Showing posts from October, 2017

Hospice hilarity?

I'm not sure about you but I still start my day off reading the comics. I did stop for probably ten years before I picked the habit back up thanks to sites like The Comics Curmudgeon and Son of Stuck Funky. In addition to these sites, I have eight strips that I read each and every day and one of those strips is Sally Forth.

Sally Forth is an interesting strip because it can focus on quite serious topics at times. I guess it did this back in the 80's some also? I just recall it being mainly focused on Sally and her boss and now Ted gets to be on center stage quite a bit.
The current storyline also involves Ted. Ted's father has been ill and has now ended up under in-hospital hospice care and we're focusing on the music that should be playing in the room in order to get a little humor here before this storyline meets its demise or ends or dies off. All of the above.
They are apparently concerned about the music because they understand that hearing is the last sense to go but they are also having this conversation right in front of Ted's dad while apparently not considering that hearing is the last sense to go.

Oh, well. Bravo to Sally Forth for tackling such a tough subject. I don't recall many jokes when I went through this with my mother but there was music (I don't believe disco was on the playlist). We all know how this story line is going to end unless Ted's dad bounces back like Ric Flair and jumps out of bed screaming, "I hate disco!" and then this would be an excellent example of disco music saving a life. 

Being specific (about trees)

I'm currently re-reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I first read it in college so it's been a while. Yesterday, I got to the chapter/essay titled "Be specific" and it reminded me of the fact that I know absolutely nothing about trees or plants. In fact, it couldn't have been more than a few weeks ago that this topic came up with someone (I can't remember who) and I told them that my great-grandmother had all the garden and plant knowledge and had taken it all with her!

Natalie's point on being specific in your writing is that you don't just call it a tree. If it's a dogwood, know it's a dogwood and call it by name. She writes, "About ten years ago I decided I had to learn the names of plants and flowers in my environment. I bought a book on them and walked down the tree-lined streets of Boulder, examining leaf, bark, and seed, trying to match them up with their descriptions and names in the book."

Of course, I was reading this while sitting at the kitchen table and looked out the window at the trees in my backyard that have been unidentified and underappreciated for the almost fifteen years I've lived in this house. I decided to get out there with my iPhone and take some pictures and then do a bit of research. Armed with a PDF of the All-Season Pocket Guide to Identifying Common Tennessee Trees and the ability to do endless Google searches to try to absolutely be certain of what I am looking at, I believe I now can specifically identify the three types of trees that are in the little patch of woods behind my house!

First, I believe this is an ash tree. There are several of these back there.

Next, I have several Eastern Redcedar trees. I'm glad these are back there because they stay full year round and help give us a bit of privacy and noise-reduction from the state owned salt storage building that is right behind us. It stays pretty busy in winter. 

Finally, this one was tough to identify. It seems like it could be one of several possibilities. I think I have it narrowed down to being an American beech tree.

Who knows. I could be wrong about one or all of these. Please comment if you have other guesses. As I said earlier, yesterday I knew nothing about trees and today I know just a little more than I did yesterday!

Everyone is glue

"I'm rubber and you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you."

Remember that? I recall hearing it early in elementary school. I am not sure who said it or where it came from but we hear it so often that we might be tempted to believe it. However, it is a complete lie.

Words stick. Everyone is glue. Whatever we say and whatever is said to us, no matter how much we want to act like words don't stay with us, they do.

It's easy to say something incredibly stupid in the heat of the moment and then expect to be allowed to take it back. You can try to take it back and you can be forgiven but what you said will stick with people regardless and can have impacts that we can't even begin to understand

We should always be aware of this each time we are going to speak. I don't know if it is wisdom in my older age or just the fact that I've opened mouth and inserted foot so many times over the years that I find myself saying less and less and listening more and more. Maybe it's laziness that makes me more reluctant to jump into confrontations with people. Maybe it's the knowledge that confrontations don't change much for the better. Maybe it's the realization that the old quote from the movie WarGames was right - the only winning move is not to play.

We had a meeting at our local high school last night about words, said aloud and posted online, and how those words are used to bully, hurt, and exclude people. Looking around the room, it was apparent that the ones that really needed the lesson were not in attendance. Only those seeking change and answers were present and this is not surprising.

It was mentioned that we've all played the roles of both victim and perpetrator over the years and that it's time to just be nice. Just be nice. It sounds simple but it is anything but in a world where the war of words is fought in real time, 24/7, right on our phones by a mix of millions of potential spectators, perpetrators and victims.

It's coooooooold out there, Aqua Sleep Man!

Current temp at the home office at 6:48am:

This is a morning that truly feels like fall! Of course, it starts slowly warming up this afternoon through Sunday but then we get even cooler weather next week just in time for Halloween.


BTW, Aqua Sleep Man was the cartoon spokesman of Aqua Sleep World here in the 80's and most of the winter commercials would be for heated waterbeds and end with the "It's coooooooooooold out there, Aqua Sleep Man!" phrase. This is the only version of those commercials that I could find on YouTube.

So, vacation has ended and I am slowly getting back into the normal routine, sitting at the kitchen table as I write this, sipping a nice, hot cup of coffee which reminds me that last night I ordered coffee with supper and the waiter exclaimed, "You want coffee THIS LATE!?" and I am not sure if he was looking out for me or just didn't want to deal with having to make coffee. I'm thinking it was the latter. I always liked making the coffee when I worked in a restaurant but I drank it all the time also so it was a win-win for me. This was back in the early 90's before drinking coffee was cool.

You know, there is something about drinking coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. Maybe chemicals from the Styrofoam chemically meld with the coffee to make it taste even better. I'm not sure.

It's a busy week here. Lots of band stuff going on this week and lots to do during the day. It makes me already look forward to my next vacation at Thanksgiving.

I hope things are going well where you happen to be, dear reader, even if you just accidentally came here through a weird Google search.


Yes, it is the first day of my vacation and I started my week off right by getting up even earlier than normal because I couldn't sleep (not smart since we have an away football game tonight) and checking out the beautiful weather that we have to look forward to that is causing us to alter our travel plans.

Oh, well.

Regardless of how the weather goes, I'll have plenty of time (I hope) to get some reading done and to NOT endlessly scroll through social media feeds. That's why my iPad is staying home but my Paperwhite is going with me!

And, I am starting the vacation right with a trip to the library later this morning. YAY!

What suicide does and does not do

Last night, I found myself having to grasp for the right words and thoughts as my daughters lost another classmate and I have spent a lot of time since this news observing from afar the grief of this young girl's family and close friends via posts on social media and reliving and reanalyzing my own past experiences.

A lot of thoughts have run through my mind. What can we do to save our young people from suicide? Why does it seem to be happening so often? Are my kids really as happy as they seem to be or are they hiding some sort of pain that I am missing?

It's a lot to consider. It's a lot to worry about.

When I was around their age, suicide was pretty much unheard in my life of until I got a phone call at age 16 on a sunny July morning in 1990. The only portrayal of it I remember from before that was in "Romeo and Juliet" and there was nothing about the play or the movie that made it look appealing at all.

Fast forward to 2017 and I worried about "13 Reasons Why" when it premiered on Netflix because I had read the book not long after it came out. I openly shared my thoughts on it with my kids because I knew that they would watch it and a lot of their friends were watching it.

I didn't ban them from watching it or try to pretend suicide did not exist or should not be discussed. I've always been very open with my kids about my experience because I worried about what they might be feeling and what their friends might be feeling. I hate to think about how one quick decision can cause so much pain for so many people.

My main concern was not necessarily that the show romanticized suicide but that it mainstreamed it, showcasing it as a viable option, projecting on their screens and possibly into their minds that suicide was the ultimate way to get people back for whatever they had done.

Does suicide really impact the bullies and the rumor spreaders or whoever that you might think you will punish by this terrible final act? I don't think so. I think suicide lets the people we desperately want to get away from off the hook, like in "A Christmas Story" when Adult Ralphie comments, "We knew darn well that it was better not to get caught."

Of course, I don't know if people actually do commit suicide in order to punish those they consider to be their abusers. Maybe that is part of it but I think that most of the time it might come down to just being an escape from all of the pain and what can you truly say to that?

I say this - if the abusers or the bad situation you are in is a part of high school, focus on the fact that high school is a minuscule part of your overall entire life. Four years. Once you are out, you have more control over who you associate with and where you can go. It frees you up to finding and surrounding yourself with people who care about things you care about and who are concerned for your well-being. I know that the school years seem like they last forever but they don't. I'm almost 27 years out. Some days it's hard to figure out where all the time went.

However, I'm not here promising that adult life is all perfect with no problems. What I am saying is that no problem is forever. It does get better. I know those words ring hollow when you are stuck right in the middle of a terrible situation but your life is worth more than any bully, any abuse, any situation that you seem trapped in. There are people who care. If someone doesn't listen, move on and tell someone else. Find a favorite teacher. Tell your friends. Tell your counselor. Tell your parents. Tell the parents of the friends you trust. You are worth so much more than just giving up. You keep telling people. If you feel you've run out of options locally, call a support line. Friends, tell your parents, teachers, police officers, anyone that will listen and act, if your friend comes to you saying they are depressed or if they are talking about suicide.

I write from experience. I wish I had done more. I wish I had known what to do. Maybe the outcome would have been different. Maybe not. I could use as an excuse that it was unheard of all those years back but the real key is that suicide was just something I was not and am not capable of and I saw my friends problems through my own mindset so I never consider that the people I knew might be capable of something I felt that I was not.

That leads us to this: if suicide doesn't punish those you punished you, what does it do? Let me tell you. It destroys a part of the people that really love you and this part never grows back, altering them and the paths their lives take. They will replay the final conversations over and over, searching for answers that they never truly find no matter how many parts of the puzzle they manage to piece together. The question of why is never completely answered, NEVER.

They will feel guilty when they recognize the signs in hindsight even if they didn't understand the signs at the time. They will wonder why how much they cared about you wasn't enough to save you and why it wasn't as powerful as whatever it was in your life that took you away. They will become hypersensitive about the people around them who remain, constantly worrying about what is not being said, always afraid that this will happen again and they will typically push away relationships due to the trust issues that will stay with them for months or even years.

Every memory they have of you, no matter how happy it was at the time, is pulled into the sadness. I recently read "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace" by David Lipsky, one of many books that have some relationship to suicide that I have read over the years (I ended up in the library the following week in 1990 and started reading and never stopped, I guess as a part of some mission to make sense of it all) and I highlighted this quote a few weeks ago. It seems perfect to share here:
Suicide is such a powerful end, it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction.
Also, the memories of this can come back without warning after being weeks or even months of not thinking about it. They can come back unexpectedly via an old photo or a certain date, typically not the day it happened or a birthday but the day of some turning point (oddly enough, for me it's Thanksgiving) or just something someone said or when an old song plays or even by visiting a place we both happened to be at the same time (Oddly enough, it happened to me in August at a high school football game). Whatever causes it, the question of why comes back, just as fresh as if it just happened and that is quickly followed by the wonder of who I might have been had life gone in a different direction and that is quickly followed by the paranoia and worry of what signs I might be missing and could this happen yet again.

To me, another tragedy of suicide (one of the many tragedies of suicide) is the swiftness of the decision. Though maybe considered and tossed around in the back of their mind for months, the decision to actually move forward with suicide seems to be typically brought about by one final event (the last straw) and the final decision is made hastily with no consideration of its finality.

Suicide deprives you of your future happiness. It spits in the face of your worth to those who love you and the value you have in this world. It deprives people that you might have had an impact on that you haven't even met yet of knowing you. Future generations are impacted by your absence.

Consider one of my favorite quotes by Leo Buscaglia which discusses not just the value we each have but how we can impact each other and how our impact might be the only thing saving someone from making such a terrible decision:
The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.
Why share all of this? Partly, I just needed to stop thinking about it and get it all out of my brain so I can move forward. Mainly, I feel that if there is the slimmest chance someone will read this and realize that they are far more valuable than they or the people around them might think, it's worth typing this up and posting it here.

There are options of support if you feel you have exhausted all options available to you locally.

Three of those options are:

The regular topics seem even more pointless than normal

Terrible news fills the newscasts and social media feeds yet life in Armpit keeps moving along as normal.

I sprayed the weed and feed as you may have heard on Up In This Brain 325 and now the yard is mostly brown. Who would have guessed that my yard was about sixty percent weeds? Oh, well. Maybe I won't have to mow this week or any more for the rest of the year, if I'm lucky. And, yes, I did find weed and feed on clearance at Walmart last night so I picked up a bottle for next year. Now I just need to find some good clearance prices on a seed spreader and some Roundup for next year. Always think ahead!

Speaking of thinking ahead, we got our inside Halloween decorations up yesterday and we'll be putting up the outside stuff at the end of next week. As part of that, my big red tote of outside decorating stuff that is filled with bulbs and cords and spare parts is now down in the garage where it will stay until the Christmas decorations come down.

Everything is a blur from now until New Year's Day, one holiday after another, starting with Thanksgiving (in Canada) next Monday. That's always my official starting day of the holiday season and I will be celebrating by being on yet another vacation next week. I always take the week of Thanksgiving (in Canada, and yes, I have to note that so I don't confuse people) off and we'll be on a mini-trip which I will talk about later on the podcast. Last year we were at the beach. We're not going that far this year but I think it will end up being a fairly nice trip.

We have another busy band weekend coming up but the following weekend we have a break - no football or contest. I'll do my best to sleep as much as possible so I can build up my energy for the second half of the month and then, most likely, football playoff games in November!

Finally, we sold off the Wii U. The kids are now older and have no interest in video games. It's just sat there powered down for months so I finally unhooked it last week and my wife posted it in a message board at her work. It sold in two days. That's it for us with Nintendo. We got rid of the 2DS earlier this year and I have no interest in the new Super Nintendo system that is already terribly scarce. I never liked the Wii U as much as I liked the Wii. The dumb plaza and menus plus the annoying long load times sucked the fun out of it for me. I won't miss it.