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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... 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. 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. 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 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...

...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.


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.