Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day - Getting Cupid's Shaft

I like football.  It's an enjoyable pastime to watch it on Sundays.  (College is okay, but there are so many teams it can be hard for me to follow with any great enthusiasm.  Even my Pac-12 tendencies are limited to just a few of those teams).  The problem I have is, it's difficult to watch all the buddy-buddy ads without feeling some remorse.  It seems as though everyone's having a good time, enjoying a cold brew, having a bunch of friends over to watch on the new big screen, whatever.  Now I understand a lot of that is my own fault.  I don't have an endless supply of pretty friends that couldn't get along any better, with certainly an equal division of males to females, all about the same age and presumptively reasonably successful.  I don't particularly like bars, or watering holes or road houses, or whatever the present hip description of like establishments is.  If I really wanted a $6.00 beer, I really wouldn't want it.  And since I was in college, sharing a pitcher of Coors Light is about as classy as those little weiners with toothpicks.  Which actually aren't too bad, in moderation.  I prefer Vienna Sausages, although not sure how they claim the sausage part with a straight face.

As such, with the advent of Valentine's Day just a few hours away, the incessant imagery of ring-giving, chocolate-sharing, flower-presenting happy folk makes me feel angry, melancholy, humored and depressed.

You guessed it.  I'm unattached, with no positive prognosis.

Actually it's a double-edged arrow, because for one I am unable (read: not permitted) to express my feelings to one whom I miss terribly.  (To be fair, it's been nearly two years since we decided to part ways after numerous years and the problems leading to the disintegration were in my oven-mitted juggler's hands).  But two, because of my inability to accept reality, cannot move forward without feeling dreadful sorrow, immense guilt and my steadfast belief that not only am I not ready to try anew but feel presently that I had found my soulmate and being with anyone else would simply be settling.

Far be it from me to spew forth rhetoric that's been said before by lonely, disenchanted, disillusioned, skeptical, cynical and/or jaded folk.  Well, okay, not that far.  I did read an article in the newspaper this past weekend, a newspaper replete with a potpourri of advertisements on precisely the perfect gift for "that someone special" (if that isn't politically correct, I couldn't begin to tell you what is).  The reading I allude to is concerning the three different types of personalities that people can be in a relationship.  Now, many of us have done those tests where we fill out about 347 questions and are assigned a color, a four-letter acronym, or ultimately decide whether that mirrored Pollock-esqe drool of ink is a butterfly or a bat.  And then we're feeling bad because a bat is icky and a butterfly is beautiful, and why do we see the icky bat and we can't we see the beautiful butterfly, there must be something wrong with us.

Anyway, Secure, Anxious and Avoidance are the three types.  Secure, per this article, and by the mere sound, imagery and emotion the word evokes (think silk versus mud),  is apparently good.  Avoidance describes, among other things, the types who like their freedom, enjoy being alone, a lot.  They are also non-committal, maybe good for them, not so good for their partners.  Anxious is the worrier.  This would be me.  Wondering if I was good enough, wondering what she might be thinking, was I being judged, was I doing enough (no, obviously), was I doing too much (in a different aspect, yes, obviously.)  Worry, worry, worry.  Too much internal sweat, not enough external sweat.

I thought I had felt secure in this past relationship, and perhaps I was, but then a series of Lemony Snickets occurred, some through my own crude crayon blueprint of my life's design and others by, well, others.  I lost sight of land, but never of the simple fact that I would firmly beach myself in paradise once again.  And I did.  Unfortunately, my "beach" was a sandbar too far from shore to wade in, and ultimately the waves of despair eroded my tenuous sandy hold and set me adrift once again, floating out to sea, losing forever my sight of the terra firma that was my love. 

I had become entrenched in a static, complacent role.  I took things for granted.  It was me first, although I didn't think so at the time.  Again, I take a majority share of the blame.  Like maybe 98%.  I figure, if no one's 100% perfect, no one can be 100% imperfect, either.  Justification, yes, but the logic works for me.

So here I am, on the eve of a day that used to make me giddy with the thought of her opening her gift.  Of sharing conversation and dinner, becoming a veritable pair of Russian nesting dolls as we snuggled on the couch and watched one of our favorite films (egad, that sounds pretentious.  Why can't I just say "movie").

Yes, here I am.  And brilliantly happy.  Brilliantly happy to know I don't have to put up with this particular crap for another 364 days.  And maybe by then I'll have found a worthy recipient for some chocolates or flowers, or Vienna Sausages.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Toltec Wisdom, or Wishful Thinking?

I was talking with a group of folks the other day about Don Miguel Ruiz's Four Agreements, which are based on wisdom of the ancient Toltec people of southern Mexico.  They are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

In our conversation, we pretty much all agreed that the first three were more or less a given as to how anyone should act for the benefit of themselves as well as others.  We also agreed that numbers 2 and 3 were not necessarily easy, or at least they were easy to fall back to.  How could we not never take anything personally?  And in time of emotional or spiritual stress it's a pretty good bet we will make an assumption that is not based on fact but rather our personal need to justify our feelings, play the martyr, provide excuses and otherwise try to even a field that may not be tilted but can feel as though it is.

We ran into trouble with number 4.  Some expressed that they did not know when they were doing their best.  How were they to rate that, to put it on a scale?  Others felt it was more akin to doing better, not necessarily putting a finite cap on one's best, but rather having an internal feeling that tells us when we had a relatively good day, or perhaps we came up short in what we knew we needed to do. 

I tend to lean to the latter.

How many times have we come home from work, come in from working in the yard or running errands, whatever, and we say to ourselves and/or someone else, "I had a good day?"  Perhaps we got what we wanted to accomplish accomplished.  We feel good about it.  And we're not denying ourselves that feel-good moment.

It doesn't apply to tomorrow, and maybe not two days ago, but today was a good thing.  Shouldn't that be enough for that moment?

Is that our best?  Could we have done more at work, in the yard, ran another errand?  Would that make it, if not our best, better? 

I hike.  A lot.  Sometimes for enjoyment, often for exercise.  When doing the latter, I push myself, up hills, through the flats and careening down hills.  Trying to make time.  I can't say I know my absolute limits.  I haven't run a marathon distance such as the Greek runner Phidippides, who died from exhaustion after two 140 mile runs and then a 26 mile run.

I do about five miles in about an hour.  If I did six, would that be better?  I mean really, it's all relative.  Are three aspirin better than two?  What if I blew off an appointment to do another mile?  What if my joints started to ache to the point that I did damage and couldn't hike on schedule the next time?

We have to put our best efforts into context.  Age, ability, desire, time, motivation, desired outcome.  If I hiked thirty miles in a day when I was twenty year old and five miles when I am seventy (I am neither, thank you very much), is it fair to say my best hiking day was when I was twenty when doing five at sevently is pretty darn good?

I think whatever project we get ourselves into, whether is be at work, looking for work, being a gracious person, a polite driver, a caring significant other or a loving, responsible parent, we can only look two ways: I am pleased with my efforts (at this moment in time), or I have not done as well as I could (at this moment in time).

We know the truth in ourselves.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gremlin Speaks

I was once asked to write a conversation I might have with a personal Gremlin, one of those inner voices we all have that can make us question our judgements, justify negative acts and generally be the devil's advocate to any forward-thinking attempts at improving one's self.  In this case, my Gremlin is letting me in on little secrets that, without thought or insight, help him thrive by keeping me emotionally down, or physically back.  But he does it in such a way that I have to come up with the answers that, ultimately, I knew all along... 

“So…what?” I said.  “You called me here.”

“Like heck I did!  You sit there in all your self-pity and wait for someone else to kowtow to your mood,” said the Gremlin.  “Your little immature display is an engraved invitation to me, my friend.”

“So,” I began, “what you’re saying is that I get wronged and I can’t show any outward emotion of it.”

“Hell no,” said the Gremlin, “by all means, show your anger.  Let people know that they’ve crossed a line with you, and that it is unacceptable.  It’s all how you present it.”

“So I’m doing it wrong,” I challenged.

“Y’know, I shouldn’t be telling you any of this.  I tell you secrets on how to avoid me, and I’ll be out of a job.  Oh, sorry, sore subject.  But hey, you’re not a bad guy, so let me give you a couple of pointers.”

“And I’m just going to trust you,” I said.

“No,” said the Gremlin, “you’re going to trust you.  Consider this conversation a buffet, and you only take from it what you want.  No more, no less, and if you decide not to take anything, well, then it’s your hunger to deal with.”

“But what if I was starving for insight?  Wouldn’t I be more tempted just to grab something even if it wasn’t a good fit for me?” I asked.

“If you hadn’t eaten in a few days, and the buffet was full of cakes and cookies and ice cream, sure, the temptation would be great.  It’s up to you to decide what your body needs and what it can do without.”

“Okay,” I said.  “What’s the secret?”

“Secrets, my friend,” said the Gremlin.  “There is more than one.  And they constantly change, as your life does.  So what worked last year or last month or yesterday may not work tomorrow.  Because like it or not, the people around you change as well.”

“So if people are too tightly wound…,” I started.

“…it’s harder for people to affect change in themselves,” finished the Gremlin.  “Look, it’s related a bit to the ‘love it or leave it’ syndrome.  If you force something to go against its natural tendencies, you’re going to break it.  What totally sucks, as I’m sure you’ve realized, is although YOU may be aware of a breaking point and ease off the pressure, others don’t always, so you’re left in the role of backing down and away to relieve the pressure.  And YOU specifically, my friend, are way tired of backing down.”

I considered that for a moment.  At last I came up with a very potent and concentrated pill of thought, one I wasn’t sure I wanted to feel the side effects from.  

“If,” I began, “I tend to be a certain way in living.  On or off.  Black or white.  Doing or not doing.”

“Love it or leave it,” said the Gremlin.

“Yikes!” I exclaimed. 

“Exactly.  The thing is, no one is asking you to change.  Personally, I think it’s unfair for anyone to ask anyone else to change their root style.  However, what is easier to change is how you let outside events affect you.”

“Oh sure,” I said, “easy for you to day.”

“Yup,” said the Gremlin.  “But never said it was easy.  Easier, I said, than the other way.”

“What is the other way?"

“Changing yourself.”

“But I like who I am!” I exclaimed.

“Listen up, you bonehead!  That’s why I am suggesting the other way.  I like you too, for the most part, except for times like maybe right NOW!  You won’t be changing yourself, just changing a part of how you ingest things.”

“Getting a bit testy, aren’t we?” I teased.

The Gremlin rolled his eyes.  “You’re just getting in the way of yourself again.  Stop over-thinking, analyzing, dissecting – just STOP!  You are like that goofy memory foam.  You push out any new thought until your original shape is back.  But maybe that shape is not quite right to begin with.”

“So,” I began, “I’m not quite right.”

“Maybe,” said the Gremlin, “but who truly is?  The trick is to not look at your life as though you’ve been doing things wrong.  Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t.  Who cares?  The trick is to start doing some things differently.  Better?  Maybe, but certainly differently.”

“What if these new things aren’t the right way either?” I countered.

“Then you go out and try something different again.  And if that doesn’t work, try again, and again, and again, if you have to.  There are infinite and infinitesimal ways to present, to react, to digest.  Sometimes you get lucky and you get pretty darned close on your first or second try, and only some minor adjustments are needed.  Other times, it could be months or years before you latch onto something that works.”

“That,” I said, “sounds like a pain in the ass.”

“Agreed,” said the Gremlin.  “It’s frustrating as hell.  And remember, as I said before, people and situations change, which requires some change on your part.”

“So you’re saying I’ll never be caught up.  I’ll always be doing this conscious adjustment.”  I felt like I was whining.

“In a word, yes.  But no one is ever caught up, really.  We’re all doing minor adjustments constantly.  It’s just more automatic, from practice and familiarity.  Look, taking driving a car as an example.  At this point, today, you think you’re a decent driver, maybe better than most.  Whatever.  But many of the adjustments you do while driving are automatic.  You regularly check your mirrors, you drift a bit one way and you apply just enough pressure on the steering wheel to correct it, you let off on the gas as you near another car or stop sign.  You don’t go to a signal light at 40 miles-an-hour-per and then slam on the brakes.  You ease into the stop.”

“I prepare,” I said, pleased with myself.


“Okay,” I said, “point taken.  But driving is a relatively emotionless event…”

“For you, maybe,” interrupted the Gremlin.  “There are some mighty high-strung drivers out there.  Come to think of it, I’ve heard a few colorful descriptions coming from your…”

“Oh, shut up,” I said, without really meaning it.

“But I know what you’re asking.  And the answer is relatively simple, once you get over the hump.”

“What hump?” I asked.

The Gremlin had that look in his eye of a great revelation.  “When a kid is learning to ride a bike, the whole process is daunting.  Big machine, large moving parts.  The thrill of speed mixed with the sheer terror of not being able to stop.”

“Fear,” I said.

“And lots of it,” continued the Gremlin.  “And the tears and the bloodied knees and the humiliation and the frustration are where, now?”

“I can’t remember when I couldn’t ride,” I said nearly as a whisper.

“It’s automatic,” kneaded the Gremlin.  “So, take that knowledge that with practice and perseverance the fear will diminish as it is replaced with knowledge and skill and automatic behavior.”

“I hate that I’m not a great arguer.  It’s like I want to be a black belt just so I can know I could kick somebody’s butt if I get hassled.”

“Hey, just because it’s not your strength doesn’t make it a weakness,” prophesized the Gremlin.  “You probably won’t win the Tour de France or mountain bike down Mount Everest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ride a bike.  Your black-or-white, on-or-off, love-it-or-leave-it mentality is showing.  Why not be a yellow belt?  Why does it have to be black?”

“The emotional stuff makes me wig out.  I feel like I’m in the wrong, I’m in trouble, I’m at fault.”

“Habit, habit, habit,” chanted the Gremlin.  “Nothing more.  If you question something, as in, ‘What did I do wrong?’ then you probably didn’t do anything wrong and are living with past, and dated, mentalities in a present physical world.  You are watching the latest widescreen 10 zillion pixel color DVD on a 13 inch black and white television.  You are seeing new stuff, the DVD, the old way, the TV.  You’ve got to bring yourself into the present, with all the new information you possess.  Otherwise you’re not doing anyone, kids, relationships, and especially yourself, justice.”

“Justice,” I said.  “I hated learning about Socrates’ arguments on it.”

“As I recall,” said the Gremlin, “what you hated was you couldn’t grasp the way it was written.  You rather liked the concept.”

“Fair enough,” I replied.

“And the funny thing is?” queried the Gremlin.

I thought for a moment, but just a moment.  “All I ever bitch about is getting justice.  Fairness.  Equality.  Parity.  Touché, Gremlin.”

“De nada,” smiled the Gremlin.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Sometimes I find myself incredulous at the state of human affairs.  Arnold, Sheen, that French guy.

I wonder at the state of stuff.  I wonder at the gas prices.  I wonder how, it just so happens, I am out of work, struggling to make it and gas goes a buck-plus more a gallon.  I wonder if this is a good time to laugh at the utter ridiculousness that surrounds me.  I have a Masters.  I eat bologna and Top Ramen. 

I wonder how many other post-grads are out of work.  I wonder if it's just me.

I wonder if I am to be a consummate failure at relationships.

I wonder if my son still repects me.  I wonder what he thinks of me.

I wonder a lot.

I think there are a lot of other descriptions that partially define my situation.  Depression, anxiety, moroseness, pity.  All, among others, certainly apply to some degree.  But I continually ask myself, am I making a martyr out of my relationship with myself, or am I just too lazy and self-pre-defined to do something about it?  I make that last statement because I feel I work myself into a frenzy of self-loathing that provides me an excuse to justify feelings or behavior.  I read into stuff, knead it into a reality thats fits my mood and thusly provide reasoning for any given action, or for that matter, lack of action.

I wonder why I have such a zest for life one moment, and an utter disrergard for my welfare the next.  I'm not speaking of dangerous (I'm quite sure there's a terrific adrenaline rush) B.A.S.E. jumping behavior, but rather the negative mental abuse that I tend to feed myself.  I'm no good, I'm not worthy, I'm unhireable, I'm a failure.  I speak in terms of a job, of a relationship, of being a father, a son, a significant other.

What really annoys me is I know in my heart that these statements are all wrong.  I'm a good guy, with my heart in the perfect place.  Barring being financially barren, my ability to being a Dad is uncompromised, and uncomparable.  I could be a good partner to someone, someday.  Now is maybe not the best time for me, or her, but perhaps eventually.  And I can successfully fulfill a position, helping myself and a company work towards the future.

So why the negativity?  This, this, this is why I wonder.

I see beauty in the world.  I am an optimist.  I will get work.  I will be a positive influence in another's life.  I will not fail at the life I have left.  I think it's this optimism that sets me up for failure, for the peaks and valleys of optimism and pessimism are joined with steep grades indeed, and I sometimes struggle at the grades, looking upon them less as challenges but more as obstacles.  I'm tired of obstacles.

Is nothing ever easy?  Ever?

I wonder if I should stop wondering.  Questions are a reflex, but not necessarily helpful.  Especially if there's no right, or even worse, a fabricated, answer.  Doing might be better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Delayed Tryptophan

For those that like to receive the Merrys and Happys of the holidays mattering not from whom it's cast, Happy (belated) Valentine's Day.  For that matter, depending on the state in which you reside or school district you attend, Happy (belated) Lincoln's birthday.  With that done, on to the task at hand.

You know when you finish Thanksgiving (Happy very belated) dinner, and let us presume there was a turkey involved, and you feel sleepy, lethargic, unmotivated and patently useless, among other things?  That's about as my entire month of January went.  It even rolled a bit into February.  This is not normal for me.  As much as I relish the December season, or at least the anticipation part up to the 25th of the month, I am essentially done with the whole celebration before the New Year rolls around.  That's not to say my lights aren't still lit up in the evening, but I'm already turning my sights and thoughts into the winds of spring. 

This time, the changing of the calendar guard found me in a entirely new place, literally and figuratively, than had been the case for quite a few years.

The crux is my continued effort to find regular employment.  Yes, I know, me and the other 9, 12 or 16 percent of the population (dependent on the state in which one lives and/or the news source one subscribes to).  The point is my Januarys of the past were full of hopes, dreams and the coming of baseball.  This time around it was just a muddled mess of effort with no result, which in turn led to a mundane existence and finally a jaded and cynical global view.  By global I mean whatever I can see from under the rock that's within the tiny bubble I had created to define a life.  I was in a state of perpetual bummed.

"Where is bliss?" I would cry out.  "Why is no one responding to the hundreds of resumes I have sent to the ends of the ethernet?"  I must be worthless, too old, not hip enough in the not-so-subtle nuances of social media, definitely not hip at all in the subtle ones.  I must be trapped in the 80s.  Fortunately, I have a little voice attached to a big hand that would smack me across the noggin hard enough to jar those unhelpful thoughts loose before they could permanently adhere themselves as so many rock-sucking limpets.  Stress still kept me from enjoying restful slumber, but I knew which way was up.  More or less.  When you're under water and you exhale, it's relatively easy to see the direction in which the air pockets are headed.  For me, it was more like trying to chase smoke in a windstorm.

I've done, and am doing the networking thing.  I've limited the online job search because everybody and their book publisher says it's just short of wasting your time.  Although a member of LinkedIn for some time, I've spent more time updating, polishing and joining, including one group that looked promising but every other post comes to me in what I think is German.  Seriously.  There was no indication of that when I joined.  They could be talking about that great, talented guy in Walnut Creek and here is the perfect job for him and I would never know.  Danke!

But it got me thinking.  Have you ever felt as though you belonged to another era?  Like the 50s, hanging with Fonzie?  I sometimes wonder if I would do better with a different set of rules, a climate of attitude that is perhaps gone forever but resides in my soul.  Everything I know about life prior to the 60s (1960s, let's get that straight right now) is from books, movies, television and the occasional story from those who lived it.  And even then it's hard to fathom at times.  When someone is talking about their involvement in a war (any war, pick one), it is impossible for me to imagine the horrors of it.  Even seeing our more recent conflicts on the internet, on television and in magazines, there is no way I can provide any empathy because I haven't been there.  It sure looks bad, but I'm bright enough to know those images and stories are an infinitesimal slice of what it must be like.

Anyway, would I have been able to carve out a life in the Old West?  Would the pervasive attitude of the times conviced me to lie about my age and join the ranks for the Great War or World War II?  Could I be happy with the comparative innocence of mid-twentieth century necking, not to mention the actual use of the word?  I feel a kinship with those times, but I don't know why.  Young but alive in the 60s and 70s, I don't have the same attraction to sit-ins, communes and disco.  Maybe because I was alive.

Is it that the grass is always greener somewhere I'm not?  Certainly in times of strife I'm certain that's the case.  And maybe I had given in to the idea that it was easier to lie on my patch of January weeds, dream a little woe-is-me dream and wait for opportunity to knock, or at least to try and sell me a Honda.

But ultimately that's not who I am.  Little voice, big hand, bigger (smack!) reminder, no limpets.  I've managed to pull myself out of the January tryptophan coma, done some reassessing, made some changes and taken risks.  I've seen The King's Speech  twice.  Barring the privileged monarchy backstory, it's a good romp regarding perseverance.

And I've started looking for a good lawnmower.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's Obvious

I suppose the theme of being thankful it's a new year is spoken, written and otherwise thought of to an annoying degree, however true it may be to the articulator.  It's akin to a hip new song being played over and over (and over) again on the radio to the point of aural illness.  Ultimately, it's mankind and Hallmark that chopped up infinite time into manageable sections, giving names to seasons, identifying every 30-odd days with a dead political figure or dubious higher power of some sort, and designating certain historical events as reason to celebrate with food, drink and gifts of appreciation.

In essence it seems we have a need to know that there is a 'slate-clearing' portion of this managed time.  However, that refresh moment only goes so far.  We can justify putting the past year's negative aspects behind us mentally, if we are able, but are still liable for debts, taxes and the resulting brouha for things we said out loud inadvertantly.

So am I saying the idea of the new year is a crutch?  Absolutely, but it is a necessary one.  Imagine talking to a paleontologist, who suggests to you that a certain species of recently-discovered dinosaur lived, to his/her best estimate and cutting-edge Carbon-14 dating techniques, an astonishing 158 million years ago.  That would be the Mesozoic period, just in case some of you out there were hoping to actually garner something fruitful from this musing.  158 million years ago is something I cannot grasp.  It's too big a number.  There's no reference point anything in my experience can relate to, except other 65-225 million-year-old dinosaurs, none of whom I had the pleasure of ruminating with about which plants were the tastiest.  That's at least a 64,995,000 year-wide gap.  Putting it another way: your kid is in high school history or social studies, and the teacher is talking about present day stuff.  Now he/she says, "Now just for a moment, think ahead 64,995,000 years into the future."  If it's Tuesday and I'm thinking about the weekend I'm almost too far ahead of myself.  Let me give you another example in reference to the need to compartmentalize time.  Most of us are familiar with light years, in the sense that some of the stars we see in the night sky (if you see stars other than the sun in the day sky, that's another topic) are hundreds of thousands of light years away, and that light travels at 186,000 miles per second.  I can't conceptualize that distance or speed.  I hear light year and I think three things: really far, really fast and Buzz.

A light year, by the way, is 5,878,625,373,184 miles.  I could write it out, but then again, I'm not getting paid by the character. 

The point is, without a stop and start point, without a place to rest and catch a breath, everything blows past us in a blur.  We don't have a chance to reflect on positive or negative behaviors, actions or thought processes.  If we are of the mind to, the lack of rearview vision disallows, or at least minimizes the chance of changing our ways, by going to school on recent events in our lives.  If we wish to learn from our past by either capitalizing on what has worked and forging ahead with a similar game plan or hitting the brakes and taking a different path, we must have a relatively recent frame of reference from which to draw on.

While we're here, I would like to add I think it's a good thing to have New Year's resolutions.  Just make them realistic, helpful and achievable.  Avoid ones that are more difficult to acquire.  'I vow to win a million dollars in the lottery' is one of the latter.  But good luck just the same.

That's all I have to say.