Change Your Expectations; Realize Your Wants: “Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!

These are the notes that I took while watching Jennice Vilhauer’s 2015 TED Talk to forward to a friend of mine who is in prison and doesn’t realize she has the power to get herself out of jail on bail.

“Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!”

Jennice Vilhauer

Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!


Notes from Jennice Vilhauer TED Talk 2015

How many of us would like to win the lottery?

(Many hands go up.)

How many of us bought a lottery ticket today?

(Few hands go up.)


An EXPECTATION is a BELIEF about whether you will get what you WANT.

You CREATE your future with your expectations.

Expectations + Action = Creation of your life experience.

Common expectation:

I want to change my life, but I don’t really believe I can.

People give up on their lives because they aren’t willing to try.

When you don’t ACT on what you want, you take yourself out of the game.

If the game is winning the lottery, buying a ticket does not guarantee that you will win, but not buying a ticket will guarantees losing.

Our brains work on the principle of ANTICIPATION:

We constantly predict things before they occur.

When you anticipate an outcome, you automatically prepare yourself for what you think is going to happen.

When you PREPARE for something that hasn’t even happened yet, you PARTICIPATE in the outcome.


We have a tendency to use the past to predict the future:

If you failed once, you think you will fail again.

You have to BELIEVE your future can be better than the past in order for your future TO BE BETTER than the past.

Think about this scenario: A woman goes online to find the man of her dreams; all of her first dozen dates are guys who are losers; finally, she gives up showing up for a date looking her very best and then she meets a guy after she has worked out at the gym without showering and while wearing her gym clothes to the restaurant. The guy is everything she wants, but she loses out because she can’t look this well-dressed, perfectly behaved, interesting gentleman in the eye. She excuses herself and bolts from the restaurant. Her expectations, based on past dates, have ruined her future with the ideal man she wanted because she based her expectations on her past experience instead of future possibilities.

If you are aware of what your expectations are in a situation, then you have the ability to use your conscious mind to override the automatic thinking of failure expectations: you can PLAN for how to CREATE a different outcome.

Our expectations about what we want to get out of life have a very profound effect on our emotional well-being:

Our brain is dedicated to seeking REWARDS.

REWARDS are what you want out of life that make life worth living.

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” JR Tolkien

When you EXPECT to get a reward, you get a feeling of happiness, of joy.

When you DON’T EXPECT to receive a reward, you feel sadness, maybe even depression.

The LARGER THE GAP between what you EXPECT and what you WANT, the greater distress you feel.

What do you do when what you expect doesn’t match up with what you want?

  • You can give up wanting what you want.
  • You can change your expectations to match up with what you want so you can take consistent action.

Imagine an upcoming future event and ask yourself:

1) How is what I am expecting making me feel?

If you are expecting a positive outcome, you will be happy.


If you are expecting a negative outcome,

you feel anxiety, fear, and dread.

2) What would I like to have happen instead?

This question identifies what you really do want to happen in a situation.

What you WANT is often NOT what you are EXPECTING.

Remember: You WANT to win the lottery, but you DON’T EXPECT to win.

  • What do I need to do to make what I want happen?

When you have a negative expectation of a situation, it is because you are focused on all the things that could go wrong, why it’s not going to work out for you. You are not generating thoughts and ideas about how to make it go right.

When you SEE A PLAN laid out in front of you, of what you want, your assessment of the expectation starts to change: YOU BEGIN TO SEE THE POSSIBILITIES. This is where SHIFT happens.

Every SUCCESSFUL action you take towards that plan starts to CHANGE your EXPECTATIONS.

I know what your are thinking as you read this:


If you are desperate and can’t see change happening in your life, ask yourself this question:

“Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?”

Some of us DON’T DARE to dream about life as being different because we CAN’T EXPECT it to be different.

Shift your expectations so you can find the light at the end of your long, dark tunnel.

When you are MOTIVATED by what you WANT, CHANGE is POSSIBLE.

“Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford


It’s your EXPECTATIONS of the FUTURE that LIMIT you the most. Not the past. Not your abilities.


You can CHOOSE to TAKE ACTION based on what you WANT, and when you do that, you give yourself an opportunity to STEP OUT OF THE PAST and CREATE THE LIFE you truly want.


Premonition in Costa Rica


So my goodbye day to Samara Beach, Costa Rica, was complete with a long walk on Samara Beach this morning, a long 4-wheeler ride to Nosara for another long walk on the Playa Guiones with a nice ex-pat named Linda (who isn’t a Trump fan) and her rescued dog, a great two-hour private yoga lesson at Tica Yoga Studio in Nosara with Mariah, another long last walk on Playa Guiones (topless surfers got my attention), a last and stressful 4-wheeler ride back to Samara over some of the worst dirt roads on the planet, two massages, and a last swim in the ocean before I go to bed tonight to finish my day.

At the start of the 4-wheeler ride home from Nosara, I thought to myself, “You’ve ridden this thing almost three hundred miles without biffing it, rolling it, or flipping it, you only have thirty kilometers to ride without making any of those mistakes.” I had a very ominous feeling about this last ride. At twenty kilometers out, I thought, “Only twenty to go.” The thought occurred to me again at the gas station as I drove through a busy intersection and almost got T-boned by a semi truck (my bad), “Only three miles of winding, paved downhill road to ride at 70 kph; you can do this…” One mile out, “So far so good,” but I had this sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to get out of this week without an ambulance ride. One hundred feet to the parking curb and I was home free… Then it happened, right in front of the rental place…I turned into a parking space, parked the 4-wheeler, and walked away…unscathed! So much for geriatric four-wheeling for a week!

Eva Parsons August 22, 1950-April 7, 2016

My wife, Eva Carol Parsons passed from her friends and family April 7, 2016. Two years ago, I delivered my eulogy for her on Friday, April 22, 2016, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Wasilla, Alaska. I started with the following poem by e.e. cummings:

“I carry your heart with me”

I carry your heart with me

I carry it in my heart

I am never without it

Wherever I go, you go, my dear

And what ever is done

By only me, is your doing,

my darling, I fear no fate,

my sweet, I want no world

for beautiful, you are my world, my true

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

Here is the root of the root

And the bud of the bud

And the sky of the sky

Of a tree called life;

Which grows higher than the soul can hope or the mind can hide

And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart


Question: Where is Eva now?

I think I know.

She’s in the Mind of God.


In The Mind of God.

Eva is connected to omniscience, that is why we can’t sense her; she is on the other side of our limited senses. We cannot see her because we can only focus on what we can sense and we cannot sense everything that can be known in other words we are not omniscient.

We too, are in the Mind of God, but ours’ is a special place: we have been given five senses in order to sense our world that we know through our senses.

We only know our world, but Eva, being connected to the omniscient world knows everything that was, that is, and that will ever be known.

Where Eva is, includes everything we understand and everything that can be understood.

The barrier between Eva and us has to exist because if we were a part all knowledge, we wouldn’t be interested in this world because it is so limited compared to everything that can be known.

Eva is connected to the Mind of God; she lives in the Mind of God.

We don’t have to worry about her: she is in a bigger place and I am sure they speak really good French there.

Who is Eva?

Wow! Did I learn some interesting stuff about Eva after she passed away from us forever.

I learned she was funny.

Who knew?

Well, just about everyone but me.

I did not know that her colleagues regarded her as hilarious on frequent occasions.

I thought she was pretty funny sometimes, but most of the time I knew her as a focused, serious, private person who on occasion made me laugh at ridiculous situations, usually situations I created.

I learned that Eva meant a great deal to her colleagues:

She was regarded as a mentor, a rock-solid friend, and a highly conscientious team member who always could be counted on to fulfill her duties on time, and follow through with her responsibilities.

She was respected and loved dearly by her fellow foreign language teachers.

I always knew how much she loved learning, speaking, and teaching French.

She loved France and the French language so much, she spent a dozen summers studying for her Masters in French, traveling France with friends, attending a French cooking school for a month, and most interestingly to me, suffering through a private school designed to teach French to diplomats and business professionals.

I say suffered because that school session lasted nonstop from eight in the morning until eight at night, six days a week, for almost three months. It was intense. It was outrageously expensive.

The pay off was that she spoke French so well, native speakers of French complimented her.

After that summer, she moved up in office from a “fluent speaker” to the rank of the fourth best non-native speaker of French in Alaska.

I just made that number up.

But it sounds about right.

Ten years ago, Sam and I listened to two Frenchmen at the Anchorage International Airport.

These guys owned a fishing cabin at Deep Creek and spent a lot of time salmon fishing.

They were trying to figure out a way to check their heavy boxes of salmon.

Eva introduced herself in French and proceed to explain to them, in French, how to use the airline concierge to help them get their boxes on the plane.

They followed her advice and were delighted.

The Frenchmen asked Eva where she came from in France.

They wouldn’t believe she wasn’t French. The were convinced she was born in France.

Compliments don’t get any richer than that.

We lived off the fumes of that conversation for a good seven, or eight years.

Did I mention that I am inordinately proud of Eva?

I admire her teaching career. I admire her motherhood. I admire her ability to accept me for who I am and her ability to inspire me to become a better teacher, father, and husband

I would like to tell three stories that almost no one in this room has ever heard.

Eva was always about work; her work ethic was legend.

One Sunday morning about twenty years ago, she kissed me goodbye at eight in the morning and said she was going to work in Wasilla High to grade papers and plan for the next week. She said she would be home for dinner around five.

I spent the day reading and riding my mountain bike on Ft Rich. I returned home around five.

No Eva.

I put dinner on the table and laid down to take a short nap.

I woke up two and a half hours later.

No Eva.

Eight o’clock rolls around, and I know I am behind the power curve. I called Dwight Probasco and told him Eva hadn’t called about being late and I hadn’t seen her for twelve hours.

He said he would go to Wasilla High School.

Something told him to take a policeman with him. As Dwight tells the story, he had his 44 magnum with him.

He just had an overwhelming sense that something was wrong.

Dwight entered Eva’s room, and Eva greeted him with, “What’s up guys, you’re here late.”

Dwight told her that I had called him and that I was worried. Eva said the time had gotten away from her and that she would pack up in a little bit and head back to Eagle River.

After calling Dwight, I called my neighbor, an APD patrol officer. He in turn, called his state trooper friend patrolling the Glenn Highway and gave him description of Eva’s car.

They never spotted her on the road; she rolled in to the house at about 10:30, chipper as could be and wanted to know if I held dinner for her!

Second story:

Eva rode ten-speed pro racing bikes with me in her twenties and kept up with the big dogs handily.

We once rode our tandem from Greeley, Colorado to Minneapolis, pedaling 1000 miles, in ten days.

We rode our touring bikes from Loveland, Colorado, two hundred and fifty miles to Casper Wyoming in three days.

We backpacked many times in the Rockies.

But sailing was Eva’s favorite sport.

She sailed Hobie 14s, 16s, and a big Hobie 18.

Eva and I reversed roles on the boat: I was the crew in the trapeze in the front of the boat and she was the captain, the tiller wiggler, and decision-maker.

Somehow, sailing a big catamaran in high winds and six foot chop innervated her, sailing in high wind actualized her inner athlete.

Her brother Vince and I sailed with Eva in thirty-knot winds over and through five foot waves.

Eva never took the easy tack. She never made the easy and safe tack across the wind.


Jibbing the boat the boat where the wind comes across the stern of the boat, grabs the sail and the boom, and slams them to the opposite side of the boat was her tack of choice.


She knew how to control this wild turn and loved to yell out “PREPARE TO JIBE. JIBE-HO!” Most sailors give the crew ten seconds to register the command and prepare for ducking the boom.

Not Eva.

At JIBE-HO, the boat stalled for two seconds, Vince and I jumped seven feet for the opposite rail of the boat, ducked under a flying boom and clipped madly into our trapeze cables while Eva laughed and sheeted in the main sail throwing all of her weight and all of her might into the mail sheet. The boat at this point is going three directions at once: it is flying forward, slipping sideways until the leeboard is dropped and most dramatically, the pontoon that we are standing on rises out of the water, eight feet into the air.

We stand on it with our heads twelve feet above the water, rocketing to thirty miles per hour as the wind roars in our ears and the bow spray stings our eyes.

Eva: Wasn’t that great! Let’s do that again!

I think that is how we lived our lives back then: Crazy jibe tack in a high wind after crazy jibe tack, after crazy jibe tack.

We laughed at caution. We welcomed the danger of our sports. We welcomed challenge.

This was Eva in the eighties: One big jibe-ho after another.

In a calmer time, this month in fact, Eva slowed down considerably to about four breaths a minute.

It seemed impossible that she could breath that slowly and continue life.

One morning, in the last week of Eva’s life, Sam was leaning over Eva to listen to Eva’s breath. Sam put her ear close to Eva’s face… Eva said, “BOO!”

Sam jumped back, and Eva, never opening her eyes, said her last words ever: “Just messing with you.”

Her humor stayed with her to the very end.

Eva is gone.

More importantly to me, is that she was here.

She lived her life and she loved her work.

She loved her daughter.

She loved her dogs.

And she loved her husband.

In about that order.

Eva’s last wish for me was that I might live a long life, I should be kind, and I should set a good example.

She knew that she lived a good life as she lived it.

That is about all anyone can ask for in life: to be present in the moment to enjoy it at the same time.

She is in the Mind of God. She is safe, happy, and probably wishes that the rest of us would get on with our lives to live as happily and as richly as she lived.

One of our last moments together was when I climbed up at the head of the bed, took her right hand in my right hand to hold it while we slept. I thought she was no longer conscious of me. She enclosed my hand in her right hand and held it firmly.

She is in my heart.

Our hearts beat together.

She is in Samantha’s heart.

She is in all of our hearts.

She is in our hearts so she can be happy bringing us joy to our lives.

SAT NAM: Or How My Life Changed in Logan, Utah.

SAT NAM: The truth is my identity.

So this is the state of the third life of Jeff Parsons as he awakens to each new day in his beautiful home in Logan, Utah: I awake, I breathe, I take yoga classes, I walk my dogs on beautiful trails and beautiful parks, I think about my future as it will unfold. I learned a new greeting today that I must use for the rest of my life: SAT NAM. No more, “I am just happy to be alive.”

My buddy, Martin Buber, said, “All real living is meeting.” This week has been a week of real living, in Logan.

I awoke too late for my hour of intentional breathing this morning. I decided to attend a Kundalini Yoga class at 7:30, and it was 7:00 when the Labs rolled me out of bed. I wasn’t going to miss this class. I thought to myself, “What fool does yoga at 7:30 on a Saturday morning in Logan, Utah?” I decided to find out what Kundalini Yoga was all about on the strong recommendation of my first Transcend Yoga teacher, Kelly.

Was I ever in for a surprise! Arriving early at 7:15, my fellow yoga friend Bonnie (veteran of one class, I bond quickly) and I thought we must be late to class because the class of three students and the teacher were already in high chant. As in: HIGH CHANT! Master teacher Andy Rasmussen welcomed us in, informing us that we weren’t late, we had just missed the early morning warm up; class would start soon. This was my introduction to Andy’s class: Everyone in the class was outfitted in white (Bonnie and I showed up in black), Andy sat on a pile of prayer pillows in front of what appeared to be a 40 inch gong! (Quite a prop!) Andy started with a loud, and relatively long chant. No “Hi! How do you do?” Just, “Let’s get busy and chant!” Bonnie informed me that this was pretty much a “chill” class that was mostly chanting and storytelling and not a lot of long-held asanas. She did get the chanting part right, as well as the storytelling, but she must not have gotten the e-mail about seven and a half minutes of “down dog push-ups,” or the really, really long time spent on an overhead arm-swinging-breathing exercise. I almost passed out from vehement arm swinging, and chuff-breathing-in-rhythm to the arm swinging. Swinging your arms, (while sitting) over your head and down to your sides, will surely wake you up if the down dog pushups didn’t do the trick!

We moved on (can an hour really be this long?) to guided visualization and then to an intense ten-minute meditation to the BONG song of that monster gong! I guess an hour has to be really, really long to get all this good stuff in!

Rarely, (if ever) do I walk into a completely different culture that shakes up my composure and consciousness. Each day spent with Transcend Yoga has given me a new experience from “Ashtanga Vinyasha” back bends with Kelly, to manic “how many of these asanas can we do in one hour because I am SO out of breath?” Chantel Gerfen, to Vinyassa Flow (OMG! I am going to run out of sweat here if we don’t stop for savasana soon) Olivia, to YinYangYoga with “if you pause, you may never catch up,” Sherilyn, to Kundalini Yoga “this will change your life forever!,” Andy Rasmussen.

I still have HOT Flow into Flexibility with Sherilyn tonight (she promised that the class would “melt” my heart).

This is my life in Logan, Utah, August 20th, and the clock just struck 1:30 pm. Wait was that a gong? My I-phone changed its tone to a gong tone spontaneously!

Six hours later: Yes! Sherilyn delivered a class to melt my heart; true to her word!


The Best Advice in the World on Freshman Drinking

The Best Advice in the World on Freshman Drinking


ON MAY 20, 2016 


I have a former student who I care about very much. She actually listens to me when I give her ideas. We were messaging back and forth about her recent graduation from high school and her excitement to matriculate into college as a freshman this fall. I closed a message by saying, “Remember to ask me the best advice in the world on drinking alcohol in college.”

This was her response:

Thank you Mr. Parsons! I definitely look forward to college, hopefully the distance doesn’t get me down too much. I will definitely stay in touch! Is your advice “don’t do it”?:)

I left her name out of my response to protect her privacy. This is my response to her question:


That is typical, stupid parent advice that any college student who is going to drink in college will ignore. I know, I know, you are not typical. You don’t see yourself as being like other students, and you are right: you are not like other students. You are smarter, cooler, and have a brighter future than the rest of the pack.

On the other hand, there are college students, about a million or so, who are smarter, and “cooler” than you, and think they have the same future ahead of them as you have, but they will never have that future because they are well on their way to a life shrouded in alcoholism.

I have been to college; you have not. I know the “pull” of peer pressure, and the desire to rebel, and to just say, “F it, I’ll do what I feel like doing.”

You do not know that pull, or desire to rebel. Not yet.

Every year, millions of college kids unwittingly learn a lifetime addiction in college; they never recover from that habit whether they grow up and stop drinking heavily, or they continue to drink themselves slowly into a morass of apathy.

No one has to drink in college. For the first three years of your college experience, it is illegal to do so. But who follows the laws these days, right?

Feel free to not drink.

You might be lucky like me, and alcohol will have no allure for you. I doubt it. Alcohol is a magical substance the defeats even the most resolute of souls.

I have no idea why I didn’t drink like all the rest of my high school friends and my college cohort. It’s irrelevant why I didn’t drink. I missed the alcoholism bullet. My wife missed the bullet, and my daughter, so far, is dodging that particular bullet.

You may, or may not dodge it. You are a deliberate and contemplative person; you should at least hear some reasonable strategies to avoid a brush with alcoholism.

My first, and simplest advice is to drink if you choose, but just don’t drink your first freshman semester of college.

You will notice that a lot of the first semester heavy drinkers won’t show up the second semester. The whole point of first semester is to make it to second semester; you will be much wiser, and less impetuous your second semester because you will be a bit older, and you will think to yourself, “Holy shit, that was a bunch of people that flunked out, dropped out, or got killed. I’m glad I wasn’t one of them.”

If you think you have to drink, delay drinking until second semester. I guarantee you that there will be more booze available to you because those other guys will be drinking somewhere else.

My second piece of advice concerning responsible drinking is to drink slowly.

Drinking is not a “game.” Beer pong and chug-a-thons are games that are fun for awhile, but they promote irresponsible drinking. Students engage in those games because they don’t know how to drink. Learning to tolerate alcohol takes a bit of distraction to get past the taste and the uneasy feeling that you should not be engaging in this activity as a freshman. You don’t see thirty-somethings playing drinking games. There is a reason for that.

My third piece of advice is to drink in a same sex group: drink with the girls, and only with the girls: they will never rape you.

You have no idea how many girls get raped in college. Neither do I, actually, but it is way more than is ever reported.

Boys like to have sex; they want to have sex with younger girls because those freshman girls are more easily coerced. Freshman girls are frequently easily manipulated to do what boys want to do the girls are drunk.

There are ten thousand college freshman girls raped every school year to every college senior girl who gets raped.

Where did I get my statistics?

Nowhere; I just made that up. I’m not too far off, and the exact numbers are not germane to this argument when it is my cherished friend and student who might have to go through the rest of her life as a rape survivor.

If you want to drink with a guy, take your boyfriend to college with you; at least he won’t rape you when you are drunk. No other guy you’ve known for less than six months can guarantee that they won’t rape you when you are drunk.

Where do I get my authority on abstinence?

Does F. Scott Fitzgerald sound like the voice of authority when he wrote: “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes you”? He spent the last third of his life writing to earn enough money to keep his dearest love, Zelda in an asylum. (Zelda invented the verb “to party” by the way.) Fitzgerald’s goal was to get Zelda out of the asylum and back into his life, but neither of them could stop drinking long enough to make that happen. It makes for a good romantic story if that is how you want your life to read.

Incidentally, F. Scott was smarter, better looking, and a better writer than you are now, and look what happened to him.

Fitzgerald could have learned something from me: “Nobody ever starts drinking with the intention of becoming an alcoholic.”

My dear student, if you never start drinking, then it follows that you will never become an alcoholic. That is logical. Logic is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the maelstrom of emotions that will drive you to drink in college. Logic is a pitifully weak ally against the pressure to drink in college, but it is all you have got.

But what’s the fun in going through college without drinking?

I’ll offer my life experience:

I have lived a riotously fun life, an extraordinarily fun life for the last sixty-five years. I have another thirty years of fun ahead of me. I did not drink in high school, or in college. I am sure that I have drunk less than one thousand bottles of beer…in my life.

In closing, you and I are not close to each other yet; we can barely even consider each other true friends. So what’s my personal interest in you?

You are unique in the world. There is nothing that you cannot do if you set your mind to it. Steve Jobs said that he wanted to “put a ding in the Universe.” You are smart enough, magical enough, and have enough of the right karma to put a freaking dent in the Universe if you have a mind to do so. It would be an unforgivable shame, a crime against everything that is good and right in this world, if your energies were diverted by alcoholism, or rape, or dropping out of college before you had a chance to see your true destiny just beyond the horizon of a college education. Trust me on my perception of your uniqueness; I am always right when I identify extraordinary students like you: students who will go out into this world and change it for the better.


Closing for the second time: Your mother, or even your goofy father would never ask you to do anything illegal, immoral, or self-destructive with your body, or your life. Be the guardian of your body, the defender of your life, and the advocate of your destiny, by never doing anything illegal, immoral, or self-destructive to the wonderful person who may one day call me her close friend and valued advisor. “______________ and Jeff Parsons are friends.” Such a sweet sentence.

If you read my blog post titled “Using Math and Modeling to Defeat Alcoholism,”  I quote my daughter Samantha asking me why I would ever drink again when she reaches 21.

What she really was asking is, “Why would anyone ever drink?”


Dear reader, I would be happy to hear your comments on this essay!


Career Tech High School Class of 2016 Commencement Speech

As I promised, here is the text of my speech to the CTHS Class of 2016, as delivered on May 10, 2016:

Good Evening Honored Class of 2016, Parents, Family, Teachers, Administrators and Board Members.

In the space of little more than a month, through happenstance, I have experienced a most devastating event and a most gratifying event. I am grateful to be here to speak to you tonight; I feel a balance from being invited to speak to you.

Thanks to you, the members of the Class of 2016, I have the opportunity to address you one last time This is the most energizing and exciting opportunity that has come my way since I had most of you as Freshman.

Thank you.

Let me catch my breath a moment.

This evening, I want to talk to you about life and death.

Settle down. We aren’t going to visit dark places.

I am going to talk mostly about life because I have some authority on that subject.

First let’s do a quick review. I wrote the Class of 2015s speech last year with you in mind as my audience.

You weren’t here last year so I will do a quick review to bring you up to speed.

First, I regaled the Class of 2015 by suggesting that their parents buy them a Tempur Pedic Memory Foam mattress for their graduation present. There was a point to my request: I reasoned that if a person is going to spend the next third of his or her life in bed, parents might as well spring for a great bed in order that their dear children might spend that time enjoyably.

Second, I offered the advice to make a point of becoming a conscientious person. For those of you who don’t have a ready definition at hand, to be conscientious by my definition is to do what is expected of you:

You perform you duties promptly.

You embrace your responsibilities every time you are called upon to be responsible.

You are cheerful in executing your duties.

And you always complete your tasks without being asked a second time, or better yet without ever being asked.

What do you get out of this?

You will be a stand out parent.

You will be loved and cherished by your spouse.

Your employer and your customers will always look forward to engaging your company.

You will always feel good about yourself because dependable, loyal people always feel good about their service to others.

My last directive to the Class of 2015, and now to you is:

Every day, every hour of every day, ask yourself the Laken question:

“Is this the best use of my time now?”

If the answer is “no,” you’ll know what you need to do.

If the answer is “yes,” you probably won’t be asking the question.

The best use of your time is different for you than it is for me, and anyone else. But you and I will spend a large part of our lives doing the exactly the same activity if you listen to me carefully for the next five minutes.

I want to teach you something I have always known, but something that has just re-entered my life in the last four months.

I want to teach you to live and to know you are alive while you are living.

How will I teach you to be aware of living in five minutes?

Let me show you.

Stand up.

Follow my instructions:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in and this is the most important part:


Okay. Once again for the slow guys:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in, and this is the most important part:


And again:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in, and this is the most important part:


Breathing is life. Intentional breathing is living and paying attention to your life as you live it.

You know you are alive when you are breathing.

You appreciate your life as you live it when you breathe intentionally as we all just experienced.

Breathing is the miracle of life.

We all come into our lives on an in breath.

We leave our lives on an out breath.

In the meantime, we never stop breathing, we just stop paying attention to the beauty of our breathing until now.

Breathing intentionally will inform your life about everything you need to know and do with this gift of breath.

Our breath is central to our lives:

We hold our breath when we are excited and joyous.

We laugh. And laughing is the most joyous form of breathing.

To cry is to breathe: crying is breathing to help us catch up with our overwhelming emotions. It is done in the presence of god if you think about the tears and the symbolism of water being the presence of God.

We breathe harder when we live harder. Running. Skiing. Basketball. Baseball are all breathing sports.

When we play sports like baseball, we breath!

Watch me: Pitch. Bat. Catch. (I act this out.)

We hold our breath when we think we are about to die.

Maybe we do that to keep from dying. Who knows?

Now I will make my point.

I know of a man, Thich Nhat Hahn who breathes intentionally and smiles with every breathe all day every day and he has been doing this for the better part of his ninety-three years. I think he must cheat a little by smiling continuously during his waking hours and in his sleep. He does smile and he does emphasize every breath he takes.

I want you to take sometime to breathe intentionally every day. It should become a livelong habit to breath intentionally. We may not become Thich Nhat Hahn, but we will all be better for breathing intentionally.

Ten minutes every morning would a good start for you.

I wake up every morning and breathe intentionally for sixty minutes. I roll out of bed. I touch the timer on my I Phone, and assume the down dog position and start breathing intentionally.

I don’t stay in down dog for an hour in case you are wondering. It is fast way to wake up.

Sixty minutes is a really, really long time to dedicate to breathing. However, the upside is that every hour of the rest of my day is shaped by that first hour.

Every minute of intentional breathing reminds me that I am alive and that I am enjoying my life.

Ask yourselves if you have ever seen me not vibrating with excitement and exuberance in the last four months.

Let me shift gears here for a moment.

Addicts have negative triggers in their lives: a Bic lighter, the television remote, the VISA card, you know your negative triggers. They live lives of negativity and aimlessness; they are hungry ghosts in search of more of something to fulfill their lives and they never find that something.

We will not become hungry ghosts; we will breath our way though a full and rich life regardless of what comes our way because we are intimately in touch with life itself through our breathing.

Let me show you my positive triggers.

I use my I Phone in the morning to trigger my intentional breathing.

I use the key fob to my Volvo to remind me to breathe intentionally while driving all the way to Anchorage, or to Carrs, if that is all the further I am driving.

When I feel fear, or anger, or sadness, I stop, I focus, and I breathe intentionally.

It’s kind of like that “count to ten before you explode,” but better because it works and it lasts longer.

Okay. Let me catch my breath.

I want to tell you two stories before I close.

I learned that life was breath from my chocolate Lab, Duke. Duke lived ten great years by my side. I biked with him, sailed with him, and read the Bible out loud to him. Twice. He loved it. The day that my wife Eva and I put Duke “to sleep” as the euphemism goes, we took him into the exam room, watched as the vet gave him a sedative to calm him, and then we petted his chest as he breathed in and out and in and out and then stopped.

My moment of awareness was realizing that when he stopped breathing, his life was gone. Forever. It could never be started again because he was dead. He had stopped breathing. He had stopped living. That was the moment that I knew the secret to life:

Life is breath.

My second breathing story is about my daughter and my wife. My wife had lost consciousness about ten days before she stopped breathing. My daughter, Sam, spent every minute of every day with her mother almost until her last breath. About five days into unconsciousness, Eva was breathing so slowly, about four breaths a minute, that Sam had to crawl across the bed, put her face close to her mother’s face and listen to see if she was still breathing. As Sam was leaning into her mother’s face, Eva said, BOO!” Sam jumped back, scared breathless and listened as her mother said, “Just messing with you.”

Her last words.


My last words to you:

I will always think of my wife, Eva, my daughter, Samantha, my dogs, too numerous to mention, and you, the Class of 2016, every morning as I practice intentional breathing






Good night! Good luck! Thank you for this experience!


Here is the video of the Career Tech High School Class of 2016 Graduation.

My speech is introduced at 58:44. Maximize the screen and turn up the sound


Christopher Drick (a former student) suggested I and this video to this blog:





Ghosting: The Gutless Goodbye.

The purpose of my blog is to write about what I like. This essay is about something I don’t like; thus, it has an unavoidably negative tone.

Last night, I was reading a Cognitive Behavior Therapy  book. I remember some blurb about how the smartest man in the world (Aaron Temkin Beck) invented the cognitive behavior branch of psychology in the 1930s. I thought the CBT approach might be something that could help a friend of mine overcome depression and assorted dysfunctional behaviors. I chose a book titled, The Everything Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, by Ellen Bowers, PhD. It sounded authoritative enough to teach me about CBT.

As I was reading, I came to the following passage:

“Popular literature is full of helpful information about ending romantic relationships or marriages, but how do you manage a friendship that, as far as you are concerned, is definitely on the skids?

One method is to take it in increments, increasing levels of subtlety. Become somewhat vague in your answers to e-mails and phone calls. Be a little evasive when the other person wants to make a specific plan to get together for a concert or an outing. If he doesn’t see that you are tapering off in your investment, it may be necessary to simple not respond to communications. Then, you may want to have a face-to-face meeting and briefly state that your life has changed and you find you no longer have time to nurture your friendship. No lengthy explanation is needed, because if he didn’t “get it” with your more polite attempts, he will not get it now. It will make you feel bad on explanations that fall on deaf ears.

If the former friend morphs into a stalker, you may have to block him from your e-mail, phone, and social media sites. This is drastic, but sometimes it happens. This final level of protection in no way makes you a bad person. You are simply protecting your sacred inner essence from the Negative Nellies and Energy Vampires who enjoyed feeding off of you in the past. They will find other prey.”

Bowers. P 71.

Wow! Bower’s guide is a formula for ghosting!

This is how we treat people who considered themselves to be our friends?

A brief definition is in order: My definition of a friend is someone who is concerned about your well-being, and who supports your efforts to live an effective and productive life through companionship.

I immediately thought of a “friend” who ghosted me in January, and then reached out to me via social media in April to assure me that we were still friends, and then ghosted me again after my wife’s death. She could have read this text from this book and followed it to the letter. Or maybe, her therapist taught her this strategy based on the therapist’s understanding of CBT.

Trust me, if you have ever been the object of ghosting, you know the humiliation of wondering what exactly you did wrong to deserve to be ghosted,then reinstated into friendship, only to be ghosted a second time.

Is this a civil way to treat people? Does anyone like being manipulated like an object? Would Bower’s strategy for ending friendships pass the WWJD test? Would a normal person really feel that ghosting someone is treating them humanely? Does this even come close to the “Golden Rule” that our parents and churches advocated for us to use in building and maintaining our friendships?

My answer is “No” to all the questions.

Bower’s strategy sounds like a page right out of the high school drama culture. It is not a guide for learning “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors,” as the book purports to be. Quite the opposite.

I take exception to the steps Bowers describes to end a friendship. Ghosting is cruel. Ghosting is not a effective, or humane way to end a relationship.

Bowers  is coaching duplicity.  She is not coaching for positive relationships and mindfulness in our relationship with others.

She suggests meeting with a person face to face after ghosting the him? Can anyone besides me see the potential for a violent encounter using that strategy?

What is the matter with just telling someone from the moment you decide to end a friendship: “I can no longer be friends with you. Do not contact me again. Ever.”

One shot to the right temple lobe.  End of friendship.

No doubt will exist in your former friend’s mind: the relationship is dead; your friendship is dead.

A piece of your soul will die with that shot; you can never do just one thing: there is always a cost associated with changing relationships.

Why is this more humane?

Easy. It is honest. It is unequivocal. It respects the person’s dignity by not allowing them to linger in hopes that the friendship might be salvaged if they can only figure out what they did wrong. It saves that person time and emotional energy by letting him, or her, know that you are no longer a “friend” right up front. In all probability, your friend was  deluded that you were ever a friend in the first place; it is important to clear up misunderstandings as quickly as possible.

People can move on if you don’t resort to subterfuge, impeding their understanding of their new relationship to you.

Ghosting is subterfuge.  Ghosting is inhumane.  Ghosting is gutless.

Bower’s should review her advice on how to end a friendship. Her method calls into question her authority to teach “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors.”

I was brought up by my parents, and my teachers, and my friends to treat people with dignity and respect. I don’t treat the people I don’t care for with Bower’s level of disdain.

How others treat you is their karma; how you treat them is your karma.

Bower’s, and my former “friend” have bad karma.

Good luck to both of them: they will need it.

Click  the following  and listen to why Sarah Hepola learned not to ghost boyfriends.



Alone. Irrevocably, irreversibly, incontrovertibly, and utterly alone.

My wife, Eva Parsons, died after two and one half years of being afflicted with metastatic breast cancer on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at 8:00 a.m.

Eva and I had prepared for her death almost from the moment she was diagnosed. Eva generated a great storehouse of equanimity to deal with her cancer. She was not angry about getting the disease; she was not afraid to die; she was not sad that her life would come to an end at 65. She accepted her death, and taught many of us about dying without the typical drama that surrounds a cancer death. She managed her life effectively until her last breath.

On the morning she died, I was with my daughter, Samantha. We stayed by Eva’s side for a while, hugged, checked in with each other, and then went on with the day as it unfolded. For a while, I felt like I was in a vacuum, but that passed almost right away. Sam stayed in Alaska for the next day, and left Saturday morning; I took her to the airport for her six o’clock flight to Nashville.

On the return drive home from Anchorage, I practiced my intentional breathing, and managed to not think about what I had lost, or to think about what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Eva directed me to live a long life, to be kind, and to set a “good example.” I think the “good example” part was her humor; I’ll never know; there’s nobody to ask.

I arrived home, let the Labs out of the car, and into the house. They ambled to whatever part of the house suited them and left me alone, standing in the kitchen with shafts of early morning sunlight coming through the window and splashing on the kitchen floor.

As I stood just inside the door, alone, I had a long moment of awareness: from that time on, I was utterly, irrevocably, irretrievably, and completely alone for the rest of my life. I stood there for minutes while I absorbed the feeling. I have never been completely alone in 65 years. Everything had changed forever, I realized. I think the word for this feeling is “bereft.” It seems like the right word.

Of course, I have lots of support. Now. Many friends say, “If you need anything, just call.” I appreciate their gesture. Eventually, everyone returns to their routine because their lives have not changed.

I, on the other hand, have changed, or rather, my world has shifted: I am alone.

I am okay with being alone for now; I’ll be okay later, also.

It is just an unsettling feeling to be alone without reprieve, and not be able to return to the companionship I shared with Eva for 44 years. She is gone forever; I will continue without her for a very, very long time. Sad. Bereft. Alone. At least for now.

The trouble is, you think you have time.

Today, Samantha and I were watching videos I shot of her when she was a baby. It is always fun to look back and enjoy those moments forever frozen on the video tape.

One segment struck Samantha as funny; Sam named it “What Rhymes With Duck?”  (click the link and then click the link below this link.)

As we watched this video over and over again, we realized that what we were looking at was not a funny video, but a snapshot of Eva, Sam’s Mom, and my wife of forty years, when Eva was thirty-eight. What struck us was how young Eva looked. Her smile radiated happiness. She truly loved being with her daughter and sharing a few moments opening Samantha’s birthday present.

We watched the video and realized this was before Eva had wrinkles, or grey hair. She has just come home from teaching school. Her smile is so warm; she smiles so readily even after she frowns at her husband’s inane implication about the rhyming of “duck.”

This was a time of great joy for Eva. Teaching was going very well for her. She had a baby to come home to every day after work. The baby adored her Mother. Her husband was keeping the house in shape and cooking and keeping the baby entertained during the day. What more could you ask for?

We didn’t know it then, but if we could have asked for anything, we probably would have asked to live in that moment (remain young and beautiful) forever. But like the quote says, you don’t control time.

Everything changes. Samantha grew noticeably brighter every day, Eva and I grew a little more each day; we didn’t notice the slow transition for another twenty years. Life got better for us every day, every year. While we weren’t looking, time changed; we changed.

Samantha and I look at Eva in this video and we love her as she was. We love her as she is. We thought we had time. We don’t. Soon, we will have to love Eva only as she was. She will no longer be with us. Are we sad? Yes. Can we be happy again? Samantha and I find great pleasure watching Eva find joy in teaching Samantha words and rhymes. Teaching is Eva’s greatest joy in life. It is just a brief moment in time, but it reminds us of how innocent and how happy we were to live in that moment. The moment.

I remind myself to focus on each breath, each moment: it is the only time we have together.

“I’m So Excited,” or How Jack Met His First Porcupine

Team Labfam just jogged in from a seven-mile run! An hour and a half ago, Jack, Kenai, and I took off for a Wasilla, Alaska, run down Church Road, to Clapp Road, to Knik Road, and back home to the projects in Mission Hills. I started the run with The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited blaring in my ears.  That song is just the right BPMs, about 92, for a quick run.

Church Road makes a nice running path on a bike path with a few hills thrown in to keep it interesting. As we passed the three-mile post, Jack (not Daniels, the dog) took off for something he discerned a thousand feet ahead of us. I couldn’t see what he was interested in; I thought he was just chasing a car that had slowed down momentarily. Actually, what he detected on our side of the road was a world-class size porcupine. We grow them extra big up here in Alaska: the really big ones look like Rottweilers with their legs cropped to six inches. Jack had the proper amount of “savoir fear” to keep him out of quill range and away from a $1,000.00 vet bill. I called him when I realized the hazard. He turned tail (beat the porcupine on that one) and struck a track back to us.

Had Jack made the wrong decision, the song, I’m So Excited would have been background music to another type of run. As it was, we continued while I replayed in my mind my other encounters with Mr. Porcupine.

I have had three porcupine encounters within the last forty years. The most recent skirmish was just about this time of the year. For some reason porcupines like swampy wetlands. Spring is when they come down from the trees to do whatever porcupines do in the Spring; I’m thinking breeding. On the other hand, the Home Show might have been an attraction. My good friend, Ron Jones and I were just completing a late evening (9:00 pm) walk we dubbed “The Long Trail.” Moose, my favorite black Lab of all time, decided to hang back from us and explore a small glade. After a brief space of time, a couple of minutes, he still hadn’t caught up to us. I called, and called him by name. No response. I yelled uncomplimentary things about his mother and their relationship. No response. Finally, Ron and I backtracked about a quarter of a mile to encounter Moose on the trail huffing, and chuffing, and pawing both sides of his face. I had seen this behavior enough times to know what had happened even though it was completely dark. I picked up one hundred pounds of wild dog and relayed him a mile to the Duramax truck. He was foaming and bleeding from the mouth; he was just wild with pain and shock. This event was recent enough that there was such a thing as an I-Phone. I dialed the animal hospital emergency room. The vet’s first concern was not with the dog; he wanted me to agree to provide him with a $1,000.00 charge on my VISA before treating the dog. I said, “fair enough,” and the race was on to the hospital. Ron drove, and I fought Moose all the way to the hospital to keep him from clamping down on the fifty, or hundred, or so quills in his mouth. The quills covered his chest, his forelegs, and bristled from his ears and around his eyes.

At three o’clock in the morning, I got a call to come pick Moose up; they couldn’t stand listening to him scream at the top of his lungs . He was feeling no pain; he  missed his main master: me.  He was quill-free, and I was grateful for that outcome.

As a side note: Dogs never learn to avoid porcupines after their first encounter with them; in fact, most dogs will go after porcupines even more aggressively the second time. If you are in porcupine habitat, it is always wise to have your pup on a retractable leash. Most of the time, my dogs are harnessed, and leashed.