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Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 - Time

The older I get, the more appreciative I become of how complex something as seemingly simple as “time”.

As a kid, time was much less fluid than it is now that I am older.  As a kid, Christmas morning came and went by incredibly fast, but yet any given day of the school year seemed to last a lifetime.  As a decidedly mid-50’s adult, well, time just seems to move fast…and getting faster…all the time.  It’s as if my life is rushing towards something (yes, to be frank, the end of it).  That makes it all the more important to appreciate the here and now.

Part of appreciating the here and now rests with understand what has come before.  When I think about 2019, what comes to mind is change.  Probably more change, I will note, than many other years.

“I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space”
(paraphrasing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, responding to whether or not he was some kind of spaceman)
I started 2019 working for a company that took over the company that previously employed me.  I went from working for the same company for nearly three decades to (now) three different companies in the span of three years.  That’s a lot of change, and the fact that I’m here to write about it, having navigated that change, says something good about me. 

Company number two in this time frame was just about the worst possible fit for me in terms of culture, business model and just about any other dimension imaginable.  It was a place where I never would have sought employment myself.  Yet as difficult as that situation was, and it was pretty difficult, I managed to bring it to something of a conclusion.  Even in the difficulty of working for a “worst fit” organization, I was able to gain connections with some truly remarkable people.  It also was a stark reminder to me of how deeply ingrained the notion of work is to me.  A wise person told me that work is important because, oddly enough, I am comfortable in the environment.  I’ve filed that in the category of “Feedback I don’t necessarily understand…but I will accept nevertheless”.

Company number three, where I am now, is something of a gift, being a kind of anti-matter equivalent of company number two.  Where the former was enormously large, the latter is relatively small.  Where I struggled to understand my value in the organization (in fact, feeling lost and devalued), now I know where I fit in and the value I provide.  I owe a debt of gratitude to those who helped get me here, directly or through encouragement, and I’ll do my best to repay that over the years to come.

“I have met the enemy, and he is me”
There are no two ways around this:  I haven’t done enough to take care of myself, and that’s gotten worse in 2019.  After something of a frightening health experience last December, I’m left with the prospect of a colonoscopy every three years for the rest of my life.  Granted that’s not terrible, but it is a stark reminder that the teenage years of almost super-human invulnerability to all manners of physical neglect and abuse to self are long, long gone.  No, at this stage, things will, in fact, wear out, and what how I treat myself does matter.

There are, by the way, at least 876 reasons why I should take better care of myself.  That’s a fact.  What’s less factual is why I have allowed myself to get to this point in the first place.  Part of it, I am sure, is a kind of general despair that comes from a horrible working environment (see above).  Regardless, no manner of excuse is actually sufficient. 

“And there’s someone on my head, but it’s not me”
(Pink Floyd, Brain Damage)
When I think about the 11+ years I’ve written this blog, one of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that I’ve allowed myself, modestly I will note, to be somewhat vulnerable in terms of self-expression.  Now there are fits and spurts where this is more prominent, but I can honestly say that what’s here is pretty much me (all be it with hopefully spelling & grammar).  I don’t know though that I’ve been fully transparent over this past year. 

I have been troubled on the career front (see above, and some other postings), but pretty much kept the worst parts to myself.  There are practical reasons for that (which I can’t disclose), but it’s hard to deny just how dark that drove my life for the first half of 2019.  I still find myself digging out of the emotional toll-hole it has taken.  The good news though is that A) I am making progress and B) I can at least now admit the problem existed.

Now I’m fully aware of all the learned advice about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but I’m calling B.S. on that concept, at least as it applied to the scenario above.  I’m not stronger from that experience.  I am, more correctly, feeling damaged, but at least recovering.  For a person who is naturally wired to be very self-reflective and critical, this past employment experience was simply Hell. 

I also think a lot about my late brother Chris.  I had a very vivid dream a few weeks ago that he was in, where I told him how much I missed him.  He said, “I know”.  That was a remarkable bit of coherency for one of my dreams, by the way.  Spiritual people would tell me that was some kind of message.  I don’t know about that part.  What I do know is that when I woke up, it didn’t offer much in the way of comfort.  As difficult as the latter part of his life was, I still feel cheated by his passing. 

“Cheat your landlord if you can – and must – but do not try to shortchange the Muse.”
(William S. Burroughs)
As something of a side effect to all the above, actually writing these postings has become more difficult for me.  I normally (whatever “normally” means) get ideas for things and then just pretty much bang them out in an hour or two.  Occasionally I start writing something and then come back to it later.  Even rarer is a posting like this, that is written in parts, stitched together like some kind of written Frankenstein’s monster. 

Anyway, it feels as if I’m almost trying to punish myself by not doing the things I enjoy.  As if I need to be punished for a year that was quite punishing enough, thank you very much.  It’s a good thing the sole, only intent of these postings…and it’s 2,000 siblings by the way…is my own enjoyment, as it’s been a disappointing year at NCFE.

“You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead”
(Paul McCartney, Two of Us)
There’s a real danger, I think, in spending too much time in retrospect.  As I used to tell my daughters, it’s like driving a car:  If you spend too much time looking at the rear-view mirror, you’re not going to see what’s in front of you.  Granted though that an occasional glance is actually prudent. 

The task for me, at least as I see it now, is to pack all of what 2019 was (the good, the bad, and the very ugly…some of which is noted here, some of which is not) and put it away.  We all have bad years, for sure, but they all come to an end as well.  As is our annual ritual, I’m going up “to the cabins” for a few days of being unplugged from all manner of Internets and Social Medias, which creates something of a natural re-set button.  There I’ll catch up on some quality reading, do some off-line writing, spend some time hiking and maybe take a few photographs, all surrounded by my wife and her family.  It’s a kind of simple, gentle end to a year that was far from simple…or gentle.

* * * * * *

All the best to anyone reading this, and I hope your New Year is full of promise.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


And so it came to pass in the town of West Pittston that I was sent to find and acquire pecans for the baking needs of Ms. Rivers.

There are a few reasons why this is noteworthy.

First, I barely know what pecans look like.  Put them in a lineup with walnuts, cashews, and some of their other friends and there's about a 50/50 chance I will not be able to make a positive identification.  This isn't the case of some benign indifference, mind you. I really dislike nuts.  All nuts.  In my head there is a scale of sorts, starting with walnuts, where my reaction is one of "I'm not eating that!" to peanuts, where my reaction is "that's simply disgusting...why are you eating that?".

Second, there were no pecans at our local Gerrity's supermarket, at least not that I could find, as I scoured the baking isle while on the phone with Ms. Rivers.

Third, after getting off the phone and staring blindly at the shelves, hoping a bag that said "pecans" on it would appear, low and behold a kind stranger comes upon me, and after hearing my plight, decides to have pity on me.  This was a lady of my age or younger, with a cart full of stuff and clearly lots to do on her own, but yet she wanted to help.  And help she did, as she showed me some additional hiding places where pecans tend to congregate.  At the third stop, we hit the jackpot, and pecans were, in fact, located.  I thanked this lady three times (at least) for her concern and help.  And I got my pecans.

Now it's easy to get caught up in the negativity that seems to be swirling around us these days.  On a national level, we have folks glorifying & excusing tawdry name-calling and treating greed as if it were some kind of warped virtue.  I feel that all the time, and it certainly permeates how I think about things all too often.  Yet this lady I did not know, spent five-plus minutes of her obviously busy shopping day to help me find pecans.  Why?  I suspect it was because she simply wanted to help...because it was the right thing to do.  I'm sure it wasn't a big deal to her, but after this past year (there's a larger post coming on that topic), it was a big deal to me.

I know, this may come across as sappy and maybe a bit stupid, but I honestly don't care.  Maybe if all of us helped each other (and strangers) out just a bit more...for no more of a reason than it is simply the right thing to do...our nation and our world would be a slightly better place.

Happy Holidays to one and all.  Whatever you celebrate...or don't celebrate...may it bring you peace and some joy.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


"Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them"
- Author Uknown

I've probably noted a few times in this space about the relationship I have with sleeping.  At best, I'd call that relationship one of convenience; at worst, well, it's a kind of war of sorts, all fought within the confines of my head.  

My Head, At Bedtime
"Boy, I am actually tired, this is great...I'll be able to fall asleep quickly."
Then it comes time to turn things off and actually fall asleep.  That's when my head starts telling me "crap, I don't know if I can actually fall asleep".  The good news is that I usually do fall asleep fairly quickly, but even then part of me fights it.

My Head, Asleep
"Let's get a few dozen images and tie them together in some truly surreal stories."
Saying that I can have vivid dreams is like saying "there might be a Tuesday next week".  In fact, I have vivid dreams just about every night.  Right now I can remember details of some, even those that are days, weeks or months ago.  I'll admit that here, but I won't describe them, as often they just don't make any sense; maybe they did at the time, but now I'm simply left with fragments floating around in my head, like shipwreck debris on the water.  As someone who tries to go about my life in a logical and ordered way, my dream time is chaotic and disordered.  There are times when I really don't want to go to sleep on account of not wanting to subject myself to yet another round of mental chaos.

My Head, Early Morning
"Hey, wake up!  Here are a half dozen important things to consider."
Pretty much between 5 and 6am my head grows weary of the disjointed chaos of my dream state and starts to ponder the realities of the day to come.  That's the point of no return, and by then I usually can no more fall back to sleep than I could create cold fusion in a blender.  

I'll note that I try to fall asleep around 11pm-ish, and during the week, I am up and out of bed by 6:15am.  My actual odds of sleeping a bit later are far better during the week than they are during the weekend.  That's downright cruel.

Now I have had nights where I've gotten a good night's sleep and felt refreshed in the morning.  I think that's actually happened twice in my adult life.  Twice. 

Now part of me wants to believe that one day I'll get this sleep thing finally figured out, that the adversarial relationship I have with the "little slices of death" will give way to a kind of truce.  That's a nice thought, to be sure.  Until then, the battle begins anew in about 90 minutes.  Wish me luck.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Cat Fishing Man

Admittedly, I work hard at maintaining my composure, and for the most part, I am successful.  Every once in the while though I get close to losing "my stuff".  Such was the case today coming home from work today, as I talked to my wife about this story in the news:

"Fishing for Cats Suspect Gets Prison Time"

This story has bothered me since it first appeared in the news a while ago.  The latest iteration is hopefully the last time it rears its ugly head.

I will not describe the story, other than to say that the story title is literally true.

Now it's not much of a secret that I love cats.  In fact, I've written 29 (now 30) postings that reference cats and those are the ones that I actually remembered to correctly tag.  Nothing against dogs, which I do like also, but I have a big soft spot for cats.  As a fully functional big adult person, I have that right.

Anyway, here's the larger point: I work hard...very believing people are inherently good.  Even when bad actors appear, I want to believe that they are trying to do the right thing, even if their actions contradict that idea.  Maybe they are simply confused.  Then I read something like this, and, I just don't understand.

Our pets (cats and dogs) don't have malice.  Even in the worst of circumstances, their actions are a product of instinct.  If someone is attacked by a dog, for example, the dog is doing so because it feels threatened (or feels that their owner is being threatened).  There's an almost comforting purity to that notion, even when polluted by those who would train the dog to act inappropriately. 

To this story, I simply can't process how this "person" could harm a helpless cat.  It genuinely pains me to even think about it.  How does this person's thought even work?  How disordered...does a thought process have to be in order to come up with this kind of action?  I don't understand.  Part of me wants to understand, but another part of me is incredibly angry at what this "person" has done.  Unlike this "person" though, I have the ability to exercise some control over my errant thoughts.

In this story, the animal wasn't the cat.