Little Victories

little victory
Celebrate the little victories. Sounds kind of corny, doesn’t it? Perhaps it does, but nevertheless it is something myself and my better half have been reminding each other of, when we’ve gone through rough patches, where Life doesn’t line up with expectations. Those times where it is easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking, which affects happiness, productivity, sex drive and almost every other aspect of existing. It sucks, as you probably already know.

All of us experience tough times, maybe after losing a job or a loved one, or dealing with illness – experiencing adversity is just part of Life. There are countless ways Life can try to fuck you over, and if you let it, negativity can spiral out of control and suck ever more parts of previously mentioned existence down the drain. If you’re caught in a negative thought pattern, you have to fight back.

This is where celebrating the little victories come in handy. It’s not so much about high fives or actual celebration (those are fine too), it’s about being observant of the positive things surrounding you. By consciously observing the positive, I open myself up to seeing even more positive things, thus training myself to focus on a positive thought pattern, rather than a negative one. Instead of expecting to lose, I am reminded, that sometimes you win. This is why I like to celebrate the little victories.

What exactly constitutes a “little victory”? It can be whatever, really. Maybe you got the perfect parking spot, or got a thank you note from a client, maybe your dog finally rolled over on command, or you passed that level in your favorite video game. As I said, it’s about looking for something positive, so if you recognize it as such, you can count it.

In our household, we sometimes have exchanges that go along the lines of “I hit the perfect level of cream in my coffee this morning, it was so good.”, which is answered with a “Sometimes you win”. It has become a ritual, pointing out these tiny moments, and even when Life isn’t particularly tough, and things are just chugging along, observing little victories is a habit I never tire of.

Try it yourself, and see how many little victories you can recognize in a day. What little victories have you had today?

The Power of Minecraft


A while back I read a piece about how the casual game Bejeweled can help sufferers of depression, when played in “endless mode”. The idea is that playing takes on a calming property, allowing you to feel like you’re achieving something, even if you feel incapable of doing anything. It was an interesting piece, and I would like to share my own experience with games as a form of therapy. In my case though, the game I would like to talk about is Minecraft.

Minecraft is as casual as you like, and it never ends. There is no real end-game, no timer, not even a clear objective, beyond simply building stuff and exploring the digital world created for you. Unless you play in hardcore mode, you will never see a game over screen.

In our household, we’ve used Minecraft as a mental escape on more than one occasion. When my dear wife had surgery and radiation treatment, she was physically unable to do much more than sit, and even that was a chore. Being physically weak like that also has a mental toll, and she definitely went through stages of frustration, wanting to do things that were still impossible to accomplish. So to combat this feeling of uselessness, she turned to Minecraft.

Salvation Keep, one of my medieval inspired builds. Click for a larger image.
In Minecraft, an entire digital world is generated for you to explore, and all you have to do is imagine what you want to create, find a suitable location (or carve one out of the landscape) and build it!

For myself, Minecraft helped me catch a break while taking care of Kelly, who had been hit with Cancer only a few months after my mother died, also from Cancer. Playing also turned out to be a great way for Kelly and I to do something fun together, while she was unable to do much of anything at all.

Like everything else, gaming should be enjoyed in moderation, but I don’t think it deserves the bad reputation it has outside the gaming world. I still meet people who categorically dismiss games as being a waste of time – or worse, that playing somehow makes you anti-social and dumbs you down. Gaming can be a tool to feel productive and get a sense of accomplishment – a confidence booster – and a way to socialize when the normal channels are unavailable. As long as building digital castles is not all you do, and unlocking achievements is not the only thing you strive for, gaming might even be good for you.

Spawnville, where the players on our server start out, and meet up to trade etc. Click for larger view.
I know it was good for Kelly and me, and it continues to be so. Our own multiplayer server has a small, thriving community of friends who share, inspire and help each other. There is no element of competition, except when we choose to introduce one. It’s all about being creative and having fun.

I love Minecraft, not just as a game, but for what it has contributed to my household. It kept us sane when times were rough, it’s a fantastic stay-at-home activity, and I’ve even learned a thing or two about constructing cool stuff. I can’t recommend it enough.

After several months of playing in privacy, we have finally started a tumblr blog, where we’ll be sharing screenshots, videos and more from the “Realm of Rasmania”. Yes, that is the name of our digital world, and no, I did not come up with it. The images and video included with this post are all from our multiplayer server.

The Year of Good People

2011 will never be my favorite year, but if there is one recurring theme that is good, it’s the people.

A year ago I was back in Denmark for the first time in half a decade to experience one last Christmas with my mother. My mother had aggressive Cancer and died on the following Mother’s Day. This is the experience to which all other experiences of 2011 are compared, at least in terms of personal impact. If you have lost a loved one, I don’t need to say more. If you haven’t, then good for you.

It was the toughest year of my life, so far. After my mother passed away, my wife got hit with Cancer. Major surgery was followed by radiation treatments. The last of which will be over just before new years eve. My mother was going through treatments a year ago, but it wasn’t enough for her. In Kelly’s case, they caught the Cancer early. Things are hopeful, as well as painful.

I have spent a lot of time being a caregiver this year. It continues to be my most important job, until Kelly is well. It’s rewarding because I get to take care of someone who is extremely important to me. And sometimes it is incredibly hard for that very same reason. But life is not all bad.

When the stress of medical bills started piling up alongside the health related anxiety, two friends we have never even met started a benefit drive, and in less than 24 hours the bills were taken care of. Elizabeth and Ryan, I cannot thank you enough for what you did, and the same goes for the hundreds of people who showed their support.

My personal project – Another Passion – started out strong and took a back seat when Kelly’s health went down hill, but not before Lily had signed on as the first regular contributor. He work has been crucial and kept me at least a tiny bit responsible and on task.

Two comedians, Paul and Storm, have provided more awesomesauce in 2011 than they are probably aware of. Twice, they let me come take pictures of them performing. They even made me part of the show. You know you’ve had a bad year, when one of the highlights is tripping over a hole in the stage floor, interrupting Wil Wheaton mid story in front of a packed venue of laughing nerds. I had a blast that night. And at the other Paul and Storm gig, I took pictures of Hank Green – who liked them so much, he put several in his new album, Ellen Hardcastle.

Good people have carried me through 2011, and no one more so than Kelly. In spite of her own ordeal, she has remained loving and supporting of everything I do – no matter how scattered my efforts or lacking my follow-through. I am lucky to have met her, and I treasure every day we have together. She is amazing.

Looking back at the year 2011, I feel blessed by having met, worked and played with many kind, inspiring people. Many, many more than I could ever name in a blog post. I also feel closer to my wife than ever before. So I guess, even the awfulness that is Cancer is not without a bright side. That said, I will be glad to see it gone.

Here’s to a healthier, happier 2012 for all!