Category Archives: Social Rules

Random Saturday

Random Saturday

I stood on the landing outcrop. Light rain started about 6:15. It felt like a gift to just let it softly pelt me. Rain has been a distant stranger lately. It’s odd because some Septembers have been torrential.

Earlier, I mistook a visitor to be one of my neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries from opposite corners. I gave him the rest of a bottle of vodka. I already knew he had stayed up at night playing the role of reveler. He is very young, so burning the middle night oil is a requirement for him. It takes a long time to discover that almost everything that happens after 9 p.m. is probably not as meaningful as it seems. Perhaps I sound old saying that. I am old. But I have luckily not forgotten how stupid most of us were when we were younger. When misadventure was mistaken as a sign that we were living life to the fullest.

The picture of the teacup is from my recent jaunt and stay in Compton. Arkansas, not California. Sometimes I sign the inside of one of the teacups from my dear departed friend Jackie – and then hang it in plain sight. Erika signed this one with me. I dared the tall grass, chiggers, and hidden snakes to put it in a tree on the perimeter of the wilderness. I love imagining people finding them accidentally. Surely there are others like me who get lost in wondering about what led to it being placed there. I’ve left so many artifacts in Northwest Arkansas, some in the most unlikely places. A lot of them have been right under the noses of the people I know. Such secrets make me happy.

Did you know that smart televisions use about 18W of power? That’s about two LED light bulbs left on 24/7. It’s not a significant amount, but most people don’t even think about energy consumption for items plugged in yet turned off. Remember when grandma would unplug EVERYTHING because of “the electricity!”

For newer houses or remodels, I can’t believe electricians aren’t installing whole-house surge protectors. They reduce almost all chances of a surge damaging your electronics. I’ve yet to see a homeowner have it explained to him or her and have them say, “No, I don’t want that.” If I were using a rural power grid, it’s the best little bit of money you’ll ever spend. And might save your life, too. I’m surprised that many people don’t know that all power strips don’t offer surge protection. There’s a huge difference in the distinction. Another misconception: most people’s houses do nothing to stop lightning strikes from frying everything (Even really expensive surge protectors you bought at Best Buy). Whole house surge protection going through your main line is about the only way to avoid that sort of catastrophe. Really. It’s true.

Although people think it’s a boring subject, I’d like to mention water heaters, which use a huge chunk of your energy budget. First, most people have their water heaters set too high. Second, when you get a new unit, you should always buy a hybrid heat pump water heater. They pay for themselves in two to three years. They are incredibly efficient and will save you a LOT of money compared to a traditional one. Third, for the love of god, please install moisture-sensitive alarms near your water heater. (And fridge, too, if it has a water line.) Since I’m throwing out random facts, the average shower uses 2 gallons a minute. If you have a luxury bathroom, it might be twice that. Your dishwasher uses between 4 and 6 gallons of water. Larger tank water heaters are more “convenient,” of course, but most of the cost of your water heater is lost efficiency, as it must maintain a set temperature in the tank even when you’re not using it. Tankless and on-demand water heating systems are the best if you don’t have a large family or all six of your siblings living with you “temporarily” for five years while they “figure things out.”

By the way, it’s good to brag that your fridge or washer/dryer is twenty years old. Really, it is. What you don’t realize is that old appliance is drastically more expensive to use than their modern counterparts. Replacing the old one would have paid for itself in a few short years. The energy consumption of a new fridge versus one twenty years old is staggering. You might be saving something from going into the landfill, that’s true, but your carbon footprint is amazingly bigger due to the old appliance’s inefficiency.

I still get a lot of flack for being mostly oblivious to gas prices. I just don’t notice. I have to have gas, so the price is irrelevant. It’s made me much happier than most of the people I know. If money is tight, I would drive less – rather than obsess over getting the cheapest gas. I know someone who drove 11 miles in each direction to save twenty-five cents a gallon. (Excluding the fact that you wait in line and spend thirty minutes of your life going there and back. Time is not replaceable.) I calculated that it cost them $4.05 to drive. They retorted, “Aha! That’s less than I saved!” To which I replied (expecting that answer), “Aha! It costs an average of thirty-five cents a mile for the wear-and-tear and maintenance of your vehicle, doofus. Even if you don’t maintain your car properly, let’s say it’s fifteen cents a mile. You spent MORE driving to SAVE than you saved. It’s math, not your feelings.”

Confession: I am not a money genius. I waste it like nobody’s business. I acknowledge my stupidity, though – and try not to defend it.

Clever joke: hand someone a pair of work boots. They will undoubtedly say, “What are these for?” Just laugh and don’t explain the obvious comeback line to them. Just shake your head disapprovingly.
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i jumped from the bed as i always do

not caring, not looking, not even for a shoe

i remember when my body was a weight

as if i’m not it and it’s not me

i don’t worry about how i look

i’ve done what i can

every other man in the world can worry

not me, not ever, never again

i will take what i have

my battery was once low, my spirit unproud

now it’s me, ridiculous perhaps

it seems like arrogance though it’s not

its acceptance for the cards i’ve drawn

and the hand i’ve played with them

i hear the sand trickling down the glass

so it’s me, it’s you

we both better get off our ass

acceptance is cheaper than fixing what ain’t broken

choose your path, now that i’ve spoken

so many of you are beautiful

some inside, some out

yet you let temporary worry

fill you with doubt

Love, X
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Black & White Intentions

“We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but even better judges for the mistakes of others.”

One of the hardest things as a human is to swallow the urge to correct people who have misconceptions about you. We all come to our own conclusions, draw inferences, and make assumptions about other people, ones which are based on our own observations and intuition. No matter how carefully you talk, behave, or think, people will fiercely defend the conclusions they’ve come to. At times, they are simple misconceptions. Others? They are villainous views, ones that hit you at the core. No matter what led you to act or talk in a certain way, it’s a certainty that you’re going to be misunderstood. No matter your defense, your arguments, or your intentions, you’re going to have to develop the ability just to let it go.

All of this is why so many memes, reels, and TikToks exist to remind us that we must do our best to swallow the drive to correct people’s erroneous assumptions. Those assumptions belong to them rather than us. That doesn’t mean they are always wrong. Each of us gets blind to our stupidity or can’t find a way to accept how we’ve behaved. If you jump out of a tree, you’re going to have to land whether you’re prepared for it or not. You might not remember climbing the tree or why you did it, but you’re going to have to prepare to hit the ground.

It’s hard enough for me to live my life and with myself and thoughts without fighting intrusions from people who have written a different narrative. It’s doubly troubling when I’ve made mistakes that weren’t ill-intentioned or nefarious yet get filtered that way. Complicated situations and emotions become reduced to black-and-white decisions. I wish life were that simple or that I had the constancy of purpose and drive to avoid them.

Looking around, I see that most people are rowing in the same boat. If we’re rowing in the same direction, it’s folly to use our oars to pummel one another.

Love, X
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The Fuse Conundrum

My sister posted an affirmational meme, and it reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago in response to people’s addictive or destructive behavior. Including my own.

“Fill your life with people who reflect who you are and who you want to be, not with those who are a reflection of who you once were and no longer wish to be.

If you’re a fuse, don’t stand near dynamite, as the results are inevitable. You start to believe it’s your purpose and inalterable. Abnormality begins to normalize patterns that aren’t ones you’d otherwise choose.

And if you are a fuse, choose to stand elsewhere. Proximity to undesirable people and behaviors infects you incrementally.

You end up with a life you didn’t choose and don’t want, and you wrongly assume, “Well, I am a fuse, after all.” That’s garbage thinking.

Every change commences with a choice.

Stay away from the fire and those who need or want you to be a fuse.

Choose.”

X
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Caprice

Preface: I wrote what follows this morning…almost as a coda, on the way to the apartment after work, a black Camaro zoomed impatiently into its left lane approaching me from the opposite direction. The driver was going too fast and over-corrected, sending him into my lane and luckily swerving wildly into the far lane next to me. I had no time to react, not even to stomp my brakes, which would have certainly resulted in a multiple-car pileup. As I passed without time to feel my heart accelerate, squeals, honks, and braking behind me filled the air. The driver of the Camaro managed to gain control without being hit. He stopped in the right lane facing oncoming traffic. The capricious and erratic symmetry of just living reared its head and whispered to me.
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All of these are true
none inscribed to change your hue

An undiagnosed cough ended on the kitchen floor
her love and life abruptly no more

Expert pilot fell to the ground
his loving sister to conjure the sound

A cluster of cells aligned with malignant intent
those around her yearning more time had been spent

The unbearable yet unbeatable beckon of alcohol
those who loved him clutching and watching his fall

A 92-year-old beloved woman took her last breath
a life well lived, met with welcomed death

An aneurysm unseen and unfelt and then all rendered past tense
no warning no reason no sense

Careless driver through the sign leaving one with an unfaithful spine
her arc of life flattened to a baseline

You worry about how you sound or look
how you sing, how you dance, how you might be mistook
any given moment, the universe can close your book

You have this moment to scribble your notes
to construct and imagine needless moats

Kind heart, clear eyes, and curious mind
make sure that you leave something meaningful behind

We are all preterit

This can both energize and immobilize, this insight into truth
beauty and love are in the eye of the beholder

May you live your life just a little bit bolder
no guarantee of life or that you’ll become older

Seize the day, come what may
otherwise, it will seize you
even if you do everything to perfection
these words are no mere early morning reflection
affection, expression, introspection
of these words, there is no question

X
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3 a.m. Adventure

I woke up slightly after midnight this morning and stayed up.

It wasn’t that the man standing there with his small bicycle outside the convenience store looked dangerous. His clothes were nice and he had a small backpack behind him. I watched to see as he approached someone who parked in front of the store. The woman exited her vehicle. Although I could not hear what was said her body language communicated that she was very uncomfortable. The man continued saying something to her and his body language wasn’t nice. As the woman walked hastily into the store, I exited my vehicle and darted in behind her. When I came out, his body language was off to me. He spoke quickly and the way he talked in combination with his body language made me uncomfortable.

That’s rare for me. I love convenience store interactions! Since I’m both weird and often unpredictable, it’s a great way to meet people. Even if they are weirder than I am.

I took two steps back and asked him to please stop as he of course he walked toward me.

I think he’s unaccustomed to people being direct. He took a step forward and I held my left hand up.

“Why you got to be like that?” he asked me.

“It’s barely 3:00 a.m. If you need money for something urgent, I would more than likely help you. But I saw you make the woman going in uncomfortable. Don’t do that.”

“Eff you,” he said and took another very small step towards me.

I laughed, even though I didn’t want to.

“Three things,” I began. “There are cameras literally everywhere. Second, you have no idea who has a concealed carry permit on them or a gun without one. Finally do I look like I’m in shape. Or do I seem nervous? I think it’s time for you to stop hanging out in front of convenience stores. And I hope whatever is going on in your life gets better. I really do. But this is going to end badly for someone because you’re making people uncomfortable and people are not quite sure what you’re up to. Fear causes a lot of needless reactions, the least of which is people calling the police.”

“It’s not a crime to talk to people,” he replied.

“Loitering is. Unless you have demonstrable evidence that you’re conducting business inside the store, someone is going to call the police and you’ll have to explain it to them.”

He stood there a second and I did wonder if he was going to threaten me or lunge at me.

So I ignored him and turned to walk to my car. I half-expected a hand on my shoulder. When I opened the door and sat down inside my car, he was already peddling away furiously on his small bicycle.

The convenience store I went to is one of the nicest, safest, most brightly lit ones in the area. It is immeasurably better than Wild Bills over on Garland. That place is a magnet for crazy. That’s probably why I like it.

I’m certainly no badass and I have yet to implement the new self-defense moves I learned last year. I rely on the fact that all but a very small percentage of people are either good-natured or have enough sense not to threaten other people. The biggest danger to me is still pepperoni or potato chips.

A very small sliver of me would like to know what I would have done had the man reacted differently. That little piece of Bobby Dean in me makes me nervous!

X
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There Is No Secret

This is a piece of motivation. Nadine, if you’re reading this, imagine that I’m an expert and not the goofball you know.

Stress will never disappear from your life. Neither will the obstacles that frequently jump up and surprise you. You’ll always be tired at times and not want to prepare delicious food that feeds your body. You’ll always be tempted to stop at some place quick and delicious on the way home. Given the certainty of those variables, you’ll have to come up with incremental changes. They won’t feel natural at the beginning. Nothing does. Continuity and comfort work for us. But they also work against us when we’re motivated to do something different.

If you want to eat less or eat more healthy so that you’ll look better, embrace it. Anyone who tries to discount the vanity and self-esteem aspect of looking better is fighting human nature. If you think you look better, you will almost always feel better. It will translate to energy and optimism. If you want to eat differently just to be more healthy, that can be amazing too. We all know that the food we eat is the fuel that helps our body protect itself. It’s equally important to know that you can do everything perfectly and still have illnesses and unexpected calamity. As we get older, all of us are forced to confront that.

Everyone who tries something new eventually hits the wall of the reluctance curve. You won’t see as much progress as you would like. Or you will have days where you fail. It will feel like those days of failure far outweigh any progress you’ve made. It’s not true. You have to exercise that muscle of habit. If you do things incrementally, over time, even with days of failure, you’re improving yourself and your habits. There will be days when you will drink an entire bottle of wine and probably eat half a cheesecake too. But over time, you will see that there are simple ways to eat a whole lot of food and be happy with them. It does require you think and plan ahead so that you’re not creating obstacles. Chances are if you’re smart enough and motivated enough to make such a change, you will be able to do it. It will be easy to point the finger at the people around you, because Lord knows they’re going to be eating entire pepperoni pizzas and ice cream while you are choosing better options. At the same time, there are times when you should go crazy and a pizza with them. Because life is short and food is delicious.

Try not to start habits that you cannot do for the rest of your life. Because once you start them and have some success, if those habits fall to the wayside, you’ll start eating unhealthy and put the weight back on. Diet and nutrition is pure mathematics. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn long term. It’s not so much about the individual days as it is the arc of your progress. It’s one of the reasons I advise people to not weigh themselves more than once a week or once a month.

For most of us, if you don’t have underlying medical conditions, no matter how bitter the truth is, most of us can hit an ideal weight simply by changing what we eat. Our bodies have developed over thousands of years to survive. Exercise has its own benefits, ones that overlap into other areas of your life. But you do not have to do any exercise changes to achieve your goal weight. You have to swallow the truth that your weight is nothing more than putting more calories in your body then you are burning. No matter how many calories you burn through exercise, the physical truth is that the overwhelming majority of your weight is diet and daily activity. I can’t stress enough that I am not saying don’t exercise or go to the gym if that benefits you. I am saying that we only have a certain number of hours in a day. If you can achieve your goal without using those precious hours in ways you don’t enjoy, then try to wrap your head around the fact that you can do it without activity that doesn’t bring you joy.

If you don’t have any medical conditions, you can be the way you want to be.

Read the last sentence as many times as it takes to believe it.

Will it be hard for you to eat differently? That depends on how you use your intelligence to learn new ways of eating and stick with them.

Choose your hard.

When we don’t choose, we are pushing the consequences to our future. We still have to deal with them.

You can do it. But everything hinges on you making the decision to invest in yourself.

If you’re happy with the way you look and especially so if you’re mostly healthy, embrace it. Don’t try to lose what you see as extra pounds. You can be happy with that if you have a happy outlook. If it is about your appearance, find someone who loves you. That kind of adoration is transformative for your self-esteem. It becomes easier to see yourself as they do, even if you are plagued by self-doubt.

Whatever your goal is, do not attempt to go from 0 to 60. Incremental changes are best. You can experiment as you go and find the things that work for you and skip the ones you don’t. That is what we’re supposed to do in life. We often skip the second half and forget to remove the things from our life that detracts from it.

Don’t bother with spending money on supplements or anything you have to pay for. It can all be done with delicious food that you like. In this modern age, we have more variety than we ever have. Take advantage of it and use your intelligence.

People ask me what the secret is. The secret is… There is no secret. Simplicity in your life and simplicity in your diet. Eat fewer calories than you burn and live a good life.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re starting. No one changes until they do. No matter how you got to where you are or the way you are, it took a lot of years of habits to get there. If we thought things could not be changed, it would be a horrible cynical world.

Love, X
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It’s The Faces, Not The Places, That Matter

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider.” -Old Saying

“A hungry stomach cannot hear.” -Jean de La Fontaine

“Breaking bread together” is an old phrase, but its simplicity is the message.

If you are hungry, any food will suffice. “Hunger is the best sauce,” someone smarter than me quipped. Hungry people don’t moan about what and where to eat; if they do, it’s kept short and grouchily pronounced. 

If you’re happy, bread with wine or dipped in oil is enough to fill you. And if you’re not, no amount of food will create a smile. 

If you are lonely, companionship will overfill your plate. People are the food of our souls. 

I love great food. Who doesn’t?

But I love simple food, made without stress and shared. 

And if I meet with someone or a group to eat, the presence of others is supposed to be the essential element. 

X’s Rule On Group Dining: You will dislike eating with at least one person in any group of more than four people. 

I’m not opposed to opulent multi-course meals. 

Who would be?

But if they require effort not joyfully given, they take away someone’s time and life to prepare. 

It’s one of the principal problems with holiday meals or get-togethers.

Traditions inevitably beget obligation. 

Often, what was once freely done becomes taxing and vexation. 

Complexity and expectations detract from someone’s enjoyment. 

It should always be about the presence of faces on one’s couch or around the table, no matter how luxurious it might be. Everyone’s house is lived in, messy, and full of life’s surprises that no one has the time or interest in rectifying. Unless you are eating off the mantle, leave the dust for later. 

Break bread.

Eat.

And be merry inasmuch as your circumstances permit. 

Because, well, you know. 

Tomorrow ye may die. 

Whether you’ve eaten like a gourmand or like a ravenous teenager with his hand in the bottom of a bag, it will not be what you remember as the wrinkles accumulate across your face. 

Humble food is the joy. And if someone wishes to make a feast joyfully, even better.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” 

– Oscar Wilde

“Almost all happy people I know decide where and what to eat easily, graciously, and without complaint. And if they find themselves in the home of another with friends, family, or loved ones, they make do. Unless they are visiting cannibals, vegans, or Presbyterians.” – X

“It is the faces, not the places, that matter.” – X

Love, X

PS “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” -Mark Twain

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Regarding

This isn’t another one of those, “Look at me!” posts. It’s about how surprised by the visceral reaction I had.

As I stood near the creek earlier today, I wanted to stick my feet in there and just sit, my thoughts and my time merging – and let the day drift away. Work was busy and not at all a burden. Don’t tell my bosses, please. Enjoying work is tantamount to stealing. (That’s supposed to be funny.) The moments I had in the creek very early in the morning were still on my mind.

I walked back to the street where the bridge overtakes it. Across the way, I saw a man rifling through the pantry box by the parking lot. He pulled a couple of things out of it. It was then I noticed his old car parked temporarily perpendicularly behind the others. That car had seen some tough miles. He walked back toward it and got inside. I knew I had cash, money set aside for the quarter-eating washing machines at my apartment. I paced across the street and walked around the side of his vehicle. The driver’s window had been taped multiple times. He was leaning over away from me, leaning toward his girlfriend or wife, distracted. She motioned that someone was at the window. He popped the door open, immediately giving an apology and attempting to explain why he was there for only a short respite.

I shook my head and handed him the bill. His face underwent a transformation. First surprise, then shock. “Oh lord, thank you so much.” It seemed like he was about to cry in relief. I’m sure of it.

Completely to my surprise and spontaneously, tears welled into my eyes. I felt a sob start. I walked quickly away, waving backward as I walked, not saying a word.

Life is so effing hard for so many people.

Even people with resources and money, as foreign as that may be. Even for smiling people who pass us during the day. I get so caught up in my life’s drama that I hate to admit sometimes I gloss over people’s humanity. It’s an uncomfortable realization that you’ve been selfish when a word wouldn’t have cost you anything. All of us careen around and foolishly make assumptions about other people’s lives. Most people have facades that they put on in the morning, thinking the facade protects them. It doesn’t – the arrows will get through. Eventually.

This anecdote isn’t about me giving a stranger money. Anyone can do that and a lot of good people I know help in ways that they will never admit to. This story is about how raw I was, unbeknownst to me. I had two such moments today, one in which I transformed a prank into an opportunity to remind someone how important his great sense of humor is and how much he is valued. Even when no one seems to take the time to show it. I busted his balls a little too because that is how a lot of us show our affection.

I’m not even sure how to close this post, other than to say that today had its moments, both happy and spotted with tragic limerick.

Love, X
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