End of 2013 Update – It’s Me Again!

It’s me again! Surprised to hear from me? I would think so given that I haven’t posted much of anything here this year. I just occurred to me that tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve (I actually meant to send this out on Monday) and I thought this would be a good time to let you know why you haven’t heard much from me. There’s a lot that’s transpired since I made my one and only post in January.

Here’s the executive summary of what has happened this year:

  • My health became my number one priority and it’s become significantly better since January 30th.
  • I’ve now added acting to my broad resume, and I’m doing commercial, TV and film work. I’m told by people I highly respect that I’m doing quite well for a “newbie”.

  • Music is taking a larger role in my life. The funk band is (hopefully) going to get off the ground soon, I did guitar session work on a fellow actor’s music CD, and I’ve taken up the ukulele.

  • My Tarot work is now more focused on doing private readings and readings at major psychic fairs, private parties and company events. I’m no longer doing readings at any metaphysical stores.

The first two points are what really consumed most of my time throughout the year, and they are the main reasons why I did not write anything for the blog.

NOTE: I’m going to present the abridged versions of my stories. The more detailed versions are longer and a bit more complex; taken together, they might actually qualify as a short story.

My Health – A Crisis Averted

My health was pretty bad at the beginning of the year. I weighed a little over 260 lbs, my blood pressure was sky high, I was constantly hot and perspired easily, I couldn’t take a deep breath, I had very little stamina (I could barely walk up a short flight of stairs), I was being treated for Sleep Apnea, my fingers would sometimes go numb, and I was having various lower back problems. I was eating a lot and exercising very little. (Well, ok, not at all.) My shirt size was XL on the verge of going to XXL, and my pant size was 44 and starting to fit very snugly, to say the least. And I remember a time in the middle of January when I was beginning to accept the idea that this was my lot in life at this age and that I should just make the best of it. I was actually contemplating buying a cool cane so that I could walk a little more easily. In short, I was a mess.

Then one evening I made a decision that would significantly change my life.

Before I reveal what happened, I should state that my personal physician and the physician’s assistant that is seeing me for my Sleep Apnea have long tried to get me to lose weight and to take medication for my high blood pressure. I would always dance around the subject of weight loss and I flat refused to take any blood pressure medication. Why the resistance? Well, I had two very good friends who were on BP medication and both of them had difficulties with it. That’s all I’ll say on the subject, but suffice it to say that the experience turned me keenly against blood pressure medication.

As I was watching a movie at home one evening, it occurred to me that I could hear my heart pulsing in my head – it was quite noticeable. All of the associated side-effects of a stroke or heart attack and the various health issues that were present at the time came racing to mind for some reason. All this had never occurred to me before and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening now. I mulled it around in my mind for a bit and then made a fateful decision: at age 58, my current state of health was not in my best interests, undesirable and certainly not sustainable, so I decided it was high-time to do something about it and turn my life around. I had seen my most likely future in my head and I just didn’t want to go there.

In early February, I went to see my PA (physician’s assistant) for my annual Sleep Apnea checkup. He also happens to be a cardiologist, so I told him of my decision and asked his advice on blood pressure medications. He was delighted to hear the news and quickly came up with a possible plan. He proposed to have my physician put me on absolute minimal blood pressure medication for one year, two years max, so that we could manage my blood pressure enough for me to be able to work on lowering my weight. He said that if I could significantly lower my weight, my problems with blood pressure, back pain, joint aches and, most likely, the Sleep Apnea would all go away. He also thought I could do this in two years, or possibly al little over a year if I put my mind to it.

So I agreed to his proposal and started taking two blood pressure medications. Now I had to take care of my diet and exercise.

On February 19th, I happened to be walking around a local mall taking care of some errands, and I walked past a Weight Watchers store. I had heard a lot about them, how successful people have been by following their program, and how they’re constantly rated as the best diet program. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll go in and see what they have to say. I don’t remember the exact hour-long conversation I had with Donna, the representative I met that afternoon, but it was just the right motivation I needed to decide to join Weight Watchers and give it a try. It was the best decision I’ve made in a very long time! I knew this was the program for me because I eventually learned that this is not a diet, but rather a lifestyle. The lifestyle aspect is the key to my success. There was a particular lifestyle before Weight Watchers, and now there’s a new lifestyle with Weight Watchers. I’ve embraced it fully and it’s worked just beautifully so far! (You’ll see my results in a moment.)

Blood pressure meds, check. Diet management, check. Now I needed to take care of exercise.

I decided walking would be my best bet, so later that week I started walking around a local park for 15 minutes a day and I’ve gradually increased the distance and time since then. I now walk around a large regional mall for 40 minutes a day, six days a week. I love it! I cover approximately two miles during those forty minutes. In the past three weeks, I’ve also begun a mini-exercise regimen right before I go to bed consisting alternately of sit-ups/ push-ups/squats and leg lifts/bicep curls/standing leg lifts. I found that doing this really helps clear my nasal passages and helps my breathing while I’m sleeping. The fact that I’m even doing these exercises at all is very significant: at the beginning of the year, I could barely do five push-ups, three sit-ups (maybe), and zero squats.

Now, there’s something my PA and personal physician didn’t know about me at the time I started all of this: once I make a decision to do something, I do it 110%, both feet forward and to the best of my ability. I mention this because they have both been absolutely amazed at my progress. Here’s what I’ve accomplished in just 10 short months:

  • I’ve lost 57 pounds, 8 on my own and 49 with Weight Watchers (WW). And I’m still going down. I’m currently at 210 and my goal is to hit 195 by my first anniversary at WW. I’ll then shoot for 180-185 and call it good. (My PA said he has a record of me weighing as high as 271 lbs a couple of years ago.)
  • My blood pressure is down significantly. At the end of February, it was at a peak high of 203/119! I managed to get my blood pressure down to an average of 133/87, which literally shocked my physician and led him to discontinue one of my blood pressure medications. It’s gone up a little bit and is now consistently at an average of 148/94. I seem to still be doing well, though.

  • The issues I had with constantly being hot and perspiring, taking deep breaths, my fingers going numb, aches and pains in my joints, and various lower back problems have all disappeared. I kid you not. My Sleep Apnea has greatly decreased, and I may actually be rid of it by the end of next year.

  • My shirt and pant sizes have gone down. My shirt size went from almost having to wear an XXL to a nice regular fit Large. My pant size has gone down from a 44 waist to a 36 waist. (I should hit a size 34 when I reach 195 lbs.)

  • I’ve greatly increased my stamina. Along with my 40 minute daily walks, I’ve managed to work in stair climbing using the stairs at the mall. Every other day, I walk (well, now trot) up and down 30 steps three times. On the workout I do before going to bed, I do each of the exercises for three sets of ten reps.

Suffice it to say that I’ve made distinct progress much faster than either my PA or personal physician expected, and they are greatly impressed. My physician says at the rate I’m going, he may well decide to take me off the final blood pressure medication before the end of next year, perhaps even earlier.

I feel great, I love my new appearance and I’m enjoying life a lot more!

Lights! Camera! Action! – Now I’m an Actor!

You know, I’ve rarely ever planned anything in terms of the various careers I’ve had in my adult life. Things have always just seemed to fall into my lap or appear right in the middle of my path. And the fact that I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind taking risks or walking through a slightly opened door has been a great asset in this regard. Many of my friends and people who haven’t minded bending an ear my way have heard me tell stories of how I started in this career or managed to get into that kind of work. So it wouldn’t surprise them that this has happened yet again and is exactly how I got into acting.

Back in the end of March, my friend Akiyo and I were discussing the possibility of conducting our own psychic fair. I mentioned that we knew enough people in the metaphysical community to create the fair, but we just needed an appropriately sized venue. Akiyo mentioned that she knew a lady who had a business and who just moved into a larger building. She said her friend was interested metaphysical stuff and might be open to hosting our psychic fair. I thought that was great, so I told Akiyo to set up a meeting so that we could speak to hear about our idea.

On April 5th, I met Akiyo at the appointed time and location, and we walked upstairs to meet with her friend. As we walked into the room, a lady shouted “Mike!”, ran towards me, and gave me a big warm hug. Now at this point, I’m thinking, “Ok, who is this? Who is this?” She then grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “I’ve wanted to speak to you for over a year now! You gave me such a great tarot reading at the Emerald Spiral Expo last year! I was impressed with your presence, your energy, your warm smile, your passion, and your good looks. What I want to talk to you about concerns joining our talent agency as one of our talent!” I was completely shocked, to say the least. Very flattered, but shocked nonetheless.

So I put my business consultant hat on and told her and her partner, who joined us by that time, to give me their pitch. What was it that interested them about me? What types of work did they think I could reasonably do? What was the realistic potential for me actually working? What were the up-front costs for getting started? (It’s been my experience that there are always startup costs to any new career or job area you wish to pursue, so I didn’t think this would be any different.) To my pleasant surprise, we spent the next hour discussing these and other issues in a completely honest, clear and lucid manner. At the end of the conversation, I came to the conclusion that everything they told me and the costs they mentioned for me to start were completely reasonable. No red flags came to mind whatsoever. So I said, “Ok – I’m in!” Thus started my career as an actor and my wonderful partnership with Tanya Tiffany and Bob Tomazic at Tiffany Talent.

I’m now an actor working in commercials, film and television. In the nine short months I’ve been with the agency, I’ve had 17 auditions and booked 10 jobs. I’ve been in a major fundraising video, a fotonovela, a promotional video, two regional commercials, an episode in a TV series, pilots for two potentially new TV series, and an independent short film. (You can see a few more details on all of these items in my resume on the Tiffany Talent site.) I’ve been told by people in the business whom I really respect that I’m doing very well “for a newbie”, especially given the fact that I’ve never been in this business and I have no prior acting experience. “Here’s the good news: if this is where you are now, given your background, think of where you’ll be this time next year!” That’s what I’m keeping in mind!

From a more spiritual and metaphysical level, I’m still trying to figure out why this all came about. I wasn’t looking for a new career. I certainly had no aspirations of becoming an actor. A comedian, maybe. But becoming a legitimate actor is something I would never have thought of doing prior to April 5th. But I know I’m supposed to be doing this now. Everything has fallen into place so easily. I’m taking to it like a fish to water. I’m getting jobs. I’m humbled by the fact that I’m getting compliments on my work from people who have been at this for many years. It’s so amazing.

“Music, Sweet Music – You’re the Queen of My Soul!”
From “Queen of My Soul” by Average White Band”

I mentioned last year that I had joined a funk band that plays ‘70’s style funk. (Tower of Power; Average White Band; Earth, Wind & Fire; etc.) We actually managed to play a gig at the Bite of Seattle earlier this year, and that was a ton of fun. Since then, however, we’ve been going through some personnel changes. With any kind of luck, we’ll have a new keyboard player and lead singer by the end of January. Then we’ll work on expanding our repertoire as we might have a chance at playing in one of the night clubs at a local casino. That’ll be fun!

In the meantime, I did some studio guitar work for fellow actor and singer/songwriter Marc Silber. I got the gig almost by accident. He was working on his new Techno-Pop CD earlier this year and was in need of a guitarist. I told him that I play guitar and have been a guitarist for 40+ years. Enthused, but slightly reserved, he invited me over to his house to jam a little bit. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he was auditioning me. We played together for about an hour, after which he turned and said, “I’d love to have you play guitar on my CD.” I agreed and I ended up playing on eight tracks of his CD. It’s called “World of Wonder” and you can find out more about it on Marc’s website. It was fun to be able to be really creative and I had a blast during the recording sessions. I’d never played Techno-Pop before, but now I can add it to the list of different styles that I can play.

Last but not least, I decided to pick up the ukulele about three weeks ago. I had been wanting to learn how to play one for some time, especially after hearing The Seattle Castaways ukulele band a few times. They’re just awesome and Pete, the drummer, is a really good friend of mine. Anyway, I hemmed and hawed about it for the longest time until I got a call from my acting agent. “Hey Mike, can you play ukulele? If so, I can submit you to audition for a part that will require some ukulele playing.” “Absolutely!” I said.

So he submitted me for the audition and I promptly went to Dusty Strings in Seattle and purchased a Kala KA-C concert ukulele. It’s a beautiful little mahogany body uke with, I must say, a surprisingly nice sound. It stays in tune, is easy to play and the finish work is nice (for what it is). And at $120.00, it’s absolutely a great value. (Having purchased guitars for 40+ years, I know a good deal when I see one.

The little Kala and I hit it off beautifully. In short order (meaning roughly 2 1/2 hours), I taught myself to play the old-timey tune “Ain’t She Sweet”, “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers, “Let It Ride” by Bachman Tuner Overdrive, “El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel, and “Oil in the Ground” by Tower of Power. Yes, I know, an eclectic variety of tunes right off the bat. But you know me – I don’t like to play just one style of music.

This is the very first time I’ve ever played a ukulele and I LOVE IT! So now I play three stringed instruments: the guitar, the mandolin and the ukulele.

My Tarot Work – The Tower, Death, The Fool & The Chariot

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These cards definitely illustrate what I’ve been through during this year. I had a serious revelation that made me make significant changes to my life, and I took on a new career that seems to be proceeding down a successful and fulfilling path. It seems odd to me that I didn’t choose any cards to represent what’s been going on regarding my music and my Tarot. But I just realized that they are both a core part of my being and will forever be a part of me, no matter what I do or what new directions I pursue.

As I got busy taking care of my health and working on my new acting career, I had to discontinue doing readings at metaphysical stores – I just didn’t have the time to keep my slots going. As such, I thought the Tarot would be on the back burner for a while, but I was wrong. If anything, my Tarot work is now more focused. I’m still doing readings at the major psychic fairs in this area, private readings, and readings for private parties and corporate events. In fact, I’ve recently noticed a slight increase in work along these lines. I’ve also noticed that my readings seem to be clearer and even more accurate than before, although I don’t know why that is the case. I’ve gladly accepted this fact, however, and I still have an absolutely great time doing readings.

I think my involvement in the acting community will open up a whole new set of opportunities for a broader clientele. I’ve already done readings for a few actors, and more are becoming interested in what I do. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation evolves.

End Notes

Given all that has transpired this year, you can see why I didn’t post much on my blog. You can expect to hear more from me, though. I have some plans for major changes in the way I market myself and all the things I do now. Changes are on the way, so keep an eye on my website, my Facebook page and this blog. I will give you a two-word hint of what is to come: Renaissance Man.

I wish you all the very best for 2014. May you be happy, healthy, prosperous and safe, and may the year exceed your current expectations.

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