Category Archives: Personal

Something Old, Something Renewed

Erika gave me the old tea lamp. I revived it, putting a glass column inside it and wrapping multicolored fairy lights around the core. I went to bed before the sunset last night and was unable to witness its premiere. Not to mention that I forgot to turn it on so that the photosensitive light would trigger automatically so that I might see it when I woke up ridiculously early. Color, color, and more color. X

Who We Are

I’m a very hands-on affectionate person. Could it be a trauma response to my childhood? I hope so. I unilaterally rejected almost all the behaviors and habits of my parents. There are some consequences to growing up that way that have positive benefits. I’m not worried about being emotional, saying I love you, hugging, or expressing myself. I’m not aggressive, but there is a buried hardness inside me thanks to my dad. I didn’t realize that it could be a good thing until much later in life. It’s there if needed. My instincts are a guide for me. That too is probably a trauma response. I’m aware of the fact that it developed from needing to be dialed into the potential for drama and violence and the danger of lesser people. It can be an anxiety response that doesn’t serve my happiness sometimes. But its presence and the overthinking it causes has at times been a lightning bolt in my head that frequently categorizes people for me, even when there’s nothing observable to justify it. I can’t change things that happened decades ago. Likewise, I am happy that the maelstrom of toxicity affected me. I would have rather grown up otherwise. I can’t change that, though. I wish I could double back twenty years and see if these realizations would yield a different me. But that past thinking always robs the present and the future. I’m me, and you’re you. Both of us have the opportunity to redefine and discard the things about ourselves that don’t work well for us. Mostly, though? We don’t. Change is hard, insight is sporadic, and the motivation to put in the work to be who we’d like is unimaginably uncomfortable. Love, X

A Moment

There’s something to be said about walking a canopied path, one with an unknown terminus. I hear the dutiful mower off in the unmeasured distance and the inescapable traffic humming from another planet. Birds without cipher, and the gentle waterfall of the creek. I walk barefoot on the path. I am more than willing to accept the bite of an unexpected pebble. Descending into the creek, I let the energetic minnows nibble and dart at my feet. My feet toughen perennially with the inevitable warmth. As I stood in the creek today, I watched a snake rhythmically approach me. I stood motionless to avoid disturbing it or drawing its attention. In a moment of mindless forgetfulness, I reached into the creek to pick up a beautiful flat stone, forgetting my Fitbit watch on my wrist. Luckily, nature and technology called a truce. A woman and her blue-silver eyed German Shepherd came down to the creek bottom so that the dog could drink and frolic. He nuzzled my hand as I stood in water that was only a foot deep. He thanked me by splashing and shaking the water from his coat as he moved away. The solitude was refreshing, but I wish I could have had a hand near me, attached to someone listening to me pointing excitedly at what probably seems like mundane nature. For a while out there, there were moments I didn’t even have my own voice in my head.
Love, X

P O N D E R: A Moment

He was lost in the maze of the hospital. Somehow he found himself in a hallway by elevators reserved for the people conducting the largely hidden work that sustains such a place. He stood by the elevators, casually looking at all the unhelpful signage. The access doors opened to his right. A nurse pushing a bed came through them, struggling with the effort. On the bed lay a young woman about 16 years of age. Her hair was disheveled, and she looked uncertain. Next to her was an open book upside down. The nurse dragged the bed to a stop inches away from the man. He turned towards the young girl and said, “You look so much like my niece.” The young woman smiled weakly toward him and nodded. “Are you doing okay?” he asked her. She shook her head “no” as the nurse watched her. “I know you don’t know me, but do you need anything?” His voice cracked as he spoke. The young woman reached up with her right hand and held his. The man didn’t flinch and lightly gripped her hand in return. After a few seconds, she let go and smiled again. The nurse gave the bed a sharp push and continued down the hall. Anyone standing there bore witness to one of those rare moments of anonymous caring. The kind we hope fills every corner of the world.
Love, X

You Say Goodbye And I Say Hello

I sat in my little blue car as the rain pounded the roof. I wasn’t waiting on the rain to subside. I was writing my little anecdote about the family bicycling in the rain. When I finished, I exited the car and went into the store to buy some empty calories. Preferably something hotter than the surface of the sun. I paid and then stepped to the side to use the lottery ticket checker. Obviously, I did not win, or this post would be markedly different. The clerk and I exchanged pithy commentary about language. Because that’s what people do, right? This clerk in particular, who I’ll call MacKenzie (because that’s his name), commented about the French language. And then we digressed, as is our custom. I told him that the Marshallese language was one of those interesting languages wherein you could use the same word for “hello” as “goodbye.” And I pronounced it for him: “Yokwe.” He repeated it perfectly but then gave me the look that indicated he thought I MIGHT be pulling his leg. Which is also customary. He’s one of those people whose job definitely doesn’t match his intelligence. As we quickly jumped to another related subject, a customer approached. I saw him obliquely and assumed he was Latino due to the pronounced mustache. Having finished checking my lottery ticket, I said, “Yokwe” to the clerk as a goodbye. The allegedly Latino customer looked quickly at me and repeated the word. “Are you Marshallese?” I asked him as he smiled. He nodded. I told the clerk, “See!? I wasn’t pulling your leg.” We laughed. I went out to my car, and as I turned to get in, I saw that the Marshallese gentleman was at his car and looking in my direction. I waved and got in. Since I was ravenous, I tore the bag open and dumped about half of the fiery contents in my mouth. A car honked behind me, and as I looked in my mirrors, I saw that the Marshallese man was passing behind me and waving again. I’m certain that he was tickled that his language was being used and talked about. The encounter was a surprise of coincidence and rapid-fire wit. And we inadvertently made someone happier because of it.

Love, X

Eyewitness To Joy

Eyewitness to Joy

Just shy of noon, I stopped to make a right turn as I left work. It rained lightly and the clouds were darkly ominous. It’s the kind of ambience that makes green turn almost neon on the trees. Luckily no one was behind me. I watched a little girl of about 7 years of age, her pigtails flying under her helmet, as she pedaled furiously to make the hill. Twenty feet behind her were two more children on their respective little bicycles. Mom sprinted to catch up with them. They all laughed with absolute glee as mom pushed them both as she ran. A few feet behind her, the dad was smiling as he ran while pushing a stroller. It was a caravan of both exercise and happiness. All of them were smiling and laughing. An unexpected sight for a rainy yet beautiful midday Friday. Without an intention to do so, I watched them all climb the hill for several seconds. It was joy and spontaneity incarnate. Driving away, my thoughts turned to all the lessons that the parents were imparting to the children who were enjoying the rainy day. Fitness, spontaneity, family time, and laughter. Memories made.

Love, X

Wide Smiles, Dark Heart

I’ve had a post about contractors in my draft folder for 2 years. The impetus to finish it wasn’t there because I no longer own a house. But all of us use contractors, exterminators, and various other people to help us with the things we need to be done. Whether we own or rent, we’re all going to have strangers in our house, deliver to our door, or have access.

Even though bad things happen, they’re rare because most people are good. Even if they aren’t, fear of consequences keeps most of them in line. I’m no alarmist, but all of us who watch or read the news see a barrage of crazy stories where people misbehave. Frankly speaking, many of these encounters can be minimized or avoided if people are both aware and prepare.

I joke a lot about people making the mistake of saying things like, “…but what are the odds of that happening?” The odds of course aren’t high, but they are definitely non-zero. People who’ve had planes crash on them get the last word regarding what is “likely” to happen.

If you think about all the people you’ve known and stories you’ve heard, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been on the perimeter of misbehavior. All of us have felt the shock of hearing or seeing someone we know do something bad. That effect is multiplied countlessly outside of our own lives.

One thing that everyone should do is at a minimum have a camera on their front door if they can afford it. Or one capturing anyone coming into their residence. Cameras of course tend to dissuade misbehavior. But not always.

You can’t research the people coming to your house or inside it. This gig economy gives a wider swath of different people the ability to move about. Whether it’s Uber, Amazon delivery, or any service.

Just remember that it’s your home and your private safe place. Don’t open the door if you don’t need to. And remember that anybody that comes inside your residence could be anybody, good or bad. Making the mistake of judging them based on their appearance  potentially can be a mistake. It doesn’t matter if they are a police officer, lawyer, or welder. People misbehaving come in all shapes and clothing. Studies prove that just seeing someone around greatly reduces your sense of danger or insecurity. The familiar by its nature disarms us. For those few people with ill intentions, most of them have crafted and perfected their words, appearance, and behavior.

Recently, I got reminded of this because of someone inside my bubble. The person turned out to be what my instincts told me he might be. I still have the lingering feeling that his presence on this planet affected a lot of people. And even though I should not say so, things might have happened had the universe not intervened.

I don’t want people to be scared as they live their lives. That’s no way to live.

I wade directly into the middle of strangers, sometimes even when I know there is a risk. But I make that choice for myself. Letting someone into my home is another thing entirely. My ex next door neighbor was a drug dealer. Drugs don’t make me nervous because a surprising number of people use them without ever behaving inappropriately. But all of us know that peripheral behavior often accompanies those who do. And then the people below me had a visibly suspect cast of characters in and out. Often it’s not the people with obvious characteristics of mischief and mayhem who turn out to be the creeps and monsters. A great number of them have a beautiful smile and show no outward expression of their intentions.

I know a few people whose lives were almost ruined by people with wide smiles and dark hearts.

Just be careful. Especially regarding where you live. 

PS The picture has nothing to do with the post. Yesterday afternoon I sat in my office chair as a hundred rainbows washed over me from the prisms hanging on the landing.


Facebook Deserves a Loss

I’m a big fan of Facebook because I use it for humor and personal stories. I never share memes or do inane things that people tire of.

But I was very surprised when they blocked the post in the picture. It’s a harmless joke. And decently funny.

Each day I open the app to see some pretty outrageous content. From violence, drugs, and adult content.

It’s no wonder their numbers are declining. It will be a loss because the platform has so much potential. But seeing this kind of content being blocked by an algorithm makes their decline inevitable.

Love, X

An Anecdote In Two Parts

An Anecdote in Two Parts

I skipped lunch today and left work. The second part of this post notwithstanding, I went to McDonald’s for french fries, often confused as barbituates due to the deliciousness of the salt and grease which coat them. As I pulled up to the pay window, a very young woman greeted me. Before I could utter a word, she said, “Oh, your earring AND glasses match your car. It’s a beautiful color!” Without pausing, I replied, “I pick a car to match each day’s earring choice.” She laughed and said, “That makes perfect sense.” I went to the park adjacent to it and watched the huge crows scampering about and cawcawing mindlessly. It reminded me of an impromptu management meeting because all the crows were squawking simultaneously. The weather was perfect for sitting in the car and munching. Oddly, NPR was playing a segment about eating disorders. When I finished, I walked back over to McDonald’s and bought a basket of fries. These weren’t for me; the murder of crows would be the recipient. I climbed on the rocks and began to toss the fries strategically near the black, winged harbingers. The birds joyously amplified their cawcawing and screeches as they began to snatch the fallen fries from the ground. Shockingly, none of them asked for a condiment packet of ketchup to accompany their snack. A woman in a nearby car watched and smiled. As I finished, she rolled down her window and motioned for me to approach her car. She handed me a bit of bun from her burger and the remaining fries from her lunch. “Let’s try something different,” I told her. I walked a few feet away from her car and piled her remnants in a small stack and walked back to my car. The five or six crows lunged over to the pile and began pecking madly and in unison at the food on the ground. It was another round of joyous cackling and squawks as they noisily devoured the unexpected second course. The woman in her car gave me the thumbs up for giving her a closer look at the crows as they dined on America’s favorite fast food.

I got teased this morning for playing my 70-minute Rocky montage. And that tickles me. Because I got up at 1:00 a.m. and decided I would do 5 minutes of push-ups every hour. I’ll leave you to speculate how many that’s turned out to be so far. This is a one-off day because I made a promise a long time ago not to overdo it. Playing Rocky music evokes muscle memory from when I was younger. I won’t always be able to do this. And I don’t expect to. But for today, it’s a nice reminder that I can. When you don’t do the things you can, It remains remarkably easy not to do them. And for the people rolling their eyes and thinking that I’m humble bragging, that’s okay too. Push-ups have evolved into an amazing anti-anxiety remedy for me. If my arms get too sore, it’s not like I’m going to need to reach up and brush my hair. It treasonously jumped ship decades ago. I don’t miss it.

If you’ve got kids, you already know how loud a murder of crows can be. And if you have a job, you’ll probably identify with the cacophony of overlapping voices allegedly communicating at high volume. The flavor of fries still coats my mouth as I write this. It was a dumb little excursion for me after work but oddly satisfying.

PS I added the cow to the picture for zaniness.

Love, X

Truth Is A Verb

Truth Is A Verb

A recent viral video of a local arrest demonstrates what I’ve said a million times: people are going to react to whatever they think happened. I’ve been in the middle of some highly questionable police activity. Having known several police officers, I had the luxury of hearing some of the craziness that goes on behind bureaucracy and authority. This case is much more complicated than people seem to care about. Everyone loves jumping in with opinions, even though context and background are vital to understanding what’s going on. But, of course, people aren’t going to take the time to withhold judgment until they understand the subtleties at play. This is true about personal goings-on and doubly true for things happening in the world around them. Generally speaking, the public as a whole is wildly misinformed, and little can change that. During my normal days, I dart around and listen to people give opinions that reflect a huge disparity in their grasp of detail, whether it’s science, economics, or politics. It’s a reflection of strawman arguments. I listen as people with no expertise or knowledge in a particular field make sweeping statements far beyond their level of understanding.

As for the recent viral story involving the police, I took a bit of time and looked closely at the context. I was not surprised to see that people were dubiously questioning what happened. Most of them were doing so from a position of ignorance. The sound bite version had infected them with the mistaken idea that they understand what happened. Beyond that? They are not interested to know. That’s just human nature. We have more information than ever at our disposal, but our nature is one of superficial comprehension.

And so, they react to their misinterpretation, much like they did years ago when the woman burned herself badly with the cup of McDonald’s coffee. I mention that example because, to this day, people still talk from ignorance about her allegedly ridiculous lawsuit. History proved that her story was complex and that MdDonald’s had been negligent on multiple counts. But that’s not what people remember because the initial media frenzy crowded out the facts and context.

All of us were confused back in the day when the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. It took years for history to come forth with a much more telling recount of the misconduct of Bill Clinton. His pattern of sexually inappropriate conduct as a government employee turned out to be as wild as we imagined. But most of us were crowded into camps of defensiveness or accusation. The facts did little to change our initial point of view. Out of ignorance, I thought it was a case of political witchery. Of course, it turned out to be the case that Bill Clinton consistently behaved inappropriately in his positions of power. Several women were left with the consequences of dealing with the fallout.

A few years ago, most watched as the Duggar mess unfolded. Power and politics wrecked the possibility of a cut-and-dry outcome. What was uncovered in the long term unquestionably put to rest the idea that there was no fire behind the smoke.

There is police misconduct everywhere. That’s going to be the case because people find ways to misbehave regardless of their occupation. In the viral case over the last few days, people acted in good faith and in accordance with policies put in place to protect juveniles. It’s unfortunate to see the public go haywire with a misinterpretation. That’s the power of video in a nutshell. A strawman interpretation of what motivated the police to arrest someone infecting the public and few took the time to look into the ‘why’ of it all.

Time will reveal the details and subtleties. But most people won’t remember those. They’ll keep their inconsistencies in their head to mostly justify whatever conclusion or prejudice they have against the police or people in general.

As for the particular incident that prompted this post? I’m glad that we have school resource officers. Had they existed when I was in school, both of my parents would have been incarcerated multiple times, and I certainly would not have been allowed to live with them. That’s the plain truth. If the initial statements made by the person who put the chain of events in motion were not true, that’s a buttress to my argument about the power of words and accusation. Be cautious in your allegations; they can ruin people. And if they were true? It is a reflection of what goes on behind closed doors at so many homes all across the country. I’m making no hard stand regarding the ‘truth’ of the allegations precisely because we might never know in a meaningful way. Do I feel like people in authority behaved in good faith? Hell yes. And that’s weird for a liberal like me to say. There are countless examples of police misconduct everywhere. I don’t see it in this case.

I made the mistake of diving into the people involved. By way of confession, the booking photo of the person in question made me cringe. I’m as guilty as anyone for jumping to conclusions and more so in this case. I trust my instincts, though they are sometimes wrong.

I’d just like everyone to remember that we don’t really KNOW. And especially when we don’t have access to all the information. It would be nice if we lived in a society wherein laws and protection were applied equally to everyone. It’s obvious that we don’t live in that world. If people are involved, whether it’s the police or private citizens, it’s always going to be messy and full of unseen agendas, resources, and conflict. That’s part of who we are.

Love, X