Take a Beat

Rage by Daria from Copenhagen, Denmark (Scream  Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike horror movies, which I love, reality crime dramas leave me feeling anxious and horrified. What these stories seem to have in common are the limited problem solving skills of the principals. Sometimes, those skills appear to be non-existent.

Continue reading Take a Beat

Disconnected

View from Apollo 11 Wiki Commons Public Domain

Glowing testimonials are nice, I suppose, but really, who believes them anyway.

If you’re like me, your assumption when you see one is that it’s fake, bought, or coerced by the dangling of some prize in the eyes of would-be reviewers. These days, affirmation is not difficult to come by, if you’re willing to relentlessly solicit, annoy, and beg your friends and followers for hollow accolades.

Continue reading Disconnected

Demons Get a Bad Rap

The Good and Evil Angels by William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There wasn’t any hint of the demons that plagued him. His nondescript manner caused him to blend in with everyone else. Unremarkable would be a suitable description of him, as it would be for most of us, if our neighbors were polled.

When word spread of that horrible thing that he did, no one could believe it. He must have gone crazy or been possessed by demons, many would conclude.

Continue reading Demons Get a Bad Rap

Hope and Change Takes Time

By Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, I finally went through the enrollment process at healthcare.gov. Last year, I was among those who were frustrated with the broken website, and I experienced some of that same frustration yesterday too, but once I was able to log on, the application process was pretty simple.

Back when the Affordable Care Act was being debated, I was an advocate of the legislation. (Yes, I know that it’s still being debated, but I’m referring to the debate that occurred before its passage).

Continue reading Hope and Change Takes Time

Before I Go

By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World (Bhutan: Deep Thoughts) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In a comment to my last post, there was a mention of “deathbed repentance”. My initial reaction was, “That’s a sure cure for writer’s block.” That’s how my brain works. Usually, the first thought that enters my mind is inappropriate, sarcastic, childish, or gallows humor. Fortunately, my mind’s interlocutor is up to the challenge, routinely filtering the unsuitable.

Continue reading Before I Go

Remember When You …

By liz west from Boxborough, MA (contacts) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I received a letter from a high school friend a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t seen him since the 80’s. More surprising than being remembered after such a long period of time was the reason for his having decided to contact me. He wanted to apologize for spilling a drink on me some 30 years ago.

Continue reading Remember When You …

My May-December Romance

Antonio Canova sculpture work Psyche Revived By Cupids Kiss. Photo taken by wikipedian User:Pufacz in LuwrIt’s hard to believe that I’ve written almost 62,000 words for clients since my last post in May, but I haven’t found the time to blog. Instead, I’ve been trying to woo clients with words, formulas, and testimonials. This hasn’t been your typical May-December romance.

Hello my dear readers! Some of you have contacted me during my blogging hiatus and encouraged me to get back to blogging. I really appreciate that. It’s nice to be missed. Continue reading My May-December Romance

Here Comes the Chump

Cheetah Chase | By Hein waschefort (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou’re never too old to be taken for a chump.

Predators are everywhere.  If we’re lucky, we aren’t targeted as their prey.  Most of us believe that we are too savvy, too smart, or simply not gullible enough to fall for a scam, but the truth is that victims can be found everywhere.  The realization that you’ve been duped is not only embarrassing; it also has an erosive effect on our ability to trust.

Continue reading Here Comes the Chump

I’m Not Heisenberg

Breaking Bad eyes?

My daughter’s spring break coincided with my birthday this year. It was nice to have her home to mark my 53rd lap around the calendar. I worked all day on Tuesday and didn’t get home until 7:30. It was good that I was working at a new job. It was bad that it was at a job that I hate.

Continue reading I’m Not Heisenberg

Etching Granite

Wilanow Cemetary by Thunderman83 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the details are known at the beginning. It’s just a matter of transferring the data from our first government document.

Name:

Born:

Only one factual detail remains to be revealed before the craftsman can begin the etching.

Died:

After that, all that’s left is the drafting of a few words to summarize our existence.

Husband, Father, Friend.

Add a modifier – “Beloved” is a popular one – and we’re done.

Continue reading Etching Granite

Not Naming Any Names

Crowds on 18th Street - 2009 presidential inauguration By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

“You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

If you’ve blogged for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this question. It doesn’t matter if your blog is read only by a few people, or if you change names to protect the innocent — knowing that you write about things can sometimes give your family and friends the willies. So they ask, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?” Then you lie.

“Of course not!”

Continue reading Not Naming Any Names

In My Mirror I See…

Self-Portrait shaving with reflection By saintbob (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsIt surprises me that people are so enamored with the sight of their own reflection.

To take what we see when we look into a mirror and somehow leave that experience with a positive feeling just doesn’t make any sense at all. The mirror reveals every blemish, every imperfection, and every bit of well-worn evidence of our age and of our aging. All that is required to see the truth is that we take a realistic look.

Continue reading In My Mirror I See…

When Everything Seems New

Hiroshima Aftermath | This work is in the public domain

My daughter was startled by my reaction.

Her tentative response prompted my wide-eyed look. I had been caught off guard. My composed demeanor pierced, there was no hiding my astonishment. I was aghast.

Okay, I may be overselling it a bit, but it was a surprising moment.

Continue reading When Everything Seems New

I’m a Profiler

Grand Teton in Winter - By NPS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“If you have God all over your profile and I don’t follow back, it’s not that I don’t like you. I’m just trying to avoid an argument.”

This was a tweet that I wrote a few days ago, but never sent – partially because it may be a tad inflammatory, but mostly because I really didn’t want to hear it. People get very uptight about religion and a clenched bunghole isn’t the ideal posture from which to begin a dialogue.

Continue reading I’m a Profiler

Advancing Philomena

Kickstarter - Philomena Sparks And The Curse of The Big Ben

One of my brothers has always liked to say:

“I’d rather owe you that money for the rest of your life, than cheat you out of it.”

The concept of debt – of payments and balances; of the good kind versus the bad – is interesting to consider.

  • Borrow to invest: Good.
  • Borrow to survive: Bad.
  • Default on a mortgage: Lose all of your equity. It’s probably what you deserve.
  • Destroy the economy: Have a finger wagged at you, but you get to keep your millions.

Continue reading Advancing Philomena

Juggling Act

Early Egyptian Juggling

Rather than subjecting you to a year-end “best of 2012” post, I decided to fire-up the Wayback Machine to share something that I wrote long before I started blogging. This story was written on March 13, 1996, when my 20-year old daughter was three. It’s one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it. Happy New Year!

“My daughter is still of the age where to watch me juggle two balls is magic.”

Standing there, performing for my daughter, I struggle to keep both balls aloft — not so much for a lack of dexterity on my part, but because I cannot resist staring back into her gaze of amazement. I have seen her tiny features transformed from a cherubic likeness to those that are now distinctly her own — as if chiseled from the hand of Michelangelo himself. She looks up to me with unyielding trust and an expression that evinces a discernible air of confidence that I will always be there for her. The level of satisfaction is so complete as to cause me to breathe deep the heavy air of responsibility. I am both elated and frightened — each with equal intensity. How can I possibly make all the right decisions? How can I ensure that she will look back upon these times with a sense of having been loved? These worries are undoubtedly not new, for every parent must surely feel similar pangs of trepidation, yet the knowledge that this is most likely a universal anxiety does little to ease my mind.

She likes to roughhouse with me and releases the loudest, most heartfelt laughter when engaged in this type of play. As she grows, I increasingly feel the sting of a once harmless slap to the cheek. She’s getting stronger every day. The crick in my neck, from a too firm grip while playing horsey, tells me so. We play anyway, because I’d rather feel discomfort than disappoint. Call it my contribution to the stereotypical fatherly weakness.

My little girl won’t always be little, and that is a frightening thought. When the teenage years arrive, I pity the early prospectors for her attention; for I am certain that I will not take it well.

But those years are still far off and there are more immediate concerns. It makes no sense to look too far into the future because in doing so we risk missing the present.

I had a birthday yesterday. I didn’t feel any sense of having achieved any particular milestone since thirty-six is not divisible by five or ten. I did however get up early in the morning to allow myself some moments of quiet reflection.

George Burns died last weekend.

Although he lived to see his hundredth birthday, I had a sense that he died too soon. What does that say for the rest of us? For me, it says that time is precious and that while we do not have the power to stipulate the place or time of our leaving we can control the use of it while we are able.

My daughter didn’t care about any of that. To her, it was Daddy’s birthday– whatever that meant. When I finally did return home from work, my wife reported that my little girl had dutifully practiced the birthday song all day long. Upon hearing this, I anxiously awaited her special rendition. The candles lit, I turned off the lights, sat back, and awaited the serenade. I looked into her eyes and said, “I’m ready.”

She would not sing. The long rehearsed tribute was undone by an unforeseen fit of shyness. The candles were melting onto the cake, so I made my wish and blew them out.

Maybe next year.

____________________

I was reminded of this story this morning, when I read a post by Neal Call. After commenting here, of course, I recommend that you visit Neal’s blog and read On holding hands (a meditation on being a father). He writes well and I think that you’ll enjoy his post.

After The Prayers

Non violence sculpture by Carl Fredrik ReuterswärdI know almost nothing about guns and murder, death and dying, justice, or crime. My usual experience, like yours, in all of these things is peripheral, save for the times in our lives when these realities came near. We lose a loved one – a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or a dear friend and we are thrust into the vortex of sorrows. Once there, we may question our faith, embrace or curse our respective gods, contemplate the meaning of our existence, or curse that as well, as we struggle to make it through just one more day, until we can return our lives to some level of normalcy.

The majority of the time, we are distant observers. One tragic death somewhere else in the world is closely followed by another. The circumstances of each are as awful as they are senseless.

There is no reason that we should expect to find reason in death, yet we do.

We look for reason and find nothing, so we turn to others, most often religious leaders, to provide it. Failing that, we make it up ourselves. Usually the reasons that we settle on have something to do with God’s will or some other nebulous explanation.

When the scale of the tragedy – the sum of the body count, the deviousness of the crime, or the demographic of the victims – is horrendous or shocking enough to assault our sensibilities and garner our collective attention, we participate in a sort of mass hypnosis.

Your god, my god, no god, it doesn’t matter. Each irrational configuration of facts and beliefs adds to the delusion. Our emotions are stranded in a wasteland of incomprehension. Nothing that we think to do seems particularly helpful, so we offer prayers, moments of silence, donations, rants, and support. We try to translate our feelings of dread into something positive. If we are successful, it may bring us comfort, but at what cost?

Comfort breeds conformity.

Whether we find relief from the sorrows in an ancient text, the beauty of a sunset, or a preacher’s words, it’s a personal journey. I would never try to deprive anyone of these things – these closely held beliefs that guide us and help us to try to make sense in a senseless world, that help us to find a balance between the evil with the good, that allow us to see hope in a time of hopelessness. They are yours to use as you wish to ease your burdens.

It’s none of my business.

But when those beliefs are used to make policy, it becomes my business. We should never allow the voices of those who would inject dogma into the national discussion to influence policy.

  • When the memory of slaughtered children is used as proof that removing god from our schools is to blame, I say, “No!”
  • When we are asked to throw up our hands in despair and do nothing about the proliferation of guns in our society because the death of those children in Connecticut is god’s will, I say, “No!”

We all know that gun violence has been a problem in America long before now, as I wrote in response to Wendy’s heartfelt post “Thoughts on Friday’s Events” following the Newtown shootings:

I’m a country bumpkin now, but I grew up in some pretty rough neighborhoods. From that vantage point, gun violence has always been a problem, because I lived in the midst of it. A thousand deaths a year, every year, in NYC should have been enough to draw attention to the problem years ago. It wasn’t. Perhaps this tragedy will.

There are things that we can do to try to stem the violence, but we have to be willing to do more than pray to get there. People often disdain regulation. They see it as an infringement of their rights. The introduction of helmet laws for bikers, seat belts, anti-smoking efforts were all met with resistance. While not perfect solutions, there’s no denying that these efforts have saved lives. Why should the regulation of guns be any different? We must let our elected leaders know that what we have now is not working. It will never work.

My initial reaction upon hearing about Newtown last Friday was to lash out, to point fingers, to look for a villain. A week later, it’s hard to shake the sense that the world is a terrible place. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre’s soulless comments yesterday, bolsters that belief. For him to purport to have meaningful input on Newtown while excluding guns altogether is tone deaf at best and a diabolical attempt to stoke fear and swell his organization’s ranks at worst.

If I am to fear my neighbors, then I ought to be prepared to do battle. How else am I supposed to protect my family? That is the lunacy of LaPierre’s more-guns-is-the-answer stance. If I don’t participate, I am, in effect, shirking my responsibilities.

This almost makes me want to go out and buy a gun, which I suspect is exactly what the endgame is.

The Sensible Millions

There will never be a tragedy bad enough to convince some that America has a gun problem.

No one is safe.

Nothing that I write here will change any minds, so I won’t even try to argue the point. It’s the rest of us, the sensible millions, to whom I address my plea.

Stop the madness.

The schools where we send our children each day, the malls in which we shop, and the streets of our cities have all become dangerous places to be. Just the thought of a parent being told the horrible news today sends me to a dark place. Knowing that twenty sets of parents are receiving this news, in Connecticut, makes me want to stay there.

I’m filled with sadness, or course, but I’m also filled with hate.

But who? Who should be the object of this hate?

The gunman? The NRA? The government? All three?  Others?

I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

There are more of us than there are of them. The time for debating half-measures is over. The gun debate, such as it is, should not be confined to the question of semi-automatic weapons.  The politics of profits over people; lobbyists over common sense has to end.

The debate needs to start with a goal of zero.

I’d rather wipe my ass with the Second Amendment than see it be used as justification for the continued slaughter of innocents.

It’s All in Front of Them

It was a packed house for the 5Th and 6TH grade Winter Chorus at my daughter’s school.
The children put on a good show.

As they enthusiastically performed, I started to think of all of the potential that was packed onto that stage. Not the American Idol type of potential that is pervasive in our society, but the type of potential that says, “It’s all in front of them.”

How many of them will become doctors or lawyers? How many of them will pursue their dreams as vigorously as they belted out those holiday tunes? How many will become parents themselves?

I was seated near the front and I turned to look at all of the parents watching their children. I could almost see the hope in their eyes.

Our children really are the best things about us.

Dealing with Disappointment

My daughter had tried out for a solo. She is outgoing and confident and participates in many extracurricular activities. She was disappointed when she wasn’t selected for one of the brief solo parts, but that disappointment didn’t last long, nor was it discernible during the performance. There will be other shows, and she’ll be there, trying her best, as always.

Working through our children’s disappointments is more difficult than working through our own. We’ve had those experiences ourselves, so we can more easily differentiate the severity of each episode, whereas to them, disappointments all feel the same, at least for a little while.

When my daughter at college calls, feeling overwhelmed, I want to help – but there isn’t much that I can do – so I listen. When a class is not going well, and the desperation in her voice is palpable, I talk her down by reminding her to keep the situation in perspective. The pressure to succeed is real, but that reality should never be allowed to affect us so disproportionately as to shatter our resolve.

The Cheerleader and The Coach

During these times, my wife is more of a cheerleader, whereas my approach resembles that of a coach. She cheers our daughters on unwaveringly and I teach them how to deal with what’s ahead when the cheering stops. In this, I think that we make a good team. Of course, we switch roles from time to time, but invariably we revert to what we are each most comfortable with – the cheerleader and the coach.

The hope is that the different types of support that we provide will enable our girls to meet each challenge that arises, now and in the future, in a balanced way.

The Have-Nots

I’ve always advocated for the causes of the downtrodden, the unlucky, and the beset upon – In short, the have-nots.

Bad things happen to good people. This is certain. Sure, bad things also happen to bad people, but I refuse to believe that this is the norm.

I’ve been gainfully employed for most of my life, but I’ve always seen the world through the eyes of those were not as fortunate as me. Being out of work was something that I could easily envision, since our jobs are not guaranteed. That I have been able to avoid being in that predicament, by finding the right jobs, is due as much to good fortune and being at the right place at the right time, as to anything else.

Those who disagree with my assessment can point to individual instances in support of their claim, but that kind of empirical evidence never made any sense to me.

Who would choose to live on less (or none) if they were able to work?

Extenuating circumstances always seemed a more plausible explanation for unemployment than to simply dismiss, as lazy, those who found themselves waking each day with nowhere to go.

Now that I have been unemployed for several months, I see that I was right all along.

My job does not define me.

I’m still the same person that I was when I was working. I have the same responsibilities and the same worries – although those worries are magnified now that a more uncertain future has been added to the mix. Throughout these months, the world hasn’t skipped a beat – moving onward without me.

That’s what the world does.

My mind is as sharp as ever and I possess the same skill-set that I had before. The only difference is that no one is paying me at the moment. The job market, at least the market within a 60-mile radius of my home, has dried up. The process of trolling job boards, applying for the positions in my field that would sustain me, and interviewing is interminable. Each promising lead that fades takes a piece of me with it, leaving me to feel a bit more vulnerable; a bit more defeated.

But I’m still me.

I’ve hesitated to write about this topic because I wanted to avoid the inevitable pep talks from well-wishers. It may seem harsh to say, but words of encouragement, no matter how well-intentioned, don’t help. But I’ve decided to use my less than enviable position to write about the process and what it does to a person who is experiencing it.

Working vs. Finding Work

I’ve discovered that there is no correlation between job performance and the skills required to find a job. While working, your job performance is its own barometer of accomplishment. However, when searching for a job, you have to convince someone, who does not know you, that you are as competent as you claim, without actually doing the job – a very different proposition. If you are unaccustomed to selling yourself, you’re in big trouble.

The interview process is fraught with possible pitfalls. Be confident, but not cocky. Be aggressive, but not pushy. Stress your proficiencies, but don’t brag. The list of Dos and Don’ts is long. If you focus on them, it can lead to paralysis and self-doubt. Yet ignoring them can also be fatal to your chances of success.

The Experience Trap

By far, the question that comes up most often is “Why would a person with your experience want this job?” The follow-up to that question is a discussion of the prospective employer’s concern that I will leave for a better job at the first opportunity.

If I’m too experienced for the available jobs, what am I to do? The concept of starting over cannot be foreign to prospective employers, can it? I point to my employment history which depicts long stints of several years at each company, but that does not convince them. It’s a no-win situation. Clearly, I will move on to another position eventually, but isn’t that a universal aspiration?

I’m often left feeling that nothing short of indentured servitude would sway them.

Confidence

Easily, the first casualty of any job search is the applicant’s confidence. How could it not be? Regardless of the reasons given, rejection is tough to take. In the short-term, it’s easy to dismiss those rebukes, but as they begin to pile up, it becomes impossible to justify them to ourselves. The negative thoughts seep in and begin to wear away at our resolve.

For me, confidence had never been a problem, but it’s easy to be confident when things are going well. I feel tested each day. I don’t always pass the test.

Pressing Forward

I know in my gut that I will find a job and that things will eventually get back to normal, but knowing that doesn’t make this time in Limbo any easier. Until then, I will try to stay positive by believing that my long career to date has been more than some happy accident, and that someone, somewhere will recognize that I still have much to offer.

——————–

Have you endured a long period of unemployment?

How did that experience affect you?

You’ve Got That Look

“Lemon, what happened in your childhood to make you believe that people are good?”

That’s one of Jack Donaghy’s lines from 30 Rock. The character, played by Alec Baldwin, is a straight shooter, whose facial expressions reinforce his words.

In real life, there’s often a disconnect between the things that people say and the facial expressions they display. When Jack speaks, there’s no ambiguity in his message.

I laugh every time that I hear that line because – while I’ve never been asked that question, in that way – I recognize the look that comes with it.

It’s a look of confusion.

It’s a look that says:

“How could you be so naive? People are bad. Don’t you know that?”

There’s plenty of evidence to support this world view. Nearly everything in the media confirms the notion that people are bad. Stories featuring people doing good are rare, so expecting people to be good is like carrying an umbrella every day. You’ll manage to stay dry when it rains, but you risk looking like an idiot the rest of the time.

It’s a look of derision.

It’s a look that says:

“You poor misguided fool, you must be a liberal.”

The wearer of this look believes that I must have blinders on which prevent me from seeing the obvious. They offer as proof: high crime rates, the corruption of the powerful, and the abuses by beneficiaries of social programs – welfare recipients, the unemployed, etc.

They insist that a helping hand is no better than a handout, because people are largely lazy, shiftless beings who are always looking for an easy out.

It’s a look of evolution.

It’s a look that says:

“I used to be like you, but not anymore.”

A person wearing this look feels that he’s pulled enough knives out of his back to know better. He’s taken the instances where people have acted badly and projected those characteristics onto everyone going forward. He’s evolved, so he safeguards his interests, because no one else will. He knows that it’s just a matter of time before I come to know the sad truth about people that he’s already learned.

If you’ve given me this look, in any of its forms, don’t worry – I won’t hold that against you.

I understand how easy it is to lose faith in humanity, so I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong if you feel that way. I will tell you that there’s no need to be confused by someone, like me, who refuses to abandon his neighbor, even when he disappoints. I’ll ask that you don’t deride my belief in the capacity of people to be selfless when doing things for others, because I’ve seen many examples. If you think about it, I’m certain that you have too. To evolve is to change for the better; to progress and develop. Efforts to achieve our shared objectives are hampered when we are false with one another, with either our words or our faces.

Our expressions may only hint at what we’re really thinking, but there would be a lot less room for speculation if our words more often bore a resemblance to what we said with our faces.

——————–

  • Are you okay with “putting on a face” in social situations?
  • Do you believe that it’s effective?
  • How do you react if you are called on it?

——————–
A special thanks to Brown for coming up with the perfect song to go with this post, which eluded me when I first put it up.

Today is All about Awesome

I’m excited to announce that I will be writing for Life As A Human – “the online magazine for evolving minds.”

After submitting a sample to express my interest in writing for them, I was thrilled to learn that I could join their team of writers.

If you were following my blog last year, you may have read my submission already, but even if that’s so, I’d like for you to click through to it anyway.

Help make my first post on Life As A Human even more awesome!

Click on over to read it and if you like it please:

  • Tweet it
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  • Comment

Come on ladies and gents, you know the drill.

All future articles will be new content.