A Walk with Men Who Want Better Relationships

“Man, I never realized how sexual women could be!” He puffs as we walk up a steep hill together. “I thought it was us guys that were the horndogs.”

We stop when we get to the top of the hill to catch our breath.

“I learned that a few years ago,” I say, “and it’s made all the difference between me and my partner.”

We start on our way down the hill and continue chatting on our morning walk. We talk more about desire and rekindling it with our partners. We talk about temptation, cheating, ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, and fatherhood.

We’re all waking up to see the bullshit around us…

While we both like music and sports, the focus on our walks is always about where we men fit into our relationships with the women in our lives. It’s about partners, wives, daughters, and sons. It’s about family.

Our walks are a means of self-exploration of what it means to be a good man, a real man, and for that, I’m so grateful I’ve found my tribe.


I live in a community that’s predominately made up of people not like me. I joke and say it’s a community of old football players that married their cheerleader girlfriends and are now producing future football players and cheerleaders.

I talk about how my mother and father were in a sexless marriage…

While they’re friendly for the most part, I yearn for a deeper connection with people, one of lively discourse, talking of grand ideas, and how to be a better person.

Over time I’ve found a small circle of men that I can “vibe with,” ones I can have these types of discussions with, and they range around my age (40’s to 50’s) to their late 80’s.

Each one of these men has a partner/wife and each one of them has questioned the status quo and what we’ve been taught growing up to be men.

We’re all waking up to see the bullshit around us and trying to navigate our way out. If you’re in a dark room, you just have to start walking in some direction and hope you find the light and way out. We did that and happened to bump into each other along the way.

I’m sorry about your Dad,” he says, “he was a great guy.”

“Yeah, thanks. Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year.” I say.

We start to talk about what it means to be a son to aging parents. His are in their mid 90’s, my mother is in her early 80’s. My late father was 78.

We talk about how our parents weren’t perfect in raising us and how they were just people. I talk about how my mother and father were in a sexless marriage for at least 30 years.

We realize that for a brief but important window, we have the power to effectuate change in our families.

We talk about how important sex is to a marriage or any relationship.

He tells me he’s pretty sure that his parents had a sexless marriage for over 50 years and how he could never live that way.

We talk about how and when things go wrong in a relationship and if you can fix them in time. What if you can’t fix it? What do you do? Do you break up your marriage because your sexual needs can’t be fixed?

And then an epiphany happens, the “it was never like this in the beginning, it all changed when we got married. What happened?

I tell him how I changed my perception of my partner, I no longer call her my wife. I tell him how I’m trying hard to be a partner now and not just another responsibility for her, and how that’s made all the difference in rekindling our desire for one another.

He pauses for a moment and says, “I never thought of it that way, good point.”

We round the last corner, our walk is almost over.

We talk about how our parents never had these kinds of talks with us. How our fathers did what they did because of societal expectations and never questioned it.

Our fathers thought this was what was to be expected. Once you get married, it’s game over. Maybe have a few years of regular sex, then get your spouse pregnant, have a few kids, go to work, and then be in a miserable sexless marriage till you die.

But we’re questioning it now. Both of us are fathers and see how serious these questions are. We want our sons and daughters to grow up not just physically and mentally healthy, but sexually as well.

We realize that for a brief but important window, we have the power to effectuate change in our families. We have the power to pass these pearls of wisdom down to our children and have these kinds of talks with them. We have a chance to listen to our partners, to get to know them again and to become better lovers.

We have a chance to break a cycle of misery and spawn happiness and fulfillment for generations to come.

But we men have to make a conscious effort to do this and for me, it starts with one morning walk at a time.

The Skulls of Cepra

Thrax and Ellyn were sprawled out on the cold forest floor. They had spent the entire afternoon following a game trail to this very spot, a clump of bushes at the edge of the forest.

Both of them wiggled to get more comfortable, their armor creaking like a tired old man’s back. They peeked through the bushes, between the leaves, and saw a cave opening across from a small grassy field and at the bottom of a giant cliff face. A strange light emanated from inside the cave opening.

Gilliam crept up behind them and in a hushed tone said, “This looks like the only way in or out.” Ellyn glanced up at him, her grip tightened on her mace.

“It’ll be dark soon, if we’re going to do this today, it has to be now,” she said.

“Horses?” Thrax said, cocking his head toward Gilliam.

“Secured, they’ll be there when we get back.”

“Ok, let’s get this done and collect our gold,” Thrax hissed.

It was early morning when Thrax and his companions arrived at Cepra, a small farming village at the edge of the Valtorevi Forest. The companions had heard rumors swirling for months in this part of the realm, rumors of an evil Necromancer that had cast a deadly plague on this village.

Calls went out far and wide for anyone who could help rid the village of his evil. For any brave adventurers who would answer and succeed in the task, a reward of 100 gold pieces each was offered.

Merchants whispered in the surrounding towns that a strange disease spread across the land shortly after the Necromancer had arrived. They spoke of a hideous and painful death where the skin of those infected would turn black before they died. Fearful of the disease, many villagers quickly buried their dead in shallow graves only to return a few days later to them empty. Someone or something had taken the bodies.

The companions didn’t care about the rumor, they were interested in the gold. Thrax’s idea was to find the Necromancer and kill him from a distance with Gilliam’s bow. Gilliam, an experienced bowman, had never missed a shot in his life and the companions thought it would be easy to dispatch the mage and collect the gold without much fuss.

They crept slowly over to the cave entrance, each careful not to make any noise. Thrax glanced at where they had just been; the sun was almost down for the day and darkness rolled over the woods. With his long sword in hand, he slid into the cave opening. Ellyn came next with Gilliam bringing up the rear.

Gilliam noticed fresh tracks in the dust of the cave floor. It was a human male that wore boots. He also noticed several bare feet and motioned to Thrax and Ellyn that there may be more people in the cave.

Thrax led the group down the narrow cave corridor, with Ellyn in the middle and Gilliam bringing up the rear. The corridor gradually widened as Thrax led the group in. Sword in hand, he stopped at a sharp turn. He pressed himself against the wall and peered around it.

Thrax saw a large open cavern with stalactites and stalagmites. Scattered about were small fire pits. In the center of a cavern stood the Necromancer, a man in dark robes with his face obscured. He was chanting arcane words as he waved his hands across a stone table. On the table were two glowing glass skulls that hummed as the evil mage weaved his dark spell.

Thrax whispered to his companions, “I see him. There’s nobody else. Gilliam, take him out!”

Gilliam readied an arrow and slid in front of Thrax. He raised his bow, cocked the arrow, and aimed it at the dark figure. He exhaled quietly and released the arrow. The arrow flew fast across the cavern toward its target, the Necromancer’s throat. Gilliam’s face turned to horror as he watched the arrow stop mid-flight and disintegrate. The Necromancer stopped his chanting and snapped his gaze toward the corridor.

The adventurers’ shock thawed quickly and Thrax moved first. He led the charge into the cavern, Ellyn right after him. She held her mace high, ready to bludgeon the Necromancer. Gilliam took cover behind a large stalagmite, cocked another arrow, and aimed straight for the Necromancer’s chest. Thrax thought they would dispatch him quickly but the mage was ready for them. He raised his hands to the roof of the cavern and shouted guttural words of magic.

Dead bodies rained down from the darkness of the cavern’s ceiling and landed on the cave floor with a dull thud. The companions watched in horror as the bodies stood up and ran toward them. These are no ordinary undead, Thrax thought, they’ve got claws and move fast.

Thrax counted 10 of these creatures as he swung his sword down across the closest, severing its arm. It kept moving toward him. That should’ve killed it, he thought, as the tendrils of fear crept into his mind. No! Damn the Gods, I’ll slay you all! He thought and pushed the fear out of his mind.

Ellyn saw the creatures rush Thrax. She took out her holy symbol and recited holy verses, hoping to turn these undead horrors away from Thrax. The Necromancer saw what she was doing and waved a hand toward her. Three undead broke off from Thrax and began creeping towards her.

Gilliam weaved between the stalagmites, looking for a clean shot. The undead made it hard for him to make a killing shot, but he knew he had to find a way. He released another arrow. The Necromancer shrieked in pain as he clutched his shoulder. He stopped chanting his spell and the skulls stopped glowing.

Ellyn’s prayer hit home; the undead dropped at Thrax’s feet. He saw his chance and gripped his sword tight. In one giant leap, He vaulted over the stone table and slammed his feet into the Necromancer. The glass skulls scattered at his feet.

Fear welled up in his eyes as the evil mage fell to the floor. Thrax lifted his sword high above him and with one fell swoop slashed it across the evil mage’s body. Blood erupted from his mouth, splattering Thrax’s armor. The mage twitched and fell limp. He was dead.

Ellyn screamed as the last three undead creatures overwhelmed her. Gilliam slashed his short sword across one of its necks, severing its rotting head. Ellyn fell to the ground, two of the creatures slashing their claws at her.

Thrax grabbed one of the creatures and pulled it off her. He held it by the neck and ran his sword through its back. It crumpled to the floor. Gilliam severed the last creature’s head, and its lifeless body rolled off Ellyn. Blood gushed underneath Ellyn’s body.

Thrax rushed to Ellyn’s side. She coughed, blood erupting from her mouth. Thrax cradled her body into his, holding her head up. She was dying.

Ellyn coughed, “Did we kill him?”

“Yes,” Thrax said, “We got him.”

“Good,” she smiled and coughed. “I think I’m done for. Remember me, Thrax.”

“You’re going to make Ellyn!” He lied.

“Remember me,” she gasped. Her body relaxed and then went limp. Ellyn was gone.

Thrax held her tightly. He thought that if he held her tight he could stop the lifeforce from escaping her body. He held for what seemed like hours before placing her gently on the ground. He stood up slowly and looked around at the carnage, frowning as sadness and rage overwhelmed him. Gilliam knelt next to Ellyn’s body. His head hung low as tears rolled down his face.

Thrax walked over to the stone table and picked up the two glass skulls from the ground. They had stopped glowing. He looked at each one carefully and jammed them in his backpack. He took another look around the cavern, at Gilliam, the dead creatures, and Ellyn lying there. He shook his head. This wasn’t supposed to happen, he thought, and now Ellyn is dead. Thrax let out a belabored sigh and hung his head low.

Gilliam carried Ellyn out of the cave, and Thrax dragged the Necromancer’s body behind him. They both knew what had to be done now, but were exhausted. They returned to camp and laid Ellyn’s body on the cold hard ground and pulled her sleeping roll over her. The two collapsed into their bedrolls. Sleep washed over them.


Thrax and Gilliam spent the morning breaking camp and gathering wood. They built a funeral pyre for their fallen comrade and laid her on top of the woodpile. They laid her out in her civilian clothes: a simple tunic and leggings. Her arms were folded over her belly and her long dark hair lay over her shoulders. Her belongings, armor, and mace, were neatly packaged up and on her horse.

Gilliam had gone to town to deliver the Necromancer’s body and collect the reward for all three of them. They decided to split the glass skulls, each one keeping or selling it as they saw fit. They agreed it would be best to keep these magical artifacts apart from each other, lest another Necromancer gets their hands on them. Gilliam arrived just as Thrax was lighting the funeral pyre with a small torch.

They both watched a small flame dance up the tinder. The flames grew larger and raced up the larger bits of kindling and then to the larger pieces of wood. Thrax and Gilliam watched the flames slowly envelope their good friend. A few short seconds later, the funeral pyre erupted into a bright and hot bonfire.

Gilliam placed his hand on Thrax’s shoulder.

“I’m going to miss her,” Gilliam said.

“By the Gods, so will I,” Thrax said.

Thrax threw his dying torch onto the funeral pyre and turned his back, hiding the tears that welled up in his eyes.

“What now?” Gilliam asked, holding the reins on his horse.

“Let’s go tell her Mother, the Barbarian Queen of Khunzadd.”


Read more Adventures of Thrax…

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Goulash, Potatoes, and Red Cabbage

The Best Part Is The Food

There’s nothing like home cooking at mom’s house. The moment I walk up the driveway and I can smell the food coming out the kitchen window I’m transported back to being 7 years old.

It was the winter of 1977 and we had a big snowstorm between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was helping my father shovel the driveway and walkways. After working up a big appetite I remember drooling over my mother’s goulash that evening. I was hungry and it smelled like heaven. After gobbling down the food I promptly fell asleep on the couch.

German food tends to get a bad rap for being “bland” and very “meat and potato” like.

For those that don’t know, goulash is a standard dinner or lunch fare in Europe. Everyone has their version of it and how they make but my mother’s take on it was very simple. It consists of three main ingredients: meat, potatoes, and red cabbage.

German food tends to get a bad rap for being “bland” and very “meat and potato” like. It’s not elegant as French food or exotic like Szechuan food. What makes German foods interesting is their simplicity. Most German foods are simple dishes that satisfy any ravenous hunger.

The recipe I’m going to share with you can be made with just those three ingredients, some seasoning, butter, and starch.

Goulash with potatoes and red cabbage, © Author

This is recipe is not considered a “secret” that I had to sneak out of the house but it’s never been written down. It’s always been handed down between the mothers and wives of old Germany. From mother to daughter, mother in law to daughter in law, and grandmother to grandchild.

How do you get started with this wonderful dish? You start with the meat. It all comes down to the meat.

Secret cooking tip, the trick to all German cooking is butter and lots of it.

Find yourself a good cut of beef, usually chuck cut. You can use something “tougher” but you will have to cook the meat longer. This can work well if you’re on a budget and I’m a big fan of using everything and not wasting food.

Cut the beef into cubes and then place the meat into a large pot with boiling water.

My mother then boils the meat till it looks cooked through.

The next step is important. DO NOT DISCARD THE WATER! The meat flavored water acts as a beef stock and is the key to the gravy. Remove the beef and set it aside.

The next step is making a roux with butter and starch. Most people will use flour but my mother likes potato starch. She adds the butter and potato starch in a saucepan and under low heat mixes them till it turns brown. Then she’ll add the beef flavored water to the saucepan and mix thoroughly to eliminate any lumps.

That’s the gravy!

Next, she browns the meat in a frying pan with butter.

Secret cooking tip, the trick to all German cooking is butter and lots of it.

Once the meat is browned she places it into the gravy and simmers while she prepares the potatoes and red cabbage.

Next, she peels and cubes potatoes and boils them in water with a pinch of salt. While they’re cooking my mother will prepare the rotkohl (red cabbage).

This is where we cheat, we buy our sauerkraut and red cabbage from the store now. When my father was a boy, my paternal grandmother used to make her sauerkraut.

She made a 55-gallon drum of it every year before she passed away. That sauerkraut, and its derivations, fed my paternal grandfather, my father, and his 8 siblings as children and young adults.

Food was plenty in my father’s home village but it was simple country cooking.

After all mom’s home cooking is a wonderful treat throughout the year, not just around the holidays…

Today my mother buys pickled red cabbage from Aldi or some other store. You will have to experiment with the brand that you like.

Once the potatoes are cooked, she drains the water and then serves all three together.

The beef with gravy has a savory taste, the red cabbage is sweet and sour, and boiled potatoes act as a foundation to this simple yet comforting German food.

When all three are on your plate, the smell is divine. It’s a simple and satisfying dish to make when family and friends come over. My son will eat two large servings of it every time.

The recipe

In a nutshell, the recipe is as follows:

1–2 lbs of beef chuck meat

2–3 large Idaho potatoes

1 jar of red cabbage

  1. Cut beef into cubes and put it into a pot of boiling water. Make sure beef is covered
  2. Once beef looks cooked, remove beef and set it aside. Save water for gravy.
  3. In a saucepan add 1 tablespoon of butter and potato starch. This is a standard roux and you can substitute flour if you like.
  4. Whisk butter and starch till it turns brown on low heat. Make sure to remove any lumps for a brown and even mixture.
  5. Add beef cooked water to the butter and starch, mix and simmer.
  6. Brown cooked beef in a pan with butter and seasoning (salt and pepper). Once browned add to gravy and simmer.
  7. Peel and cube potatoes and boil with a pinch of salt. Once tender, drain water and keep warm.
  8. In a separate pot heat the red cabbage till hot.
  9. Once the meat and gravy, potatoes, and cabbage are all ready, serve and enjoy.

Endnotes

I’m sure my mother might add some garlic powder or other flavoring to the gravy as she makes it but that’s a secret she’ll never tell us.

After all mom’s home cooking is a wonderful treat throughout the year, not just around the holidays, and she knows how to hook us.

Wealth Reclaims Your Time

Why no is the most powerful word for you to become free

It would appear that Tim Denning and I share the same approach to money and time.

Whenever I think about buying something I evaluate how many hours of work do (at my present hourly earnings) to buy that. Then I think about what all those hours mean for my personal growth and my time. He does the same.

I’ve written about this numerous times in my love and sex articles that time is not a renewable resource and the most precious thing you can give someone is your time.

How many people do you know will “beg, borrow, or steal” to say they got the first Tesla on the block?

Too often than not, we give too much of our time to work because we have to buy stuff. We’re constantly buying stuff and it’s usually for status.

You will need to trade your time to earn money. That’s usually via a job, creative gig, side hustle, or your own business. I get it, we need money to live.

We need it to pay for a roof over our head, food to eat, some savings for retirement and health, and have spending money for fun things like vacations.

But after those needs are satisfied, what else do we need money for?

The herd of spending

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research into the philosophy of existentialism and recently into Frederick Neitzche. In his writings, he talks about how for you to fully realize yourself you have to be aware of how the herd (aka society) influences you.

In terms of financial independence, I like to call this the “herd of spending.” How many people do you know that can’t wait to upgrade to the latest iPhone?

After one painful 2 days non-stop overnight marathon in the office, I cracked.

How many people do you know will “beg, borrow, or steal” to say they got the first Tesla on the block?

People spend way too excess because everyone else is doing it and you feel like you have to keep up. So you go to work or find a better-paying job so you can buy more stuff, and the consumer cycle renews itself.

Until you die.

I value my free time

There was a time that I slaved away at my job. I worked insane hours. I was underpaid and overworked and it broke me.

My employer at the time was exploiting me, and several other young co-workers with the excuse of “cutting your teeth.”

Sayings like “the cream will rise to the top” and other productivity-related sayings echoed in my head.

After one painful 2 day non-stop overnight marathon in the office, I cracked.

I broke.

It broke me in a good way because the veil of illusion was lifted from my eyes.

What was all this for? My employer over-promised a client and used me as the workhorse. My time, something I will never get back was exchanged for a measly bonus at the end of the year that amounted to paying me $4/hr countless hours of overtime.

My health deteriorated and I eventually moved back home.

We’re on the precipice of financial independence.

Nursing my mental and physical wounds I began to think about this consumer cycle of bondage.

It is pure bondage, and not the fun kind.

No more I vowed.

No more.

I realized that I valued my free time above all else. My free time is my power and if anybody wants it, it will come with a price.

I can donate my time, and I do too many local community endeavors, but I guard it with my life now.

The word “no” has become a way to reclaim time that would be lost forever.

Building wealth

When I returned home I started looking at how I can build wealth, not money, but real wealth.

Wealth is a combination of many things to me. My health is wealth, my life with my partner and children is wealth, my free time is wealth, and so many other non-consumer things are wealth to me.

My 9-year-old Honda Accord? That’s not my wealth, that’s a tool. My house in the woods? That’s wealth because of where I live but the house itself? It’s just shelter.

But alas, we still need money so I got interested in how to use money as a tool to make more money. I got interested in investing, trading, passive income, and being frugal.

When I could, I maxed out my 401k. When I got a better-paying job I would take the excess income and invest it. My partner and I kept our debt low. We did so many things over the past 18 years, together, that set us up for the precipice.

We’re on the precipice of financial independence.

If everything were to go “tits up” today, we could live and survive just fine. Would our spending patterns change? Of course, they would, but the feeling of relief we feel from knowing we won’t implode is immeasurable.

In-FUCKING-measurable

Our wealth is so much more than money. Money, investing, trading, whatever it may be is just a tool to enable wealth. Wealth is health, love, life, and time.

It all started with saying “no” all those years ago. No more to the consumer cycle. No more to the herd of spending and no more to exploitation.

By saying no I got to say yes to making my marriage with my partner stronger and more loving. I got to say yes to spending more time with my children. I got to say yes to community endeavors that I care about. I got to say yes to more time at the Dojo and exercise, and I got to say yes to writing.

My writing is how I share my love for you, my readers, for the ones who resonate with my message. You give me hope in this crazy world.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, my message will always be around two main points, one is that love is a renewable resource and that time is not a renewable resource.

Start by saying no to the time sucks and yes to love.

That’s true wealth, having love and the time to enjoy it.

For the Love of Cast Iron Cooking

If there is one bit of advice I can give my children for a happy life it’s to learn cooking and own at least one cast iron pan.

It’s a common understanding across all cultures and parts of the world that being able to feed yourself and the ones you love is a superpower.

It’s a superpower because it can create deep bonds among family members and lovers. If you ever wanted to impress a future lover, learn to cook.

Seriously.

Thomas Keller in his Masterclass said this about cooking and cooks, he said:

“Cooks cook to nurture people.”

Cooking is a way to nurture the ones you love and it doesn’t require a lot of fancy stuff. All you need are a few simple kitchen utensils and a cast iron pan.

Here’s how.

Nonstick vs Cast Iron

Cast iron is a very old invention. It was used for weapons, door frames, and all kinds of things where strength was needed. Once it was fashioned into soup cauldrons and pans to cook food in, it became part of any cook’s arsenal to make food.

Yes, it’s heavy, but its weight is a mere trade-off. Cast Iron cooking gear is versatile and nearly indestructible. You can use it on the stove and then finish up your meal in the oven.

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You can use it on a grill. I use to cook bratwursts in beer and sauerkraut right on the grill. Once the brats are cooked and swap them right onto the grill.

You can use it to bake bread or make pizzas.

I sear steaks on the stovetop and then finish it in the oven for a perfect-looking (and medium-rare) steak.

© Author, searing steaks

I make breakfast skillets from leftovers the very next day for my excited family. After marinating in the cooked juices overnight the food tastes even better heated up again

© Author, breakfast skillet

But what about non-stick pans? Aren’t they new technology and therefore better? I heard that cast iron pans are harder to clean and care for?

What’s the deal?

There are some big differences between non-stick and cast iron pans. The biggest is that the non-stick pan is easier to clean. Many times, if used properly, you just have to wipe them clean and gently rinse with warm water and soap.

To clean cast iron, you need to scrape off stuff first, rinse, and in some cases scrub. You’re not supposed to use soap and you have to towel dry it. All this aftercare is super important to keep the pan’s non-stickiness intact.

Both types of pans can be non-sticky. Non-stick pans come with the chemical coating already and all you need to do is use special utensils not to scratch the coating. Once you scratch the coating your non-stick pan becomes a regular pan, where everything can stick.

Cast iron can be a very powerful non-stick pan as long as its seasoning remains intact. What is seasoning? Seasoning is all the fat and oils you used in cooking that bond with the cast iron and create its non-stick coating.

What to see how sexy a well-seasoned cast iron pan is? Just look at these eggs sliding around a well-seasoned pan!

Eggs! On a cast-iron pan? Who would’ve thought that was even possible!

I would dare to say that a properly seasoned cast iron pan has superior non-stick properties than the average non-stick pan.

© Author, making dinner skillet with rice

However, just like with a regular non-stick pan, the seasoning can be destroyed by improper after-care during clean-up and cooking high acid foods like tomatoes.

So what do you do if the seasoning is destroyed? You can fix it in so many ways. Just cook something fatty or with oil. Or you can just clean it and wipe oil on it and then bake the pan on high for a few minutes. Here’s a handy guide on how to season your pan.

Achievement unlocked! Cast iron pan renewed!


In my experience, a properly cared for cast iron pan will outperform a non-stick pan every single time.

Interested yet?

Where can you get a cast iron pan? New ones can be bought at your local superstore that has kitchen wares. If you want some cheaper you could check out your local thrift stores.

Happy cast iron cooking!


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My Birthday Wish

I will turn 51 this month and instead of looking toward a festive celebration with my family, I’m planning a memorial service for my father.

2021 has been the worst year for me that I can remember in a long time and I want it to end. The Covid19 pandemic upended all our lives for nearly two years, then my dog died, and then my father passed away unexpectedly.

Last year we couldn’t get together for New Year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my 50th birthday. We all were isolating and being extra careful not to catch Covid. That all changed when my elderly parents and aunt caught it.

They all collapsed in their home within days of each other and were rushed to the hospital.

Then the long-term Covid complications came.

I remember trying to run the numbers in my head and asking what was the probability that each one survives? What is the probability that all three survive?

All three of them are in the high-risk category for death and have underlying health conditions. I couldn’t sleep for days, lying in bed wondering when I’d receive a call from the hospital that one of them passed away.


Luckily they beat the odds, all three of them came out completely trashed and destroyed but they were alive.

Then the long-term Covid complications came. My mother started losing more weight. Today she looks like a bag of bones covered with skin. My aunt started losing her hair to the point that she was bald.

My father? He got the worst of it.

My father was not a healthy individual. He drank, smoked, and ate too much. He was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes in his late 40’s and ignored it. Coming from a family where we have heart issues, his diabetes affected his heart until he had a heart attack a few days before my wedding.

I remember dancing with my partner and seeing my mother and father dancing and me remarking that my father looked like a ghost. He had no color on his face. The next day he was admitted to the hospital.

This year he won’t wish me a happy birthday.

My father cheated death so many times and for that I’m grateful. We had more time with him. We had more time to listen to his jokes, hear him sing, and spend time with him at family gatherings.

Our last family gathering was Christmas 2019.

My father never missed a Chinese New Year celebration, he never missed a family function, he always called his grandchildren on their birthdays, and he always called his family.

My father tried hard to live with a “family first” attitude, even though his bouts with alcoholism when I was a child made me resent him then.

My father had his problems, he was a simple and yet complex man in many regards, but he was still my dad.


The Covid19 pandemic ripped so many families apart, canceled so many celebrations, and killed so many people. My heart goes out to you if you’ve lost a loved one and I offer you my condolences.

…there will be an empty place at the table

Last year at this time my partner was reaching out to my friends and family to get them to video record a 50th birthday greeting. I found my father’s isolated video clip wishing me a happy birthday.

This year he won’t wish me a happy birthday. He will never do so ever again.


Every year around my birthday month I start withdrawing a bit. I spend time in quiet reflection and I count my blessings. I have a wonderful career, a wonderful and loving partner, awesome kids, a wonderful family, and many friends. I’m the luckiest man alive.

Every year when my partner asks me what I want for my birthday I always reply the same, a nice dinner with my family. In pre-Covid years we’d go out to a nice restaurant and invite my mother, father, aunt, and sister to come along. I never want gifts but I get a few small things despite my protestations.

What I wanted was time with them. Time with my loved ones because the day will come when time on this mortal plane will run out for them.

And it did for my father. Way too soon.

So I think about things in November and look forward to the holiday gatherings. I look forward to writing our holiday newsletter with my partner. We pull photos together and print a card. We decorate, play music, and invite our family over.

Only this year there will be an empty place at the table.

So I spend November looking outward. I look outward toward you and gladly will share my love with you. When I say, “I love you all,” I mean it. I see the looming end of the year and look toward a new year, one with no mistakes and no heartbreak. One where my cup will runneth over in love and laughter.

That is my wish, a cup we can all raise in a toast to one another where it runs over with love. It spills over the brim and runs down our arms.

My birthday wish for you is to find your loved ones and hold them tight. Adjust your schedules, make time for them. Meet up with old friends. Write a card to an old colleague.

My wish for you is to live your life with love, passion, and desire. My wish for you is to spend time with the people that bring you joy, the ones that sustain you, and the ones that help you grow.

Just give your love, give it all away. Throw it out to the universe and the love you receive back is the love that is saved.

That is the best present ever.

Happy Birthday.

Increase Your Success Rate for Your Photo Shoot

Proper planning prevents piss poor performance

I recently did a photoshoot with Art Model Lucy Magdalene and my friend Harold. All three of us have worked together in May 2021 and decided to do another shoot again, but this time it was different. This time I prepped more to increase my success rate for the photoshoot.

Art Model Lucy Magdalene

The summer came and went and we still hadn’t planned a shoot, so I reached out to both and said, let’s shoot!

We chatted over Messenger for a few days and we finally decided that mid-October works the best for everyone. It was mid-August and the time and it would give us about two months to prepare.

In the old days, I would just show up and take photos. If I had to buy film I would make sure I had it ready and all my batteries were charged. If it was purely digital I’d make sure all my spare batteries were charged and my SD cards were formatted.

And that was it. That was my usual level of planning. Sure I had some ideas conceptually running around in my head like poses and location, but it was always thoughts in my head. I was always a “go with the flow” shooter but I decided to make a big change.

I decided not to leave things to chance anymore, at least the things I can control. So for this shoot, I planned. I planned as much as a could and I prepared.

Spooky Witch Shoot

Since the shoot was planned for mid-October, I thought it would be neat to plan a spooky witch type of shoot. I have a lot of female friends that are pagans, witches, and Wiccans, so I thought this would be a nice way to pay homage to them.

I thought that this idea and dark theme would work well with Lucy because of her hair, complexion, and lithe frame.

Lucy Magdalene Spooky Witch Shoot

So I sat down in front of my computer and did something I’ve only read about before, I created a storyboard.

A storyboard is exactly what it sounds like, a document that sets the mood, theme, and important “scenes” in a story. Since this was a spooky witch shoot, I pulled together poses, ideas, and props for the shoot.

I screenshot ideas and pasted them into a Google slides document and added to it till I was happy with how my vision was coming into being.

The Hit Ratio

Normally when I go do a shoot I end up with two to three kick-ass photos that I like. These are the ones where I nailed exactly everything I wanted.

This is called the hit rate or hit ratio. For the time and energy you spend working together, you want to generate as many “usable” images as possible. You want to have a high hit rate so you can share these images in your portfolio, give them the model, or share on social media.

The hard part is getting a high hit ratio!

Lucy Magdalene Spooky Witch Shoot

A professional photographer’s hit rate needs to be high, or else they wouldn’t last long in the industry. As a hobbyist photographer, my hit rate doesn’t need to be high, but I want it to be high!

I wanted more than just 2 to 3 usable images per shoot if I spent over an hour driving to the location and spending two hours shooting the Lucy.

Luckily, this time I had over 20 usable images, which is a first for me

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

I’m reminded of this bit of wisdom from my college days, except I never applied it to my photography work. The simple act of spending a few hours up from making a storyboard and preparing for the shoot (more than usual) made a huge difference!

While there’s nothing wrong with taking in-the-moment photos, I think spending the time to plan a shoot pays big dividends for everyone.

That’s my plan going forward for all photoshoots. Put in the time and effort to prepare so you can make gorgeous photos.

So how did I do it? Google slides, Pinterest, Goodwill, and Amazon. Those are the main pieces of this puzzle.

The entire storyboard can be downloaded here. It’s not pretty and short but it’s not supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be a living and breathing document.

I shared this document with Harold and Lucy so they could get an idea of what I’m planning. You want the entire team you working with (if there is a team) to know what’s in your head instead of dropping it on them the day of the shoot.

Sharing these ideas helped Lucy bring some of her wardrobe to assist, like her Morticia-looking dress, boots, and other accessories.

The storyboard starts with a simple title, date, and location. I like to listen to music when I create so I added a musical track to set the mood.

I went to Pinterest for the first time and search through some great ideas and themes. It’s where I was inspired to get the cloak and think of more ideas for the shoot.

Props

Where did I get the props? I got them from three places: Goodwill, Amazon, and Spirit Halloween.

The central piece of clothing was the cloak and for that, I went on Amazon to buy this one.

The cauldron I bought a while back from Goodwill for $5, it’s a cast-iron one and perfect for cooking and witchery.

The sage sticks I bought off Amazon too. I chose sage because when they smolder they get smoky and I wanted to have some smoke.

The only big fuck up I did was not find a ritual knife. I completely forget about getting that as a prop and the day before the shoot I was searching for something but I couldn’t find something appropriate.

Lucy the Witch - 2

Poses

While I had some ideas for poses, Lucy is super-expressive and she can do some great poses right out of the box. That said, I did have some ideas after studying Michael Zelbel’s posing guide from his Boudior Poses eBook.

However, we had to adjust things because of the site location but having posing ideas already documented in the storyboard made things a lot easier and faster.

TL;dr

If you want to increase your success rate (aka hit ratio) for your photo shoots, you should plan them properly. Think about all the moving pieces like props, poses, location, and mood. That will go a long way to improving your success!


Love is What Binds Us

Ever since I lived in New Mexico I had this burning desire to share. I lived in Albuquerque for 5 years, from 1994 to 1999. It was one of the most momentous times of my life, both good and bad.

While I look back at the times with more fondness than sadness, I always seem to be called back to it in my thoughts.

There is something magical about The Land of Enchantment. It’s a place where my spirit can roam unfettered and where a part of my heart still lives.

New Mexico was a spiritually transformative place for me. It was where I grew into the man I am today. It was a place where a select few women had a massive effect on how I formed connections with the opposite sex. More were good effects than bad, and I thank them all.

I met fierce women, rugged men, and learned that family and tradition ran strong in people irrespective of their race or lineage.

There was so much that connected us together then would rend us apart.

So many similarities that it can’t be a coincidence, can it?

New Mexico was where I kindled my desire to write, to photograph, and to roam. It was a place where I could for a brief moment of my life experience what it means to “go with the flow.”

I had no idea how my life would go but I had a blueprint that my parents set forth for me. I had another blueprint that society told me to follow.

A blueprint that starts with going to school, graduating, finding a job, get married, have kids, retire, and die.

For the most part, this is the typical blueprint for all our lives. After all, education is important, having the means to earn money to live is important, and maybe finding a loving partner or partners is important too.

One might argue that getting married, having kids, and retiring are optional, but dying is not.

There is a finality to life that we all must face, some of us sooner than later. This finality seems so far away when we are young but it constantly creeps closer.

If you subscribe to religion then you can take faith in resurrection, heaven, or reincarnation. If you say you’re just spiritual, you can take solace in some higher state of vibration or power that will take you into its bosom. Or if you’re a non-believer, then you feel the urgency of knowing that this is your only time in this reality.

I have no answers here but what I will say is that without the time and looming death you face, your life will have no meaning. Your meaning is something you need to discover for yourself. It is something you need to evaluate every day, even if it’s for 30 seconds.


Right before I left New Mexico I became a Minister of the Universal Life Church of Modesto California. I sent them $10 and was ordained. I thought that was hilarious back then because who can become a Minister via email?

Well, I did.

Interestingly enough I kept that ordination active all these years. There’s no way I’m a Christian and I’m mostly an Atheist, but I can’t help deny the need for us humans to seek spirituality.

For me, these days, that spirituality takes the form of philosophy. I’ve untangled myself from the shackles of modern religions after seeing the destruction they can do.

I think that need is partly tied to a need of realizing pure love. The majority of people that I’ve met have, at some point in their life, wondered “what’s the point to all this?”

The friends and loved ones that have asked that question always tend to come back to love. Love (and acceptance) of themselves, love of their partner, love of their family, and the realization of how powerful it is. Love is what binds us in the light and the dark.

Without the urgency of time, there can be no meaning.

Without our love, there can be no meaning.

Love and time.

Live it, cherish it.

Readme.txt

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

A place to renew and rekindle the love you have and a place to feel the urgency of time.

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for finding and reading this humble publication. I have for the longest time wanted to create a Medium publication to share with the world the two most important points.

Those points are that love is a renewable resource but time is not.

The reality is that we readers have a one-way ticket off this mortal plane and we will leave behind partners, lovers, friends, siblings, and even parents.

Our lives are too short and we’re often caught up in too much noise, too many distractions that prevent us from living an authentic life.

I believe that living an authentic life contains love at its core. Love of yourself and who you are, love of others, love of the biosphere and all life that it contains, and the love you have for the family you make.

This publication is here to help you say all the unsaid things you have inside you. A place to banish the regrets that are forming. A place to renew and rekindle the love you have and a place to feel the urgency of time.

I am accepting authentic writers to this publication but I will be very selective. I want you to pour your heart out in words and focus on the above two points.

These can be poems, essays, or other creative endeavors, I will leave that up to you. Just reach out to me on Twitter and ask to join.

Thank you.

Elon Musk Is A Troll, Again

He is the Donald Trump of the tech world

When are you fanboys going to learn? Elon Musk is nothing but a narcissistic troll. He is the Donald Trump of the tech world. It’s always about him and constant whining.

But, but, but he made solar panels, and electric cars, and inventions! Look he’s like the modern-day Thomas Edison!

The engineers he hired, and pays handsomely (unless your his executive assistant) invented all those things. He just hired smart people and he takes all glory and credit for it.

He has to because his ego is insatiable. Just like someone else who was a one-term President.

Remember this stunt from a few days ago? When he put a Twitter poll out asking if he should sell his stock to pay taxes because he doesn’t take a salary and has all his wealth tied up in Tesla stock?

What a saint, what a John Galt you are! So brave, a stalwart of capitalism that you forgo your salary for your vision?

How do you eat? How do you live? You must be starving, right?

Yeah well, your company picks up the tab on everything you consume, and then you write it off on taxes. When was the last time those engineers you hired got to do that?

Cry me a fucking river.

Oh wait, let’s get back to that tax thing.

CNBC reports that he’s facing a 15 Billion dollar tax bill on options. Maybe that’s why the whole Twitter poll stunt, or even the “I’ll cure world hunger if you give me a plan” tweet too.

No matter the results of the poll, Musk would have likely started selling millions of shares this quarter. The reason: a looming tax bill of more than $15 billion. (via CNBC)

He was going to sell his stock anyway, he needs to pay his taxes. So it was all a stunt.

When are you going to get it? He likes to stir the pot and get his minions — you suckers — to bleat and cry like the sheep you are.

Do you why? He needs all you dumbasses to keep buying his stock. Keep pushing the share price higher.

As Tesla noted in its third-quarter Securities and Exchange Commission 10-Q filing this year: “If the price of our common stock were to decline substantially, Mr. Musk may be forced by one or more of the banking institutions to sell shares of Tesla common stock to satisfy his loan obligations if he could not do so through other means. Any such sales could cause the price of our common stock to decline further.”(via CNBC)

Feel like a clown yet?