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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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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Under The Rainbow…

Rather than spend my morning tied to my 17″ window to the world, I decided early to ride my bike to Rainbow and meet a friend at the Rainbow Oaks Restaurant for breakfast.  Breakfast was unexciting, though we had a nice chat and enjoyed catching up. On my departure from the restaurant, I notice something unusual about my bike – it wasn’t there.

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Having had a few bikes stolen, this didn’t stun me.  I was very matter of fact about the whole thing, since I had locked it.  I had locked it to a post under a sign which read Biker Parking Only. I’m sharp enough to know the sign was intended for motorcycles, but with the profile of my bike being smaller than the motorized version, I felt it would be safe.

Before I called the police, I went back inside the restaurant and inquired if perhaps they had seen it taken, or had seen fit to remove it.  The owner of the restaurant greeted me with a bit of hesitation saying…

“Oh, that was yours….?”  He looked caught off guard.

Yes, I explained.  He told me he wasn’t sure where they put it, and excused himself, saying he would be right back. I waited about 10 minutes with no contact from him – just being stared at by restaurant employees who looked like they had seen this before.

Just as I was about to walk back and find out where he went, he met me out front with my bike and the lock he had cut off.  He offered no apology and no explanation of why he had my bike removed.  I began to question him.  He explained that my bike was in the way and decided to have it removed so people could get in and out.

I then asked him why he didn’t come through the restaurant and ask who the bike belonged to.  He hesitated before he told me that he had.  That’s not true.  There was no attempt, at all, inside the restaurant to inquire about the owner of the bike – none.

I suggested he was out of line and told him I was thinking about calling the police.  He explained to me, and this was witnessed, that I could go ahead and call them – that the all knew him and liked him.  Okay then.

Look, I get it.  I’m a disgruntled customer treated poorly, and I should let it go and invest my time in other pursuits.  My friend suggested I dispute the charges on my debit card based on poor customer service.  In the end, I didn’t even want to do that.  I was going to let the whole thing go – until I got home.

It seems that Duke, the restaurant’s owner, not only had my bike removed, but had it thrown in the dumpster – that’s what took him so long to retrieve it.  It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the grease, ketchup and maple syrup that was stuck the frame and the rims.

I have since disputed the charges with my bank.  We’ll see how far that goes.  I will file a police report later today, based on the fact that my bike was removed, and no attempt was made to contact anyone inside the restaurant.  That, and that my bike had obvious signs of time spent inside the restaurant’s dumpster.  Even if police do nothing, and I suspect they won’t, I have this blog – a message in a bottle and a written record for whom this might happen to in the future.

I have never used this blog as a platform for getting even, or speaking negatively about a person or a business.  I doubt I will ever do it again.  However, Duke at the Rainbow Oaks Restaurant cut the lock off my bike and threw it in a dumpster, having made no attempt to connect with the owner first.  That may or may not have been unlawful, but it was gutless.  And honestly, Duke just looks gutless…  Jhciacb

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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The Sports Reporters…

I turned the TV on this Sunday morning, as I have for much of my adult life, and tuned in to the Sports Reporters on ESPN.  The Sports Reporters is a 30-minute semi-intellectual look at the week in sports, often focused on the stories behind the headlines.  In its 4th decade, the show has consisted of a rotating panel of print journalists from the sporting world.

Being basketball season, I tuned out much of the show this morning until the final segment.  They call that last segment Parting Shots.  It’s when each of the reporters takes 60 seconds to soap box about something they felt was significant in the week of sports.  The Parting Shots might take aim an issue, a person or an event of the week prior, and on rare occasions, perhaps a well-deserved accolade on behalf of a sporting person or event that otherwise went largely unnoticed by the sports media that week.

As they went ‘round the table with their parting shots this morning, it was immediately apparent, and I was just as quickly stunned, that they were saying goodbye – a fond farewell to the run of a show that was just minutes from concluding for the final time.  I was in the same kind of shock and disbelief I might be on learning that a neighbor, a teacher  or coworker whom I appreciated had passed away.  The Sports Reporters was a casual friend – one that I trusted, admired and appreciated from day 1.

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There had always been an intelligence about the show that rose above the trivial headlines, personalities and stories that were the superficial draw of sports for so many.

Ironically, last week I had begun a derogatory essay on the selection of journalist Mike Lupica to host the show, after the passing of the previous host, John Saunders last year.  I thought Lupica was a poor choice, but that essay has since been deleted from my hard drive, as well as from my mind.  The Sports Reporters is no longer.

Dick Schaap was not the show’s original host as is commonly touted, though he was named host later in the first season, and remained host until his death in 2001.  Schaap, a legitimate print journalist with an eye for details and a nose for facts, was the reason for the show’s success.  By the time of his death in 2001, the show’s path and trajectory were so well established that I often spoke of the show to my friends, as one of the best products in media.

Every time I have walked away from professional or high level amateur sports, vowing to never waste my time on such nonsense ever again, I would still tune into The Sports Reporters each Sunday morning for an intelligent take on all I had missed.

I’m in one right now actually – a sports hiatus that is.  I grow tired of crybaby millionaires, domestic abuse stories and the never-ending loop of shoe contract discussions that dominate sports headlines.  Well, a partial hiatus, anyway.  I will always make time for the Masters, college softball and the occasional triple crown event which might find its way to my TV.

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Dick Schaap.  A voice of reason in sports journalism…

Next Sunday morning I won’t be able to tune into The Sports Reporters to find out what went wrong or what went right in the world of sports this week.  I will though, think of those panelists as I have each Sunday morning when I do my own writing.  These men have always been front in my mind as I write my own little amateur column here on this blog.  Dick Schaap, John Saunders, Mitch Albom, Jason Whitlock, Bill Rhoden, Bob Ryan, John Feinstein, Bill Conlin, Tony Kornheiser and Jeremy Schaap (Dick’s son) were journalists I admired and appreciated.  Today, I even appreciate Mike Lupica.  Farewell good men, and thank you…  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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