Quickly for the new readers (SKIP TO PARAGRAPH 5 IF YOU DON’T WANT THE BACK STORY) – I have a lung condition called Bronchiectasis. Learn about it here. In short, it’s kinda like Asthma, kinda like a never-ending cold, and kinda shitty. When I eat rich foods, dairy, or enriched white flour, I wheeze, struggle to breathe, cough a lot, my heart hurts, I wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath, and I have to cancel concerts because I can’t sing.
In late 2018, let’s call it “the holidays” I said screw it (because I’d been feeling and breathing really good) and just started eating, well, everything. By the time New Year’s Day rolled around and I was scooping chips full of cheesy queso dip in my mouth as an appetizer for a big, greasy, double-cheese pizza dinner, I felt like I was dying.
I know better. But I also looooooove junk food, bourbon, beer, cookies, and pizza. But enough was enough.
Back on the #Whole30 and here I am on Day-20 and I feel like a new man. I feel as if I don’t even have bronchiectasis. I’m down about 7 pounds on the scale. I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night gasping for air since New Year’s Day. That’s all it takes. Simple. Just eat right.
PARAGRAPH 5: Really. You skipped ahead? You can’t take 40-seconds to read about my woes? Nope. I’m gonna stay positive. Thanks for reading. Where was I? Right! Why am I telling you this? I’m sharing because I think my refusal to take care of myself and do what I know is right …I think it’s the biggest thing keeping people from being happy. Hence my invention – #ResolutionADay. It’s overwhelming, they say. It’s impossible, they tell me. But, it might be the best thing ever invented by anyone ever anywhere on Earth. Here’s why it’s working. It forces me to review and be creative. It’s not vague like, “write a book,” or “lose 10 pounds.” It’s little, tiny, daily things I change or add to my life (or weekly, or monthly, or however frequently this thing needs to be. Like today’s…
Something I’m passionate about is cleaning the kitchen after dinner. I have it in my head that I’m going to make the kitchen so clean it looks like we could welcome company over for a party. It’s just my thing because I feel, when I’m done and everthing is in the dishwasher or hand-washed, dried, and put away, and I mean everything and the countertops are empty of random crap …I can relax better in the evening because I don’t have this dark cloud of a “half finished” job hanging out there. It’s a small thing, but actually a big thing toward being a guy who never leaves things half-finished.
Start something. Finish something. Then move onto the next thing (like reading a book, writing for my clients, watching TV with my kids or watching the Spartans).
But Don? This Blog was about your lungs?
Right. It was and is. For me, being healthy and breathing with clear lungs won’t happen from an up-front New Year’s Resolution of something like, “in 2019 I’m going to stop eating bad foods.” For me, it comes in the form of little, daily improvements. Vacuuming all the hardwoods eliminates dust and the way-too-much dog hair that accumulates. Going on #Whole30 jump starts my healthy-eating and squashes my (our) addiction to sugar. And on and on.
Every day, I make myself a little better and I hope you might join me in #ResolutionADay, too.
I love a girl-power anthem. Alissia Cera is one of my favorite new artists. I love Katy Perry’s “Roar”, Christina Aguilara’s “Stronger”, everything by Pink and Kelly Clarkson …and don’t get me started on Sia. Let’s just say if Sia had a Detroit area fan club, I’d be the President (or Treasurer).
I blame Alanis Morissette. This song … have a GREAT Friday and do amazing things.
Fourteen days in the books in my #ResolutionADay idea and I’ve successfully made FOURTEEN NewYearsResolutions – and stuck to them. I can do this. It means I have to get creative and really put some thought into it, but it can be done!!!! Don’t listen to Stacy from It’s Not Just You. OK. Actually. Listen to her. And to her co-host and my old-friend, Lynn M.
It’s a quick listen. Laid back. And if you listen to this particular episode you’ll hear them talk about my insane (<–their word) #ResolutionADay.
Something they brought up is that it’s too intense and too many #Resolutions, but if you look at some of the new items on my list, not every Resolution will take time or add tasks to my day.
For example, a future #ResolutionADay will be Buy Flowers for My Wife Once-A-Month and Include a Note Telling Her a Reason I Love Her. This is NOT a wimpy way out. It’s simply realistic. Maybe another #ResolutionADay will be Leave a Not Under My Daughter’s Pillow Telling Her How Amazing She Is Once-A-Month. Or another could be Make Family Dinner Once-A-Week or Make Saturday-Morning Family Breakfast Once-a-Month.
Yes, my list has stuff like “floss every day” and “pray every day” and future items will be daily things, but some stuff will be me, reflecting on my days, weeks, months, and years and acknowledging things I should do and want to do and will make my life better.
One more time. Listen to the How To Make Changes episode of It’s Not Just You.
Oh, and here’s my first set of #ResolutionADay resolutions and below are the latest.
Join me, crazy people.
Guess how long I’ve been Blogging? Go ahead. Guess. OK. I’ll give you a hint. It’s more than twelve years. I actually don’t know when I started. And while I can’t really determine the exact date of my first ever Blog entry, there was a time when nobody really understood what a Blog was and what a Blog should be, but I knew I wanted one to write things about my shoes, my hair, and other random stuff.
First I called myself “Donniego” which is a combination of “Donnie” and “ego.” I felt like anyone who Blogs must have a huge, massive ego and think of themselves as far more interesting than they are. I shouldn’t have been so patronizing because some people have become millionaires because they Blogged about a very specific thing (unlike me who Blogged about coffee …sometimes …and sometimes headphones …GOOD LORD I blew it).
Here’s DonniEgo: https://donniego.blogspot.com/
I think you’ll really be interested in what I thought about a “funny” time on vacation when I ignored a nagging cough and paralysis and thought it was simply a funny story. I was on the eve of my “lung thing” and I documented it on my Blog.
Then somewhere about 2009 I left the “Blogger” and moved my ranting to a WordPress Blog I called “Don’s Ego” and here’s an “I Love Don Week” post from 2009. Ugh. The list then is mostly the same as my lists now. I’m an old man.
Fun memories looking back on all that stuff I thought was important enough to Blog about.
Here’s my new thing, and you can make it your thing, because if you do and Twitter fills up with hundreds of people all Tweeting a #ResolutionADay, I’ll feel like I’m making a difference in this world and at cocktail parties when people ask what I do, I can say, “I invented #ResolutionADay”.
Being able to tell people about it, and then to act offended when they say they haven’t heard of it, that’s really all I want out of it.
No, actually, I want to prove it can be done and that I can actually improve myself a little every day for a year. Maybe it’ll become a movement. Maybe it won’t. But at the end of the year, if I really have made a daily resolution, I will be a better person and my life will be better.
Yes. I’m starting pretty far down and have nowhere to go but up, but eventually I’m going to have to really get creative.
Are you still not understanding how it works? Read my How It Works and FAQ sections to learn more.
Every day, make a resolution. Examples of my first 8 days are below. Do it in private in a journal. Or, post it on Twitter with hashtag #ResolutionADay and we can support each other and encourage each other (and I can brag to people at parties about my cult …er …movement. Which is the whole point. My ego. Right?)
Q: Why should I do this?
A: Oh. LIke you can’t improve in any way ….la dee da. Look at you all perfect.
Sorry about that snippy answer. I guess I know what a future #ResolutionADay will be for me …be more patient with people.
OK. Who’s with me? Below are my first 8 days.
Just write it. Just say it. Just do it. Below is a hastily written story I posted to Facebook on January 1st as my mission statement for 2019 and my reflection on 2018. Guess what? I see quite a few mistakes and parts I wish I could re-write. Hmmmm …maybe I shouldn’t have posted it until it was perfect. Maybe I should’ve slept on it another night. Maybe I should’ve asked my wife to read it and edit. Maybe I should’ve written it in my journal and revisited it in a month. You know? Once I had a chance to sleep on it. Maybe it’s self-serving and I’m only posting it for Facebook Likes and to feed my ego and while, yes, I will get some Facebook Likes, maybe those people will simply be polite and maybe those people ‘Like’ everything on Facebook all the time. And what aobut the 300+ of my Facebook Friends who will not ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’? Are they sitting, looking at their phones, rolling their eyes at yet another emotional Facebook post about 2018 turning into 2019. Maybe people see the post and are thinking, “who the f’ cares, Don?!?!?” And maybe those people are right? Who does care? Haven’t I already posted enough on social media about my friend Matt and who is this story and post for, anyway? Nope. Don. Don’t post it. It’s self-serving and it sucks and nobody cares. Save it for your next StorySLAM and tell it as a story to a room full of strangers. I can fool those people into thinking I’m sincere and I can arrange the story in just such a way that it’s powerful and I might win. But, Don …seriously. Who do you think you are? What gives you the right to post sappy stuff like this story about corned beef and Matt and, shit, what if I’m remembering it differently than it actually happened and Jen, Kathy, and my Dad call “bullshit” on it? I mean, yes, this is how I remember it and how I’ve told the story a few times over the years, but I’m a professional bullshit artist. Nope. Don’t post it. Ever. I’ve said enough. I need to stop talking so much. I’m just one of 100,000 Bloggers saying nothing about everything. Don! Get. Over. Yourself.
Read the above paragraph, again. And then again. And then again.
For me, this is the conversation I have with myself again …and again …and again …and have been having for decades. Why? Does anyone else ever talk to themselves this way? I hope, in 2019, I’ll stop having these conversations with myself and change the inner-dialog to, “even if one person cares about what I have to say, I’ll keep talking and writing.”
And guess what? I posted this and heard from people in the Comments section of the post, by text, by phone call, and by private Messenger on Facebook that it moved them. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel. Because guess what else? I didn’t write it for my own ego and for ‘Likes’ on Comments. I wrote it because it’s a fun memory I have with my friend Matt and his wife. It involved my wife, and my Dad, and a little bit of my Mom (well, her kitchen, at least). This can be re-written quite easy to add a little more flavor (pun!!!!). And now that I have pulled it from my memory banks, maybe Jen will tell her daughters about it or maybe I’ll be able to tell them about it someday and they can have another memory of their Dad, Matt, to have forever.
So glad I posted it. So glad I ignored my inner-dialog. Here’s to 2019 and you ignoring your inner-critic.
Some Burnt Corned Beef Doesn’t Mean No Corned Beef
When my college friends and I were first out of college and going back to MSU for football games, all of our tailgates had themes based on MSU’s opponent. Like when we played Wisconsin, a tailgate would be cheese themed. When we played Northwestern, it would be Chicago dogs.
One year when Michigan State played Notre Dame, Matt Bair and I said we would prepare a corned beef.
So Matt and Jen (his girlfriend or fiancé at the time, I can’t recall), and my wife Kathy and I, we went to Grand Rapids to my parent’s house with the idea we’d use my Mom’s kitchen, all her pots and pans, to prepare everything. Logistically it made sense to do this in West Michigan instead of where we all lived in the Detroit area. Just trust me.
Having never made corned beef, Matt and I didn’t realize how much time is needed to boil a corned beef. Boiling and cooking began very late. Having traveled for three hours to get to my parent’s house, it was 11 o’clock before the corned beef hit the pot. Matt and I had chosen a very large corned beef and estimated it needed 5 hours of boiling to be right.
Here’s the rest of the math …tailgate morning wake-up call is at 6:00 a.m. to drive the hour to MSU’s campus and coordinate with our friends and their cars. It’s important all of us arrived at the same time so all cars would be parked together and especially for us because we had the main course.
6:00 a.m. wake up call. Ouch.
Our wives would play along and act excited about it, but wives would not be required to do anything more than wake up, shower, and not murder Matt and I while we lovingly begged them to hustle.
Matt volunteered to stay up all night watching our boiling beef and Kathy, Jen, and I could all sleep. He’d sleep on the car ride. So brave, young Matt.
I remember waking up around 3:00 a.m. and smelling smoke and hearing my Dad’s voice and I bolted down the stairs to see my Dad and Matt fanning smoke out all the open windows and doors in my parent’s kitchen.
Matt had fallen asleep, the water all boiled out of the pot, and the corned beef burned in the pot. It appeared to be ruined.
Maybe this was the beginning of Matt’s next 20 years of masterful cooking. Maybe he vowed that day to never disappoint anyone again who would ever count on him for a meal.
Taking his direction, we cut off the burnt, inedible parts of the corned beef and salvaged what we could. We boiled what we could save until the very last minute before we had to leave for East Lansing shortly after 6:00 a.m.
We made it to tailgate and everyone loved the corned beef.
2018 will be remembered as the year I lost my friend Matt. At his funeral(s), everyone talked about the fabulous dinners he would prepare. He was magic in the kitchen and enjoyed hosting a dinner party. Nobody had a story of a bad meal. The stories were all about him being a wizard in the kitchen and the perfect host.
Matt passed away in 2018, maybe 20 years since the corned beef incident (give or take a few years)
Losing Matt was the burnt, inedible part of 2018. But I’m not going to throw out the entire year. Matt wouldn’t want that.
Like we didn’t throw away the entire corned beef, and we salvaged what we could, I’m determined to salvage what I can from 2018.
I had Matt’s friendship. I have many many blessings I need to be grateful for every day. I’ll never forget the burnt corned beef and how it stunk, and I’ll never forget my shock when I learned Matt died. That stunk, too.
But I will keep enjoying the good parts of life (and corned beef from time to time).
Can you believe Christmas is already over and in the weeks leading up to Christmas I didn’t post my annual Christmas Wish-List? Either I’ve slipped into a depression or, some would argue, I’ve grown as a person and I’m realizing it’s not all about me and that gift-giving is better than gift-getting. Well, no, I haven’t grown and evolved. Trust me. I think I just ran out of time, what with my StorySLAM winning, my salsa making, my book-writing and my crazy busy day-job. I had many, many, many awesome things on my list, I got many great things, but sadly I also didn’t get many things I would’ve liked to have gotten.
This Blog entry will be interesting if you’ve ever wanted to be a writer. No, actually, I’ve stumbled upon something I think is brilliant that is better than journaling, better than scrapbooking, and better than Blogging, but will enhance any of those things. It’s called Homework for Life, and you can skip right to the bottom of this Blog and watch the 19-minute video. Or you can read what I have to say about it.
I’m nostalgic about things. I’ve lived a fairly normal life, but because it’s my life, and they were my grandparents, and these are my kids, well, it’s all extraordinary. So is your life. I’m not saying my life is better than yours. As I get older, memories get fuzzy or some disappear entirely. Ask me about the day I graduated from high-school. I mean, the actual ceremony when I was in my cap and gown and then later that evening at the Senior All-Night party and I can’t really tell you what happened, but I’ll bet I had a great time and felt very proud. I’ll bet my Mom wore something nice and my Dad said things like, “it was touch and go there for a while whether Don would actually get his diploma.” Or maybe he didn’t, but I don’t know. Or my college graduation. I have some photos of myself and my best-friend, Chad, and my Grandpa. I remember thinking, wow, I’m the first “Kowalewski” to have earned a college degree. But what did I eat? What was the most interesting moment of that day? What was my Mom wearing? Did she cry?
Enter Matthew Dicks’s Homework for Life. Essentially it’s this. At the end of every day, sit down for 5-minutes (actually takes less time than that), and write down the most memorable moment of the day. He recommends this because he’s a writer and award-winning storyteller and says it’s a tool for finding more stories. But, and I think he agrees with this, it’s for everyone who wishes to save things they hope to never forget. Like vacations – I’ve gone on 15 years worth of summer vacations with my daughter, and I’d like to tell you about some of the best moments, but they all blend together. Not anymore.
This year, my 12-year-old admitted she knew Santa wasn’t real, so for the first time in 15 years, my wife and I weren’t Santa and that rabid excitement that a magic man from the North Pole would stuff so many toys under your Christmas tree …it didn’t happen. I won’t miss the 5am wake-up call from kids tugging at my blankets on Christmas morning because they can’t sleep another minute knowing what’s downstairs under the tree. OK. I will miss it, a little. It was strange to have teenagers and nobody even woke-up until almost 9:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. I nearly started opening my own gifts just because I was awake and bored.
This is where Homework for Life comes in. I will never forget 2018 was the year our house stopped having Santa. I won’t forget when our 15-year-old reported to us that our 12-year-old knew about Santa. And I won’t forget my wife’s tears at hearing that. And I won’t forget that I made my wife have the official conversation about it because I felt the 12-year-old needed to see my wife talk through tears while admitting the truth. My other two kids had that moment, so should my youngest. I don’t cry (yet) when I talk about it. Because of Homework for Life I’ll remember my sister’s mother-in-law accidentally arguing a very racist phrase wasn’t racist, I’ll remember my 80-year-old Uncle with a heart condition sitting down with a can of Red Bull thinking it was a craft beer, and I’ll remember a few more highlights from the season.
I would call it a game changer. And I’m ready to change the game at the end of 2018 and into 2019.
Before you roll your eyes, this is not a humble brag. This isn’t about my ego. Admittedly, at one point in my life (earlier this week?), a Blog entry like this would’ve been all about my ego and showing-off. No. This is me talking about how powerful it is to say you’re going to do something, and then to do that something. But first, let’s get to the part that will sound “braggy.”
Three months ago my friend Matt died, suddenly, at the age of 47. I spent 12 hours in a car, by myself, driving from Detroit to Peoria and back thinking about him and how much I would miss him, and about how young 47 is, and crying… and thinking.
I was thinking, “Don? What the f’ are you doing?!?!?!” Actually, the question I was asking myself was, “what aren’t you doing and why the f’ aren’t you doing it!?!?!?!”
I had all these dreams. I was going to write a book. I have no book. I was going to write a screenplay. I have no screenplay to show anyone. I was going to re-launch my Donnie Jalapeno Salsa business. Why I stopped making the greatest salsa in the history of the world, I’ll never know. But these dreams were nothing more than dreams. Fleeting thoughts in my head that kept me awake at night and I would do everything to ignore them, make them go away, and fall asleep despite the fact I wasn’t living up to my potential. To get all spiritual on you, God has been whispering in my ear and giving me signals for nearly 30 years and I chose to ignore him. And ignore my wife. And my Dad. And all my friends. I figured anyone saying nice things about me or encouraging me were just being nice, like I would be nice to someone who said they were going to quit their job, move to Key West, and open a tattoo parlor, even though this person doesn’t have tattoos, has never worked in a tattoo parlor, and is squeamish around blood. Oh, and this tattoo-entrepreneur (tattooprenuer, Trademark 12/19/18) friend-of-mine has fare skin and would get sunburned living in Key West. We can admit that would be a foolish dream.
My dreams and ideas weren’t as foolish as the Key-West-tattoo parlor dream (for the record, I don’t have a friend with that dream, so nobody has been offended by this Blog entry). Friend and coach, Nick G. (NickGarciaFormula), asked me why I thought pursuing a creative outlet or vocation was silly? He told me to tell myself a different story.
And then I talked to my brother and he was already a fan of The Moth, and I don’t remember which of us said, “let’s go and try and get on stage and tell a story,” but one of us said it, and we both agreed, and so we bought tickets, went to The Moth show in Ann Arbor, filled out a form that we wanted to tell a story, got picked, both told our stories, and I won.
Next I’ll be telling a story in the GrandSLAM happening May 2019 with nine other finalists. But that’s not why I’m writing this Blog.
This Blog is to thank my friend Nick for pushing me past my comfort zone and telling me my dreams aren’t silly, for Matthew Dicks and his book and his Podcast and for sharing his gifts, and to my brother who has always been at my side, has always listened to my crazy ideas, has the same sense of humor as me, and for instantly saying ‘yes’ and being 100% in when I said we should go to The Moth. Without him at my side, I might’ve not signed up and instead told myself, “I’ll do this in January.” Or I might’ve gotten to The Moth StorySLAM and decided not to fill out a form and chosen, instead, to observe and learn. Or if my brother hadn’t been there and also signed up, when they called my name I might’ve looked around along with the other 200 people in the room and acted like, “where is this Don K, guy …he must’ve chickened out.” Nobody would’ve known. But you can’t do that when your brother is there and drove 45-minutes on a Tuesday school-night with you. And you can’t do that when you see your brother get his name picked and he goes up there and bares his soul and tells a story about the scariest, saddest time in his life and tells everyone how, after that, he learned what happiness and joy feel like. You just can’t bail out when all these signs are telling you, “tell your story.”
At the end of the night when all ten storytellers were done, and the judges gave me the highest score, they handed me a piece of paper that said “Congratulations- You are Moth StorySLAM Champion” and I guess, officially, it means I “won.” But even without that paper, for having an amazing brother, for having a wife and kids that didn’t bat an eye when I spent my Tuesday night driving to Ann Arbor, Michigan and back instead of driving my daughter to dance, helping my other daughter study, cleaning up the kitchen after my wife makes dinner, and watching TV with my son, for having a friend who pushed me onto the stage, and a hundred more friends who wouldn’t laugh at me for doing a StorySLAM …for all of these things, I am a winner every day.
We all know Millennials are ruining everything. They’re freaks who don’t buy homes, don’t get married, don’t watch network TV, they don’t have real jobs, and they don’t have cars. But, actually, they do have cars. Maybe only 75% of them have cars, which is low compared to Gen Xrs or Boomers, but if 75% of Millennials have cars, that means they own more total cars than 100% of Gen Xrs. And sad to say, the Boomer population are losing members every day (hey …it’s the circle of life) and Boomer couples are no longer 2-car families. They’re old. You get what I’m saying, right. Here’s an article I wrote for Tribune Publishing.
Remember my friend Matt. How great was he? So great he inspired Cherie R. to write something amazing for MattBairRemembered.com and her words made me smile and cry. If you see Cherie, give her a hug and tell her great job. For people-not-named-Don, sometimes writing and speaking from the heart doesn’t come easy. But if what you write comes from your heart and is your voice, trust me, it will be beautiful and people will like it.
Lastly, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did this seven years ago and I heard about only a few days ago. Is it funny? I’m not sure. It’s word for word, beat for beat, a total recreation of David Bowie and Bing Crosby. I mean. They didn’t change a thing. So I guess it’s not funny, but because they didn’t change a thing, I actually think it’s amazing.
My salsa is soooooo good, even when tomatoes and fresh vegetables aren’t in season, my Donnie Jalapeno salsa dominates taste buds. Remember the old days when you would have to order only when I was ready to make salsa? Well …things have changed. It’s 2018. Here’s how it works.
For those new to the Donnie Jalapeno cult, know this …I have the worst business model of all time. I can’t figure out any way to guarantee the freshness by canning it or adding preservatives, so for the time being, I will make it fresh to order. Like pizza (I mean, except for frozen pizza).