With the government focused on the country's bond rating, is it within the realm of possibility for it to address lowering the insanity ceiling, given how instrumental it's been in its meteoric rise? I bet there's an Einstein-like math wizard out there who can create a formula showing the relationship between government fiscal sanity and general everyday sanity.

I learned a long time ago that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who are always talking about doing things and people who are always doing things. I've always preferred hanging with the latter. Sadly, the government falls into the former group, and over the years it's managed to take gridlock to new heights. I feel it is safe to say that members won't be making any serious attempt at getting a handle on the insanity ceiling in the near future.

What gets me through the craziness has always been and will continue to be family and friends; music; Thai, Indian, Japanese, Mexican and Irish food; my sense of humor; and those everyday special moments, some that take my breath away, some that put things in perspective and others that have a down-home, feel-good quality and bring a smile to my face.

What follows are recent memorable moments, including a few quick mental health visits to the past:

I'm time traveling back to the Bronx, N.Y., listening to doo-wop, and singing along to Dion and The Belmonts, "Teenager in Love." Erin comes into the living room, taking me out of my reverie: "Dad, did you have any crushes when you were a teenager?"

What follows is an easy-flowing conversation about relationships, crushes big and small and lots of laughter about the crazy things we do in the name of love. I tell her about the hippest radio show of its time, "The Slim and Genni Times Square Record Store Show," which played the coolest doo-wop music; the next thing I know we're both singing along to "Runaround Sue."

More than anything, I love laughing and being silly with my daughters; on top of that it warms the cockles of my rock and roll heart to turn her on to a musician I grew up with, who is still making great music: Dylan, Allman Brothers, Tom Petty and now Dion.

I'm at Anthony's Hair Stylists in New Canaan, getting my hair cut by Marcie, who's been cutting my hair for more than 20 years. She's transforming me from rock `n' roller to quasi-corporate exec -- well not really, but as close as I'm going to get. The world slows down at Anthony's; Marcie and I catch up on each other's families and have a few laughs.

Over lunch, a friend asks for help in navigating her life and I note that it's hard enough to navigate my own life. She reminds me that I was helpful in the past, so I put on my official Dr. Phil cap and we explore the relationship issue that is on her mind.

We agree on how to proceed and she remarks that it would be great to get a certificate documenting that she has learned a life lesson on improving her relationships. I quickly scrawl out a certificate stating she has earned a degree in "lessons of life learning" from the newly accredited Halpin University, and she tells me she'll cherish it. I realize I might be in need of a certificate myself, for those times my wife tells me, "Barry, you'll never learn."

I'm watching Gordon Ramsey's show, "Master Chef," with my wife, when the judges reveal their favorite childhood meal -- Ramsey's was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Suddenly I am 12 again, sitting in the kitchen of my parents' apartment in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, having my favorite childhood meal and classic comfort food lunch of grilled cheese -- my mom made the best grilled cheese in the universe -- and Campbell's Tomato Soup. I would come home from junior high school every day for lunch; on the way, my taste buds would explode in anticipation of the meal that was waiting for me. It is still a favorite comfort food meal; only the American cheese is now Irish cheddar, Wonder Bread is now Brennans Irish White Bread and I add a few jalapenos.

I arrive at the local Mobil station for my usual morning fare: a cup of joe; USA Today; and some conversation with the locals and staff. Waiting in line to pay, I realize my coffee card -- buy six, get one free -- is nowhere to be found. When I get to the window, Viola hands me my missing card, with "guy with nice shoes" written on the back of the card, to remind her who left the card. It has now become tradition and I pride myself on being the "guy with nice shoes."

I come home from work to find my daughters glued to the television, watching their Missoula Children's Theater performance of "Rumplestiltskin" at Fairfield University's Quick Center. In a split second I am catapulted back to when they were 9. They have ear-to-ear grins and I know that with all that's going on in their lives, there are times when being 9 again isn't such a bad idea. I get up and quietly leave them with their memories.

Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the county-wide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. E-mail him at barryhalpin@aol.com.

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