What is Happiness?

I’ve been gone for a while.

Mentally.

Pressure kept building while I did my best to ignore it.

I stopped caring.

Stopped being happy.

Then someone took a tiny crowbar and entered my heart. Suddenly there was light on the horizon instead of the dark clouds that consumed me so intensely. Happiness once again warmed my skin. Love filled my pores. I realized I still had some purpose.

Sitting in the airport yesterday, she challenged me on something I said. She always challenges me.

It’s bittersweet.

Emotional.

I told her that she makes me want to be better. But did I really know what that meant? I said that I want to have the life where I can make someone else happy.

Seems easy enough, right?

She challenged me. “So for you, being better means making the people you love happy?”

At first I thought a simple, “Yes” was the answer. But I was boarding the plane and had a few minutes to think about it.

At what point does making someone “happy” destroy a relationship? Does it involve avoiding an argument just to make someone happy? Is it conceding just to avoid conversation? Is it the irrational belief that just by saying the right things everything will turn around and be ok?

Maybe I thought so. I’m not sure.

I would be challenged on that statement too.

Getting to my seat on the plane, I understood that’s not happiness.

It’s avoidance.

I’m good at avoiding. Diverting.

I’m happy when I can make someone happy, but not because I am looking for the things that make that person happy. I want happiness to be natural.

No, I NEED it to be natural. It gives me purpose. It gives me life. It gives me love.

Maybe I can overcome my struggles.

There is hope.

Hope.

Not just hope that I can “fix” something…hope that I don’t need to try to use happiness to fix the unfixable.

Hope.

Skipping Funerals

There are many things that my wife, the hippy, does as an extrovert that I just don’t understand.

Last week there was a fatal crash in town where a teenage female lost her life.

Tragic, no doubt.

I didn’t know her, nor do I know any of her family members that I know of.

She was the daughter of a friend of a friend of my wife. My wife had never met her. May have never met her parents either…she’s not sure. But when the name was released, my wife went into full emotional crisis mode.

She was calling up friends of hers to let them know the news. She was trying to find out when the funeral was going to be. She was doing everything someone would do who had ties to the family.

But she really doesn’t.

And this is not a unique circumstance.

She attends more funerals each year than I have attended in my entire life. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t want to go to a funeral for someone I don’t know. They are sad enough as is.

Plus, being the introvert I am, I don’t want to have a conversation begin with a family member or someone who truly cared for and loved the departed where it becomes obvious I didn’t know them.

I am uncomfortable attending birthday parties for people I don’t know. I am uncomfortable attending weddings for people I don’t know.

There should be no doubt that I would be uncomfortable attending a funeral for someone I don’t know.

Instead I will be leaving work early to pick my son up from school since my wife will be going.

70 Shades of…well, me

A couple of weeks ago I got a nice message from a follower. They asked if I would be open to answering a bunch of questions…honestly. After seeing they weren’t too terribly personal or embarrassing, I agreed. So, here you go:

  1. Were you named after anyone?

Not that I am aware of

  1. What is your favorite lunch meat?

Turkey

  1. Do you have kids?

Just one – a six year old boy

  1. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?

Probably not…I know, rough

  1. Do you use sarcasm a lot?

All the time

  1. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yep

  1. Would you skydive?

I have, and I would again

  1. What is your favorite cereal?

Fruity Pebbles all the way

  1. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

Not usually

  1. What is your favorite ice cream?

Good ol’ vanilla

  1. What is the first thing you notice about people?

The safe answer is the eyes, but I am a guy, so…

  1. What is the least favorite thing about you?

My weight

  1. What was the last thing you ate?

Cheeseburger and fries. I’m sure that will help my weight.

  1. What are you listening to right now?

ESPN Radio

  1. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

My assistant

  1. Mountain hideaway or beach house?

Mountain hideaway every time

  1. Favorite sport to watch?

NFL on tv, baseball in person

  1. Eye color?

Brown

  1. Do you wear contacts?

Sometimes

  1. Favorite food?

Cheeseburger

  1. Last movie you watched?

Pixels

  1. What color shirt are you wearing?

Blue

  1. Summer or winter?

Tough one. My favorite activities happen in summer, but winter is still my favorite

  1. Favorite dessert?

Ice cream with cool whip

  1. Strength training or cardio?

Bacon

  1. What book are you reading now?

Apollyon

  1. Any tattoos?

Seven

  1. Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Aerosmith…then the Beatles

  1. Do you have a special talent?

Sarcasm…and the ability for people to not know for sure if I am joking or not

  1. Where were you born?

Loveland, Colorado

  1. Where do you live now?

Helena, Montana

  1. What color is your house?

Yellow

  1. Pets?

A black lab/dalmatian mix about to be 16 and a Russian Blue cat who is 14

  1. Do you take shampoo from the hotel?

No, I bring my own to the hotel

  1. Biggest pet peeve?

I have a billion, but the first one that popped in my head was when someone starts a sentence with, “You know”

  1. Do you count your steps when you walk?

Ok, that’s weird, but sometimes I try to guess how many steps it will take me to get someplace.

  1. Have you ever peed in the woods?

Of course.

  1. What about pooped in the woods?

Yep.

  1. Do you ever dance when there is no music playing?

Only to make my son laugh…or look at me like I am crazy.

  1. Do you still watch cartoons?

Just with my son

  1. What do you drink with dinner?

Usually a diet coke or diet pepsi

  1. Favorite food?

Still a cheeseburger

  1. Were you ever a boy scout?

Yes

  1. Favorite type of sandwich?

If I consider a cheeseburger a sandwich, then yes. Otherwise a steak sandwich

  1. Legos or Lincoln Logs?

Lincoln logs. I love how they smell, and I don’t love when I step on the lego.

  1. Have you used a gun?

Yes

  1. Favorite fruit pie?

Peach

  1. What do you wear to bed?

Underwear

  1. Peanuts or sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds

  1. Can you curl your tongue?

Yes

  1. Who would you like to see in concert?

Aerosmith

  1. Have you ever won a contest?

Yes, I once won an all-expense paid trip to Jamaica.

  1. Black or green olives?

Black

  1. How long have you been married?

I better get this one right. It will be 13 years this month.

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Jesus. How cool would it be to see the man in person and find out how true the stories are.

  1. What does your last text message say?

“I don’t know what you are trying to say.” Seriously

  1. Who is your celebrity crush?

Probably Reece Witherspoon

  1. Do you have a collection of anything?

Hall of Fame autographed baseballs

  1. What’s your biggest “what if?”

Either enlisting in the Army, or having not re-enlisted.

  1. Do you have a nickname?

Bernie

  1. What is your astrological sign?

Gemini

  1. What’s a song that always makes you happy?

“Smile” by Uncle Kracker. I made a video of my son’s pictures to that song a few years ago.

  1. What super power do you want?

Super tough question. I am afraid of what I would do if I were invisible. Flying would be awesome, but so would being able to close my eyes and go anywhere I wanted.

  1. You can re-live any point of time in your life, but only for 30 minutes. What would you choose?

I would go back to when my grandmother was alive. I would bring a video camera with me and try to get as much of those 30 minutes of her telling family history as I could.

  1. Can you drive a stick shift?

Yes

  1. Does anyone hate you?

I hope not. No one that I know.

  1. Do you think someone is thinking about you right now?

Right now? No. Maybe while reading this.

  1. Most important thing you’ve ever done?

Became a father.

  1. Boxers or briefs?

Boxer briefs

70. Flying or driving?

Driving. I could drive forever.

The Art of Successful Fishing

1003050_10151884267306320_1990742417_n

The Art of Successful Fishing

  1. Spend hours online looking at how the pro’s set up their line
  2. Do something totally different because I can’t figure out the knots
  3. Place bait on hook and cast line
  4. Recast line because it only went three feet
  5. Hope that bait stayed on hook
  6. Sit down and expect fish to already be biting
  7. After a few minutes wonder if bait is still on hook
  8. A few minutes later, realize I have to pee, but can’t leave because once I do the fish will bite
  9. Sprint someplace to pee
  10. Walk back out of breath
  11. Wonder if the bait is still on the hook
  12. Resist the urge to bring in the line to check the bait
  13. Try to find cell service to find out how to tie the proper knot
  14. Pray
  15. Get mad at the person who drove their boat on the other side of the lake causing a small wake because it scares all the fish
  16. Pray
  17. Check my line to make sure it isn’t snagged
  18. Look at the directions on the bait
  19. Look at my watch to see it’s already been 20 minutes
  20. Act happy for the guy that just showed up and caught a fish
  21. Bait must have fallen off
  22. Reel in the line
  23. Find the bait is still on the hook
  24. Hook the camping chair
  25. Hook my pants
  26. Hook my shirt
  27. Cast the line out
  28. Watch the bait fly 10 yards further than the hook
  29. Reel in the line to put on new bait
  30. Get the hook snagged in the weeds
  31. Break line
  32. Set up new line using the new knot
  33. Forget the new knot after trying three times
  34. Recast to the exact same spot no bites were happening
  35. Tell someone who just asked that you haven’t caught anything, but you’ve gotten a ton of bites
  36. Pray
  37. Decide the fish aren’t biting, time to go home
  38. See fish jump right where your bait is
  39. Wait five minutes with no bite
  40. Bring in line because bait obviously fell off
  41. Notice bait is still on
  42. Recast to same spot
  43. Miss bite while sitting back down
  44. Rebait and recast
  45. Catch fish

After four hours of fishing, consider it a good day.

Reflecting on the “what ifs” in life

1476343_10153504977496320_2821020972183760813_n

After a week in Washington DC, and then a week in Dallas, I decided to take back-to-back four day weekends.

It was VERY needed.

Too many after-hours “get togethers”, hot temps, high humidity, and airports.

One thing that I completely enjoy living here in Montana is the ability to go fishing for some massive trout.

Fishing is an interesting activity, especially when doing it by myself. Each day I spent at least four hours out on the water with nothing to do but think…and recharge.

After the mandatory thoughts about if my bait is still on after casting, do I have enough leader, is it the right bait, and if I should put on bug spray, my mind started wandering to more reflective thoughts.

Mostly I spent many hours thinking about “what if”.

Having just recently turned 42 and dealing with depression, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my life, and how it would have been different with some of the decisions I made through the years.

Probably the most important decision I made early on was to join the Army. I joined the summer of my senior year in high school, mostly because I really didn’t have any plans for when I graduated. I wasn’t the best student, and honestly I never really considered what was going to happen when I was no longer in school. College wasn’t an interest, but neither was working in fast food.

It’s hard for me to imagine my life had I not joined. The Army allowed me to travel the world. It allowed me to see how my life growing up was really sheltered to the struggles people in other nations suffered. This was way before the Internet age, so the only real knowledge I had about poverty and suffering was the commercials about the drought and starvation happening in Ethiopia. That was basically it.

I knew nothing about Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, or any other war-torn country. Terrorism was something that was happening in Ireland. Racism and gangs were newspaper articles.

But much of my time reflecting on the “what if” goes back to the day I decided not to reenlist. Where would I be in life had I decided to stay in? As much as I struggled in High School, once I was out I became a sponge for knowledge. I re-took my ASVAB and scored very high. In fact, when it was time to reenlist the recruiter told me that I could have nearly any job I wanted in the Army and could choose whatever base I wanted.

I was seriously considering becoming a combat photographer. But I was too young and dumb and figured I could just get out and become successful wherever I landed.

It was a major wake-up when I landed here in Montana with no skills, no job, and no money.

That was 20 years ago.

A lifetime ago.

Where would I be had I stayed in?

We have been in war forever. People I served with have died in battle. Would that have been me too?

Would I be married? Would I have children?

I know that I wouldn’t have the son I have now. Wyatt is the most important thing in my life. Yes, he even rates above my wife. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. I think she would say the same about me.

That’s one thing that I always thought about in the movie “The Family Man” with Nick Cage. He ends up with the woman he should have, but the children are not there. Yes, they will probably have them, but would they be the same?

I always think back to that time in life when I made that big decision. Many times I think my life may have been better, but a major piece would be missing.

I think I made the right choice.

Those exhausting social events

11667535_10153537319016320_3050220911081422270_n

The past two weeks were exhausting for me. Too much output, not enough recharge.

First I had a trip to DC to work on a project with a group of people who have never met each other before. The weather was in the upper 90’s with high humidity. Keeping in mind I live in Montana, it sucked.

I was the only person who was familiar with DC, so I became the appointed travel guide.

Awesome.

The week wasn’t actually too bad since the rain kept people somewhat close to the airport. Plus I used the “jet lag” excuse to get back early.

Saturday we went to a wedding so we didn’t get home until late, and then Monday morning I was back on a plane. This time heading to Dallas.

More heat.

A lot more energy.

This was with our region. Except for management, most of the people haven’t met each other in person, so this was a big deal.

So big that every single night after our meetings there were social events planned.

EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

And being management, I was expected to be there.

Sometimes in life you just have to bite the bullet and do things that are not comfortable.

The first night we all got in was a get together at the hotel bar.

I’m not much of a drinker. Especially when it involves work. Not only was my boss there, but so were my employees. Just not an environment I like to put myself in.

Unfortunately within minutes I had three beers sitting in front of me.

Great.

The next night’s event was a Texas Rangers game. I am a big baseball fan, but I was not looking forward to being in a group in the 100 degree heat. When I go to a baseball game, I am there to watch the game.

I was the only one wanting to watch the game apparently.

The next night was dinner at a fancy steakhouse. Me traveling to another state for steak is like me traveling to another state to look at the mountains. Just doesn’t make much sense…but I sucked it up and had an overpriced steak which I could have cooked better on one of my grills.

Oh well. Only one night left.

This was the worst.

For one, I was on my last leg. I didn’t feel very well and was totally exhausted from not having been able to recharge at all.

The last night was bar food and karaoke.

Yeah, karaoke.

No, I didn’t participate.

Yes, I was asked…and asked…and asked.

Anyway, I am finally back home. I got some fishing in over the weekend which helped refresh myself a bit. I am taking two four day weekends off…so that should help too. My son had his first pitch baseball game last night and got his first hit of the season. That was awesome.

Aerosmith still hasn’t contacted me.

Odd.

Seeing the best and worst of people in one day

I am coming to you from our nation’s capital this week. I flew in to DC late this afternoon for the week.

First off, I have to throw a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to my followers. I had no idea what to expect when I put together my little book and clicked the publish button. If anything, it was just a bucket list item for me.

Yesterday morning while I was out fishing I took a look at my Amazon page and saw that my book was currently #4 on Amazon’s best seller list for humor.

What the what!?

Unbelievable.

It was such a humbling experience for me the past week.

And I caught a massive rainbow trout.

I was brought back to reality as I boarded my plane this morning at 5:45. Shortly after taking my seat and buckling in, the pilot got on the speaker and told us that the proper paperwork for our plane was not completed accurately, so we needed to wait for someone to come to the airport to finalize.

Delays happen. They are not fun for anyone. But there was one lady sitting a couple of rows behind me that really tested my statement that I don’t dislike people.

Flying out of Montana, most of our flights are connection flights…meaning that we are flying to a hub to connect on a different flight. It’s always an inconvenience when there are delays, but the airlines are usually really good about getting us rebooked.

In fact, by the time I landed in Minneapolis and turned on my phone, I already had a message from Delta letting me know they have already rebooked me.

Easy peasy.

But this lady behind me WENT OFF on the flight attendant. And she didn’t stop there. She kept on going and going THE ENTIRE flight. Major kudos to the flight attendant that had to deal with her and didn’t choke her out.

I sure wanted to.

It just amazes me that some people think they are more important to everyone else in this world. To her, she was the only one on the flight dealing with this. My only hope is that her luggage got lost.

I know, real mature of me.

On the other hand, there was a woman flying with a baby (probably no more than six months old). She was sitting in the row in front and across from me. Her poor little baby was not enjoying the flight at all. It’s about two hours, plus the delay sitting in the plane, and the little guy was crying nearly the entire time.

I can’t imagine how stressful it was for her. I was getting stressed out just because of my empathy. No matter what she tried to do, the little one just wouldn’t stop crying.

As much of a jerk the lady sitting behind me was, the guy that was sitting next to the lady with the baby was a champ. He didn’t appear grumpy or frustrated about having to sit next to a screaming baby. He tried to cheer up the little man with funny faces and things like that, but it wasn’t happening.

Finally as we began our decent, the little man made eye contact with me.

Is there anything cuter than the big eyes of a baby?

I’d like to think it was my awesomeness, but he broke out in a little smile then did one of those baby laughs that starts from deep down in their body. It was so beautiful. I played around for the final minutes with him, and when the mother got up she just looked at me with her frazzled face and said, “Thank you.”

Sometimes it’s a little thing like that to carry you through the rest of the day.

So, Thank You to all of you who read this and who stroked my ego by downloading my book. I’m sure the downloads will come to a standstill as the free period is about to end, but regardless, it was wonderful to see it happen and to get some of the kind words from those that have read it.

http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Introvert-Dan-L-Bernhardt-ebook/dp/B00ZDXH24G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434034314&sr=1-1

Bucket list item completed: Publish a book

810F17oXk3L__SL1500_

Well, I can gladly say that I have now placed a check mark next to something on my bucket list: Publish a book.

Yesterday evening it went live on Amazon and starting today I am in the process of setting it up to offer it for free for the next few days. It’s a nice short one, so if you have a few minutes please check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Introvert-Dan-L-Bernhardt-ebook/dp/B00ZDXH24G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434034314&sr=1-1

#Introvert or #Extovert…Is it a Choice?

climbing-tree1

I know this is an obvious statement, but my son is growing up in an entirely different world than I did.

Even though I wasn’t able to ever truly meet my grandfather, summer vacations were spent with my grandmother.

Literally.

My parents would drop me off, and that was that.

It was an amazing learning experience about hard work and enjoying life.

She had a huge yard. I mean HUGE. It usually took me a few hours to mow all of the lawn. And as large as the lawn was, her flower beds were even larger, and grander. Her job was her yard work. She took it seriously.

I enjoyed the routine of being with her during the summer. Every morning was home cooked breakfast. Most of the time it was Cream of Wheat or pancakes, but there was also eggs and bacon.

After breakfast the yard work began to try to get done before the afternoon heat hit us. Grass needed mowing, flowers needed pruning, weeds needed weeding, everything needed watering, and imaginations needed imagining.

Lunch was the largest meal of the day for us. Our family history are “Germans from Russia.”

Let’s take a short step back in time…

Back in the late 1700’s Catherine the Great issued a manifesto inviting foreigners to Russia. Along with the manifesto, she offered some great incentives including free transportation, large tracts of free land, freedom of paying taxes for a long period of time, exemption from serving in the military (including their descendants), and freedom of religion…among others.

Thousands of Germans took Catherine the Great up on her offer and settled in Russia.

In the early 1800’s Czar Alexander I invited settlers (now colonies) to settle down in the Black Sea region, which they did.

Throughout the 1800’s Germans settled all over Russia, but in 1871 the Russian government repealed Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I manifestos. The Germans lost their privileges, beginning a movement of immigration to North and South America.

But even worse times were coming for those that stayed behind. In 1919 the United States passed very strict immigration laws affecting the numbers of German immigrants coming to America. Following that, a terrible famine hit Russia where it is estimated over 150,000 Volga Germans died.

Those that made it through the famine were rewarded with their property confiscated and they were forced to collective farms.

When World War II hit, the Germans are rounded up and moved to Asia and Siberia under prosecution since Germany was at war with the Soviet Union.

My ancestors came to America in the late 1800’s, but I was fortunate enough to be able to have some of the traditions passed to me from my grandmother, mostly food related, which brings me back to the discussion about lunch being our largest meal.

Since she grew up farming, there were some typical farm lunches. Fried chicken, pork chops, etc. But a couple of times each week I was treated to some German treats. Bierocks (also known as kraut burgers or cabbage burgers) was my favorite. It’s basically ground beef, cabbage, onion, and spices stuffed into a dough shell.

Another was chicken noodle soup and butterballs.

This is not the chicken noodle soup from the can. This was stock made from chicken and homemade German noodles. I found the same noodles here at the Farmer’s Market from one of the Hutterite Colonies. They are finer than angel hair pasta. But it’s the butterballs that make the meal.

Homemade bread crumbs, cream, egg, butter and some spices, including all spice. Mix it all together and roll them into one-inch balls. Toss them in the boiling soup and once they float they are ready to eat. Sort of like a dumpling, but sort of not. I could eat a million of them in one sitting.

Other times it was more American traditional such as meatloaf or hamburger helper. Yes, hamburger helper.

I loved that stuff as a kid.

LOVED IT.

Thinking back, hamburger helper may have been the first thing that I really learned how to “cook”.

After lunch, work pretty much came to a halt to avoid the hot weather. I still had to move the sprinklers every hour, but that was basically it.

Instead, my job was to be a soldier, professional baseball player, Tarzan, cloud namer, bug crusher, and secret spy.

The world was mine. I was by myself on a large plot of land with apple trees for climbing, chicken coups for hiding, and pastures for hitting baseballs.

Cable TV was in its infancy, so there was no reason to stay inside to watch it. So I didn’t.

Dinner was simple, and usually early. Many times it was just a bowl of cereal. And I loved it.

Maybe there was a little yard work to finish up when it cooled down, but mostly we sat in the living room with Wheel of Fortune on, followed by the news. She would either be crocheting or reading her bible.

I sat watching TV chewing on sunflower seeds.

Life was good, and simple.

If anyone came to the house, or if we went out to eat, it was made very clear to me that I was not to speak unless spoken to. Wise advise that I still follow for the most part.

Many kids look forward to the summer so they didn’t have to go to school. I looked forward to staying at grandma’s house. At a young age I was already looking forward to the “alone” time to recharge my batteries.

Could I have been more of an extrovert if I didn’t spend those summers with just her and me?

Possibly.

Introverted “Alone”, or REALLY Alone

1505166_10152964651791320_6000758173199703013_n

Plenty of “experts” will tell us introverts that we recharge by being alone. I refuse to disagree with that assessment because it is exactly how I recharge.

Sometimes I will stay up late at night just to be awake without the family “noise”. Even if it means I am super tired the next day at work.

Lately, however, I have really become fascinated, if not addicted, to movies, books, articles, stories, about being alone for more than just a few hours. For example, the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. While she did the Pacific Coast Trail, I have read a ton of books about the Appalachian Trail. I want to attempt that Trail so bad sometimes I dream about it.

But I could never leave my job for that period of time.

Plus it would be hard for me to leave my family…but it’s sad to say that it’s really the job that holds me back.

I have even mapped out different routes to walk across the country instead.

But that trip faces the same obstacles.

Castaway was on the television yesterday. I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I still stop to watch it. Or at least some of it.

There is a little part of me (maybe more than a little) that thinks I could survive.

As long as I didn’t have to deal with the plane crash.

Or the fish (can’t stand seafood).

Or the bad tooth.

But for all the easy stuff like not talking to anyone except a volleyball and growing a long beard…well, I guess that was really the only easy stuff…I could totally nail.

The book The Road by Cormac McCarthy has also fascinated me. Not just his book, but many that are of that same post-apocalyptic genre. Just a guy trying to take care of his family without all of the modern conveniences that we have grown accustomed too.

Well, there is also a lot of bad people in those books, and that would suck, but it’s the lack of people and sense of urgency and purpose that I seem to attach too.

Wool by Hugh Howey is like this too. When I read Wool, I immediately started reading all of his books. He has a way of tickling my introverted side where there are less people to deal with, and a set order for everyone to follow for survival.

Maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis entering my system, but I am really craving that long period of nothingness. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would immediately start planning to try to hike the Appalachian Trail next year.

And probably write a book about it.

With that said, no one from Aerosmith has contacted me about my offer. I guess it’s not much of an offer on my part, so I should say that no one from Aerosmith has contacted me about THEIR offer that I suggested.

Sigh.