Keep On Moving

How do you get through the times?

Keep on moving.

How do you get through the emotionally painful times?

Keep on moving.

How do you get on with your life after a setback?

Keep on moving.

You get the idea – keep on moving. Don’t stop.  Keep on moving. Keep your eyes on the distant goal. Never look down. Never stop.



Life Is For The Courageous

“I can’t change the past, but I can make tomorrow better.” ~ unknown

I can’t count the times I would have changed the past if I had the power to change it. I can’t.  In hindsight, I’ve come to view the past as my unique journey. My pilgrimage through the wilderness called life. Life isn’t for the faint of heart, the weak of knees. It’s for the courageous. It is for those whose hearts burn a candle of hope. It is for those who understand the past is a teacher and the present moment to be embraced with an eye toward tomorrow. I let four principles guide me.

  1. I know what I do today will shape my tomorrow.
  2. I know I don’t have to live in yesterday, I’ve already lived there. I take what is good, leave the rest behind.
  3. I know my dreams are important to shaping my tomorrow. I will dream big dreams and I will not give up on them.
  4. I know, if my heart is right, my eyes on the ultimate goal, wherever I travel in the wilderness of life, I am guided by faith and it will end well.

Ray’s Recipe for one: Pizza, the Perfect Food

I have good friends in the UK and I owe them one! National Pizza Day was started in the UK. February 9th. I’ve already circled it on the calendar. I’ll make a pizza calendar. The new year beginning February 9.  I can’t help myself, I was weaned on pizza, meatballs, macaroni, spaghetti, pasta fagioli (to the uninitiated, bean soup), and hard crusty Italian bread. I grew up hearing my dad say pizza was the perfect food and the other Italian foods were a close second. I never dared tell my dad I doubted him, even when he was in his nineties.

You are already thinking Ray’s going to tell us how to make pizza. Wrong, I’m going to tell you how to make a kale salad. Whoa, slow down, only kidding. I hear my dad whistling from heaven. Kale move over, you’re not the perfect health food and take your friend’s broccoli, spinach, and edema with you. The perfect food is pizza. I’ve locked the doors, turned off the iPhone, no harassing calls from the health police or Whole Foods, por favor.

Pizza is the universal, speaks all languages food. It is the one food that can unite the world, contribute to world peace, and stop global warming. Okay, I’m a first-born Italian male and given to exaggeration. All kidding aside, I can’t stop kidding. I don’t want to tell you how many detentions I got in school, it wasn’t pretty. I thought they added an extra hour of the school day to honor me.

Think about pizza possibilities. My uncle Tony liked anchovies on his pizza. Uncle Carmen, sausage. Uncle Joe, pepperoni. My dad, hot peppers, and salami. Uncle Pete, olives and ground beef. A party night for the extended family was like eating at the UN. Go for it. Pour on any kind of meat you want, the more the better. Don’t forget to triple cheese it. Me? I eat healthily. I can see my dad rolling his eyes. I’m going to give you my great tasting, eat it every night of the week and take it for lunch pizza. You’ll develop a six-pack, be able to do one-armed pushups. And, beat the Ethiopians in the Boston Marathon. Hey, I told you I was prone to exaggeration.

The Basics. Every great pizza has two basic ingredients, the crust, and the sauce. Ray’s rule, make it easy, healthy, and tasty. The crust takes ten seconds. “Ten seconds, you say? Surely, you jest.” I hear you. That’s how long it takes me to cut open a package of Flatout flatbread. There are six in a pack. I eat two flatbread pizzas. Let’s see, I’ll use my iPhone and ask Siri. I’m talking to Siri. She’ patiently listening. I’m waiting for Siri.  She must be getting her nails done. Here she is, listen in, “Ray, you’ll have enough flatbread for three meals. Yum.” I say thanks to Siri. I have to talk to someone since I live alone.

I use the Flatout bread, it has extra protein and fiber, a healthy choice. I continue on the easy road. I line a pan with Reynolds Wrap non-stick aluminum foil. I saved a whole step. I’m on a roll. No, make that a pizza pan. The directions on the Flatout wrapper (I actually read the directions. Well, most of them. I stopped after I read, “Read the directions first.” It’s a guy thing. I put the flatbreads in an oven preheated to 380 for three minutes. In the meantime, I stir-fry my veggies. I said it’s going to be healthy. Toss out the vitamins. They’re going on my pizza.


You got to love this combo. I have jalapenos, a poblano pepper, a red pepper, and onions. I use my EVOO to make it even healthier. I put the cover on the pan. I use crushed tomatoes as my sauce. I like the CIRIO brand. Why? The name ends in a vowel like mine. Really, the crushed tomatoes are awesome.They are non-GMO (Does that stand for Good Morning Oregon?). I use my crushed tomatoes to cover the flatbreads once I pull them out of the sauna (AKA oven). Once I cover the flatbreads with the tomatoes, the flatbreads go back in the sauna for another three minutes. I want the tomatoes hot. Siri does the countdown for me. When she gives me the ring, I pull the flatbreads out, add fresh-cut basil and my veggies. I cover the flatbreads with non-fat Kraft mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes. They’re ready to go back in the sauna to melt the cheese.

Another few minutes and I’m ready to party – party for one that is. There will be no prisoners for this meal.



Tough Words From A Tough Teacher

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Not a day goes by where life doesn’t teach me a lesson. Most days I’m too busy to listen to what life is trying to teach me. There are times when I have no choice but to listen. Nine months ago life knocked me down. I lay flat on my back. Life towered over me and said, “You’re going to listen to me. You’ve no choice. Whether you take to heart the lesson I’m going to give you is up to you. But you will listen to what I have to say.” Tough words from a tough teacher.

It’s strange how life’s challenges always come down to a choice. I have the freedom to choose. I can choose to hear life’s lesson, learn from it, and grow. Or, I can hear it, refuse to embrace it, and shrivel. It’s always my choice. The ultimate freedom.

Losing someone I deeply loved knocked me flat on my back. I chose not to stay down, but to get up and learn the lessons life is trying to teach this reluctant learner.  The words of Saint Francis of Assisi sum up many of life’s lessons for me. It’s my job to live them more fully day by day. Life will continue to teach me each day until my days are over and by that time I hope to have learned and applied all I need to go on to the next part of my journey.

Hold On

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Paul and Silas, bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Paul and Silas began to shout
Doors popped open, and they walked out
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Hold on, (hold on), hold on, (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!
Well, the only chains that we can stand
Are the chains of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on  – African American Folk Song
Life happens. It happens to everyone. We have no idea what the next moment will bring. Life happens. In moments of triumph, we shout for joy. In moments of happiness, we laugh, dance, and sing. I moments of sorrow, we cry and fight despair and depression. Life happens.
Hold on. Hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize as the African American folk song encourages us to do. In our darkest hours, hold on, there is a way through, there is a way out. Hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s there waiting for you and me.

Ten More Pedals

My family and I lived near the center of a small, western Massachusetts town for ten years. The center of the town perched on top a steep hill. The road running north and south was Jabish Road. We all dubbed the hill, Jabish Hill. It is a very steep hill that stretches for nearly a half mile on either side of the center of the town.

We were a physically active family. If we weren’t walking, or hiking in a nearby state area, we were riding our bicycles. Riding our bicycles up Jabish Hill taught me a lesson that stays with me today and sustains me in times of struggle.

When I took our five daughters bicycle riding, I rode in the rear keeping an eye on them and hollering out directions – they might say commands or orders. The one ride they didn’t like was a circle route that ended up with us cycling up Jabish Hill. The first time we went on the ride,  I said as we began the climb, “Don’t quit, just count ten pedals. That’s all. Ten pedals. You can do it.” We all made ten pedals. Then I said, “Ten more pedals. I know it’s hard. But doing ten pedals is something we can do.” We did ten pedals over and again until we made it to the top of Jabish Hill. We all felt good about our accomplishment. The girls gained confidence. After the first bicycle ride up Jabish Hill, the girls knew to do ten pedals over and again. It was the way you made it to the top.

Ten pedals, over and again, is the way I am learning to live alone, move forward, and enjoy life and tell suffering and grieving, they won’t have the last word with me.


Ray’s Recipe For One: Your Heart Will Love This Tuna Salad

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. I am a most fortunate guy. I have great neighbors. My backyard neighbor invited me to join her family for Easter Sunday dinner. She is a great cook and sensitive to my weird healthy dietary habits – A special thank you, T!

Let’s see. I want to make sure I have it right. If yesterday was Sunday, and a special one at that, today is get back on track day, a great day, and a Monday all rolled up into one. It doesn’t get much better. Unless it is Friday. Fridays are always good. I also like Wednesdays, hump day. Don’t forget Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’re the slices of bread surrounding hump day, and are always good, especially if they’re whole grain (Sometimes, I don’t get my attempts at humor.). If you think I’m forgetting about the weekends, no way – I was made for weekends. All of this brings me back to today, Monday. It’s a healthy eating, high on protein, light on the calories, nutritious, light up your life kind of meal. With that great intro, back by popular demand, one night only, buy your tickets in advance, hold the applause for Tuna Salad!

The exit doors are locked. Don’t think boring when you think Tuna Salad. Reread Herman Melville’s, Moby Dick? Okay, we’re not talking the great white whale and Captain Ahab. We’re talking something better, white, albacore Tuna, packed in water. When you finish consuming your tuna salad with this recipe, you’ll be able to leap tall building with a single bound. You’ll be faster than a speeding bullet. Hold that thought, I just got through watching a rerun of Superman.

Put away the fishing pole. Cancel reservations for the deep sea expedition. Take a trip to your local supermarket or Amazon and pick up a pouch, packet, skinny envelope of the gold, white albacore Tuna packed in water. Make sure it has the the American Heart Association symbol for heart healthy on it. Mine looks like this:


We’re talking easy, squeezy here. Tear open the top, use a fork to drop the tuna into a bowl – there is no scaling, cleaning, and fish intestines (I’m a guy, with a live little boy inside me. I was going to say guts instead of intestines, but the Food Channel might be reading). I make my tuna around noontime so it can chill in the fridge while I spend my day blogging, tweeting, exercising, and trying to find cheap flights to Vegas.

I mash (guy speak) the tuna, do the Texas two-step to the fridge, grab the low-fat mayo in one one hand. My other hand seeks out a jalapeno, cucumber, and cilantro. You may ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t he make two trips to the fridge?’ If you’re a guy reading this, you understand. If not, it’s wired into our genes, it goes back to when we were barely standing erect, much like some of my high school friends. Let’s just say, they were insensitive to how others felt.

I use a slicer – Be careful amigo, you could lose the tip of a finger. Although, it would add some protein to the tuna (that’s the little boy again). I don’t use it with the cilantro. I use cooking scissors. I take the paper thin jalapeno and cucumber slices, chop, chop with the knife into smaller cubes and put the trio in with tuna and mayo and mix. Five minutes, twenty seconds start to finish. Now you understand the need for the two hand approach in the fridge. I was going for new PR. The tuna goes in the fridge. I put Siran wrap on it first. I’m letting it chill. It’s Y time. The elliptical machine will worry about me if I’m a no-show.

A half hour before dinner, I pull out my salad greens, cherry tomatoes, the remains of the cucumber, and almonds (yes, I keep my almonds in the fridge – they like to chill out.). The box says triple washed, ready to eat baby kale and baby spinach. I don’t argue with the ready to eat wording. I take a large handful and put it into a large bowl (I did wash my hands before I started). I use the slicer on a thicker setting with the cucumber – the reason? I’m trying to make this look nice for you and Pinterest. I eyeball the cherry tomatoes and cut them in halves. Sprinkle almonds around in a male haphazard manner and I can see the finish line. I turn to my salad dressing of choice, Modena balsamic vinegarette, and EVOO. Think healthy heart. A healthy heart is a happy heart – that’s what my veterinarian told me when I had my yearly physical. I still don’t understand when she checks my stomach my right leg involuntarily jumps at 80 miles an hour.

We’re almost done, stay in your saddle for a few more seconds. Back to the fridge, the tuna is waiting. I take it out and place it as neat as a guy can on the salad. Dinner is ready. It’s easy, healthy, and an attitude popping meal.

Now the whole truth and nothing but the truth. After the photo on the right. I plopped (guy speak) the rest of the tuna on my salad. My oh my it was good. I give it two thumbs up.

My Mom’s Lesson

My mom grew up the hard way. A daughter of immigrant parents, her mother died when she was two. Her older sister raised mom and her three other siblings. She stopped attending school when she was in fourth grade. This uneducated woman was one of the most intelligent and compassionate people I’ve known. I recall early in my life when she took me to the library and made sure I had a library card. She made sure I read, read, and read some more. She never asked me, What did you do today?” She always asked me, “What did you learn today?” In her wisdom, she reminded me over and again, “Ray, learn something new every day.”

Learn something new every day. A simple sentence from a simple woman holding a deep, profound truth. If I am learning something new, I am growing. I am capable of changing. I am capable of adapting. I am not quitting. I am not deferring. I am capable of doing much, much more than I am doing at the moment.

Her simple lesson has helped me through my grieving process. I discovered grieving throws you on a steep learning curve with only two choices: Learn and grow or stop learning and atrophy. I’ve chosen to learn and grow. Thank you, mom.

I Am An Easter Person

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. 
– Pope John Paul II

I am an Easter person. My hopes rise with the risen Lord. My heart sings out in a joyful song joining all who rejoice with me. I am an Easter person. Hope fills me to overflowing, flooding the street in front of me. I am Easter person. Fears and doubts evaporate with the dew. I set my course. My eyes on my destination. I am an Easter person.


I Can’t Stop From Singing

I have an outdoor herb garden. A real herb gardener will laugh at me. I have enough rosemary and basil to share with all the neighbors. They’re joined by three tomato plants, a blackberry bush, and a fig tree. No rhyme nor reason as to what I choose to plant. I added mint to the group this year. Why did I add mint? It smells nice. That’s the best reason I can give you. I have one large leafy green plant in the house, started by Babe years ago. She’s shared cuttings with daughters and neighbors. She loved the plant. Each time I water it, I know she’s nodding her loving approval from Heaven.

The leafy plant sits alone, no other plants with whom to commune. Everyone needs a friend. I thought another easy to care for green plant might make a good friend for the leafy plant company and brighten up the house as well. Today, I bought a mint plant. I repotted it and now it sits in the living room flirting with the leafy plant.

Plants and springtime are signs of life to me. It’s my favorite of the five seasons. Whoa, five seasons?  In Texas, football is a righteous season of its own. Spring offers new life in flowers, birds singing, warmer temperatures. I’m like the mint plant I repotted today. I’ve had a tough stretch, it’s time for me to be repotted. Like the mint plant I repotted, my roots are balled into the soil, in my case memories.

My springtime awaits, as does yours. It’s time to open the windows to let hope flow in freely, unfettered to smother me. I can’t stop from smiling. I can’t stop from singing.


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