It was over 30 years ago in Santa Fe that I knew an authority on ancient wisdom teachings who once told me, “Forty is the number. If you abstain from something for forty days, you had it licked.”

Time to give that a try. That 40-day stretch of abstentions known as the Lenten season – the time to consider what habit or vice we can do without – began yesterday and ends on Good Friday. As in past years, sacrificing meat and sugar tops the lists of the most devout, but coming in right behind are alcohol, gossiping, and technology in the form of gaming and social media.

And then there is that dang smartphone.

This raises the question: Can you outsmart your smartphone? I’ll wager that in this day and age, fiddling with a cell phone is just as addictive as caffeine.

But not as satisfying as my wake-up coffee. Or my mid-morning coffee. Or my lunchtime coffee. Or my afternoon coffee. Never mind.

Oh, my abovementioned acquaintance said the obverse also works. Rather than abstaining from one thing or another, be proactive by doing something for others: service, as it were. Either way, it’s taking steps to get out of your ego for a few weeks.
Nevertheless, if you’re in doubt, here are some things you might wish to give up:
– Wearing sunglasses indoors.
– Putting on airs.
– The phrase “just saying.”
– Applying “iconic” to typical things or persons
– Hashtags.
– Using “begs the question” when you actually mean “raises the question.” (see above)

Me, I’m giving up politics. All the folderol and rudeness and hearsay is something social media and certain cable channels, in general, are really good at, but it hasn’t done my blood pressure any favors. As a matter of fact, I may just give up the internet as well. Or not.

To be honest, I represent the ICYMI crowd, you know, the internet shorthand for In Case You Missed It, which predicates that you should’ve known something already, whatever it happens to be, which is evidence of how this fast-changing technology is changing us people. So much information is available through a smartphone that some folks believe they are duty-bound to know everything going on from minute to minute.
When John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” now instead, it’s “You’re missing out on juicy gossip and red-faced politics while you’re busy living your life.”

I guess I’m stuck in simpler times – the email era, the good old days.

Anyway, besides being the season of groundhogs, Mardi Gras, and candy hearts, we’re entering Girl Scout Cookie Season, so you might think twice before giving up sugar. In the 1960s, my late sister Diane was one of the top Girl Scouts in her troop. She sold her cookies by knocking on doors all over town, but these days, that sort of entrepreneurship is deemed unsafe, and now they hawk their baked confections in front of places like Walmart.

Do I go with Thin Mints and Samoas again? Or be reckless and invest in a box of the humble shortbread cookies or S’mores knock-off. Decisions, decisions.

The real question is: how many dare I eat in one sitting?

Oh hey, ICYMI, the Chinese New Year was welcomed in last Saturday. It always begins on the new moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, but it’s much more complicated than that. The main thing is that the celebration and parties go on for two whole weeks, making me start thinking about switching from the Gregorian to the Lunar calendar.

This time around, they’re ringing in the Year of the Dragon. It’s said that those born in the Year of the Dragon are said to be ambitious and sincere and to be generous with money. If you were born in, say, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 or 2012, we’re talking about you.

The Chinese zodiac is much like the Western astrology we’re familiar with, but for my money, the story behind it is much more fun. According to, legend holds that “the Jade Emperor needed to choose 12 animals as palace guards. The Cat asked his neighbor Rat to help him sign up. Rat forgot, which is why they became mortal enemies.

“At the palace, Ox was first in line, but Rat secretly climbed onto Ox’s back and jumped in front of him. Tiger and Dragon thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind Ox. Rabbit found it unfair, too. He wanted to race with Dragon and succeeded.

“This angered Dog, who bit Rabbit in a fit and was sent to the back as punishment. Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey and Rooster fought amongst themselves as well. Pig came late, after everything was finally settled, and could only be the last.”
Who knew February could be this exciting?

Phew, I got way off track here. I need some decaf—coffee’s one thing I’m not giving up.