Worse - so much worse - than I thought

Friday, September 21, 2018

Yesterday I finished Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward.

I expected a high quality project, because, Bob Woodward. The man is a giant in journalism, and while he has his critics, very few journalists have as much access as him, and are as scrupulous about ensuring his material is factual.

I'm not going to summarize the book's findings, as they've been all over the media since the book's release, but these are my personal take-aways:
  • 45 is dumber than I thought, and that's saying something. Who this book characterized is someone who is apparently incapable of critical thought or analysis. Complex issues confuse him profoundly, to the point where he ends up just shaking off all those pesky details and facts and goes with his feelings. And since his feelings are driven entirely by self-absorption and egomania, expressed in terms of rabid nationalism, the resulting decisions lack good judgement, to say the least. 
  • 45 is far less rational than I thought. It was apparent during the campaign that he was egomaniacal in the extreme, but this dude brought the United States to the brink of a nuclear exchange basically because someone pwned him on Twitter. Are you fucking kidding me? It's like having Dr. Strangelove in the White House.
  • 45 has no desire (or apparently, ability) to learn. He came into the White House as the least qualified Presidential candidate in history, and guess what? He still is, 22 months into the job. He's had qualified advisors in the West Wing, but when they try to educate him on how the economy works, or how national security works, or how those things are tied together, or basically any topic vital for an effective President to know, his response was (I shit you not), "I don't want to hear that." Lalalalala I can't hear you...
  • 45 has reached the pinnacle of the Dunning-Kruger effect. And the worst part is that his ego will not permit him to even consider the idea that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. 
  • Certain members of 45's staff and advisors have tried to rein him in. They've tried every trick in the book to keep 45 from tanking the economy, engaging the U.S. in another preemptive war, and personally breaking the law whenever it suits his personal agenda. In fact, these efforts have reached the point where staff's behavior is skirting coup d'état territory. This is not okay. I mean, this is REALLY not okay. I want 45's ego-driven decision making checked as much as the next bleeding-heart liberal, but I am devoted to the Constitution and the rule of law by virtue of my service and my values. Even though the man is a fucking disaster, and the country will likely take decades to recover from his fuckery, he is still the legal, duly elected President. Having unelected staff make policy decisions in direct contradiction to his wishes paves the way for a shadow government to control future presidents in the same fashion. NOT OKAY.
  • The reason 45 won't be interviewed by Special Prosecutor Mueller is because his attorney refused to allow it. And the reason isn't because the attorney thought 45 had something heinous to hide. It's because, as the attorney notes, "He's a fucking liar."*
This book did not reveal anything that hadn't crossed my mind in the last 22 months. It just revealed how much worse things are in the White House than I thought. It made me wish even harder that the Democrats take the House and/or the Senate this year as a way to limit his power. It made me hope beyond hope that the RNC chooses a candidate to challenge 45 for the Republican nomination for President in 2020. And it scared the shit out of me because I can also imagine this shit-show becoming America's new normal. And that last part also makes me profoundly sad.

*This was not a revelation to anyone who reads anything more complex and factual than the Drudge Report. The public record clearly shows 45 lies as a matter of course, rather than using dishonesty as a way to hide his misdeeds. He's just a pathological liar - lying is his default reaction.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program is over, and the winners have been selected via a Random Number Generator.

The total number of entries reached 235 this year, which means me and the Smart Man will be donating $500 to the Douglas County Library Foundation. This will allow us to continue to have the naming rights to the Parker Library "Maureen 'AJ' Ramey Memorial Garden."

The winners this year are Stacey, who read Shadow Ops: Breach Zone, by Myke Cole, and The Mechanicky Gal, who read In the Shadow of Lakecrest, by Elizabeth Blackwell. 

Congratulations winners! Your prizes are in the (e)mail!

Last Chance to Log Books for the Summer Reading Program

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm a big slacker and forgot to close comments on the Summer Reading Program yesterday morning. So I'll take pity and leave them open until tomorrow morning for your last minute entries.

Get your books entered TODAY for a chance to WIN!

Honoring the Fallen, Helping the Living

Monday, August 27, 2018

Please Join Me in Supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


July 31, 2013 was the worst day of my life. It was the worse day of my life because that was the day the Police Department came to our home to tell us that our precious daughter Moe had died of suicide at the age of 22.

Moe died of uncontrolled mental illness. She experienced severe depression, and was under a doctor's care for her condition. But we lost her anyway, leaving a Moe-shaped hole in my heart that nothing is able to fill.

Every day I mourn her loss in this world, and I would give everything to have her here with us again. But I can't do that, so instead I choose to perform service projects in her memory such as serving on our local Library Foundation Board, since Moe was an avid reader and used our library extensively.

And I also support AFSP's mission in helping people who are at risk overcome their lack of hope and help those who have been affected by suicide.

This is the second year I've been up to participating in this event personally, but this will be the sixth year the Maureen's Marchers team is hitting the road in my baby girl's name on the annual Out of the Darkness Denver Metro Walk. The money raised in this event will go to fighting suicide and supporting AFSP's goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

Please help us honor our lost, beloved Moe-Moe and consider donating to the AFSP by clicking the "Donate" button on this page or on the sidebar. All donations are 100% tax deductible and benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide. The AFSP is a Charity Navigator 3 star charity, and they spend 83.4% of their total budget on program expenses.

"When you are sorrowful look again at your own heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." ~ Khalil Gibron

As always, thank you for your support.


Jesus Wept

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Here is a synopsis of the current news cycle, compiled by my buddy Vince. Presented without "spin" or comment.

Today Republican Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, have been indicted for using $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses filing false campaign finance records. This includes wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy.
Today former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of the charges filed against him - filing a false tax return in each of the years from 2010 through 2014, as well as not filing a form in 2012 to report a foreign bank account as required. He was also convicted of two instances of bank fraud, related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank and a $1 million loan from Banc of California. The jury was deadlocked on the other ten charges, and a mistrial for those charges has been declared.
Today President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud as part of a deal, which includes jail time. Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman, and a former campaign policy adviser.
Today Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, revealed in a post that Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts and pages for what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” generally networks of ostensibly independent outlets that were in fact controlled centrally by Russia and Iran. Facebook also announced that it was removing pages and accounts “linked to sources the U.S. government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services.”
Last night, Microsoft President Brad Smith said that Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to transfer control of six internet domains created by APT28 (also known as Fancy Bear or Strontium, and associated with the the Russian military intelligence service GRU) before they were used in any attacks. The idea was to have people think they were accessing links managed by US political groups but redirect them to fake ones run by the hackers so passwords and other information could be stolen.
Smith said one such site appeared to mimic that of the International Republican Institute, which promotes democratic principles and whose board includes Republican senators, among them John McCain, who have been critical of President Vladimir Putin. Another is similar to the domain used by the Hudson Institute, which hosts prominent discussions on topics including cybersecurity.
Yesterday Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration "County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon. This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services. Bowden's declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit.
Santa Clara Fire paid Verizon for "unlimited" data but suffered from heavy throttling until the department paid Verizon more, according to Bowden's declaration and emails between the fire department and Verizon that were submitted as evidence.
The throttling recently affected "OES 5262," a fire department vehicle that is "deployed to large incidents as a command and control resource" and is used to "track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed," Bowden wrote. "OES 5262 also coordinates all local government resources deployed to the Mendocino Complex Fire," an ongoing wildfire that is the largest in California's history, Bowden wrote.

The Queen of Soul

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Fair winds and following seas, Queen of Soul. I hope somehow, somewhere, you are making new music.


In Pursuit of Peace

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Our Moe, with her lifelong BFF, Linda
You know, when a friend or loved one loses someone they love, my most common condolence is, "Peace to you and yours during this most difficult of times."

And for me, this is not just a platitude I say for form's sake, or because it's expected, or because I don't know what else to say. I say it because I know how very difficult it is to find peace after losing someone you love more than life itself.

After a tragedy of this sort, peace becomes as elusive as a unicorn, always just around the corner, or after the next "big" anniversary. One day I think I've found it, the very next, I'm heart-broken and grief-stricken all over again, because I glance at a photo, or I see something Moe would have liked, and my illusory "peace" blows away like the mirage it is.

Our Moe-Moe has been gone for five years today. For five years I've had this hole in my heart, in my life, in my love, where she used to be, and I still have not been able to find peace with this reality.

I'm not angry, or in denial. I know why she did what she did, and I'm not angry she made the choice, although I'm incredibly sad about it and her suffering. I know, in my heart of hearts, that she's gone, and will never come back. Given my lack of faith, I am forced to believe she really is gone, for good, and the only parts of her that remain are our memories and love for her.

Processing my grief over Moe's death has been a very different experience for me compared to the loss of other people I have loved and lost. My Dad, my Gram, my mother-in-law, my Aunties, my lost friends - all of these losses punched me in the heart, and left me bereft, but I found ways to make peace with it, and move forward. I'm even at peace with the loss of who I believed my sister to be, and the reality that she'll never be a part of my life again.

But finding peace with Moe's death appears to be beyond my reach. I remain functional most days. I enjoy time spent with friends & family. I find meaning in my volunteer work and pursue my hobbies. But my grief at her loss is still a huge part of my life. I miss her, terribly, each and every day. The loss of her and her light in this world is devastating to me, and I can't seem to find a way to be at peace with her death and all it represents.

It's not okay that she's dead. It's not okay that she's lost to those of us who loved her. It's not okay that her contribution to this world was cut so short. It never will be okay, and while I don't expect I'll ever believe it is, I wish I could find my way to peace.

A Thousand More

Saturday, July 28, 2018


The Worst Time of Year

Friday, July 27, 2018

In four days, my daughter will have been dead for five years.

I'm not sure how I feel about this at the moment. Five year anniversaries have some level of import, although not as much as the longer ones.

So I'm pensive, somewhat angry, introspective, reflective, and always, always grief-stricken.

I expect my on-line communications will reflect that state of mind for a while. Writing is sometimes my first and best way of working through this worst time of year, and I'm sure I'll work through it. I know I'm not the only one who grieves for my baby girl, and sometimes, there's comfort in that, too.

See you on the other side. 


Rules to Live By - Be Kind or Be Silent

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
You want to know why I don't post political content on social media anymore?

It brings out the worst in people. Folks who are normally civil, polite, and wouldn't dream of confronting others in a rude way in person suddenly become perfectly comfortable calling others out in public while checking their manners at the door.

It doesn't seem to matter how long the poster has known someone, what their feelings are about one another, whether or not they're family. None of it matters when someone is sitting behind a keyboard, and someone presses their particular buttons. Suddenly their manners go out the window, and they're hurtful, rude, and act like they were raised by wolves. They make the discussion personal, not realizing that such behavior only serves to isolate them from the people they care about and makes their argument null and void. After all, if I can't trust your self-discipline, judgement, and critical thinking skills when you're trying to make a political point, then why should I trust those things when we aren't talking about politics? 
I've fallen victim to this viscous circle myownself.  I would get wrapped around the axle, make unkind statements, take things personally. And you know what? I didn't like myself very much when I would fall victim to the political baiting. I don't want others to feel bad. I don't want others to make me feel bad. I want to emulate my beloved lost Auntie, who taught me through word and deed that being kind is the very best way to make a difference in this world, as long as you apply that kindness to every aspect of your life.

That doesn't mean people shouldn't be politically active, or have strong opinions about their views. That's what voting and activism is all about. But do you have to be a dick about it?

My dear cousin, whose politics are basically diametrically opposed to my own, and I have had this discussion. I love my cousin. She loves me. We don't agree on politics. I'm not going to tell her she's stupid, or lacks compassion, or a NAZI for Christ's sake.* And she doesn't make it personal with me, either. Because we love each other, and I don't believe any of those things are true, and she doesn't believe all the usual insults about liberals are true of me, either. We just disagree, and that's okay. ALL politicians, regardless if they fall on the left or the right, require a loyal opposition to ensure our Republic works the way it's supposed to. Right now, I play that role. When President Obama was President, that was her job. WAD=Working As Designed.

Remember, folks - if you're a jerk to those who do not share your political point-of-view, but polite to those on the same side of the aisle, you're still a jerk.
__________

*ACTUAL Nazis and White Supremacists are exempt from this rule. Because sometimes there really is just one side to the story.

Saying farewell to a labor of love

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I will complete 4.5 years of service to the local library as a trustee on June 30th.

I started serving on this board less than six months after Moe died. I was desperate to find a service opportunity that linked me to Moe, and service to the library seemed to fit the bill. She loved her local libraries, and used them extensively. I know she would have approved of my work, and it made it a labor of love for me, and a way to honor her memory.

However, last night, I formally resigned from the Board effective June 30th. I have a lot of feelings about this decision, and the fact that I've tied my service to the library in with my daughter's legacy and my own grief makes those feelings very confusing. 

It broke my heart to resign from this work. I love our libraries, and helping to make them among the best libraries in the country and relevant for years to come was meaningful, satisfying work. The vast majority of my Board colleagues over the years have been dedicated, intelligent, focused, and always kept the best interests of the library as their guiding principle.

But life is about conflicting priorities, and sometimes we have to choose between what we love and what we're empowered to do, if only for our own sake and our own conscience. 

I am grateful - so grateful - to have had an opportunity to serve our Library District in this way. It helped me find my center in that first, awful year after Moe died. It allowed me to contribute to my community in a way I found meaningful. It allowed me to meet some fine, decent, like-minded people, who I will continue to call "friend." And it gave me the experience I'll need to continue to serve my community in other ways.

Perhaps what touches me the most is the fact that the Library leadership team, the Library Foundation Chair, and half the Library board nominated me for Colorado Association of Libraries Outstanding Trustee Award without my knowledge. It doesn't matter to me if I win. The respect of people I respect is award enough for me, as well as the acknowledgement by good, hardworking people that I did good work, and served authentically when given the chance.


Priorities. We Haz None.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
 
I've been trying to stay away from politics, because no good ever comes from politics on social media.

But I'm going to make an exception in this case, because the issue isn't so much a political one as a moral one.
 
I speak, of course, of the situation at our borders, where young children are being detained in cages for the crime of crossing the border with their parents. 

The Internet is inundated with false equivalency over this outrage. It was Clinton's law. Obama did it. The Republican's hands are tied. Single parents who go to jail or prison have their children put in foster care, and what's the difference? 

All of these attitudes make me want to vomit, because they DON'T FUCKING MATTER. 

Does the fact that this execrable law was enacted under a Democratic president make the suffering of these families less acute? 
 
Does the fact that a Republican president chose not to enact policy of this nature under the same set of laws mean that this travesty is less immoral, less heartless, less egregious?

Does the fact that unaccompanied minors who attempted to cross the border illegally were also detained under a Democratic president mean that putting 1st graders in cages without access to their families is less abhorrent? 

No. It does not. Those kids - and their parents - give not two shits whose "fault" it is. They don't care if self-righteous so-called Christians are justifying this atrocity because they can't bear to check their privilege and feel some compassion for brown people. They don't care if faith leaders all over the country are calling for this practice to be discontinued on moral grounds. They don't care if the perpetrators are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. They care that their kids are being abused by the state, they care that they're scared, they care that they have no idea what will happen to them as families. 

And that's what we should care about, too. 

I'm not saying we should ignore illegal immigration. I'm not saying we shouldn't care about the integrity of our borders.
 
What I am saying that those concerns, in this specific case, should be secondary to being decent human beings, to protecting the moral integrity of our country as an institution, to being committed to preventing child abuse, not perpetrating it.
 
Why the fuck are we arguing along party lines about "who started it," and "I know you are, but what am I," and "You're a Nazi, I'm not a Nazi?" Within the context of this crisis, it's incredibly counterproductive, and leaves those children in an untenable situation while we point fingers and bitch at each other like The Real Housewives of America

What's happening at the border is immoral. It's inexcusable. It's horrifying. It's against what this country supposedly stands for. It's wrong, and no amount of false equivalency and partisan bickering is going to make it right.

So how about we, as citizens, demand our leaders rescind the policy of May 2018 directing this atrocity to occur? Can't we, as Americans, put aside our politics for one damn minute and do the right thing by these children? Can't we contact our representatives, our Senators, and demand action upon pain of losing their offices?

The bipartisan support for such action gives me hope. But these days I'm more of a disillusioned cynic than not, so I suspect the answer is "no." And our continued refusal to hold our government accountable for our country's immoral acts continues to break my heart, every minute of every day. Because our failure means that us, all of us, are complicit. To our everlasting shame.

Hello darkness, my old friend

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sometimes it sneaks up on me. Depression, that is. Sometimes there's some sort of triggering event, like the anniversary of Moe's death, or continuous emotional stress for long periods of time. But sometimes, it just sneaks in through the cracks of my life and settles in.

I'm not really sure why this happens. If I knew, I suppose I could try and apply some sort of prophylactic behavior to head it off. But I don't, so the best I can do is try and recognize it early when it comes, and do the things I know I need to do in order to get through the episode.

Some of these things are obvious. Getting enough sleep. Trying to eat well. Getting more exercise than I normally would. Removing emotional stresses from my life to the extent possible. Attempting to keep my mind in the "now." Practicing gratitude.

But mostly it's just a waiting game. I have to wait for it to pass. This was much harder before I was diagnosed, since I had no idea why I felt so shitty all the time. But now I know, and that allows me to apply some emotional maturity and intellectual discernment to the process. I know this will pass. I know I won't always feel this way. I know when I come out the other side I won't be as emotionally raw and fragile. I know this in spite of the lies depression tells, and I know this because people who care for me tell me it's true, and I choose to believe them.

Not believing them, or believing depression's lies, leads to a dark, dark road, and many people get lost. Their depression is so overwhelming, so consuming, the only thing they can hear is the lies it tells. I'm not valuable. I can't make it on my own. People are better off without me. This is just too hard.

In spite of my occasional episodes, I am very lucky to be able to wait it out. And I'm grateful.

Feeding the Elephant's Child

Monday, June 4, 2018

I went back to school last week.

I have a couple of certificate programs I'm interested in, as well as a bunch of general education classes I never got around to before graduating. Since I don't really have a plan, I enrolled as an enrichment student, and signed up for Database Design and Development.

So I've spent the last week reading the required texts, participating in discussion topics, and doing the assigned exercises. And a funny thing happened on the way to the database.

When engaging in my studies, I was taken by how much I've missed school. Even while scratching my head over relational algebra, I found myself in a profoundly happy state of mind.

I stopped taking classes right after Moe died. My ability to concentrate and focus was minimal at best, and I just couldn't do the work. After that, I just never went back, as I had other activities that kept me engaged.

However, as noted last week, some of that other activity has turned into a swirling black hole of emotional labor, and I want an opportunity to focus my mind against a topic in a structured way. If something is going to suck away my intellectual and emotional energy, then it's going to be something that makes me happy instead of making my stomach hurt.

So I'm going to continue to feed the elephant's child, for as long as I can afford it and my brain is capable of supporting the work. It sure beats the alternative.

Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program Kick-Off

Monday, May 28, 2018
Today's the day! Today I'm kicking off the Eight Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program, benefiting the Douglas County Library Foundation.* 

You can find all the deets here, and that's also where you'll log your books for the contest. I'm closing comments on this entry to avoid confusion, since book entries should be logged on the contest page (available at the link above titled "2018 Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men Read!").

Get to reading, y'all, because you know you want to force The Smart Man and I to donate even MORE money to libraries and literacy.

READ! READ! READ!

_____________
 

*Full Disclosure: I am the President of the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees, but this project has nothing to do with my duties there, and is a private endeavor on my part.

News from HCDSM HQ

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Hey there. Long time, no see.

Which is entirely my fault, of course. I haven't been a very conscientious writer for some time, nor have I been a very conscientious reader, having given up on my RSS feed and most sources of news except the Washington Post.

The reasons for this should be obvious, and I'll leave it as an exercise for the class.

So what's been going on here at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men HQ?

One of my volunteer gigs has devolved into something of a political shit-show, and I've been stressing over it. I'm unsure how much longer I'll be interested in serving in this particular role, because crap on a cracker, politics make my teeth hurt. And I can't see losing sleep (literally) over a volunteer gig.
__________ 

I joined my local Rotary Club for about six months. I ended up resigning due to a cultural misfit, i.e., Rotary Clubs tend to reflect the communities in which they reside, and we all know I, as an individual, represent about 10% of all liberals in Douglas County. Which isn't a problem in and of itself, except when the majority assumes you hold the same views as they do and some of them feel free to express their opinions without discernment. Or kindness.
__________

I started a new assignment in my day job in April. The move was non-optional as there was another team who needed a skill set I happened to have, but the change has been good, and I believe I'll have a greater chance for sales success in the new role. Go, me.
__________

It's Spring! You know what that means: GARDENING. While I thought I was about done last Fall in terms of getting things growing and where I want them, I was wrong. So it's been back to Lowe's and Gardner's Supply Co. for new containers, plants, etc. Growing things when you live on a hill and the soil is basically 100% clay is a pain in the ass, but I also suspect that gardening is like laundry in that it never, ever ends.
__________

I've been reading a lot. I've finished 80 books since January 1st, and while I expect I'll be slowing down a bit for the summer, that's a pretty good clip. 
__________


I've decided to go back to school (again). Once I graduated, I stopped going and started to listen to the Great Courses so I could continue to learn new things, but that hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to. I enjoy the lectures, but it's a pretty passive activity, and so doesn't engage my brain in an active, focused way the way actual coursework does. So I've enrolled in the local Community College to take enrichment courses starting after Memorial Day. First on the agenda: Database Design and Development. Chronic school attendance is good for my brain, and the longer I go without it, the more I feel my IQ points dribbling out of my ears. Bonus: I can acquire skills that might be valuable in my current day job as well as future volunteer gigs.
__________

That's about it here at HCDSM. I'm trying to re-engage in my on-line communities, but on my terms, rather than being victim to the time-suck.

Nobody Told Me

Monday, March 12, 2018

I'm in my 50's now.

When I was in my 30's, I couldn't even conceive of being "middle-aged," in spite of the warnings provided to me by older friends and relatives regarding weight gain, wrinkles, gravity, superfluous hair, memory loss, etc., ad naseum.

And yet, here I am, in my fifties, and all of those physical outcomes are happening to me. I have bags under the circles under the wrinkles under my eyes. I struggle with my weight all the time. Various body parts are losing their battle with gravity in alarming ways, and I can't remember shit. All of that is irksome, of course, and mildly horrifying in the "I'm still 30 in my mind, what the hell is going on here?" kind of way. But the physical deterioration of my body is far from the worst thing about getting older.

Nobody told me the absolute shittiest thing about getting older would be burying those I love.

First it was my dad, who died when I was 26. Last year I realized he's been gone more than half my life, which freaks me out a little. He died when he was 55, only 2+ years away from my current age, which freaks me out more.

Then my Gram Winky, followed by one of my Aunties, then the Smart Man's Grandma and one of his Aunties. All of these were hard enough, but then we lost our Moe-Moe, which stopped my heart and my world, and introduced a level of fragility to my well-being that I'll never get over.

Then we lost the Smart Man's mother, which was devastating for entirely different reasons, and then last year, my beloved Auntie Kris, both from the scourge that is cancer.

All of this sucks, and there have been times when we've been so overwhelmed with grief that we can't help asking the universe to give us a fucking break, already.

And then yesterday, I found out that we had lost a friend and colleague whom I've known for over twenty years. Over the years, we helped each other through some rough patches, both personally and professionally. He was funny, smart, generous to a fault, and loved his kids more than anything. I'll miss him in this world, and my heart is breaking for his kids, one of whom is a minor, and the other who is barely into adulthood.

And he was my age, a member of my cohort. And he died of natural causes, a cardiovascular event.

So now I'm not only burying my older relatives (which, while painful, is still the natural order of things), and my daughter (which is as far from the "natural order of things" as you can get), but also my friends and peers.

Even though I have no choice, this change in my status is something that I'm not really emotionally prepared to accept. Perhaps it's the the fact that I have to face my own mortality. Perhaps it's the fact that every time someone I care for dies, I lose a little piece of my heart, and I don't know how much more I can afford to lose. Perhaps it's just that the last ten years we've had more than our fair share of grief, and I'm just tired.

And honestly, even if someone had told me about the accelerating pain of burying the people I love, I don't know how I would have prepared myself. In my mind I'm still in my 30's, and my emotions just don't understand how the hell all these people keep leaving the world when I'm still here.

Getting older blows.

Random Thoughts and Words to Live By, Part 24

Friday, March 2, 2018

If someone claims their First Amendment rights are being abrogated by a corporation, then I must assume that all of their arguments are equally specious and I can confidently disregard them.

The Great Social Media Experiment

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I've been on hiatus since December 18th.

Not just from Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, but from Facebook, Twitter, my RSS feed, pretty much everything on-line with the exception of e:mail, SMS, my reading apps, and Google.

And aside from a mild itchiness of habit for the first week or two, I've been surprised at how little I've missed it. So here are the pros and cons of my two month experiment:

Pros
  1. Reduced the "noise" in my life.
  2. I feel more present in my life. 
  3. I feel more generally focused.
  4. I'm angry or upset a lot less.
  5. The time suck is gone.
  6. I read more. A LOT more. 
  7. I'm no longer exposed to people who will say the most hateful shit imaginable in order to make some sort of point against me in an on-line disagreement. 
 Cons
  1. I'm missing news from my friends and family.
  2. I'm not staying abreast of the news, which I consider my civic duty.
  3. I've had some interesting things to share or write about the last two months, and no where to put them. 

The Verdict

Obviously there are far more "pros" to giving up social media than there are "cons." But they bear similar weight within my own value system. The "pros" relate to my mental health and sense of balance, but the "cons" relate to my duty to people I care about and to myself.

What I've decided is that I need to find a balance between both. I want to spend some time on Facebook and such, but not much. I want to spend some time reading the news, but only once a day, and from only reputable sources (rather than links through FB, blog entries, etc.). To help with my peace of mind, I need to MAKE time to engage in meditation, as advised by Sister Stacey and the 10% Happier folks.

I'm going to try and reintegrate some of these things into my daily life. I'll be hiding, unfriending, or outright blocking people with reckless abandon (see pros #1, #4 and #7). I'll be limiting my FB time by not reinstalling the app on my phone (see pro #5). And if if social media starts infiltrating my new serenity with its redunkulousness, polarization, nasty-ass people, and lying liers of lies, I'm fully prepared to force it out the airlock with few regrets.

So I'll see you on Facebook or Twitter. Occasionally. In short doses. 

My Reasons for Gratitude, 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

1. I got the opportunity to serve as the President of the Douglas County Libraries Board of Trustees. Having a meaningful service project is very important to me, and this position allowed me to continue to exercise my leadership muscles.

2. Sister Stacey and Brother J.R. moved back to Colorado this year after a four year hiatus to New York City for professional reasons. They're always in my heart, but now they're in my house, too, and my cup runneth over.

3. We lost my Auntie to cancer in May. I am so grateful to have had her in my life for over 50 years. My Auntie was one of the best people I've ever known, and her loss pains me every day. But I was able to tell her what she's meant to me before she passed, and her presence changed my life, and me, in ways that are only for the good.

4. I was able to spend time this year with the Smart Man's father and stepmom. It was shortly after we lost Auntie Kris, and their presence was a soothing anodyne to a stressful and grief-stricken time.

5. This year my garden began to take shape in the way I want. I still have a number of projects to do, as well the interminable wait for things to reach their full growth, but I'm on my way.

6. I mentor two young women who live in different states, and this year I was given the opportunity to be the mentor they deserve.

7. The Smart Man and I checked off another baseball park from the list this year. We want to visit them all, but some years we don't get to it due to other commitments or emergent disasters.

8. For the first time since we lost Moe, I was able to participate in activism related to suicide prevention by joining the Maureen's Marchers team in the annual "Out of the Darkness Walk" to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There was a time when I thought I would never be capable of doing this, and I'm grateful to have reached a point in my grief journey where I can do work that may help other families who have been touched by this tragedy, even if I did cry through most of it.

9. I decided to join the Rotary this year. While being part of the Library Board is satisfying and speaks directly to my heart, I'm also interested in service projects that aren't so political in nature. It's tough to find an opportunity to serve without having to deal with petty people and their petty egos, and I hope I have found that opportunity with Rotary.

10. I had a very good year financially, which allowed us to make significant progress on some of our financial goals. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure gives you the freedom to make choices that can lead you there, and I'm fully aware of how much of our good fortune can be attributed to luck and privilege.