The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest: 2nd Place

canstockphoto142844612nd Prize goes to Ross at Drinking Tips for Teens for “The Secret Side-Effect of Kindness”. His essay is a gentle reminder of how we impact each other with even the simplest of acts.

He was sent one Green Study Coffee Mug and an extraneous Minnesota postcard. I also made a $75 donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

The Secret Side-Effect of Kindness

By Ross Murray at Drinking Tips for Teens

I’m a big believer in balance: work-life balance, balanced diet, balance beams. There’s no cause without effect and no effect without a cause.

Consequently, I don’t expect people to be especially kind to me, because I generally feel I’ve done little to deserve it.

It’s not that I’m so filled with self-loathing and covert kitten-kicking that I think I’m unworthy of basic human decency. It’s that most of the time I feel I haven’t done anything exceptional to warrant anything exceptional being done for me.

It’s about that balance, karma if you will. In the balance of my life, I shouldn’t expect kindness. I should expect impatient tolerance, exasperated benevolence, begrudging kindness at best.

I suspect a lot of (neurotic, insecure) people feel this way about themselves, this sort of reverse entitlement. One of my favourite literary characters is Frank Bascombe, who has grown middle-aged and old in four novels by Richard Ford. Frank is always questing, but I think his quest can be summed up like this: be a decent man and try not to be an asshole. There are worse quests. I’m a bit of a Frank.

Yet despite my inner asshole, people are kind to me, considerably kind, and it always takes me by surprise.

canstockphoto6410730Earlier this summer, I hired my neighbour Clint to replace some rotting wood on our front porch, a job that required the tools, know-how and patience for measuring that I lacked. Clint came over, dug out the rot, replaced it, smoothed the join, tacked on some molding, job well done. “How much?” I asked. He waved me off. Ten bucks for the wood and glad to help.

“No, really,” I said. “I asked you because I was going to pay you, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, so I paid him the $10, plus, at my wife’s suggestion, beer, because sometimes beer is even better than money.

There’s more. This summer, friends and strangers answered my Kickstarter appeal to finance the printing of yet another self-published book the world absolutely does not need. They did so without any evidence that I can write fiction, other than my word for it, which could have been a fiction in itself.

The publisher of the newspaper that runs my weekly column recently served as my unofficial agent in setting up two events for me, one a workshop for high school English students, the other a reading and fundraiser at a local library. The impetus for her involvement is a little convoluted, but ultimately she set these gigs up for me out of kindness. “We’re proud of you,” she wrote. Publisher pride is even better than Mom pride.

I could go on and on, the kindness that people have shown me over the last few months and years and life.

I’m taken aback by this kindness. What have I done to deserve it?

Must be something.

And that’s the secret side effect of kindness.

Everyone knows that being kind to others makes you feel good. A selfless act is never entirely selfless because you feel the warmth of connecting with a fellow human. Bringing joy into another person’s life is hugely satisfying.

But the secret side effect is that the recipient of the kindness feels worthy, feels decent, feels that their quest not to be an asshole is somehow succeeding, despite all the dark thoughts, misdeeds and deeds not done, all those sarcastic comments and passive-aggressive emails, not to mention the shameless self-promotion in the guise of a thoughtful blog post. If life is about balance, and I receive kindness, then I must deserve it.

To realize that you must have lived your life in such a way as to have earned kindness is gratifying and healthy. It turns out that how others see you can help you see yourself more generously.

canstockphoto15724173This past weekend, a neighbour down the street saw me up the ladder, painting, painting, always painting. She asked how tall the ladder was. I said I didn’t know. (I bet Clint would know.) She went on to tell me she was having trouble reaching a point over a stairway on the side of her own house, which she too was in the process of painting.

I don’t know this neighbour well, don’t even know her name, honestly, but I carried my ladder down the street, maneuvered it against her house and then offered to paint the patch for her. I thought of all those people who’d been kind to me, and I offered this small kindness.

I felt good about it. I bet she did too.

Congratulations Ross!

Rrossmurrayaholeinthegroundoss Murray is the author of two books: You’re Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, a collection of his news columns over the years and just recently published A Hole in the Ground, a work of fiction, which is available for purchase right at this very moment. I was one of the proud sponsors during his Kickstarter campaign and I’m in the middle of reading it – worth every penny.

Here’s a Drinking Tips for Teens sampler:

Beach Poets Society

How to talk to humans

My bookstore fantasy

It’s the End of the World as I Know It and I Feel Fine

canstockphoto14284461The Green Study’s Positively Happy Nice Story Contest is off and running. I saw a wonderful post by Cate that is exactly the sort of thing that would be a contender. The deadline is October 1st October 3rd. See here for details.

It started with a simple request.  I was invited to participate in a podcast. The podcast is a relatively new app that was launched to facilitate conversations on a variety of topics. One of my posts caught their eye. It’s out of my bailiwick, something I’ve never done before, so sure, sign me up.

In order to participate, I had to log into the app through Facebook or LinkedIn. For years, I’ve refused Facebook. Since Facebook is only  12 years old, it’s lining up with my schedule of hipness. In with Facebook, out with cassette tapes.

On top of hell freezing over and me creating a new Facebook account, it became apparent that my avoidance of posting a picture of myself was starting to become an awkward hindrance. It was time for a professional head shot. Or at least as professional as someone in a department store photo studio could take.

I loathe pictures of myself. I find appearance to be the least interesting thing about myself and generally, the least interesting thing about other people. It’s a weird disconnect, but one I’ve nurtured over the years with considerable success. If by success, I mean avoidance and/or being completely disagreeable when people try to take my picture.

Then, there was this makeup thing. If I’m going to put my best fake face forward, I’d better learn how to put on makeup. The lady at Walgreen’s was very helpful, as were the 352 YouTube videos I watched on how to make things on my face “pop”, which, if I recall from my teenage years, was something to be avoided.

I followed the directions on the back of the eye shadow. 1. Put bottom color on majority of eyelid. 2. Put middle color in crease of eyelid. 3. Put light color everywhere else, then blend. 4. Wipe shit off with tissue if you look like a raccoon. Stuff makeup in back of closet with that never worn pair of heels and a skirt I thought I’d wear to cocktail parties I was never invited to in the 90s.

I made myself look in the mirror and practice smiles. I don’t often look at myself in the mirror. The translation was startling. What I thought was a sardonic and bemused look was off the mark. Apparently, I just look pissed off at the world. When I smiled a big grin, I looked like a donkey braying – gums ahoy. Okay, okay. Maybe I’m better with a serious look. Maybe I look smarter. Nope. Just look mad. Thoughtful? Nope, still mad. It’s my resting pissed face.

Now for the wardrobe. I should wear something that I’m comfortable in, since that will give me confidence. Why is everything in my wardrobe black? No, it’s not that “thinning” angle. It’s the “I only know it’s dirty if it smells” laundry saver. Spaghetti stains in witness protection.

I research what colors I should wear. I’m a fall personality. Okay, brown pants and green top. I wave my hands in the air to Morris Day’s “The Oak Tree”. Pumpkin blouse, brilliant yellowy squash pants. Peach and mocha. Now I’m hungry, which likely explains why none of those things fit right.

Props. Hmm. Pen? Weighty tomes stacked around me? Jewelry? Do I even have any? I look up “author photos”. I need a typewriter, a pack of cigarettes and a tweed jacket. Ooh, maybe a little purse dog with bows in its hair. Oh crap, I’m going to be late for the appointment. The only accessory I have time to grab is a lint roller.

So, it’s done. The pie hole here at The Green Study has a face. You’re welcome and I’m sorry.


The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest

canstockphoto28843846Months ago, I had decided to run an autumn contest here at The Green Study. It will be my 4th contest in 4 years, so longtime readers here are familiar with the patter. At first I thought I’d dispel some political gloom and make it the “If I were President” Contest, but frankly, I’ve lost my sense of humor about it all. And I don’t have the energy to rein in political rants running amok on my blog.

Instead, I’m looking for good news – the news that aren’t click bait, news happening in your life or in your neighborhood. We the people aren’t just political affiliations and labels. We have stories – stories that remind us of what is good and kind and generous and decent about being human. They could be something that happened years ago or something that is happening now. We need joy. Stat.

Welcome to The Green Study “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest. Here are the canstockphoto16178005guidelines:

Write a previously unpublished blog post or if you’re not a blogger, an essay (with title) 400-800 words long about a positively happy nice incident, an admirable person in your life, unwitting luck or fortunate consequences.  Submit it through my Contact page by Saturday, October 1st, 2016, Monday, October 3rd, 12:00 pm, Midnight (US Standard Central Time). Please note that your formatting is retained when I receive it – the Contact page makes it look like it has disappeared.

One entry per person please. The contest begins as soon as this post goes public.
The winners will be notified on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by 12:00 am (US Standard Central Time).

Shipping of the prizes and donations will take place by October 12th, 2016. Guest blog posting will occur between October 15th and November 1st, 2016.

All entries will be judged by me, myself and I. It’s entirely subjective.

canstockphoto23327111st Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $100 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

2nd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $75 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

3rd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $50 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

All participants will receive a priceless, irreplaceable postcard from Minneapolis (although it actually cost $1.00 and can be bought at the airport, in large quantities).

I will ship prize winners’ mugs stateside or internationally (with no guarantee that it will arrive or that it will arrive in one piece), just because I like to hold up the line at the post office because I haven’t filled out the right forms.

If any former participants and/or winners read this post, please feel free to comment on the veracity of The Green Study contests. Please let readers know that you’ve received your prizes and that I haven’t shown up at your front door looking for a place to stay or spammed your email. Previous winners are allowed to participate and an updated mug is in production.

Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.
Hunter S. Thompson

Administrative Note: There will be no fondling or diamonds involved in this contest. 


The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest: Honorable Mention

An Honorable Mention from The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest goes to d. Myers for his poem about a mid-life crisis. He’s a writer, currently working on his first book.

He was sent one The Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $25 donation was made to his local Red Cross chapter.

mid-life crisis

By d. Myers

slow down and watch it all collide
watch it trail like a fish
is there ever any sign
smelling dog food in a dish

I’ll play with monkeys in a barrel
and legos at the mall
gonna get another snow cone
while I buy my kid a doll

old cars, old shoes, old people
they help to keep it all intact
I’m getting better all the time
I’m getting so I like the cracks

not the smooth stuff or the easy
is ever worth the tripcanstockphoto11178704
when I fall I fall so hard
but I’ll never feel the slip

little white fences all around me
I don’t feel too safe at all
fluffy curtains on the windows
and stuff hanging on my walls

great big trees and open highways
start to sooth my aching head
come and put me in a jacket man
and take me off to bed

Congratulations d. and good luck on your writing journey!

The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest: Honorable Mention

An Honorable Mention from The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest goes to Ruth at Travelling True North for the morning conversation we often have with ourselves.

She was sent one The Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $25 donation was made on her behalf to the Red Cross International Emergency Response Fund.

“Life in the Midlife Teens”

By Ruth at Travelling True North

Mind: What’s that noise? 5am and someone woke me up. Ergh… Zzzzz.

Body: Zzzzz….

Mind: Argh. Again? It must be the cat. No, stop that, it’s your child.

Body: I’m not getting up.

Mind: Well, neither am I because I am only 18 and I deserve sleep.canstockphoto15812243

Body: Still not getting up.

Mind: No. No. No,no,no,no,nooooooooo. Still with the noise! What’s that husband doing? Sleeping. Argh…

Body: I still hurt from staying up past 9.30pm last night. But YOU ARE A PARENT. Get. Out. Of. Bed.

Ok, done. Ugg boots on (it’s still a bit cold), fleece….

3 mins.

Body: Damn. Still up. Now with cuddly child. Lovely cuddly child, all warm and soft and desperately clinging on while saying ‘cuddddddddllllllllllleeeeeesssssss’. Nice. Eyes still barely open though. Just missed walking into the wall. Argh.

Mind: What do you mean we have to function? It’s 5am. 5. A.M.

Well, I leave it up to you.

Body: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no no. I’m the one who knows how old we are. I’m the one who feels the aches, the stress of aging joints, the fatigue of needing a few hours more sleep each day, and the head thump of that extra glass of wine last night.

YOU’RE the one who seemed to think this is all ok. That kids past 40 was a great idea and that we all had the stamina for several YEARS of sleepless nights, extended bedtimes, no personal time and endless rounds of the ‘why’ game. We’re all in this together, baby. Stump up.

Mind: Hmmm. I am still 18 you know. 18 was not that long ago, if you recall. We were vibrant, healthy, had a nice growing bank balance and could lift weights greater than our body fat index…

Body: 18 was YEARS ago. YEARS.

Mind: But then not so much has changed, has it?

Has it?

canstockphoto20425615Body: No, no. Though, um. There’s that ‘changed’ waistline, the hair colour, red-eye-reduction eye drop fascination and fondness for soft cheeses. Oh, and the need to head to bed at 9pm…

Mind: Well, in my defence soft cheeses are brilliant. And the kids have ruined all hope of normal sleep.

Body: And we’re all just passed 40…

Just sayin’…

Mind: 40 is the new 20.

Body: Really?

Mind: Really.

Body: Realllllly??

Mind: Pause.

…the new black??

Body: Clutching at straws, my friend. Clutching at straws. Do you recall when our 17 year old niece came to visit? You spent all that prep time thinking about how you would connect about social interests, school, friends and personal values. And it became verrrry clear that your scintillating conversation about home cooking, tree hugging and the joys of craft were falling just short of the dramatic eye-roll/ rapid-exit combo move. Even your ‘I really liked a party’ tale from the 90s was met with a well meaning, bemused, smile and a quick hug goodnight. Loving, but. Not quite what you were expecting?

Mind: Humph.

Body: Or the time you said yes to skiing and we broke a leg? 12 weeks in a cast, no driving, little travel and a particularly challenging time trying to work. Could have gone better, Lady Osteo?

Mind: Well, it did break on the end of a great run… And it was a very stylish manoeuvre…

Body: I say it again, juuuust not 18.

Mind: Right. Well then, I guess you’re saying it’s all back to hot flushes, the hair colourist, a stab at the 5:2 Diet, and carving out personal time in an overworked schedule?

Body: And reading Miffy at 5am.canstockphoto1486647


Mind: And reading Miffy at 5am.

Body: So, it’s not so bad… Is it?

Mind: (Staring at a bundle of warm, soft, cuddly child, resting in peace) No. It’s not so bad.

Mind: Not so bad at all.

Congratulations Ruth!

Check out her blog for a little direction:

Not on Facebook. Here’s Why.

A Week of Underachieving: 4 Ways to Ease the Mind

Location, Location. Finding Your Spiritual Home.

The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest: Honorable Mention

An Honorable Mention from The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest goes to Meryl at Six Decades and Counting…Life Reinvented for her inspirational essay about the upside of aging.

She was sent one The Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $25 donation was made to her local Red Cross chapter.

“My Time is Now”

By Meryl at Six Decades and Counting…Life Reinvented

Crossing over into the fifth and sixth decades of life can be traumatic – I speak from personal experience – yet at the same time present opportunities previously ignored, avoided, or put off to some unspecified future date.

canstockphoto23836626Early adult decades are punctuated by major life events and the reality of a constant rush and commotion. The years are chock full of growing up, finding jobs and settling into a career, getting married, having kids and raising a family. All kinds of activities, positive and negative, stir the pot.

Suddenly, if you are lucky, you can sit back one day, take a deep breath and realize –

My Time has come. My time is now.

Maybe the kids leave for college. You have extra time, more room in the house, and control of the remote. Grocery bills shrink and the extra cash in your wallet and gas in your car does not disappear. (Personal experience and discussions with contemporaries provide ample evidence to support these claims.)

Maybe you feel secure and happy with your job. Maybe your relationship with a spouse or significant other is going well, or a bad relationship finally ended.

Mature adult years offer time to pursue activities left behind in youth or never attempted because of time, finances, or other issues. Take the plunge and do whatever that little voice in the back of your mind says you want to do, but for too many years were ignored and pushed to the back of your brain.

Now is the time to bring it on.

It might be little things. Exercise more, begin reading those novels gathering dust on the shelf, get canstockphoto1962805together with friends you never had much time for in past years. Those belly dancing classes forsaken with the birth of my first child started again twenty years later. On the other hand I did not waste time renewing an interest in tennis or golf, activities tried and abandoned with no regrets years earlier.

It could be bigger things, such as traveling, downsizing or relocating. Travel reignites an interest in people and places different from our daily experience. It is a dangerous pursuit, however, if one fails to walk or in some way exercise off the calories absorbed enjoying different cuisines. Those extra pounds get harder to shed the older one gets. I know this from excruciating personal experience, bolstered by the laments of numerous contemporaries.

Downsizing is a cleansing, exhilarating experience, although exhausting during the actual process. The same with relocating.

Different kinds of diversions, some upbeat and others not so much, often face individuals heading into their fifth and sixth decades. Children boomerang and return home. Aging parents may require your time and attention. Health issues begin to surface and you realize if you do not begin accomplishing items on your bucket list, physical and/or mental issues will curtail your plans.

On the other hand you might find yourself planning weddings and welcoming grandchildren. Dissatisfaction with a job may spur changes, and an entirely new career energize and excite you.

New activities, new friecanstockphoto18884264nds, new experiences and old pleasures work together to make the higher side of a half-century of living interesting and stimulating.

I think the key to aging well and enjoying the second half-century of life is to welcome and embrace new opportunities. This is the time to forget about putting things off saying, “No, I can’t. Maybe next time.”

This is the time of life to say, “Yes I will,” and open the door wide when opportunity knocks.


Congratulations Meryl!

Check out her blog and get inspired:

A Retiree’s Life

The Top 10 Reasons I Travel

A Patriotic Pair Step Up and Purchase New Stuff