May 302013

Over the years, I’ve often wondered how it is that little things can make a big difference.

photo nick_lonesomeTree

Take the words “please” and “thank you” – my dad use to say that civility doesn’t cost you anything; and that you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

If these things are true, then why aren’t simple manners and courtesies used more widely? Some possibilities are:

  • Many believe that saying “I’m sorry” shows a kind of weakness, so they prefer a more aggressive approach…. tough guys don’t apologize for anything… why should they?
  •  Skepticism: a lot of people who say “I’m sorry”, often don’t mean it, but it’s expedient.
  • Cultural myths: When legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, made his famous remarks about winning, he didn’t say “winning is everything”; he really said “the will to win is everything”. But, because his philosophy about winning was his legacy, this misquote was never challenged and became the mantra for sports and business ever since. The problem is that there’s a world of difference in the meaning between the two quotes. 

One thing is certain: if you’re always putting others first – with no regard for your true needs – there will always be those who will take advantage of your good nature. When the chips are down, they cash in. It’s just business.”, becomes a cover for a multitude of sins.

In the end, I’ve found that it’s critically important to stand up for yourself, but that doesn’t mean walking all over someone else’s rights. The world is too big to be small. Being considerate of others may seem self-defeating in the short run, but in the long run, having a healthy self-respect wins.

You still have to live with yourself – which means acknowledging your short comings – but you don’t need to psychologically beat yourself up. We all make mistakes that we later regret, because we are imperfect, and there is nothing we can do about it. Remember, however; that one negative event doesn’t define your whole life. You’re more than that. And, sometimes your gallon-sized plans are too much for those of pint-sized imaginations, who often feel threatened.

The best advice I’ve heard was that beginning is half done – small steps are important.  You may not be what you want to be tomorrow, yet looking ahead, what steps do you need to take now, to get there?

Your passion and God-given talent is all you need, because your gift can help others. Always consider: is this ‘something’, bigger than you are? Otherwise, life can seem like such a tossed salad.

“Take it or leave it, or try to believe it/ If you’ve been down too long” Gordon  Lightfoot’s ‘Rainy Day People’    

Finally, we worry about things as if they matter when they don’t. As a wise friend shared, it’s pointless to compare yourself with others. All that matters is that you work with honesty and with as much skill as you have. And, remember: the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Fred Parry

Fred Parry (May,2013)

May 272013

In a recent article discussing a new draft of the diagnosis handbook ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’ (DSM5), used by doctors in the US, the question is asked, “Should we be ashamed of shyness”. Apparently, now, there’s a pill for that … and for crying, fear of authority, speaking in public, etc.


“One pill makes you larger/ And one pill makes you small/ And the ones that mother gives you/ Don’t do anything at all/ Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall” White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane

It seems there are two major sides lining up for this debate: the drug companies who stand to make big profits by encouraging governments to expand the classifications of what constitutes a mental illness (at extra expense to public and private healthcare systems); verses, the vast majority of health care professionals – primarily psychiatrists and psychologists in the US and the UK – who, as Duke University’s medical journal editors observed: that medical doctors tempted to prescribe pills “would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance and empathy” … instead of “medicalising” normal human emotion. Already, the American Psychiatric Association now recognizes 347 categories for mental disorders – up from 128 in 1959.

“When men on the chessboard/ Get up and tell you where to go/ And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom/ And your mind is moving low/ Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know”

My own feelings on the subject of being prescribed pills “for all that ails you”, are varied and conflicted – from being grateful that something existed for genuine medical conditions; and for being concerned for the pressure on doctors, demanded by society, for pills for everything.

We all know, for example, the risks of overusing antibiotics. Taken when needed is fine, but abusive use may render them ineffective when you really do need them – as the body builds up a resistance to them.  

Also, (and as a layman I can’t really understand) why you would want to make a social phobia out of a normal human trait for something like shyness or fear of public speaking? I mean, I can understand the judicious use of drugs for extended depression, bereavement and grief, but I think it’s dangerous to automatically classify them as mental illness. Sometimes, even with loving support, the healing process naturally takes time.  

The final point is one of adverse reactions. You’ll see that listed as, “this drug may cause…”, and that’s something that could cause worst side effects than the prescribed cure. I know, I’ve been there; and I’ve been grateful for the health care afforded me to fine tune my way through the healing process.

In the end – tragic and unforeseen events to the contrary – we need to take personal responsibility for our own well-being … and that’s called prevention.

“And if you go chasing rabbits/ And you know you’re going to fall/ Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar/ He has given you the call/ Go ask Alice, when she was just small”   

 Fred Parry

Fred Parry (2013)        

May 242013


I knew a man Bojangles and he’d dance for you/ in worn out shoes/ Silver hair, ragged shirt and baggy pants/ the old soft shoe” Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walkers

Sitting down outside the liquor store, playing a beat up old acoustic guitar, he didn’t have to sing the blues … he was the blues: thick, nicotine stained fingers strumming the strings, a Tim Horton’s coffee for sustenance and a ‘Maple Leafs’ tin cup for tips … on this cold, windy day.

As he nodded a friendly smile to oblivious shoppers flying by, he took it all in stride: just another day ‘at the office’, rain or shine … working the crowd like a master showman, with no apologies.

“Hey Mr. Tambourine Man play a song for me/ I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to” Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan

At first, I took exception to him as just another panhandler, as I slowly slid a coin back into my pocket. But then, I realized what’s meant by the expression: “the hardest working man in show business”. I mean, could just anyone do this? And, who was I – looking down from my lofty tower of forgetfulness and ignorance – to be so judgemental?

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine/ You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?”Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

Slowly, I dug deeper into my pocket to toss a few extra coins into his cup. After all, I had been enjoying a free concert right in front of me; and I knew, even from the comfort of my car, that he knew it too.  In so giving, it wasn’t because of guilt … nor pity … it was because he was there at all.

“You said you’d never compromise/ with the mystery tramp, but now you realize/ He’s not selling any alibis/ As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes”Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

Later, after talking to him briefly, he picked up his meager few belongings to leave – slinging his precious 20-year-old Stella flat top over his shoulder.  Watching, I recalled some words about a man who was similarly carrying all his worldly processions on his back. And, what was noted was not that he had so little, but that he had so much. We all have our crosses to bear.

“He said, I dance now at every chance at honky-tonks, for drinks and tips/ But most the time I spend behind these county bars, ‘cause I drinks a bit”Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff Walkers

Some might say that he had it coming with all the bad choices he must have made – not recognizing the toxic circumstances that often lead to a street life. Not everyone can afford to make the same number of mistakes and the role luck plays in the good fortune of others is often forgotten or deliberately unacknowledged. Nobody’s perfect. 

Maybe, Clint Eastwood’s gunslinger character in the western movie `Unforgiven‘, summed it up best: We’ve all got it coming, kid”.  

Fred Parry

Fred Parry (2013)


May 022013

When you shift gears on a multi-speed bicycle to go up hill, you naturally shift to the smallest gear on the back wheel sprocket, right? Wrong. According to Ted, our certified bicycle mechanic, “it’s the smallest chain ring on the crank which drives the biggest gear on the back.  The big gear helps you get up the hill.”


I don’t know if that sounds complicated to you; but just imagine what it takes to get the really big wheels of life in sync. It seems like something bordering on metaphysics – right up there with Robert Persig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  


To a guy like me, raised on single-speed bikes, this was mind bending.


There are two great schools of thought, or approaches to life: left brain (logical) vs. right brain (creative).  There are many variations, but the best results come when they work together.


In my life, I have found it impossible to appreciate one without the other.                               


“Before God we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.”– Albert Einstein


Take playing the piano, for example. When our two girls were just youngsters they were enrolled in piano lessons: like night and day, one was left-brained and the other was right.

Yet both girls excelled at piano and were equally gifted in presenting beautiful music. Each had individualized ways of achieving memorable results … one in a traditional sense, the other with an innovative flair.


They shared the same teacher who – as my own mother did for me – encouraged a stream of independent thinking.  She championed artistic freedom and expression and fostered the love of music… of life itself!


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson


Legendary instrumentalist Chet Atkins (“Mr. Guitar”), who played everything from country to classical, was once asked if he had ever taken lessons, “Well,” said Chet, with typical southern humour, “not enough to ruin the music.”


Being a part of something shouldn’t make you sacrifice your God-given right to be you – your uniqueness. But some people would rather be right than happy.


“Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life / Don’t know what he’s asking.” 

 Sunshine by Jonathan Edwards


Honest-to-goodness, universal geniuses don’t come around that often. For example, the Mona Lisa`s creator, Leonardo da Vinci, was also revered as a mathematician, engineer … and musician.


Today, however, we feel fortunate when we find unusually gifted people – left brain and right brain dominant – working in tandem.  This is good; our world needs solutions, not more problems but it is definitely an uphill climb.


“There is good and bad in everyone

We learn to live, when we learn to give each other

What we need to survive, together alive.”

Ebony and Ivory by  Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney


People can harmoniously coexist. And yes, just like the keys on a piano, we need them all.

Fred Parry

Fred Parry (2013)