FROM HEARTBREAK TO CHEESECAKE

On July 28, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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            I don’t know about you but sometimes it appears that there are two kinds of people in the world the heart broken and the heartbreakers.  For most of my life I was the latter. I have left my share of wounds on this long and winding road called life.  I have definitely made my share of mistakes in the way that I have handled break ups in the past. I have certainly said things I wish I could take back. But words are like cyberspace, once said they are out there in that person’s mental computer forever and ever. All I can do is try not to repeat those mistakes and learn from them.  

            I have heard stories of break ups by text message or e-mail. Now I don’t advocate this but I can see how that would be a much easier conversation. After all you say your peace and can turn off your phone. It’s over just like that. But for those of you who have a broken heart in this very moment, death and taxes are not the only things you can’t escape in life. Every single individual will inevitably experience the pain of losing love.  I have often wondered if there is some huge scoreboard in heaven to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of joy and sadness. Then I wonder if it depends on karma. For every bad thing one has ever done there will be an equally awful thing they will experience. The age old theory of what goes around comes around.

 A while ago I had this experience of a broken heart for what felt like the first time in my life. It’s strange because the term broken heart was certainly earned for good reason. The pain was not only emotional it was a physical pain. There was a deep dull ache in my chest. My stomach felt empty and my appetite was pretty much gone. My eyes felt painful to the touch. My back, shoulder and neck ached probably from a lack of quality sleep.

Why does emotional pain have to hurt so much and so completely? And is there anything that can be done to speed up the process? After all we have microwaves, race cars and mega computers! 

            There is a great quote by an anonymous source that says, “Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it’s better to leave them broken than hurt yourself trying to put it back together.” This is so true. But then why do we as human beings always want what we can’t have? We will cut ourselves trying to superglue a broken relationship, only to have it slip through our fingers and crash onto the floor leaving a gash across our hand. You would think we would learn but no we bandage it up and try again.  Are we eternally optimistic or just plain insane?

            I’m not really sure but I have been told by my former wife who also happens to be one of my best friends, that I am the kind of guy that loves the chase and I tend to want things more when they are unattainable. She says that safe and secure bores me and that I seek chaos.

                        Some say that when a favorite pet passes away and your heart feels a tremendous void that the best cure is to get a new pet.  They swear by this philosophy because it acts as a distraction and also gives us a place to dump our crazy pet owner neurotic love.  So I’m thinking if it works with animals why not the human animal? Date someone new as fast as you can. I have tried this and have concluded that it doesn’t really work. You feel guilty for using this poor person for emotional support when you know that you’re just not capable of really being present.

            Then there is the school of thought that only time can heal a broken heart. This method just flat out sucks. Who has time for this theory to take effect!? Sitting around ruminating on lost love and letting time slowly erase memory after memory is just not my style. Then just when you think you’ve made progress on the healing train you bite into a piece of cheesecake and remember a romantic dinner you shared. This isn’t for me. I have to be doing something about my problems not leaving it up to the passing of time to make it better.

            Another philosophy on dealing with lost love is to focus on helping others.  This is a solution I can embrace.  Being around another person who is experiencing their own personal misery can for a brief moment make our own troubles seem smaller.  But being that we can’t do this 24/7 we find ourselves alone in our grief and even more depressed because now we are carrying around the other person’s burdens too. So in theory I like this idea but it should be done by an emotional healthy person.  

            Finally, a logical solution to healing pain is to immerse ourselves in humor. Laughter is said to be the best medicine. So we watch our favorite funny movie or go to a comedy club. But again it’s a quick fix with a short life. What happens when those tears of laughter turn to tears of pain?  

            My conclusion if I dare say it aloud is that we just have to feel it. We must stare down that pain head on. It’s kind of like that school yard bully. The only way to deal with him is to look him in the eye and tell him there is no way he’s taking our lunch money. 

            Together with all of these other strategies if we face the pain head on and experience it in all its sting and glory we can get through to the other side a lot faster. Trying to push the feelings away or dumping our needs on another poor soul just to leave them in the same mess we are in now is not right.   

So talk about it relive those memories embrace those sounds, smells and tastes. Do your very best to find the lesson in the experience. Something that can be taken into the future so that maybe we can get our fairy tale ending.  Vow that even though this experience may have harmed your spirit it will not keep your spirit down forever. You will wake up one morning and it won’t be the first thing that pops into your head. You will actually look forward to something and then before you know it the physical symptoms dissipate.

One day a long time from now you’ll be in your favorite restaurant and when you take a bite of that delicious cheesecake, this time you will smile with the wisdom of one who has been to the edge of crazy love and made it back again.

 

ALMOST CUT MY HAIR

On July 15, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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           When I was a teenager long hair on guys was all the rage. We wanted the girls to think we were cool and our buddies to think we were bitchin.  It became a tug of war between the teens and their parents battling it out over image.  We would grow our hair out until our parents couldn’t stand it anymore or as long as we could get away with it.

            In the summer time it seemed like we lived at the beach. Whatever it took we would somehow get there. Take a bus, ride bikes or bum a ride from someone’s big brother. As an adrenalin junkie even then, my thing was body surfing. There was a particularly dangerous but awesome place at Newport Beach called the wedge and for good reason. The likely hood of getting wedged between the steep slope of sand and very large waves was always a very real possibility. A day spent surviving the wedge made me feel invincible.

            My girlfriend was named Mimi, she was the classic blonde bombshell and looked like she just stepped off the cover of Sports Illustrated swim suit edition. The fact that I had scored a stone fox like her was a boost to my ego. Carefree hours were spent attempting to get from 2nd to 3rd base.

            Tanning was everyone’s goal. Dermatologists are very busy today dealing with adults who back in the day had dangerous methods of attracting the sun. My methods of choice were two fold. I would spray lemon juice in my hair to bleach it and then drench myself in baby oil which ravished my skin into a nice deep burn. The hope was the burn would turn to tan. My buddies and I would compare how many times we could peel our skin especially off our faces. Unfortunately, I am paying the price today with regular checkups and minor surgeries for carcinoma.

            In addition to risking our lives at the wedge and make out sessions with our hot chicks, skateboarding was a regular pass time. There was a period of major drought in southern California so we took advantage of this. Picture us with our long hair and Vans tennis shoes skateboarding in empty swimming pools for hours on end.

            I knew I couldn’t ride a skateboard forever. In anticipation of getting my driver’s license I decided I would need to get a job to be able to pay for a car, fuel and insurance. One Saturday I set out with determination that I would nail down a job that day. I applied at Taco Bell and Sizzler. Well, I felt pretty good as I was hired by both but I decided to go with Sizzler, the classier of the two.  I wanted and needed this new job but there was one very big problem. Sizzler wanted their employees to have a squeaky clean image. The rule was that bus boys could not have long hair. Using a hair net was a privilege reserved for the kitchen staff not those in contact with the public. I faced a real dilemma. This was my worst nightmare. It was unthinkable that I might have to cut my hair and impossible to even ponder.

             When I got home I tried gathering my hair into a little pony tail and stuffing it into my collar to hide it. As laughable as it was, I was desperate. I tried slicking it back thinking I might be able to persuade the manager that this would fit the image of the upscale Sizzler. These solutions resulted in epic failure.

            The alluring Mimi applied a substantial amount of pressure as well, when she told me in no uncertain terms that I had better not cut my hair or we were history! I was in need of a solution quickly. I thought about the song by David Crosby, “Almost Cut My Hair”, that’s the way I was feeling. What was I to do? No one else had the answer, it was up to me. I decided to sleep on it, literally. As my hair flowed over my pillow that night, I knew that I had to find an answer.

            The next morning I awoke and if my hair could have reflected my thoughts it would have lit up because a light bulb went on. I had the answer. I decided to go down the unthinkable course and pursue a toupee. Now this idea was hardly acceptable but what was I to do? Prior to Google arriving in our lives it was the yellow pages that held all the wisdom. I busted out the phone book and began searching for toupee shops. I couldn’t even believe that I was considering something like this. However, when the dream is big enough the facts don’t count. Obviously my goal was to keep this job and my hair along with it, at whatever cost.

            It seemed that toupee shops were not very common. Perhaps at this time when a guy began losing his hair the “comb over” was his go to style. Finally I found a selection of men’s toupees at a women’s wig store and off I went.

            I arrived at the wig store debating if I wanted to set foot in there or not. Mimi flashed in my mind and I reluctantly went in. As it turned out the toupee section was of no help because most were flaps, caps, or comb overs designed for men who were losing their hair not for a rebellious teen wanting to hide his hair.

            I went to at least three more stores searching for a toupee that would solve my problem. I found nothing. I admit I felt doomed. A feeling of desperation came over me. However I am not one to give up easily. There was only one alternative left…  a woman’s wig. This was my last hope. I needed to open myself up to the possibility that this could work.

            The array of wigs to choose from was overwhelming. The selection consisted of everything from bee hives to bouffants and in every color imaginable most notable were the blue hairs.  The fact that it needed to be short & nerdy narrowed my choices.

            Finally I found a woman’s short hairstyle in a normal brown shade that fit the criteria. I already felt embarrassed to be there but now I needed to try the thing on. There were no dressing rooms or curtains to hide behind as I would need to do it right there in the middle of the store. I realized the store manager was watching me no doubt wondering what in the world I was doing. After several attempts to get the thing on my head properly she came over to me. I explained my predicament and through her laughter she came to my aid. First, my golden locks had to be tamed. She proceeded to pin my hair up as close to my head as she could get it. She then fastened the wig on with ease. I nervously peered into the mirror and I have only one word to describe the reflection staring back at me – perfection! I had achieved my objective.

            The first day of work I began getting ready early. I showered with my Irish Spring soap and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo. I applied my Sure deodorant and brushed my teeth with Colgate after I cleaned my face with my Stridex pads. But getting into my bus boy costume was not easy. I kept putting the wig on sideways or backwards. It wouldn’t stay put and kept sliding off while my long sun bleached hair revolted in opposition at being hidden. With total disrespect my hair stuck out from under that wig as if it was angry with me. The store manager was not there in my bathroom to rescue me so I needed to call in reinforcements. Mimi arrived with her supply of bobby pins and hairspray to save the day. She sat me down and with her curves in my face forced my hair into submission and attached the wig firmly onto my head. I was ready to go. Even if this didn’t work I can’t complain about the help.

            The moment of truth arrived. I showed up at Sizzler with an impish smile and thankfully my manager approved. Maybe he appreciated my creativity. I admit I was self-conscious but the reward far outweighed the risk. I began my shift clearing tables. It was sweaty under the heat of the additional hair and I was terrified that my wig might fly off at any moment landing on someone’s steak. As uncomfortable as it was it did the job and I was able to keep my job too.

            Mimi came over every day to help me with my wig. I learned that where there is a will there is a way. One evening as I was making my rounds I noticed sitting in one of the booths was a former girlfriend named Colleen. She was there with her current boyfriend. I smiled at her and she smiled back. I caught his glare and he didn’t look happy. I quickly rolled my cart to the other side of the restaurant to avoid him. I stayed away as long as I could but needed to attend to their side of the dining room. I pushed my cart and as I passed their booth, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure coming toward me. Suddenly, I felt a large hand on my head yanking the wig off.  This happened so quickly that as I turned to see exactly what had happened I saw Colleen’s boyfriend throwing my wig down the aisle. He was laughing as Colleen sat there mortified and embarrassed.

            He had pulled it with such force that my golden hair flowed freely from captivity. Feeling humiliated I grabbed the wig from the floor and headed back into the kitchen.  I was filled with anger at this jerk.

            Looking back I can say that as far as most embarrassing moments go this was pretty bad. But I vowed I wasn’t going to let someone else define me or make me feel small or insignificant. I stuffed my hair back into the wig the best that I could and went back to work.

            I can honestly say that throughout my life I haven’t always remembered this life lesson of not allowing other people’s opinions & criticisms to affect me. But I will say that the times I pushed through the self doubt and adopted a mantra of “I don’t care” were moments I am most proud of today. The most successful times in my life have often stemmed from what I’ve called “10 seconds of boldness.” This is when I said to myself, for the next 10 seconds I am not going to care what other people think or say about me. This motto can be used from approaching a possible business contact to asking a woman out for dinner. Adopting this philosophy has allowed me to reach my goals and in many cases far surpass my vision, surprising even myself.

            It’s funny because after that guy ripped the wig from my head he went on with his life  likely never thinking about it again. While many of us are so busy worrying about what others think of us the simple truth is they aren’t thinking about us at all.

            So the next time you’re ready to flip your wig over some unrealistic fear I hope you think of my little story and it makes you smile.  Now when I look in the mirror staring back at me is a much older and hopefully wiser version of that hormonal determined teenager. In my reflection is a shiny chrome dome where the golden hair used to be and only one word can describe it. “Perfection” After all I have to appreciate that God must have a sense of humor!

 

 

 

 

1 SNOOPY PLACE

On July 1, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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As a kid I would look forward to Sunday and tearing into the newspaper to grab the comics before any of my siblings. My friends and I would take silly putty and press it down on the comics to transfer the image. We would then squish the image up into a ball and start all over. One of my favorite comics was Peanuts written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. The reason I loved it so much was because the words were easy to read and the message was simple for a kid to grasp.

Some years later I was invited to be part of a promotional team for an international, non-profit, educational troupe. It was made up of college age students from around the world. My role was to use all forms of media to promote the upcoming cast performances in various cities. One of those cities was the incredibly beautiful Santa Rosa, California. One of our sponsors was the Press Democrat Newspaper. I worked closely alongside their staff on a daily basis. I asked a lot of questions seeking notable people living in the community who I would then connect with the cast. I learned that the very same Charles Schulz, creator of my beloved Peanuts resided in town. Through my nonprofit connections I was able to track down his phone number hoping on the off chance that perhaps he would make himself available. I called his number and much to my surprise I was able to reach Mr. Schulz himself. I invited him to come visit our cast on opening day of the show. Not only did he graciously accept the invitation to meet the cast but he also invited me to his studio to meet with him one on one. I was nervous to say the least.  At the time Peanuts was featured in 2600 newspapers, 75 countries and 21 languages. 

 I followed his directions and arrived at 1 Snoopy Place, the little road that led to his home and studio. I was beside myself with anticipation as I drove down to the property amidst the red woods. He welcomed me at the door dressed in his cardigan vest and sleeves rolled up. He was very warm, friendly and down to earth. He invited me in and showed me around his studio. I remember the room being very bright with windows everywhere. We walked over to his large drawing board and he showed me what he was currently working on. I asked him how far in advance he had to have his cartoon ready and he replied six weeks. I noticed an Emmy Award featured in a prominent place in his studio for the television special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,

We sat and I was able to ask a few questions. He immediately put me at ease as if I was sitting with my uncle or grandpa. I don’t recall the entire dialogue that we shared. The part of the conversation that has stayed with me all of these years was when I mentioned to him that I had heard people say that Charlie Brown was based on a young Charles Schulz and what he experienced growing up. He replied, “Perhaps, but I’d like to think that I put a little bit of myself in all of the characters.”

As I drove away, I thought about all characters that Mr. Schulz had introduced to the world, like poor down on his luck Charlie Brown, bossy Lucy, adventurous and charismatic Snoopy, witty and intelligent Linus and focused and passionate pianist Schroeder. There are so many wonderful personalities that were brought to life by this humble, charming man Charles Schulz. I now felt like a part of history having seen firsthand where it all happens. 

It was brought to my attention later that scheduling Mr. Schulz to come out to speak to the 75 member  cast was a big deal because he was rather shy and didn’t do a whole lot of public speaking engagements. He was willing to come out because he was familiar with the organization and the good it was doing for young people. He was most likely comfortable behind his drawing board so the fact that he came and shared himself with the cast and crew was very special.  Introducing Mr. Schulz on the afternoon of opening night was a highlight of my life. He encouraged the cast and gave them a perspective on life. He shared about his journey of success and failure. As the cast asked questions, one of the girls from Colorado asked a question and he immediately told her that her voice sounded just like Peppermint Patty and the cast laughed and agreed! Truth be told she resembled Peppermint Patty too. I later walked him to his car and thanked him, knowing that I had been in the presence of an icon and genius.

          Since then I have often wondered what has made Peanuts stand the test of time versus other comic strips that have not. I believe that the reason why people are so drawn to the Peanuts gang is that both adults and children can relate to it on so many levels. Some years later I read that Mr. Schulz actually wrote Peanuts specifically with adults in mind.

The hero in Peanuts is often the underdog.  All of us are heroes in our own mind and also the underdog depending on the day of the week and the mood we are in!

If indeed Mr. Schulz put a little of himself in all the characters then it stands to reason that certain personal experiences led to specific stories and characters.  Early in his career Mr. Schulz fell in love with a co-worker and after a long courtship proposed to her. She turned him down and married someone else. 

Later the Little Red Haired Girl was introduced whom Charlie Brown adores.  He often notices her while eating lunch outdoors, and tries to get up the courage to speak to her, but always in vain.  Even her chewed pencil he fines endearing.  Yet his unending love and frustration continue. Who among us has not experienced unrequited love?  Perhaps we find ourselves rooting for Charlie Brown to finally get the girl… !

 

 

 

 

KOBE & ME ~ An Untold Story

On June 20, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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          On April 13th, 2013 Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. This devastating injury could end his spectacular career. Worldwide fans were shocked and saddened. The outcome could be positive as Kobe pursues his recovery and perhaps is able to return to the court.

          My brief experience with Kobe occurred in 2012. This is a true encounter that I like to call: Kobe & Me, An Untold Story. However small it may seem, it’s true and fun for me to re-tell.

Once in awhile because I work from home I go to weekday noon Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in the City of Orange. There is typically around 35 people there. I usually like to sit in the front because of my experience in public speaking I can relate to not wanting the front rows empty. On this particular day and for no apparent reason, I felt like being alone in the back. As Mass starts and I’m in my own little world I hear the back doors open for a late arrival and out of the corner of my eye I see a very tall person come in and sit near me. I don’t think much of it at the time.

            Within the Catholic Mass there is a point in which the congregation offers each other a greeting of peace.  I turn to look around to see who I can greet. When I look up I see the tall guy heading my direction. He sticks out his hand to offer a greeting. I glance up at him and see his bright smile. I realize this is a very familiar face one that I have seen many times before on T.V. etc.  In fact I am staring into the face of someone who is the spitting image of worldwide, basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant. 

            It is almost surreal in that moment. I find myself wanting to get a better look but I don’t want to stare. It would be obvious because of his height I would have to strain my neck just to peak. Could it be? What was he doing here mid-day, mid-week? With many famous, well paid athletes they are either loved or hated.  Most likely he is in need of quiet time. 

The Kobe look alike is back in his seat and had already shaken hands with the two other people in the back. I admit it crosses my mind that I should approach him again for another handshake. But I stop myself thinking, dude get a grip he’s just a guy; he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like I do. Granted, they are very, VERY long pants.

            As the time approaches for communion, I slightly delay my timing so that I end up behind him. Feeling incredibly short, I follow him down the long aisle for communion and back to our seats. I know I am supposed to be concentrating on the service but I find myself having a difficult time focusing.

            Now I’ve never really thought of myself as the type of guy who is easily star struck but I had recently read an article about this athlete who is playing in his 17th year of pro basketball.  He was drafted into the pros right out of high school at the age of 17. Here is a guy that has scored more than 30K points in his career. He has won 5 NBA Championships.

            Because he lives in Newport Coast with his wife and two girls, he takes a helicopter to work at the Staples Center to avoid the LA traffic. Some may find this excessive but I believe he does this so that his legs will be fresh and not tired by game time.  Now I do consider myself a fan although not an obsessed fan. I absolutely respect his talent and work ethic. He is a 2 time Olympic gold medal winner! (2008 & 2012) He has been voted an All-star 15 years running. I admit that I find all this beyond impressive.

I find myself wondering what it’s like to be in his (very large) shoes. Certainly the success is incredible yet with it comes a huge amount of pressure to perform. I wonder if he is here to pray for something specific? Maybe he is going through some struggles. Has he ever had moments of wanting to quit? One thing I’m fairly certain of is that he isn’t praying for a pay raise. Kobe was raised in Italy and speaks fluent Italian and Spanish. I wondered, does he pray in English, Italian or Spanish? Just questions I find myself pondering while I am supposed to be listening to the service.

When Mass ends he gets up to leave and I am tempted to go up to him and say something profound but decide against it. If he can’t get a little peace in church then where can he? As he walks outside I see him pull his sweatshirt hood up to conceal his identity. He walks across the street and gets into his brand new white Range Rover.  Regret comes over me for an instant, as I will most likely never have the opportunity again to interrogate him but at the same time I think it was the right thing to do to allow him his privacy.

As I am driving home I think about all of Kobe’s accomplishments.

I flash on a saying I once heard long ago that “Potential Minus Commitment Equals Nothing.” Am I using all of my potential? I may not be able to win a dunking contest in basketball, but I know I have been given talents and a specific skill set unique to me as we all have.

I think no matter our past successes or failures, we can always dig deeper to rise a little higher and stretch our view of what is possible for ourselves.

Now whenever I tell this story people will ask me, “Did you get his autograph and what did you say to him?”

Well, I respond I was kind of in shock seeing him so I said the only thing I could think of  “Peace be with you.”

Below is a Facebook posting by Kobe after his injury. I share this with you because it takes you through his inner thoughts, anger and perspective. Shows his humanity… enjoy.

Here’s his Facebook post:

This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??

I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me…Then again maybe not! It’s 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I’m wide awake.

Forgive my Venting but what’s the purpose of social media if I won’t bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn Achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.

One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.

“If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear.” I’ve always loved that quote. That’s “mamba mentality” – we don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer.

I know it’s a long post but I’m Facebook Venting LOL. Maybe now I can actually get some sleep and be excited for surgery tomorrow. First step of a new challenge.

Guess I will be Coach Vino the rest of this season. I have faith in my teammates. They will come thru.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. Much Love Always.

Mamba Out                             

 

JOY RIDING

On June 5, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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If I had a theme song when I was 14, it would be…

Born to be Wild, by Steppenwolf

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way…

Why, you ask?

                Well, nothing spells trouble like teenage boys who are bored! On one such night, my two friends and I were hanging out at Mike’s house while his parents were away for the weekend. Due to sheer boredom and testosterone levels gone amuck, I got a crazy idea by suggesting we take his dad’s cars out for a spin! Mike hopped in his Dad’s yellow Fiat 850 Spider, and David took the wheel of a white Pontiac Bonneville, I rode shot gun. Mind you we were only 14 years old, with not as much as a single driving permit between us! At 1 a.m. the three of us sped out of the garage, down the long driveway and onto the open road feeling free as birds.

                For about ½ hour or so we drove aimlessly around and then with purpose cruised past some friend’s houses but we didn’t dare stop. By 2 a.m. feeling restless and adrenaline wearing off, I began itching for a bigger jolt of excitement! I said, “Why don’t we go wake up my girlfriend (Susan) and sneak her out of her house!” My friends were up for it and off we went.

                Susan lived on a little street in the city of Tustin. With no real plan of action we arrived in front of her house. I knew that her bedroom was on the second floor as I had let myself in a few times before. (wink, wink) Getting her out of the huge two story house was not going to be easy. I would need to climb a six foot wooden gate, then maneuver myself up to an eight foot fence, and then pull myself onto a steep sloped roof, all the while being as quiet as possible. This task would require stealth climbing skills and a huge motivational pull, which Susan certainly was! The guys were down below with the engines running ready for a quick and easy getaway. Like a teenage version of Jason Bourne, I accomplished my mission and made it up to her bedroom window. I imagined myself like a cool movie hero rescuing my lady. Now a movie script might have me gingerly throwing pebbles at her window to alert her that her hero had arrived, however this was real life. I knocked on the window. (Flashing in my mind was the last time I climbed in, and nearly got caught by her father as I had to hide in the closet when he came to check on her.) Nervously, I waited in anticipation for her to look out. Finally, she peered out the window; there she was in her flannel pajamas. (In all honesty I was a bit disappointed wishing she would have been wearing a skimpy nighty)

She looked at me dazed and confused and cute as ever. I spoke so quickly it’s a wonder she understood that I wanted her to sneak out for a ride. I took the screen off the window with a thud and helped her out onto the roof. She seemed scared but being the (little) man I was, I calmly reassured her! By now my buddies had grown inpatient and began yelling for us to hurry up. Responding to their requests and making a lot of racket on the way down, we somehow managed to get to street level in the darkness and jumped into the backseat of the Pontiac. We hooted and hollered as the cars sped off. Haphazardly I peered out the back window and caught a vision of my worst nightmare. I saw that the lights of her house had popped on and there were two dark figures running down the street after us! I thought, oh my God we’re in big trouble. I screamed to my friend, “Get the hell out of here now!”

Before Susan’s parents ran out the door, they must have called the police because in what seemed like seconds, there were two black and whites right on our tails. The Fiat took one turn and we took another. The cop cars also divided to conquer and off we went. What had started an adventurous joy ride had now become a dangerous and scary high speed pursuit. This time I may have gone too far. 

 There certainly are elements of this story that are humorous. There are the old clichés that boys will be boys, they will have typical growing pains and teenage rebellion in normal. But in all sincerity I have tremendous remorse for my actions that night. As a father of little girls myself, my heart goes out to Susan’s parents that night. How terrifying it must have been to have someone take their little girl from the safety of their home. I am so sorry for being the cause of that anguish.

 The next five to ten minutes were beyond intense. Our friend Mike in the Fiat knew the streets well and he managed to lose the police car that was chasing him and he made it home in one piece. We were not so fortunate, as David didn’t know the neighborhood. I’m screaming at him to turn here and turn there. Susan began crying and freaking out. David is yelling at me that he doesn’t know where the hell to go. The red lights of the police car were reflecting off the glass and my entire life flashed before me. I became terrified. This was not my first run in with law enforcement. My parents had warned me multiple times that I was out of chances. As fear took over good judgment was completely gone and all I could think of was that I needed to get out of that car somehow. I could not get caught. The fine line I had been walking was now vanishing in front of my eyes. As David made a turn onto Bluebird Street, terror overwhelmed me because I knew he had just turned onto none other than a cul-de-sac!  I knew we were as good as gone. We were toast, busted, screwed and every other word that means terrible trouble you can think of. Life as I knew it was about to change forever! Forget juvenile hall, I could think of only one thought… military school.

The next decision I made is one that will go down in my history as one of my deepest regrets.  I didn’t think, I just opened the car door and jumped! I left my friends behind to face the music without me. No, this was not one of my finest moments and it was physically dangerous. When I jumped out of the moving vehicle my left foot somehow got run over by the wheel which ripped off my sneaker and tore skin and flesh from the top of my foot. However, adrenaline shielded me from the pain and I sprung to my feet and began to run for my life! I knew that I would need to stay off the main streets to avoid being seen by the cops so I climbed fence after fence, ran through backyard after backyard to avoid detection. I made my way to a familiar track and into my good buddy’s backyard. I knew my foot was hurt but not really knowing how badly, I thought that it might be a good idea to clean the wound. I stuck my foot into my friend’s pool and instantly I realized this was huge mistake. The pain was excruciating as the pool chemicals, a mixture of chlorine and acid penetrated what was left of my mangled foot, and I doubled over in pain. I limped into the nearby pool house to regroup. The pain that night was so intense that I didn’t get a wink of sleep and had only time to reflect on what had become of my young life. I had become a punk, a hoodlum, a kidnapper. I was ashamed that I had left my friends to take the heat. I made promises to myself that night in the darkness that things needed to change. I needed to change.  It was time to man up and become a different person. I vowed that if God could get me through this last escapade without losing my foot, jail or the threat of military school, things would change.

In the morning my buddy discovered me in the pool house. He loaned me his bike. I peddled with my heel up and down the North Tustin hills, the pain shooting from my foot up my leg. I used the ride to come up with my story as to where I had been and why my foot was a mess. I decided to tell my parents that I had fallen asleep at Mark’s house because I had fallen off my bike while going down a big hill.

When I got home I lied through my teeth telling my crazy story to my parents. They listened attentively. My mom looked worried while my dad sternly nodded as I went on and on about rolling down the hill. When I was finished recounting my fabricated account of my night, my dad said, “That that is very interesting because I just received a call from Susan’s father. It turns out he had to go and get Susan early this morning from Juvenile Hall as she was arrested. What do you have to say about that?”

Well, by the grace of God or perhaps dumb luck, no one turned me in to the police for all of my crimes. (Car theft, kidnapping, trespassing, child endangerment etc…) I wasn’t really punished for my actions because my damaged foot had become a huge distraction. We immediately went to the emergency room where the doctor had to irrigate the wound. I had never been in that much physical pain in my life and have not since. Over the course of the next few weeks, I was on crutches and the wound repeatedly became infected. Perhaps my parents felt that this was punishment enough. My dad worked from home so day after day as I hobbled around the house he would glare at me with disapproval. It was a miserable time. When I finally went back to school, the kids talked about our wild night with admiration like we were rock stars, but inside I felt like a loser.

For those of you who are maybe going through some challenges with your teenagers rebelling or acting out, I wish I had some wisdom to depart as to what my parents did to make the difference. But I do think that in my case all the threats and disappointment I caused them didn’t work. I had to want to be different. I had to have the desire to change my ways and I had to get there on my own. 

Apparently as human beings we must develop an identity independent from our parents. When we go through teenage rebellion we experiment by making our own decisions. Whether it is necessary or not to develop into a responsible adult, who knows? But, it seems no social group, race or religion is immune from this phenomenon.  

From the words of our favorite teenage movie rebel, John Bender in the Breakfast Club “Being bad feels pretty good, huh?”

This got me wondering… Do all human beings have rebelliousness inside them? If so, as adults how can we make breaking the rules a good thing?

The most successful times in my life of business came as a result of tapping in to my inner rebel by pushing back boundaries and the status quo. I remember feeling an obstinate, passionate desire to challenge myself in unexpected ways and not put up with societies definition of success but to create my own definition. I lived by a new set of rules for myself that when engaging in new business ventures with potential partners or clients, I would not leave a part of myself or my friends behind.  If they pushed, I would push. If they confronted, I would confront. My posture and attitude shifted. I was doing them an incredible favor, not vice versa. This confidence and power and yes my inner rebel gave me energy and conviction. People became willing to jump on board my train, not even really knowing where it was going, but they knew I was going somewhere and they didn’t want to get left behind.

Today, I challenge you to push back. Don’t settle. Do something that will get your adrenalin going. (Of course, nothing you can be sent to jail for) Expect more out of life than what it seems the world has chosen for you.

After all some of the best inventions, ground breaking progress or insights have come from  rebels who risked sounding crazy or not being liked, things like the world is not flat, all people are created equal or why can’t we go to the moon?  A lot of good can come from that reckless abandon of “normal” and making a grand escape from ones comfort zones. Go skinny dipping, jump out of an airplane; maybe just put your big toe over a trespassing line. Or go bigger, start a band, start your own business and tell everyone you know that anything is possible and really believe it!

 

 

 

 

 

ALTAR BOY ANTICS

On May 26, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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When I was in 3rd grade, I wanted to become an altar boy.  I wish I could say it was because I was such a holy kid but honestly it was because at that time it was the “cool” thing to be.  I went to the rectory, the priest’s home, to inquire.  I was told that I would need approval from my teacher.  This scared me because my track record at school was blemished.  I had not been an angel by any means. In fact my halo was not only dim but blinked like a warning sign and was a bit crooked.  Surprisingly, I was approved but only for the 6:30 a.m.  Mass because the 8am Mass would have made me late for school, a privilege reserved for the good kids.  I lived 2 miles away and road my bike to and from school every day. I had to get at up 5:30 a.m. each morning just to get to church on time to prepare for Mass. I was obviously quite motivated. Back then, during Mass we wore long black cassocks and white surplices. The sacristy is where the priests prepare for Mass. As altar boys we were given the task of carrying the bells, chalices, scriptures etc… on to the altar.  The Mass in those days was in Latin.  As an altar boy you needed to know Latin phrases and the Mass was spent on your knees.

As altar boys  we did find ways to have a little fun.  We would take turns doing impressions of the priests behind their backs.  Some of the older boys would help themselves to a little wine.  Others would partake in pulling pranks on the younger kids like me.  For example they would elbow me to ring the bells at the wrong times or step on the back of my cassocks causing me to trip.

The sacristy is where many things “church” were held including money from the collection baskets and money from the candles that people lit when praying petitions for specific needs.  Every Sunday was a harvest of money from parishioners.  For many weeks come Monday I would covet this money. It was as if there was an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other arguing over whether I should take it or leave it.  I’m not proud to say that my little devil was a far superior debater than my little angel.  He told me  that I sacrificed by having to wake up so early to be there to serve God and He would want me to have the money. He would say that I was unfairly judged at school by the teachers who disciplined me for just being a kid and I deserved it.  I reached a point where I felt entitled to a payback for all my school misery. I stared at the money, the money stared at me and I grabbed some stuffing it into my pockets before the priest was the wiser.

I left feeling that I’d won big.  I counted my winnings to the tune of about $150 bucks a goldmine for a kid my age back then.  I proceeded to blow the money on candy, toys and treating my friends to the “good life.” As much fun as this was, in the back of my mind and in my gut, I felt a strange sensation which later I recognized to be guilt, not any kind of guilt but the infamous “Catholic Guilt”.  This guilt gnawed at me. I was a wreck with shame. I didn’t know what to do so I went to confession multiple times.  My penance was usually an assortment of reciting Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s on my knees.  This just didn’t seem to do the trick.  Years passed and from time to time the guilt came back that I had stolen from God’s house.

Many years later as a mature adult  in an attempt to clear my conscience I wrote a check for $150 dollars plus 25 years of interest. Needless to say this did make me feel a lot better.

 

RULES? WHAT RULES?

On May 20, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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When I was a kid, rascal was my middle name. To be honest, I looked for trouble. Pushing the boundaries, getting a reaction, stirring the pot, doing anything I could do to bring the focus and attention back to me, even a negative focus was a benefit and a payoff I just couldn’t avoid.

Rules? What rules. They didn’t apply to me. Really, they didn’t. At six years old, on my very first day of school at Immaculate Heart of Mary, I just ran right off the playground because I didn’t want to be there. Truth be told, I was scared. The problem was that I didn’t really have anywhere to go, so I went home and hid in my dad’s boat all day.

In school, I did obnoxious things to get a rise out of my teachers. Disrupting the class was a daily event.  When the nuns would turn to write on the board I would shoot spit wads at them. The heavy fabric of their black garments prevented them from feeling a thing. The class would erupt in laughter. Funny how when I think back at all the times I was in trouble for talking, as an adult I was paid to talk!

When I was about nine years old, it had been raining and our principal made it very clear that she wanted all the students to stay away from the muddy areas near the monkey bars. Being me, I had to go right up to the edge of huge mud puddle when suddenly I was pushed from behind and became covered from head to toe in mud. When I tried to explain my innocence, I was the boy who cried wolf, no one believed me due to all my previous antics. I was forced to stand against the brick wall for what felt like hours as the sun baked the mud to my clothes and skin. The other kids stared and made fun of me. It was humiliating but something in me said that if I’m going to get blamed, I might as well have a little fun next time.

In the fourth grade I wrote and mailed a love letter to Carol the cutest girl in class. Now before you think to yourself, how sweet I was, I have to admit that I signed it from the dorkiest kid I could think of, Mike. The letter said things like, “You are so beautiful, I want to kiss you etc….” I thought it was hysterical of course, but Mike and Carol must not have found it funny because back at school, the teacher made the whole class stand outside until someone confessed. After about 15 minutes, standing in the hot sun, the hot asphalt under our sneakers, seeing the teacher waving the letter around in the air saying we would stand there all day if we had to, the terror set in that I was toast! Should I confess? Should I risk that the only other kid that knew what I had done would tattle on me? How could I let the whole class fry for what I had done? I found myself in a moral dilemma. I decided to own up. I did the crime; I would have to do the time. Off to the principal’s office I went.

When I was 11 or so we moved from Santa Ana to Tustin. We would be attending a new school, St. Cecilia’s would be a fresh start for me or so my parents wished. I remember sitting in my 6th grade classroom and the teacher asking what topics we would like to discuss, as the new kid, I thought it only right that I participate, I stood up and said “How about the world of sex?” Shock filled the classroom. To my surprise no one even dared to laugh.  I guess it was time to break in a new principal. She was an older nun, Sister Frances DeSales and despite my antics, she liked me and probably let me off the hook a few too many times. Truth be told, I think she looked forward to my weekly visits as it was her chance to try to make a difference and change my mischievous ways. She may have never known it, but her kindness and belief in me, did make a difference, but not until years later.

There were plenty of things that I didn’t get caught doing. Vandalism became an adventure for me; I would sneak out of my bedroom, and meet up with my friends well after midnight. Our mission was to collect as many Caution flashing signs as possible. Our crime sprees included leaving the signs as a joke for certain girls on their front lawn as a little token of our affection! I mean what teenage girl wouldn’t want her very own “Open Trench” sign!

Our pranks didn’t end there; my crew and I never got caught putting firecrackers in mailboxes. This was an occasional afterschool activity we did just for kicks. Little did we know that this was not only illegal but probably a federal crime!

At 12 years old, after multiple times not getting caught, I was busted for shoplifting a pair of shoes. The manager of the Kenneys Shoe store called the police. I remember sitting in the back of a police car, heading to my house wondering if my luck had finally run out.

My dad was beyond furious. Mom tried to calm him down with her sweet disposition, but he was as angry as I had ever seen him! He threatened to send me off to military school! At the time, long hair was in style and my hair was what I perceived to be the coolest thing about me! God must have a sense of humor as today my head is as bare as a babies butt!  A chrome dome that all the ladies love to touch.  Dad said that I would have to shave it off at military school, wear a uniform and clean toilets etc…

As much as the fear of being sent away scared me, there was a part of me that liked the attention especially from my Dad.

You’d have to know my Dad to fully understand. This was a guy who had six kids, worked like a dog, and was in my opinion, clinically depressed. I think he saw himself in me and I was often the target of his frustration and anger. I couldn’t seem to do anything right in his eyes, but even worse than being yelled at by him was being ignored by him. I desperately wanted to be accepted and loved by my father.

Here is the ugly truth of it. Dad was in a bad way, with no help. No shrink to shrink him, no money to pursue help even if he had realized there was a problem and no medication yet in those days to help him with his depression. As an adult I feel sorry for him, but as I kid, I hated him. Loved him. Hated him. Loved him.

Mom did the best she could to fill the void but it was too big a hole for her or anyone to fill. For me, I think the adrenaline I got from risky behavior and the attention it brought me when I got caught was an itch I just couldn’t stop scratching. It became my identity and made me feel something. I just wanted to feel SOMETHING!

When I got caught I was noticed and when I didn’t I felt invincible. Either way it was a win/win, although my track record proved I got caught more than I didn’t. In the back of my mind there was always this nagging voice that sounded like my father saying 2 words… Military School. I pushed this voice out of my head and let the high jinks continue!

When I was around thirteen there was a law against hitchhiking under the age of eighteen. I believed this was a law that was crying out to be broken. I set out on Newport Boulevard in the hope of hitching a ride to the beach. Sticking out my thumb, in anticipation, I waited. I was excited to see a car in the distance, this could be the ride I was waiting for. To my surprise it was a black and white vehicle. (Need I say more?) I was thrown in the all to familiar backseat of the Tustin Police car en route to my home. With my face pressed against the window, all I could think of was… my head being shaved!

TO BE CONTINUED… (DON’T MISS PART TWO… ALTAR BOY ANTICS AND JOY RIDING)

 

 

MY SUPERMOM

On May 11, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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(A tribute to Ruth Singleton)

Ruth (Ruey) Singleton entered this world on Christmas day as a preemie. Weighing in at  2.5 lbs she began her journey fighting for her life!

The name “Ruth” means companion, friend and vision of beauty.  I can’t help but admit that in this case the “names meaning” thing is remarkably accurate.

Having a Christmas birthday I’m sure had its drawbacks often getting lost in all the fuss and festivities of the holiday craziness. Interestingly enough, it just so happens that Mom shares her date of birth with the likes of renowned physicist and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton (appropriate because Mom in Motion stayed in Motion!) She also shared it with singer songwriter, Jimmy Buffet (she probably wanted to escape to Margaritaville or enjoy a Cheeseburger in Paradise in lieu of her chaotic life raising 6 kids!) And finally Rod Serling was also born on Christmas day (I bet Mom often felt like she lived in”The Twilight Zone!” from time to time!) Don’t forget the most famous of all, Jesus Christ. (Maybe that explains her amazing capacity to forgive, who knows!?)

What is it about Mom’s in general that cause them in many ways to completely transform themselves from the giggles and innocence of their youth to becoming the most selfless and important creatures to ever walk the face of earth?

My mother was a poster child for this type of love. This tiny, blue eyed, bright smiled little woman has loved so big and so strong and with all her might that a 6 foot, body builder benching 300lbs has nothing on her when it comes to superhuman emotional strength and courage.

She didn’t have a super cape or ability to fly. Her powers were intuition, patience and unrelenting belief in her children.

One of my favorite memories was that Mom would make cinnamon rolls from scratch. To this day, when I walk by a Cinnabon shop, images of Mom in the kitchen pop into my mind. She was also not afraid of getting her hands dirty. Once when I was about 11  years old, I decided to make a fort. I had created a huge mess in the yard with wooden boards & tools everywhere. Mom didn’t get mad, instead she came out to lend me a hand. Turns out, I had left a board with nails sticking up and Mom stepped on one nail and with perfect aim it pierced all the way through her right foot and then with her the left foot, she stepped on another nail! I had literally nailed my mom to my fort! After enduring the physical pain of tetnis shots and the financial burden of an Emergency Room visit, Mom still encouraged me to build my fort but taught me some safety skills first.

After mom gave birth to my twin sisters she developed double pneumonia and hepatitis. It was hard to keep her down, but Dad had to call on Grandma to come in and help with all of us but especially Janie, my older sister who had Downs Syndrome and the babies. I have a feeling that I was a bit of a handful too!

Mom swallowed her pride on so many occasions when it came to finances. Providing for 5 kids in private school and one with special needs on only one income was a daily struggle. It seemed like we were always getting strep throat or ear problems etc… and Mom would have to pile all of us into our 1956 Chevy wagon and head to the County Health Department for medical care. She found ways to get us the good stuff, for example she would go to the Hostess store and buy the day old bread to get a discount. I have images in my mind of me watching her as she sat at the table laboring over which bills to pay.

I was always an ambitions kid and once I got a job mowing my neighbor’s lawn. I handled the manual mower ok, but when it came to the edging, I had no idea what I was doing. I ran in and told mom. She dropped everything she was doing and came out to finish the job for me.

All the kids begged our parents to get a dog. Finally they gave in and Angie, a sweet tempered, Bassett hound joined the family. At first we were all fighting to take care of her but like so often, the novelty of Angie wore off, we all had other temptations and it was Mom who wound up caring for her and her litter of puppies!

When my sister Terri was climbing a tree, she fell out and broke not one, but both wrists! There was mom taking her to the doctor and fighting back the tears over her little girl.

Speaking of Terri, she recently shared a memory with me that meant a lot to her.  Given the size of our family (and being a twin) it was pretty rare for Terri or any of us to have one on one time with mom.  One of those rare times happened for Terri when she was around 9 years old. One morning she told mom that she didn’t feel well and didn’t want to go to school.  She now confesses that she wasn’t really sick (surprise, surprise) but wanted to stay home with mom.  Little did she know, mom had to work that day at Buffums Department Store.  Mom fretted a little at first but then quickly decided that she would take Terri to work with her.  Terri said that she felt really special that day, as Mom introduced her to everyone she worked with and set up a chair right next to her register.  Watching Mom work outside the home was a whole new experience –she was tireless, just like she was at home but Terri was in awe since I had never seen our Mom in this role before.  Mom looked so pretty dressed up with her name tag on and she was so well liked by all of her customers and the women she worked with. Terri was very proud to be her daughter and felt grown up when Mom let her help hang up some of the clothes on the rack and stack the bags.  She even got to go to lunch with Mom (just the two of them.)   I’m sure Mom had no idea what a significant day this was for Terri.  I think it is so amazing how Moms can make each of their children feel special and loved with the simple things.

Mom was so adventurous. Years ago, she would vacation with my sister Denise at the Lake. Denise described Mom as a “wild woman” on a jet ski.

When mom was age 72 my brother Bill and Sister Toni took her sledding and she laughed with joy flying down the hill at full speed.  They couldn’t believe their eyes!

Mom was a beauty and still is. It is so funny how when you look back at our home videos, Whenever Dad was behind the camera he repeatedly zoomed the camera in on Mom’s derrière! She was a devoted wife to him up until the day he died and since she has never taken her wedding ring off.

Mom has a way of lighting up the room with her big blue eyes & genuine smile.  He wrinkles are so few, they are more like laugh lines but it’s her inner beauty that shines through, putting people at ease, instilling trust and making them feel special.

Over the course of her life, Mom has endured intense joy like the births of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren but she has also had much pain like losing Dad at a young age to cancer   as well she endured the unimaginable pain of my sister Janie dying in her arms from a brain aneurysm. She has been in no win situations like having to admit a family member into the mental hospital against her will. She raised 6 children on a shoe string budget and survived a crazy and chaotic personal childhood.

Through thick and thin, mom has always handled herself with dignity and grace. She has a quiet strength that in my opinion can only have been God given to have lived through the things she has and still maintained her kind generous nature and love for people.

Today Mom suffers from Parkinson’s disease and Dementia. She is unable to communicate through speech and the disease has slowly taken away her freedom as she has become completely dependent on others to care for her. It is so difficult to watch such an inspiring, strong, brave woman live this way. Just as she did while coming into the world, here she is again fighting for her life as she is on her way to leaving this world. I take solace in the belief that soon she will be with Janie and Dad again.

It breaks my heart seeing her like this, but while pushing her wheelchair on our weekly stroll through the neighborhood, I talk to her about all the old times that I hope make her remember who she is and that she has left a permanent mark on this world through the lives of her children and the friends she has helped along the way.

To God, I say, “Thank you for giving me the one and only mom who could handle me!” To my mom, I say, “Thank you for your example, your strength and your unconditional love! Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!”

 

THE SECRET TO BEING A COWBOY

On May 2, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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Some years ago, a good friend and business mentor of mine, Jeff invited me to go on an elk hunt in New Mexico. People that know me well might chuckle at the thought of that, knowing that my idea of roughing it is a top of the line RV with pop outs and a canopy for the sun, all set up by someone else. This trip would require, sleeping outdoors in a tent, cooking over a camp fire and lets not even discuss the bathroom & showering situation. Because Jeff was a personal mentor of mine, I acknowledged that to be invited on a trip like this was a big deal and a privilege; I really couldn’t decline, even though it was way out of my comfort zone.

The one enticing thing about this trip was the fact that the entire week we would be on horseback and I love riding. I may not be one to enjoy getting my hands dirty but when it comes to horses, I will make an exception. There is just something about them. I can’t help feeling a spiritual connection when spending time with these incredible creatures.

Preparing for the trip was an adventure in and of itself. Since camping isn’t really my thing I found myself wandering the isles at REI trying to decide what to buy. Should I purchase the $300 sleeping bag that would keep me warm in zero degrees or would the $50 one suffice? I decided I had better call Jeff to get a list.

After Jeff gave me the list of the “normal” camping equipment needed he said the strangest thing to me. He said, “Make sure you bring pantyhose!” Apparently, when traveling by horseback for a week strait, one is likely to get chaffed. The pantyhose would minimize the rubbing and prevent chaffing.  I thought he was joking at first but his explanation actually seemed logical so just in case I decided I had better hit the department store in search of pantyhose.

One might think that this was a no brainer, however there I was staring at rows and rows of hoes! I felt like I was being exposed to a foreign language. What was sheer toe and did I need that? Control top sounded important but what if I needed light support instead? Just when I was about to walk away completely overwhelmed and discouraged I achieved a small but significant victory- I was able to rule out thigh highs! This gave me the confidence I needed to carry on.  Reeling from my little win, I made an executive decision. Since I couldn’t find hose that contained all the various descriptions in one package, I would buy one of each rather than ask for help. I decided that French cut sounded intimidating but other than that I had everything from Queen Size to shimmer, footless to reinforced toe. Yes indeed, this cowboy was not about to get chaffed!

I arrived at the Gila National Forest with my over packed bags, top of the line tent and brand new shiny boots. It was nothing like what I had envisioned in my mind. I had pictured flat, open land with red rock and not much vegetation, but to my surprise I found myself in a spectacular picture postcard. The terrain consisted of rugged mountains and large canyons. There were hot springs, streams and some of the most beautiful plants I’d ever seen. The trees were dense and tall.  There was an abundance of wildlife; the bird watching alone would keep me busy! I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty. I still remember the way it smelled, the blue sky and the embarrassment of trying to get my tent set up. I sadly had to get some assistance.

I was looking forward to jumping on my horse the next morning and getting this show on the road or should I say, getting this horse on the trail! I had already decided that I was just along for the ride and wouldn’t be participating in the quest to conquer Elk! I secretly hoped we wouldn’t find any.

That night as I lay freezing I kicked myself for not splurging for the $300 mummy bag, guaranteed to keep me warm. It was a long night of strange noises and distant snoring of my brother travelers. How I longed for my nice cozy bed with my down pillow and comforter.

The next morning I squeezed my hairy legs into my first pair of pantyhose. Thrashing around in my tent trying to get these things up all the way was exhausting and I vowed to shoot Jeff instead of an Elk if this was his idea of a practical joke. I did however develop a new found respect for women and what they must go through daily trying to get this tiny stretchy fabric all the way on.

Off we went through the trees; my gorgeous horse, Baby (borrowed from Jeff) was a joy to ride. My wish came true as there were no Elk that first day.

Later that evening the group of guys began whining about how raw their inner thighs were and Jeff spoke up. Didn’t you guys wear pantyhose? The guys laughed at him. Without hesitation, I spoke up in his defense, saying that I had followed Jeff’s suggestion and wasn’t sore at all! Desperate times call for desperate measures but despite Jeff’s advice, the guys hadn’t packed a single pair of hose. It was about to become their lucky day, because I had been an overachiever and had enough hose for everyone. I broke out the bag and began shouting , who wants nude and who want’s sun tan? These were words I had never uttered before and most likely would never utter again. We all had a good laugh at the fact that my obsessive compulsive ways, just might have saved all their asses, literally!

Over the course of the week, the search for Elk started to become like a search for Big Foot. We tracked Elk for four days without even seeing any. Being along for the ride, it made no difference to me at first but soon I found myself getting caught up in the desire to find these mysterious & elusive Elk! My horse was sure footed, fast and dependable and it’s a good thing she was because finally, one day toward the end of the trip, there appeared ahead of us, 2 Elk. They were beautiful, statuesque and graceful. I cringed thinking that there life was about to come to an end! As we got closer they took off through the forest and so did we. Soon we reached a full gallop. Cutting through trees with branches hanging, barely missing them. It was a thrill, intense, scary, and exhilarating.  Imagine the Ewoks in Star Wars running… that was us, holding on for dear life as our horses rode like the wind.

Well, we never did catch up to them. The guys never did shoot anything the entire trip, but isn’t it true that when it’s all said and done, the fun lies in the chase? Don’t I sound like a typical guy!?

I share this story with you because it was one of those experiences that started out a total burden. I felt pressured to go and didn’t really see the value in it.

Now, when I look back, it is one of my fondest memories. It also serves as a reminder to engage in the things that I’m not comfortable doing as often as possible. I really believe that it is the times we are stretching, growing and challenging ourselves that we feel the most alive.

Settling for the status quo or in my case an ocean view suite at the Hilton doesn’t really awaken the senses and get the old heart pounding. We need to be pushed out of our safety seat from time to time to feel the victory of a win or learn a lesson from a defeat. Or maybe just belly laugh at the knowledge that because I proudly wore pantyhose, I lived to ride another day.

 

LOST IN SAN DIEGO

On April 23, 2013, in life lessons, by Michael Singleton
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Recently, I was talking to my good friend and business colleague, Jerry Chen. We were discussing how the stories that make up our past can have a profound impact on who we are now and the person we become in the future. Jerry encouraged me to share some of my memories in the form of this blog… so here goes…

I grew up in a big, Catholic family with a total of 6 children living in San Diego. I was a middle child sandwiched between my older sister, Janie, who had Down syndrome and my younger twin sisters, Toni and Terri. The book ends were my eldest sister, Denise, and the youngest, was my brother, Bill. Needless to say, there was never a dull moment in the Singleton household and my mom didn’t have a moment of peace.

My mom reminded me of an incident that happened when I was 4 years old. Busy in the house with the twins, Mom peaked out the window to check on my sister Janie and I, who were playing together in the front yard. When she was done changing diapers and throwing a load of laundry in the wash, Janie and I had vanished. Apparently the game we were playing had lost its appeal and Janie in her zest for life and me with my enthusiasm for adventure, held hands and made our grand escape out of the gated yard and down the street. Being so young, I don’t remember it perfectly, but knowing myself, I’m sure I was up for making a little trouble.

We wandered pretty far before my mom realized we had made a run for it! She set out to find us but meanwhile we had made our way to an unfamiliar strip mall, with stores, strangers and streets we didn’t recognize. It was loud and busy. With sensory overload and the realization that we were lost, we both began the inevitable toddler drama of water works. Yes, I admit it, I cried like the baby I was!

Mom eventually found us and all became right in the world again, but I often think about this experience even years later, how this one event infringes on my psyche!

It can be as simple as wandering aimlessly through an underground parking structure in search of my car. Angry at myself because I thought for sure I knew where I’d left it, my heart beats faster, breath is shallow and as I begin perspiring through my clean pressed shirt, when it occurs to me that I am completely over reacting to the situation, I wonder if what I’m really doing is projecting the past on to the present?

I consider the times, I’ve shifted gears in a business venture, when those moments of insecurity or hesitation come over me and I feel directionless, aimless… lost. I remind myself that I am not a little boy on the corner waiting to be rescued, I can handle whatever life throws my way. I can rescue myself now.

These feelings I experience during these times can become completely clouded by the emotions I experienced as a child. I may not sob uncontrollably like I did as a kid but the terror is relatively the same and the fear is real.

Being lost is something that I think every one of us has experienced at one time or another. Maybe for you, it was that time you were six years old and lost your mom in the supermarket, or you wandered away at Disneyland, maybe it was last week when in an attempt to avoid traffic, you changed your route only to find yourself in a shady part of town, completely and utterly displaced, yes- lost once again.

There is not a one of us that walks planet earth that is immune to this very human emotional experience. So I guess our challenge is to find the blessing in it.  

I believe the clarity we can gain or the benefit of being lost comes in that moment when you see Mom’s 1956 Chevy station wagon turn the corner and the tears stop as she scoops you up in her arms! You know that you are not alone in this life. Or after you dial up Sury on your IPhone for some directions you see that familiar Starbucks you frequent and are filled with the peace of knowing you’re almost home.

I think in this life, we need to get lost from time to time so that we can experience the joy of being found or the victory of finding our own way.

Whatever the case, my hope for all of us, is that in those lost moments where we are filled with panic, our hands get clammy, our hearts race out of chest, that we remember, being lost is only temporary and with the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”