Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Mom, Smiling

I've had some free time of late, and one of the things I've been doing is going through old records that I inherited from my Mom (who passed away in 2013).  My Mom had this period, apparently, when she was very active in the Scranton Boys (now Boys and Girls) Club.  This was probably in part because her four sons all needed something constructive to do with their time and boundless energy, so why not go there?

Anyway, I found a half dozen or so newspaper clippings from that period, including one where she was actually smiling.
This particular clipping is from January 29, 1973.

I honestly don't have many photographs of my mother with an actual smile on her face, making this somewhat rare.

I won't get into the deep pseudo-psychology of why my Mom rarely seemed to smile, other than to say she had something of a tough life.  I'll confess to not being much of a smiley person myself, although that's not for lack of happiness or joy, but instead, more about a face that seems to look, well, stupidly fake when I smile.  If anything, I seem to have a face built for accountancy, or maybe financial services human resources.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Road Apples, #170

Trump and Twitter...Can someone, please, permanently take away Twitter access from the President-elect?  This is getting embarrassing.


I really, truly want to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt, but he's making it very, very difficult.  I would expect this kind of stuff from someone after a junior high student council election, not from the presumptive leader of the free world.

Please stop Mr. Trump.  Please.

Glorifying Rape...I am sorry, but any television program that relies on violence against women (in the form of rape) doesn't deserve its viewership.  I'm speaking specifically of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead.  What's more, I'm not sure how folks who view themselves as being "progressive" can actually watch these shows.  I can't.  I no more want to see rape being enacted as part of a plot than I want to see kittens or puppies tortured.

All Is Not Glum...I know, so far this posting isn't all that uplifting, but I have to call them like I see them.  For some balance, here's Metallica playing Enter Sandman using grade school musical instruments.


Muslim Registry...Let's file this idea, that of there being a national registry for the followers of Islam, in the category of "hopefully not actually going to happen".  Today's registry of Muslim's could become a registry of Roman Catholics or Baptists tomorrow.  Now if it should come to fruition, I publicly promise now on this page to register myself as a Muslim.  I don't think I'll be alone in that regard either.

JeanLuc...I've had my cat JeanLuc for a little over six years now.  Time flies, from this...


...to this...

It's amazing the impact a pet can have on your life.  For the record, he was almost named "Spock", although I made a case for calling him "Bill" (so I could call him "Bill the Cat"), but I was over-ruled by just about everyone.

The "Theory" of Global Warming...These are New Guinea impatiens (this variety is actually a tropical plant...see THIS description) that are, as of December 3rd, still alive and well on my front porch. 


I'm tempted to put Christmas lights on them.  Good thing that global warming is just a "concept" (put forth, according to the President elect, by the Chinese in order to harm U.S. manufacturing).  And yes, he actually did say it...
My impatiens, alive and well, salute you Mr. Trump!



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I have trouble asking for...

A revelation of sorts:  I have a very difficult time asking for help.

Now I'm not referring to asking for help about everything.  I have no problem talking to professionals when I am in over my head, so this isn't something that borders on being a mental health issue.  Trust me, my doctor(s), dentist, lawyer, etc. all know that I'm pretty darn good at asking (and paying) for assistance when it's needed.  This is more akin to my having a personal need of sorts, where the act of asking for help borders on the painful.

I'll also note that I am and equal opportunity offender when it comes to this kind of thing, in that my wife and other family members can testify to the fact that this (asking for help) isn't something I do well or do often, with anyone.

Maybe this is all about being too prideful, but something in me thinks that's a superficial explanation, at best.  While I do take pride in the things I do, I am not stupid enough to believe that I am above and beyond needing help when it comes to any of them, be they personal or professional.  Heck, just read any number of postings on this blog (over the years...) and you'll probably see the just the opposite, namely that I tend to be more self-effacing than anything else.  I'll also note that this isn't some kind of repulsion at the idea of maybe having to help others in return, as one of my joys in life is, in fact, helping others.  No, this is far deeper than that, and since I've had some time for pondering, I do have a working theory of sorts.  Here goes...

Growing up, my mother raised four sons, all a year apart in age, all by herself.  I'm not sure what she may have asked for in the way of help, but my perception is that not much was delivered.  I genuinely think I am suspicious of asking for help because of that...I had little in the way of examples upon which to learn from during my formative years.  Perhaps I am afraid that it will not be delivered...that I will somehow be disappointed...that maybe no one would be actually interested in providing help when I ask for it anyway.  Perhaps I somehow believe that I should be above the need for it in the first place.

Now I am in no way, shape, or form saying that feeling this way...having a visceral aversion to asking for help...way is in any way right, logical, or even healthy.  Feeling this way is actually not healthy, because, in part, it's not living in the real world.  Existence in the year 2016 requires help, as the world is simply too complex for any of us to truly master on our own.  And I will note that I am no exception.

So where does this lead me?  Well, I am in a position now where reaching out to some folks is a must.  It is non-negotiable.  When I think about the difficult things I have had to come to terms in with my life, this is a top five item, easily, but not because of the underlying reason...no, it's simply because reaching out to others is simply very difficult for me.  I've mastered the logic behind what I need to do these days; it's just the getting help part that's still a bit vexing.  In the grand scheme of life though, I have to get better at asking for help, and perhaps this is, in a cosmic sort of way, the lesson I am being taught here and now.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanks

I'm in a period of transition at the moment, which makes the idea of giving thanks more relevant than ever, but yet not necessarily easier to express.  In fact, I have an entire posting "locked and loaded" with the things I am not giving thanks for this year.  Clarity being what it is, though, I'm not sending that one out, at least not yet.  No, the "better angels" in me say the right thing to do is to truly give thanks, as when all is said and done, the balance of payments in my life is far more weighted towards the blessing side than it is anything else.

Thanks (in a time of transition)

I am thankful that my three daughters are all doing what they love as productive adults.  A Teacher, a Scientist, and a Social Worker.  How could I be anything other than so very proud?

I am thankful for my beautiful and wonderful wife, Ms. Rivers.  She is my rock, my muse, my partner, my consigliere, and my editor.  We are our own little gang of two.

I am thankful for my stepsons, who have allowed me to appropriate their Mom as my wife.  I am getting far more out of the deal than they are, but yet they don't seem to mind.  
  
I am thankful that my brothers are all doing well and mostly even talking to each other.  

I am thankful for the family that I joined when I married Ms. Rivers.  The concept of "belonging" is a tough one for me to grasp, but yet here and now I do, in fact, belong.

I am thankful for the fact that I am healthy.  A little banged up this year, and seemingly bruised all the time these days, but still standing.  Cue Elton John.  

I am thankful for my cats, JeanLuc, Tiger, and Adolf.  The "boys" keep me company, tolerate my petting, and remind me that, in life, it's the simplest things (naps, food, drippies) that matter the very most.

I am thankful for the folks who have checked in on me over the past few weeks.  Words can not express how very much that means to me.  

I am thankful for books.  Lots of books.  Books that have been written by very smart people who have given me joy and inspiration over the years.  Books that have made (and continue to make) me a far better person.

I am thankful that Berkely Breathed has re-started Bloom County.  Now, more than ever, our nation needs Bill the Cat.

...and lastly...

I am thankful for the lessons that life continues to teach me.  Sometimes the lessons are about patience.  Other times they are about tolerance.  Still others faith.  Sometimes the lessons are brand new, other times they are refreshers of lessons previously learned but perhaps atrophied over time (and stubbornness) on my part.  Regardless, life is the ultimate classroom.






Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bad News on the Doorstep, I Couldn't Take One More Step

The title comes from the iconic song American Pie.

Like many folks, I suspect, I've been pretty burnt out by the news.  By "burnt out" I mean overexposed, bombarded, gun-shy.  Now normally I'm a ravenous consumer of news, mostly in writing, from a variety of sources.  But post-election I've been doing my best to stay away from it all.  No NPR Morning Edition (replaced by a local classic rock station) during my shower, no more news feeds in Facebook.  It's not that I want to be uninformed, it's just that I think I've felt over informed over the past few months.

The world will survive without my attention.

I'm sure that others will keep their eyes on things.  Part of this is due to, well, poor performance by the media over the past year.  The whole conglomeration of the news helped create the national pickle we are all in these days.  They were, in my estimation, "played" for free coverage by President-Elect Donald Trump (particularly in the Republican Primary) and had an unstated (but clearly obvious) desire to see Hilary Clinton elected.  If anything, one truism coming out of the election is how truly detached the national media was from the actual concerns of the American people.

This isn't a "liberal" vs. "conservative" thing either.  As I've said before, Donald Trump isn't really a conservative, political or otherwise.  He is his very own breed; if anything maybe "nationalist" or "corporatist" is a better description.  I'm sure a review of Trump's Tweets would show a fairly even amount of venom spat at both traditional liberals and conservatives.  Just ask Charles Krauthammer.

All of the above should be taken with the qualifier that I am not a media expert (see THIS GUY if you want that sort of thing).  Heck, outside of maybe Beatles trivia and what I do for a living, I'm pretty much not at expert at anything.  It's easy for me to say "the media failed", but when you think about it, we rely on the media to help guide us, so what happens when the guides seem just as lost as the rest of us?

Anyway, I'll be enjoying a hiatus from national news for a while.  As with the way most things go, I'll probably slip back into being a big news consumer sooner rather than later.  For now, though, I'll stick with listening to "Freebird" in the shower.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Conundrum


I think the world should be using the word "conundrum" more often.  Why?  Well, it's kind of silly in its construction, it has a funny way of rolling off the tongue, and, well, the world is just full of conundrums lately.  Especially the world as it applies to me.

To be blunt, I am facing a conundrum:  I've always had trouble in the "self-promotion" department, as it applies to my professional life.  I know I do good work, but it just pains me to promote that work.  I'm much more comfortable simply doing the work, allowing the results to show through, and then moving on.  The notion of actually having to figuratively (and literally) say "Look at me...and look at what I've done!" is at best alien and at worst somewhat uncomfortable.  And it's not really the "look at me part" actually, as I am very comfortable speaking in front of people, be it one person or 300 people.  I think it's more the fact that for whatever reason, modesty seem to be encoded into my DNA, along big feet and my walleye vision.

Normally, this kind of conundrum is manageable for me, as I've been able to keep myself in positions whereby I could let the results of my work show for itself and be done with it.  Not so much now though; these days I have to make a concerted effort to "sell" myself and my capabilities, hence the conundrum.  I'm ever so slightly fearful, in the back of my head, that I'll be considered "egotistical", a clear and present violation of my previously mentioned, and deeply rooted, sense of modesty.  This isn't about confidence; for me, the line between confident and egotistical is actually easy to understand:  I am confident in front of an audience of people, but I don't have to be "full of myself" to speak to them.  It's not about attention either, as I do enjoy engaging with people and having them pay attention to me.  No, in point of fact I'm just not sure what this is about.  It's, well, a conundrum.

So what am I doing about my conundrum?  Well I'm writing this blog entry for starters.  This actually does help me, by the way, because I've always found that writing forces one to think about thoughts in an orderly sort of way, you know, in order to put them onto a page (real or virtual).  It's been especially helpful for me, which is one of the reason why this blog has kept going for over eight years now.  My head is almost always full of ever changing divergent thoughts, so writing this blog probably means a lot more to me than anyone else could probably realize.

Outside of writing, I'm also seeking outside opinions to, if you will, poke at my underlying notion of modesty.  It's entirely possible that what I consider to be genuine may in fact be a kind of "fake" modesty, maybe designed as a kind of defense mechanism.  I'm likely never going to see this on my own, so I'm open to all the outside help I can get.

In the end, I think that in life we are always placed in situations that afford us at least two paths:  Learning/Growth or Resignation/Despair.  I'm working on the former.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day, 2016

Dedicated to my father, uncle, and brother, and all who have served their country with honor in the United States Military.  We're free because they gave of themselves.


My Dad, Richard J. Albert, SP2, United States Army (second from the right), returning from service during the Korean Conflict, surrounded by friends.  The picture was taken at the Hotel Casey in Scranton.

Upset About the Election Results? Then Act!

I understand being upset if your candidate didn't win the Presidential election on Tuesday.  I was upset when Ronald Reagan was elected.  And George W. Bush as well.  But life is far too short to waste time on directionless anger and what I'll call "silly" protest actions.  I'm not suggesting that it's wrong to be angry, but what I'm saying is that if all you have is anger, well, I pity you, as you'll miss out on the only life you're going to be given.

Channel that anger into something positive.


Go to your local library and actually learn about Islam.  Actually meet some Muslims.  

Join an organization that supports the LGBT community.  

Learn about ways you can help the disabled.  Become an advocate.

Become a better informed citizen by reading (not watching, but READING) the news, every single day.

Volunteer at a shelter for animals.

Actively oppose any hate groups in your local community.

Learn to speak Spanish and then volunteer to teach immigrants English.

Create and write a blog to express your feelings and political leanings.

Support an organization that helps the homeless.

Fight laws that disenfranchise others, especially minorities.

Find out how you can support veterans...and then get involved.

Attend local city/borough council meetings and speak up about the issues that matter most to you.

Find and support candidates that share your values.

If you can't find a candidate that shares your values, well then run for elected office yourself.

Help the environment by keeping parts of it within your reach clean.

Write your Congressman and Senator and let them know about the issues that are of most importance to you.  Hold them accountable.

Research and buy products that leave the smallest possible environmental footprint.


I could go on, but the point is made.

It's all akin to driving a car:  If you spend all of your time fixated on what's in the rear-view mirror (the election results), you'll likely end up slamming into that truck in front of you.  The better play is to keep your eyes on the road in front of you...the future...and only glace in the mirror every once in a while to make sure that the past isn't creeping on you.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

After The Ball - Three Things I Care About


The election is over and we all knew that, regardless of the outcome, about half the country would end up discouraged and upset.  That's one...and probably the only...prediction that actually came true.  Here we are though, and as for me, well there are really three things that are important:

1.  That those who now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act continue to have some kind of medical coverage going forward.  This one is personal for me, as I have a brother who wouldn't otherwise have healthcare coverage if it wasn't for the ACA (he works, but his employer doesn't provide coverage).  Whatever the Republicans in Congress and President-Elect Trump have in mind, it shouldn't leave these folks out in the cold.  Period. 

2.  That the LGBT community retains all of the human rights...they...and we all...deserve.  When the basic right to purse happiness, through marriage for example, is denied to one of us we are all diminished.  

3.  That the days of the back-alley abortion never return.  I don't "like" abortion and I dislike the notion that the government can reach into women's bodies and make healthcare decisions for them.  That's big intrusive government at it's worst.  Yes, religious objections to abortion should be respected, but they doesn't mean they should also be codified into law, forcing non-adherents to follow a set of beliefs for which they sincerely disagree.  The pro-life movement needs to "win" the argument through persuasion, not coercion.

The above isn't intended to diminish the concerns of the Hispanic community, Muslims and others who certainly feel marginalized after the recent campaign.  It's simply my top three. 

Finally, I'll continue to always believe that the vast majority of people in this world are inherently good, Donald Trump and Mike Pence included.  They deserve the opportunity to govern in a way that brings people together; whether or not they choose to do so is up to them.  Regardless of party affiliation or philosophy, all of us have a responsibility in the weeks and months to come to hold them accountable for their actions.




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election Day 2016

I've mostly stopped writing about politics and politicians, and I'm not making an exception for Tuesday's Presidential election.  That noted, when I think about the election, one thought has emerged most clearly for me...



...regardless of who you vote for, don't allow darkness or hatred to dictate your actions, as that's never a cure for anything that troubles our nation.  History has taught us time and time again that darkness and hatred only breed more of the same, and quite frankly, we are currently experiencing surpluses of both.

Mostly though, please make sure you do vote.

Peace & Love...Steve