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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

I'll See You In My Dreams

Yesterday, May 20th would have been my brother Chris’s 59th birthday.  I won’t go over the history of the “would have been” part, other than to say that I was the one who had found him after he passed.  This was (and is, I suppose) equal parts traumatic and yet a blessing…in the sense that no one else had to bear such a thing.  

In an act of synchronicity I suppose, I just happened to finish the book Stitches:  A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott, which deals in part with the idea of grief and loss.

“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”
 Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair

This was not planned by me, by the way.  As noted in a prior posting, I only recently saw enough of an improvement in my eyesight to get back into reading books in the evening.

Anyway, I’ve read several books by Anne Lamott, mostly due to one trait she fully possesses:  She gets to the truth of things…sometimes very difficult things...in ways that seem remarkably relatable and accessible.  Life is about patching, and while I can (but don’t) sew, the analogy works.

As for my brother, I still see him in the occasional dream; sometimes these are vivid, other times these fade very quickly pretty much as I wake.  In almost every instance (that I can at least recall) his role in my dreams is usually that of a partner, as in someone I am doing something with.  I will note my dreams are almost never deep or profound in any way; a better descriptive would probably be “mostly stupid”.

Thinking about yesterday’s birthday, the patches quote, at least for me, has the benefit of being true:  Life is sometimes about patching the parts of our lives that need to be mended.  These patches don’t always look good or function as well as what they are fixing, but they nevertheless seem to work, as life does go on.  It was pretty clear that, for most of my adult life, I had this vision of the relationship I would have with my brother.  That wasn't the reality of this life though, particularly towards the end, and the book has me thinking about how my life in retirement (a few years away...) will have to be patched in some small way by the loss of Chris. I don't know how this will work though.  A part of me wants to spend countless emotional calories thinking about how I will have to adjust...a strange thought 7 years since his passing...but the smarter part of me knows that I simply can't.  This is an impossible task.  

All of this points a fundamental question:  How do we effectively deal with grief?  Make that "we" an "I".  My strategy to date has been to not think of it as being grief.  Instead, I sort of wrap what little I choose to think about this in more concrete terms; see this entire posting for the most part.  Note the word "think", and not the word "feel".  7 years in and I still can't describe this whole subject in terms of feelings.  This could very well be the best defense strategy available to me.  Put another way, sometimes the enormity of something is such that the best strategy to deal with it is to not deal with it at all.  Maybe, someday, I'll graduate to some more effective form of concrete grief.  

Until then, I'll just keep seeing him in my dreams.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Dr. My Eyes

Among the things I did on my birthday was going to the eye doctor for a much needed check-up and even more needed new pair of glasses.  By way of context, there is a posting titled "Life With Walleye Vision" that provides something of a backstory.  Anyway, my old glasses were really old and it was a time for a change.  Vision checked and new glasses ordered/delivered.  In fact, I'm actually wearing the new specs as I type this screed.

There is, of course, more to this current version of the story.  

Books.

For well over a year now, I've had trouble reading books.  And I love reading books.  The trouble part isn't a lack of books...I have plenty, thank you very much.  No, the trouble is a combination of glasses that were old and kept sliding down my nose, which caused some issues with how I see things, amplified by the near constant staring at computer text all day, and sometimes into the evening.  Most of the latter relates to work (as in what I do for a living) stuff.  The net effect of it all has been the fact that, by the time I could take some time to read a book, well, my eyes were as fried as a corndog at an Iowa state fair.

I've know the above has been an issue for this entire time, so why didn't I do anything about it?  That's a damn good question, and I can't think of a conclusively good answer.  My running theory though is that much of the proceeding months, going well back into 2023, have been difficult for me professionally.  Not difficult as in "I am worried I will get fired", but actually quite the opposite:  I know I am doing good stuff and I have a habit of becoming almost fanatical about getting that good stuff done.  This sets in motion a kind of spiral of work taking over more and more of my life.  Before too long, anything that doesn't fit into the work world...and my eyes were working more or less just fine for the work stuff...became less and less important.  This includes books, and even more important other things.

I don't blame the above on my employer or anything related to my professional work for that matter.  No, I own this, 100%.  Part of what I think is getting lost in the overly litigious, entitled world of today is the fact that freedom comes with consequences, especially for doing stupid things.  In retrospect, not having a greater sense of balance in my life is probably even more stupid than wearing 4 year old glasses (when I have Walleye Vision).

I could dig deeper into this, thinking about how I was summarily retired after nearly 28 years at one employer, laid off post a corporate acquisition by an incredibly incompetent VP of learning at another, and becoming a work casualty of COVID.  Losing 3 jobs in a row, when I look back on things, is an adult-sized portion of crap to unpack.  Maybe my hyper-focus at work has something to do with an unspoken fear of yet again falling into some employment chopping block.  This, by the way, is highly unlikely at my present employer.  Logic though rarely is the driving force behind deeply emotional reactions to life events.

Focusing* back on the present, I've had these disassociated thoughts in my head now for a while, but writing this down is the first time they've actually come together into anything that remotely seems coherent.  Writing...like reading books...is good for the soul.

In the here and now, simply knowing a thing is a bit like being good at bar trivia, as in it really doesn't matter.  The truly important part is what one does when having learned a thing.  For me, that means getting some balance back into my life.  This is my work in progress.


(*) Obligatory eye pun.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Old


[11:15am, April 27, 2024]
Friday marked what a local Northeastern PA weatherman calls "another trip around the sun" for me.  Specifically, it was my 60th such trip. This is a monumental achievement, well, if this were the 1400's. As it stands, April 26, 2024, was pretty much another day, all be it in a rather bumpy week.  More on that in a moment.

Regarding the above-mentioned trip around the sun, Ms. Rivers had asked me if I wanted to do anything special for the big day.  (not) Shockingly, I said no.  I did, however, request coconut cream pie. And pizza. Both wishes were honored.  

Now is where I am supposed to offer some road apple of older-person wisdom, but I won't. Well, I won't other than this:  At age 60 I am still learning new stuff...both about myself and the world around me...and this is a good thing.  On a related note, a valid question to ask at this kind of occasion is "what does it feel like to be 60?", and based on this past week, my answer is a solid "I hope not like this".  Let me count the ways.

The week started with me trying to deal with the remnants of a cold I acquired the weekend before. Now I don't get colds very often; something like every other year sounds about right. When I do though there is about a 25% chance that it will cause some asthma-related issues. That was this case, and I am pecking this out now while sitting at a local DMV office, getting my driver's license renewal, with what feels like a feather duster stuck between the back of my nose and my throat. Interesting analogy, I know, but also a practical pain in the rear-end. 

Speaking of pain, coughing, at this stage, feels like an Olympic sport. Literally, my very diaphragm feels like it has run a marathon and now is being asked to swim 49 laps.  I want to cough, but it doesn't feel all that great plus it's also not that productive (from a "getting crap out of my system" perspective).  

[later in the day...]
Driver's license in hand, it's now the evening.  In totality, I was at the above referenced DMV office for less than an hour, which is nothing short of remarkable.  The staff was friendly and efficient, something one doesn't always associate with such places.  

Side Note:  Is complaining about one's health a stereotypical thing that "old people" do?  I may be skating on thin ice with this posting.

Anyway, back to the week that was.  Cold and asthma issues noted, I ended up going to a local urgent care, as breathing was becoming a bit of a problem by the time Monday afternoon came about.  After about a 20 minute wait, I saw an outstanding nurse practitioner, who was very, very helpful.  Some blood was drawn, nebulizer treatment performed and 'roids prescribed.  Also required was a chest x-ray, which necessitated a trip of about 3 miles to another health facility.  That was done in short order, as were the x-ray results: No pneumonia, arthritis in my spine and some kind of lump in my lungs.

Not the best of news.

Fast forward to Thursday and I ended up getting a CT Scan.  The good news is that lump really wasn't there...curse those two-dimensional x-rays...although there were other things of a lessor-but-still-sucky nature.  Still, it took a lot off my chest (figuratively speaking), and now I'm "just" dealing with dry coughs and the occasional wheeze.  I am also nearly done with the 'roids treatment, which has helped a bit, but not a lot.  I will say this though...I am feeling better, all be it at a pace that seems all too slow.  

There is something of a cosmic/karmic lesson in all of this stuff, what with getting older, health scares, etc. all coming together in a week.  I absolutely know that I have not been a friend to my physical body over the past few years, with it subjugated to a lessor importance as I try to navigate the murky waters of being late in my professional life, with all the stress that entails.  There is lots of irony to go around, including the notion that I have the potential for a long and fulfilling retirement in a few years, complete with a reasonable amount of financial stability, but yet I seem to be subversively doing things that might impede that from happening.  For someone who prides himself on being logical (me), it's all so very illogical.  

Difficult times though offer dramatic opportunities for clarity in life.  This is a kind of true-ism that is easier to write than to actually experience, but here I am, and I know where I need to go.

******
Post Script
I know the above reads to be pretty dark for something that should be a bit more uplifting, namely a "milestone" birthday.  The week, by the way, was not all terrible; for example, I had a chance to attend a half-day workshop on A.I. in Philadelphia on Tuesday that was very interesting.  I also had my pizza and coconut cream pie Friday, complete with candles, after a work-day full of birthday wishes from co-workers and friends.  There was much gratitude to be had.



I also received two thoughtful birthday cards, a bag of treasured circus peanuts (the candy that tastes like bananas, not actual peanuts), and Ms. Rivers and I went for a nice drive after dinner.  I wanted a simple day and that's what I got.  While a lunkhead at heart, I am learning that, as I do grow older, there is a kind of "seen but still unseen" beauty in simplicity.  My more intellectual view of the universe, complete with near constant analysis of anything and everything, makes this harder at times, but the ultimate importance of simplicity...such as taking care of your physical self...is not to be trifled or diminished.

Here's to growing older and always trying to grow smarter at the same time.


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Storyworth & Other Assorted Bits-O-News

It's been a while since I've posted, but not since I've done any similar writing.  That statement makes sense through the lens of Storyworth, a kind of project that will take most of this year to complete.  You can learn more about Storyworth HERE.  This was part of a Christmas gift from my youngest daughter, and I have to confess, I am enjoying it.  The premise is this:

  • Family members ask a weekly question
  • I write a response
  • At the end of the year the whole thing is turned into a book
This week's question, which I haven't started answering, is...


My answers to these questions generally run in the 600-900 word range.  Anyway, if you have someone in your life that enjoys writing, this makes a memorable gift...for both the writer and the people that get a copy of the book.

In other news:

  • Eclipse/Rapture...I was not raptured on Monday.  Hell, I didn't even get light-headed.  Thankfully, no one else did either (the rapture part, that is).  On a more serious note, maybe, just maybe, the idiots that spout this stuff should be publicly humiliated.  That would make a great website...tracking the stupid stuff public figures predict that never come true.  
  • Earthquake...I was working from home on Tuesday when we had an earthquake.  Details HERE.  I didn't feel a thing.  Ms. Rivers did, but then again I was in the work-zone, a not-so-magical place where I probably miss a lot of things happening around me.
  • Florida...Ms. Rivers and I spent a few days in St. Augustine, Florida, a week or two ago.  I enjoyed having time off in a warmer place, and going to Buc-ees is always a blast.  The place is definitely a bucket-list kind of thing, which sounds like an almost comically American stereotype (think "I aspire one day to visit the world's largest gas station").  Also on the docket was a trip to the self-identified Fountain of Youth.  I did drink water from the actual fountain, but I don't think that is going to stop my 60th birthday from coming in a few weeks.  As for the fountain water, the taste could best be described as being liquid scrambled eggs.  Finally on the Florida side of things, you can mark that as being one of the places I have no plans to ever live in, now or in retirement.  The winter weather is nice, but the one advantage we have up north is the exhilaration felt when Spring finally arrives.  It's as close to a legal high as I have ever experienced.
  • Scranton Times Death Spiral...The Scranton Times, a local newspaper, shut down reader comments a few days ago.  There was no article written about the change, just an email sent to those who partook of the seeming privilege.  I did, with some regularity, comment on articles, but only under my own name.  That was a rarity for the comments section, which was dominated by anonymous dog whistling keyboard komandos, spewing not-so-subtle racism and sports team politics.  Not the best presentation of Northeastern Pennsylvania residents, but then again this is what you get when you don't hold folks accountable for what they write.  A better solution would have been to require anyone commenting on an article to actually post using their real name.  This would make sense if the function was killed for reasons of common decency, but then again the actual reason was far more cost-cutting than anything else.  Yet another victim of the Scranton Times sale.  

As Billy Joel once noted, "and so it goes".  

More to come.
        


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Re-naming a Stadium & White-Washing History


This will be short, simple and to the point.

Renaming Beaver Stadium to Honor Joe Paterno

Yes, there has been some movement among trustees of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to rename the school's stadium from the current Beaver Stadium to one that features former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Just to save time, this is at the root of the controversy:

Penn State Scandal

From the above link...

March 2, 2002 - Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary tells Coach Joe Paterno that on March 1, he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the Lasch Building showers. On May 7, 2012, prosecutors file court documents to change the date of the assault to on or around February 9, 2001.

March 3, 2002 - Paterno reports the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Later, McQueary meets with Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. McQueary testifies that he told Curley and Schultz that he saw Sandusky and the boy engage in anal sex; Curley and Schultz testify they were not told of any such allegation. No law enforcement investigation is launched.

May 6, 2016 - CNN reports the story of another alleged victim who explains how he was a troubled young kid in 1971 when Sandusky raped him in a Penn State bathroom. He says his complaint about it was ignored by Paterno.

July 12, 2016 - Newly unsealed court documents allege that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s abuse and that he dismissed a victim’s complaint.

A bottom line of sorts, for me, is this:  At some point, Joe Paterno did follow the letter of the law in reporting the abuse allegation.  He did not, however, follow the spirit of the law.  He did just enough to try and move past the controversy in order to focus back on football.  Simply put, that's not enough.  As I noted in a Facebook comment, if what happened was some NCAA rules violation, then I'd be somewhat sympathetic.  But this was something that involved sexual abuse.  This was more important than football.  For coach Paterno though it was not.  

Joe Paterno had a moral obligation to put the welfare of children and young adults before that of his football program.  He should be held to a higher standard over and above simply compliance.  He did not do that, and that is unforgiveable.

Does this tarnish everything that Joe Paterno did at Penn State?  No.  He still has a library named after him, which is fitting given his reputation for nominally insisting that Penn State football players also be serious students.  I also happen to believe that his coaching record should not reflect the scandal, and attempts to somehow erase what he accomplished as a coach were/are a bad idea, as it punishes the students who played on all of his teams.

I don't have much of a voice when it comes to Penn State internal politics, but I'm not without one either.  As a graduate, Life Member of the Alumni Association, benefactor to the university (helping to fund a scholarship at Penn State Harrisburg), former board member of the Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society and member of the Atherton Society, I think I've earned the right to express an opinion.  And express an opinion to the Trustees and Administration I will.

Joe Paterno does not deserve the honor of having a stadium named after him.  Doing so is an insult to the victims of sexual abuse and to those alumni of Penn State who view the university as far more than just a football team.  Penn State is better than this.


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Just Browsing...

I love looking at real estate listings.  Granted that there actually is a practical, if not immediate, reason to do so, namely the purchase of a retirement home in a few years.  The bigger reason though is that I just find old homes to be interesting.  

The house shown below is old, but I wouldn't use the word interesting to describe it.


This was my late brother Chris' house.  The last time I was in that house was probably early February, 2017, as it was being prepared to be sold by his wife.  My thought was to just go through the place, with her permission (of course), looking for any old family things that could be saved, prior to the sale.  I don't recall what I found there on that day, as it was an extremely difficult visit.  Prior to this, I had been there late morning on January 5, 2017 when I found my brother after he had passed away.  At the time, there was no heat in the house, so his body was frozen.  My fingers can still feel the sensation of touching him, thinking initially that he was just sleeping.  

More on this is noted in prior blog postings.

Seeing the listing was kind of stunning for me.  I have stopped once or twice over the past few years (as recently as three weeks ago) just to see the condition of the place, as it slowly rotted away.  I don't believe that it has been actually occupied since it was sold in 2017; as best I can recall from Chris' wife, it was sold to someone from New York, but nothing was ever done with it.  Fast forward to now, and I did see a condemnation notice on the door from the City of Scranton, so perhaps the absent owner thought it best to cover his/her losses and get rid of the property.  Interestingly enough, there already is a pending sale for it.

The timing of this listing/sale in mid-January I suspect is a kind of synchronicity of sorts, given the history noted above.  Maybe this is a kind of karmic way of getting it all over with together.  Maybe this is a kind of ending chapter.

Whatever happens regarding the sale, I just have one hope:  That whoever buys the property fixes it up and that there end up being children living in the place.  I think little kids running around is precisely the kind of exorcism the place needs.  The house, and my brother's memory, would like such a thing.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Making 2024 Small

"How 'bout getting off of these antibiotics?
How 'bout stopping eating when I'm full up?
How 'bout them transparent dangling carrots?
How 'bout that ever elusive kudo?"
(Thank You, Alanis Morissette)

As I noted in a prior post, every end of year I think about what happened in the 12 months past, and what I want to accomplish in the 12 months to come.  "Resolutions" sounds so formal...and I'm not a really formal kind of person...so I'm going to go with "goals"...and I've been thinking a bit more about this over the past week or so.  My track record in achieving these goals is, by all objective standards,  terrible.  Like Don Quixote though, I keep at it for reasons that mostly escape me but nevertheless seem like something of a noble quest. 

Anyway, a part of what I want to accomplish in 2024 can be thought of as "Thinking Small"

Thinking Small
Given my pending birthday this year, I actually think I am reasonably healthy.  Granted that there are a few chronic things going on (heart rate issues, for example), but all things considered, I think I am doing okay.  This noted, I need to do a better job of managing my weight.  That's not for reasons of vanity or anything else of the sort...it's strictly because I want to be as healthy for as long as possible, mostly because there is still a lot in my life to be done.  First on the docket for this goal is to simply think smaller in terms of what I eat.  As in just eating less.

Managing weight is basically a simple math problem:  Calories in, calories out (burned).  For me, a big part of this is that I simply sit too much.  Especially when I am at work.  More on some work stuff in a moment.  But I can't afford to be desk bound for hours at a time either.  This is an easy thing to write, but hard to do (for many reasons...), and I don't have a way to solve for this yet.  But I am going to figure something out.  

Perspective
I need to re-envision, if you will, my relationship with what I do for a living.  I don't want to work less, I don't want a simpler job, and I don't want to be "comfortable".  What do I want?  It's not a question of want in as much as it is a need...I need a greater mental and physical balance in my life.  Some might call this "work-life balance", but that doesn't do this justice.  Besides, I have an entire posting in my head on the subject of "work-life balance", so I'm not going to hash that out here.  Instead, I just need what I do to earn a living to not exhaust me, mostly because it shouldn't.  Yes, what I do is important, and I get to work with great people; however, I'm not curing cancer, stopping crime or preventing the fall of Western Civilization.  

I need to find a spot where I work hard, help those I work with, and have more time for the rest of my life.  Simple, huh?

As a side note, my retirement from the full-time workforce isn't imminent, but it's also not that far away.  Do I have a date in mind?  Yes.  Am I going to share that?  No.  One of the smarter things I learned from nearly three decades working with very smart people at Prudential is that you never give an employer too much advanced notice of your retirement.  Why?  The moment you do, you give your employer license to possibly treat you not as well (Think "He's going to be leaving anyway, so __________."). 

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
I've already started working on this goal. What is it, you may ask?  Well, I need to let go of some things.  Most of these things are physical stuff, as in I have DVI to HDMI converter cables for some reason.  As in I have a ton of old books that I don't ever plan on reading.  As in I am right now looking on a shelf where I have old notebooks.  Heck, I don't even know what is in these notebooks.  I am simply awash in stuff.  There is also some mental stuff in the back corners of my head as well that could probably do for, if not a purge, then a re-assignment to the mental equivalent of a Siberian Gulag.  

Time
"Time the past has come and gone
The future's far away
And now only lasts for one second, one second"
(Time, Hootie and the Blowfish)

Time is speeding up as I get older, a point which I think is ultimately at the heart of what Einstein was trying to prove with his Theory of Relativity.  It's only been over the past 2 or 3 years that I've actually been aware of this fact.  Nevertheless, I have things to do, and it's getting to the point where those things need to be larger in my life and less about the nuts and bolts of what I'm doing between 8am and 5:30pm-ish most days.  There are pictures to be taken, words to be written, things to be torn down, things to be built, cats to be petted, people to help and walks to be had with Ms. Rivers. 

None of us are promised time, by the way.  It all can end at any given moment for reasons of the tragic (struck by a drunk driver) or the dramatic (nuclear holocaust created radioactive cockroaches) or the mundane.   We just don't know, so it's all the more important to treat the time we have with the sense of reverence that it deserves.

Simply put, I think we all need to do a better job of honoring our time.  

Persistence
Recent events have left me thinking "why me?" once again.  This, by the way, is not a question of "why did this terrible thing happen to me?", but instead, why am I the one who is still standing?  Think of it as being a kind of survivor's guilt that's tough to explain to someone else who hasn't been through certain kinds of terribleness.  Anyway, as I ponder this sort of thing most every early January, I've come to the conclusion that it all comes down to one word: Persistence.  Either I've been blessed with this personal quality or I'm just too pig-headed to back down from things.  Both probably are true.  While this has certainly served me well, I'd gladly give a bit of it up if it would be/have been available in some small measure to certain others.

So, long ago, was it just a dream?

Time to march into 2024.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Time Time Tickin', Tickin' Away

The title of this posting comes from a wonderful song by Don Henley called The Last Worthless Evening.  Well worth listening to (see below), although it has very little to actually do with the topics at hand.

Anyway, it's nearly New Year's Day as I write this, and over the past few weeks I've been full of thoughts related to the year that's coming to an end, my getting older, and just a sense that things in the world are spinning a bit more out of control than they are normally (if there is such a thing as "normal" these days).  These thoughts aren't all bad, mind you, and I'm not sure why some of them are only recently coming to mind.  Yes, I am having thoughts about thoughts...not exactly productive...but not completely out of character for me either.

As for the year that's coming soon to an ending near you, well, I'm glad.  That would be "glad it's almost over".  There are a few themes to the year if you want to think of it in those terms.  Themes like...

 ...my priorities were sometimes very wrong in 2023.  The time and mental energy I spend at work has gone up quite a bit.  Part of that isn't all bad, as I think I'm good at what I do, and certainly I think many seem to appreciate my efforts, but at what cost?  My physical health has suffered in that I'm almost perpetually locked to a desk.  My mental health has suffered because after 9 to 11 hours a day of work, plus often work over the weekend, there just isn't anything left for me.  I can point to a few things, for example, in our yard that I didn't get around to this year because I was either too physically or mentally tired.  It's a kind of negative cycle that's easy to identify but very hard to stop.  But stop it I will.

...there's also the idea that my life is going to be changing pretty dramatically over the next few years.  This is because, having entered the workforce full time in 1986, I have far, far less time working in front of me than working behind me.  I am not complaining about this, by the way.  If anything, I have been incredibly blessed as I get older in terms of financial security, general health, my home life, etc.  It all seems just so, well, "big".  It's worth reminding myself that I'm actually pretty good at doing big things.

...in this country, the very nature of our political system has become mired in the worst of both parties, although much of the blame falls to one man who doesn't read books, can't admit that he's ever wrong, engages in Olympic-sized fear mongering, views immigrants not from Norway (or apparently Slovakia) as being evil, and treats the Seven Deadly Sins as personal goals.  You do know who I am talking about.  My hope is that when this person passes along one day, some may recover the parts of their humanity that seem to be broken.  If you support this man, then I feel badly for you.  A phrase like "may they rot in Hell" in a social media Christmas message says far more about this person than I...or anyone else for that matter...ever could.  Ask yourself, "Would a decent human being say such a thing?".  You do, by the way, know the answer to that question, and quite frankly, he's not worthy of your support.

...in our world, well, there's a shortage of simple, basic caring.  In fact, it sometimes feels as if caring for others is viewed as a kind of weakness best left to idealists and others not "living in the real world".  No one needs to die because a bunch of folks in power simply want more of it.  Yes, I get it...fighting things like injustice sometimes require difficult decisions, but if those "difficult decisions" involve killing children (be they Israeli or Palestinian, for example), well, call me suspicious.

I wish 2023 were a better year, but it happened as it was supposed to.  What's left for us is to learn what we can so we can make tomorrow a bit better than yesterday.

Speaking of tomorrow (as in 2024), I do have a few thoughts.  Some of them are basically kind of antonyms of what's noted above, so I'm not going to waste time with repetition.  What I will note though is this:  It's important for me (and I suspect all of us, to one extent or another) to remember that we have far more control over the things in our life than we recognize.  That's not to say that exercising that control is easy...in fact, sometimes it is incredibly difficult...but that doesn't negate that sense of control's very existence. 

So for 2024, here's my wish:  May we all...

Dare to do big things

Show compassion (not just for others, but for ourselves as well)

Always ask the question "Am I running away from...or towards...something?"

Take time to smell flowers, listen to good music and pet a cat (or dog, or both)

Cultivate friendships (I especially need to work on this)

Honor those who serve us, be they restaurant staff, healthcare workers or first responders

Be humble

Live for today, but always plan for tomorrow

 

2024, bring it on.


Monday, December 11, 2023

Kate Spade for Christmas

Before I started actually writing this, I had to check and see what I had previously written about (the late) Kate Spade.  This post...

http://www.sgalbert.com/2018/06/i-dont-know-anything-about-kate-spade.html

...came up.  So, what made me think of it again?  It's a bit of a winding journey.

Today was the annual "drive a bit to go shopping" trip with Ms. Rivers.  We do this every year before Christmas, with the trips ranging from the Philadelphia area to the Poconos.  A few times we've gone to the Lehigh Valley Mall, which was where we ended up today.  There is no grand plan to this, and truth be told, most of our shopping (for Christmas gifts) is already done.  It's more the idea that we are heading out to go Christmas shopping, which is the real gift I suppose.  I say "gift" as it's just been too damn busy this past year.  Even the weekends are full of stuff, and on more than one occasion, I think I'm more tired on Sunday evening than Friday.  First World Problems, I know.

Anyway, while at the Lehigh Valley Mall, we stopped in the small temporary Barnes & Noble bookstore (the "real" one is being remodeled) and while wandering around, I came upon a section of stationary related gifts with the Kate Spade New York brand.  I'm sure it's high-quality stuff, but nothing I would buy, mind you.  In an odd sort of way though it made me stop and think.  A moment, if you will, of clarity.  See the above link for context.

Life can be hard for some.  I've struggled a bit this past year between my desire to make a difference at work and still maintain a healthy balance with the other parts of my life.  That's been a losing battle; as evidence I offer the fact that I haven't really been writing much.  And, by the way, I haven't been reading much either.  Basically, I've just been working (as in the paid variety + working on my stepson's recently purchased home).  Yet, as much as I can bemoan my minor struggles, Kate Spade reminded me of the importance of perspective.  

At the risk of repetition, the Kate Spade story tells us, in part (at least according to me...) that you can be very attractive, physically healthy, smart, hardworking, wildly successful, popular and have all the things...and yet be deeply troubled.  For me, this is genuinely difficult to process.  I can though, as I get older, process a part of this, in the sense that the seeming tangibles of our lives sometimes matter far less than the intangibles.  In the middle of a consumption-fueled holiday season, it seems like an important lesson.

While I do my best to give myself credit for climbing (figurative mountain) summits, sometimes the even steeper summit someone else manages to climb is out of a hole.


I think the latter is worth more admiration.

*****

Post-Script
The shopping experience today was underwhelming.  Like most indoor shopping malls, Lehigh Valley seems like it's struggling a bit.  That plays out in empty store fronts (no Williams Sonoma for us today) and in bathrooms that look like they time traveled from a 1970's vintage of a Port Authority parking garage.  Realizing that much of our shopping has been done on-line, Ms. Rivers and I have sadly contributed in a small way to this decline.  We'll do better next year.

Monday, October 9, 2023

If We Only Had Time...

"If we only had time, only had time for you" - Gone Hollywood (Supertramp)

Sometimes it seems like time isn't this fixed thing that we seem to think it is.  Maybe that's the "relative" part of "relativity" in action.  Such things may be a bit above my paygrade, and while they are sometimes fun to ponder, in the end, it's a bit like shoveling water:  A lot of effort but little practical result.

It's been a bit since I've written, but things have been busy.  On the professional side of things, I have been working harder than ever before:  Not exactly for more money, but it's now at the part of my life when my desire to do good work sometimes exceeds any sensible reasons (to be working this hard).  On the non-work side of things, well, I have plenty of other work to do, including helping out with my older stepson's new home.  One has not experienced sweat until you are steaming wallpaper off in a house that is in the 85+ degree range.  That work is mostly done, and things have now moved to the wall prep for paint phase.  Mind you, there is a bathroom that still has wallpaper in it, but I'm waiting for those marching orders.  My work at the house extends beyond wallpaper removal, although I draw the line, as usual, at plumbing*.

Anyway, this summer has been something of a blur.  And now it's October, a month that has provided more than a few challenges for me over the years (many, many related postings here over the years).  I won't tempt fate...or October...with any further commentary, other than to say, "let's just be friends October, okay?".

These past few days have provided a kind of late punctuation to the summer of 2023 in that Ms. Rivers and I have been spending time with her parents in Cape May, NJ.  In fact, tomorrow we head home, with Ms. Rivers stopping in The Philadelphia on the way back (we took two cars).  I'll note that I've never really spent much time in Cape May, but I would come back in the future, as long as it was either before or after the summer season.  

Speaking of Cape May, it is an old place, saved in so many ways from the kitsch of the 1950's/1960's motor inn phase that became something of a statement for New Jersey shore points.  Many of those motor inns have gone the way of the early 1970's land yacht cars, but certainly a few of them still remain.  Just not in Cape May.  Here, well, it seems that efforts have been made to keep something more distinct, at least from an architectural (and possibly larger cultural) basis.  While I didn't bring any camera gear with me, my Google Pixel is more than capable of taking some wonderful pictures.





There's a real kind of beauty to be found in older places that have been well maintained and remained purposeful over the years.  In a way, that's something (well maintained & purposeful) that we should all be striving for in our own existence.  Being here with Ms. River's parents puts an exclamation point on this overall sentiment, as how they are now, we will all be, more or less, if we are blessed.

The above noted, this has proven to be a very difficult posting to write.  I find it more and more difficult to take the step back required to actually think about these kinds of things in a way which can translate to rational thoughts that make some written sense.  In other words, writing is hard sometimes, and my lack of it speaks more to my own life priorities than anything else.  I'm not just failing to make time for writing, by the way...there are several other (non-work) things I am not doing these days that don't seem to be making the cut.  That needs to change.  

Here's to cool Fall evenings and better life priorities to come.


(*) Reasons why I despise plumbing work, in no specific order:  A) I have big hands that don't fit well in small spaces.  B) It's dirty work.  C) It always leaks after round one of the repair.  D) You often need specialized tools that make no sense for non-plumbers to actually buy.