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Cliche’ Alert: “The Camino provides”

….but, if you allow it, the cliche' becomes true.

After a very relaxing afternoon and restful night at La Morena, an oasis of its own, we hit the trail at 7am and sunrise for another day. Their last day on their Camino.

Another beautiful Camino morning for all who are up to enjoy it.

Our morning went on with searches for breakfast and allowed us fresh zumo de naranjara , as Brierley's book was no so bueno.

We finally found a crusty couple who opened up their bar fashionably late, seemed to be irritated by pilgrims, but actually had real food that was not commercially wrapped in plastic. More zumo and croissant pour moi. It was delicious and came with a healthy serving of disgust. Buen Camino.

Hours later, we made it through our walk, very personal conversations, and fine vistas to reach the ceremonial mid-point of the Camino. For Jen & Ron, it was time to stop, for now, stay the night in Sahugan, train back to Madrid, and fly home to Massachusetts.

I've never met a happy, American couple on the Camino like them. Americans are rare anyway. We are typically solo and have reasons to be here alone. Jen and Ron had been here before. Time only allowed them their St Jean to Sahagún Camino over two weeks, as they still have careers back home….and a sweet beagle and two grown kids too.

We hugged, exchanged phone numbers, and settled up the €3 each for beers and ample, free tapas that we inhaled quite nicely on Sahagún's Plaza Mayor. And off I went…

My Camino continues for a couple of more hours and I pass a young lady that seems to be grinding out each step and an Italian couple who is about done like me.

Another small village awaits to provide a nice bed and lots of delicious food and conversation over vino tinto . First, at check-in, the nice Italian couple walks in and kindly offers me Italian and Spanish lessons about requests for non-peregrino menu options….nice effort. Hot shower and clean clothes later, and I'm outside with all cafe tables occupied. Very nice German couple that I had exchanged pleasantries with over days had a seat at their table. I asked. They obliged with smiles. Lovely, lovely couple. After an hour or so, they had to go and meet a bike delivery van to help speed up their Camino to fit their German life back home. Peddling to Astorga tomorrow. Not moments after they left, a young girl leaves her table and her parents as well. I recognize them from the last few towns too and ask to join them. Another sweet couple from France and their 3 teenage kids, with two other families, totaling 14 on their walking Camino. Lots of stories there. We talked about family, politics, and other cultural things until their sleeping kids arose and joined us for tapas and cola drinks.

A young man sitting beside alone finally chimed in when I was inspired to whip out my jaunty, Cockney accent to make a point "there guvnah!" He is a philosophy graduate from London, who's father is Indian and mother is Nordic. Handsome chap with a wealth of conversation. Thus, he must join me for dinner.

He reminded me of that fellow in "Lion" and the "Marigold" hotel movies. Young, smart, global, and fairly seasoned for a man of 25.

We both shunned the peregrino menu and ordered the grilled steak and chips (double insalata for me, no chips). Delicious slab of beef was devoured by each of us. €9 each with a shared bottle of vino tinto. Like our long, very personal conversation, that meal was a joy and nourishing beyond food.

We settled up at the bar, since no one auto-presents the check here…take your time in Espana….and we said our good nights.

That was one remarkable, global day that will never be repeated. I love that.

Most of us shall meet again. No doubt.

Buen Camino.

Do we need to fake it?

According to the Today show, today is national honesty day, the last day of April. If Matt & Savannah say it’s so….

Coincidently, I’ve been thinking lately about the antithesis of honesty. To fake or not to fake?

I’m just not sure where to start…my history of faking it…my older self rarely faking it…my former & current family faking it…or not. Too much there. And, too personal to detail here.

However, what about all of the modern faking of all kinds by so-called friends, acquaintances, & strangers?  Fakes are everywhere we go. Thus, when we stumble upon genuine, unique characters, we find a little Heaven on earth.

We all want honesty & truth to prevail & improve our lives.

We all need honesty. Really need it, for sure.

I walked into a great family movie last night about a work-aholic dad, his submissive wife, neglected kids, and illuminating/corruptive nanny….yes, Mary Poppins. Really. But, the truth did prevail and all ended well, thanks to Walt Disney & Co. of 50 years ago.

Having about two decades of sales & small business management experiences in my gut, I’m convinced that we are only as successful as what each of us accomplished today. Your college transcript means nothing. Your resume’ means very little.  What really matters are proven results you influenced and your potential to do so moving forward for others. You cannot fake those.

Enjoy your national honesty day today….and, hopefully, many positive results to come for you & yours.



Boobs, Bubba, & wrestling

As this school year began, I ran into an old acquaintance and he was nice enough to introduce me to his wife. The intro was unique, but not unexpected. “Brad’s the one that would write letters to the Editor…or you used to…”. So true. Like pressed khakis, dress clothes, crowded parties, wine coolers, bleached jeans, and relying on anyone for financial advice, I’ve given up on productive politics and the hacks & puppeteers who manage thier every move. Public and private airing of opinion has zero impact without a checkbook whipped out for results desired.

I’ve learned this cynical truth in various forms from a majority of elected “leaders”.  The sad reality is local, regional, and, most disappointing, nationwide with our Congress, which is primarily comprised of bullies or lemmings.  Clean house again next year and a new crop of each will emerge. The historic tradition of compromise & reconciliation is dead. The Gipper & Tip must be rolling over these days.  Reagan offered amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens, sense he was a realistic person and bigger  leader. This White House & Congress set up epic annual battles with unrealistic budgets, trillion $+ annual deficits, and inevitable debt-ceiling wrestling matches.  Today’s politics is more like a sport. Winners, losers, and fans cheering on each sideline. But, a football analogy would be too kind.

Today’s politics here in our hometown, in our state house, and in DC resembles professional wrestling more than any sport. Neckties replace masks. Nice suits replace tights. Past that, its the very same egos, testosterone fueled angst, and an endless search for ultimate domination in our politics. Not results. Not greater good. Not sacrafice of any sort. Just re-election. That’s the perpetual goal of most elected officials.

Our federal government hit the mat yesterday and each opponent is blaming the other for throwing the good fight. Sad, but typical.

It’s no wonder why so many other countries look so much more healthy & positive for frustrated Americans and ex-pats.  After a year of research, I’ve realized that there are far more healthy places to call home someday.

This week has proven again why a few banana republics offer greater economic & political stability than our birthright of a country.

Where are our Gippers & Tip O’Neils of today…dead and long gone, it seems. Cheers.


Did God die last week?

Rhetorical query of today:  Is there any chance that God is gone?  Did He exit before 9/11/01? Did it happen last week? Or sometime in-between? Or…is He just up there letting free-will do its thing in horriffic ways?

What really happened this past Friday morn in Newtown, CT is beyond my comprehension, as a father of 4…2 of which are the age or so of the 20 kids & souls lost this week.

God seems to be absent yet again. Is He angry at America? The world? Those who love the most innocent around us?  Or, like the 2nd amendment of our Constitution, does unadulterated freedom and/or free-will come with inevitable tragedy too?  From huge towers of NYC, to a movie theater in CO, to malls and schools all over America & the world…where is the One who can smite at-will?  I’m as confused as ever.

Very fitting that today is a gloomy, rainy Sunday. One that I found myself weeping yet again on my morning walk and later watching, of all things, a very appropriate and dignified opening to the NFL pregame show on ESPN.  Reminding fans about 20 innocent children, ages 6 or 7. And 6 adults who were murdered too. I know no one in CT and I am still aching in waves. I have no clue how one feels in Newtown, CT. No clue.

Is God still around? Did He ache about this? Did He allow this as another “lesson” for us?  Again, I have no clue. I’m just sad and confused…and very grateful for our 4 beautiful and brilliant kids of 20, 19, 8, & 6.

Tell a child how smart and loved he or she is today.  Hug a loved child of yours today. Protect a child from real-life horror stories today.  Ask God for a little inspiration, a little hope, just a little clue into what we should do moving forward….assuming that He is still there and ready to help. 

But, we all know what happens when we assume, now more than ever.

May God Bless you & yours this remaining Season of Christmas 2012 & beyond….

Please, God, give us all a clue and blessings to all who ache this Season. Please.

Smart column. Smart writer.

Everybody’s Liberal. Everybody’s Conservative: A New Psychopolitical Theory to Muddle the Results » Metro Pulse http://www.metropulse.com/news/2012/nov/07/everybodys-liberal-everybodys-conservative-new-psy/#

What America do you want to take back?


2000 redux. No joke. Sad.

Is this 2012 or 2000? Twelve years wasted by two guys I voted for. I gave up today. No vote. That’s my privilege. My passport is ready…

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve pretty much stopped watching all cable news shows and all the minions that derive from those shows.  I’ve even enjoyed  my own personal ban on watching the political conventions over the summer and presidential debates this fall.  It may just be that I’m tired of the “take our country back” thing.  Are Americans really trying to take this country back from something evil or are we trying to take this country back in time?  It’s another rhetorical question. 

However, I’m going to give the rhetoric a shot.  I won’t give evil any credibility in this blog.  No evil  people rule our country right now. Just people. That’s all. Just human beings. Flawed as they may be.  Thus, let’s take a look at taking America back in time, to a much better time and place.

I can only assume that we want to look at the last 100 years or so and not prior to that. I think that the indoor plumbing, less disease, really good life spans, & lower infant mortality century is probably the best place to start.

Do we want to take America back to the horse and buggy era?  Probably not. Henry Ford knew what he was doing.  What about the Roaring Twenties with that fun, free loving, drinking, just do what feels right time…in other words, the 1990’s.  Both decades experienced great economic times, great fun and faux wealth generated, and a huge bubble that was about to pop in a very big way.  Shall we go there again?  How about the thirty’s and forty’s with the Great Depression and World War 2?  We call those folks the greatest generation for good reason. No joking there. Do we possibly want to take America back to those significant challenges? 

Hey, the 1950’s! That was a time of peace and prosperity the likes we will probably never know again!  Oh, but, let’s think about our children huddled under their school desks trying to fend off a nuclear holocaust.  really?  The Cold War probably did make people shiver just a bit.  No thanks.

Oh, but those swingin’ early JFK 1960’s…love songs and cigarettes and booze…you know, the Rat Pack thing.  classic.  The kind of era that leads to fantastic liver disease, hearty melanoma, lung cancer, and, worst of all, an excess of ex-wives to torture us. No thanks.

Baby Boomer alert!   Do you remember that America of the late 1960’s & early 1970’s and, really, all through the depressing 1970’s?  Failure of real leadership was all around us, plus high interest rates, gas lines, plus terrible economic conditions…and….disco.  Need I go on?   

The next decade was my favorite. Actually, it still is my favorite…if looking backwards is healthy. Ronald Reagan was the grandfather I never had. He was a hero to me as a child and still is as a middle age man today.  That very decade may never be repeated, since we just don’t have any leader right now who can bring opposing sides together for a consensus and actually move America forward in a constructive and fiscally responsible way. 

Much like the 1920’s, the 1990’s came with huge growth, explosion of faux wealth, and then a big ol’ bubble that just had to pop!  But, enough about Monica Lewinsky. Let’s talk about the 2000’s.

“Help is on the way!” That was the sign that was in my yard through the 2000 election process and even through those 42 days or so I remember into December, as we couldn’t figure out who our next  president would be….yikes, what a decade that followed.  Past justifiably blowing up a country that attacked us, we went into a war that really wasn’t necessary. And we’ve lost thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives, in the process of senseless war.  Is that the America we want to take back?

Now, here we are. Hope & Change, part deux.  Re-elect Prez No Hope …or…elect Prez No Change.  That is our choice, it seems.

I do believe that I will take door number 3, Monty!  (1970’s game show reference, y’all).  I simply choose not to vote for either guy. I know. I know. Many men and women have died for my right to vote. However, I see any sacrifice on my behalf as simply offering me the ability to not vote, if I so choose.   That, my friends, is real freedom. 

I have no desire to take America back from anyone, anything, nor any ideal that we imagine was better than where we are today.  I just have a remarkable desire for my kids to grow up happy and healthy…and for anyone, who wants to find their new America,  wherever that be… in Central America, South America, or the America we all know here in North America…to each his or her own.

Rest assured, there’s no taking back of America in any way, shape, or form.  America is always a work in progress. 236 years of remarkable performance, lacking, succeeding, starving, thriving, and whatever else you want to throw at it… and here we are.  No one leader can possibly fix what ails us, as a nation. There are hundreds needed to seek consensus in Washington DC. There are thousands more in state capitals all across America. And millions of Citizens who can make real things happen for real change. It’s not about 1 guy in the White House.  

This first Tuesday in November, 2012, will have no effect on the destiny of America. The Destiny of  America is determined by its people. And its people can find its own America in its own little home towns or somewhere in some country of Central America or whatever America you wanna make wherever you want to make it.  Horace Greeley said “Go West, young man”, way back in the day. But, today, it’s go wherever life takes you, young man. Go find your freedom, wherever it maybe. Go find your success, wherever it maybe. Go find your love, life, and pursuit of happiness for your family wherever it may be, young and not so. 

Let’s not take America back to anything. Let’s just take our own America, whatever that may be, to a much better place.

God’s speed. God’s speed, to you all…wherever He may lead you.

p.s. timely link. Heady read @NYTIMES :


Best 20 options ~ The Plan cont.

Paradise found…times 20. Adventure. Family. Exploration. Living. http://www.liveandinvestoverseas.com/kits/how-to-retire-overseas-kit-2/

No more homework…for kids AND teachers?


What if?

What if we set a quality-of-life goal for all school-age kids AND teachers of “8-8-8” ?

Simply put:

8 hours of challenging, modern, and efficient education

8 hours of family time, recreation, extracurricular pursuits

8 hours of sleep

Consideration of all involved (kids, educators, and parents) in education should demand the leveraging modern tools of communication, education, and productivity for all involved.

There’s no educational Utopia, but there’s a most affordable and productive tool ready to beta test, tweak, and roll-out in our public schools. Private schools, STEM schools, and even very priviledged charter & public schools use modern technologies today. Why can’t all schools? Think tablets.

The photo here shows 1 math lesson in 1 class of 18 kids and 1 teacher. This took me 1 hour to tear, fold, sort, and stack. What about the distribution, completion, grading, and return of results energy, time, and expense for this 1 lesson? Millions of lessons, kids, parents, volunteers, and educators per week? All paper and pencil? Really? In 2012?

What if every teacher had her or his own virtual assistant distributing assignments, encouraging kids during thier work, and offerring kids, teachers, administrators, AND parents instant, real-time, and/or daily outcomes per child, per class, per school, per district, per state…you get the virtual picture. Teachers need greater efficiencies more than anyone involved in education. Greater productivity tools lead to greater free-time and happier teachers. No more working at home for hours every night. If we cannot afford to pay teachers what they are worth, then just re-allocate current funding for pencil & paper lessons to electronic lessons & secure tablets with writing stylus. Teachers really plan lessons and can teach during thier 8 hour workday. Kids work efficiently and learn in fun, modern ways…and maybe have more time available for exercise and the arts too. Parents can be as real-time connected to thier child’s daily outcomes as each wants to be or can be. Administrators have remarkable outcome measurement tools. Unreal possibilities.

It’s practically modern. It’s like being Japanese or any better, forward-thinking, cutting-edge, brilliant, modern educational system. More learning in less time with real-time feedback, encouragement, and rewarded educators, kids, and parents. More free-time for all. Less paper, energy, waste, and time demands for all. With Amazon’s kindle fire HD retailing for $199, there’s a remarkable deal to be struck for millions of units per state and with electronic content publishers. This can and should be a modern reality for all involved.

Keep our libraries. Keep the techy tablets secure at school. Send real books home to read at bedtime every night. Keep a few Rockwellian traditions of reading everday, keeping a daily journal, and frequent recess…but plug in a cloud-driven, modern, educational communication tool and it will be like a huge boost in pay (time and freedom) for educators and a real-time feedback opportunity for kids and parents.

Innovation is the key to pulling our educational systems, our economy, and our global success back up where each belong. Think tablets.


Merci, mon ami.


How about never retiring? Sounds good to me.

Listening to NPR on a Saturday morning and the chat is about 401k’s, “your number”, investment advisors, etc….and then there’s this modern family story in my inbox:

“The Roussel children are no strangers to adventure. Perhaps that’s because Jonah, 11, and Elijah, 18 months, have traveled rather more than your average Canadian youths.

Mom and Dad—Susan, 37, and Denis, 35—are self-confessed globetrotters. It helps that Denis is able to work from anywhere; he’s in marketing and online advertising. And Susan is a certified teacher who loves to teach and travel—a combo that works well, as teaching young kids (in English) is a job that’s easy to find nearly anywhere in the world.

Last year, they decided to do more than simply take a vacation. ”We just decided that we were going to make a move somewhere other than Canada,” says Susan. “We wanted to get away and experience a tropical hot climate for a year.”

The Roussels visited Costa Rica but didn’t find an area that “spoke” to them and their needs. When a family member insisted they check out Panama, Susan balked: “Isn’t Panama dangerous?We had no idea,” she laughs. “We had heard a lot about Costa Rica but it seemed no one talked as much about Panama.”

It seems Panama was meant to be. On the plane back home from Costa Rica, they found an article in the glossy airline magazine. They pored over color photos and read about Panama’s modern infrastructure and excellent residency programs. Though Panama was unknown to them, it seemed incredibly safe and stable.

Denis and Susan started to read about Panama in earnest in the pages of International Living. The Pacific coast beach communities near Panama City sounded ideal, especially the beach town of Gorgona. Adjacent to the growing town center of Coronado, Gorgona is convenient and very affordable.

“We’ve been in Gorgona for about four months,” says Denis. “We are planning on staying until June.” After that, the Roussels plan to go back to Alberta and decide whether to move to Panama permanently.

Even with the tuition fee for a private school… and $1,200 a month in rent for an ocean-view condo that is literally on the beach (the Roussels can step into the sand from the building’s pool area)…the Roussels are saving a lot of money. Their cost of living, says Denis, is about half what it was back home.

Jonah has taken time to adjust. But, says Susan, he is now starting to really enjoy it. “He’s so active here, he has lost weight and met other kids…half the time we look up to find him gone to visit some friend in the building.”

Susan says the locals in Gorgona have been very friendly and welcoming, attempting to teach her Spanish a little at a time. “We’ve also been able to spend more time as a family together,” she says. “We can have fun and not worry it’s costing a fortune.”

In addition, the excellent health care gives them peace of mind, as Jonah has a neuromuscular condition that could require medical attention at any time. “But most of all, we’re happy,” says Susan, smiling at baby Elijah as he attempts to climb everything in sight. “That’s all that counts.”

Crazy? Out of the box thinking? Just not normal?  Yes, please.

We’ll never retire. We’ll just keep on living here and eventually way over there too. Love this plan.

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