Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Watch

In years past, upon retirement, a (former) employee would get a gold watch as a parting gift.  Perhaps it was a way to symbolically acknowledge the significant time people put into their careers.  A fitting custom in my mind.

These days, well, I'm not sure that custom is still being followed.  Maybe it's because the modern employment dynamic is such that people just don't spend significant time at a single employer anymore.  Maybe people just don't wear watches.  Maybe people just don't view the notion of retirement in the same way as was done in the past (just notice that greeter at Wally World next time you need to stop for motor oil, fishing bait, and a can of baked beans).

What does any of the above have to do with me?  Plenty actually.  For those who aren't paying attention (and I can't blame you for that), I was retired by my former employer after almost 28 years of service, with my last day as an official employee being December 12, 2016.  To call the process of becoming retired easy, well, that would be a lie.  It's been pretty tough on me, and I'm not one to readily admit much of anything when it comes to such things.  In the months since I left the office there were many long drives, many "what if ______" thoughts running through my head, many times when I would literally sit and yell at my computer screen (mostly because it, unlike my cats, didn't seem to take the yelling personally).

I also, by the way, got a watch.

Yes, as a "retiree", and based upon my years of service, I was entitled to receive a retirement gift from my former employer.  I was given an on-line catalog of things to review, including such choices as...

...a mountain bike (no thanks, I have a very good one already)
...a set of power tools (I already have more than I need...seriously) clubs (only if my wife and I were both really retiring together)
...a village full of Lladro figurines (I'm a guy....)
...a telescope (I'd use it once and then it would sit in a closet for 15 years)
...a metrosexual messenger bag (I have a half dozen ways to carry a laptop already)

...and then where was a watch.

I used to wear a watch all the time, by the way, but then came more health concerns and I ditched the Timex for a Fitbit HR.  Certainly functional, but it also kinda looks like something that a convict on work-release would be wearing.  I also have managed to bang it up quite a bit over the past year, to the point where it looks about five times older than it really is.  Not especially classy.
So I picked a watch as my retirement gift.  It's heavy, fancy, solar and it has little dials that I can't particularly read anyway.  That was two weeks or so ago, and the watch has been sitting in my office, on its own little watch pillow, waiting to be used.  More specifically, I promised myself that the fancy retirement watch would stay on its fancy little watch pillow until such time as I got myself un-retired from the workforce.  Put another way, I'd only wear it if I had a job to wear it to.  And I'll be putting it on tomorrow.

Before I go further, I'll note (probably again, for the Nth time) that I don't especially believe in the notion of "fate".  I also don't believe in ghosts, the supernatural, bigfoot, that the Patriots are completely innocent of all cheating charges, or that Roman Polanski is anything but a child-molester.  But events have certainly given me pause (not about the Patriots or Roman Polanski though).

Going back a few weeks, I noted in this space that I found my younger brother after he had passed away.  I likely wouldn't have done that if I were at a new job at that time.  It was almost as if I need to be available to find him so that my older brother or his wife wouldn't be the one's who did.  A man of greater faith than I would likely say that was an act of fate...for faith..or some kind of intervention that is beyond my cosmic pay-grade.  Add to that list the fact that my new career adventure really didn't materialize in a meaningful way until the Monday after my brother's funeral Mass.  It was as if I needed to finish that work before the new work could begin.

I'll note with some pride that, during my last round of job interviews, I wore a tie that had previously belonged to my brother.  Like so many around me during this "retirement" period, Chris (the brother, not the wife) had far more faith in me than I did in myself.  He knew...heck, he told me outright, several times before he passed...that I would land on my feet and that everything would be okay.

My brother Chris was not alone in the faith-in-me department.

Throughout this period, I've had a cadre of people who have listened to me, provided me with sound advice, made me laugh when I didn't want to, coached me, and, like my brother Chris, filled my faith bucket when I had nothing left to add to it myself.  Jean, Luke, Connie, Allan, Robin, Rich, Leslie, and others (for those I have not named I do are not forgotten) have helped me more than I could ever possibly and rightfully acknowledge.  There literally was a "Team Steve", with the CEO being my wife.

Looking back over these past few weeks and months, three things stand out for me:
  1. I have a renewed sense that maybe, just maybe, all of what we encounter in life may not just be some random act of chemical chance.
  2. I have a renewed appreciation for those who are under or unemployed.  If that's you, well, reach out to me and I'll do my best to help you in some way, just as others have helped me.
  3. It's okay to need help.  It really is.  This will probably always be a lesson in progress for me. 
Looking ahead, I have new colleagues to meet, new challenges to be overcome, and a new watch to wear.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Shadows Falling In A Land Of Confusion

"Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath, keep me in your heart for a while"
- Warren Zevon

* * * * * *

I don't know why the title is associated with this posting, other than the fact that it just occurred to me.  What I do know is that I feel, well, strangely kind of vacant.  Empty.  Tired and spent, if you will.  Part of this all relates back to the whole notion of being between careers, at least for me.  I am, simply put, a very poor career seeker.  I despise marketing myself.  I have difficulty initiating conversations solely for the sake of networking.  I like order, and personal uncertainty (as opposed to, say, the professional variety...which I have no problem with) can be challenging for me to mentally manage.

I know, this career change stuff isn't supposed to be a picnic for anyone, and I know some folks that have struggled with this before and someone who struggles with it now.  Yet that clarity is of little help.

Making all of this even more difficult is the fact that the in-between careers part actually is coming to an end.  As testimony to just how difficult this has been for me, I offer the fact that, even in the face of a victory, I still have this vacant feeling.  My wife asked me one morning "Aren't you excited about...?", and I didn't say yes.  I couldn't say yes.  None of which is a reflection, by the way, on my new career.  If anything, I have righteous reasons to be happy and excited, yet I'm mostly tired.

Now I am not an athlete, nor do I play one on television (you have to be old to get that reference), but I imagine that this might be how someone feels after completing a long, arduous marathon.  Victory lap?  Nope, I'm mainly just glad that I no longer have the (career) Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  I am looking forward to new challenges ahead, but yet, it feels as if I'm still waiting to fully exhale.

When this whole career change adventure began, I kept a written diary of sorts.  The idea, back then, was that I would chronicle the process of losing and finding a career.  It would be dramatic, insightful, full of emotions...all of the things that garner high page hits.  Yet I haven't used any of that material, nor will I likely ever.  It just doesn't feel right.  I will though offer the following, if for no other reason than the fact that it's instructive to how I've been feeling:

(Written two days after being told I would be "retiring")  
All told, I'm still in this fuzzy kind of, almost conflicted, place.  I know that in the grand scheme of a life, this change...thrust upon me as it still going to be good.  But yet, and at the risk of evoking unwanted pity, I can't help but mourn for this loss.  I've felt this way before when I was going through a divorce.  Complicating matter is the fact that I am naturally just so very impatient.  I want this solved now.  My lesson from going through a divorce is that, to be blunt, "it just doesn't work that way".  I remember back then when others (who had been through a divorce) were telling me that "it's a process", and feeling very discouraged, as I have no need for "a process"...I just want a resolution.  This is what impatience rearing it's ugly head actually looks like, and for me it's frightening.

(Written in mid-November)  
There are times when I just wish...and I really do wish...I could just explode in a fit of rage, alone in my truck, for about 30 minutes...and then be done with it all.  I'd yell out all the anger and disappointment I myself...and it would somehow be purged for good.  It would be a grand and glorious exercise.  It would be healing.  But that's not to be because that's simply not me.  

This morning, driving back from my once a week breakfast out ritual I felt as if I was "this" close to an emotional outburst.  It just doesn't happen.  It's as if I'm one of those World War II-era Jeeps with a governor installed on it, so that, in my case, I can't exceed an emotional speed limit of 40 miles per hour.  It reminds me of how I felt after 9-11:  I was angry and emotional, but I just couldn't get it out.  It had to stay bottled up inside as if its exposure to the natural world would somehow cause a catastrophe of global proportions.  

In point of fact, I am angry.  Very angry.

I'm not angry at my former employer, or my former vice president.  Heck, in all likelihood they've done me a tremendous favor, and at this junction, I just can't imagine going back, in spite of how I feel.  No, I'm angry at me.  Furious at me.  Livid.  I somehow allowed this all to happen through sheer sloppiness. 

* * * * * *

Those are two samples of a larger population that, like the older radios I collect, will likely never see the light of anyone else's day.  I bring them up now, in part, to give myself a kind of emotional permission for feeling the way I do.  Having been raised in a highly controlled environment fueled with quite a bit of guilt, having permission is something that's important to me.  I strongly suspect that this is part of the exorcism that I need to undergo before the new career adventure begins:  This vacant feeling is probably designed to make room for many other things, new things, to shortly come.  All told, that's probably a good thing, although I still dislike the uncertainty.

On a final note, this wasn't how I had planned to actually talk about my career search coming to an end.  In fact, I have a whole other posting, titled "The Watch" written and edited, ready for the publish button.  Unlike the above sampled Land of Confusion journal entries, that will still see the light of day, soon I will add.  As for now, well, it's Monday evening* and I'm not quite sure that this is the right thing to publish.  Maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow morning.  That's a common feeling for me by the way; as of this writing, I have 66 unpublished draft postings waiting in the wings, waiting for "tomorrow morning".

(*) Tuesday morning came and went, and I just couldn't get myself to actually re-read this posting.  For whatever reason though, the time seemed to  be right at 9:30 pm on Tuesday to tackle the task.  What you see above is, more or less, what I wrote on Monday evening, all be it with a few tweaks.  I did struggle a bit with the question as to whether the posting is too "dark".  In retrospect, while it may seem less than uplifting, it is honest, and sometimes that's the best outcome you can hope for in life (and blogging).

Monday, February 13, 2017

5 Questions, #2 - Preparing for the Hereafter

Preface:  It's almost taboo in the United States to talk about funeral planning and the like, but recent events for me have highlighted just how important this sort of thing can be.  Oh, and no, your local funeral parlor is not paying me to write this posting.  However, if they wanted to chip in...

* * * * * *

1) Why bother?  You'll be dead anyway.
As my (late) mother grew older, I helped her with many of her financial matters.  One of the things we did was purchase a burial plot for both her and my Dad.  Kind of ironic, given the fact that the two of them never got along, but death does have this way of sewing peace where life made that previously difficult.  Anyway, when my Mom did pass away in 2013, having many of those decisions already made was a big blessing.

Conversely, when my brother Chris passed away, there were no details, no plans, no Will, nothing.  It was all left up to two brothers and a wife to make all of the decisions for his arrangements.  It was, in a very real way, the exact opposite of the experience we had with my Mom, making a stressful time even more stressful, needlessly so I'll add.

Fast forward to now, and the thought of burdening others with having to make decisions for me is nauseating. I never want that kind of attention.  In fact, I've spent a lifetime (and hopefully many years to come) trying to keep my act together, so there's no sense in letting it all fall apart when I pass away.

Added to the above is the fact that I very much want to spend eternity with my wife.  Wherever I go, I want her to go as well (or wherever she goes I want to go as well).  As noted, for the rest of the posting I'll be mostly referring to "we", as I'll try to speak for the collective "us".  My wife can correct the record on any of this if she wants.

2) Cremation or Casket?  Above or below ground?
We're not sure on either count.  My brother Chris was cremated, and it seemed to be a very dignified, almost "clean" way of having remains.  Also, the thought of not being in the cold ground (as if I'll be able to tell anyway) is appealing.  Prior to the arrangements for my brother, I never would have considered cremation.  Now?  Well, I think it's something everyone should consider.  Even the Catholic Church seems to approve (see HERE).

3) Where?
Good question, and on our collective "to do" list for 2017, we have, among wallpaper removal, and driveway paving, a decision on a burial location.  A key driver for us is the idea that we want to be in a place where we can be visited, or, God forbid, one of us could visit the other.

Me?  Well, I want somewhere with trees.  And rabbits.  When I went to Penn State Harrisburg (in Middletown, PA), there was a cemetery near the main campus classroom building.  I'd walk by the cemetery on the way to the athletic building and I'd see all these giant, well-fed rabbits hopping along the tombstones.  In a way, it seemed as if their job was to somehow keep the deceased company.  I found it oddly peaceful.  Anyway, yes, rabbits.

We've talked about a few places, but nothing even remotely close to decided.  A big "what if" is where we will eventually retire.  If it were up to me, well, that place would be about five degrees warmer than northeastern Pennsylvania.

4) Services?
I was born and raised Roman Catholic, so it's natural to think of a Funeral Mass when the time comes.  However, and this is a big "however", I don't like hypocrisy, especially my own.  I don't ascribe to all of the tenants of the Catholic Church, and I'm just not sure that I want to portray the diligent Catholic upon death.  This is, by the way, something that my wife and I have talked about from time to time.  Call this one a "TBD".

5) Any special instructions?
You bet...I have plenty...all written down and saved to flash drives.  Yes, I am that anal-retentive.

* * * * * *

End Note:  This is important stuff.  If it pleases you, do laugh, guffaw, snicker, ridicule or whatever else you want related to this posting.  But with all the seriousness that I can muster, please do also talk to your loved one(s) about this topic...not for you, but for them.  Make their job easier when your time comes.  It matters, a lot.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Scranton Follies

I find this whole issue of naming the Harrison Avenue Bridge replacement to be equal parts fascinating and disturbing.

Idea to Name Bridge After Former VP Biden Abandoned

Here's an analogy for you:

(Photo from THIS site)

You are coming home from getting a new kitten at the local shelter.  

Your car gets struck from behind by someone driving a truck.

The truck driver comes out to see if you're okay and notices the kitten.  He asks, "what's the kitten's name?".  

The police arrive.  The nice police officer sees the kitten.  He also asks "what's the kitten's name?".  The police officer and the truck driver get into a long debate about naming the kitten.

You stand there, wondering why no one seems to care about you or car that was carrying you (and the kitten).

* * * * * *

The City of Scranton is functionally bankrupt, meaning that its liabilities far, far exceed that of its assets.  It can't substantially raise taxes anymore (see below), and its leaders lack the political will to demonstrably reduce the costs of providing city services.  Even with the infusion of tens of millions of dollars from the sale of the city's last remaining major asset, municipal pensions will STILL be substantially underfunded, and at best all the city can do is to plan on making the required on-going* contributions.

To this backdrop we see local leaders engaged in a heated discussion about naming a bridge.

Call me crazy, call me insane, call me anything but late for supper, but Scranton is in crisis.  All of its leaders (city council, mayor, state representatives, etc.) need to be focused on creating a fiscal plan that brings solvency without increasing taxes on...

Residents - Scranton already has the second highest wage tax in Pennsylvania.

Businesses - Scranton's business taxes are punitive and include, among other things, the taxation of gross receipts, so even a money-losing enterprise must still pay into the city.

Yes, it's that bad.  But that's okay, as there's been a robust discussion about naming a bridge.

File this one under Bread and Circuses, Scranton style.

(*) From what I gather, the city will be making current contributions, but will not be doing anything...other than dumping proceeds from the sewer system increase the pension funding percentages.  Put another way, while sewer system sale will infuse cash into retirement investments, it comes far short of funding the pensions at 100%.  Reference HERE.  If this doesn't scare Scranton residents, well then nothing will.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

5 Questions, #1 - The Career Tango

Note:  I readily admit that I've stolen this topic format from the Lu Lac Political Letter (HERE).  I don't feel too bad about it though because I strongly suspect that other bloggers have "borrowed" the basic concept behind my Road Apples postings.    And who says there is no honor among thieves?

* * * * * *

1) How's the new career hunt going?
I'll keep you posted.

2) So, just what do you do with all this free time you have?
The ironic part is that I don't necessarily have that much more "free time".  I just simply like to be occupied and engaged at all times, so lounging around and watching sports is just not my bag.  That noted, here's what a typical day looks like:
  • Wake up at about the same time as usual (before this whole change occurred)
  • Shower and get dressed.  Take my youngest stepson to school, while forcing him to listen to obscure music (for the record, he actually enjoys the Ramones "The KKK Took My Baby Away").  
  • Come home, eat breakfast and spend about an hour reading through the half dozen or so job feeds I get.  Decide which I want to follow-up on, which is typically best described by the following two words:  Not Many.
  • Go to the gym and try to injure myself* while working out to the Steve Wilkos Show.
  • Grab a bite to eat.
  • Head home and either work on job search tasks and/or projects around the home.  The job search tasks include following up on previous opportunities, telephone calls with some real angels who are actually helping me, sending emails, researching organizations, etc. 
  • Greet my lovely wife when she comes home from work.
  • Help (and or just make) dinner, eat and clean-up afterwards.
  • Work on graduate school stuff in evening until I get too tired to read and/or comprehend.
I know, quite the rock-star lifestyle, huh?  Or, since I've been living in West Pittston now since the end of 2013, maybe I should be saying "hayna?"?

3) What are you looking for in a new career?
I have a short attention span, and my mind, admittedly, can move pretty quickly when I am working on things I find interesting.  Oh, and I'm 90% of the way towards a graduate degree in Human Resources.  All this means that I'm looking for an HR position that provides plenty of challenges, working for an organization where I can make a difference.  I know, that sounds so campy, but I'm being honest.  You can find more out about the professional me on LinkedIn.

4) You keep saying "career" instead of "job".  Why?
When you are in high school you have a "job".  By the time you become an adult, hopefully you have figured out what you like to do, and how you can maybe get paid to do just that sort of thing.  That's the difference between a "job" and a "career".  Admittedly, we all sometimes just have to take a "job" in order to pay the bills, but that shouldn't stop anyone from finding a career.

5) Any advice for others looking for a new career?
Since I'm not across the job search finish line, I'm probably not the best person to be giving advice.  However, since I've broached the subject:
  • It's not just you - This kind of thing (leaving an employer) happens all the time.  You'll be shocked just how many people have been down this path...and who will be willing to help you out because they know what it's like to walk in your shoes.
  • Stay positive - This is very, very hard, but you can't let this change become an all-consuming negative cloud over your head.  Make time to still do things that you find enjoyable.  
  • Don't blame - Never, ever allow yourself to become overcome with anger and bitterness towards your former employer, boss, co-workers, etc.  With very few exceptions, the vast majority of folks are good people, just trying to do their job in the best way they know how.  We are all equally flawed and fragile and we all fail from time to time.  If you feel injured in some way, forgive.  If you can't forgive, well work on forgetting.
  • Gut-check - Use this as an opportunity to gut-check what you do for a living.  You may never get another chance like this, so take advantage of it.
  • Ask for help - See the first bullet.  As a very smart person told me early on in this process, people want to help you, but they will wait for you to ask for that help.  Whether you are an executive or a front-line soldier in corporate America, all of us will need help once in a while.
  • Remember the feelings - As you go through this process, remember the feelings, both good and not so good.  For the "not so good" feelings, well, learn from them and commit to helping someone else in the future who may be similarly struggling; this way you can take that "not so good" and turn it into something positive.
  • It gets better - I'm still telling myself this one, but this process will end, and it will get better.  It's not a question of "what", but rather of "when".    

(*) Lesson learned the hard way recently.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tough Guy Jesus (Gospel of Matthew, 21:12)

I love many of the stories in the Bible, especially those contained in the gospels.  Now I'm not trained in theology, I do like to ponder such things.  One of the stories that I find the most intriguing...and I think in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21, verse 12.  It goes like this (from the King James version of the Bible):

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves."

I've heard many religiously knowledgeable folks (okay, I confess, mainly television preachers) talk about how this made Jesus a kind of tough guy.  I've even heard it used to justify violence, along the lines of "Jesus did it, so therefore...", "It's okay to be angry because Jesus was...", and the like, as if God were somehow capable of being as upset as we get when the neighbor's dog leaves a present in our front sidewalk (which actually happens...quite a West Pittston, Pennsylvania).

Me?  In my theologically novice kind of way, well, I think the whole "tough guy Jesus" thing is a load of crap.  

In fact, the truth behind this whole story is actually the opposite of the whole "tough guy Jesus" narrative.  I don't think it's telling us to be violent.  I think, instead, it's telling us that in order to be more "Christ-like" we are obligated to not be apathetic, especially in the face of something that's clearly wrong.  We need to act.  Sitting on the sidelines in the face of perceived evil doesn't seem to be what's expected of us.  That's the example Jesus was setting, at least in this layperson's opinion.

All of this comes to my mind, in a very timely sort of way, as I think about the actions of the Trump administration.  It's time to not sit on the sidelines.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Just An Observation (about President Trump's supporters)

Just an observation:
During the last election, the typical response from supporters of Donald Trump was, when faced with something controversial coming from their candidate, "...but Hillary..."; now it's "...but Obama...". At what point is the President wholly responsible for his own actions in the eyes of his supporters?
I get it, some of this is typical political theater (namely blaming a predecessor), but no former President has taken actions even similar to that of President Trump. No former President has, for example, tried to stop people from entering this country based solely on their religion and national origin. No former President, including George W. Bush, tagged terrorists with a religious branding ("radical Islamic terrorists" opposed to, for example, the "radical Catholic terrorists" of the Irish Republican Army). No former President has insisted that political staff be solely responsible for vetting communications related to science from government agencies.
By all means, be vocally supportive of Donald Trump, as that's your right. But an argument based mostly on deflection isn't much of an argument.

(With apologies for the extra spacing, as HTML isn't being my friend today)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Books Everyone Should (not) Read

Business Insider published a list of 11 books that former President Obama thinks everyone should read.  You can find that list HERE.

If you had a similar listing, what would be on it?  Well, I already covered that, probably a few times, over the years.  Besides, what fun would that be?  So instead, here's a list of books that I simply can't stand.  These are, by the way, books that I actually read, or honestly tried to read.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I truly despise this book.  Growing up it represented just about everything I hated, namely shallow rich people living in a world full of shallow problems.  The Great American Novel?  I think not.  This book is good for leveling a table, and not much else.  I would buy this book simply to burn it.  Even the name "Gatsby" is annoying.  Do yourself a favor, watch the Family Guy episode instead.

The Outsiders, by S.E.  Hinton
I actually got in trouble as a kid during a summer enrichment program for simply refusing to read more than the first few pages of this book.  It's like a crappy version of West Side Story, without the funny characters and the good music.

Return to Order, by John Horvat II
I think I've actually written a review of this book, to be found somewhere in the archives.  Unlike other books on this list, I actually read every single word of this "work".  Here's the premise:  Things were better in the Middle Ages, you know, back when the Roman Catholic Church was in charge and everyone bowed down to royalty.  Poor people need to know their place.  Yes, you read that right.

Every Mystery Novel Ever Written, by many different authors
Ever have a conversation with someone and you know that they have something to tell you, but for whatever reason, they just can't seem to spit it out?  Well, that's how I feel about mysteries.  I don't find the whole "whodunnit" thing even mildly entertaining.

Dune, by Frank Herbert
I so wanted to like this book, and I gave it a good 70 or so page try, but man, I just couldn't go any further.  So many characters with so much back-story that was unexplained.  I have seen the movie (the original, with Sting and Captain Picard) and found it mildly entertaining.

The Compensation Handbook, by Lance A. Berger and Dorthey R. Berger
It is as dull as the title makes it out to be.  Granted, books like this aren't intended to be "fun" reads, but this one goes above and beyond in terms of being dry.  It also happens to be 682 pages long.  I still managed to do well in my graduate Compensation class, though.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March

If you are a man and you're scratching your head struggling to understand why all these women were marching yesterday, well let me help.

Let's transport into an alternative universe, one where a woman has been elected president, a woman vice-president and there is a virtually all-female congress.

That new president and congress have publicly stated that men shouldn't have the right to decide what happens in their bodies related to reproduction, that they...the women running the federal government...know best.  In fact, some of these women have also publicly stated that, even in cases where a man was raped or assaulted by a family member, that they still should be the ones who decide what healthcare options would be available to men.

They've also threatened to cut off funding to a national organization that provides significant healthcare services to economically poor men...all because these women running the federal government have a religious objection* to 3%** of the services that the organization in question provides.  Oh, in many of the locations where this organization exists, there simply are no alternative providers of these services, especially in rural areas of the country (example).

These new women leaders are also hostile to marriage equality.  In fact, the new vice-president once said that being gay was a choice and that "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family" (source:  The new president has committed to appointing justices to the United States Supreme Court who will overturn marriage equality (source:  HRC), apparently because state governments (in our alternative universe also filled with mostly women) should be able to decide whether two consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry.  Why?  Because they believe that by women...knows what's best, especially for men.

Frightening, isn't it?  If you're a in our real universe...what I'm suggesting is that you engage in some basic empathy.  Many women are genuinely fearful, and in my opinion, rightfully so (hence this posting).

In the end, I have no doubt that my wife and I will be okay during the Trump years.  Heck, we may even get a tax cut.  But I worry about my daughters living in a world where a federal or state government can reach into their bodies to make reproductive choices for them or decide whether or not they can marry the person they love.  I simply don't want any government to have that much power.

* * * * * *

(*) Count me firmly in the court of fully respecting the religious choices of every American.  But I also ask that other Americans not insist on making their religious choices policy for everyone else.   Put another way, if your religion teaches you that abortion is murder and that homosexuality is a sin, well, then you better not be gay and you sure as heck better not have an abortion...but you shouldn't have the power to make those choices for those who have sincerely held but different convictions.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Since I am in currently in a graduate finance class, I don't feel bad about conducting some basic accounting.  Here we go.

In the last four months...

...I was retired from an employer where I worked for nearly 28 years

...My 51 year old younger brother passed away

I've also read a potentially life-changing book (that I'm starting share with others), and I've had far more time to think than which is probably good for me.

Oh, and I'm finishing up my graduate degree (hopefully by mid-year).  A lot of stuff.  The word "unpack" comes to mind when I think about all of it.  In fact, all I think I need to do is add "heart attack" to the list and I get some kind of prize from the government.  Just kidding, about the heart attack (my heart is in good shape) and the prize.  

Now none of this is intended to illicit anything even remotely resembling sympathy (which, as we all know, sits squarely between "sh*t" and "syphilis" in the dictionary*), as I'm busy enough without it, and truth be told, I just don't like the attention.  Pretty odd from a guy writing a blog, huh?  Life is never without its contradictions. 

Anyway, I had planned to write about government funding for the arts, which has become something of an issue in northeastern Pennsylvania.  I even have the posting titled, but I just can't seem to start it.  It's as if I need some kind of transition space within my own head, something to take me away from the above list, back into more of a normal way of thinking.  Not that there has ever been anything normal about how I think...about anything.  My head is, at any given moment, not a place that anyone else would ever want to visit, filled with tons on random thoughts swirling around, mostly all at the same time.  I'm just lucky whatever voices I hear are my own.  Scratch that; I sometimes can hear my Mom's voice...but it's always yelling for some odd reason.

Thinking again about the idea of transitions, I think we all have this odd relationship with change.  We hate it when we feel bombarded by it, but yet we'd probably die of boredom without it.  I know that's true for me.  Now granted that I do wish some of the change in my life didn't actually involve other people dying, but hey, I didn't get a vote in the matter.  Whomever does make those decisions is a bit higher up on the celestial organization chart than your's truly.  Along those same lines, I'll share that there hasn't been a lot of action of the career front for me, but more than one person has said to me that this is because there is a plan...a larger reason...if you want to call it that...for me to have been unencumbered over these past few weeks, so that I could attend to other things.  I'll confess that I don't know if I believe that to be true, in part because I just don't see some kind of larger power in the universe actually caring all that much about this kind of detail.  However, I may be falling into the trap of trying to explain, in human terms, something that is infinitely impossible to understand in human terms.

In any event, I've burned through several paragraphs now without saying an awful lot.  This posting has been the Captain Crunch, if you will, of Internet content.

By the way, I love Captain Crunch, even if my wife says that it taste "like cardboard".

Which makes me believe that I need to end things on a somewhat more weighty tone.  So how about this:

5 Things I Have Learned Since October, by Steve Albert

1)  Friends.  Nothing exposes the fallacy of social media "friendship" quite like a personal crisis.  I am deeply thankful for the condolences (both on-line and off-line) offered by so many; I am bewildered by the fact that I didn't hear from others.

2)  Routine.  Even in the midst of seeming chaos, I'm always trying to create a new routine.  We humans seem to be wired for wanting the predictable.

3)  Being Present.  Being fully present in the moment actually does help when things get tense and tough.  Oh, and I'm the last person in the world to advocate anything new-agey or tragically hip.  Study this stuff, as it's worth it.

4)  Job Search.  Looking for a career opportunity in 2017 is a heck of a lot different than it was the last time I checked.  Then again that was 1988.

5)  Your Kids Get Older.  It's great to be proud of your son or daughter when they do well in school (for example).  As they get older and become concerned about your well being and offering you sound advice?  Well, that's pride elevated to a whole new level.  It almost makes getting older worth it.

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(*) Dictionary:  A book that defines words, PG (pre-Google). Used in a sentence:  (Steve) Mom, how do you spell cataract?  (My Mom, Yelling) Look it up in the dictionary!