One (Baby) Step At A Time…”

It is the first week of July and a month since I’ve even been attached to this site. I have had several readers ask about my lack of content (one even called, an old high school buddy) and asked me what was the deal?

Short answer: I’m busy.

Longer answer: I’m involved in several different changes in my life that I am focusing my attention on and how I am splitting my energy and focus is in flux.

Even longer (rambling, reasonably pointless) answer: It all started with a passing comment in an earlier posting that my IPad had finally died (read it here, if you are interested or sufficiently bored). A friend from my church casually mentioned he had a spare and was willing to pass it along. I met him (he works weekdays about 90 km away) on an off day at the local Apple store so he could dump the data from his old one to (one of) his newer models and give me an essentially blank machine. After only about 189 minutes (typical example of how things seem to seldom go smoothly for me) of standing in the parking lot he returned with a 3rd gen IPad with retina display. Compared to my earlier model, this is like an upgrade from your basic clunker first car (189,600 miles and more rust than metal visible, but it runs…mostly) to your mid life second family vehicle (couple of years old, 60-70 thousand miles, but pretty well maintained and not too badly equiped, and at least an order of magnitude or two better than that first embarasement of a car). The crack in the screen of this one is about 6 times as long and is visibly distracting when focusing on the upper right corner of the display, but the dual cameras (front AND back) more than make up for the imperfection (and it doesn’t seem to be anything but a cosmetic blemish…so far).

Since I had a habit of downloading programs (free, of course) to try and run several iOS versions outdated, I had accumulated about 700 different programs to choose from to install back on this new toy. Many were no brainer choices, one was a fitness app that allows me to track my diet, exercise (HAHAHA), weight and that of my friends (MyFitnessPal). I had used it sporadically with the old pad and I thought it might be a good idea to start journaling my food intake again. It was early in May.

About a week later I read an article that pointed me to a couple of books on productivity. Which I ordered from my library and waited a week to receive. Then I read The One Thing (a book review here) and I decided the one thing I needed to do was to lose weight. So I determined I would eat less and set goals with this purpose in mind. This was about the end of the 3rd week in May.

Time passes, and more books come in from the library. The latest on loan (due back in 10 days) are Take the Stairs and Procrastinate on Purpose, both by Rory Vaden. (I hope to write reviews of both before they have to be returned to the ether.)  I think this is a personal example of witnessing the exact snowflake that causes an avalanche. Everything stacked up with the reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading) of these books to cause me to question everything in my life. Where I have been, where am I now, and where do I want to go from here. Why? What do I need to do (or more importantly, not do) to get there?

The month of June became one great soul-search of meaning and purpose (all the time keeping under my food budget). Add to this a incidental visit to my mom and sister (where my mom lives now) and the mention of a desire to eventually obtain a exercise (HAHAHA) monitor. My sister then goes to a drawer and brings out a FitBit Ultima and gives it to me. Another excuse falls and another snowflake drops into place. And since she also uses the same food/fitness program, she agrees to be an accountability partner in my journey. Another nudge.

So. June passed without posting an article. There were a lot of things that I usually did that didn’t happen last month. I didn’t watch as much TV (one reason is it’s the dead zone of programming, there is less that the usual dribble of programs worth watching, so it wasn’t so hard/bad, but truth disclosure demands I watched considerably less news and science programming, also, so there was a significant reduction in my electric bill from non-TV consumption). I didn’t play video games on my PS3 at all. (I did fire it up a couple of times to access YouTube for a couple of tutorials.) I spent far less time on the computer (my Blender work suffered nearly as much as my blog). No movies, no fast food, limited travel. Much of the month was spent in meditation (read: intense thinking and considering options) and contemplation (not of my navel, that was more of a ’70s activity and I think I have out-grown the need for that).

So where does that take us? Currently, I believe I will continue to focus much of my energy to changing the general direction this “ship of state” is heading (similar to a huge ore freighter, my life has rarely been able to change in any direction without making a three hour, 5-mile radius turn, or involving a dozen or more diesel tug boats forcing me to go sideways in an unnatural course change). I believe I will be more active in posting in the cooler seasons, so the “three-a-week” schedule is temporarily disabled. I think a post every couple of weeks is more likely as things stabilize. Overall, I still have a desire to write, and share observations I’ve gleaned from life as we know it, but at this season it is not at the top of my list, so it’s being POPed (procrastinated on purpose, from the book of the same  name) to allow me to do more significant things first.

And the progress on that weight thing? As of this morning, I have lost 33 pounds since I started journaling. I am on track to be at 300 pounds by my birthday in September and at 275 by New Year’s Eve. And believe me when I say that is truly encouraging all by itself. If nothing else comes of my month of introspection, it will be more than worth it in the long(er) run.

So, I leave you with my best (admittedly really bad) Austrian accented quote:

“I’ll be back…”

Phred

post 74 of n

Advertisements

Concessions In The Theater Of Your Mind

I awoke from my ugly nap this afternoon in a mood most foul. I was involved in playing cards (Euchre) with others and the last hand was one I thought I could do well with. Another gentleman declared trump and I felt I had a very good chance at setting him. I then discovered the rules (in this game, not in the real world) required my cards to be taken to another table and played by a woman that had not demonstrated much of an understanding of the game. I was incensed, screaming that there were two ways to play the hand, the right way and one that “might possibly have a chance of winning.” I then awoke without knowing which way the hand went, but furious none the less.

Staring at the ceiling I contemplated what had just occurred (while waiting for my blood pressure to return to normal). In general, I am an even-tempered person, not often riled to the point of violent expression of emotions. Unlike some people I am related to, I don’t scream loudly or throw things when events don’t go the way I think they should. Most of the time I simply express my hope that the horrific drivers around me actually MAKE it to their destination rather than express my gratitude that they’re “number one” in my book by hand signals. I’m pretty calm overall.

Until I fall asleep. From acts of violence against others worthy of at least an “R” rating (and hours of cleanup by stagehands afterward) and property damage requiring incarceration prior to judgement, to leg-buckling events of terror beyond the imagination of King or Hitchcock. I often awake drenched in a cold sweat, heart palpitation violent enough to consider ringing for the attendant (there’s a medical call string in my apartment that notifies the authorities to come and assist…presuming your “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment occurs within a couple feet of the bed or toilet). Or the need to change pillowcases after they are discovered swamped with tears of sadness. (On second thought, this doesn’t count as I find the crushing waves of despair and loneliness occur during waking moments, too….)

So why the greatly amplified expression of emotions in my dreams? Perhaps this is a way of retaining my sanity against the madness of the greater world in the land of light. By experiencing and expressing these emotions in the privacy of my own head (which I would never do in the real world) I am then able to keep a relatively even keel in public. I don’t have to “go postal” at the incompetency of my clerk or waitstaff because I have already vented enough pressure during the darkness to keep in control.

Also, why do I continue to go to work delivering propane to clients in the night, when this part of my occupation history ended in 1990? Or wander through the same school campus between unknown classes I am inevitably late enough to watch other students depart from as I approach? At least I find most elevator shafts actually contain a car when the doors open (which they rarely did in my younger years… but the sensation of awakening just as you hit the bottom from a great height and floating to the top of your mattress as your eyes opened eventually became a thrill rather than a terror). What perverse need is there in the depths of my psyche to torture me nightly with a “night life” more boring than my real one, so much that the memory of what transpired evaporates within the time it takes to return from the bathroom. And then, just as unexpectedly as opening the door to the Publisher’s Clearing House crew, I am subjected to wild acts of debauchery and decadence requiring the rating board to turn away in horror, hastily slapping a MA rating or worse on my subconscious life.

Were there a pattern, some explainable reason why the cinema of the mind chooses which film to show on any given night I could better deal with the confusion. Part of my daily journal keeping includes recording such dreams as I can remember (by the time I get up and fire up the computer…maybe 1 in 10 overall?). Also included in the journal is a rambling account of the day’s events and food choices for meals, so I have been able to examine at least some of the surrounding events leading up to a significant dream event. I have never found any correlation between eating anchovies on my pizza (Yumm… I know, I’m weird) and driving a truck later that evening. Or enough variance in my drab existence to justify ripping the still-beating heart out of my nearest attacker while war rages around me.

And don’t get me started on the couple of times I was able to experience lucid dreaming. Oh, how I’ve tried to set up the joy of being fully in control of my surroundings while aware it was all a dream. The movie Inception only got it half right when everything aligns during a lucid session. Flying and changing your surroundings with a wave of your hand is AWESOME! And rare enough to awake to extreme frustration that the movie ended a quickly as it did.

What I’m left with is a Wheel-Of-Fortune method of determining what channel appears each night (or afternoon in this case) and my ticket is non-refundable. This is just another example of why I think Rod Serling is present in my apartment. (If I just whip my head around fast enough I think I can get a glimpse of him standing behind me….)

So, what I want to know is this, within the theater of my mind, where presumably I have season tickets to my own private screening of life as I think it woulda/coulda/shoulda be…

Why do I always have to wait in line to buy popcorn?

Phred

post 73 of n

Updated Definition Of Insanity?

“Doing the same thing but expecting a different outcome” is one working understanding of what insanity is (maybe not a clinical term, but a working one for us non-medical people). I know deep in the dark recesses of my inner self that, unless I make real, significant changes in my way of thinking, I will continue to exhibit the same, reoccurring pattern of self-defeating behavior and the physical and psychic decay that marks my current state of existence.

Each morning I leap climb crawl out of bed with the vision that today will be the day I am successful in [INSERT PET IDEA OF THE WEEK HERE]. Each evening (or more likely, several hours past midnight) when I slip crawl collapse into bed and review the day’s events I am forced to conclude that I have totally failed at [INSERT PET IDEA OF THE WEEK HERE] and will have to try harder tomorrow (or more likely, later this morning).

Apparently I’m insane, as I do this daily.

Take my computer activity for instance. I know if I start working on a project I tend to get so focused that I can easily spend a couple of hours straight at the keyboard without ever moving more than 8-10 inches. When my vision drifts toward yellow and the needs of the flesh become insistent I am reminded remaining stationary for extended periods is NOT a good way to live with arthritis.

[Insert commercial for Depends here.]

There have been several “get up and move” assignments for the PET IDEA OF THE WEEK with the “expected” result (or lack of same). As I pointed out in an earlier post, ” I am only a good intention. I am a really, REALLY bad implementer of change.” So I guess I must submit the plea “not guilty by reason of insanity” for my actions.

Except maybe today can be different. With the death of my I-Pad, I have broken out my Palm Pilot again (mostly to use as as calendar app; my cell phone version is worse than my old Franklin Planner after dropping it in the toilet a few times). One of the apps on the expansion card is a program called PocketDoan that can be used to signal the passing of a series of time periods.

I think it was made to assist people in meditation / prayers / yoga / psychic activities, giving a gentle tone to start the next activity. [2 minutes pass here.] By shifting the burden of keeping track of how long you are doing [INSERT ACTIVITY HERE] from your conscious mind, you can better focus on  successfully accomplishing [INSERT ACTIVITY HERE].

My “Computer Work” program is a 20 minute period of productive work, followed by 2 minutes of “rest eyes” time (when i stop looking at the screen and either do distance vision exercises or just palm my eyes). This cycle repeats twice and after a third work period I get a 10 minute “get up and move” notice. So I get an hour of work time every 74 minutes with an “enforced” break to stretch and keep the joints from freezing up.

This post is being written in the third cycle tonight. So far, I have gotten up twice in the last couple of hours and this is two times more than I would have earlier in the month (week) [day]. And my eyes have been allowed to “rest” more than they do in a week of normal life (sleep not included).

It is way too small a sample to determine if here is a repeatable pattern or change in habitual behavior as a result of this experiment, but I am cautiously optimistic about the future. I will try again tomorrow and see if I can keep up with this new “program.”

Except…

What if I make a successful change in activity but there is no change in results? The presumption inherent in the initial paragraph is “if A implies B” (same action generates same results). The thought is if I change the action it should change the outcome or “if NOT A implies NOT B” in logic form. What if this is invalid logic? What if it really doesn’t matter what I [10 minutes pass here] do, that the outcome will be the same if I try or not (Yoda not withstanding)? What if another working definition is “doing different things but experiencing the same outcome”? What if Pavlov’s legacy is no longer valid?

I am fearful, but will press on. Perhaps tomorrow will be better and the signals from my Palm will allow me to breakthrough my current rut. I can be hopeful.

And Dilbert was right, the pellets are excellent.

Phred

post 61 of n

Movie Review: Ex Machina

Yesterday was my son’s birthday (surprising and depressing how quickly 35 years passes… but that’s for another post or ten) and after a nice dinner we went to the movies. This review is in two parts: the theater and the movie.

We went to Celebration! Cinema in Lansing MI, one of the largest multiplex theaters in the area. They have IMAX (the HUGE screen and format movies), D-BOX (a more immersive experience where each seat is on a gimbal mount and can shake and move synchronized with the movie), 3D projectors (for 3D movies, duh), and Reserved Recliner Seating in all of their studios. There are a dozen locations around the state and have been in business at least a decade.

This was the first time in a couple of years we went to this location (the kids having moved out of town and I seldom go to the show anymore) and discovered the challenge of reserve seating when we walked in the door. They started the policy this month that all seats in all theaters were mapped and assigned, sort of what I had experienced in going to live performance theater venues in the (distant) past. I guess this could be a good thing in the right conditions, but for our “spur of the moment” decision to go to the show it was vastly more annoying than helpful.

By adding power reclining chairs they effectively reduced the capacity of the theater by half, so there were fewer places to sit than in the past. Because the seats are physically MUCH larger, they cut the number of rows in the room by nearly 2/3 and raised the height (from ground level) of the back row, so you had to climb 4 stair treads to get to the next row. These changes together made it impossible to find three seats together at ground level. Either our party needed to split (where we would be separated by 3 rows of viewers) or I had to climb to row “G,” the third level above the ground. We got there early enough to make the ascent to Everest in time to see half of the trailers, but it wasn’t pleasant.

Then there was the “recliner” seats. I think they used Lurch (from the Adam’s Family show) for the model of a person to seat, based on the ratio of “butt length” to “leg length.” I’m 186 cm tall (6′ 1″) and the tallest of our party, but when I leaned the seat back I wasn’t tall enough to match the shape and size of the chair. I had to shift back about 6″ to put the bend at the base of my spine where it is supposed to be (or use a watermelon as a lumbar support) and then my knees were not at the front of the seat. Until the lower section raised far enough to provide support it was really uncomfortable. Eventually I was able to find the sweet(est) spot where I was in the least amount of pain and still could see (some of) the screen.

The control for the seat was on the inside edge of the armrest, not immediately obvious (but necessary in a public place, I guess, lest your neighbor adjust your seat for you) but eventually discovered. That is, I discovered mine and my son inadvertently found his when his wallet did the “butt call” thing by changing his seat position at random times throughout the movie.

Overall the experience of “watching” the movie was at best a rating of 13 out of 87 (and I think that is being generous).

The movie itself was better. I had not seen a trailer or heard about it when I was invited to see it (part of the birthday thing) the day before. A quick scan of the IMDB page suggested it would be a movie I’d like to see, as Sci-Fi has always been my genre of choice. Lest I spoil too much of the movie for future viewers, let me just say it was good, not great and not what I expected. It’s a love story (but then 97% or more of all movies are) and there’s a twist at the end, but I guess I expected more. It gets a rating of 64 out of 91. I think I’d rent it to watch it again, but doubt if I’d pay more than the $2 to see it in Grand Ledge (a local theater does second run movies for two dollars, the best value in the area). It is completely certain I won’t go back and see it at Celebration!

SPOILER ALERT: Rosebud is a sled

Phred.

post 53 of n

Status Update: Struggles Of Writing

I am conflicted about posting this update. I am working on several posts in parallel (unusual for me, normally I just plow through a topic in a straight line from start to bend to twist to curve to blind kink to swerve to left ditch to right ditch to hard skid to skid recovery to bootlegger’s reverse to near miss collision to discovered destination to publish button) and have not been able to bring myself to work on anything for a useful length of time.

This week saw the birth and death of a close friend’s child.

As a parent (and a person, not necessarily in that order) I have been working through floods of emotions and thoughts that I want to share but can’t. At least not yet. When I try to sort through them in writing, I am distracted by trying to balance information and emotion, content and context. I don’t know what I want to say (or need to say, perhaps, is a better description) so what I do put down is constantly being revised and removed. I’ve written (and deleted) a couple of thousand words so far and don’t even have a title to show for it.

I committed to 3 posts a week… I still have a couple of days to do it. This one doesn’t feel like it should count, but for my followers I want to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you. [It’s strange, but just putting these thoughts down is generating another flood of emotion… be back shortly]

Anyway, I will try to either finish what I have started or to set it aside to simmer (fester?) and work on something else totally distracting for a couple of posts and come back later. If the next couple of entries are not up to their usual level of mediocrity, at least you have a clue why.

Phred

post 46 of n

[settings] Fog_Of_Life_Enabled=True

I am something of a game collector. (People that know me say this is something of an understatement, as I own several hundred board games.) While my collection has suffered greatly over the last decade (a foreclosure and divorce along the way), there still remains a wide variety of genres, styles, and mechanics of play. I collect mostly board games and tend to stay away from what a typical American would immediately think of (monopoly, life, sorry, other family games), leaning rather toward games with complex rules and interactions, requiring longer time to explain and teach others to play (which is a primary reason most are shelved and collecting dust). Pretty much if I find a game at a grunge shop that I neither have nor have heard of, it tends to leap into my cart for further research.

This morning I was awakened from a dream where I was playing a board game. I don’t remember too much about it, but the significant elements involved taking my turn. I was moving a piece and sort of understood what I needed to do, but the rest of the map/board was devoid of pieces. When I said I needed to know where the pieces to collect were, another person added a couple of tokens on the board. I also mentioned that I needed to know where the other people’s pieces were, to plan how to avoid their influence. Another person got the rules and read all player’s pieces were to be removed from the board after each turn. I complained that I had a short-term memory problem and that it wasn’t fair to play that way, then I woke up in a poor mood.

The concept of masking the information of other players (or areas you are not currently located in) is referred to as the “fog of war” and is common in video (and computer) games. The idea is you can only know what you have experienced and many games will have map information fade away over time if you move away, hiding changes occurring while you are absent. Significantly, any enemies entering the area after you make life “interesting” when you return. Especially true if you presume the world to be the same as when you left it. Generally speaking, I do less well in this setup than games where I can see the whole world all of the time. My memory condition mentioned above (perhaps I wasn’t dropped on my head enough times to make things stick?) means enabling fog increases a game’s difficulty for me (probably more than for others), and I usually don’t get additional credit or experience for playing at this “level of difficulty.

Truth is, though, there is a “fog of life” that works essentially the same way in the “real” world. I went to visit my mom last week and drove through a neighborhood I lived in a couple of decades ago. While most of the places aligned with the images in my memories, there were other areas where changes occurred under the mask of fog. Some buildings changed colours (owners paint or stain since my last transit). Others had additions built on or were torn down totally, a couple being replaced by vacant lots, others by parks or businesses. Most notably was the business district, where the buildings were essentially the same, but the products or services were wildly different. Furniture replaced by food, carpet by insurance. The old hardware store does tanning and nails. Business was still business, but not MY business.

The old stomping grounds are old still, and there’s ground there, but the idea of stomping there would never occur to me. The trees (the ones still there, anyway) don’t lend themselves to climbing, nor do the bushes work for hiding anymore. One extreme example was a place we used to sled in the winter. There was a steep, seldom used street that would attract kids to slide down most of the winter. After a period of time covered in the Fog of Life I came back to discover the road was just gone! It’s now a tree covered hillside and the Texaco gas station at the base transformed to an ice cream parlor (closed in the winter).

I understand (intellectually, anyway) that time changes things and “you can never go home” really means that today is different than yesterday, but it’s not fair. I don’t have a lot of memories of times past, but to find there is increasingly little to verify what was real and what was an (semi-overactive) imaginary dream scape is hardly reassuring. What is to prevent coming back from church or the store only to find an amusement park covering the lot where my apartment was just a (perceived) few hours earlier? Or to find my keys won’t open my car (at least it’s where I parked “my” car)? As far as I can tell, I am correctly oriented in 3-space, but if a tesseract opens and I move sideways through space-time into a parallel universe that is hauntingly similar to (but not the same) as I remember, how could I tell? Others argue this is the way things always were. Who’s perception is “correct?”

Maybe this is the actual cause of Alzheimer’s….

Phred

post 43 of n

The Dream Is Over…

There are a lot of sad folks in the area around here as the dream is over for a national championship. It was fun while it lasted, but we lost and that’s it.

Reality has a way of sneaking up behind and biting you in the soft parts on a regular basis, say, constantly. You wake up and look in the mirror only to find you are not as young/smart/good looking/talented/ rich/famous/wise/desirable/lovable/[your favorite driver here] as you thought/dreamed/wished/wanted/needed/desired. You are what you are, only a day older than you were just 86,400 seconds ago.

This is (can be) a good thing. Because you are able to look in the mirror means you are still alive and therefore able to make a change, which can make a difference. Funny thing about time, there exists only an incredibly tiny area where you can actually affect change, the NOW. The past is fixed (at least as far as we can detect…the makers and users of the time machine have been incredibly careful about not telegraphing its existence) and the future is an imaginary construct that will never actually cross our path (when tomorrow gets here, for example, it will be now, just like it occurred today, and yesterday, and…) so we are really just stuck with this one, continuous now.

Using the right point of view, this is extremely powerful. So much so there will be enormous push back against anyone willing to live fully within the moment. By not spending energy worrying about some now not yet current, you have increased the reserve you have to invest in this now. If you can avoid dwelling upon outcomes resulting from previous (but no longer current) nows enables you to bring increased focus on the exact now you can influence (the only one in fact).

What tremendous power it is that lies within your grasp! By being fully in the now you can make a conscious decision to do exactly what needs to be done. There and then, in the only point of time you can influence. You can choose to eat or not eat, to say or not say, to invoke strong emotion or remain neutral. You can really drive the direction of your life rather than to hurl along on whatever path the inertia of dwelling on the NOT NOW has you drifting in (at best a sort of autopilot in an ambiguous direction, at worst a blind hurling towards the impending cliff of disaster).

Wake up! The steering wheel of your life is truly in your hands and you can turn (or go straight, too) at will. You just need to be here, now. You can win.

Unless you follow the [REDACTED]… sorry.

Phred

post 42 of n

You Must Be At Least This -> Tall To Read This Posting.

I am the youngest person living at my apartment complex. We are an age-restricted location where you must be at least 55 years old to live here. I moved in on my birthday, so by definition I am the youngest person (for me to reach the average age I need to live here about another 30 years, give or take a couple). It is a nice, quiet place to live. There are weekly and monthly events that the occupants can take part in, from a coffee klatch on Tuesday mornings to (age appropriate) exercise workouts on Friday before noon. It’s pretty much like living in any other apartment except there are fewer noisy parties and ambulances visit considerably more often.

One activity that occurs with considerable regularity is the discussion of names in the obituary columns of the local paper. Since many (perhaps most) of the residents have lived in the community 30 to 70 years (or more), they recognize many of the names listed in the paper. I am an import, so I am clueless about the locals and the ongoing change in the demographics of the area, but I am not clueless about the passing of time. My awareness comes from the national news broadcasts each weeknight.

Just about each week there is a brief reference to the death of someone reasonably famous on the nightly news, along with a brief description of the person’s life or reason for fame. The most recent was the passing of Robert Schuller, the tel-evangelist. I am not disturbed or affected by his death apart from the recognition of the name and some of his history. For much of my life, the obits named on the programs were just noise. Some might recognize them, but no one in my circle of influence (well, maybe mom and dad, but you get what I mean). With my advancing years, I find the names of the dead to be more recognizable than before.

A long time ago, I was presented with the “habit” most people do when faced with the death of someone, comparing the dearly departed’s age with my own (thus seeing how many years I might have “left”). Recently (last decade or so) the result of this formula is depressing if not outright terrifying. Some of the numbers have negative signs before them, suggesting the victim (obviously) died several decades before their time. That the difference in our ages is progressively getting smaller each passing day is a sobering reminder my plan to see the American Tri-centennial is less likely than when I watched the Bi-centennial from the deck of my ship (one of the national broadcast locations was the flight deck of the USS Constellation, CVA-64, where I served as a TV repairman).

Occasionally (increasingly frequently, sadly enough) I am made aware of the passing of someone I had the opportunity to know personally. The names on the school reunion lists shrinks over time, and while I do not attend, I am still aware of the shrinkage. I have fewer friends and relatives today than a dozen years ago and will be astonished to find the same number a dozen years hence. It is just a fact of life, even with the amazing advances in medicine and technology this millennium. They may be moving the finish line further from the start, but it is apparent it is not advancing quickly or far enough.

I remember when my son was too small (read: young) to go on some of the rides at the fair. Eventually he grew tall enough, and the whole world was opened to him. Now it is his daughter that has the sign restrictions to deal with. And so on.

When I meet with the folk for our Tuesday coffee, I am keenly aware of the passing of time. All are widowed (only a single couple still resides here, and I think they are the oldest residents here) and many are the last family members still above ground, having outlived both spouses and siblings. It gets really hard around the major holidays, to recognize that we neighbors are the only people in the world left to care. A few have older children (most older than I am) that might visit or call, but the greater share of the branches in the forest of lives living here have few leaves left on them. And it’s late autumn, with winter fast approaching.

I had the opportunity to share a nearly 10 hour car trip with a couple from my church this week, traveling to and from Chicago to pickup the wife from a hospital there (she suffers from debilitating migraine headaches and spent over a week in-patient trying to bring relief to her condition). As a result, I spent the next day in bed from the pain of riding in a foreign car (not my own, so not sized to fit well) and being confined for so long a time. It was totally worth it to see the interaction of the couple upon reuniting, and when she came home to her daughter. I would do it again. And again. And again, as needed, to keep connections linked.

Which reminds me… I need to take a trip to see my family and link local connections, too. Guess I’ll buy a ticket and get in line.

I could use a hug anyway.

Phred

post 41 of n

The Answer Is NOT Three

There was a commercial in my past that continues to haunt my life. It was of a boy asking an owl how many licks it takes to get to the middle of a Tootsie-Pop sucker. The owl says “lets find out” and starts licking. “One…two…three…CRACK…Three!” He bites the sucker after the third lick and proclaims the answer as three since he is unable to resist the temptation to rush to the treat in the center.

I have a confession to make: I am a victim of my choices. A willing, sometimes eager participant, but a victim never the less. You see, I am possessing of a compulsive personality trait that nudges me toward actions that (in the long run) are less than optimal. As a result, I am an overly large person (allows me to make the “valid” point that “I carry a lot or weight in this [any] organization”) that knows the ultimate result of poor lifestyle choices (and even cares about the choices) but still makes them anyway..

I am not as strong a person as I like to tell myself I am. I live alone and have “complete” control of my surroundings, so I should be able to do what I want and enjoy the freedom of my choices. Instead, I am compelled to follow the Pavlovian programming of nearly six decades of historic influences. I want to go in one direction and find myself several miles off course, drifting further away as the tides of history drag me out to sea.

I was not abused as a child, nor was I raised in a (abnormally) dysfunctional home (I believe we are ALL from dysfunctional homes, some are just more dysfunctional than others). My younger sisters and I lived with both of our natural parents (no abandonment or divorce related issues) in a small(ish) town about 50 miles from here (in [REDACTED]). We were raised in neither affluence nor poverty, being raised in a rather middle class environment. We had everything we needed, much that we wanted, and were, in general, pretty normal and happy.

And yet, I have fuzzy memories of denial and hoarding (probably skewed by a childish point of view – of course I WAS a child at the time, but…).  I didn’t get to eat cookies and ice cream  when I wanted. I had to share, and sometimes (often? always?) had to let my siblings go first (because I was “older” and by extension “more mature”). I had to go to bed before I wanted to and couldn’t watch what I wanted to on TV (sometimes I could sneak downstairs late at night to watch TV when spending the night at grandma’s house, as long as I kept the volume way down). I had to do chores and clean my room at the most inopportune times (like when my mom told me to), and wash the dishes far more often than my sisters. It just wasn’t fair.

Now I am an adult and am empowered to make my own choices without needing to get input from others (the kid has grown up, married, and moved away, and the wife left, divorced me and remarried years ago). Or so the theory states. Yet when I am confronted with a choice of actions the ghosts of the past haunt me and shove me in directions I don’t necessarily want to go. I often finish the bag of cookies now rather than leave some for tomorrow (lest the invisible sibling hordes steal them away in the night). I will eat beyond satiety to make sure I get “my share” and won’t have to go without by others consuming what could have been mine. I buy things I don’t need (but think I want) to drown out the echos of “no’s” from my childhood . I stay up late to play video games and sleep in late because I can (now). My sink is full of dirty dishes (clean ones are in the dishwasher when I need them), clean clothes in the hamper from the last laundry run (dirty ones in a heap pile stack in the corner) and the bed is made twice a year (whether it needs it or not) for the annual inspections. In short, I do what I want and am miserable as a result.

What I really “want” is to be able to enjoy eating my cake without the hassle of making, baking, and breaking down the process afterward. I want to be fully indulged in my selfish desires without the downsides of effort or repercussion. I am insane (along with a large percentage of society). I read and apply (briefly) suggestions and rules from books, web pages, and media presentations about how to organize, simplify, and enhance my life, to acquire great habits and positive lifestyle changes and break self-destructive behaviors that damage my self esteem and physique. I have a juicer, rice steamer, and vacuum food saver to improve my choices in eating and storing healthy foods. (I do NOT have a Nordic-Trac in my basement. Never went down that rabbit hole, although I DID have both a treadmill and a personal gym at one time.) I have yoga and tai-chi videos, shelves of self-improvement books, follow several (many?) blogs and sites about health and fitness.

I am neither fit nor healthy. I don’t juice, steam, or suck air from the packages I put in the freezer. I am about as flexible as iron and as gracefully balanced as a still top. in short, I am only a good intention. I am a really, REALLY bad implementer of change. I have asked for answers and wisdom from others and have heard the CRACK of my desire to make hard changes shatter to get to the yummy center of self-indulgence. I lack the patience and perseverance to stick to actions long enough to implement real change, preferring instead to continue along the path of pain and weakness, whining all the way.

Yet, this project (the blog) has been different (so far…). I have been able to continue to keep up the 3-a-week schedule (barely) for over a month. This is nearly a record for me to keep up an activity without a fat/sugar/calorie-laden treat dangling on a string before me as an encouragement to continue. I may not be losing weight (except the reduced fat in my typing fingers) or becoming an Olympic athlete from this activity, but the success provides a glint of a shimmer of a shadow of a possibility that I can accomplish other dreams as well. So it is (at least in theory) worth it. I may actually be able to overcome temptation long enough to become a better, more positive person. It is worth the attempt. But maybe the announcer in the commercial got it right at the end after all…

“The world may never know.”

Phred

post 40 of n

Name Calling In Soda Culture

I have come to understand where I am changes what I get when I ask for something from a “native.” I have lived most of my life in Michigan, apart from a brief stint in the Navy where I spent a half year north of Chicago and a year in California. So I was under the (mistaken) understanding that everyone did things the right way (that is, the way WE did things). HAHAHAHA!, What a foolish idea.

Take tho process of ordering a beverage with your meal. Here we drink pop, defined as a sweetened, bubbly drink usually served over ice. Different flavors exist and each restaurant usually only serves options from one of the major brand suppliers. So if you chose a cola, root beer, lemon-lime, orange, or a citrus flavored beverage at one establishment you get a Pepsi, Mug, 7-Up, Crush, or Mountain Dew. At the eatery next door your beverage is a Coke, Barqs, Sprite, Fanta, or Mellow Yellow. Purchase a ginger ale beverage and you get a Vernors. Iced tea comes straight up (although you can have a sliver of lemon added if you ask) and unsweetened (the way nature intended). Simple and straight forward.

Except for most of the other 49 states and hundreds of other countries on the globe. Ask for a pop some places gets you a bloody nose or the senior male member of the family. A soda comes without ice cream (my first real job was as a soda-jerk in a soft serve ice cream stand… and I was the only employee other than the owner that could make a proper soda, according to a number of loyal customers) and results in one of the (again, brand specific) beverages listed above. To make things even more confusing I have been in places where asking for a coke evokes the question “what flavor?” (and they don’t mean plain or cherry). Apparently in Canada and the southern US diabetics order iced tea at their peril (my first adult trip to Toronto involved a shocking slurp of tea-flavored sugar syrup from a fast food establishment… most of which ended up on the windshield).

The year in California was one spent in a wasteland without Lay’s potato chips, Kogel’s hot dogs, or Miracle Whip salad dressing (this was in 1976, things have changed since then, but the trauma remains). I have never been inside of a Waffle House, being forced to take starch-based breakfast food at the International House of Pancakes instead.

So many names for the same products (or maybe a variety of products with the same name… confusion reigns in either case). There is indeed a strong sense of culture shock when you move beyond the hundred-acre woods for the first time.  Usually there is enough information exchanged eventually to place an acceptable order. Using the worst-case scenario, pointing at the menu and asking for “one of these” will allow for an unexpected adventure not (necessarily) soon to be forgotten (a favorite ploy at establishments offering world cuisine not commonly found in rural mid-Michigan). I keep Maalox in the glovebox just in case…

So when I travel (not all that often, nor all that far anymore, I must sadly confess) I have learned to accept (if not embrace) the challenge of dealing with nomenclature regarding the local “pop” culture. To make life easier, I eventually just end up with a glass of ice water with my meal, and a cup of coffee with desert (I like pie). But I am reasonably sure of one thing.

Ordering a caffeine-laced-carbonated-soda-beverage in most places results in a blank stare.

Phred

post 38 of n