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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Back to Basics: How to Make your Relationship Work

Robert Manni - Thursday, December 18, 2014


With the multitude of dating sites and coaches available, if you’ve got a pulse and can clean up nice, you’ll get a date.

And every so often one of those dates turns into a relationship. That’s where things get tricky. We spend so much time focused on dating that many of us are not prepared to address the slippery slope of a partnership and how to make it work.

Enter Guy’s Guy. I’ve been there and done that by way of many dates, a few educational long-term relationships, and a marriage that’s going on five years. Along the way, and as my partners would aptly point out, I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. But I’ve learned, and in most cases I learned the hard way. And each time I got knocked on my butt, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again. Now I’ve got a partner who is my friend, lover, and teacher. With that in mind, here are my building blocks for maintaining a successful relationship.

1. Pay attention.

If you’re a guy, you probably suck at this. Women pay attention to everything, at times to the point of madness. But ultimately, paying attention is a good thing. We’re all super busy and focused on ourselves. I get it. But if we want to succeed in love, we need to see it as a two way street and behave in a respectful manner to our partner. That means always checking in with them on a regular basis. A simple, “How was your day?” is a good start. And mean it. And listen to what she says without feeling that you have to solve all of her problems for her. Just listen.

That’s a good start, but it’s not that simple. If you are guy in a relationship eventually you will get called on your shit. Let’s say your partner points out your selfishness too often, and it bugs you. But maybe she has a point. And maybe the reason she told you is she thinks you’re worth the trouble. If she didn’t care, she’d bide her time before dumping you. Most guys have been blindsided and dumped, and many times they don’t know why. This is why. So don’t take her criticism personally. She’s paying attention and she cares about the relationship. But, don’t think you can point out all of her peccadilloes in the same way. She’s already well aware of them. That’s because she pays attention.

2. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

If you’re female, it’s easy to fall into the pattern of constantly criticizing your partner’s faults. He probably doesn’t pay attention enough and as a result is prone to repeating his mistakes. But I’ll bet he’s trying. So lighten up if you can. If you believe in your relationship and your partner, it’s paramount to take a deep breath before going on the offensive. Ask him what he was thinking when he does something that defies logic. Like, when he took the bed apart and left all the pieces on the floor and then went out for two hours. Maybe he went to the hardware store to buy new bolts. Whatever. Just give him an opportunity to explain and you might be surprised by his response. If you value your relationship, listen before pointing your finger.

3. Share values.

Long lasting relationships are usually built on a foundation of shared values. That means how both of you view the world and the people who inhabit it. Yes, opposites attract and can provide a nice counterbalance personality-wise, but when it comes to values, it helps if you are seeing the picture through a similar lens. How you view people, friends, family, and even money are important factors to consider when wading into deeper relationships waters.

Let’s take money. When one partner is a free spender and comfortable with debt, how does it impact their partner if he or she comes from the school of “if I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it”? Problems can quickly ensue and many times divergent money values cause irreconcilable harm to a relationship. Think about your successful and failed relationships and I’m sure you’ll see a pattern between longer-term compatibility and shared values. When values match up, there is a much better chance for success. Think about it.

4. Keep the lines of communication open.

When you are in committed relationship there will be times when no one feels like talking. Maybe one partner has become resentful while the other has no idea about those feelings. Eventually the repressed toxins build up and explode. Things are said. Feelings are hurt. Damage is done. If only you knew how he or she felt. But, that’s how many relationships fail. If this sounds familiar, remember, no one can read your mind. If there is something bothering you, discuss it. If you hold your feelings in and suffer silently, your relationship is at risk. Always maintain a healthy dialogue.

5. Always be dating.

It’s easy to take our relationships for granted. Over time, the thrill of new love evolves. This can actually be a good thing. Sure, you want the sight of your partner to be a source of joy and you want the sex to get better and better. It can, although there will have to be some adjustments. The key is keeping things fresh, like when you started dating. And that means never taking your lover for granted. I’ve been married for a few years now and I’ve learned that nothing is a sure thing, even a marriage. You have to constantly learn about your partner and up your game if you want to keep them happy with the direction of the relationship. Nowadays, people don’t settle. Not in life, not in jobs, not in marriage. We want what we want, and that’s not a bad thing. The key to keeping things fresh is romancing your partner. Little surprises, lots of love and affection, and a genuine smile when you see their face are all recommended. I know it’s not that easy, but if you keep this in mind, I’m sure you’ll stay ahead of the game.

There is more, lots more when it comes to keeping a relationship rolling, but the bottom line is to respect yourself, your partner, and your relationship. It all flows from there. What you decide to do is your business, but please keep love in mind whenever you are thinking about your relationship. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

This week's Guy's Guy and Gal of the Week are Serge and Carole Manni, my folks, who have been married for 64 years. 

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Robotic Surgery - Part III (Bigger, Deeper, and More Complicated)

Robert Manni - Thursday, December 11, 2014


My left side was riddled with five deep puncture wounds. The medical term for the procedures is robot-assisted partial nephrectomy.

And I was scheduled for a second surgery, this time on my right side, five short weeks later. The waiting might have been the toughest part of the ordeal. But there was no way around my new reality. I had to man up and deal with it. After all, I was carrying the torch for Guy’s Guys.  It was my turn to really walk the walk. Although somehow I knew everything would turn out well, the mind plays tricks to create fear and uncertainty.

Although the first surgery went perfectly and my spirits were high, my left side was very sore. It was covered with bandages and ultra-sensitive to the touch. While traversing the streets of the city I cocked my left arm for protection from the aggressive onslaught of the rush hour crowds. I washed my hands a lot and did whatever else I could to avoid catching a cold. I quickly learned that the violent abruptness of a sneeze could be quite painful after surgery. But, my condition steadily improved.  Each night I slept more soundly, slowly shifting from my back to my side and finally onto my stomach, which is my position A for sleep.

After four days I’d stopped taking painkillers and the stool softeners I was given to combat constipation from the drugs. After a week I looked like my old self, although my abdomen remained swollen from the carbon dioxide pumped into my body cavity during surgery. This is to make space for the doctors to guide the robotic rods safely through the body and around the sensitive organs.  When you have surgery, it’s not like you have the procedure and if it goes well you can immediately go about your business the same way as before. It becomes a series of connected events whose aftereffects each need to be addressed for healing. You’ll need to learn how to eat solid foods again, urinate without pain again, take a shower wrapped in plastic and bandages, and even celebrate the simple pleasure of a morning dump (actually, that never gets old). Plus I already had two doses of general anesthesia and was primed for another one in a few short weeks.

This time the growth was as deeper, larger and trickier to deal with. And so it went for five weeks. While healing, I still knew that in a short time I’d face this procedure again. It would have been easy to think, “why me?” but what good would that do? I knew the reality of the situation. I was lucky that my persistent kidney stone forced me to see a doctor. It was what it was so I searched for the blessing and reckoned this to be my wake-up call.

My two-week post-operative check up could not come soon enough. Good news. The doctors told me everything had gone exactly accordingly to the plan. I looked good, my blood was flowing perfectly with 100% functionality in my kidneys, and I was feeling better every day. There was no further work required on my left side. Hooray!

As I grew stronger over the next few weeks the upcoming procedure still hung over my head like a dark cloud. Each day I continued the ColorWorks and Healing Pool visualizations I learned from Patti Conklin, vibrational healer and medical intuitive that helped me during my bout with the kidney stone. Patti has also been a guest on my GUY’S GUY RADIO podcast. I’d been doing both practices for three months now. Knowing that the tumor was still there, I asked myself if all of the meditating was a simply a rote exercise to distract me from my cold reality. I would find out soon enough.

When the time came for my second surgery I was prepared. I packed a heating pad, coconut water and a thermos of hot organic vegetable broth, requested a window bed and a vegetarian diet. I also learned about the hospital’s grant for its integrated health program so I scheduled a Reiki session the day following my surgery. When I checked into the surgical unit on a cloudy Tuesday in November I was ready to face my future.

After stripping down to that dreaded blue paper gown, socks, and hair net, I leaned back in my chair and waited for the doctor and nurse to file in with their battery of questions. When the first doctor stopped in I asked him what he thought. He inhaled and told me it was a bit more complicated than my left side. He was telling me the truth, but that did not make me feel any better. When the surgeon arrived—the very best, I sensed stress. I asked his opinion of the situation. I already knew that this growth was larger and in a more precarious location than the other one. I had complete faith in this man, but I was entering uncharted waters. When he began his response with “I’m going to try to…” I was concerned although I knew he was just doing his job and focused on the procedure. After he left the room a delay forced me to sit alone in my gown for another uncomfortable forty-five minutes. My mind raced in circles. How would this turn out? Was I in danger of losing my kidney? But this time alone turned out to be a blessing.

I continued the affirmations and visualizations I’d practiced, telling myself, “I am protected by God’s grace”. Then a voice inside let me know that all of my spiritual work had led me to this point. It was time to step up. I had the power to assist the doctors. I took a deep breath and commanded my body to release the growth so it could be easily removed. “Release this growth”, my inner voice repeated over and over. A calm fell over me as I entered the surgical room and lay on my back. Then a wave of emotion enveloped me. No one noticed as my eyes welled up. I felt like my entire life had led me to this moment.

I felt the needle prick my arm and watched a hand begin to lower the oxygen over my face. I gently pushed it aside and said, “I don’t need that. I’m about to go under”. I grabbed one of the doctor’s arms and said, “I’m going to help you. I am releasing this growth.” Then my world went black.

When I awoke my wife was standing beside me. Although I was still groggy from the anesthesia, I heard a doctor tell me that the surgery had been a major success. Then I was wheeled down the corridors to my room. And this time I had the window bed with a view of the East River. Later, as my wife was getting ready to leave, my surgeon stopped by. This time he was beaming. He told me everything had gone according to plan. In fact, he used a 3D printer for the first time to create an image of my kidney. I was so pleased that I had participated in a new method for helping patients. An hour later another doctor showed up. He was also pleased and somewhat surprised when he told me that the growth in my kidney had simply peeled out of my body. I laughed to myself.

That night I befriended my roommate. We talked behind the curtain that separated us for four hours. Bonding with someone I could not see or had never met before reminded me that we exist in a loving universe. It’s up to us to find that love. The following day I received a wonderful Reiki session and the next morning I came home.

It’s been a month since my surgery. I received an ultrasound during my post-op appointment. The radiologist told my kidney and functionality were perfect and looked like they had never been operated on. Sure, I have another set of wounds, but since they are on my side and not my stomach, they are not as unsightly or discomforting. My only side effect was an expansion of the fascia tissue that wraps the muscles in my abdomen. That said, God willing, the swelling should subside and I should looking good by the spring.

2014 has been a long ordeal that’s put my day-to-day life on hold.  Now I understand that this was a necessary part of my soul path. I learned to trust, to know and to never give away the power we all have inside. We are the miracle.  Onward…

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Robotic Surgery - Part II (Under the Knife)

Robert Manni - Thursday, December 04, 2014


There isn’t a more vulnerable feeling than sitting alone in a small holding room dressed in a blue paper gown, socks, and a hairnet while waiting to be summoned for the first of two robotic surgeries.

Two days earlier I ran a brisk eleven miles followed by a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. And now this. It would have been easy to ask, “why me”? But Guy’s Guys don’t whimper. They show up and deal. And so it was. In this case I was facing a separate procedure on each kidney—the left one on this day followed by the right kidney five weeks later. And it was time to face a surprising new reality.

Every few minutes a doctor, anesthesiologist, or nurse popped in to ask questions or pass along information. Not that it mattered. I would be out cold within ten minutes and by the time I’d awaken a small portion of my left kidney would be sitting in a jar. It could have been worse though, a lot worse.

When the anesthesiologist gave me an overview of how he planned to knock me out he looked me over and told me I appeared relaxed. Under the circumstances I was as calm as I could be. There was nothing I could really do so I visualized myself healed, trusting in the medical team and my spirituality.

My surgeon dropped by a few minutes later. He made sure I’d signed the waiver allowing him the option of switching from robotic to open surgery and if necessary, removing my entire kidney. Yikes. He studied a computer image of my kidney while speaking with me. He’s focused. This is good, I thought. On his way out, I told him I knew he’d do a great job. He turned and gave me a feint smile and a “thanks for putting more pressure on me” look before closing the door behind him.

Two minutes later a nurse summoned me. I followed her to a large steel door leading to the operating chamber. I heard the door seal shut behind me. This was it. Inside a dozen workers in scrubs scurried around the room. The nurse announced that the patient had arrived. I looked around at the beehive of activity as I was led to the operating table. I searched the room for my surgeon but he was nowhere to be found. I asked to lie on my back. They fastened me down and stuck a needle in my arm with general anesthesia.  I stared at the bright lights and continued the mantras I’d silently declared to myself over the past few hours. I thought of my wife and son before closing my eyes and putting myself into God’s hands.

When I awoke a nurse and a doctor greeted me. The doctor assured me that the operation had gone perfectly. Before his words sank in the nurse was wheeling me down the hallway towards a room where I’d spend the next two nights.

Once I was rolled into the corner of my shared room I had a chance to think and center myself. I was hooked up to an IV with a catheter inserted into my you-know-what, but I was feeling pain...yet. The drugs were swirling through my system. I felt surprisingly good given the fact that an hour earlier five metal rods had been inserted into my abdomen. My kidney had been tied off so the robotic device could remove the growth and pull it out through one of the five holes I now had along my abs. My left side was swollen, but still no pain. My surgeon came by an hour later looking pleased. He told me that everything went as planned. I had one hundred percent functionality and ninety percent of my left kidney intact. He said he’d taken a “shark bite”, but that it would work as well as it ever had. Kidneys recalibrate themselves and in most cases can function as if nothing happened. I heaved a sigh of relief. So here I was covered with bandages, but feeling relieved. I’d spend the next 48 hours propped up in a small bed healing slowly.

One thing that sucks about hospitals is you can’t get any rest.  People keep popping in to check your vitals, examine you or slide some food onto or off of your tray. The lights are constantly being turned on and off and of course you get a roommate, which is very random. My roomie was a cranky old guy who had the preferred window position. And he did not open the blinds the entire two days I was scrunched up in the interior bed. For some reason I was not given a table and my television was not working. My options were reading the one magazine I’d brought with me, checking my phone, staring at the wall or trying to sleep.

Finally my wife and little son arrived. I was hungry. Thankfully she brought along a thermos of homemade organic vegetable broth. Ironically, I had made two requests during admission—a bed by the window and a vegetarian menu. I got neither. The attendant had first brought me beef broth. When I reminded her I was a vegetarian she returned two hours later with chicken soup. The other “foods” they offered were Jell-O, ginger ale, and apple juice. Brilliant. One key learning from the experience was that hospitals are like the airlines. You need to bring your own supplies to be comfortable and eat well.

That evening I remained drugged up from the procedure and was discomforted but not in pain. I foolishly passed on the narcotics offered and opted for two Tylenols before drifting into sleep. I awoke a few hours later in a world of pain. I took two more Tylenol again. Foolish me. When I awoke in the morning I was hurting all over. This time I took the drugs and thankfully they worked. A few hours later a nurse informed me that it was time to take a walk. Are you kidding me? They pump gas into your gut during robotic surgery so the surgeon can move stuff around and isolate the organ that’s being worked on. Walking becomes critical for breaking up the gas and relieving the accompanying discomfort.

So, with my IV tray on wheels in one hand and my catheter hanging out the nurse left me at the door. I looked both ways and shuffled into the busy hallway. I felt frail and vulnerable, a far cry from the lean muscled stud who had run eleven miles a few days ago. But that was my reality so I sucked it up and carefully made my way down the crowded corridor. My pain level remained high so after a short cruise I trudged back to bed and passed out. I couldn’t wait to go home.

Before I knew it, the day had passed without issues. During the night a nurse came by and removed my catheter. Free at last! I slept soundly and woke up eager to head home. My left side was covered in bandages that covered the five holes that had been drilled into me and I was in pain, but still I was happy. Hell, it was time to go home.

I needed to heal before returning five weeks later. The next time things could get complicated.

To be continued…

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Robotic Surgery - Part 1 (How a Kidney Stone Saved My Life)

Robert Manni - Thursday, November 20, 2014


Your outlook on life can change in an instant. I learned that valuable lesson this year. After an amazing run of great health and a level of fitness I had not experienced since my twenties, I found out that I needed surgery. Twice.

Imagine what you’d look like after fighting the “Wolverine”.  Say hello to robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is a “minimally invasive” procedure where five rods are plunged into your body to seek and remove unwanted growths. Compared to the medical technology available just twenty years ago, robotic surgery is a miracle. But it’s still surgery, and it’s no joke. Thankfully, all that remains after two rounds of robotic procedures are the scares. And I am one happy and appreciative Guy’s Guy. Here is my story.

It all began one cold night last winter. After dinner I felt a searing pain along my left side. This went on uninterrupted for three endless hours. I had no idea what was going on.  And I could not find a way to soothe my body. I flipped and flopped and sweat like a beast in heat throughout the relentless onslaught. Then suddenly the pain subsided. I exhaled, sighed and chalked it up to acute indigestion. By the next day I’d forgotten about it.

Fast-forward two months. I experienced a replay of identical symptoms over the course of another uncomfortable three hours. Again, the pain suddenly disappeared. I considered calling my doctor, but instead shrugged it off. The next day I ran my six-mile loop around Central Park without problems.

Fast forward to the July 4th weekend. A few hours after my ten-mile run along the boardwalk, the same unbearable pain erupted along my left flank. Five hours later it finally stopped. It was a holiday weekend and I was away from the city, so I crossed my fingers and fell asleep. I awoke the next day feeling fine, but by the early afternoon the pain returned in full force. I was in such severe pain that I too weak to go to the hospital. In my desperation I contacted Patti Conklin, a recent guest on my GUY’S GUY RADIO podcast. Patti’s book, “God Within” was a game changer for me. I loved its clear empowering message and got know and respect Patti as a person. She advised me to deploy her “Color Works” meditation to task my body with addressing the pain. She also helped me with my vibration and frequency by long distance, sending me balancing and healing energy. I took her advice and meditated. I also drank lots of lemon water, gritted my teeth a lot before finally passing out. I continued the “Color Works” meditation daily to visualize the elimination of the stone. It helped calm my mind and spirit while teaching me to love and trust my body.

When I returned to the city I finally went to the doctor. He told me that my symptoms mirrored those from a kidney stone. In late July, he sent me for a CAT scan. They found the kidney stone. And they found something else—a small growth was lodged onto each of my kidneys. This is not uncommon. They could easily be fatty deposits. Wisely, my doctor advised me to see an urologist. For now, the stone was my primary concern. It was moderate in size and painfully grinding a slow, uncomfortable path towards my bladder. I was in for a bumpy ride. I began feeling discomfort when urinating, but there was nothing I could do about it until the stone passed. And that could take awhile. So, I squirmed through business meetings, occasionally excusing myself to catch my breath in the bathroom. Things finally came to a head after I sampled some wonderful new tequila. I felt the burn as the smoky liquid traveled down my urinary track. I called the meeting short, hoping I had not alienated the client. Then I went home and fought off some wildly uncomfortable urination for the next few hours.

I saw the urologist the following day. He was not smiling as he reviewed my CAT scan. I assumed that the growths were random fatty deposits. They weren’t. They were something far more dangerous and they needed to come out. To say the least, I was surprised. To be sure, my urologist ordered an ultrasound and an MRI. Same results. There was a growth on each kidney, and although they were not aggressive, they had to be removed. The finding was purely incidental. There had been no symptoms. If left untreated for another few years, all bets were off. I did my research and agreed to set dates in September and early November for two rounds of a surgical procedure that I knew nothing about. Who even thinks about their kidneys? Not me. I had been on the best health regime of my life in 2014 and now this? When I thought about it, I realized that my annoyingly persistent kidney stone had led me to this critical disclosure. And that little sucker still hadn’t passed.

The ultrasound showed the stone perched directly above my bladder and ready for release. And that could be excruciatingly painful. My priorities had rapidly changed. I now had to face up to the passing of a kidney stone followed by two rounds of robotic surgery on my kidneys. Right after the ultrasound, my urologist and I reviewed the results on his screen. It was still sitting right above my bladder. He suggested I return for an ureteroscopy the following day. This way the stone would be out of the way and could not cause trouble during my upcoming surgeries. An ureteroscopy consists of sliding a camera and a little grabber up the ureter to snatch the stone from the bladder. Not my idea of a fun afternoon, but I agreed to do it. 

Since my painful bouts during July, I had continued my daily “Color Works” practice. I asked my body to show me the right color and vibration to shrink and dissolve the kidney stone. I'd been doing this for over a month now. I thought about that in the ensuing hours before the ureteroscopy the following afternoon. Although it was still painful to urinate, the situation remained unchanged. I was in pain until I went under.

When I awoke after the procedure, I asked the doctor if he put a stent into my ureter. That’s fairly common following an utereroscopy and it supposedly hurts like hell. Thankfully, he said no. Then he told me to buy a lottery ticket. Although he and his assistants searched my ureter up, down and all around, the stone was nowhere to be found. Somehow, over the course of the past twenty-four hours, it disappeared.

To be continued…

Teachings from a Toddler

Robert Manni - Thursday, November 06, 2014


Time flashes by. It’s hard to believe my young son is already eighteen months old. As any parent of a toddler can attest to, the job of raising a child is both exhausting and exhilarating. As a long time bachelor who never considered children, I scoffed when my friends told me having a child changes everything. They were right. It’s a whole different ballgame and hopefully it has made me a better Guy’s Guy. While I’ve witnessed my little boy learn about the world, I’ve also learned a lot from him. Here are a few things I’ve picked up by observing and tending to my son.

Life is discovery and learning.

It’s so refreshing seeing a young one interact with things for the first time. Whether it’s trying a new food, hearing a fire truck, or seeing a big dog or a little girl with flowing blonde hair, I’m continually amazed at the sheer joy children glean from what adults consider uneventful daily occurrences. Just a few minutes ago I watched my son play with a hanger for ten minutes. He picked it up, tossed it, dropped it, pushed it and basically milked the life out of it before leaving it on the floor so he could hide in my closet. When we’re outside he’ll pick up a leaf from an oak tree and carefully examine it like an astronaut who just landed on a strange planet.  He constantly reminds me about the wonders of our world and little things like fresh fallen leaves that adults take for granted. Maintaining one’s innocence and sense of wonder is important to keeping fresh and staying young at heart.

Get your hands dirty.

Like radar, toddler boys gravitate to nature and the earth. My son loves trees and bushes and wading through leaves that crunch beneath his feet. As we walk he picks up random broken tree branches, blades of grass and leaves and he’ll stop to scrunch down and play with each item until he’s gotten whatever joy he can get from it. Then he picks up the next thing in his path. There is something about little boys and their fascination with nature and getting their hands dirty that reminds me to roll up my sleeves mindfully dig into whatever I’m doing.   

Practice makes perfect.

My son has a stack of books. When I ask if he wants me to read to him, he carefully pores through the pile and makes his first selection. I pull him onto the couch and read aloud. He seems to always pick the same books, never bored with hearing me read each again and again. I must have read, “The Runaway Bunny” aloud over one hundred times. He points to the illustrations and says, “Caw”, his current word for everything. I’ll respond, “moon”, “cat”, “fish”, “frog” or whatever before he turns the page. Then he points to the same images again to be sure he knows the word. And he’s learning. When he places his finger on the illustration of a window, I’ll say “window”. Then he points to the window in our living room and says, “Caw”. He gets it. Repetition sounds boring, but it’s good for learning. Think about it next time you’re in that language, dance, or cooking class you thought would be so easy.

Routines can be good.

Let’s take repetition a step further. My son, and I think all toddlers, prefer routines at this early age. When you are new to the game, there is a comfort in knowing what comes next. Mommy gives you a bottle in the morning. Daddy tests you with flash cards when he feeds you dinner. You grab your shoes when it’s time to go out, and so on. I’ve noticed that when his routine gets changed up, like with daylight saving, it takes him a time to adjust. But within a few days, he settles back onto his groove. Adults like the comfort of routines also, and there is nothing wrong with a little predictability during chaotic times.

 

Leave the baggage behind.

My son is endlessly curious. He wants to examine anything he has not seen before. And that’s good. Recently he’s been obsessed with a deck of cards in a plastic case wrapped with a rubber band. I knew that as soon as he got to those cards they were destined for the floor. And sure enough it happened as predicted. I finally took the rubber band off after watching his sad little eyes peer up at me again while holding the case. When I took off the rubber band and handed him the case, I could see the delight in his eyes. Then the cards tumbled onto the floor.  After a quick glance at the cards, he cheerily marched off with the plastic case. He had no interest in the cards. And, of course, toddlers don’t think about who cleans up the mess, but that’s okay. Every time my son moves on from his most recent object of desire he reminds me not to put too much value on things or emotions. It’s better to leave our baggage behind.

Maybe I’m connecting the dots a little too conveniently to suit my point of view, but I know I’m learning as much about myself that my son is about the world. Thank you, little man.

Have you ever taken the time to learn from little kids?

 This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the growing number of stay-at-home dads who unselfishly devote their time to raising their children.

The Things I Learned Running Marathons

Robert Manni - Friday, October 31, 2014


The first Sunday in November is a special day. Runners of all shapes and sizes come from around the globe to New York to share a special human experience while packed together for 26.2 miles traversing the five boroughs of the city.

If you’re entered in this year’s race, I wish you the very best. It could turn out to be one of the most special days of your life. Enjoy it.

For me, the greatest thing about the marathon is that for one chilly morning anyone who puts in the training can experience what is feels like to compete in a world-class athletic event.  After all, very few of us know what it’s like to play a professional sport and perform in front of a rabidly cheering crowd. I love running, but I’m no elite athlete. I’ve done my share of 5k and 5-mile races and finished three marathons. Each marathon proved to be a different experience, but all of them taught me valuable lessons. Here are a few things I learned that continue to help me out today.

Stay focused. Connect your mind, body, and spirit.

Both the training and actually running the race demands a fine balance and integration of your body, mind and spirit. No matter what kind of shape you are in, you will find yourself challenged at some point during the relentless twenty-six point two mile course. It might be a cramp, exhaustion, bad weather, or an upset stomach, but trust me you will face something unexpected. And even if you train diligently and put in those long runs, a marathon requires an elevated level of mental toughness and a fighting spirit. Be prepared.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Marathoners come in all shapes and sizes and speak all sorts of languages. During my first race I was surprised at how many runners who did not look like they were in great shape pass me. At first my ego got the best of me when waves of older and chunkier runners zipped by. I got down on myself and even questioned my training. Then I remembered reading that everyone’s physical body processes oxygen differently. Plus, I had no idea what kind of training regimen these people went through or how many marathons they had run. I shook it off and kept running.

Don’t worry about anyone else. Stick to your plan.

After a few miles of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of my first marathon and the presence of so many runners running elbow to elbow, I dug deep and focused on my plan. That meant plugging along slowly and steadily until reaching mile twenty. If I had a gas in my tank I would speed up towards the end of the race. I tracked along at a ten-minutes per mile for the first three quarters of the first marathon. And I did not hit the dreaded wall at mile twenty. I breezed through the final six miles and now I was passing everyone else. I crossed the finish line with both hands in the air. Let me tell you; it felt great.

Hydrate and eat well.

Running for four hours requires a lot of fuel so during each marathon I made sure to slow down at most of the water stops while also grabbing healthy snacks when I saw them handed out. This made a big difference in my energy level. And it’s the same in day-to-day life. Skipping meals or not drinking enough water results in mental and physical burn out. And who doesn’t enjoy eating and drinking?

Pat yourself on the back.

People in general and marathoners can be pretty tough on themselves. Instead of celebrating their amazing feats, they carp about what they did wrong and what they’ll do next time. I’ve been guilty of this also. Now I always give myself credit whenever I put in some hard work. Now that my marathon days are over (did I really say that?) I realize what an accomplishment it is just to complete this long race. I’m proud of a job well done.

Practice makes perfect. Train like a champ.

Like anything else in life, you need to prepare for the big opportunities. Whether it’s writing a screenplay, making a presentation, or running a marathon you need to invest time and psychic energy into the undertaking if you want to enjoy the experience and savor victory—however you define it.  My solo twenty-mile training runs were critical to my physical and mental state of mind during the marathons. I knew that if I could run twenty miles in September without the cheering crowds I’d be well prepared for race day in November. I was well prepared for each race and it sure came in handy.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Running a marathon is a microcosm for life. There is pleasure, pain, joy, tears, and camaraderie—basically a full range of human emotions experienced over a few brief hours on a Sunday morning. If you ever get the urge to run a marathon, by all means do so. And if you do, make sure you fully immerse yourself in the experience—from each mile of your training until you cross the finish line.  You’ll be happy with a job well done. What more can you ask for?

Have you ever considered running a marathon?

 

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the 30,000 plus runners in Sunday’s NYC Marathon. Have a great race, people!

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Jury Duty

Robert Manni - Thursday, October 23, 2014


It’s the piece of mail that we all dread receiving. You have been called for jury duty. 

And, like a tax audit or another bill from your auto insurance company, you can’t avoid it. Unless you have a bulletproof excuse, you have to show up for jury duty. But here’s the thing; Guys’ Guys show up. After being summoned for a second time after twenty years, in the end I was glad I stepped up and served. At the time I didn’t realize the scope of the case I was assigned to and the ramifications on the life of the accused. It was a big deal and the alleged perpetrator’s life hung the balance. Afterwards I felt more in touch with my sense of citizenship and my humanity. Here’s what happened and what I learned. After all, Guy’s Guy’s are all about new experiences.

After I graduated from college I briefly moved back home to New Jersey. One summer I got called for jury duty in Hackensack. I showed up, filled out some forms, sat and waited for twenty minutes, and was told to go home. I thought nothing of it and was glad they let me go. They let me be for the next two decades. Flash forward twenty years when my official residency changed to New York. After registering to vote, I was almost immediately summoned for jury duty. On a freezing, overcast January day I showed up at the big courthouse in downtown Manhattan. I stood outside in line in the bitter cold with a few hundred sad-looking New Yorkers waiting to be processed. Expecting lots of waiting time, I kept my phone and a book on hand. Once inside we were matriculated and shuttled into a huge room where we sat waiting and waiting. Finally we were told that the lot of us was under consideration for a major federal conspiracy case. There was a collective groan across the dank, drab holding room as our files were reviewed.

After two hours there was an announcement. They had selected a few dozen candidates that would be reviewed by the judge and the respective attorneys. Since I have never won Lotto or even a major prize at a golf outing, I assumed I would not be selected. But mine was the second name called. This precipitated a few days of interviews, instructions, forms and questionnaires to fill out, and more hours of waiting in the dank confines of the backrooms of the courthouse. As the process transpired, I realized that I had no excuse that would get me out of this dilemma. And sure enough, I was selected for the case, and it was a doozy. It lasted two weeks and featured long dissertations on firearms, ammunition, drugs, fistfuls of illegal cash, hidden videotapes, snitches, undercover cops and more. It was a wild ride that delved into areas of criminal behavior and jargon that I had never known. Who knew bullets were called “food”? Each day we broke whenever the attorneys had a disagreement about a witness, detail or a procedure. They paid us a few bucks a day. At lunch we fanned out and took separate paths into Chinatown.

While observing the proceedings I realized that the accused perpetrator’s future hung in the balance and I would be one of twelve who would decide on his fate. If convicted, this guy was facing decades behind bars. This was a big responsibility for us jurors. Fortunately, our group was an astute, fair-minded crew. We paid attention, kept an open mind and followed the judge’s instructions—including refraining from reading the newspaper or watching the news during the trial. I did not know until afterwards that there had been constant news coverage of the case.

Two weeks later, after day after day of numerous meticulous, highly procedural presentations of the evidence followed by the defense rebuttal; the jury was asked for a decision. After we presented our findings (I’m thankful that I was not the foreman) we went out for drinks at a pub behind the courthouse. We had all kept our distance during the trial, so in the next two hours I got to know my fellow jurors more than I had during the past two weeks. There was a strange, unique bond that had taken place and a feeling of mutual respect among peers. I am proud our paths briefly crossed briefly in what had been a very human experience where the fate of certain individuals was placed in our hands. When I left the pub the snow began falling as if on cue. It was a quiet, gentle snow that covered the ground like a blanket, burying the experience in a soft white hue under a darkened winter sky. I knew I would never see any of these people again. Meeting them and sharing this experience had been enough.

Forgive me if I sound sanctimonious, but this two-week odyssey gave me a new slant on jury duty. Now I know why it is important to be responsible and take it seriously. Being called to serve is not punishment. It’s an honor. Sure, you might get assigned to a small-time civil case, a business beef or something equally mundane, but that’s the luck of the draw. The important thing is to show up and represent, and that’s worth keeping in mind as we march through life.

Have you been called for jury duty?

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the Week are all the attorneys who are forced to deal with painstaking procedures that even with all its flaws still makes our legal system the best in the world.

Confessions of a Horndog: The Way Guys View Sex

Robert Manni - Sunday, October 19, 2014


Sure we’re approaching 2015, but have things changed that much when it comes to how men and women view sex? I’ve been thinking about that a lot these past few weeks. Most guests on my Guy's Guy Radio podcast take a politically correct stance, insisting that all things are equal when it comes to how men and women view sex.

Let’s agree that women’s empowerment is growing, and it’s long overdue. And when it comes to sex, although more and more of today’s women hunt male prey the way guys chase women, does the majority female mindset view sex the way men do? I’m not sure. Let’s take a look at some of the ways men view sex. Then I’ll let you ladies determine if women see it the same way.

I have a lot of guy friends and they seem to fall into two camps. One group is made up of total horn dogs. Regardless of their age or relationship status, they think about sex all day. They are visual, they fantasize, they talk about sex, and although they may not stray; they’re mentally sexed up. I fall into this camp and I always have.

I love sex and I think about it a lot. In the past I’d act on my impulses, even when I was in a relationship. I was young and believed that you only live once. You can say that I was a selfish guy. I was, but I loved sex and if there was extracurricular activity, it was simply a physical act to me. Although I had to have some connection with them, I kept the sex in a non-binding neutral, unemotional, no-strings attached box. And it worked for me.

There are a lot of guys who see sex this way. Sex is sex, and since it is always on our minds, we tend to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves. After all, when you are single, you’re single.

Now that I’m married and a bit wiser, I focus one hundred percent of my attention on my wife. She deserves it, and I’m doing everything I can to be the best partner. That said, I’m still a horny guy.

Living in New York City, I see and interact with a lot of hot women. Do I think about having sex with them? The thought has crossed my mind from time to time (that means yes), but I don’t act on it. Part of the reason is that I know my wife is loyal and I don’t think my having sex with other women would be fair to her. Most of the others guys I know in the horn dog camp think and behave this way, also. We enjoy the company of an attractive woman in a business or social situations, but we are men now so we keep things under control. The question is: could I have sex with a random attractive woman and just leave it at that? I could, but again, I don’t. If I did, it would simply be a curiosity and a matter of variety. That’s all. But, I don’t. Will my wife kill me if she reads this? I don’t think so. She knows that I am a horn dog, but one who is on a leash.

Here is one more thing to factor in about the horn dog camp. As with any group, you always have a lunatic fringe. These are the guys who can’t stop going to strip clubs, chasing women, and having sex with whoever they can, regardless of the guy’s age or if they are married. I don’t know many women who fall into this camp, but plenty of guys do. And, unfortunately, most of these dudes are married.

The other group of guys I know never discuss sex, make a sexual comment or even crack a joke about sex.

I find that most of these guys are married or involved in a one-on-one relationship. They don’t “cheat”, but many times they fall in love with other people. When things don’t work out, they divorce and get right back into a one-on-one relationship, many times with someone they fell for when they were married.

They don’t like dating and they find comfort in always having a special someone at their side. I don’t know what you call these guys, but I’ve heard them referred to as serial monogamists. Since I do not fall into this camp, I don’t have as good a grasp on what’s going through their heads when it comes to sex. Do they think about it as much as I do? Are they repressed? Why do they go from one relationship to the next? I don’t know. It seems like these fellas are not interested in recreational sex, but I could be wrong. Maybe they’re horn dogs also, but just more discreet.

I’m wondering if today’s women fall into the same two camps: lady horn dogs and serial monogamists. Maybe nowadays men and women actually do have the same perspectives about sex. But again, I’ll let the ladies decide.

And I’m not certain if there is anything we can do with these confessions and insights beyond being true to ourselves and fair-minded in how we see others. Sex is a personal issues and such a lightning rod subject in our society. The more dialogue we have about it, the better chance we have of understanding the opposite sex and ourselves. And that’s a good thing.

Is your guy a horn dog, and is that a bad thing?

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Healing

Robert Manni - Saturday, October 11, 2014


Shit happens. And it usually happens when you least expect it.

This year I’ve been on a major health kick. I lost thirty-five pounds through a drastically improved diet and workout regime and have never felt better in my life. In fact, relative to my age, I’ve never been in better shape. I did not know why I was training so hard, but I’ve been diligent and disciplined like never before. I’ve been on a mission.

So I was flabbergasted when I learned I needed two robotic surgical procedures. Yikes. The finding was purely incidental and the prognosis is excellent for a complete, 100% recovery. In fact, a few short months it will seem like nothing ever happened. Maybe I was subconsciously getting my body, mind and spirit in shape to handle this.  Surgery is no walk in the park and I have to deal with a double dip, so I really needed to be ready.

Today marks two weeks since round one and I am feeling terrific. My body is healing steadily and I feel and look (so I’ve been told) terrific. I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks and more than ever, I’m appreciative of everything in this life. With this in mind, I offer my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Healing. Not that Guy’s Guys heal any differently, but this recent challenge has provided some important learning for me. I will devote another blog post to surgery, but right now, let’s discuss the process of healing. It is an important aspect of our lives, regardless of our physical health. I hope some of my insights work for you.

Sometimes we need to get off the grid. Even though I mapped out my upcoming blog posts and Guy’s Guy Radio podcasts in advance, I went dark for a solid week, focusing only on the procedure. Prior to surgery there is the usual prep and some anxiety about the unknown. I decided to hand my troubles to God and focused on relaxation, knowing I am healed, and my connection with the universal consciousness. I did not read the newspaper or watch our toxic news on television. I bought a copy of Men’s Health on my way to the hospital and managed to flip the pages for a few days while drugged up on painkillers. I did not listen to my beloved Rolling Stones or post on FB and Twitter. I rebroadcasted an earlier podcast for Guy’s Guy Radio and reposted a blog for the website. I planned my business activities out in advance so I would not be disturbed. This was a time for quieting my mind and spirit. I remained calm throughout the hospital stay and praised the heavens when they removed my catheter. Finally, after two long nights I returned home.

Sleep is a miracle cure. Although climbing in and out of bed was discomforting, sleeping in my own bed was far better than being propped up in the hospital with an IV and that damn catheter. I am a tummy sleeper, so adjusting to sleeping on my back for the next two weeks was challenging. But, I made sure to make the most of my time in the sack. I sank back, meditated, and let myself drift in and out of sleep for days. And, as if on cue, I felt better each and every day. I made sure to nap in the afternoon and not allow my mind to be disturbed by anything. I have found a new appreciation of the powers of sleep. It has been a miraculous path to my healing. I was off painkillers in less than a week. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Learn to appreciate the little things.  After having the catheter removed, I had a new appreciation of not having anything dangling from my you-know-what. Then after three days of noshing on soft and slippery foods, it was great to ingest solid foods. The painkillers keep you constipated so after three long days I was ecstatic after my first bowel movement. Yes, these are the little things that we so often overlook. I am now very appreciative of all of our creature comforts and simply being capable of functioning like a healthy human being. It’s something we too easily ignore. Be thankful, people. Everything can all change in a heartbeat.

Be flexible. Adapt. If you can’t sleep on your belly, sleep on your side. If you can’t jump in and out of bed (a favorite pastime that drives my wife crazy), then quietly slide into bed. If you have holes drilled into your abdomen, keep them covered when showering. If it hurts like hell to sneeze or cough, do whatever you can not to sneeze or cough. If you can’t drink, don’t. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t pick up your seventeen month-year old child, find a way of cajoling him onto the couch so you can read to him. It’s that simple. Learn to do things differently. I did not get frustrated and the challenges helped me stay sharp and heal. I improvised and am a better person for it.

The power of visualizations and affirmations. From the moment they jabbed me with general anesthetic, I have been visualizing and mentally repeating affirmations of my health. I say, “I am healed and renewed” and “I am one with the energizing life of God” throughout the day. I also see myself in my mind’s eye as completely healed. There is power in the words “I am” and the intentions that follow. You can use these for any area of your life. It works. Just know it.

Surround yourself with love. I am certain that my healing is on the fast track because I am sleeping with my wife, son, and cat in the same room. I feel their love and it helps my body, mind and spirit heal. I know this. Love heals. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. It’s that simple. That’s all I am going to say about it.

So after two weeks, I’m feeling strong. In fact, I feel tremendous. My surgeon told me that the procedure went perfectly. I am well rested and in a state of grace, more than ready for round two.

Do you know how to heal?

 

This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are my surgeon and the team at NYU Langone Center who have cared for me during each phase of my procedure. Thank you all.


The Guys' Guy's Guide to Cats

Robert Manni - Thursday, October 02, 2014

Maybe they’re not man’s best friend, but cats can be great pets for guys living in the city. You’d think a Guy’s Guy would want a dog. Yes, I can see myself walking along a riverbank with my trusted black lab at my side. But city life is a different ballgame for canine ownership. And I’m not sure I have the time or the right environment to offer a dog the great life it deserves. Plus, I’ve seen hundreds of dog owners huddled in the rain, picking up their dog’s poop with a plastic sandwich bag. I always tell myself, no way Jose. If I move out of the city, I’ll consider a dog. For right now, if I’m going to have a pet, it will be a cat. When I first moved to NYC, I owned a cockatiel who lived in an open cage for many years, but that’s another story.

A few years ago, my wife and I discussed adopting a rescue cat from one of the city shelters. We spent a Sunday traversing private and public agencies, meeting people who loved cats, and felines of all varieties and ages. My criterion for adoption was simple. I did not want a cat that was too old. I’d never owned a cat from birth so I wanted a kitten less than two years old and not one of a pair. There are many older cats with siblings that need homes. I will consider a mature cat or even two cats next time, but I wasn’t an experienced cat owner, so I did nomt feel comfortable taking on more than I could handle. My second deal breaker was that the feline up for adoption did not scratch me.  And that become a problem. The first three cats my wife liked for some reason immediately scratched me, so they were eliminated. Finally we stopped at the Bid A Wee on the East Side. As I approached the front door a small cat was staring directly at me through the window. She quietly followed us around and ultimately turned out to be the one that we took home. Sooki has been with us for close to three years now and this is what I have learned from her.

Cats are affectionate. I assumed that I would drop her into her litter box and that would be it. She’d roam the premises and do as she pleased, ignoring my wife and I unless she was hungry. Then she would make a deposit in the litter box and take a nice long nap under the window as the sun filtered in. Boy, was I wrong. Sooki, like all cats, need attention and love. They might not show it in as profound a way as a dog, but they do crave your love and touch. Sooki greets us when we enter our apartment. I make sure to acknowledge her then and each morning. I say hi and stroke her head to let her know I appreciate her. She also sleeps at the foot of our bed. Whenever I am working on my computer, like right now, she sits quietly close by and takes a nap. And when I crash onto the couch to watch “Ray Donovan” or ESPN, she climbs up and looks me in the eye. I rub her head and she plops down against my side. I’m not sure every cat rolls like Sooki, but my girl needs and gives love.

Cats can be stinky. Unlike a dog, cats do their business in a litter box. You only have to drop them into it once and they know the drill. That’s the good news. The other side of the coin is that cats can get sloppy. Their piss smells awful and their poop needs to be scooped out deposited into the toilet promptly if you want to keep your place smelling good. I tried different of types of litter and found that Feline Pine works well and lasts for about a week. There are a few tricks to keeping the stink quotient low when you own a cat. One is to keep a half lemon slice near the litter box. For some reason it absorbs the odor. The other is a stone called zeolite, which can be purchased online (I found it on Amazon). The stones costs about $30, but they absorbs virtually all of the kitty odors and they last a long time.  Beyond that, you have to change the litter box and disinfect the area on a regular basis. Anything less and your litter box quickly becomes a disaster area.

You don’t want a fat cat. Since cats are nocturnal creatures that also sleep close to eighteen hours a day, they can beef up rather quickly if they don’t get exercise and if they eat mass produced cat food. Similar to what humans are faced with when it comes to food choices, the good stuff costs more per serving, but goes a lot further when it comes to nutrition and good health. After deploying a wet (Newman’s Own Organics) and dry food (Orijens) combination each day, we noticed Sooki start to pack on the pounds after she graduated from her kitty stage. After some experimentation, we decided on giving her only dry food twice a day, and learned that she doesn’t eat as much since becoming an adult. So Sooki is relatively lean now and she’s healthy.

A cat is still a cat. Like any other female creature, Sooki likes having her hair combed and her nails done. We have a young son who likes to pull her tail or grab her face. Since she is a cat, Sooki has taken a token swipe at our little guy a few times, so I take her to a pet store to have her nails trimmed monthly. It costs ten bucks. I’ve found that this has made her more peaceful and less aggressive and jealous of him. But, I keep a watchful eye when our sixteen-month year old goes face to face with her. I’m certain that they will become good mates in a year or so.

What else can I say? A cat is not a dog, so you’re not going to take her hunting or for long runs on the beach. But if you live in the city and like having a loyal furry companion, owning a cat can be rewarding and if you adopt, you will be providing a home for a discarded animal.

There are thousands of cats that need a home. Have you ever considered rescuing a cat?

This week's Guys’ Guys of the Week are the staff at Bid A Wee shelter in New York City. They work tirelessly in the service of displaced animals. This is a great place filled with cats (and dogs) that need homes. 


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