Monday, December 28, 2009
Unbelievably, 2010 is knocking on the door. Yes, indeed.
I know lots of people don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do . . . and I often keep them!! (BTW, I also make Lenten promises and Birthday commitments). I think resolutions are part of my life-long-learner-ness. I want to be intentional about how I live my life and introspective about how I have been living it.
I am having a resolution revolution. This year, I am going after what most matters and I will make more specific plans each week on how to carry them out. Keeping it simple will make them easier to remember. Making them about big things will allow me to roll with life's punches in planning the day-to-day carrying out of them. I'm riffing off a favorite blog, Lynn's Weigh, and making all my resolutions six-word ones. So here goes:
WEIGHT: Stay the course, win the race!
EXERCISE: Avon race, family fun, daily doses.
FAMILY: Love 'em like there's no tomorrow.
WORK: Exceed my own expectations, every week.
SPIRITUAL: Give more, get more, pray more.
FRIENDS: More time for the most important.
In the next few days, I will be putting into place some ways to carry out these resolutions in the first weeks of 2010, because of my favorite 6-word mantra: Fail to plan, plan to fail! I am going to send myself a reminder once a month to review my resolutions. I can't wait!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Guess what? There is actually a research speciality on unlocking procrastination! Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D is an expert on the subject. I recently was inspired by one of his podcasts, "Giving in to Feel Good."
The study Dr. Pychyl summarized concluded that we put off doing things because we don't "feel" like doing it. It's called "negative reinforcement." Procrastination works because it temporarily reduces our anxiety about whatever we are putting off. We all know that, right? And I know I've heard the argument that a person works best under pressure. However, research shows this simply isn't true and that the cost of the stress caused by the pressure is far greater than the cost of the anxiety that initally led to the procrastination. In fact, it leads to what the researchers call, "self-regulatory failure" and damaging behaviors like drinking, gambling, excessive shopping, overeating and smoking. (You may also want to check out Dr. Pychyl's blog, Don't Delay.)
So how do we stop procrastinating? Obviously there is no easy or simple answer or Dr. Pychyl would be out of a job! But there are tools you can use, many of which we utilize in coaching:
- Start paying attention to what your physical sensations are when you are procrastinating so you can catch the behavior more quickly. For instance, you may have a tight jaw, or notice an uncomfortable sensation in your belly. Then you can stop and say, "what am I avoiding right now?"
- Get support in place. Find someone who will hold you accountable for what you say you will do. Set up small (obviously healthful) rewards for completing the task.
- Set a timer; agree with yourself to work on the task for at least 15 minutes.
- Take time after doing the thing you've been avoiding to notice and reflect on your feelings (which are different from your thoughts). This is the positive reinforcement step. Journaling can help you remember that it was worth stepping through the anxiety.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I heard a thought-provoking sermon from our new pastor yesterday And I would love to blog about it -- if only I had more answers than questions. Instead, I am hoping to provoke some conversation. I will lay out my thoughts and really, really want to hear yours. So whether you're following the blog in it's home on blogspot or through the Facebook feed, let me hear from you!
I have always had what I would term "a calling." And I think from a very early age, that became intertwined with a mindset of living -- how shall I say it? -- "simply." So for most of my life, I didn't own much or accumulate much; it just wasn't of interest to me. And although I never became the missionary I thought I'd be, I did have a fairly simple and well, nomadic lifestyle. Then 15 years ago, something completely unexpected happened. I met and married my soul-mate, Paul, and grew roots. Deep ones. Roots that managed to permeat and attach to the solid rock ground of Round Rock, Texas. And with that came children and stuff. Lots of stuff. Too much stuff. Everywhere, stuff. If I had to change homes suddenly now, I'm pretty sure it would precipitate my first all-out panic attack.
Fast forward to yesterday. Father Dean was talking about "my world" versus the rest of the world; the size of my garage versus the size of most people in the world's homes. And I started thinking of the excess. The very fine food my family eats, the number of times we eat out, the sheer numbers of toys, books, socks, and electronics we possess. The kitchen gadgets and yard tools. Two cars. Our very own lawn mower. Organic produce in the fridge. Don't get me wrong - we're not rolling in money -- we make ends meet and not much more. Our newest car was purchased used and is a 2002 model. I'm fretting at the moment about the $2500 dental bill looming in the near future.
But it is so much more than most of the whole rest of the world. I'm looking at $2500 dental work. Fair enough, it's "necessary;" it's to replace a missing tooth. But I'm 50 and I only have one missing tooth. $2500 would house a family of 4 in Nicaragua for months. I'm typing on a computer that would buy their groceries for 15 weeks, maybe more. So I feel conflicted. Is it just me? Do other people grapple with these things? Is it just the Western way or is it time for us to really and seriously live another way? And what of my kids? Would it ruin their lives to change their standard of living at this point? Or are we ruining their lives by not changing?
And what of wealth and plenty? Because we do have enough, we are also able to give and we are thoughtful about our giving. You could call it a "tithe;" we give 10% and we are intentional about it; we spread it around, too. So can it be that some people do need to make more to support all those groups and people that help people who make less? And if I want to earn more to secure my kids' college education and our own retirement, is that smart? Or greedy? Or both?
Father Dean may have answered some these questions in his homily -- I am embarrassed to admit I got so lost in my own quandary I forgot to listen a little. But I doubt it -- I think he has more questions than answers himself. And my subsequent return to the gospel reading left me just as muddled. It seems to be saying "be satisfied with spiritual food," not "grow your own garden and feed the poor." So now it's your turn -- what do you think?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
As it turned out, my favorite creative outlet is cooking. I have a vast collection of cookbooks and I can truthfully tell you, I've read them cover-to-cover. When I get a cookbook, the first thing I do is read it all; then I cook something from it.
Since Seven Days, however, I've been spending more time developing my own recipes as well as honing those I have had for years. My spaghetti sauce recipe was handed down from my mother who is a great cook. It's my recipe now, though, because years of adding my special tweaks has made it my own. One of the creative results of all this extra cooking has been "Spaghetti Madness Thursdays," a line stolen from a long forgotten movie. Nearly every Thursday, pasta is on the menu and hands' down, the family favorite is this quite ordinary sauce.
Fair enough, all this creative kitchen time has not ended any wars nor fed any of Austin's homeless. No one will see the results in a gallery nor will a Noble Prize for Kitchen Wizardry (though I think it's a good idea) be awarded. But what is true is that for the last two years, I have had a lingering sense of satisfaction because week in and week out, I've been doing something peculiarly creative and personal. And that, in turn, has sourced my work which is, as the day ends, about something noble. Wheeee!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
17 years ago last month, a friend of mine (Mike Warren) said, "I think you're ready for Life Training." I had no idea what this training was, but he was a very good friend and I respected him, so off I went. I had no inkling that this one weekend would shape the next decades of my life. Mike told me the weekend was a "wake-up call;" a gross understatement if there ever was one.
This course (and the subsequent ones, especially WOW) have made a profound and lasting difference in my life. I have learned to see all that comes to me in my life as pure gift; an opportunity to wake up, to see who I am, to forgive myself and others, to choose my next step.
When I took More to Life, I was holding on by my fingernails. I was on a self-destructive path through one relationship after another and barely getting myself out of bed day after day. I had surely had my share of hard things to deal with in life-- but that is true of everyone -- isn't it? I had always been a church-goer and while I agreed that I should have faith, I had no idea how to be "faithful." My view of the world, of God and of life was cynical, at best.
Today I have the "how." I am a person of passion and purpose. I wake up every morning with a song in my heart (if not on my lips) and realize I have everything I ever wanted. I am actually living my dream life.
More to Life isn't a magic show or a series of tricks. It isn't a fix-all or panacea. It was the beginning of my journey of waking up to take radical responsibility for my own life and happiness. It's a work in progress. It's about me - day after day -- looking at the people, circumstances, challenges and issues God brings to my life and saying THANK you. And then having the courage to dig deep and find the gift in each of those people, circumstances, issues and challenges.
Today is the 80th birthday of one of the co-founders of More to Life, Brad Brown, now deceased. On this day, I am thankful to him, to his co-founder, Roy Whitten, and to God. I am grateful for "the wake-up call." I am thankful -- so thankful -- that on the occasion of my own last breath, I will know that I have lived my life fully and faithfully, that I have embodied my vocation and that I have done my part to leave behind an inheritable world. Thank you.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
About 20 years ago, I started a gratitude journal. Every day, I wrote down at least three things I was grateful for. At the time, I was engaged in that hand-to-hand combat with life. I was struggling. Struggling against what was, struggling against it all being so hard, struggling for what should be. When I began focusing on all that was right and beautiful and noble in my life, I became less focused on what I didn't like. In the intervening years, I have spent more and more of my time in gratefulness. Yes, I still struggle. But I more quickly notice the "wall" and find my "yes" to what is. I am more able to see the gifts and graces and less likely to think I know how "it" should be.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I turned 50. I am looking at 50 as a halfway-marker. I have had a half-century so far to do what I'm on earth to do. As to the other half, I know for sure I have this moment and I am making it count! I would be very blessed, indeed, to have another half-century to live out my calling but just in case I don't, I'll make the most of today. And tomorrow, for as long as that is given to me.
As we celebrate the season of new life, I am going to be looking closely at what it is I am giving life to. I will sow seeds of hopefulness in the world. I will share what I've been blessed with in a way that brings about new life in others.
I am made of light
. . . . and bird-song
. . . . . . and hope
And that is what I have to offer others. Happy Easter!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
For 30 minutes to an hour, he tries various of angles of flight to finally defeat his daily foe. He pecks at the guy in the glass until he just can't go on, then rests for a few minutes on the window ledge to recover. Then back again over and over until the sun moves and his enemy disappears.
Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as "doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome." I notice that I am a lot like the cardinal, banging my head against the same wall over and over, magically expecting things to turn out differently. And often the enemy I'm fighting is only in my head.
Yesterday, I was pausing at a traffic light and noticed a bird in the grass just a few feet from the freeway. As the cars and trucks zoomed by he was slowly and carefully enjoying the fruits of earth. It was a beautiful spring day. Occasionally he'd lift his head and gaze in a direction while he slowly ate. I watched the light breeze ruffle the feathers on his head. It could have been my imagination, but he looked serene. He had to have known about the traffic whizzing by, but chose to remain oblivious to it, focused on the task at hand.
I am challenged, at times, to focus on what I'm doing and not to get all wrapped up in all that is going on around me. Moreover, I am learning to take time to enjoy the beautiful day while going forward with whatever I'm working on.
So notice what your limits are, take time to let the breeze ruffle your feathers, and have a beautiful weekend.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Take, for instance, the word warrior, as described in my trusty online dictionary:
- a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier.
- a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage or aggression, as in politics or athletics.
I believe each of us, every day, is a spiritual warrior and that we are more or less successful at it every day. Sometimes, we are called upon to be aggressive or be courageous or show "great vigor" in the subtlest of circumstances. For instance, I may be called upon to vigorously defend my decision to take care of myself. You may be required to aggressively uphold someone's dignity, or your own.
I know an amazing family who are spiritual warriors of the highest ilk. They have courageously chosen to love in the most difficult of circumstances. They have given their home, their food, their time and, honorably, their hearts to three little children they did not bear. They have had to take this stand -- the stand to courageously love -- over and over as the court decides these babies' fate. They have done so in the knowledge that heart-break is not only possible, it is likely; they have done so with amazing grace and finesse.
Do they -- or we fight these battles without fear or trepidation? I dare say that often we do not and we are indeed aflutter. The choice to pursue victory over these tribulations is not a mere velleity; these are not battles taken up in simple haste.
Hence that word, warrior. If what is required of us were simple, there would be no ascendancy. What is required to be a spiritual warrior is that we face into the fear as well as the battle; that we stand there with our quaking knees and trembling spirits. And, as well, that we use that sword to cut away the chaff; to constantly seek and find our path amid the weeds and clutter so that what is truly meaningful can emerge and shine forth in us.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
For example, I have been counting calories since January 15 and increasing my exercise to lose weight. I have been carefully tracking every bite and nibble, meditating, exercising, eating "low on the food chain" and generally paying close attention to my health. At the start, I had two really encouraging weeks in which I lost 2 pounds each. Since then, I have not lost an ounce and, in fact, when this week I stepped on the scale, I had actually gained 4/10ths of a pound.
Everything in me screamed, "It's not fair! I've been good! This is too hard! It shouldn't be this way."
I went through a process I'd learned almost 17 years ago in my More to Life weekend. It isn't magic - it's truth telling. And it is incredibly powerful to tell the truth in all it's fullness and magnificence.
Here a couple of the truths I uncovered: Weight loss is a process and there are hundreds of variables that affect weight. If I do what I know how to do--which is decrease calories and increase muscle-- it will eventually show up on the scale. I acknowledged what I had been doing for my health and the changes I've made to my lifestyle. But perhaps most importantly, I saw that I can do all that I know how to do and that's it. I could probably drop pounds by drastically reducing my caloric intake or ramping up my exercise to an untenable level but in the end, I'm "about" something else. I'm about being healthy and becoming fit while still carrying on with the other things that matter so much to me. My most important truth, however is that I am not in charge. Some things are out of my domain. The frustration factor comes in when I lose track of that. Once I can see the truth, I can go on about making a real difference in the world.
Perhaps most importantly, I remembered once again, with gratitude, what having these tools means to me. Once again, I am in creativity and able to see possibility in every area of my life. And I am once again walking tall with my warrior backbone in place. It's a joy!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Frequently, I hear people (particularly "type A" people like me) say, "I'm a good multi-tasker." Yet, the last several years, I've noticed that I don't actually multi-task all that well. My family is very familiar with the disruption in my brain when I try to do it; they say something and I--at first -- nod, then look up - dumbfounded - and say, "huh?" In trying to keep doing what I'm doing and also hear what they're saying, I suddenly cannot do either.
For a while, this phenomenon confounded me. I thought I was aging too fast or something was wrong with my brain. I call it "mindless multitasking." I'm not actually doing anything well, and I am certainly not doing everything well! It turns out, though, that it isn't only me.
Our bodies are equipped with an amazing limbic response to threat; for example, if food is in your stomach and you get attacked, you stop digesting. Our brains work in a similar way – if you are processing something --like solving a math problem, spelling, following a complex set of directions -- your brain will literally need to stop processing that problem set if it is given a new task.
So we are actually only able to multitask if we are doing something that we have relegated to “automatic.” Examples of automatic behavior: chewing, swallowing, tying your shoes, driving (ooopsie!)
If you are doing a task like that, you can multitask. No other time.
– SMACK -- a bird flies into the window. You lose your train of thought because your brain needed to process the incoming missile. It doesn’t have to be an actual threat. A perceived threat is enough: "Dreena, let's talk about your weight."
Imagine you are speaking with a colleague and
I can hear you a
bout to argue that you don't have that many threatening situations in your day. However, those dozens and dozens of little interruptions -- cell phones, children, barking dogs, coworkers -- all must be interpreted by your brain and their threat levels assessed. Fair enough, that assessment is an instantaneous process but nonetheless, you can hear the metaphorical brakes screeching as your train of thought grinds to an abrupt stop.
The trick, therefore, is minimizing the amount of threat reactions you have that interrupt your processing and thus, your creativity.
There are some simple things you can do that I will tell you right now: Turn off your cell phone for several hours a day. Spend time in quiet. Unplug, unwind, take a deep breath.
I am convinced that this is why the truly creative people I've known were also the ones who took time to meditate, to take long walks, to sleep a full night's sleep. In fact, when I think of it, they are rarely the same people who claim to be multitasking.
This is my personal next frontier -- to conquer the new world of doing one thing at a time and doing that one thing well. Multi-tasking is truly mindless. I am going for mindful!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A few years ago, I was inspired by the movie Pay it Forward, although it does have a difficult ending. It wasn't a new idea, of course, but the catchy phrase has helped the concept find new life. I know that the venerable and prolific American sage, Ben Franklin, was a fan of the approach -- he wrote about it in 1784.
To Benjamin Webb: A New Method of repaying Money lent.
Passy, 22 April 1784
. . . The account they give of your situation grieves me. I send you herewith a bill for ten louis d’ors. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting into some business, that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with such another opportunity. I hope it may thus go through many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little. With best wishes for the success of your memorial, and your future prosperity, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,
B. Franklin.1I have been thinking about a variety of ways - not necessarily monetary ones - to "pay it forward." Here's the short list:
- Tell someone about something that changed my life (because maybe it will change theirs!)
- Be a better steward of the many gifts I have; apply the World War II adage, "Use it up; wear it out, make it do or do without!"
- Take advantage of a new fangled way to lend.
- Make a pledge to an organization that is about global change.
- Take my grandma's advice, "waste not, want not!"
- Be helpful: rake leaves, babysit, deliver a pie, smile at the grocery store. Fill a need. Occupy a vacancy.
And . . it's remembering all of my own gifts when doing all or any of that seems too challenging. So now you know why I call it the "Spiritual Work Season." It was a season in need of a verb!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I grew up in a household of cliche-speakers. Phrases such as, "make hay while the sun shines," and "no use crying over spilt milk" were common fodder of everyday conversation. Unconsciously these sayings and beliefs became a part of my vernacular.
The other day, I heard myself say, "It's a mixed blessing." Hold the phone! What is a mixed blessing, anyway?
Some people would say a mixed blessing is something that has it's good and bad points. Which, one could argue, is true of almost anything. But when we say something is a "mixed blessing," what are we really saying?
Basically, we're saying no. No thank you, no I won't have any, no, no, no! Because a blessing is a blessing. And a mixed blessing is one to which we are saying "no."
I like the theory that every gift of life is a blessing, even the ones we don't like at first. Even the ones that are hard. Maybe especially the ones that are hard. And that our challenge as humans is to see that the so-called-mixed-blessings are our refining fire. If I am willing to walk through that fire, then what emerges with me at the other side is pure gold; pure blessing, if you will!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The other day someone said to me, "I'm just focused on keeping my head above water." We've all been there: the work is piled up, the stress accumulates, the debts mount up and suddenly we slip into survival mode.
"I'm just keeping my head above water." The statement struck me.
As someone who's spent a lot of time in the pool lately, I can tell you unequivocally that if you are keeping your head above water, you are not swimming.
Swimming is getting your face wet; it's letting the water hold your weight; it's trusting your body and your learning and Life or God or -- if you will -- fate. It's choosing to propel yourself forward. It's momentum. It's the opposite of standing still. Whether you are choosing to go with the current or go against it, you are taking an active part in changing your situation.
It's a choice every day - every hour - every minute: Will I swim -- focusing my energies on where I want to go -- or will I tread water and try to survive? Fair enough, sometimes I may need to check the depth of the water I'm in or get some instruction or special equipment. But in the end, it's really just a straightforward choice backed up by action. So what will it be, keeping your "head above water" or swimming?
Come on in, the water's fine!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I just can't help but think about what it means -- today -- to be patriotic. We have installed a new President and -- no matter which way you voted -- I think you have to agree it was a historic day.
In my opinion, our nation has elected a new leader. His successes are now our -- my -- successes and likewise, his failures our failures. That he is a Democrat or an African American or a man actually has no bearing on that. He is our President and as a patriot, I am devoted to his success.
Here are some of the things that make me proud to be an American:
For the 43rd time in our 233 year history, we had a change in power. This change was not because an heir assumed a throne, but because American adults of every stripe voted in a free election and were not impeded from voting their conscience.
The change in power was not a military action, nor was an assassination necessary.
The man assuming power had a cordial cup of coffee with the man leaving power, and tonight, he and his wife will sleep in the same bedroom the Bush's slept in last night -- without fearing for his life.
It was a peaceful election with a peaceful change in power. And it is how we have always done it; it's the American way. I think we too often take that for granted.
So tonight, I am inspired. I'm hopeful. I am proud to be an American.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
It turns out it is all in your head!
In our culture, we hear a lot about "free will." It has all kinds of connotations: social, religious, political, parental! We are told, often, "It's your choice," or the parental opposite, "Well you chose to do that. You have free will. If little Timmy jumped off the roof, would you?"
I don't know about you, but I have - at times - basically bought into the notion that I can do anything if I only want to enough. And yet, we all know that isn't the case. Because if it were so, we'd all be worshiping at the shrine of Noman Vincent Peal (The Power of Positive Thinking) or The Secret would no longer be one because we would have all attracted money, love and power and either destroyed each other by now or engaged in a world wide group hug.
Okay, I am being extreme. So seriously, what's the deal? Why is it that I, for instance, am capable of sticking to a diet and exercise plan for sixth months of every blessed year and not at all for the other six months? And why is it that though we want to love our irksome neighbor, for some reason we can't? Well, I have both good and bad news. It's because of our brains!
That's right! Researchers have discovered that in the frontal lobe -- where free will is thought to "reside" -- there is also a veto power. And this veto power can override a "conscious" decision. So you may make a conscious decision, for example, to stop smoking. And when the impulse to light up hits you, you can say no. That's where the veto power comes in. It overrides your conscious decision. It becomes active when you inhibit an impulse. It really explains why some people have more trouble than others in breaking bad habits.
Did I promise some good news? Oh yes. We can retrain the veto control by practicing the more desirable habit over and over. This is where support systems, plans and processes all come into play. Repeating that new, chosen behavior over and over retrains the brain. So get yourself a plan, a cracker-jack support partner and your odds of success will be greatly improved. Hallelujah.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
The auld lang syne -- the old times fondly remembered -- are with us. Yep, it's January 6 and believe it or not, lots of people have already given up on their new year's resolutions. This is true nearly every year. Depending on whose statistics you trust, within 6 to 8 weeks, 87% of those resolutions will be out the window.
Going to the gym in January can be a challenge. All those "resolutionaries" are in there and the place is packed. I just take a few deep breaths and remind myself that by March, only about 1 in 10 of them will still be showing up.
So how do we break the cycle and be part of the minority who truly change our lives? Here are some quick tips:
Get support. Find someone who will walk the walk with you and is going for similar change or someone who will "hold your feet to the fire" when you forget why you're doing this.
Write down not only realistic and attainable goals, but incremental ones, as well.
Look at the stumbling blocks of the past. Did you resolve to spend less money -- but fail to create a budget? Notice what snagged you last time and do it differently.
Make it a habit. I once read that if you do something 21 times in a row, it becomes a habit. This appeals to me. So if I resolve to -- for example -- eat healthily for 21 days and long before day 22, I no longer have to think about it. It's part of my life! (This works in reverse as well -- NOT doing something 21 times is like magic to break a bad habit.)
Plan for setbacks and how you will get back on course afterward. We have our agenda and life has its. The true learning comes in dealing with the things we don't expect.
Celebrate each success -- but not with something you will have to make another resolution on next year! In other words, don't make your celebrations around food or spending money. Celebrate by paying attention to how you achieved your goal and noticing what it took to do it. This will provide true fuel for moving onward.
So . . . did you make any resolutions? If you did and you are off track, it's not too late to get back on track!
Thursday, January 1, 2009
I can't believe it. I have been married to Paul for 14 years! When we first met, we were pretty smug about how well we got along. Now we know that there is a little more to it than that. In honor of our anniversary, I'm passing along Paul's top tips for building a strong relationship, in his own words:
* It's like investing, you're in it for the long haul. It's not like day trading. It puts things into perspective if you remember that it's forever.
* At first -- not so much now -- it was helpful to have our vision. When I was dating, it was helpful to have a relationship vision because it made it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. It's also helpful to remind me, periodically, as to how and why I got in this in the first place!
* It sounds kind of simple-minded and maybe chauvinistic, but it helps to know your place. Both of us have our strengths and our weaknesses in the relationship. If you fit well together and know your places, it's like two gears that fit together as opposed to ones that grate against each other.
He's my hero. I'm sure you can see why!
(By the way, when I asked him for the tips, he initially said-- with a wink in his eye--"Drive, Pay and Carry!" I must admit, that also helps.)