A Measure Of Speech…

On Sunday, not anticipating the events that would unfold in Las Vegas later that day, I listened to the July 24, 2008 episode of Speaking of Faith (now On Being), hosted by Krista Tippet.  Tippet’s guest for that episode was Dr. Stuart Brown, who is the Director of the National Institute For Play.  Brown is educated as both a neurologist and psychiatrist.

I had listened to this episode a dozen times or more.  The purpose of Brown’s institution is to generate new research, gather existing research, and correlate data about play, as it relates to the modern human condition.  I have always appreciated Brown’s view that play among children, often rough and tumble play, is a necessary element in preparing a child for the rigors of adulthood.

Brown, by the way, was part of the psychiatric team who attempted a postmortem profile of Charles Whitman – our nation’s 1st, but no longer the our most successful sniper of innocents.  So, Sunday night when I began hearing cursory details of the tragedy in Las Vegas, thoughts of Charles Whitman were fresh in my mind.

Brown, who has studied more death-row inmates than any other psychiatrist, suggests that an absence of play as children, and subsequently as adults is one of many commonalities that premeditated murderers share.  As I was chewing on this, and watching the body count rise, I reflected on all the play I did as a child, and all I continue to do each day of my life – and I am grateful for play.

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On Saturday – the day prior to the tragedy in Las Vegas, I had listened to an interview with Martin Amis.  Amis, after the events of 9/11, wrote a series of essays for the New Yorker incorporating facts and a fair amount of conjecture about the men who perpetrated the attacks on September 11, 2001 in the days leading up to those tragedies.

In this interview, Amis spoke about his need to wait a fair amount of time before writing about 9/11.  He suggested that a good deal of time is necessary to allow the soul to cool to an even place, and to provide opportunity for facts to solidify.  In short, Amis suggested that after great tragedy, one should be measured in their speech.

So, I here I sit this morning, with all kinds of thoughts about Las Vegas, our country, our cultures and subcultures.  I am desiring to speak intelligently, but am still unable to think clearly.  So, as Amis suggests, I’ll allow time to pass, facts to solidify, and my emotions to stabilize.

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I am though, struck by the this…

In the two days prior to Las Vegas, my mid was already on tragedy – on mass killings in particular, and in the need to be measured with my speech in their aftermath.  I guess that’s just where we’re at…  Jhciacb

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Chimp With A Smartphone Part II…

 

No essay this week.  No words.  Pictures.  Pictures only.  As my daughter says, I’m just a chimp with a smartphone and the social media habits of an 8th grade girl.  Guilty I am.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an essay on my hatred of the telephone.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from Fallbrook, Bonsall, Oceanside, and a few from my own back yard…  Jhciacb

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Passing Thoughts…

I’m taking my cycling more seriously these days.  I’ve been taking advantage of the long summer days and recommitting myself to improvements in conditioning and fortitude.  Due to my work schedule and my responsibilities around the house, I’ve been riding early in the day, often just before or at sunrise.  And no, this isn’t about how I pass all the other cyclists I see on the road each morning as I ramp up my training intensity.  Actually, it is about that, kind of.

I pass between 5-10 cyclists each morning as I sprint around the perimeter of Fallbrook.  I blow by them these days.  When I pass by these other early morning riders, I feel like I’m on EPO.  I spy one ahead of me, push a little harder with each stride, and within seconds I pass him as though he’s a mailbox.  It’s as though they aren’t even trying.  Well, that’s because they aren’t trying—not to beat me anyway.

You see, the cyclists I blow by each morning could give a frog’s fat ass about me passing them.  They have no idea what a PR is, how fast they are going, or if they’re going to beat their time from the day before.  The riders I pass each day are on their way to work, and if they’re on one, a bike is the only transportation they can afford – if they are so lucky to get one from a thrift shop or a garage sale.

These are the grove workers and day workers that help support my community.  From the agriculture here, to the aesthetics of homes and businesses, my community owes much of its riches and beauty to the men who ride rickety bikes through the hills each morning at sunrise.  In their denims, long-sleeve shirts, and work boots, and with backpacks weighting them down even more, they ride early because their workdays begin early.  They don’t pedal fast because they need their energy for the physically demanding work that awaits and occupies them until the day’s light fades.  And when it’s all done, they ride home again.  It’s not exercise for these men, it’s transportation.  They ride The Tour De Opportunity.

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In truth, I take no pride whatsoever in passing these men each morning.  In fact, I feel equal parts shame, guilt, and humility.  Shame, that I complain about so much in my life in comparison to theirs.  Guilt, that my life is so sweet, so free, so and easy in comparison to theirs.  Humility, that I am reminded by them all I am and all I have, as I glide by grateful for it all.

Each morning I ride my bike by choice, in pursuit of achievement, thrill, and satisfaction.  Almost immediately though, and throughout my ride, I am reminded just how little achievement, thrill, and satisfaction matter in the scope of putting food on the table.  I bow down to the men I pass each morning, who pedal the same roads I peddle.  They do so for more noble reasons, and with much more fortitude…  Jhciacb.

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Onion knife

David Lynchbrook…

I’ve often said that that living in Fallbrook is like being in a David Lynch movie.  It’s as though an invisible cloud of dream-state hovers over this town made from particles of whacky.  At any moment, at least a few of the personalities or situations which surround me are peculiar, if not out of place altogether.  When these personalities and situations collide in front of me, it makes me question my own reality.  Last night such a collision took place.

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Fallbrook sits on the eastern border of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base and the Naval Weapons Depot.  It is common to see low flying attack helicopters and large transport aircraft overhead all-day long, and often into the evenings.  Fallbrook residents are so accustomed to this that seeing and hearing these aircraft is just a natural part of living here.  We are also accustomed to hearing and feeling explosions in the distance, from live mortar fire and occasionally larger explosives.  The larger explosions can cause the walls of houses to shake and pictures on the walls to vibrate.  The house I live sits on a hill less than one mile from the Camp Pendleton fence.  My neighbors and I feel these explosions regularly.

At the bottom of my hill, about 1,000 yards from my house and on the other side of Main Avenue, is a Pentecostal church.  The church is charming; an old building with a dirt parking lot and all the signs are in Spanish.  The congregation is exclusively Guatemalan.  Fallbrook has many Guatemalan residents and guest workers who make up a portion of our population.  They live here for work in the avocado trade.  This church plays live music 7-nights per week, and the music is always loud enough to be heard from my front yard and inside my house.

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Higher on the hill above me, are two halfway-houses where addicts transition from court-ordered rehab situations back into the workings of society.  The residents usually stay for a month or so.  These houses are here near the center of town so that residents are within walking distance to most necessities.   Because of their backgrounds, many of these folks don’t have driving privileges.  If there is a single archetype for the halfway house residents, it is this: Caucasian male, 25-35 years old, lots of tattoos, baggy pants, long hair or no hair at all, but rarely with a common haircut, no shirt, and often with skateboard.  They skate down my street all day long heading into town, and return walking up the hill, carrying their skateboards in one hand, and their supplies in the other.

So last night, as I was watering the garden in front of my house, I stood fascinated, if not confused, by the confluence of all the personalities and situations which collided around me.  I was immersed in a cloud of peculiarity.  The tinny sounds of drums and out of tune guitars emanating from the Guatemalan church band down below echoed.  Simultaneously, attack helicopters were flying low overhead, chopping the air loud enough to cause the bones of my chest to rattle.  In the distance, large explosions from the Marine base could also be heard – and shook the windows of my house.  All the while, a steady stream of tattooed stoners transitioned up and down my street on skateboards, and walked back up again with grocery bags of Gatorade, cigarettes, and Little Debbie oatmeal treats to take the place the of drugs or alcohol they are here to leave behind.

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As I was taking it all in, the Asian prostitute walked by.  Everyone in town has seen her.  She walks the streets of Fallbrook all day long and has for years.  She’s always in a mini-dress, carries a large duffle bag over her shoulder everywhere she goes, and most days has an umbrella to keep the sun off her head and shoulders.  I have no idea where she goes or what she does – she may not even be a prostitute, that’s just an assumption I make because of the dress and the duffle bag.  She has nice legs, but they do have that lived in look.

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Last evening all of this took place around me.  I just stood there, garden hose in hand, watering my succulents and taking it all in.  It was as though they all knew a secret and nobody was willing to share that secret with me.  The pilots of the aircraft overhead, the prostitute, the dudes from rehab, the people of the church – even my neighbors on their porches also taking it in.  Everyone here is very nice – outright gracious, but I just know they all know something I don’t know, and nobody is ever going to tell me what this town’s secret really is.

Nothing big happens in Fallbrook, but for the eccentricity.  The eccentricity here – the peculiarity is quite large.  It’s the best part of living here, and why I stay.  Jhciacb…

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The Value Of Weeeeeeeeee…

Road Trip Moment…

A car drives along a country highway, no sign of civilization in sight.  Up one hill, down another.  Up another hill, down one more.  A father whistles behind the wheel, mindful of his precious cargo.  His wife is beside him in the passenger seat, reading a book.  A young boy, buckled safely in back looks out the window in wonder, enjoying the ups and downs of the hills.  Suddenly the young voice exclaims…

“Daddy, I have to go wee…!”

The father responds…

“Okay son, in just a little bit…”

Five minutes later…

I have to go wee…!”

The father responds again, hoping to get in a few more miles before breaking the rhythm of his trip…

“Okay.  Soon.  I promise…”

Five minutes later and at the top of his lungs…

DADDY, I HAVE TO GO WEE…!”

The father abruptly pulls the car to the side of the road, shifts into Park and as dust from the road flies about the tires he looks back to his son…

“Okay.  Okay.  There’s a tree right over there…”

The boy unbuckles his seatbelt, throws his arms in the air, and as though he’s at the peak of a roller coaster exclaims at the top of lungs…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

Again…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

One more time…

“This drive is so much fun!  Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

“Okay, Dad, we can go now.  I just needed to get that out…”

The dad snickers because he knows he’s been played.  The boy’s mother smiles a secret smile.  Tires scratch dirt as they hit the road again fueled by a bit of family laughter.

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Losing Weeeeeeeeee…

Around the age of 10 or so, we abandon the concept of weeeeeeeee.  Letting go the idea of weeeeeeeee, is the first evolutionary step on the path to a life less fulfilled.  How different might each day be, of our dreary adult lives, if just once or twice a day we got to throw our arms in the air and go weeeeeeeee…?

I’ve often been accused of having a good attitude – as if it’s a crime in this era of perceived social turmoil.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in less than 2 seconds, but it doesn’t happen often these days, even under the worst of circumstances.  At the core of my good attitude, I am certain, is the calming effect that comes from making time most every day of my life to go weeeeeeeee.  For all my BS, the child i once was in that backseat, is still alive and well and living on my shoulder.

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Wake Up, Go Wee.  Then, Go Weeeeeeeeee…

Though strength training has been central to my exercise life, for most of my life, I have always found peripheral salvation in intense cardio activities such as running, hiking, swimming and cycling.  Due to the current structure of my life, for the past year and a half or so, road cycling has been the beer chaser to the straight shot of strength training I swallow each day.

Each morning, 7 days per week, I ride a 10-mile loop around my community.  This is an early morning ride that takes me roughly a half-hour.  My cycling friends who enjoy riding 20, 30 or even 50-miles on the weekends, may scoff at the idea of doing a meager 10-miles.  This 10-miles though, is a full-on sprint.

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Fallbrook is a community with almost no flat ground.  Throughout my 10-mile ride, I’m either going downhill or uphill, but am never flat.  I push the uphill sections hard – this this is where the exercise comes in.  At some points, my heart-rate may exceed 170-bpm.  Going uphill is where the challenge lies and where I find mental clarity.  Pushing my bike hard uphill makes me stronger, inside and out.  Since there is more work involved, and gravity works against me, the uphill sections take much longer to negotiate than the downhill stretches.

Downhill though, is where the weeeeeeeee comes in, and that provides a whole different kind of mental clarity.  As worked as my body may be, as much as my heart may pound and as dead as my legs might feel at the top of each hill, I always throw my hands over my head as I crest each hill, and glide to the bottom.  Even if I don’t say it aloud, I am thinking it as I ride; weeeeeeeee…!  I’m certain I always smile as I do this.

When my ride is done and my breath is caught, I am on top of the world, if only for a moment.  Part of that is from rising to a physical challenge of pushing the uphill sections hard while most still sleep.  Part of it too tough, is that a half-dozen times before my workday even begins, I get to go weeeeeeeee, just like a I did as a child.

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Footnote…

A running friend recently called me out…

“Roy, if you ran for that 35-minutes instead of riding your bike, you’d burn a lot more calories and get a much better cardio/conditioning workout…”

True, I told him, and then reminded him I have run marathons and countless lesser races; 5K and 10Ks.  There’s no weeeeeeeee in running, I told him.  When there’s time on the weekends, I may get out and ride 20 or 30-miles, but my 10-mile sprint each morning, with a half-dozen or so weeeeeeeee sections mixed in, helps keep me fit, and keep me young.

Like you, each morning I wake up and immediately go wee.  Within a few minutes of that, I also get to go weeeeeeeee, and that’s just one more reason to have a good attitude and a good day…  Jhciacb

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Camaro or Lamborghini…..

Every bodybuilder has two physiques; the Chevy Camaro, in which he his spends most of his days.  Or, the Lamborghini that he cruises around in every couple of years or so, but only for short stretches at a time.

The Camaro physique is not a bad one to go through life with.  It’s easy on the eyes, turns the occasional head and has some power when needed.  Though it might not be the shining star of every intersection, and may have occasional body damage, it’s better than what most folks get around in.  The bodybuilder maintains his Camaro physique with regular lifting, some occasional cardio and a mostly good diet.

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That said, when it comes to maintaining the Camaro physique, workouts are often skipped, cardio is always just an option, and the occasional or even daily ice cream or pizza won’t take too much away from the mystique of the Camaro physique.  In short, maintaining the Camaro physique is the act of being good enough and better than most – most of the time.  It isn’t though, the sum of one’s best efforts, and it ain’t world class.

Every so often though, the desire to take the Lamborghini physique out of the garage surfaces.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as pulling the cover off, charging the battery and checking the air in the tires.  Prepping the Lamborghini physique for a road trip takes weeks if not months.  This is a time when preparation is a 24/7 process, all the details matter and little attention can be given to too much else – which is why it doesn’t get driven too frequently or for long trips.

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To maximize the Lamborghini physique, there requires only the best fuel.  Constant attention must be paid to the surface – not a speck of dust anywhere.  Protection must be given from outside damage at any cost, so anything that is not consistent with keeping the body clean is left behind.

In short, maintaining the Lamborghini physique is the Siberia of living.  In exchange the sacrifices, one gets the luxury of being able to show off and blow off – anyone approaching or threatening to approach.  It’s a bobble of vanity, injects little value into society and lends nothing to the advancement of our species, but we all need hobbies and this one is mine.  Maybe, for short periods of time, it is a work of art.  The Greeks and the Romans thought so.

When it’s all said and done, the thing is this…

When one gets around in the Camaro physique, it’s a nice little car.  One wants to enjoy it – to fiercely accelerate on the freeway entrance ramp, change lanes with the flick of a wrist, leave the Prius at the red light in the dust, and draw looks from the lady getting out of the Mercedes in the grocery store parking lot.  Though it may not be Indy, driving a Camaro physique every day can be a lot of fun.  The Camaro physique is when most bodybuilders do most of their showing off in public.

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Driving the Lamborghini physique, despite its immaculate aesthetic and powerful engine, is a time when most bodybuilders drive 55 and keep it covered up.  The leaner I get, the more I tend to wear.  That’s the secret pleasure in possessing something so beautiful – so powerful yet not letting on to anyone what you have under the cover and under the hood.

For me, truth be told, I’ve only busted out my Lamborghini physique a half-dozen times in my adult life, most recently in 2013.  At that time, I kept it on the road for less than a year.  I’ve always been content in my Camaro physique, working hard enough most of the time, to keep it from turning into a ’67 Ford Falcon with one door caved in.  But it’s been calling me lately – the Lamborghini physique.  Perhaps it’s just some feelings of the unfinished business of my youth bubbling toward the surface.  Maybe I just need a distraction from a busy schedule and a home life with increasing demands.  But it’s calling me.  I’m already beginning to check the air in the tires, buff out the paint a little, fuel the engine well and may let it roar for a stretch.

This morning I was in the body shop – so to say.  Barbell rows and deadlifts to Supertramp’s Crime Of The Century album.  Breakfast was a variety of mixed vegetables and tofu.  And then it occurs to me; can a Lamborghini physique be vegan…?  Not sure.  Stay tuned…  Jhciacb.

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The Me I once was, Once Again, Maybe…

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I approached my workout with wide eyes and wonder.  Energy was high and possibilities were endless. The consistency of both my eating and training over the past few weeks helped me to see edges and curves in my frame that have been hiding recently due to the stresses and time constraints of higher priorities.

Rather than stick to my usual workout soundtrack of books on religion and philosophy while I trained, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass filled the room.  It was a measured, but serious 60-minute session of gravity management – a golden moment at the end of a challenging week.  I was completely dialed in to the moment.

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Throughout the workout though, as always, the cynicism of an old man was trying to douse that fire.  It was another epic battle between the me I once was, the me that I am, and the me I wish to be.  The me I wish to be, by the way, has always been the me I once was, only better.  Funny how that works.

Cynicism is like witchcraft in the wind.  It finds its way through the smallest of cracks.  Youthful ambitions be dammed, they are as porous as a picket fence.  In-between sets and exercises, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all – of the very act of lifting weights, and condemned myself repeatedly for my childish play.

How foolish this all is, I thought.  One hour at a time, 6 days per week and over a 43-year period in the gym, I could have earned a dozen college degrees with that time.  I could have done amazing work on behalf of the poor.   I could have volunteered in my community.  I could have.  I could have.  I could have.  Always bubbling under the surface when I am working out, are those thoughts of what else I could be doing with that time and energy.

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I reflected though, if only for a moment.  I do volunteer in my community, though I could do more.  I do give to the poor, though I could give more.  And through all the hundreds of books I have listened to during my workouts through the years, I have cultivated and customized an intelligence that no college program could have offered me.

In that moment – at least for that moment, I got good with my passion for iron, though I know I will question it again before day’s end.

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Spot me, Bro…?

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I walked out with all the fire of a teenage man.  And perhaps that is another evolutionary step in becoming the me I once was once again, but only better this time…  Jhciacb

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Dear Graduate…

Dear Graduate,

Well, you’re finished with school – at this level. You should be proud of what you have accomplished.  Like many, you’ll now be busy clearing the path ahead of you.  Also like many, you’ll be clearing it before you ever begin defining it.  Think about that.

Of course, your path will be largely defined by the influence of others, whether you are aware of this or not.  Ultimately, it is you who decides in what direction(s) your path will extend, and when it’s time to change directions, though you may not realize this until it’s too late. A good rule of thumb for marching through life – don’t just look at the feet in front of you as you step, but occasionally stop and scan the horizon.  The feet you are following may veer off the path without you realizing it.  This concludes my use of the term path.

On the occasion of your graduation, some pretentious asshole will stand up and speak before your entire graduating class. She will offer words of caution, of optimism and of inspiration. Because your parents and school faculty will be present, those words are likely to be tempered and sugar coated. I might use this platform to offer you some thoughts less sweet, which may help illuminate the roads you are about merge onto, which are certain to include many forks…

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Work, Bosses, And Co-workers…

The best job you will ever have is the one you just left, or the one you are going to next. Rarely will it be the one you are in. You may find yourself in some employment situations where you work for assholes, but love your co-workers. You may be in situations where you love your boss, and loathe your co-workers.  At some point, these may intersect and you will despise everyone in your workplace. However, the winds may blow just right one day and you may find, if only for a moment, that you love everyone you work with. Enjoy those times, for they are as magical as they are rare.

Through it all, there will be times when you thoroughly enjoy the work that you do.  Some of your time though, in the adult workplace, will haunt you far beyond quitting time and will disrupt your sleep on a regular basis. The older I get, the more I see this as being evenly balanced. Please remember though, that at the end of the day work is what we are here for, not retirement.

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Ultimately, if you can’t find a job that you love, or can’t learn to love the job you’re in, you may wish to create your own job and your own.  Of course, even when one is self-employed, a job is still a job. Self-employment is no guarantee for happiness, but it can put you in better field position.

Relationships…

Above all things, life is about relationships. Little else in your life will matter more than the relationships you experience along the way.  Appreciating the value of the relationships you maintain, and possessing the ability to understand why relationships so often change or deteriorate will be useful in finding your way in dark times.

People, you will learn, can be beautiful.  They can also be complicated, confusing, messy and tiresome.   At some point everyone gets dirty, bruised and ignored, and they will let you know it.  That they will let this bleed into their relationship with you only makes them human, not disposable.

You may be married someday.  If you are, that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable or tragic. If it’s like many, it will hold elements of all of those. It may also include divorce. Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage. Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state quality in a relationship.

Before marriage and beyond, there will be other relationships. Many of these will start off with promise, but will quickly dull. Others may end with you never really knowing why they ended, and wanting for more. You may ask yourself at some point; how many soul mates does one get…? At best, that question can create knots in one’s stomach. At its worst, it can paralyze you to a point of emotional stagnation.

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Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing. In relationships, it is best to wake up each day and do what you believe is correct that you win the day, even if it contradicts what you did the day before. That ideal by the way, can be superimposed over just about any situation or dynamic in life.

Loss…

You will have friends and loved ones who will get ill and recover. You will also have will have friends and loved ones who get ill and die. Nothing can prepare you for the shock you feel when a friend or loved one dies unexpectedly.  There isn’t anything you can do to prepare for how to handle this when it happens, but it will happen.

When it does happen, use these instances as perspective to better appreciate your own life, and those relationships that remain in it. Disease and loss never make sense, but they can make you appreciative anything and everything else, that much more.

Money And Freedom…

There will be times when you have money, and you will feel an overwhelming sense of security that fits you like a warm cocoon – don’t get used to it because it’s not likely to last. Other times you will be broke, question many of your spending choices and it will seem like the end of the world.  It won’t be the end of the world, though it should be the start of a new behavior.

At best, money is a useful tool, necessary to experience the freedoms and fulfillments that make life worthwhile.  That term, freedom, as most people know it, is an illusion destined to distort and disappoint. Ultimately, freedom means not doing the goose step down Main Street, and the proper use of money can help you avoid Main Street altogether – the road less traveled.

Lessons Learned…

There are lessons to be learned in every moment, every circumstance and every conversation you will ever have. Of course, you won’t find those lessons if you are not looking, listening and receptive to them.

Perhaps the most fruitful lessons you can hope to learn are those you will learn from watching others. Being a conscious witness to the joys, tragedies, triumphs and misfortunes of others is often the best way to assure your proximity to them.

Creativity…

If you can incorporate some level of creativity into your daily work, your life will surely be warmer. If there is no room for creativity in your workplace, finding a creative outlet beyond he workplace will help keep you whole, if not sane. Creativity is a gift we all possess, but very few take the time to explore it.  Exploring your creative side is just behind work and relationships in in the triage of what really matters.

I am reminded of the most formative movie line I know, written by John Hughes for the movie, She’s Having A Baby…

“In the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, that I was loved more than I loved, and in the end, I realized that what I was looking for was not be found, but to be created.”

That this was recited by Kevin Bacon, makes it that much sweeter.

You will be the creator of every single one of your days. I ask you rhetorically, what kind of day will you create today, that will be acceptable to you tomorrow…?

Taking 15 minutes every morning to build the day ahead of you, is an important exercise worthy of consideration.

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On Children…

I’ll suggest only one hard rule in all of this:  If you go on to have children, please don’t shelter them from the realities of life. Expose them to the beauty in life, but don’t screen them from the harshness and messiness of it all. Expose your children to life as it comes and teach them, as best you can, how to accept it. Be honest with them – all the time. Dishonesty with our children is the cause of more social decay than heroin and alcohol combined.

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Expose your children to who you really are without fear – regardless of how it may make you look in their eyes. Be humble when you are wrong, don’t gloat when you are correct, and when their names show up on caller ID, don’t ever let the call go to voicemail.

I wish you luck, graduate. Now get off my lawn!

Sincerely,

Still Learning

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Beyond Paris…

Over the last 24-hours, I have seen numerous reactions to the president’s proposed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.  Within my circles, I have seen little support for the president’s intentions – none.  I have though, seen much outrage.

As a fan of the planet, I appreciate that outrage and harbor a good bit of my own.  However, caring for the planet – being responsible stewards of the globe that contains us involves more than being concerned over greenhouse gases, ocean levels, pollutant particles in our lungs or even jobs.

My cursory understanding of the Paris agreement suggests it has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  Since animal cruelty (on the surface) doesn’t effect climate change, that makes sense.  Non-humans though, make up roughly 99% of all vertebrate creatures on earth.

You see where I’m going here…

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“Getchyer blue skies here!  Get ’em while they last…”

I have a hard time with people projecting so much concern over the state of the earth, when they still support the idea of lambchops, corndogs and dino-shaped chicken nuggets.  While it’s true that that food system and the issues of animal cruelty within it are very complex, I have a hard time listening to all the screaming and yelling about ocean levels by people who could care less about the screaming and yelling in slaughterhouses.

I’ve got some bad news for you that isn’t really news – it’s something we’re all aware of, yet unlike climate, we ignore this problem with our planet: the last thing a cow thinks before she takes 20,000 volts between her eyes and subsequently gets her neck slashed to be unceremoniously bled into a trough, isn’t…

“Good day, humans!  I’m allowing this act of cruelty so that Joe Schlepasaurus can take a break between refrigerator deliveries, and enjoy a ¾ lb. patty on all sesame seed bun…”

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From the garden and the market,,,,

No.  I suspect that the last thing a cow thinks before the deadly stun is this…

“Holy living fuck, human, please don’t kill me….!  I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!! Please!  Please!  Please!”

Of course, cattle levels aren’t rising and threatening coastal homes, and the pigs and hogs who give it all up for the sake of corndogs and prosciutto aren’t ever seen by good folks like you and me bitching about the president withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

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Will they rise up against us…?

I guess all I’m suggesting here is a little consistency.  If you’re willing to sound off about the oceans and the air, make a little noise too for your future rack of lamb.  That, or keep your mouth shut about the president’s intent with the planet.  I know, I know, shut up Roy and pass the mint jelly…  Jhciacb

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Peek Peak Pico…

The Pico…

Each morning I walk with my dog roughly 3/4s of a mile down a nature trail that runs through the middle of town.  By nature trail, I mean it’s a well planted and maintained trail where locals can navigate through town without the hassle of cars, traffic lights, too much noise or too many distractions.  It’s a path where people like me walk their dogs, while others amble along to be alone with their thoughts.  Others still, sit in an escape from the employee breakroom at work, and enjoy a brown bag lunch on a hand painted bench under a Jacaranda tree.  It’s a quiet place.

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Fallen tears of Jacaranda…

A creek trickles along the trial.  For three years, I lived in a little blue house directly in front of the creek.  Today I live one block to the east.  It’s a dirt path lined with bougainvillea, Brazilian pepper trees, wisteria, Jacarandas and a variety of grasses and succulents.

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The hardest working woman in town, Jackie Heyneman, oversees the maintenance of the trail.  Jackie has been a major financial contributor to the project, and continues to be the director of volunteers who maintain the trail.  There’s even a small park beside the trail that bears Jackie’s name.  Every so often I’ll see Jackie, now in her mid-80s, on her knees replacing a sprinkler head or planting new flowers.  Because the trail parallels Pico Avenue, it’s known as The Pico Trail.

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My old house…

Resident Non-Evil…

Pardon the contradiction, but The Pico Trail is home to a handful of my community’s homeless population.  Because the path is well hidden, these residents go largely unseen by the public and the police.  The Pico Trail intersects with three streets, each with a small bridge passing over the creek.  Those bridges make great shelters.  Look close enough and you’ll see mattresses for sleeping, pallets for burning, and the occasional trash bag or shopping cart full of clothes.

I speak to more homeless people by 6am than many people do in a month, or even a lifetime.  For their part, they are always respectful, if only loosely coherent.

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Shelter for a few…

The Pico Trail is also a gathering place for teenagers dressed in all black, carrying skateboards and wearing obvious disdain for authority figures.  I’m sure they feel more comfortable there, smoking weed and talking shit about their parents and teachers than they would hiding at home with their shades down and their bedroom door locked.  At least they’re outside.

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The trail is also a passage way, each morning for many of the Fallbrook’s day workers, casually peddling garage sale bicycles with their shirts tucked in, and saying please and thank you to everything that moves.   Some of them will stop on the trail after a long day of picking fruit or grooming properties, and will enjoy a taco and a beer on one of the benches as they make conversation with each other about the events of the day.  To me, this is the embodiment of the third-world charm that is a part of living in Fallbrook.

Curious Eyes…

For my part, the Pico Trail is a place disconnect and observation.  I disconnect from my job, and observe a handful of subcultures.  I greet everyone I meet, from dog walkers, to the homeless, to the day workers and even the wasted kids.  Without exception, my greeting is always returned.  Occasionally a slacker kid will just nod.  That’s oaky.

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A creek runs through it…

As far as these homeless go, it’s hard to say if they are here by choice, and that’s not for me to judge.  I have never been asked for money, they always call me sir and I have never felt like I was in danger in their presence.  When I think of the Pico Trail, it is the homeless who live there that I think of first.  Some I have seen there for many years, and I know them by name.  Others, they come and go.

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Names withheld.  long-time residents of the benches along the way…

I have long appreciated and felt kindred with the culture of homelessness.  I have lived my life close enough to the edge financially, as well as in matters of stress, that I can relate to both streams of homelessness; those there by circumstance and those there by choice.  My only real Plan B in life, should it all collapse or become too much to take, is to be a most aggressive bottle collector, and an astute connoisseur of good bridges, should I ever need to make one my own.  If it all comes undone, look for me first at the Pico Trail.

A Place For A Breeze…

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Nature’s better use of a storm drain…

Nothing big happens on the Pico Trail.  Occasionally some misplaced teen energy will break off a tree branch or paint graffiti on a bench.  Occasionally an argument takes place about who gets the last sip of Old English 800.  Mostly though, all passers by are respectful of the space.  It’s a 3/4-mile bridge between several worlds; the one beyond it, and the ones within it.  It’s beauty mark on the face of a small town…  Jhciacb

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A gramma and her boy under a jacaranda tree…

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Who Are These People…?

Friend or Foe-getaboutit…

When I began my first fitness blog in 2001, I developed a small, but dedicated following.  These were like-minded people who found value in what I was suggesting about the direction of fitness culture.  As near as I could tell at the time, there were a mere thousands of fitness blogs worldwide posting regularly.  By the time I shut that blog down in 2008, my following was roughly the same size it was when I began.  In 2008 though, there were millions of fitness blogs posting with regularity, most of them run by fitness hobbyists, not fitness professionals.

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OB Pier.  Friend Of The Devil…

Wanting to break from the direction of fitness blogging, and feeling like I had something worthwhile to say about the state of nearly anything, I began a new blog in hopes I would attract more readers.  However, up against millions of other blogs, I would fare no better with the new incarnation.  Some readers from my previous blog stayed with me, but my audience of millions eluded me.  Those readers who stayed with me, were my first online friendships.

Face Facts…

Listening to PRI’s Marketplace program one afternoon in 2007, I heard a technology executive state that anyone with a small business or a small idea who wanted to grow it, would be wise to utilize the up and coming social media site, Facebook.  Facebook, he claimed, was going to be the future of marketing and the future of communications.  The man suggested there would be profound advantages to any businesses getting involved with Facebook early, that would not be as advantageous for the latecomers.   I immediately opened a Facebook account, and shortly thereafter created a page in support of my business and my blog.

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Main Street, Bryan, TX

I knew few people in my analog life who were on Facebook at this point, but many subscribers to my blog were, so I extended those connections from my blog to Facebook.  I was now writing on 2 platforms for the same people.  Because the Facebook platform made it easier to cultivate discussions, plus it added an element of individuality, I got to know my readers on a more personal level, though the quantity of subscribers to the blog increased negligibly.

Eventually, I began making more personal connections on Facebook than business connections – friends of friends who I have never met, friends I knew from days gone by, plus more people in my daily life were taking the plunge.  At the peak of my first Facebook account (I have now had 3), I had roughly 2,000 friends.  That’s when it all got a bit sketchy.  I began to question the term friend.

As time doing more important things gave way to online time with my friends, I began to question how I was prioritizing Facebook.  I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace of posting, of scrolling and liking, and checking notifications with every break in my daily action.  Notwithstanding, my presence on Facebook did little to expand my business or my blog, and that was my primary reason for creating a Facebook account.  To make it more manageable, I pared down my friends from 2,000 to just a few hundred, and began to accept that this was now my social life, and had little to do with my business.

Living Alone With Hundreds…

For most of my life I’ve had few friends, and those who I called friend were friends for life.  I have always been appreciative, if not jealous, of people who seem to have many good friends.  I’m also an introvert with a pretty serious case of social anxiety disorder.  With Facebook, I came to life socially, and took on a noticeable confidence that I had not previously experienced.  I began accepting my friends, even those who I have never met, as real friends and friends for life.

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39,700 feet over the line of demarcation.  El Paso/Juarez

Suddenly, I was spending time each day with people I like, people who I thought were cool, intelligent, interesting or just had some level of awesome.  Strangely, at least some of them found those qualities in me.

Coffee in the morning was now shared with friends in Omaha and Brisbane, as evenings by my fire pit were shared with friends from Boulder to India.  I was living alone, but rarely alone.  For the most part, I found these friendships inspiring.  I was exposed to new music, new ideas, new books, recipes, new conversations and within them all was no shortage of sophomoric humor.  I looked forward to being on Facebook.

Life Sentence…

With some online friends, there has been no doubt that a person is a true friend.  Like in real estate, sometimes you just know.  There are at least a couple of dozen people who I would gladly go into battle with or for, yet we have never met face-to-face.  I might not even know what they do for a living or if they have children, yet I know they would have my back and I, theirs.

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Kyle Field, Texas A&M Campus

Other friends, have been more questionable – on some level, doubt about their intentions or sincerity occasionally bubbles under the surface in a why am I connected with this person kind of way.  It’s not that I inherently distrust them, it might be that I just don’t know them well enough – yet.  But that’s on me, not them.

There are also those incidental friendships – cyber-acquaintances; people I connect with superficially due to a common friend, common interest or both, but don’t spend too much time hanging out with.  It’s as though we just wave to each other as we pass in the hallway.

Always churning beneath the surface of any of online friendship have been two questions…

  • What do I really know about this person…?
  • If we were neighbors, would we hang out…?

Every so often during my daily scrolling, I will ask myself this of one friend or another.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever answered these questions honestly, since I rarely blocked or unfriended anyone.  I might not always like, comment or agree on their posts, but my friend for life rule reminds me that if I accept somebody into my life as a friend, I do so for life.   On occasion, I might question that rule, but it’s woven into the fiber of who I am – accepting of others as I want them to be accepting of me.

The Wear, Tear And The Joy…

Even online friendships can require work and maintenance.  In dealing with the half-dozen or so analog friends I had before the internet, nurturing those friendships could be draining.  Dealing with dozens or hundreds of relationships online can be outright exhausting.  Still, protection of the relationship is necessary for them to be true friendships.  This desire to protect is no different than with any other relationship, be it with my kid, my neighbor or my dog.  Getting along with a few friends takes work.  Getting along with a few hundred…

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Los Jilgueros Preserve, Fallbrook, CA

When I suggested to my online Ohana that I would be stepping back from social media for a month or so, a few people teased me about it…

“Here we go again…”  came my way from a few.  Others were understanding and wished me luck or hoped that I find what I’m looking for.  Largely though, my departure was probably more unnoticed than noticed, and there’s a lot to be learned about online friendships from that statement.

In an increasingly complex and changing world, the meaning of friendship changes too, just as the meanings of Republican, Democrat, Scholar, Doctor, Uncle, Mechanic and thousands of other terms have changed.  It’s just where we’re at.

The Love We Take…

I wrote this essay, and a few others before it, to help myself explore how social media fits into my life and into my head in this changing world.  I also wrote it to help me better understand what it means to be, and to be accepted as a friend.  I’m certain will write more on the subject.

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Jonathan Livingston Miagi, OB Pier

I have come to few conclusions about any of this.  Social media confuses me.  It benefits me.  It sucks up my time.  It inspires me.  It’s a release for me.  It’s my creative muse, my mistress, my downfall and my happy place – all at once.  But that’s not about social media, is it…?  That’s about me, the chaos in my head and my discipline, or lack of…

At the end of the day, life is about two things; work and relationships.  Social media, for me, has been an escape from one, and an extension of the other.  For nearly a decade, before I step into my shop each morning to earn my keep, I share time with like-minded friends that I might find inspiration or laughter.  When I close up shop at the end of the day, I have headed into the cyber world to vent, find inspiration or check out some new music.

For my part, I use social media to share interesting pictures, ideas or thoughts expressed with my words.  Sometimes it’s an online diary, other times it’s a place of worship, but I try hard to stay out of the mosh-pit of bad ideas.  I attempt to keep it positive and productive.

A Hot Spoon And A Keyboard…

On the heels Adam Alter’s book, Irresistible (which I cannot recommend enough), I realize that I have spent too much time on social media, Facebook in particular.  The good news is that I still find time for other things; analog friendships, outdoor activities, work and exercise to name a few, so I really can’t say that I’ve had an addiction.  It’s more like a codependency, but that too is on me, not social media.

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Vegan nightmare.  Treating my family to dinner at The Salt Lick, Austin TX

What I have learned most from reading about and writing about social media, and the one lesson I would like to share from this experience is this…

It’s okay to be alone, unplugged, and with nothing to occupy my mind other the sights and sounds of whatever is taking place in the vicinity of my front yard.  I live so much of my life with gusto and enthusiasm, yet rarely do I get a Jones to sit and forget all things.  Going forward, this will be a greater priority to me.  I will turn off my off my phone more.  Seek to be stimulated, entertained and amused less.  I will remember it is important to do nothing at all, and I will build that into my day. 

On getting back to my original question – the title to this essay, Who Are These People…?  Well, they are my friends, and if you are reading this, you’re probably one of them.  As to whether I go back to Facebook or Instagram at the end of my 30-day break, I probably will – probably.  If I do, I hope to use it more intelligently, and less…  Jhciacb

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Cra Cra Cra…

A Purpose Driven Mind…

Life, death and meaning – they have been woven through my thoughts since I can remember.  It consumes me; the value of a life, the reasons for death and the meaning of all that happens in-between.  I scarcely look at anything; my daughter’s eyes, a neighbor’s dog, a faucet, a fence post or a Pop-Tart without contemplating the value and the meaning of it all.

The biggest struggle I contend with is my daily steering between the great magnificence of life, and the utter insignificance of it all.  Not just my life and my meaning, but all the lives and meaning that are interconnected with my own at a given moment.

At the core of it are two opposing perspectives…

  • That in the scope of a vast and far reaching universe, the life of any being, critter or circumstance here on earth, seems insignificant, if not outright meaningless.
  • That in the scope of any moment, all life and circumstance I am proximate to and interacting with, be it my neighbor or a sea cucumber, is profoundly important and most meaningful.

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I think of light.  Of light being a wave or a particle, quantum physicist John Polkinghorne once wrote…

“Light can be a wave or a particle, but it can’t be both at the same time.  Ask light a wave question and it will give you a wave answer.  Ask it a particle question and it will give you a particle answer, but it can’t give you both answers at once…”

That’s how a feel about life most days; mine, yours or anyone else’s.  It’s either meaningless or important, but it can’t be both at the same time.

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The Spies Within Me…

Also in my head from an early age, were those people who I envisioned judging me.  As a child, I felt in a near literal way, that there was always a half-dozen or so people who had their eyes on me, 24/7.  These were a rotating cast of real life characters in my life, usually my elders, that I imagined viewing me and judging me from an ethereal conference room somewhere in the distance.  In my mind, they were observing me, discussing and deliberating over all my actions, yet never sharing their conclusions with me.

This feeling that a half-dozen or so people were watching me, influenced many of my actions and behaviors in my younger days. Sometimes my actions aimed to impress this pantheon in my head.  Other times, I allowed my thoughts and actions to drift into murky waters, without much regard for their opinion.

Though I would grow to disbelieve the people in my head were literally watching me, the feeling that I am constantly being watched and judged by those I look up to, has never left me.  I’m certain that feeling is the closest we can ever get to knowing God.

A Creative Outlet…

As a creative outlet, digital technology has given me the tools to express myself and to live my life in ways the analog world never had.  Social media has given me something to go with that – an audience.  That has been the most dubious aspect of social media for me – that more people than ever are judging my thoughts and actions, just like the pantheon of elders in my head when I was young.  Of course, this has been the result of me inviting them in, and subsequently throwing it all out there to be seen.

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For over a decade now, I have made good use of the tools of technology.  The tools I have used the most are the word processor and the smartphone camera.  They have become a part of how I think and an extension of who I am.  The vehicle that I have used to deliver my product of being me has been social media platforms such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even this WordPress blog.

I started slow, but my use/dependency on these tools and these platforms has increased over time, to the point where creating and sharing via digital technologies has become central to my life.  It has become my biggest active priority – perhaps too big.  I have come to view myself as a social media addict and artist; writer, photographer, moral philosopher and on occasion, even a comedian, who just can’t quit.

Somewhere along the way, the line between the analog Roy of yesterday, and the digital Roy of today has gotten blurry.  I often feel lost in the sense of who I really am.  Am I the guy who lived his life, for most of his life, keeping his thoughts and ideas mostly to himself, only to share them with a few close friends….?  Or, am I the guy who doesn’t think a single thought or make a single move without considering how my social media Ohana might react to it…?

I’m both, I suppose.  Like light being a wave or a particle, I just can’t be both at the same time.

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I’m now 10 days into a Facebook hiatus – again.  It has already become clear to me how significant the presence of social media has been in most of my thoughts and actions in recent years.  I’ve come to realize that under the surface in so much of what I do and what I think, I am constantly considering how my friends would view my thoughts and actions if I were to share them on social media.  I scarcely look at, do or think anything these days without wanting to share it, or at least consider how people might act if I were to share it.

With that said, my most challenging thought in stepping away from social media has been this:  What good is doing anything, if I’m not going to share it and have it be validated…?

The Junta In My Head Part II…

I’ve probably thought far too much about all of this, and if you’ve read this far, you probably agree.  I thank you for hanging in there with the crazy.

When I was 10 years old, I felt a half-dozen people or so, were watching my every move, and judging me.  I acted sparingly because of it, as I silently worked out the whys of life in my head.  Forty-five years later, thanks to the digital age, I now try to work out the whys of the world with my online performance art, and I’ve invited hundreds to view and judge my own personal Truman Show, you included.  I once thought the whole world was staged just for me, and mostly, I still do.  In the digital age, at least get to choose my audience.

As far as answering the all whys in the world, and searching for meaning, I’m certain life is meaningful and important.  I’m just as certain that all life is meaningless and unimportant.  And the only thing I think I truly know is that it can’t be both at once…   Jhciacb

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Evolution or Vomit…?

Late Baby Boomers and early Generation Xers don’t have much in common in the things that define our social sensibilities.  In politics, arts, sports, faith and much more, late Boomers and early Gen Xers tend to have different priorities, which often happens as one generation morphs into the next.  One thing we share though, is that we will be the only generation of humans who will have lived a fair part of our adult lives both before and after the advent of digital technology.

Though it’s true there were people born in the early part of the 20th century, before cars and before airplanes, yet lived long enough to see a man walk on the moon, the technical evolution they experienced does not compare well to the adults who woke up one day, and had the internet happen.  The technical evolution of the mid-20th century, was just that, a technical evolution.   Digital technology though, did not evolve, it vomited.

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My daughter wears a t-shirt that reads…

“One day I woke up, and the internet happened”

That’s not true.  It happened just a few years before she was born.  By the time she was in the 1st grade (1996), the internet was part of her daily life.  All of her sensibilities were cultivated in an expanding digital age.

I’m 55 years old.  If I consider my adult life to have started at age 20, then roughly ½ of my adult life has had access to the internet.  In blogging and social media, I have been a participant for nearly 1/4th of my adult life.  Assuming the internet isn’t a passing trend (wink), then when I die, I will have interacted with, if not been dependent on the internet for most of my adult life.  However, my adult sensibilities were all cultivated before the advent of digital technology, and before the internet.

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I obsess on that – that my adult values and sensibilities were formed before the influence of the internet, yet digital technology has been, and will continue to challenge those sensibilities for the rest of my adult life.  Because of this, I continue to wrestle with one question that nobody born into an already digital world will never have to address…

How has technology influenced or changed the way that I think…?

Of course, there’s no way to truly know this.  Most of my social contemporaries probably don’t care.  It keeps me awake though, it regularly interrupts my thinking process, and it bubbles under the surface of most of my thoughts, most of the time.

Perhaps a better question – if I go back a decade or so, is this…

How has social media influenced the way I think, and the way I behave…?

I’m going to spend the next few weeks, or perhaps the next few months, exploring those questions here on this blog, and I’m going to be very open and honest about it.  I’ve taken leave of all my social media platforms except for this blog.  Whether I return to them, I can’t say.

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As I write this, I’m halfway through the book, Irresistible, by Adam Alter.  If what I have written thus far has captured your attention, even a little, then I highly recommend this book, despite that I haven’t completed it yet.  I can already tell it’s one of the more important books I’ll ever read.

In an inverse irony, what has fed this blog going back nearly a decade, is that I have promoted it largely via social media.  That has worked well for me.  If you’re reading this, then you are one of just a handful of people who willfully subscribed to it, or had it fed to them via my email data base.  In either case, thank you for taking the time.

If a crazy man blogs in the forest, does he make a sound…?  Jhciacb

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I Don’t Recognize It…

Like many, my life changed significantly on November 8, 2016.  Also like many, I went to bed that night with a sinking feeling in my stomach – the aftereffect of an election result I never saw coming.  That feeling had little to do with my political sensibilities, and much more to do with my human side.

I accepted long ago, and well appreciate, that roughly one-half of the people reading this hold beliefs in matters of economics, militarism, religion, and education that are contrary to mine.  That there is such a balance of opposing opinions in this land, and that it ebbs and flows the way it has for a couple hundred years, is testament to the integrity of the Greek foundation of our society.

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Still, on November 9, I woke feeling a little dazed, a bit sad and somewhat of a state of shock.  Through the next couple of days, I began asking questions of myself, and answering them honestly – and being honest with myself has ever been my strong suit.  With each question I asked myself, and with each subsequent answer, I could feel my values taking deeper root, and solidifying in a way they had not previously flexed.

The two primary questions I asked myself were these…

  • What is truly important to me today…?
  • What was important to me yesterday, that is no longer important today…?

It is truly illuminating, what can be learned from answering those questions.

I asked myself, and continue to ask myself other questions derivative of the two questions above, but those two are the heart of the thing.

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The answers to the first question were few – less than 10, and I wrote them down so I can look at them each morning as I drink coffee and build my day.  I have been resolute in constructing each day since November 9, around the answers to that question.

The answers to the second question were more numerous, and I’m still writing them down, as that list of answers still grows.  Identifying what was important yesterday, but no longer is, is easy.  Eliminating those behaviors from my day-to-day actions, well, that’s an ongoing challenge, but one I am also committed to.

As I watch the behaviors of the man we elected, and who is now the 45th President of The United States Of America, I have a steady reminder of how I wish not to conduct myself, how I wish not to be seen, and how I wish not to be heard.  I expected that from day 1.  Politics, positions, and platforms notwithstanding, it’s my opinion that a man representing 300-million people should conduct himself with a little more decorum – a little more professionally, as most of his predecessors have.

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What I didn’t expect, and what most reading this might find offensive or even insulting, is that so many of the behaviors from people on both sides of this election, have affected me more than I would have imagined just 6 months ago.  That is, the behaviors of my teammates, as well as the opposition are eating away at my good moods just as much as the behaviors of the man on Pennsylvania Avenue.  I have never been so disappointed in so many people all at once.

Before one suggests that I’m looking to live in a world of rainbows and unicorns when it comes to the murky waters of politics, I am not.  I’m in favor of argument, disagreement, satire, lampooning and even insults when the time is right, when it is deserved and when it is tactfully done.  However, I don’t recognize what I’ve seen unfolding in recent months – it’s as though somebody spiked the national water cooler, and we’ve left our sober brains back at our cubicles.

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I’ve found at least one bright spot in all of this is, thought it is small relative to the entirety of the problem, but it is a bright spot none the less.  I have never worked so hard, nor been so committed to improving my behaviors when it comes to discussion.  In that sense, I’ve never been less ashamed to be myself or to be 100% honest while discussing politics, and I have become a committed listener!   For a Jewish kid raised on demerit slips, with a lifetime social anxiety disorder, that’s saying something.

We may not all agree on military, economic or education policy, but we should be able to discuss it.  I hope at some point we’ll agree on how we should conduct ourselves as a people when we disagree, though I see few signs among my social contemporaries that this will happen anytime soon.  I look to my daughter’s generation though – I hear her speak, I see how she interacts with her friends, and I see hope for more intelligent discussion down the road.  Still, I hope folks my own age and older can settle down just a smidge – speak a little more intelligently, and listen a little more attentively.

I think of that old locker room adage, you know, grab ‘em by the decorum…  Jhciacb

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Sweet Peachy Tea…

For much of my adult life, I’ve stated that every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  For the past 14 years though, I’ve been lying.  Peaches Fern Cohen, has held the highest place in my heart.  Not just in mine though, everyone fortunate enough to know Peaches, recognized that she was special.

Peaches belonged to my daughter, and her mother.  Peaches went home yesterday, to be with her sisters, Leilui, and Luna.

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If I could describe Peaches in one word, it would be Sunshine.  No ray of sun, shining down from the sky, ever touched or warmed me the way Peaches did.  It began with her face, which was sweetness incarnate.  It just wasn’t possible to look at Peaches without feeling her sweetness.  But that was just the first layer.  Beyond sweetness, there was the happy – and her happy was always turned on.

Except for the occasional grumbly stomach, broken leg, fractured spine, paralysis, or bladder reduction, Peaches radiated joy.  In fact, she experienced and survived all of those, and more – a big part of what made her exceptional.   Any one of those medical events might have taken her too soon, but not one of them did.  Each condition made her a little more fragile, but they also increased the worth of her spirit.  Her 14 years is a testament to the commitment she had to her loved ones, and ours to her.

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When I think of Peaches, my mind always sees her first, sitting outside beside the rosemary plant that she loved to smell.  Her face was often pointed to the sky, and it appeared that she was the one radiating warmth toward the sun.  Whenever I would see her like this, whatever toxins might be in my heart or mind, we instantly defused.

If I’m being honest, Peaches had an unusual look about her, but she made it work.  Due to the afore mentioned medical events, her body changed over time, becoming increasingly fragile.  A Pomeranian by birth, by the time she was 8 years old, she looked more like a punk rock Chinese Crested, mutating into a tiny pachyderm.  She used this funky look as both a fashion statement, and a way to make friends.  It wasn’t possible to walk Peaches without a stranger stopping to admire and inquire.  It almost always started with…

“Oh my god, she’s adorable….!”

The funny thing is, it was impossible to describe Peaches to a passerby with any detail, because once they saw Peaches, the person walking her became an invisible bystander.  People just marveled at her.

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One manifestation of the physical changes she endured, was a high arching spine.  This made her look like a little buffalo.  She often fulfilled the buffalo look by lowering her head into thigh of the nearest seated human – as a silent request to get petted.  If the petting hand would dare stop, the li’l buffalo would push her head harder into the human’s leg until they got the hint.

When she wasn’t being a buffalo, Peaches, always held her head high and looked up in wonder and in joy.  In 14 years, I never saw Peaches growl, snap, or display any intent towards another creature, other than kindness.  From her earliest days, she was a kind old soul.

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Every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  The one that rose above them all though, well she went home yesterday.  She is now free to smell the heavenly rosemary, to buffalo God’s thigh, and turn heads wherever she struts.

As Miss Trudy and I each held one hand to Peaches, our daughter was present in spirit.  Peaches lay calm on her belly, getting weaker, but still holding her head high.  Radiating sweetness till the very end, she was still looking up when she took her final breath.  Be well…  rc

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Irony At Easter…


One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this…

I have a network of friends, liberal, open-minded people, who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, smoked pot, or preferred having sex with inanimate objects, they would support me. Yet there is a duality in how they view people’s religion – they are against it.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist, it makes one an antitheist, and that’s dangerous. Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or a specific religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry, and cannot be justified, only rationalized. Hint: when you rationalize bigotry, you don’t look so good.

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Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. If we accept that cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, and that over time it weeds out traits that don’t serve the cause of advancement, then cultural evolution would have weeded out religion millennia ago. This has not been the case. Though religion has changed through the years, its practice is at an all-time high.

Religion, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of culture. All art began as sacred art. All social structure began as sacred law. All wonder, I believe, is rooted in sacred awe.

As millions of people celebrate Easter this week, I am saddened to see so many of my open-minded friends poking fun at the Christian faith in the forms of memes, sophomoric observations, and childish ridicule. We should do better than that.

To all my friends who celebrate Easter, may you celebrate in peace. To all my friends who ridicule the former, don’t be so gutless. Please support those who wish to celebrate in peace, as you would support those who would rather not.  Be well…  rc

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The Ultimate Weight Loss, Loss…

Proceed With Caution…

As a fitness trainer, I’ve been associated with roughly 40 people who have lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off. On one level, I feel pride in being part of those experiences. To have aided in such life changes, is near justification for choosing a career path which has been too often maligned.

However, there’s a darker side to the weight loss experience, and one I struggle with, even now. Going back 17 years, and with the exception of just one man I worked with in 2005, each person I have worked with who lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off, has ended up out of their relationship.  Marriage, engagement, boyfriend, girlfriend, or domestic partner, all but one I have helped, would go on to become single.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, and not just limited to the reckless abandon that one assumes might come with a new waistline.

Before I take this any further, I’ll state that this a singular set of experiences, that are exclusive to one fitness trainer, from a sample of roughly 40 people, and within a unique Southern California demographic.  I don’t mean to suggest that losing a lot of weight will doom a relationship.  However, the experiences I’ve seen unfold, might be a cautionary tale for some.

One: I’m Leaving…

“I’m planning to leave my husband/wife, and I want to be in the best possible shape when I start my new life…”

No sentence you ever hear, will sound as unsavory…

I have been approached with those words, or some similar, at least a half-dozen times since 2000.  My place is not to be judgmental, or even inquisitive, for they might be planning an escape from hell.  My place is only to determine whether I can help the individual with their weight loss objectives, or not.  If they are a viable candidate, I will accept them as a client.

Not too much to read between those lines though.  People who have approached me from this angle, are decisive, motivated, and usually successful in weight loss.  I do my job, wish them luck, and try hard not to get involved.
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Two:  Left Behind…

With most people though, the motivation isn’t abandonment.   The common motivations are usually wanting more energy, better health, increased longevity, more confidence, keeping up with the kids, etc.  If I’ve learned one thing about the psychology of approaching weight loss though, it’s that people can be dishonest when stating their motivations, and often aren’t aware of how dishonest they are being – even with themselves.

Give a middle-aged man or woman a new body, some opportunity (very often in the workplace), and it could be goodbye – if only for a while.  But it can be more complicated than that.  A person can lose a great deal of weight, change their life for the better, be the pillar of fidelity, and it can still go horribly wrong.

Often the other partner, if they are also overweight, but not motivated to lose weight, will feel left behind when their partner succeeds.  A division can form, and feelings of jealousy might manifest.  There can then be a withdrawal from, or even aggression toward the successful one.

The newly fit person might have a new life – the gym life, which will include gym behaviors, and may include gym functions and gym friends.  The couple now has less in common, and live more separated lives which, may go on to be separated lives.  I saw one woman eventually leave her husband, and partially blame me for her departure…

“I can’t stand who he has become…”

I don’t blame her.  I can’t stand who he became either, but my job was to help him lose weight, not carve out the new lifestyle he chose.

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Three:  Sabotage…

I have seen the left behind partner sabotage the successful one.  Repeated attempts are made to bate them into gaining the weight back, or derail the from their success – to keep that common ground.  This is also complex.

If going out for Italian, followed by ice cream, a couple nights per week is a standard practice and a time of enjoyment for a couple, then taking it away can be a legitimate loss for both parties.  For one party though, there is a good tradeoff for that loss – a new body is the reward.  For the other, the evening they looked forward to all week is suddenly gone.  That might be one evolutionary step toward separation of values, which might lead to a separation of other things, each other included.

I had one client tell me, as she was in the process of losing 80 lbs., that each time her husband came home from work, he would drop a King Size Snickers in her lap.  Why would a spouse do this…?

One possible reason is that his wife had begun turning heads wherever they went.  She was a grounded and devout wife – the embodiment of fidelity.  However, his insecurity had convinced him that her new abs were going to lead her astray.  This snowballed to the point of serious friction.  Never once did she stray, but he became jealous and even accusatory.  If nothing else, he no longer believed he was good enough to keep her – despite her assurances.  They are no longer married.

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Four: Separate Lives…

A scene I have been guilty of myself:  A dinner table is set.  The family sits down.  Dad is eating broccoli, brown rice, and skinless chicken breast.  Mom and the kids are eating lasagna with breadsticks.  After a while, the smell of the lasagna gets the better of dad.  He breaks down and finishes what his family leaves behind.  A few hours later, he’s mad at himself for cheating on his diet.  Out of frustration he becomes grumpy with his family.  They spend the evening separately.

Eventually, and solely to avoid the temptation of lasagna, dad begins eating at a separate time of the evening than his family, and/or in a separate room.  This probably isn’t going to work out too well for family unity.  Either dad caves and forsakes the diet for the sake of peace in the family, or it becomes a bigger priority to him to avoid his family at dinner time.  That might be one more evolutionary step toward separate lives altogether.

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Those are just some of the scenarios and complications which might result from a successful weight loss.  I have seen all of those, and many more play out before me.  There are many more angles and possibilities when it comes to the effect of weight loss on relationships.  The point of this isn’t to disclose them all, as much as it is to illuminate to any reader that there can be more than weight lost in the course of weight loss.  There is a darker side, and few people care to talk about it.

Back To Honesty…

Ten years ago, I participated in online conversation, hosted by one of the premier weight loss bloggers in the country at that time.  There were roughly 30 participants.  As I described some of the scenarios above to this group, many participants, all of whom were successful at losing weight, were quick to tell me that they did not have those experiences, or any similar.  Rainbows rained.  Unicorns grazed.  And happy hubby loved the new bod!  Amen.  The problem is, it wasn’t true.

After the chat was over, I was met with a half-dozen emails, confessing that their relationships were in jeopardy, coming apart, or already ended – all due to their weight loss, but they didn’t wish to make that public.  That was the first time I had ever considered that my profession, along with my good intentions, had played a role in couples coming apart.  Though I don’t hold myself accountable for the separation or divorce of any client as a result of helping them lose weight, I now approach weight loss candidates with great apprehension.

Yesterday I interviewed a potential weight loss candidate – she wants to lose 75 lbs. When we spoke on the phone three nights ago, I didn’t ask if she was in a relationship.  I was concerned only with her objective, and with whether I might help her fulfill it.  She will begin working out with me next week.  I hope to have the good sense not to warn her if looks like she’s going to succeed.  I’ll just stand by quietly, and watch as she navigates the minefield of that comes with profound change, and I’ll hope she’s the exception to this pattern…  Jhciacb

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Tale Of Two Teams…

In the 1st grade, I played for 2 baseball teams. One team, the Oaks, was structured. We had a coach, uniforms, space at the municipal park, good equipment, officiating, monthly dues, a specific pecking order of players, and parental pressure. Our competition was assigned to us. On my first day with the Oaks, I didn’t know most of the players.

My other team didn’t even have a name. We had no schedule, we had to find, or create our own space to play, had rag-tag equipment, and a loose pecking order of players which rotated – depending on who might be available to play.  Though we occasionally had new players join us, the concept of the team was born because we all knew each other, liked baseball, and wanted to play.  Of competition, we had to seek out our own – similar groups of like-minded, anxious boys, fighting off the ailment of boredom. Leadership manifest Darwinian style.

Though I played hard for both teams, and many of life’s lessons were learned with each one, I more enjoyed, and feel I got more out of playing for my loosely structured friends team. I feel this way, because it wasn’t a construct – we weren’t placed within it.  We owned it.

There was creative fulfillment in assembling equipment, finding a field, seeking out competition, and scheduling our games.  Length of game, flexible rules, tools of the game, game times, and who played which position, solidified organically.

There was though, one conflict inherent with playing for two teams at once – that there were times when I had to choose which team I was going to play for, on those Saturdays when each team was an option. Since mom and dad paid the bill for the Oaks, my requirement to play for them superseded my desire to play with my friends.  Fortunately, no direct competition ever existed between my league team, and my friends team.

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Scanning the headlines today, I see myself once again as a player on two teams. The first team, the Planet Earth. The other team, Team Human Beings.  I have a deep appreciation for, and profound responsibilities on behalf of each team.  As I reflect on the baseball of my youth this morning, I’m conflicted over who I should be playing for.  This time, mom and dad don’t get to make the decision for me.

On this day, my team of Human Beings, with its new coach, has chosen direct competition – to play against my friends team — Team Planet Earth.  Since I have appreciation for, and responsibility toward each team, my temptation is to forfeit – and I think of Shakespeare…

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…”

Or was it Neil Peart…?  No matter.

I am partial to the human animal, since I happen to be one, I have an inherent tendency toward that allegiance.  Sitting here though, contemplating – recognizing the Earth’s history as being far greater – far more significant than that of man, I choose that team — Team Earth.  I can only hope that 300,000,000 people will stand beside me, and switch teams.  That, or get out and vote in the coming elections to help Team Human Being elect a new coach, and a new managerial staff…  Jhciacb

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The Laundry…

Why do I take so many pictures each week, and post them on social media, you may ask…? The answer should be obvious, or even ingrained with the pictures and accompanying words, but allow me to explain…

It’s a practice I began a couple of years ago to (help) offset the negativity, and the forced agenda that goes with social media. By forced agenda, I mean the relentless cramming of hatred, bad ideas, fear, and ignorance down the throats of others, by way of memes, slanted news stories, gossip, outright lies, and inappropriate jokes and pictures.
If my own feed is any indication, this is a battle I’m losing, though I’m still committed to.

To my way of thinking, and I’ll admit I might be wrong, there can only be a few reasons to propagate such negativity on social media:

– To Promote one’s self as intellectually superior to others
– To hurt or shame others
– To change the minds of others
– To win favor with others of similar ilk
– To release the buildup of fears and frustrations growing within

Beyond these, I don’t see any reasons to share negativity on social media. Still, it dominates my feed. I will gladly entertain other reasons if you wish to present them to me, but come prepared…

A friend once said to me…

“What’s the point of having a strong opinion if you can’t cram it down someone’s throat…?”

Sadly, he wasn’t joking.

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Sharing a strong opinion without invitation, is like wiping a dirty diaper across the faces of many others, and all at once. If one’s hope is to clean the smears of crap left by that dirty diaper by wiping another dirty diaper against it, well, that might be a fool’s task.

I’m not suggesting there isn’t any meaning or fulfillment for the people who share and propagate social media negativity. I am suggesting though, that there is little social value in it.

So, I walk daily. I think. I take pictures, and share – all in hopes that helps offset the negativity of social media. Maybe a good thought and good photograph, is just a kind of daily laundry, to help clean up after bad ideas… Jhciacb

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The Rain Delay…

Even casual sports fans have seen the effects of a rain delay.  An outdoor sport is called to a halt by the officials, only to continue later, and reach the inevitable win/lose conclusion.  Fans wait anxiously.  Players wait anxiously.  And all involved, it seems, can’t help but feel the outcome will be tainted.

Without exception, 50% of the fans will be certain that the game resulted with the wrong conclusion, influenced by the stoppage, even if their team was well behind at the onset of the delay.  The other 50%, however, will be equally certain that their team would have still won, with or without the influence of the rain delay, but the asterisk will haunt them.  Of course, there’s no way the alternative result can ever be known beyond the great, WHAT IF…

What takes place after a rain delay, is what takes place, and until humans are better able to control the flow of rain during sportsball events, we should accept the results – just like we accept the results of political elections.  Wink…

I had my own rain delay of sorts yesterday, though it wasn’t as critical as game 7 of this World series, past.  My early morning walk yesterday, was put off for a few hours by a late-season storm.  I was anxious.  My dog was anxious.  We were certain the outcome would be tainted.  However, thanks to a mid-morning cancelation in my schedule, which came after the rain subsided, we were provided the opportunity to walk – after the rain delay.

Unlike in sport, the result of our rain delay offered two winners, me and my dog, with no losers and no thinking about the great, WHAT IF…

As he and I are both fans of, and participants in our morning walks, 100% of us agreed with the result, and there was no grumbling from Stroodle or myself about the effect the rain had on the outcome of our walk – the conclusion was stunning.  Here’s some proof of yesterday’s outdoor game. May you all engage in such sport, daily… Jhciacb

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Appreciating Goodbye…

The last time I saw my father was in the assisted living facility where he resided in Las Vegas.  He had been on hospice for several weeks.  My brother and I made the trip to see him in Mach of 2012, to say goodbye, both knowing we would never see our father again.

The three of us sat in the commons area of the facility.  My brother and I shared a sofa, with our father beside us seated on his motorized scooter.  We made small talk.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The last memory I have of my father is of him eating a lime green Otter Pop, wearing a yellow t-shirt, and questioning a caregiver about something insignificant.

When it was time to leave, I stood up, bent down, and hugged my father.  I then told him I loved him, kissed him on the head, and turned swiftly attempting to hide the lump in my throat, and the tears forming in my eyes.  I headed out the door, and into my rental car to wait for my brother, who would say goodbye after me.

Looking back, I wish I had been more engaged – that I asked him more questions, fostered a more sincere dialogue, but I didn’t.  I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel, to sip tequila, watch Sports Center, hit the treadmill in the morning, and get on with my life – to focus on the next Roy things.

Last week, my mother, in her 80s, flew across the country to say goodbye to her younger brother who is on hospice, the result of the cancer which spreads within.  It was a very hard trip for my mother; long flights, long car rides, staying in a strange bed, etc.  The trip clearly wore my mother out.

She has since told me of the conversations she and her dying brother had – that they held hands several times, that they laughed, cried, shared memories, and that she kissed him before they said goodbye.

She was there out of the deep love she has for her brother – for her family.

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When I said goodbye to my father, if I’m being honest, it was much more out of obligation.

It’s only now, 5 years after he’s gone, that I think to have held his hand, to have engaged him in greater conversations, and to have seen him for what he was – my family, my father.

If we are lucky enough to know – to understand that we are saying goodbye to a loved one, the best thing we can do is to make that opportunity about them.  I failed at that the day I said goodbye to my father.

And I ask myself this morning, is a lesson learned too late, a lesson learned at all…?  Jhciacb

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It Always Passes…

Dark times come, but they always pass – they always pass. Waiting for depressed or suicidal feelings to pass might be the hardest thing I live with from week to week, and day to day.  I hope to remind those who also live with such feelings, that they will always pass.

For many, depression or suicidal feelings are foreign and unrelatable.  For others, if we are lucky enough to connect, it’s as though we share a common language which we’re afraid to speak in public, for fear having a net thrown over us. Throw a net over everyone who lives with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, and say goodbye to most artists, many creative thinkers, and all baristas everywhere.

I have lived with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was in elementary school. These often need to be dealt with daily. When I frame it that way, I have been successfully taking on and overcoming such feelings for more than 50 years. Do something regularly for 50 years, and one is likely to be good at it.

I am quite adept at finding ways to ride out the storms of chaos in my mind, because experience has taught me that it passes – it always passes.

At the end of the day, for me, the idea is to do whatever is necessary to win the day. This might include music, food, or companionship.  More likely though, it involves exercise, solitude, and nature.

Last night I was in dark place.  The reasons why aren’t important.  Exercise didn’t make a dent.  Nature helped, but not a great deal.  So, I sat home alone.  I reached out scarcely on social media, and was met with a wave of kind thoughts and well wishes.  That helped more than I can convey.

A simple comment was all it took to reassure me, and to remind me I’m not alone.  I was taken by the number of replies I got; emails, text messages, and phone calls comforted me until bed time.  It wasn’t too long before I was centered once again – and grateful for the flow of compassion.

It passed.  It always passes.

Today is a new day.  As I sipped coffee this morning, after a good night’s sleep, I held close to my dog.  As his chest moved in and out in my hands, and as his eyes declared the peace within, I felt needed, if not inspired.  As I reflect on all who reached out last night, I am humbled.

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Today there is dew on the grasses in the meadow, and blossoms waiting to be photographed by me.  Clients need to be trained.  Dishes need to be washed.  And a little girl, who ain’t so little anymore, still owns my heart.

Last night, with the help of social media, and with the compassion of many friends, I won the day.  It passes.  It always passes.. Jhciacb

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING A HEAVY DEPRESSION OR SUICIDAL FEELINGS, REACH OUT.  THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE IS 800-273-8255.

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A Mensch Buys Karma…

“You can’t buy karma” a friend recently told me.

Buy it…?  I replied, hell, I’m investing heavily in it!  Perhaps…

I probably come across, at least in the social media sphere, as a bit of a mensch.  Of course, I like that identity, but it’s not the whole story.

A year ago, I invited my mother to live with me.  This would be a win/win scenario.  I would be proximate to her and able to assist her with increasing needs as she ages.  In return, she would be able to clean up after me, do my dishes, cook, and split the utilities.  I win – again and again, hence, win/win.

And I do look out for her.  I make her coffee each morning, and bring the paper to her in bed.  I take her to Walmart, on the occasional casino trip, and I accompany her to all medical appointments.  When called upon, I do the heavy lifting around the house, and any carrying she requires. So, mensch!

But that’s not the whole story…

Yesterday, as I grew frustrated with a question she asked repeatedly, I threatened to shove a tennis ball in her mouth and wrap her head in duct tape if she spoke so much as another word.  I’m not sure the people behind us in the checkout line took this seriously, but when mom rolled her eyes and threated to beat my butt, I think they understood my threat was one of endearment.

That’s become my persona with her.  Whenever mom says something asinine, which might be every hour or so, I point my finger toward her nose and say something like…

…I’ve got two words for you, woman:  Nursing Home!

She always responds with, “I’ll beat your butt!”  or the more resolute, “I’m the parent here!!!as she stares me down.

I joke with my mom quite a bit like this – too much, I’m sure.  On a deeper level I know this bothers her, and in some ways, might even hurt her, but I keep doing it.  It’s how I cope with the frustrations of helping someone who is aging, forgetful, and doesn’t process as quickly as she once did.  She isn’t ready to let go the control of her life – or even loosen up the grip a bit, and I don’t blame her.

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Despite the often sharp and serrated edges that can accompany my sarcasm and humor, I appreciate that she acknowledges and puts up with my frustrations.  Viscerally, I know that she recognizes that the real love is in the bringing of the coffee, the doctor’s visits, and the trips to Walmart when I would rather be hiking.

This isn’t always easy for either one of us, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of love in the house, and that’s good enough for me.

“You can’t buy karma” a friend recently told me.

Maybe not.  Perhaps the best we can hope to do is to purchase good field position…  Jhciacb

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Dress Down For Success..

I spend all day dressed as expected – in lose fitting shirts and athletic shorts with an elastic waistband. It’s the official uniform of male fitness trainers everywhere.

Though keeping in good physical shape is a requirement for my vocation, keeping in perfect shape is not. This means my elastic waistband reminds me of my dietary sins – all day long, every day.

I spend my entire working life with me elastic waistband judging me for not being as lean as a fitness trainer should be. This brings a negativity that bubbles under my psyche, all day long, and is reflected in my job – at least from my side of the partnerships.

When I am not otherwise engaged in fitness training though, I remain in shorts, but in casual Bahama shorts, with a loose-fitting waistband. Wearing these, I’m always in a better mood – always, because my waistband isn’t reminding me I’m not perfect.

Last week, as I prepared to step into my studio for my Saturday sessions, and for no reason I can explain, I chose to wear my loose-fitting Bahama shorts, rather than my athletic shorts with the elastic waistband. A funny thing happened – I was in a better mood all day long, for actually being comfortable.

I spent that Saturday conducting fitness sessions in a uniform that more resembles that of a Jimmy Buffet fan than a fitness trainer – and it was one of the best workdays I have had in years. I was in a good mood. I was more engaged with my clients. I was having fun, and there was no constant reminder that I’m not 6-pack lean.

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And there’s where the lesson is for me – I think, that dressing for comfort vs. expectations keeps me in a better mood, me more engaged with my clients, and they all seem to notice and appreciate the difference. I have worn Bahama shorts most days since that Saturday.

So, the question I’m now chewing on is this…

In a necktie and long skirt world, what does this tell me about the comfort of clothing as it relates to jobs well done…?

On one level, I get the ideal of the value of uniforms and decorum for a properly organized social structure, business or otherwise.

On another level though, if an elastic waistband can keep me uptight and on edge executing such a simple job, then what’s happening beneath all the neckties and pantyhose in all the boardrooms, courtrooms, offices, and the in halls of Congress…?

Maybe society would function better if we all dressed as Parrot heads.  Fins to the left… Jhciacb

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The Family Next Door…

Each morning, in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others…

I have lived in my current house for almost a year.  I’m happy here.  I enjoy it.  This is home now.   The family next door is a landscaper, his stay at home wife, and their two adult children; a son and a daughter, each in their early 20s.

My neighbor’s yard is separated from mine by a chain link fence with wooden slats woven through the links – it’s very 3rd world.  A double gate separates their driveway from the street we share. That gate more resembles a junkyard entrance than that of a home. The junkyard comparison is only reinforced by the two pit bulls with heavy chain collars who patrol behind the gate.

Unless otherwise barking at the postman, squirrels, or falling palm frawns, the dogs sleep, and occasionally amble between several old cars on blocks, the old refrigerator, and the dead tress which give my neighbor’s back yard its lived in look.

The gate to the driveway is bound shut by a heavy chain, and a giant padlock.

One sign reads…  PRIVATE PROPERTY

The other… BEWARE OF DOG

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Each time someone comes or goes from my neighbor’s property, the chain must be unlocked and removed.  That operation is noisy.  The chain clanks as it falls, the dogs bark, and the gate screeches on its axis as it drags against the dirt below.

My neighbors come and go all day long – often 10-12 times per day, between the 4 of them.  At least once per hour, I hear the chain, the gate, and the barking dogs.  Add to that, when either of the adult children come or go, the stereos in their cars thump so loud that vibrations transcend, and the walls and windows of my own home shake.

I don’t like these people.  I try to like them, I really do, but I can’t seem to.  I don’t like that I don’t like them, but I don’t like them.

I wave.  I say hello.  When I attempt to greet them, the two parents acknowledge me, but do so scarcely, and usually looking down.  At best I get a slight head bob or a weak hand gesture.  The two adult children have never even made eye contact with me – it’s as though they live in another dimension of time and can’t see me.

The son always wears a wife-beater t-shirt.  His tough guy face is puffy and not all that tough.  His tattoos are many, and probably mean something to him.  His physique sloppy and resembles a bowling pin.  I dislike him the most because of the falseness of the bad attitude he attempts to convey. I feel more laughter than intimidation when I see him.

At night, mother, father, and the two children spend much of their time in the back yard.  The barbecue fires, mariachi music emanates with a tinny sound from a small radio on the hood of one of the old cars.  Voices and laughter are frequent. It’s the sound of a happy family.

I speak no Spanish so I have no idea what they are saying, but I recognize joy in the conversation.  They seem to live, love, and enjoy each others company.  They do this every night.  They are a family in a way which is foreign to me.  I have never been a part of a family like this.  I am jealous.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like them – that they get family right, and I have failed at it multiple times. Yeah, that’s probably it.  I have failed at family, and despite their gruff appearance, they seem immersed in it, and fluidly.

Each morning in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others.  By 9:00am most days, I have screwed it all up.  Still, I keep trying.  In writing this today, I think I like my neighbors a little more now, and myself, probably a little less.  Family…  Jhciacb

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Value-Added Behavior…

In no scenario, in my opinion, does insulting a person or a group add value to a situation, conversation, or cause. The moment a name is called or a disparaging remark is made, any objective in dialogue slows down, ceases, and can even reverse course. If productivity is the objective of a conversation, it can no longer be maximized once unnecessary negativity enters the conversation.

I’m not saying it doesn’t feel good to insult somebody, or to reach high and spike their argument back over the net – it can feel great, but what has it accomplished…? In any scenario, negative discourse won’t add value to the cause, and may actually take away from it.

Still, we bathe in it daily. Go sixty minutes without being proximate to a caustic conversation and it’s likely you are alone, and with no electronic window to the rest of society.

In his very important book, Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft, author Douglas Johnson offers multiple examples of why he attempts to keep all adversarial dialogue on a positive note. There are so many good examples of this in the book, it should be required reading at the State Department…

…and it was, for a very long time.

“Allowing negative discourse” suggests Johnson, “is to work against the evolution of culture itself.”

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I like that perspective; that each time we use an insult or barbed comment, we are taking a hack at forward moral progress. Imagine if, just for a moment, we all ceased to did this. We we would be engaged in value-added behavior. Think about that; value-added behavior. I like it. I’m down. And the men who hold high places… Jhciacb

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Read…

Read to your child.

Read to her from the day she is born.

Read to her every day.

Read to her until she can read her first word, then let her share in the reading.

As she can read more, encourage her, and read less yourself.

Hear your child read – listen to her read.

Let her know you are listening.

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This is good practice, not just practice for a child’s reading, but
practice for a parent’s listening.

Read to your child… Jhciacb

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C’est La Vie, Say The Old Folks…

Last night I witnessed a most humbling act of human love.  I was invited to dinner by oldest client, a 91-year old widow.  Also invited were Dick, a retired Marine Colonel, his of 54 years, Beth, and my mother.

Just over a year ago, Beth had a stroke which almost killed her.  When I say “almost killed her”, a mutual friend had called me the night of the stroke and suggested Beth wouldn’t make it more than a few hours.  I went to bed that night believing she had already died.  Goes to show you never can tell…

Beth would spend weeks hospitalized, and in an unconscious state.  Eventually she would regain limited motor function and be transferred to a skilled nursing facility where she would reside for months, barely able.

In time, Beth would be sent home to be cared for by her husband, with a vigilance and determination no medical facility could provide.  She now has an obvious awareness and presence of being, limited motor function, limited and delayed speech, and is wheelchair bound – and that’s where I witnessed a love like no other.

When they arrived at Dinner last night, I met Dick at the driveway to assist him with getting Beth out of the car.  Like a good Colonel, he cast me aside with an arm gesture and a grumble, and stepped in for a job only he could do.

As Beth sat in the car, Dick leaned in and wrapped his arms around her, locking his hands against her back and began to hoist.

“Come on, Babe.”

“Help me out, Little Lady.”

“We’re almost done.”

Beth, frail and unable to help, smiled each time Dick spoke.

The tenor of his voice was soft and quite reassuring.  The hold he maintained as he transferred her to the wheelchair was better than any firefighter.  All the while…

“Come on, Babe.  Thank you, little Lady.  Let’s do this together…”

Throughout dinner, Dick doted over her like they were in high school.  All evening, Beth smiled with eyes so bright they were in a perpetual state of big and round.

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Dinner was good.  I ate too much, but in a room full of post-depression era people, piles of food kept flowing, and who was I to argue.

The evening’s nutrition though, for me anyway, came not from the food, but from witnessing the love of man for his wife who nearly died, but stuck around finish what they had started so long ago…  Jhciacb

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The Great Peace…

One of my favorite compiled statistics from Steven Pinker’s, Better Angels Of Our Nature is this…

If you were born the day World War I began, and died the day World War II ended, you lived in the most violent period in human history.

However, if we extend that window just a single year on either side – if you were born 1 year before the start of World War I, and died just 1 year after the end of World War II, despite the millions of deaths from both wars, you would have still lived in the most peaceful time in human history.

That’s how peaceful we had become as a species by the mid-20th century; that the years prior to, and post the two World Wars were such a time of peace, that it adjusts and offsets the skew of the two greatest tragedies of that period.

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It’s easy to think we live in the most violent time on earth. This is part of why I believe the biggest crisis we face today is the crisis of perception – most people believe we live in extremely violent times.

Most people believe what they see, read, or hear – so long as that’s what they wish to believe, this included.

Historians though, social scientists, and even amateur body counters agree, we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. We have bounces, but the direction is clear… Jhciacb

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The Excavation Of Morality…

Long before single-celled organisms, complex organisms, and long before factories, TVs, and political discourse gone bad, there was the framework of math. Mathematics is woven into the structure of all things.

Math wasn’t invented, as Einstein suggested, it has been there all along, to be discovered as we pull back the layers of the Earth’s natural existence to create our own human existence.

As we excavate to what’s already there, in order to create more of what doesn’t really need to be there at all, we always find math in the digging.  Sometimes the math isn’t what we were expecting, but when we find it, we know it to be undeniable, and true.

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So too is the fabric of morality, I believe, woven into all things. Not to be invented, but to be discovered as we peel back the natural world to make our little human nests.

I see that this week – that we are excavating a morality that already exists.  As things unfold in politics and government – as we dig out and around the bones of our political structure, we are exposing more moral truths every single day. These truths though, have been there all along, even before the Earth calmed and cooled.

Moral truth is as real as math – it underlies and exists within everything.

At the end of the day, moral truth can’t be changed or proven wrong, any more than a mathematical equation can be changed or proven wrong.  This brings me comfort… Jhciacb

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The Key…

Survival Of The Negotiator…

In a Max World, I like my odds. Not because I posses exceptional survival skills, grit, and physical resiliency, though I have enough of each to get me started.

I like my odds because I know how to get along with people – even with people whose values and my own might be at opposition. That skill-set goes a long way when things in the moment seem to be coming undone.

I speak one language, English, but I speak it differently as needed throughout the course of my days. I speak in the English people need to hear. With a Texas friend, I might speak a little more casually, extend my vowels a little more, and add in some lesser words that ain’t always proper.

When speaking to a friend with a math or science background, I find myself slower to respond, more linear in discussion, thinking through answers more clearly, and always concise.

I don’t just do this with language, but also with values and ideas. There’s not two sides to every story. There are infinite facets, angles, and sub-stories. Fractals apply to ideas as well.

When I sense conflict or even mutual distrust, I break the argument down, layer after layer, until I find a mutual talking point. When I reach that point, I push the pause button and try and build the conversation from there. This usually works – usually, and that’s the key.

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That ability might be the most useful, non-academic skill that I have cultivated through my conversations over crunches.

In a Mad Max world I like my odds. Not because I’m tough, but because I know even the toughest opposition usually has a mutual talking point… Jhciacb

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Mariah Sucks…

The wind can go fuck itself.  Really, it can.  And no, this isn’t going to be some mindful shtick, like my usual shtick, with a touchy-feely message woven into it by the end.

The wind can go fuck itself.

I have been proximate to, or affected by every natural disaster except for a tsunami.  Volcano, hurricane, tornado, mudslide, dust storm, flood, blizzard, avalanche, earthquake, fire, and probably a few I can’t recall, have each threatened my family, my own life, or my home.  Wind, to some degree, is a colleague to many of these, though not always.

Truth be told, I love natural disasters and extreme weather phenomenon.  I look for them when I can, and enjoy them when they find me.  I will go out of my way and take great risks to stand at the shoulder of a disaster, or even within that disaster, and always in awe.  When in the throes of an organic upheaval, I am like a child on a thrill ride.  And what is a natural disaster, but the ultimate thrill ride…?

I have always accepted wind as a necessary ingredient to propel and expand most these phenomena.  After all, what is a fire, or a hurricane, a tornado, or a blizzard without wind…?  Wind on an otherwise clear day though, is the ingrown toenail of weather phenomenon.  At best, wind on a clear day is annoying.  At its worst, it’s hateful.

We’ve had 3 weeks of on again off again rain here in Fallbrook, and with some very powerful winds.  Despite the devastation which resulted from these storms, I have enjoyed every moment, though it has kept me from my cycling routine.  Today I woke to a blue sky, and a day which promised to be clear all day and near 70 degrees.  Thanks to a couple of cancellations at the peak of the sun, I found myself with a warm afternoon off.  My bike was calling me.

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I wasn’t too far from the house when I turned from northbound Main Avenue to the eastbound Mission Road  when it hit me; a dry Santa Anna which slowed me immediately and nearly stood me up.  Oh, and I was then heading uphill.  I found myself tucked and hiding behind my lower gears like they were my momma’s apron when I was a child.  I was defeated before I had gone 2 miles.

I hate riding in the wind.  Hate.   New York Yankee hate.  Dallas Cowboys hate.  Adolph Hitler hate.  Albertson’s grocery store kind of hate.

A quick right turn and I was headed home, beaten and demoralized before I got out of town.  I would return to my fitness studio and spend an hour or so on my stationary bike to undo the shame.  I pushed it up to the window where I would peddle and watch the wind blow the eucalyptus and palm trees like they were weeds in the distance, but even with the windows and door open it wasn’t the same.

No sense of freedom.  No immersion into nature.  Just mechanical cardio to clear my head.

Despite that I exercised – that I did do more than most people do on a given day, I couldn’t shake that I am quitter, a loser, and that I suck as a human being for tucking tail and heading home, beaten by the wind.

But unless it’s accompanying the natural disasters which so amuse and entertain me, the wind can just go fuck itself.  It just can…  Jhciacb

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Ass Chewing: It Leaves A Bitter Aftertaste.

If your job is to land jets on an aircraft carrier, it’s assumed that you are good at it.  That’s why you get a paycheck.

Say one day you have bad landing.  Your commanding officer witnesses this and gives you an ass chewing.  Your next landing is noticeably better, and your CO sees the difference.  He assumes that the ass chewing got you to raise your game, and now ass chewing is deeper in his leadership DNA.

Conversely, one day you have a particularly good landing – a textbook landing, and your CO sees it.  He’s delighted, so he praises your competence.  Your next landing isn’t as good, so he assumes his praise caused you to ease up on your attention to detail.  From this, he chooses to avoid praises in leadership style for its obvious detriment to the cause of landing jets safely on deck.

Here’s the thing; you’re there landing jets on small spaces because you’ve been proven competent at doing so.  On average, you always get the job done within the scope of expectations.

Truth:  An exceptional landing will almost always be followed by a lesser one.

Truth:  A poor landing will almost always be followed by a better one.

It’s the law of median effect.

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Yet much of our institutionalized instruction is rooted in the discipline of ass chewings.  Academia, sports teams, our military and so-on depend on ass chewings to raise their game.  Praise though, is used all too sparingly in these environments.

Turns out that in the big picture, praise may not raise one’s game all that much.  Still, praise contributes to a positive environment.

It also turns out that ass chewings don’t do too much to raise one’s game – and very often make for a demoralized environment.

One more truth:  Success in anything is rooted exclusively in intelligent training, and consistent practice over long periods of time…  Jhciacb

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The Intergalactic Short Bus…

People watching is my favorite sport.  I am fascinated by the variety we hominids display with our aesthetics and our behaviors.  Diversity is what we do best as a species, even if that diversity is the foundation for most of our hates and fears.

Last evening I was people watching in the local market.  In no hurry go home after fulfilling my grocery list, a purposeless meander seemed a great way to pass time.  I strolled up and down the aisles, observing other lives incarnate, while contemplating my own.  It’s a game of comparisons, or as I like to call it, Jhciacb Counts His Blessings.

I became aware that a group of special needs adults were being led about the market by a woman who was clearly their doyen.  It seemed they were residents of a group home, and there to select groceries for the coming week.  The leader asked questions to them as individuals, and encouraged them to make consensus decisions.

I followed them for a bit, eavesdropping, studying, and contemplating.  Suddenly I remembered I needed Brussels sprouts, and broke off from my tailgating.  When I caught back up to the group, they had dispersed.  Apparently, each had been assigned an item or two to gather on their own.  This would be a good study.

I continued wandering the aisles as the blender in my head churned, still people watching – still contemplating.  At some point, my brain went sideways when I realized I couldn’t differentiate the special needs people from anyone else.

Without their leader guiding them, they all just blended in.

Suddenly, if only for a moment, I viewed anyone in the store as a special needs person, until I concluded that they were or were not one.  But I think I got it wrong at least a few times…

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And that’s when it hit me; that we’re all special needs people, each with varying abilities and peculiarities.   Most of us get through it though, with no need for a grocery store leader, and for that we should be grateful. We just go in circles around the sun, day after day, doing the best we can on this intergalactic short bus we call earth.

As I watched the special needs people reconvene with their leader at the checkout line, I couldn’t help wonder if they really needed a leader at all.  Some seemed to be doing okay on their own.  And I also wondered if maybe myself, and a few others in there, wouldn’t have been little better off with someone to take our hands and show us the way…  Jhciacb

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Reading, Writing, And Writhing…

I received a nice compliment from a friend the other day.  He said that he enjoyed my morning musings here on Facebook.  He likes the way I write, but he called into question my claim to be reading challenged.

“Nobody who writes as eloquently as you could have a reading disability” he suggested.

I get that from time to time.  I can write 1,000-word essay in 20 minutes, yet it would take me in excess of an hour to read one the same length.

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I absolutely LOVE to write, and I can’t stand to read.  Here’s a simple explanation as to why:

There are essentially two root causes of dyslexia.  The first being an information processing disorder.  The second being a visual processing disorder.  The kind I live with is a visual processing disorder.

When I write, there’s no visual processing involved.  Thoughts form in my head and get relayed, via synapses, from my brain to my fingertips, which then put them to pen or to keyboard.  My eyes are not really involved.  I can type with my eyes closed with good accuracy.

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When I read, it’s a visual process.  I see words first through my eyes, then attempt to form them into thoughts, via synapses which lead from my eyes to my brain.  When it comes to words, those synapses are uneven tracks for information to glide upon.  That’s okay.  I can listen to books rather than read them, and I process the information better with my ears than I do with my eyes.

I share this for one reason; that you may have a child, niece, nephew, or grandchild who hates to read, but does well with writing.  Often when a child dislikes or even fears reading, but is also a capable writer, he is seen by adults as being lazy, unmotivated, or as a child with lesser priorities.

Forcing a child who lives with dyslexia to read more in hopes he’ll just get better at it, is not the right course of action, and I assure you, it can be traumatic.  It may be that he has a form of dyslexia rooted in visual processing.  Get him tested.  Get him help.  Don’t be a dick.  It may change his life – for the better…  Jhciacb

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Pictures Of Match Shtick Men…

We’re all photographers now. Anyone with a smartphone possesses the ability to take worthy photographs. If our photographs aren’t so worthy, there are digital tools available, right after the fact, to help manipulate them into better photographs. In seconds, we can turn any picture into something completely removed from the reality of the original image.

And best of all for this expanding base of so-called photographers, social media has provided us with the one thing we most desire; an audience.

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I have more than a few friends who are professional photographers – it’s how they pay their bills. I empathize with them in this era when so many people are taking so many photographs without much thought or experience. The smartphone has made it so that showing up the right time is all one needs to do to take a great photo. Oh, and some touchup skills.

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I feel guilty, and sometimes foolish, suggesting that any of my photographs are worthy of a glance by anyone but me. Despite this, I use my own photographs daily in my fitness blog and other social media platforms. When I do this, I feel as though I’m insulting those for whom photography is not just their craft, but their livelihood.

It’s where we’re at though.

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Exchanging photographs more frequently, and via different media, is a part of the evolution of how we communicate – pictures are once again becoming language. It’s just that in the modern era, we don’t have to carve them into stone.

Today we communicate with images at a rate much higher in proportion to written languages than at any time in modern history. It has been suggested by some that within a few hundred years, images will have largely replaced written languages as the primary means of communication for our species.

But wait, isn’t that where we started…? Jhciacb

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Beth Rosen’s Right Breast…

Beth Rosen was the curvy Jewish girl who was seated in front of me during home room in the 9th grade.

It was the first hour of the first day of my short-lived high school career.

I had been attracted to Beth since halfway through the 5th grade. However, as was typical with awkward Jewish boys, I kept my feelings inward.

The manufacturers of Q-Tip swabs had recently switched from the white paper bodies between the swab ends, to hollow blue plastic bodies. I had learned from Steve Yates over the summer that this change in Q-Tip design would revolutionize spit-wads.

– Cut the Q-Tip in half and expose the hollow plastic body
– Take one half of the Q-Tip and fill it with glue
– Into the glue filled section, back in a sewing needle about half the length of the needle itself
– Let dry
– Insert newly made blow dart, ehr, spit-wad into a straw
– Aim
– Fire

And with such a blow dart, ehr, spit-wad, I would attempt to overcome my shyness with Beth Rosen.

Just 45 minutes into my high school career, I shot Beth Rosen in the right breast with a makeshift blow dart. I finally got her attention.

As a business man, my father was often out of town Monday-Friday. On that, my first day of high school though, he made sure he was in town, to pick me up and drill me, ehr, quiz me about my first day.

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Lost Jilgeuros Preserve.  Fallbrook, CA 1/4/17

I’m sure my father wasn’t expecting a call at 9:45am that morning to pick me up and take me home. After a trip to the Deans office, I was assigned a 2-day suspension – my first 2 days of high school.

My father arrived promptly. It was a long ride home.

I was telling this story to a friend yesterday, and though her eyes got quite large as I disclosed the events of that day in 1976, her eyes got even larger when I told her I had dozens more stories – just like this one, and that some of them even involved, oh, what’s the term…? Squad cars. Yes, squad cars.

Shortly thereafter, I released myself from high school on my own recognizance. It was just better this way. Beth Rosen and I would become friends, but never dated. Must have been something I said – or did… Jhciacb

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Reasons, Not Excuses…

Not excuses, but reasons…

I do fitness for a living – it’s kind of what pays my bills.  Despite this, and that I have a well-equipped workout room just 7-feet from where I am typing this, fitness doesn’t happen as much with me these days.

It’s not that I have lost interest in exercise. It’s that my responsibilities have increased, and my priorities have evolved.

Some will suggest there are no excuses to miss a workout.  The Roy of yesteryear would certainly have suggested that to the Roy of today.

And on one level, as a fitness practitioner, I agree that people use far too many excuses to avoid exercise, but there’s a fine line between excuses and reasons.

Yesterday I took my mother shopping to help her with her post-holiday returns.  We were gone most of the day.  I had planned to work out as soon as we got home, but then realized my mammal had been cooped up alone all day, so I took him for a walk – my workout could wait.

After his post-walk treat, I was about to head into the studio to work out.   As I stepped through my studio door, my eldest niece called to wish me a happy New Year.  I was delighted to hear her voice.  When she and I were done, she passed the phone to her sister and it was then my turn to exchange greetings and catch up with her.  She then passed the phone on to her brother.  I enjoyed catching up with all three.

After a day of shopping, a long dog walk, and a long phone call, I was chomping at the bit to exercise – until my brother called, also to exchange New Year’s greetings.  It was nice to catch up with him as well. My workout could wait.

Just as my brother and I hung up, and I was about to rise to enter my studio, my sweet dog jumped on my lap and burrowed into a soft blanket on my lap, and settled in for what I will refer to as, the rest of the evening.

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There would be no workout, only CNN’s The History Of Chicago, and that’s okay.

There are excuses to skip workouts, and there are reasons to skip workouts.  Though very often that line is blurry, yesterday it was as clear as a new day after a rainy night on New Year’s Eve.  These were reasons, and all good ones.  Be well…  Jhciacb

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Dignity Etched…

I often see things on social media which suggest to me that, even as I watch my mother age, as I also age, I’ll remember her more as she was when she was young.  Or at the very least, I’ll remember her as she was when I was young.  Though when I consider this, after having had my mother living with me for nearly a year, I’ll suggest they are optimistic reminders of a reality which won’t exist.  I’ve mostly forgotten the mother of my youth.

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As she continues to age, and as her physical and cognitive abilities lessen, the images in my head of my mother in her youth fade more each year, giving way to the more indelible imprints of my mother as she is today.  This is not a bad thing.  Five years from now, 10 years from now, or even 20, I’m sure I won’t want to think too much or remember too well the mother of my youth, but I will be grateful to remember my mother of today.

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When I think of her then, as she was when I was young, compared to how I see her now, there is an absence of much.  True, the mother of my youth could hike, swim, stay up late, and prepare a holiday feast for 12 in less than 3 hours, but there was yet to be the earned dignity which now defines her.

Today, as her steps become shaky, as her voice quivers, and as her hands resemble road maps with stains on them, the wisdom, the experience, and survivalism that come with these, add up to a dignity which I do want to remember her with.

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This is a good reminder to me that, as bright and capable as I feel I am today, I have yet to pay my real dues.  The dues I speak of are not the dues of career, of parenthood, or of middle-age responsibilities.  The dues my mother has paid – those she continues to pay, are the most important dues of all.  These are the dues of having it all, and of having it all slowly slip away, yet waking up each day to live a little more despite the inevitable decline of all things material, all things physical, and many things cognitive.

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I am grateful that I will remember my mother as person who falls asleep watching Jeopardy, who heats up a Stouffer’s creamed corn casserole for dinner rather than attempt to make one from scratch, who often calls me by my brother’s name, and who asks me the same damned questions again and again – all day long.

This person – this mother of mine now, is the mother that reminds me daily that I will be more like her in the not-too distant future, than the me I am today.  This mother, not the mother of my youth, is the woman who reminds me that it’s a fool’s task to believe in or even pursue perpetual youth, and that dignity comes only from letting go of youth, and letting go of all those things that, as time proves to us all, never mattered that much to begin with.  Be well…  rc

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Don’t Be Cruel, Pretty Please…

Like many, the recent election caught me by surprise.  More honestly, it caught me off guard.  Yup, I had my guard down, and for too long.  So too, it seems, did a lot of people.  Also like many, I’m now wondering what I can do to help offset the inevitable shift of culture that may result from a change in our leadership.

I have seen people standing up for a variety of causes recently, many speaking out and taking action for the first time.  Others, putting their money where their mouths are and donating to social causes.  Whether these actions and donations will be short-lived, or the foundation of a new ground swell for social change can’t be predicted.

For my part, I’ve just been a deer in the headlights.  I want to do something – to contribute in some way, but all I have really done since the election results were tallied, is to spend hour after hour walking among the trees in a state of shock, talking to my dog about Syria, The Supreme Court, Social Justice, and attempting to digest this unexpected shift in our national behavior.

It seems clear that, now more than ever, if we are to keep social progress moving upward and ahead, more people need to be more active with a variety of causes.  My cause of choice, the area where I will direct my attention, will be with animal rights.  I will champion a cruelty-free society as much as I am able, and in ways that are reasonable considering my other responsibilities.   That is, I’m not going zealot, but I am going…

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This is not to suggest I won’t also support other causes.  I will remain a supporter of religious liberty, LBGT rights, and social causes which serve equal rights among American humans, and I will donate to them increasingly as I am able.  I will direct my volunteerism though, toward promoting a cruelty-free society with the animals we steward.

You may find this interesting…

In early human civilization, 98% of the vertebrate animals on earth were self-made.  That is, despite that we had begun domesticating animals around 15,000 years ago, most animals on earth through human civilization, have been the result of the earth’s natural progression.

According to several sources though, today as many 98% of the vertebrate animals on earth are man-made.  That is, the domestication of horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, farmed fish, family pets, etc., has been so prolific over the past few thousand years, that these animals significantly outnumber vertebrates in the wild.  Oh,  and our own species is now more plentiful than ever.

Many of us, myself included, have had no problem spending $5,000 to repair the fractured hip of our family pet, or to spend money on behavior therapy for the kitty who eats toilet paper all day.   We have been just as at ease, myself included, with unconscionable acts of cruelty perpetrated against animals who are just as capable of feeling love and pain as a cat, a collie, or Shetland Pony.  Most of us are good with these acts of cruelty, because we allow ourselves to be insulated from them.  For my part, I can no longer be good with this.

Please take 10 minutes, if you have not already viewed this, to witness an intelligent perspective on stepping away from animals as a food source.

I won’t knowingly support animal cruelty, and I will try with each week to expose myself to the many gaps where I still do; leather or skin care products for example.   I will be active against animal cruelty, but do so with mindfulness, tact, and with as much intelligence as I can call to order from the walnut in my head.

Years ago, a good friend told me to put all my eggs in one basket, and to cover that basket.  That advice contributed to a livelihood which has served me well.  With my direction chosen, just like my direction with the weight room so many years ago, each day I will wake up and step, step, step, with all my eggs in one basket, and walk toward a cruelty-free lifestyle.

I have no illusions that I will change the world with my actions, but if I can change a few minds, I will have done more than I have up to this point.  Championing on behalf of animals, by the way, is not such a small-minded task.  It stands to reason that if our society can get good with the treatment of animals, we might get just as good with ourselves.

Lastly, I will be glad to reply to and to discuss any intelligent comments or arguments whether they be left in the comments section below, or in private emails.  If your comment though, is going to be, please pass the A.1. sauce, please refrain.  Be well…  rc

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Kamikaze Treadmill Guy…

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in gyms over the past 42 years.  In that time, I thought I had seen it all as far as the characters of the gym go.  You know, gym characters…

  • Grunter Guy
  • Groaner Guy
  • Weight Slammer Guy
  • Intentionally Using The Equipment For Purposes Beyond The Equipment’s Design Guy
  • Loud Talker Guy
  • Swinging Ponytail On The Elliptical Machine Girl
  • The ‘Spot Me Bro’ Guy
  • The list goes on…

Add to that, all I have seen on social media – you know, the videos that show a man in tights using the cable crossover machine like it’s a Jolly Jump, or the girl faceplanting on the treadmill, and I should have seen it all by now.

Last night though, at a commercial gym in here in Souhern California, I saw the unimaginable.  It was a scene so surreal I had to ask myself whether I had taken LSD prior to my workout.  Of course, I did not.  We all know LSD is best used post-workout, for recovery.

There I stood though, high on a StepMill, the tallest piece of cardio equipment in the gym, and I was looking down to survey all the gym characters below me.  Deep into my rhythm, taking step after quiet step, suddenly I heard him…

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…” I heard emanating from a man on a treadmill in the foreground.

That was followed up by a couple of shorter, but more intense bursts of “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

No, I thought to myself, there’s no way somebody running on a treadmill is grunting that loudly and that deliberately.  But there he was, shouting over and over again as he ran short, fast intervals on the treadmill.

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”  “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

I have heard thousands of grunts, screams, and moans from the lifting platform since the age of 12, and though I rarely grunt myself, I understand the desire, even the need to grunt during a heavy squat or deadlift.

Never though, have I witnessed anyone grunting during cardio, and certainly not in a way which was both deliberate and aggressive.

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”  “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

Within minutes I wanted to hang myself just to make it go away.  He was loud too.  I looked around to see if any other members were bothered by this.  I saw a few others who seemed to notice, but most in the area appeared to be protected by their earbuds.  I was not, as my phone had died earlier in the day, so for the next 45 minutes while on the StepMill

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”   “Shyow!  Shyow! Qui!”

was the soundtrack to my workout, with only a distant chorus of Loverboy’s Working For The Weekend and other crappy music offering scarce relief from the classic rock station playing through the house speakers.

It was clear nobody was willing to cease their workout to help me subdue this guy.  There was just one employee in the gym at the time, and he was on the other side, apparently oblivious to the scene.

Now here’s the punchline to this little joke…

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t point out that the grunting runner was Japanese.  A person’s ethnicity is rarely relevant in the scope of any situation – but for the Kamikaze headband this man was wearing – with the sign of the rising sun square in the middle, and he ran with fists tightly clinched.  His head was pointed up the entire time, as if he here shouting at God or a deceased relative.  He was drowning in sweat.  I had never seen anything like this.

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As previously mentioned, my phone had died prior to entering the gym so I was not able to video Kamikaze Treadmill Guy.  He will live forever though, as a memory shot in my head – a new edition to the pantheon of gym characters.  Kamikaze Treadmill Guy is in now in the house, and apparently he wants us all to know it.  Be well…  rc

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Throwing Darts At Music…

Throwing Darts…

The older I get, it seems, the greater the stakes with each decision I make.  So, I don’t throw too many darts in my decision making these days.  I did though, a couple weeks ago, throw a single dart at an album cover that caught my eye, an EP by the Nebraska band, Bazile Mills.

There was something about the aesthetic of the album art which caught my eye.  A friend, a music promoter in the Midwest, had posted the EP on his business’s social media page.  I honestly knew nothing about the band or what genre of music it was – I had no idea.  My only safety net was that it was being promoted by Widmest Productions, the enterprise of a friend whose musical tastes and my own often cross paths.

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Rather than check out Bazile Mill’s music on Spotify, YouTube, or Soundcloud, I purchased the EP based solely on the cover art, and the recommendation of my friend.

A few days after I placed my order online, the EP arrived.  Opening it, I was struck by the quality of the packaging.  I say that because startup bands and early releases often default to lesser packaging due to the cost of production.  I hadn’t even heard their music yet, and I was already impressed.  A crisp lyrics sheet accompanied a vivid blue disk.  The t-shirt I ordered along with the EP also impressed me.

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Proof In The Stylus…

Unpackaged, I placed the disk on my turntable, lowered the stylus to the vinyl, and held my breath not having any idea what music lay ahead.

The first track, Personal Concierge, went from reeling me in, to stopping me in my tracks.  There’s a tempo about the song that pulled along the physical me, as the lyrics picked away at the thinking me.  It was one of those rare songs that got me to like it – immediately.

The next two tracks, Spirals Out, and We Are Mistfits (Just Like You) also have tempo that resonates within the senses, and lyrics which tug at the mind.

The final track, We Are Here, has a different feel to it than the previous tracks, but is just as sincere.  Musically, it has a tempo which more allows one to digest the song’s lyrics while listening.

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Mixed Thoughts On The Experience…

I’ll never presume to know or suggest what a lyricist is truly thinking when they share a thought, a moment, or a series of actions by placing them into a song.  We are free to interpret them as we can.  I found the lyrics to all 4 songs worth pondering – again and again.  That’s what a good lyric should do.

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Last week I threw a dart at an album cover.  I hit a bullseye, but I recognize that it was my bullseye and might not be yours.  I do recommend this EP though, for anyone who appreciates mindful music. The 4 songs of Where We Are by Balize Mills provide a wide enough target with the scope of its 4 songs, that anyone throwing a dart will score at least a few points and probably more.

Lastly, I am reminded that within all the structures we keep in place and move about in order that we keep ourselves safe, it’s nice to throw a dart from time to time to keep things fresh.  Or, to take a left where I generally take a right.  Be well…  rc

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Soulcut…

A heavy day for me yesterday.  Issues with mom notwithstanding, midafternoon I found myself in a barbershop spending $23 (ATM fee and tip included), getting a haircut which removed little hair, but a good portion of my soul, though only for a while.

The barber, a man in his 70s and seemingly not in the best of health, struggled making small talk with me, a new customer.  After several awkward minutes negotiating some fractured clichés of light familiarization, he began spewing campaign hatred at an alarming rate.  He either mistakenly sized me up as one of his own, or just didn’t care about offending me.

Within a few minutes of his rant I had learned that Hillary has killed more people than Saddam, that Trump was going to rid the country of all the lesser brown people, and if for any reason Trump’s victory failed, an all-out civil war would occur within weeks.

When he stopped to take a breath, a female barber seated near us and eating a snack, probably in her 60s, chimed in to reinforce what the man who was too busy hating to properly cut my hair was espousing…

“The nation will go straight to hell” she said, “The woman is pure evil.”

That’s when I was reminded that ignorance is not an individual effort; that it takes a village to raise an idiot.

This is not a political stance for or against either candidate.  Just a reminder that ignorance, like fire, requires three elements:

  • Receiving misinformation
  • Believing misinformation without verification
  • Sharing misinformation
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Sky above Barker Reservoir.  August 2014

When my haircut was complete, I stood up, thanked the man, shook his hand as I paid him, and wished the two of them a good Saturday.  It made me feel good to do so – to offer friendship rather than retort.  May you all have a good Sunday.  Be well…  rc

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Not A Healthy Addiction…

When people when speak to me about their fitness regimen the phrase, it’s a healthy addiction, is often used to support their rationalization of how dedicated they are.

Of course, there is no such thing as a healthy addiction. The very nature of addiction is that one sacrifice more in the pursuit of the result, than the result will actually yield on their behalf.

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise. The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which I can hide from the stress of daily living, if only for a while.

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Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure. What I have come to accept though, is that for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise. This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client. Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise. I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at gin tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility. They entrust me to help increase their physicality by inserting functional exercise into their lives. This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a previously deconditioned lifestyle. Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

There is a blurry line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense. When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it more clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Turn And Face The Strain…

Aye, Captain…

When I see him coming, I cringe a little.  A tall man with gray hair topped by a ball cap which usually sits a bit too high.  He’s in jeans, and always wears a blue windbreaker.  In his hand is a leash, and at arm’s length a Dalmatian with a muzzle lead.  The dog’s name is, Captain.  Honestly, I don’t like Captain.  I don’t care much for the man walking him either, though he and I have never really met.  We just pass each other early in the morning, several times per week, walking our dogs.

Some time ago this man confronted me about not having my own dog on a leash.  I explained that my dog walks off leash because he’s prone to panic attacks on a leash, probably because he was abused as a puppy.  He suggested that his dog might hurt my dog and was just giving me a warning.  Well, I thought to myself, is your dog that much of jerk or is it just you…?  I thought it, but I didn’t speak it.  I wished him a good day and moved on.

Since that encounter, we have passed each other dozens of times, always with an obvious tension between us, but we always smile and exchange good mornings.  When I see him coming I begin to feel a bad day coming on.  As we pass we each other though, and as I say good morning to him, I always feel better.  Bad day averted by simply reaching out.

When this happens, I often flash back the character, Lloyd Dobler, from the movie, Say Anything.  In one scene, Dobler, played by John Cusack, questions his grumpy sister, asking her again and again, “how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…?”

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I’ve never been able to let that go – that very often having a good day, or turning a bad one around is simply a decision, like saying good morning to the man with the Dalmatian, despite that I don’t care for him.

Tricks Of The Trading…

Bad moods happen, and almost always when I least expect them.  Hard as it might be, the best way I have found yet to combat a bad mood is by simply asking myself that Cusack question; how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…? By just stopping and asking that of myself, it gets me thinking about how easy it really is to get back on track to a better day.

Most often the answers to that question lay in several possible actions, the first being to go for a walk.  Walking in nature diffuses a bad mood quickly – especially if I set my phone to airplane mode.  With nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the thoughts in my head, and the sounds of nature, a bad mood doesn’t have much of a chance.  Problems, however mighty, soon get small when I’m walking in nature.

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To create good mood just add water…

Music is another tool I use to pry a bad mood from my head.  I dare you to listen to Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross and walk away sulking.  Not likely.  It tends to bring my inner resolve to the surface.  There is a dozen or so songs I know that carry this weight, any one of them can lead me into a better mood.  George Harrison’s Hear Comes The Sun being another, and Matthew Sweet’s Divine Intervention.  I call these my mood altering songs…

I might grab my dog and just hold him.  I’ll say something like, “This may be selfish, but I really need you right now…”  We’ll sit on the porch.  Feeling his heartbeat in my hand, and knowing that he’s absolutely dependent on me is both grounding and humbling.  It’s also a bridge to a more peaceful moment.

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Perhaps I’ll reflect on a real tragedy; the illness of a friend or the death of a loved one.  Considering this, my bad moods don’t usually seem so bad.  Dropping my coffee on my laptop isn’t a nightmare, thinking about a young widow is, but even so, that’s not my nightmare, it’s somebody else’s – which reinforces my point precisely.  When I stop and think of the things which might be the cause my bad moods, few of them are ever worthy of that kind of power.

I’ll Come Full Circle Now…

One of the best tools I regularly use to turn a bad mood around is to simply reach out and offer a sincere hello to someone – anyone who’s path I might cross, regardless of how I might feel about them.  This could be in the bank, on my street, at the grocery, or back out on the trail.  Saying hello to a stranger, a friend, or even an adversary, and actually feeling it from deep within, always makes me feel better inside.

I can think of few better mood altering drugs than the drug of a human connection.  The next time you’re having a bad day, try saying hello to a stranger or perhaps even someone you don’t care for.  Reach out.  It might be just enough to help turn the corner on a bad mood, and it might become an addiction worth keeping.  Be well…  rc

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Analog Cabin…

Love In Decay…

Digital music, without me ever realizing it, has eaten away at my love of music.  I don’t think digital music did this intentionally.  It was just another cultural subsystem, doing what systems have done to societies for years; taking mankind on rides that humans can barely see and rarely control.

As vinyl gave way to CDs and then to digitized files, as speakers gave way to earbuds, and as collecting the finite gave way to downloading the infinite, my pallet for music has deteriorated without me realizing it.

To keep me hooked though, digital music has regurgitated bits and pieces of what I once loved, and sold it as the only nutrition I would ever need – much like orange juice concentrate would improve the state of hand squeezed orange juice back in the 1960s.

Because of this process, my love of music has been neglected and misfed for decades.  Like other aspects of my life left to neglect, my love of music is reawakening…

The Paycheck Process…

The system was simple.  From the age I began to work, 15, until CDs choked vinyl out of the music retail scene, I would direct the $1 line and the $.00 lines of every paycheck I ever eraned toward buying vinyl.

Example:  If my paycheck for being a sandwich maker in 1978 was $42.73, $2.73 would go toward music.  If my paycheck as a Coast Guardsman in 1985 was $419.38, $9.38 would go toward music, and so-on.  And for years, that was the most important product from any paycheck.

Through this process I accrued a catalog of albums ranging from Herb Alpert, Aztec Camera, Molly Hatchet, Joe Satriani, Steely Dan, Lee Ritenour, The Fabulous Poodles, Mental As Anything, and on and on.

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Not saying I’m proud, but I once owned their entire catalog…

Eventually though, turntables became scarce, new music was released on CD only, and my record collection became boxed and stored where it remained until my daughter graduated from high school in 2008.  At that time my daughter, who was raised on punk and classic rock, asked if she could have my albums.  She sensed a comeback that I didn’t buy into.  So the albums became hers.

In the meantime, the infinite Spotify and decent earbuds became my music only source.  With so much to choose from, I spent more time assembling playlists than I would ever spend listening to them.  And all of this became tedious and secondary.  I might still be in-like with music, but the love was gone…

What Goes Around (and around and around)…

With the advent of social media, and a growing outrage over the poor quality of digital music, the demand for vinyl now swells.  Much new music is released on vinyl, and buying a turntable is as easy as buying fresh oranges.

As I have witnessed this, it’s occurred to me to begin the process all over again; if a client pays me $1188, then $8 would go into a vinyl fund.  Starting from scratch though, has seemed too daunting.

Earlier this week I was searching Amazon for a vintage style radio for my studio and ran across one with a turntable onboard.  I figured, why not…?  Maybe it will inspire me to find a Herb Alpert album in good condition, or the soundtrack to Brigadoon.  But it didn’t end there.  Twenty-four hours later, and under the influence of inspiration, I purchased a console stereo for my living room.  Now what to do about the necessary vinyl…?

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To arrive this Friday…

Shortly after I purchased the console stereo, I asked my next client if, by chance, he had any old vinyl.  I was floored when he told me he was in the process of cataloging several hundred pieces to sell on eBay.  Quality be damned, I’ll be picking them up later in the week.  The symmetry of my designed universe never lets me down.

Lessons In Love And Appreciation…

This isn’t about the quality of music for me so much as it’s a romance thing.  It’s about the act of removing the disk from the cardboard jacket and running the Discwasher over the album.  This about placing the needle gently onto the glossy rim and waiting for my soul to rise…

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It’s a romance thing…

Once again I want to listen to and to appreciate albums as bodies of work.  The most soul-smothering problem with playlists on digital music is this:  You take just a piece of the painting and line it up beside a piece of another painting. You may create an interesting mosaic, but the point of each painting has been lost.

Through digital music I have lost my love of music, and that’s 100% on me.  I guess it’s time once again for me to learn the lesson I seem to keep on needing to learn; that when you truly love something, you don’t box it up and put it away, because you’ll probably never take it out again.  And even if you do take the box out of storage, what’s in the box will remember how you treated it.  Love what you love, and love it with passion – always.  Be well…  rc

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Appreciationism…

I can honestly say that my morning shower is the best part of every day of my life.  What’s more, is that each shower feels like it’s the best one I’ve ever had.  How could any morning shower ever feel as good as the one I took today…?  Yet it always does.

When I look to my front yard each morning, on those rare mornings when sunlight actually hits it, it always pops brighter and looks more alive than the day before.  Yup, today was that day.

I listened to a song recently which was popular during my teens; Sister Golden Hair by America.  As I contemplated the lyrics and drifted back in time, I felt it was the most clever and poignant song I had ever heard.  I really felt that as I was listening.

Maybe later today, or sometime down the road, I’ll hear another song, and whatever song that might be, I will think that is the most poignant and clever song I’ve ever heard.  And at that time, I will also mean it.

The workout I just had…?  Is almost always the best one of my life!  Most of the time, when I wrap my fingers around that cold steel bar, the deadlift I am about to commit is the most important set I will ever attempt, and nothing else will be on my mind.

That’s just how life is for me.  If nothing else, I enter each day with a sincere appreciation for my appreciations.  In those moments when I am truly appreciating something, there just aren’t any other somethings other than the something I am appreciating at that moment.

On a full moon surf at Trestles, in June of 2009, my friend Mike observed of me,

“The look on your face when paddle is like each wave is the biggest wave on earth…”

Though I am certain he meant it as a critique of how I could improve, I took it as a great compliment.   I was caught in a moment, enjoying myself because each wave was the biggest wave on earth, if only in my mind.  And each one always will be.  That’s what appreciation does…

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Stroodle don’t surf!  But if he did….

Even with this essay, after I complete it and publish it to my website, I will be confident it’s the finest piece I have ever written.  At some point though, my daughter may read it and will remind me that it’s just another piece of overwritten dreck.  But as I write it in this moment, I am certain it’s fantastic.

It’s not that every moment is the best moment of my life, it’s been a rough week for me.  More bad things happened in the world.  People proudly said things that I found to be offensive if not outright asinine.  I hear songs that make me want to hurl, and occasionally I get a flavorless tomato.  But it’s those moments that strike me as worthy of my appreciation, that I bow to, and attempt to do so all day long – they alone keep me coming back!

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A hand to appreciate…

And what does all of this have to do with anything…?  That during any moment, all we have is that moment, and who and those who we may be with in that moment.  So last night when I held my mother’s frail hand and led her across my rocky driveway so she could see the full moon break the horizon, and as I watched her stare with awe, well that, that was my finest moment as a son – at least for now.  Thank you to landlords Stephanie and Brian for giving me a great gift last night.  Be well…  rc

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A gift of a vintage smudge pot for my fire pit…

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Synapses At Play…

Slow Down…

“Slow down.”

“Take an extra breath in-between repetitions.”

“Eliminate the hurry in your head.”

These are just a few of the clichés Royisms that I repeat to clients all day in my studio.  Yesterday I even compared strength training to fly fishing…

“It’s a rhythm” I told a client, “but it’s a slow rhythm, just like fly fishing.”

And really, it is like fly fishing.  Strength training, practiced slowly, can be intimate and meditative.

One of the better aspects of strength training, and one that is underappreciated by most, is the opportunity one gets to develop a relationship with the individual muscles of the body, as well as the actions taken by those muscles.  Not just in realizing one’s potential for strength, but to know what meat we’re made of, and which meat does what.

Synapses, both electrical and chemical, develop quickly during the act of strength training.  Using a slower repetition speed helps better establish and reinforce those synapses.  These lines of communication between brain and meat are always active, whether one is pushing a leg press upward, or stepping onto golf cart.

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The inner universe.  Sensational synapse…

Sensational Sensations…

Increasingly, I have come to better appreciate the relationship my mind has with my skeletal-muscular structure.  Always bubbling under the surface is the tactile sensation I experience during every kind of physical exertion I may be involved in.  I can’t imagine not taking note of this, yet so many move about their whole lives never really knowing what they are made of.

Ten-thousand times per day I may strike my heels on the ground before me, subconsciously connecting the electrical dots from my feet, to my legs, to my lower back, and into my shoulders, as my well-oiled machine drives me forward.  When I push a door closed, lift a box, or pull a container from a shelf, I feel the muscular me in action.  When I press firmly on a large knife as I cut a cabbage in half, in my mind I am both feeling and thanking my triceps.  I love this, and it all starts in the weight room.

Not Widely Practiced…

The slower repetition speed I teach in strength training isn’t widely practiced.  If you were to walk into any commercial gym during peak hours, you might find one or two people lifting in this style, but you would more likely find none at all.  That’s too bad, and honestly, it haunts me. I know something wonderful and want to share it with the world, but the world — the weight room world anyway, is made up mostly of blind followers.

I am often questioned by students, fitness enthusiasts, and even fitness professionals alike as to why I place such an emphasis on form, and on slow speed in particular as a part of that form.

I don’t see too many people lifting weights as slowly as you have me do…  is an observation I have been confronted with time and again.

I try not to get too technical with my reply, and never preachy, most often just shrugging it off and saying it’s not for everyone.  I feel kind sorry for those who live physical lives, in or out of the gym, yet aren’t truly connected with their muscles in action.  They are missing one of the great dances in life.

Vacation Vindication…

Often times a student will take a break from training with me.  They may continue strength training on their own or take a break altogether.  When they come back to me, almost without exception, they will have a greater appreciation for the slower repetition speed I enforce.

I walked into a commercial gym once and saw a former student performing lunges.  Perfect, fluid lunges.  I could see people watching her and appreciating the mindful intensity she was engaged in.  I find that too; that when I work out in a commercial gym, people tend to watch me when I lift, knowing that they are seeing something different than anything else going on in the room.

Simple Execution…

It can be distilled to a simple explanation…

  • During the eccentric (negative) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 4 second count.
  • During the concentric (exertion) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 1-2 count.
  • After each completed repetition, I pause and take a secondary breath. This serves to better oxygenate the muscles, as well as supports my ability to concentrate on the muscles involved – to stay connected to them.

As I do this, I am concentrating only on the muscles involved – not on anything else.  This also helps that body awareness.

A Case For Slow…

If you strength train regularly, and you are not practicing slower repetition speed, I will encourage you to give it a try.  Be warned though, slow speed doesn’t make it easier, it makes it a little harder – the path of most resistance, so to say.  You make a lighter weight a whole lot heavier by slowing it down.

With slower repetitions, the TUT (time under tension) is greater.  You will require fewer sets since each set is going to be much longer than if you are mindlessly repping out.  A set of 10 repetitions should take between 50-65 seconds, depending on the exercise.

It’s good stuff – this slow strength training thing, and a great way to connect your mind with your meat.  Be well…  rc

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At Peace With The World…

Troubling Times…

Clearly it’s been a difficult month in America, and around the world.  Just yesterday .000000011% of the world’s population was killed in an act of terrorism in France.  In writing this, I don’t wish to diminish in any way the loss, the suffering, and the feelings of sorrow which resulted from the incidents of terror and violence which have taken place from Istanbul to Dallas in recent weeks.

Like laser beams though, channeled through our LCD windows to the world, we continue to allow streams of violence and destruction into our minds which are highly disproportionate in relation to the world’s population and activity.  The images we invite into our minds forge thoughts and conclusions in our heads that skew reality so severely that most of us fail to see and appreciate the world we actually live in.

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I say this not as an ignorant man tossing a mindless opinion about freely.  Rather, as man who invests a great deal of his spare time attempting to learn and reconcile the human condition and the directionality of society by way of books, journals, and lectures from some the world’s leading critical thinkers.

I also write this as someone whose own daughter passed through the international terminal at the airport in Istanbul, just days prior to a man blowing himself up there.  She had walked within yards of where that incident took place.

Beyond The Information Beams…

Today, roughly 7.1 billion people did not get blown up, shot, held hostage, or engage in violent protests.  Many of those 7.1 billion people had amazing sex.  Some did not.  A lot of those people started new jobs while others got deservedly fired due to a lack in their productivity.  Somewhere in southern Europe a young man tended a flock of sheep thinking very little about anything but the safety of the flock.

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Elsewhere, a woman took a coworker’s lunch from the refrigerator of the breakroom at work, without fist asking permission.  Directly over our heads, a pilot both drank and slept on the job, while most others were careful not to.  A Rabbi married a young couple in Brooklyn, and a new baby was born in a thatch hut somewhere on an island in the pacific.  Since our televisions and laptops weren’t aimed at any of these, the broad actions of others across the world did little to help cultivate our social sensibilities.

Though we think we control our LCD windows to the world, and to some degree we do, our minds are fed primarily by a finite stream of for-profit institutions which make greater profits when we are compelled to stay tuned for more details.  Dog bites man isn’t a story.  Man bites dog is.

MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and all the others are masters of seeking out and beating to death the man bites dog stories, and we are hungrier than ever to absorb them because shock and awe provide us with an addictive stimulation.  I can no longer tell the difference between NPR and Yahoo news online.

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The Directionality Of Culture…

I am to cultural anthropology as sea cucumber is to semiconductor, so I’m not going to site books, data sources or anything else to support this opinion, but I will argue until my dying breath this clear truth…

Cumulatively, from the day of my birth until my ashes feed the fishes, the span of my life will have taken place during the most peaceful time on earth.  With few exceptions, every age of man could say the same thing – that theirs was the most peaceful time on earth.

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This is not to suggest that during my lifetime or any time there have not been spikes of violence and gross atrocities committed by horrible people.  However, as social media is brimming with far too many of these violent times we live in observations, it just isn’t true – not in the big picture.  The most violent cultures on earth were hunter-gatherer societies, and it’s been getting more peaceful, on average, with every subsequent generation.  Perhaps the best way to comprehend that statement is this:

Imagine a ball is held at arm’s length. That ball, in that place and at that moment, is the most violent time on earth – hunter-gatherer times.  The hand lets go the ball.

The most peaceful time on earth, the one our descendants will inherit, will be when the ball is resting firmly on the ground.

When the hand releases the ball to hit the ground, the ball bounces up, but then it falls again.  It bounces up, but not as high, hits the ground. Bounces up again, and so-on, over hundreds of thousands of years.

Eventually, after a good bit of bouncing, the ball will rest peacefully on the ground.

The direction we are headed is one of a global culture of cooperation – of the ball resting on the ground. It won’t get there without some bounces, but the trajectory is clear, after each bounce we become a little more peaceful.  There is no shortage of good data that demonstrates this in clear terms.

The need to be informed exists within all of us.  It’s incumbent upon us to stay informed.  I’ll make a pitch here though, that we take time to look and live beyond the technologies that feed our minds electronically, since they account for so little of what takes place around the world each day.  Speak to strangers.  Step into new places.  Don’t let fears govern our choices.  Be well…  rc

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Trauma Drama: The Return Of Schleprock…

This is what I know, and what I think I know…

I had just ridden to the end of the strand by the Oceanside pier.  I was half-way through one of the best rides in recent months.  It was a beautiful day by the water.  I stopped, took a picture of my bike against the waves, and walked around for a few minutes taking in all the scenes of the beach.  I then got back on my bike, ready for the journey home.

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I keep a workout towel wrapped around my handlebars to wipe sweat from my eyes when I ride.  I’m always cautious that it stays wrapped around the handlebars so it won’t drop into my tire spokes.  I must have been too at ease from the high of a good outing.  I had pedaled less than a mile and was just south of the Oceanside pier dodging between pedestrians with dogs, slow moving cars, and other cyclists.

I have no memory of this, but my sweat towel must have fallen from my handlebars into my spokes.  I was going roughly 20 mph.  In what was later suggested to me as a sudden and immediate stop, I was flung over the handlebars and knocked unconscious.  My next memory would be the paramedics transferring me from the ambulance to the helicopter for a flight to Scripps Trauma Center in La Jolla.

I clearly had a bad concussion – no helmet.  I know.  I know.  My shoulders and hands were in pain, and I had a gash beside my left eye.

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I was in the trauma center for a couple of hours.  A CT scan indicated that there was no brain damage.  I had a small fracture of my left cheek bone and a smaller one in my left clavicle.  I begged them to glue to gash beside my eye shut rather than close it with stitches.  The doctor agreed.  I was released and headed home with a friend who picked me up.  My bike is being held by the Oceanside police.

I’m pretty banged up.  Very stiff, pretty much everywhere.  My left shoulder is hard to move – it’s what I’m most worried about.  I have been on a tear of good riding, good strength workouts, and the best eating I’ve done in years.  I don’t want to see that progress fade.

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I hope to be back at work by the end of this week.  Possibly, on my bike again and in the weight room by next week, but we shall see.

I may be on social media a little less this week, despite that I have a little extra time.  This was humbling.  A closer call than what I’m letting on, and could have been much worse.  Funny, each ride in an ambulance or helicopter grounds me a little more, and helps streamline my priorities.

If there was one disappointment in all of this, while in the helicopter flying along the beautiful California coastline, I asked the flight trauma team if I could sit up and enjoy the view.  They said, NO!  Something about some spinal protocol and the board I was strapped to.  Pissed me off… Jhciacb

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Landmines And Moments…

On Landmines…

My mother, in her late 80s, has lived with me for just over a year.  Though she’s largely independent, she requires some regular assistance.  Most of that, comes from me.  It’s no secret that being a caregiver for an aging parent presents many challenges.  Each day can be like a walk across a minefield.  I know they’re there.  I have no choice but to step forward.  I know I’ll hit one eventually.  I just never know when or where they will be.

The good news is, that stepping on one of mom’s landmines won’t harm me physically.  They will though, concuss my emotions and tend to blow me far off course from whatever I might be involved with at a given moment.  From my work, to my leisure, to my good moods and even the act of me trying to assist my mom herself, I am thrown to the other side of the day, a half-dozen times per day.  It’s hard to live like this, and still enjoy a day to its core as I have always attempted to do.  I try to be my childish self most of the time, but a more serious tenor underlies any good mood or any good day.

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Landmines in this instance, can range from the dropping of dishes, to forgetting medical appointments, abrupt mood swings or the failure to understand a simple question or statement.  A landmine can also be that paralyzing feeling I get when I see her watching TV with the volume completely off and a blank stare on her face.  This can last for an hour.  One recent landmine involved me smelling something funny, subsequently opening the oven and seeing a plastic dish melting away inside.

One landmine comes with regularity – her awakening each morning, usually between 5:30am and 6:00am.  The sound of her bedroom door opening sends a shudder through me.  She raises her hand, offers a weak wave as she ambles her way to the bathroom, her trembling voice whispering “good morning”.   I say good morning back, but with the knowledge that my early morning quiet time has come to an end.  This is the calling to order of all other landmines for the day.

That Which Ails Her…

My mother lives with two conditions which are the sole sources of her landmines.  The first being dementia, which has only recently manifest, but is on the increase.  The landmines of dementia aren’t terribly concerning.  They can throw me off course, but the recovery is usually quick and without incident.

The second condition she lives with is acute paranoia.  The paranoia can go dormant for days or weeks, but when it arises, the landmines are caustic.

A friend once told me…

“Dementia isn’t losing your car keys.  It’s finding them, and not knowing what they do…”

I have found that to be a useful metaphor.

Paranoia on the other hand, isn’t forgetting something that actually happened or what the function of an object is.  Paranoia is remembering things that never happened at all.  Most of these false memories involve blaming bad things that never happened on good people who truly exist.  I try hard to remind myself that no matter how ridiculous her paranoia seems at a given moment, these things that she is remembering – these things which never happened, are very real to her.

The latest example:  A live-in helper that I brought into our house has been either drugging or poisoning my mother for weeks, and systematically stealing everything from jewelry to cheap Corelle Ware.  Of course, the helper isn’t really doing this, but with mom believing she is, I go along with it.  The helper understands the situation and has been very gracious in dealing with it.  Still, the helper will be moving out next week.

Funny Bone…

Whether it’s been dementia or paranoia chipping away at our days, I have depended on humor as my primary shield of protection.  Mom has daily concerns about many potential threats, but the ones she mentions most often are rattlesnakes and the would-be killers in our neighborhood.   When we go to bed at night, she reminds me to lock my door…

I tease her, “How else will the killers and the snakes get in…?”

“Oh Roy…!”

She also worries excessively about the dog…

“Have you seen Stroodle…?” is a question she asks 8-10 times per day.

“Shit!  I left him out front.  If the snakes don’t get him, the killers surely will…!”

Again, “Oh Roy…!”

There is no using logic when confronted with dementia or paranoia.  There is simply the demonstration of false agreement in the attempt to lessen the impact.  What I lack in patience, I hope to make up for with humor.  Each evening before she retires, I always check her bedroom for rattlesnakes and killers.

“All clear, Mom!”

“Oh Roy…!”

The Real Me…

Here’s a truth I’m not always up front about; I’m less a mensch than I make myself out to be.  I can get resentful about all of this, and turn a cold shoulder just as quickly.  Not deep down, but definitely on the surface.  The surface though, is where I live most of my life.  I piss and I moan about too much of this, too much of the time to my inner circle.  I get angry, short-tempered and I let it get to me more than I should.  I am trying to improve.  The stakes are higher these days, and my use of humor may be coming to an end.

Yesterday, mom confronted me about our helper steeling another dish.  Mom witnessed her taking it to her car.  I suggested that as punishment, I’d get the helper alone and choke her to death to teach her a lesson.  “Oh Roy” never happened.  Instead my mom burst into tears insisting that she isn’t crazy.  I held her hand, kissed her forehead and assured her I would find a new helper.  In time, her tears will be forgotten, only by her though, not by me.

Moments…

I have rearranged much of my life to help guide and protect my mother during this transitional time.  I am honored and proud to do this, but that is the deep-down Roy.  Again, the surface Roy is a little resentful a lot of the time.  Everyone says that’s okay, that frustration and resentment are part of the process and should be expected.  It’s not okay with me, but I still can’t seem to shake it.

For every landmine, there is a moment.  Moments are those times when mom still laughs.  Moments are when she speaks lucidly about her childhood and does so with detail.  Moments are when I hug her, tease her, hold the door for her like a gentleman.   Moments are when I treat her to dinner at local café and take her for an evening drive when we’re done.  Moments are subtle – they are the opposite of landmines.  Of course, I hope that as I inch closer to my own senility, I will remember the moments with mom more than the landmines, though all things being equal, I’m sure to remember both – until I can no longer remember at all.

One can only write so many negative things about their mother without sounding like a horrible person, so I pared this down to protect her innocence and my own reputation.  Of course, I love my mother and am grateful to have this opportunity to help care for her.  And no, I don’t really think I am a horrible person for writing this.  For sharing it…?  That’s another story…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from U2 or as I like to call it, music’s finest hour.  Enjoy….