Inventorying Some Small Pleasures

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I just finished taking my 2-week antibiotic treatment for an H.Pylori infection. For over a month, I felt sharp stomach pains whenever I finished a meal or went running. I got myself checked out, got a diagnosis, and quickly started the treatment. Fortunately for me, the pains are gone, and I feel pretty good. I’ll have to start loading up on probiotics to build up the good bacteria that the antibiotics destroyed.

My ordeal was fairly minor and quickly resolved, but it reminded me that health and comfort can’t be taken for granted. It was incredibly frustrating when I had to pull up mid-run because of my stomach pains. My legs and lungs felt great and were hungering for more, but each additional stride felt like a punch to the gut. When I ran a 4-mile loop last weekend for the first time in over a month, it felt amazing, and I was grateful that the pain was gone.

I think the occasional discomfort is actually a good thing. It puts things into perspective and helps me realize that there’s so much to appreciate and enjoy each day. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the small things that make me feel good and help me see clearly the luxurious and lucky life that I lead. Here are a few of those small pleasures:

Slicing Up and Eating a Cold Mango

I think it was in Australia that I got really hooked on mangoes. The mangoes there were smaller, so I ended up eating a couple every morning. Back at home, I’ve been eating mangoes regularly, and on a hot summer day, I find myself craving a cold and sweet mango. If I’m alone, I’ll stand at the kitchen counter and slowly carve up the mango, pausing to eat a couple of pieces and then continuing to slice the flesh down to the pit. I used to just go bonkers and gnaw around the pit, but I found that carving away with the knife is cleaner and actually a better way to get more fruit. I’m sure my cravings will diminish as the weather turns colder, but these days, I sometimes go to bed thinking about eating a cold mango the next morning.

Watching a Movie at BAM

I don’t care that there are more state of the art theaters in the city with comfier seats and better concession stands. BAM Rose Cinemas in the Peter Jay Sharp Building is still my favorite place to watch movies. Going there, grabbing a Diet Coke and a bag of M&Ms, and settling down into a seat is one of my favorite pastimes. My only complaint is that they don’t always play movies I want to see there, but if I can go at least 10 times a year, I’m a very happy person. Last movie I saw there was Don’t Think Twice directed by Mike Birbiglia.

Throwing My Socks Up for Sidney

The first thing I typically do when I come home is to take off my socks. Our dog Sidney goes bonkers for the opportunity to catch a sock in midair. Through repetition and deliberate practice, I’ve trained Sidney to become the Odell Beckham Jr. of sock receiving. It gives me such joy to see Sidney excel at this. Though my wife Melanie has called it the “most useless trick ever”, I think it’s quite an achievement for both me and our dog. One interesting thing is that the socks need to be warm. As in, it has to come straight from my feet. Melanie finds this part a bit gross, but Sidney has some kind of built-in sensor that makes him only want the warmest sock. So if I take one sock off and then throw it at him, he’ll catch it and play with it a bit. The moment he sees me take off the other sock, he puts the sock in his mouth down on the floor and eagerly waits for me to throw the warmer sock. It’s really interesting that he goes for warm socks only. If you threw him a cold sock that’s been laying on the ground, he’ll ignore it.

Sharing Dividend Payments

My buddy Welton and I have been avid dividend stock investors for the past couple of years. We’ve squirreled away shares of dividend-paying blue chip stocks as well as REITs and other high-yield investments with the hope that one day, our dividend payments will be enough to cover our basic living expenses. We’re both far from it, but we love sharing our progress. Each week, we’ll update each other via text message whenever we’ve received a dividend payment. For example, a text message might read: “OKE $12, ABT $8, KMI $14, OHI $103”, meaning that four stocks paid a collective dividend of $137 on a single day. Sometimes, it’ll be a single stock that pays a few bucks, but whenever we have a day where multiple companies pay out, we text each other nice and early, putting me in a good mood to start the day.

Welton and I often talk about building our “snowball” that’ll help our investments compound. In 2015, my total dividend payments could have covered almost 3 months of living expenses. Of course, I poured that money right back into new dividend-paying investments, but it was a great feeling to know that my steady and patient investments were starting to pay off. I’m hoping the figure continues to grow at a good clip.

Listening to Revisionist History Podcast

For the past 9 weeks, I’ve looked forward to Thursday mornings. It’s when I can download the latest episode of Malcom Gladwell’s Revision History podcast. Each week, Gladwell examines a past event, idea, or person and reinterprets it in a new light. I love the way Gladwell tells the stories and it makes my entire morning routine that much more special. From brushing my teeth, to walking the dog, to commuting to work, I’ve made the past six or so Thursday mornings all about the podcast. I loved his series on education and I especially loved the episode on Elvis Costello and the song Hallelujah.

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