humbolt State Park - Aug 17
  • Redwood State Park - Aug 18

  • coast - Aug 19
  • Portland - Aug 20

  • Centralia - Aug 21, 22
  • Olympia - Aug 23

    SEATTLE "HOME!!" (for now)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JAG Menu 2015

Here are the ideas I have for things I am preparing to bring with me on my travels around the country.

1--  FRANKIE SAY NIA (routine)

I’ve created a routine using all 80’s Alternative “New Wave” music. With songs such as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Burning Down the House, We Got the Beat and many other quirky tunes from bands such as the B-52s, Flock of Seagulls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The name of the routine is a play off of the old slogan Frankie Say Relax.

It is a standard, one hour classic format Nia class allowing five minutes to set the focus and 55 minutes of fun, familiar 80s music.

If your class is into ‘dressing up’ for special event classes, the New Wave fashions offer lots of fun ideas. Themes were lots of bright colors and faux animal prints. (For example, purple leopard spot tights) It was a kitchy throwback to the 50’s. The emphasis was on bold individualism. 

Musically, New Wave was playful, irreverent and quirky. The songs are fast and short with a strong emphasis on the synthesizer keyboard rather than the guitars of Rock. Also unlike Rock and Roll, new Wave never took itself very seriously. 

The focus of Frankie Say Nia is on the creative hand and arm expressions with the intention to celebrate our quirkiness.

CNS = Community Network Synergy (playshop / jam)

I have a dream to create a Nia routine with the help of Nia communities from across the country. This dream is inspired by my travels and all of the burgeoning and flourishing Nia ‘tribes’ I have encountered. I’m constantly blown away by the level of passion and creativity I encounter across the USA and I wonder if I can somehow, synergistically tie it all together into a Nia routine. 

So with the help of Debbie Rosas, I am putting together a plan to bring my dream to life. 

I want to find 13 communities interested in contributing to the routine. Before my arrival in town, each community will have decided amongst itself which few songs it wants to provide for consideration to the routine. When I arrive in town, we will all meet for a choreography jam session and bring those songs to life. In order to create a nice, cohesive vertical routine, I will maintain final say in which songs ends up in the final routine, but it will all come from the communities across the country, networking together through me to create through synergy. 
Community networking synergy or CNS for short. 

Random Interjection: Coincidentally, CNS also stands for Central Nervous System.

So what I’d need now is for the communities interested in participating in this to schedule the choreography jam with me for when I’m going to be in your town in 2015. And then at some point before my arrival find a creative way to work as a community to come up with the three songs that will contend for the honor of representing your town in the final routine. And when I do arrive, we’ll all get together and work out what the choreography will be for the songs you’ve chosen.

This routine will not be an official Nia release, so the good news is we don’t have to worry about music rights. Debbie is busy creating a similar thing, only she will be including the songs in upcoming official routines, so those will require music rights. My routine, CNS is not official and will not ever be for sale. It is a community bonding experience. The way we can get away with this is by never electronically recording it. It is only reserved for live, in person experience. The old school way! n 2016, when I make my rounds again, I will bring the finished routine to everyone and share the synergy we created. 

This experience could also result in a Jam while I’m there in 2015. We could use mostly familiar Nia songs in the multi-teacher Jam and also include whatever new choreography we came up with. 

So… who’s in?

3-- FREE DANCE (playshop)

As part of the Community Network Synergy project, or on its own, I teach a wonderful Free Dance playshop that is student friendly. It is aimed at teaching a student how to create their own, vital and self-motivated FreeDance experience, regardless of what the teacher is providing. At the same time it serves as a wonderful tool for teachers in how to effortlessly guide very rich and exciting FreeDance segments. 

The day starts with a brief chat about FreeDance, including what it is, what people believe it is and why it is valuable. The bulk of the playshop experience is devoted to my toolkit. I will share my tools with you, one by one and give you the opportunity to practice them. I have taught this playshop many times and I’m always amazed by how much each person’s FreeDance is vitalized with just a couple of hours. Once someone is exposed to this work they will never again fear or dread those unguided moments in class, and will instead relish them with creative gusto.

This playshop can also conclude with a super fun Nia routine I put together of all guided FreeDance songs.

4--  THE ART OF JOY (playshop)

Taught in a Tight But Loose format, this playshop is meant to stimulate happiness and encourage it to grow. It is based on some of the Happiness work from First Degree Black Belt as well as Joy of Movement, Life As Art and the personal experiences of JAG and everyone present in the room at the playshop as we all share our successes and struggles with maintaining happiness. 

The playshop is experienced in three segments, we will begin with a pow wow and discuss happiness; what it is, why its important and how to achieve and maintain it. And we’ll talk about JAG’s 13 Principles of Happiness. 

In the middle section, we’ll do 13 guided Free Dances, each exploring a different aspect of happiness as related to Nia’s 13 Principles. The focus of this section is on The Self and the intention is to illuminate happiness. 

In the final segment of this playshop, we will go back to our puppy pile and share discoveries and ask any questions that came up. We could also use this time to discuss other topics of health, related to happiness, including eating, exercising, meditating, sleeping, playing and avoiding toxins. And of course, Nia!

I can make this playshop work in just about any time frame, but I think it would ideal at about three or four hours. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Last Blog Entry You Ever Need to Read About Nutrition

Want a sure-fire way to keep spinning your wheels in a quagmire of confusion while remaining conflicted about what to eat? Keep on reading blog entries about what "latest studies show". With new studies coming out daily (most of them not even peer reviewed or repeatable) you should be quite fuzzy on the whole thing in no time. 

Keep on buying the latest Best Selling nutrition book and fully buy into whatever slant of the month is being touted by the populous. Search especially long and hard for those articles that support your current way of thinking, they’re out there. No matter what you believe, it’s out there, somewhere. The Internet is an amazingly vast place with such an array of input of all types. You don't have to look very far or hard before you'll come across a an article about a 'study' that proves what you 'believe' (or what you don’t want to believe) about nutrition. 

But then keep looking and you’ll soon find one that claims just the opposite is true, or that that original belief has been debunked and this is what we believe now.

In truth, studies don’t prove anything. A study is an experiment based on an assumption. That assumption is played out and the results are gathered and evaluated and conclusions are drawn. The evaluation and conclusion of results is a highly subjective practice. Anyone with a bias could easily create and publish a study showing their desired slant to be true. It happens all the time. Nothing from one study is conclusive, scientifically. The only scientifically significant results are those that occur in different studies initiated from different assumptions made by different parties at different times, yet yielding the same results. (that’s called being ‘repeatable’).

Anytime you read “latest study shows…” be alerted that someone is trying to fool you into thinking that a study in and of itself is conclusive. In fact, a single study that stands out and refutes a long-supported and agreed-upon result found in numerous other studies is probably not going to be considered statistically significant when you look at the whole picture. Not unless this new piece of information is tested over and over again. But that won’t stop bloggers and sensationalizing nutrition writers to prey upon our naiveté and confusion.

That's why, like a broken record, I keep repeating the same things over and over again. The same things my hero Jack LaLanne used to say sixty years ago. The trendy beliefs about what’s “good for you” and what’s “bad for you” have changed many times in those past sixty years, but Jack has been giving the same message the whole time. And I, too, am trying to impress upon a frantic community that it would be in their best interest to stop trying to ‘hack’ their body with the latest gimmick, diet, superfood, cleanse or whatever latest discovery of ‘what is good that used to be bad’ or ‘what’s now bad that they used to say was good’. 

But if you are tired of being confused. It’s actually pretty easy and simple. Step away from the "nutrition" part of the Internet. It is mostly bullshit. Written by ... well frankly written by anyone who has a computer and sees a possibility to make money or get some attention by feeding into what I see as a frenzy of confusion.  And the same with buying diet and nutrition books. There’s nothing new or valuable in there. 

The more time you spend reading about the latest findings, the less you will know.

When you’re ready to stop fooling yourself and you want to get real, then look for the foods that we’ve eaten  and thrived on as a species since the dawn of recorded time, and leave the rest of the garbage sitting on the shelves.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

Today marks the beginning of the 100 day countdown until I begin the Frankie Say Nia tour.

Which kind of freaks me out at this point, because it is not much more than a vague idea in my head.

But I gave myself until January 1 before I said I had to start writing anything down and contacting people. Until then, I am allowed to keep it all as a fantastic jumbled notion in my head. But I kind of want to start organizing it, so here it is. I'm going to spell it out for the first time.

It will begin on the first day of spring when I'll have a send-off event in Seattle and then make my way down the west coast (WA, OR, NV, CA) and across the desert (AZ, NM) turning around in Houston (TX) and heading back up through the mountains (CO, UT, WY, ID) and then back to Seattle for a little break in time for the summer solstice.

If I get my act together I might be able to put together a class or a series of classes in Seattle before I head back out again, which I plan to do after July 4.

Then I'm headed across the north (MT, ND/SD) to the lakes (MN, WI, IL, MI, IN, OH, PA, NY) and the northeast (VT, NH) and then down the east coast (ME, MA, CT, NJ, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL) finishing with the trip from south Florida through the mid-west. (AL, MO, IO, NE) The final leg, through the Mountain zone all the way back home, could go many different ways depending on how the first part of the route ends up.

I definitely want to be out of the southeast before hurricane season. I'm hoping I can make it back to Seattle by the fall equinox.

And then, for the rest of the year, I am leaving it open for now, but could possibly head down the west coast one more time before hanging up my driving gloves for the winter once more.

Things will very likely shift and change as it comes to life, but it felt good to get that idea out of my head and into print. I'm looking forward to it. Can you tell?

Finding the Light

I was watching a documentary about cults earlier this week and as I watched one of the cult leaders give her vitriolic hate speeches, I was trying to find her love. I was searching for my empathy, believing that we're all doing our best given our circumstances, and knowing that there was a light shining somewhere deep inside of her. Hearing her talk about how much violence "God" wanted her to perpetrate onto the world, it was quite a challenge for me. But I didn't give up on her.

After the documentary was over, I still hadn't found her inner goodness, but I also hadn't given up my search. I knew it had to be there, I just wasn't seeing it yet.

I recognized something very important. And this is that my first instinct was to label her and her actions as 'wrong'. But since I know that reality is always right, I dug deeper. I wasn't going to be satisfied to hide from this problem under a veil of judgmental condemnation.

This morning, two days later, this thought was given to me, "Those that need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways."

And then it became clear to me. Of course she was asking for love in the only way she knew how. She was terrified and desperate and maybe she was raised in a violent atmosphere and not given a whole lot of love. She was acting out as the frightened child, asking for love and acceptance the only way she knew how. Unfortunately, she was now presenting such a frightful version of herself that she is perpetuating a love-free environment for herself.

What she needs is a shift from fear to love. If she could let down her guard and truly ask for love, she'd be free of those demons. She hasn't been taught that. She's doing the best she can do in her circumstances. She needs someone to hold her hand, give her a hug, tell her she's OK and sit with her.

It would have been so easy to disregard her as 'evil' or 'bad', but I don't believe that is being honest. It would be more accurate to see her as 'broken' or 'lacking in tools/skills'. Seeing her this way makes me want to help her rather than condemn her.

And in fact, the only true 'evil' in this scenario would be my deciding to label her as such, when she's just a frightened, naive child inside.

And then I realized that whatever I saw in her was a reflection of myself. I am working toward uncovering the light inside of me from my material and emotional attachment and ego and denial. The degree to which I am able to live as light, is the exact same degree to which I am able to see hers.  And yours.  If I can't see it, it's because I'm hiding mine.

If my light were completely uncovered, I would have seen hers right away. But the struggle I went through to truly see her spirit, is indicative of the degree to which I'm still struggling with the freedom of my own.
I'm now truly excited for this discovery. I realize now that every person I find myself having these kinds of thoughts against, is actually an opportunity for me to examine, measure and improve my own ability to be unattached and honest about the nature of reality.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Diet/Nutrition Book

People have often told me that I should write a book about nutrition. And I have considered it, and have even sat down to get it started a number of times. But I always run into the same problem. I have too much integrity. I am too conscientious to write a book about nutrition.

I don’t know how authors of diet books can live with themselves after publishing. The only way to remain focused and get out a cohesive book is to hone in on one, narrow-minded aspect of nutrition, and to focus in on one particular set of beliefs.

My problem is that the more research I do, the more I find compelling evidence to support many conflicting ideas. I’m not just talking about minute details but large, compelling and important issues like whether or not human beings thrive on eating meat, for example. I have seen extensive and compelling arguments for either side of that debate; and that’s just one example of a very large and important topic. Just one of scores of controversies on the topic of human nutrition.

My conscience gets triggered by realizing that people are going to be reading my book, and possibly making very important decisions based on it. These decisions will affect their lifelong health and vitality. What if the camp that I decided to join and support through my writing turns out not to be the right one? Then am I indirectly responsible for that person’s ill health?

I have read numerous books about nutrition, and they all have their own slant. Each time I embrace a new author’s philosophy, I find myself having to adjust my beliefs and change my habits. You’d think that eventually, there would be a common thread of truth that I could find among all of the different viewpoints, but such is not the case. This is an indication that something is very wrong.

The authors of each of these books had to ignore a significant body of evidence. Because no matter what their stance and beliefs are, there is evidence to the contrary. So whom do I ignore? How can I possibly write a book based on ignorance of research evaluation? I can’t. Not with the amount of integrity I have. If I write a book, I would want it to be correct.

Perhaps all the books are full of crap. Maybe there is no right answer. Maybe there is an answer out there, but as of yet undiscovered. I don’t know. So in that case, the only responsible thing to do is to remain silent.

Writing and selling diet and nutrition books, programs, cleanses, detoxes and all of the products and supplements is a huge, profit-making business. It is not a force I want to align with. It feels deceptive to me. Every time I sat down to write my nutrition book, my intention was to cover it all. But that is an unrealistically monumental task, and always ends up leading me back to the belief that it is different for everyone.

I’m both inspired and then stopped by my desire to only speak truth and to be helpful. If we’re all just supposed to figure it out on our own, then it is out of line for me to make suggestions, or even worse, to tout my information as if I had discovered the truth. My conclusion is that people must take the reigns into their own hands, do some research and some experimentation and stay open-minded to all possibilities.

What I suspect is that each individual has slightly different needs and will respond to food in slightly different ways. I believe that nature has supplied us with our food and it is meant to be eaten. This includes plants and animals. Yes, it includes grains, and yes it includes meat. And no, it doesn’t include pills and supplements.

One thing I will say with certainty is that most food that has been mass-produced is not healthy. Our nutrition needs to come from living matter. Living matter quickly degrades and rots. So in order to mass-produce and market food, (or even worse, to put it into pill form) it must be stripped of its life. Eating lifeless food is not going to nourish us, but it will instead make us sick and fat. In a nutshell, eating lifeless food will cause your body to retain fluids in order to remove what it sees as an invader. This inflammation is the cause of all modern diseases and obesity.

Unfortunately, people want a quick fix and they want it spelled out for them, step by step. If they have to investigate or think on their own, they are bombarded by controversy and gimmicks and can lose interest pretty quickly out of frustration.  So, this sets the stage for another new diet book to come out month after month after month and to hit the Best Seller list because people are so confused and desperate. If I did write that book, I’m sure it would sell. But is that what I want?

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this and I said, “Any real book about proper nutrition would only have to be about a page long. It could be extremely simple, but no one would believe it.”

So here it is:

               this is FOOD

An actually helpful "nutrition" book would be one that showed the reader how to properly prepare and cook all of these things at home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thoughts on the Holiday Season

Well, here we go again. The holiday season is one of my least favorite times of the year for many reasons. Let me get a few of them off my chest.

First of all it is the beginning of the winter season, which is dark and cold. The days are short and might be filled with rain, snow or other inclement weather. I love to be outside, in the sun, with very little clothing on. I much prefer summer and spring; even fall, although the weather may be on the colder side, at least has pretty colors to look at.

Secondly it is a season of traditions. The whole concept of traditions rubs me the wrong way as a thinking, sensual, aware person. I abhor herd mentality. I encourage everyone to think and act as if they had free will and were actually living in the present moment. Traditions are the opposite of that; they are “doing something without giving it thought, just because we did it last year.” I can think of no less valid reason for doing something than ‘we always do it’.

And it’s not only that they follow traditions, but they are sometimes offensive traditions. People put up the same, tacky decorations every year. Brightly colored lights and shiny things dominate the outside of people’s homes, yards and living rooms near windows to be seen from the outside. It seems that even otherwise sensible people lose their aesthetic eye and opt for the same garish and outlandish crap they put out every year.

The music is mostly horrible. Obviously most of the seasonal tunes were written for children, but that doesn’t stop many adults from reveling in them. I love a good song! And I love emotions and drama, but I am not a fan of over-sentimentality or cutsie-poo. In the holiday oeuvre, there are very few good ones. Compounding this is the fact that as soon as we put down our napkins on Thanksgiving, these brain-dead songs start up and play relentlessly through the end of the year.

But by far, the biggest thorn in my side is the culturally accepted and encouraged rampant materialism. I am morally offended by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Grey Thursday, Shop Small Day, Christmas sales and Holiday Gift-Giving ideas. Stop telling me to buy things! If I want to give a gift to my loved one, I’ll do it when I think of it, not when the calendar says it’s time.

I don’t know why more people don’t see it this way. To me it seems perfectly obvious that if giving a gift is required, (which it is, by tradition) then there is no true sentiment behind it. It is robotically fulfilling an obligation. It is often said, “It’s the thought that counts!”  The only time a gift has any real meaning is when it comes spontaneously from the heart. But looking at the calendar and seeing that it’s almost December 25 so ‘I better start thinking of what I can buy for everyone I know’ is not spontaneous nor is it coming from the heart, it is imposed by society from the outside.

And I can already hear people saying, “but I love to give gifts, my heart is full, and I think it’s a beautiful time to express my love and appreciation for my friends and family and those less fortunate.” To that I say, if you want to celebrate your love for friends and family, you can do that without buying them something. Give them a hug, have dinner with them, sing together. And do it in March, or in August. Do it whenever you think of it, not because it’s the season. Just because you enjoy the taste of swallowing the bait, doesn’t mean you aren’t on the hook being reeled in. I applaud those attempts at ‘feeling’ the season, but I see it as coming around to meet the requirements of societal pressure and not truly heart-inspired.

A good example of the effect believing in the hype of the season has on us is illustrated here in a question a friend of mine recently asked. “In the past, it was customary to tip service providers -- hair stylists, massage therapists, child care providers, housekeepers, etc. -- at the holiday season. I feel it still appropriate to do something special for postal workers, waste removal employees, etc., who do not receive payment directly from me for their services to me during the year. However, I have been feeling like in exchange for providing an 'extra' tip at the end of the year to other service providers, it would also be appropriate and appreciated for service providers to say 'thank you' at the holiday season for the people who have been loyal to them and paid for their services throughout the year.”

Here you can see a perfect example of how there is way too much importance put on 'giving' and 'receiving'. This person is totally of the mindset that because it is Christmas, she is expected to give tips to service people that she might not otherwise tip. She is also suggesting that because it is Christmas, her hair stylist should give her a gift “IN EXCHANGE FOR” the (ahem) thoughtful ‘gift’ she gave to them.

MAKE IT STOP!! Are we truly blind to what this is? Is it “in the spirit” to coerce gifts and tips from each other? What spirit is this in?

There are no 'rules' for tipping or for saying 'thank you' for that matter, even in the holiday season. That's why it is meaningful when it does happen. Putting extra expectations on your behavior or the behavior of others because it is “the holiday’ is unrealistic, unfair and dilutes the meaning of gift-giving. Expecting a gift seems greedy and selfish in any context, but here, since it’s Christmas, it is OK. It is the norm. Blech.

Think about this: If you demanded that someone say, “I love you” to you, would it mean much to you when they said it? Or do you think it would mean more coming from someone who you didn’t apply any pressure to? Similarly, demanding or even expecting a 'thank you' from someone changes the whole meaning of the gesture. Instead of them expressing a true heartfelt sentiment, they are fulfilling a contractual obligation. It all becomes simply ego-driven, materialistic and superficial.  The same applies to gifts, giving and receiving. In the context of all of this required gifting, there is an explicit lack of essence.

I suggest everyone stop giving any sort of tips or gifts to people until you can do so without any expectation of anything in return. Until then, you are coercing payment or gratitude out of someone. And it is meaningless in that case.

It is no secret that the suicide rate climbs during the holiday season. And likely for all of the reasons I have touched on. The darkness and cold can really be hard for some people. The songs alone can drive someone to the grave. There is a commonly held belief that one should spend time with their loved ones around the holiday. For some people, for many reasons, that is simply not possible, but it is such a strong belief that it can cause feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or loneliness. And then there is this whole expectation to give, which can really stress some people out, emotionally and financially.

And one final thing I need to mention about this holiday season. And that is the Christian element. It is obvious to anyone using logic that the stories from the bible are fables. They aren’t even original stories. The virgin birth and the martyr rising from the dead have shown up in several spiritual writings before Christianity was even invented. The Christmas holiday was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice long before it was co-opted to celebrate the ‘birth of Christ’. I’m fine with people having whatever religious beliefs they want, but I would appreciate if they could also understand that they are beliefs, not truths. They are not shared by everyone, and they are certainly not the “true meaning of Christmas.”

Technically the true and original meaning of the holiday is the Winter Solstice; a celebration that the days are going to start getting longer again and soon we can be shirtless and playing in the sunshine. 

So go ahead and enjoy your holiday however you like. If you’re into materialism, go for it. If you believe in celebrating your religion, go for it. If you like bright lights and awful songs, enjoy them. Most of what goes on in the name of Christmas is not my idea of something worthwhile but I don’t want to stop anyone’s fun. Even if you want to invite me to a holiday party, I would probably go, unless it involved a gift exchange. Despite what impressions you might be getting from these confessions, I'm a happy, fun, party guy. I will happily engage in merriment at any time.

I’m not asking for much, but I do humbly request that we all take some time out to stop and think about the implications of what and how we are celebrating this time of year. And verify that the beliefs, values and traditions we are espousing and teaching to our children are what we really intend.