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I have found that the less time I spend on Facebook the happier I am. With the exception of animal videos and inspirational memes, there is not much on there that interests me anymore.

I used to love FB. I reconnected with friends from High School, made new friends through pages dedicated to my illness, found a group of mountain bikers that became real, genuine friends and I really do enjoy just knowing what people are up to. It makes me feel close to them. But in our hopelessly divided world, all of that is outweighed by the negativity and outright hostility we are showing towards each other as we continue to shout in Caps, defend our positions and flatly refuse to accept the viewpoints of those who don’t think as we do. When a tragedy strikes, it is a thousand times worse.

I don’t know if it was school or at home but I know I was taught by someone that we don’t have to agree with each other. That it is ok, even encouraged to have a different view than another, but always respect their right to feel the way they do. It is a human, dare I say American ideal. As Americans we pride ourselves on the origin of our great nation; the escape from political and religious oppression, the notion of governing ourselves and creating a document that can be amended in the event that society evolves and something the drafters of that document never anticipated arises. We shout from the rooftops that you can do and say anything you want in this great land of ours because we are free! Respect and intelligent discourse will always prevail.

Not anymore.

We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. We are now the land of the loud and closedminded. We don’t listen when others speak, instead, we are merely planning our next sentence. How can you learn anything if you don’t listen to another voice? If someone disagrees with us we get angry and hurl insults at them instead of debating them intelligently and calmly. To make matters worse, we have the attention span of a gnat. Instead of researching things and formulating an informed viewpoint, we believe everything we hear and see online.

I love the saying everyone is “entitled to their opinion”. Sorry, you are not. An opinion is formulated and arrived at by study, life experience, intelligence, and wisdom. To say that global warming is real, for example, there are actual statistics on both sides of the issue that can be used to support your “opinion” and a proper debate could then ensure. To say that it is the fault of aliens dressed as Joan Cusack trying to kill penguins because they hate Tuxedos is just a stupid statement. And there are plenty of those.
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But even if you do postulate nonsense or common sense, the vitriol towards others, only strengthened by “keyboard balls” is making me sick. The hatred being spewed back and forth as tragedies strike and everyone digs in for battle armed with a sling full of arrows of “Idiot”, “moron”, “shithead” and “snowflake” to be shot at anyone who has the nerve to not think like them is sickening.

I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care if you think guns shoot by themselves. I don’t care if you think the earth is flat. I don’t care that you think the president is responsible for an earthquake in Peru. Say something intelligent and be accepting of others or just put the keyboard down. Going on FB now just makes me sad and angry. There is some good content left but so much hatred.

I almost wish that grammatical and spelling errors, duck-faced selfies by women who are way too old to be doing them, vague posts fishing for sympathy or gratification and pictures of ugly feet on the beach were the only aggravating thing about FB. From now on, FB is something to scroll while I poop. A fitting finale for this post. Too bad I don’t have the poop emoji…

my week in review

I try to post something every day. In addition, I try to post something of quality. I committed to writing every day to improve my skills and I have rarely missed a day. Yet I have missed the last four. I was on the verge of missing today also but I have forced myself to sit down and put pencil to paper, as it were.

I’m going to tell you about my week:

Wednesday was to be a big day. It was the day of my first divorce hearing. Financials were gathered, forms were printed signed and Notarized. We were ready to go. Soon it would be official, I could finally have some closure. Additionally, I am carrying my entire family’s income on my insurance and if I show income I would put us over and lose my insurance. Once divorced I could start working legitimately again. The hearing was canceled with no reschedule date. Now we are in limbo.

So I went to work with the guy who so generously has let me work for cash to help with my situation. I gave him two great days, one of which was highlighted by his normally stoic and stressed out CFO making a point to thank me for the contribution I have been making. Always expecting the other shoe to drop, I wouldn’t have to wait long for it. As I left on Thursday afternoon, Ben pulled me in and told me that he will have to reevaluate our situation because our arrangement is too expensive for him. He’s right, I’ve been lucky so far. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate what I do, it is expensive to come out of pocket. He said he will leave it for now but with no divorce date in sight, it’s going to come to a head. This arrangement is not without its headaches as it is. It’s a lot of driving and extra time. But I have gotten so much satisfaction as I briefly returned to doing what I love.

Some good news, my mother-in-law has agreed to help my wife with an apartment. This was a surprise to me. I soon found out what had changed, my mother-in-law had made a deal with her: commit to going to therapy and she will help. My wife has finally acknowledged that she has a problem and I am so genuinely hopeful that she finds a way to be happy. But the hammer came down on the apartment, however, when the apartment complex she didn’t meet the income requirements and they wouldn’t accept the mother-in-law as a cosigner. Not exactly back to square one, there is now hope that she will be rid of the fucking Manson family she’s living with, but it is discouraging.

Yesterday I went to the local hospital so the vampires can suck more blood and copays to find that not only am I not anemic as expected, but my hemoglobin is getting higher. Which is good but makes absolutely no sense. For the sake of consistency at least my blood pressure was astronomically high. Stroke-level high. And my weight is up. They were so concerned they called my transplant surgeon’s office while I was there. The water retention in my legs is the culprit and it is not even close to funny anymore. Everything I drink goes to my legs like cupcakes to a fat kid’s ass. I was prescribed a larger dose of diuretics and went to the pharmacy to wait for it. An hour later I was told that it requires an insurance override that won’t be happening today. The only positive is that I walked the food aisles and read labels for sodium content. Something has got to change in my diet and I am prepared to cut/change whatever I have to in order to feel better and get my BP down to the point where I don’t hear bass drums pounding in my ears.

I spent yesterday afternoon slumped in my chair feeling generally shitty about things. Thanks so much to a good friend who was there for me (you know who you are) to talk me off of the ledge. I don’t often feel bad for myself but the entire week hit me like a sledgehammer to the face yesterday afternoon. I was disappointed at the possibility of not working at the job I’ve come to like so much. I was sad for my wife and my two youngest who are living with her in a bad house. I was disgusted and confused how I can be feeling good and yet so unhealthy, to be wearing the same clothes yet somehow almost 20 pounds heavier. I was daunted by the task of making extreme changes to my lifestyle and diet. And I was really starting to dwell on how mad I am that some miserable government desk jockey clerk has the fucking balls to make the decision that I don’t qualify for Disability! I rarely use this word but do you know what, this is one thing I deserve.

I do have one good thing to report, I am goint tonight to pick up my two youngest to spend the entire school vacation week with me. Maybe that will put me back on track and remember what it is that I’m fighting for.

Cheers and thanks for listening

this could have been so much easier

One of the many things I enjoy about working again is that I was able to find something in my field of expertise. That is to say, anything involving the sale of something with wheels and a guy who sells it. I have done it all in the world of wheels from oil changes to repossessions and I love it all. When I began to help out my friend at his Powersports Finance company he soon found that there wasn’t a job in the building I couldn’t do (except accounting). Because I was to be part-time, he started me on some time-consuming projects that were taking too much time from his already overworked full-time crew. These tasks could be as simple as minor dealer issues, customer service calls or as complex as sorting out issues with local and state agencies. After cleaning up some small crises in my first week, he promoted me to a really fun one. I was to have a Motorcycle inspected and have a new Vehicle Identification Number assigned to it.

Having a new VIN# on a vehicle is a major ordeal. The entire history and pedigree of a vehicle are tracked by it. The state requires serious documentation from the owner in order to sign off on this task. As the lienholder, because we repossessed it, it is even harder. So I took my time to learn the exact process, what forms I needed to prove ownership, and what documentation I needed on hand to prove ownership. Over the course of the first week, I was able to gather all paperwork, pay all fees and gather all receipts and call for the appointment. Once the appointment was made at a local inspection station I would begin the process of coordinating how to get the motorcycle to them.

Between the initial attempt at making the appointment and actually completing it would take 2 weeks. It was a giant series of telephone tag and miscommunications (on the State Police’s part)until I was finally able to set the appointment for 10 AM Friday morning. time.

When Mike and I pulled in (Mike was helping me with the bike because it was very heavy) the trooper told us to park the trailer, unload the motorcycle and he would be right back. He then proceeded to get in his cruiser and drove off, after all of the efforts we had made to get there on time. He came back 15 minutes later with a cup of coffee. Mike was visibly pissed, I was containing myself for now.

Trooper Burns was a large, fit man with a grey buzzcut and a blank expression on his face. He began to ask me a series of questions that I had already answered, some of which weren’t even relevant. I kept my composure and explained my case again. Trooper Burns seemed to delight in being difficult but I stayed on point. At one point he told me to start the bike to prove that it runs, I told him there’s no need, it’s not a salvage inspection it’s a reassignment. He knew I had him and moved on. 15 more minutes of explaining our situation, how we came into possession and what we needed to be done he finally agreed to go online and do his due diligence. 30 minutes later he came out and said “This is the wrong bike”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“This is the wrong bike,” he said again.

I took a deep breath and patiently replied: “I heard that, please explain it to me”.Mike was facepalming in the background.

“This engine number is off of a bike recorded stolen in Florida. Can’t let you leave with it”. Now, this was not a completely unexpected turn of events but not ideal. We talked for a while about our options, what he was going to do next and when to contact him again. I went to shake his hand and he caught a glimpse of my Masonic ring. “I didn’t see that before…Good men the Masons. My brother and father both are members. I wish I saw that earlier I wouldn’t have given you such a hard time.”
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I paused, took a deep breath, and said,”Trooper Burns. As a Mason, I wouldn’t have needed to glimpse a ring in order to treat you decently. As a Mason, I would have been decent right out of the gate. This could really have been a whole lot easier”. I studied his face for a reaction, I think he understood me. “Show me the secret handshake,” he said as he smiled for the first time since we had met.

As Mike and I drove out of the lot, empty trailer and all he said “Brass Balls, man. You’ve got Brass Balls.”

“No, he knew I was right. He has a tough job and deals with a lot of assholes. What he didn’t recognize is that I’m not one of them. Now he knows.”

“So, tell me about this ring…”

 

 

 

 

 

A life of moderation

The other day a dear friend of mine posted on Facebook “thinking that a life of moderation is the way to go this year”. Several “likes” later I commented “Works for me”. Many would go on and agree with she and I. I can’t speak for their reasoning but as for myself, I live the simple life because I was forced into it. A year ago, I had a lot of stuff. Now I don’t. Apart from not having everyone together anymore, I am happier in many ways. I am free of the worry brought on by increasing costs of living and shrinking incomes. I don’t need to work more for a bigger house to find room for more stuff. More stuff that didn’t make me happy, didn’t fulfill me or give me any sense of lingering purpose, other than to live long enough to pay for it all. I never would have voluntarily given up my stuff because my family needed it. But now, I am free of it and looking for the real meaning in, not of, life.

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Jim Carrey
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Jim Carrey turned a few heads when he made this comment. Some thought that he was mocking people with his wealth, that he was another rich celeb that wanted us to feel bad for the problems of the rich and famous. He wasn’t. He was simply pointing out that every thing in the world is not enough if you are not at peace with yourself. I am related to a walking and talking example of this.

When I first began dating my wife in the early 90’s I learned that her Aunt was married to a local Real Estate Mogul, nicknamed “The Condo King”. At the time we began dating the “King” had recently fallen from Grace. He was jailed for multiple counts of fraud, influence peddling etc., and sent to prison. Not before, nice guy that he was, he hid all of his money in his girlfriend’s name leaving his wife and 2 kids with little. The oldest son would go to jail soon after for working with Dad. It was a big shock for them but they would survive. They downgraded from living in an actual castle to a modest condo. The Aunt had a Real Estate license also so she could work. Little Suzie, whose Batmitzvah was a $50,000 event starring Debbie Gibson, painted her face white and hid in her room for a whole year in shame.

I met the aunt shortly after at a pool party. I knew the whole story of course but I had promised not to say anything. I was doing pretty well until the Aunt began to openly complain about being forced to drive a *gasp* Camry (a brand new one, mind you). This snotty snippet forced me to blurt out, “hey, tell you what, it’s a lot nicer than my car. Poor you.” I was promptly pinched hard enough to draw blood. Fuck her, I didn’t care. She was a snob, so elite she had no idea what the rest of the world lived like. All she cared about was money and without it, she was lost. For ten years this went on. Fortunately for them, she married another millionaire, the Princess daughter married a guy who owns 10 shopping malls and is part owner of the Miami Heat, and the son is now his own version of the “Condo King”. But are they happy? I think it’s all they know. They know that they were miserable without the money. Maybe that’s their “Happy”.

My favorite episode of The Twilight Zone is “A nice place to visit”. A petty criminal is shot by police while fleeing a crime scene. Visited by a man in a white suit and offered to go to a special place, he assumes he is going to Heaven. When he arrives, he finds that everything goes his way. He wins at gambling every time. When he flirts with a woman she falls for him. He wins at everything. It became so easy it was boring. He approached his friend in the white suit and said “I don’t belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.” The man in the white suit then delivers the whammy: “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!!”
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All of the stuff in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t provide quality. Only quality can create happiness.

Having everything I want is one thing. Wanting everything I have is entirely another. Sure, there are things that I want that I don’t have. But I don’t need anything. And when I do, the need will be different than before. I will likely want a smaller, more practical and maintainable model of whatever it is. Enough to satisfy the need, but not enough to be a slave to it.

I never reached the pinnacle of success financially, but I did do pretty well for a long time. I recognize that money is a necessity. I don’t fault or in any way resent those that have more than I. I can only speak for myself when I say that the quest for more always created less satisfaction and more aggravation. Once you’ve reached the peak of one mountain, you look for another, higher one. It never ends, that’s what Jim Carrey was speaking of.

I want an endless pile of Real, of Quality, and Genuine. Everything else is just stuff and I’ll take that in moderation. I’ll miss it less when it’s gone.

Spring is coming

 

February is my least favorite month of the year. Despite the days getting a bit longer, it tends to be a cold, grey and boring month. Football is over, and I am a fair-weather Basketball and Hockey fan at best. Fortunately, it’s a short month.

We joke in New England that the first snow falls it is a Glorious occasion when all is white and pure, each flake unique and beautiful. By February the very mention of snow has you hurling F-bombs at the TV. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m just sick of winter.

It snowed again last night. The weather forecast last night called for an inch or two so when I woke up to see about 6 inches of powdery aggravation I wasn’t pleased. I would have “geared myself up” for the shoveling, spreading of rock salt and cleaning off cars. Wanting to get it over with, I skipped my morning coffee and went right to it. It was light snow so I made quick work of it. Stopping to gather my breath, I felt warmth in the air. I looked around and I noticed that melting had already started. I took off my hat and gloves and just stood on the deck, staring at the landscape around me. I could feel it, it’s almost over. Spring will be here soon.

Spring is my favorite season. I thrive on warmth and sunlight. I barely tolerate winter, I accept it as a necessary evil if I am to live in this region but the short days and lack of sunlight take a terrible toll. On the first warm day of Spring, I will be found outside face skyward, soaking in the rays like a desert flower after a terrible drought.
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It is New Years Day for Mother Nature, a new beginning as grass turns green, leaves bud on trees, the little critters poke their heads out of hiding, and the Red Sox are in Fort Myers, Florida gearing up for another long season of glorious Baseball.

I can’t think of Spring without thinking of Baseball, and I can’t think of Baseball without thinking fondly of my Dad. When I was a kid, my father was still working his way up the seniority list at his job and he would be laid off almost every Spring. Dad was a Heating Oil Delivery driver and the warm weather meant slow business. I was thrilled to have him around, he worked almost around the clock during the winter. I never saw him. Spring became an association for me. Warm weather, school vacation, Dad is home and we’re gonna watch the Sox.
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Dad and I didn’t have a whole lot in common, but we loved Baseball. He taught me to play and we loved to talk about it. One of my favorite memories was watching games on our 3 season porch on a 19-inch black and white Emerson TV with “rabbit ears” antennae. Dad and I would make sure all of the yard work was done in time to sit down for the game. I would listen to him attentively as he explained the strategy of baseball, his most and least favorite players and why he rated them so. It was the only time he wasn’t bustling about and trying to keep busy. When a game was on he was in his seat, beer in hand and relaxed. Until the Bullpen blew a lead, which happened often, at which time he was not so relaxed. Those were hard times economically, but they were special to me.

Today I saw a glimmer of my favorite season. I see on my Calendar that there are 10 days left of my least favorite month. While March can often suck weather-wise, it can also be a good month. And it is one month closer to Spring. Even though I still have 6-foot snowbanks all around my house, I can almost smell the fresh-cut grass, hear the crack of the bat, the children excitedly cheering each other on. And I can still see Dad, Tanned and sweaty, in his faded Boston Red Sox Hat and wife-beater T-shirt calling me, telling me to “hurry up” before I miss the first pitch.

What I wouldn’t do to hear that just one more time.
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A life of virtue

I almost had to peel myself out of bed this morning, reeling from fatigue and another inconvenient gout flare-up. This time it’s in my ankle and my right elbow. It’s excruciating. Apparently, the 1000.00 per month medication prescribed to prevent gout is a real winner. I choked down 25mg of Prednisone in hopes that I would be able to support weight on my left foot by noon. I headed out at 9:15 to the local food pantry at the local church, where I volunteer almost every Saturday.

I really enjoy volunteering. There is a real need in my community, there is a large segment of poverty on the fringe of all of the “old money” in town. This need requires volunteers, which are few. In the winter the population is 25% of what it is when the sun is out. Of the remaining 25%, many go to Florida. By being there every week in the winter I help make sure   that they have enough coverage.

A morning at the food pantry consists of a rotating cast and crew of really nice people. Most of them know my family so it wasn’t hard to blend in. Each week, anywhere between 10-15 families come in and we set them up with a lot of healthy goodies. It’s about 3 hours of steady moving, packing and small talk. Today, as I was checking my email during a break. dear sweet Bonnie said to me, “Bill, how come we never see you at church on Sunday?” Oh boy, here we go. As I began to formulate my answer I realized that all eyes were on me, as if to all say “yea, how come?” Not wanting to get into it, I explained to them that I’m just not a “church guy”. The hymns, responsive readings, symbolism, and idolatry don’t do it for me. I explained that I have a complex relationship with Spirituality that is still in progress. I left them with the Kayak quote:

Religion is sitting in church thinking about Kayaking. Spirituality is sitting in a kayak thinking about God

That seemed to satisfy them. We moved on. I limped out of there on time and went home, hoping the prednisone would kick in enough to force a quick 1/2 hour on the hamster wheel before I run out of spoons for the day.

As I was making a quick sandwich, Mom said “Going to Church tomorrow?” I facepalmed dramatically. “What?” she said. I explained to her that I just went through this. Mom has always thought that I don’t like church because of an incident I had in high school with a sanctimonious son-of-a-bitch minister who slapped my cousin. I have spent the last 30 plus years trying to convince her otherwise. In the moment, I decided to have this conversation for hopefully the last time. I looked at her and said,

“Church or no Church, aren’t I living a life of virtue”? I went on to explain that I try always to be nice, courteous, respectful, charitable, etc, isn’t that as good as going to Church for an hour a week and stare at the plaster ceilings, waiting for the cracks to appear? She doesn’t get it, she never will. Even the Kayak quote wasn’t pushing this one over the curb.

When I used the word virtue, it just kinda popped out. It is a lofty word with multiple synonyms that range from purity to righteousness, to morality. I will only go so far as to say that I try to live my life with integrity. I grappled for years with virtue, wondering how I could lead a good life without religion. It wasn’t until I reconciled that good vs evil is the same thing as good vs bad that I made any significant strides. I asked myself, do I need 10 commandments to know not to steal, kill or shag my neighbor’s wife? Any decent person knows this. I always try to do the right thing, that’s all.

I always tried to pay attention to little things like pausing in supermarket aisles to offer to reach items on the top shelf for little old ladies, carrying heavy items for people, opening doors, buying a coffee for the guy ringing the bell outside the WalMart at Christmas. Small, human gestures.

Post-transplant, full of “pay it forward“, I stepped it up and joined a fraternal organization dedicated to self-improvement and community. Blood drives, community breakfasts, an anonymous foundation for charitable giving to school kids with needs that don’t fit traditional programs, working the registration tent at a Down’s Syndrome “Buddy Walk”  became my Saturday mornings. They were all small gestures that helped people and gave me a real sense of purpose in life.

Unfortunately, I got sick again just as I was really starting to get going. It wasn’t long before I found myself as I am now. Weak in body, Spiritually available to what the Universe has in store for me. With this spirit in mind, I have scaled back my goals to just trying to be a good person. It’s all I have. Energy availability aside, I know that I have enough in me to be kind to strangers. I can certainly say please and thank you. I will continue to treat those that serve me with kindness and dignity. I am able to hold a door and grab something off of the top shelf for someone. I can muster the strength to listen to a friend who needs someone to talk to. I can find the energy to not lie, cheat or steal and to be good to my word, shake a man’s hand and look him in the eye.

I found my purpose. Not to be a good Christian or a benevolent Pagan. My purpose is to be nice. It takes almost zero energy to just be nice. So few are willing to take the job and my resume is a mess anyway, so I’ll take the job. If Jesus is real, I’ll let him decide my worth. I don’t know if that is what a “religious” person considers to be a life of Virtue but I would certainly think it will get me a pass to sleep in on Sunday morning. At least until Kayak season.
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Perhaps I will show my mother this post, and put this to bed forever.

 

a day of rest

I’m so tired today. It’s that feeling that kidney patients have difficulty explaining to others. I don’t have a virus, I’ve been washing my hands. Yes, mom I’m taking my meds. I’m just washed out. I woke up as tired as I was when I went to bed last night. Cold, weak and the very thought of doing anything is dismissed as impossible. Carrying my laptop seems a Herculean task.

I am prone to feeling useless on days that I don’t accomplish much. I’m still transitioning to the stage where I openly accept that I’m not capable of doing as much in one day as I once was. I’m getting there. I spared myself the mental beat down today. I actually feel quite accomplished for a refreshing change.

I put in 3 very solid days at work this week. I am starting to feel comfortable in the office. My co-workers seem to have accepted me. I don’t think for a second that they didn’t like me, instead they probably were just curious of my sudden appearance, my lack of a learning curve, and why the owner and I are so comfortable with each other. In addition, I have found a niche. Without getting into detail I recognised a need and tackled it. My ability to dig into the source of issues and resolve them by putting new systems in place has been a contribution. That’s all I ever wanted, to be of use and contribute.

In addition to a productive day, I made a date for last night. An hour after I left work, I was getting a giant hug from a very beautiful, special lady. My youngest daughter. We went to our favorite diner, ordered off of the breakfast menu and just talked. It was so great to just sit, listen (even when I had no idea what she was talking about sometimes) to her prattle on excitedly about everything from boys to school to makeup. She seems to be doing well and I am so relieved.

To think that I once joked that if she were Native American her name would be “Alcohol-related-accident”. She wasn’t planned but today I cannot imagine my life without her. My other children would hate me to hear this but in July the only thing I could come up with for a reason to live was her. It’s not that I don’t love all of them to death, it’s about how much I mean to her. If I had done what I wanted to, it would have destroyed her. As I looked across the table, I wanted to thank her for saving my life.

As tired as I am today, I feel better about things. That things are getting better for everyone. As if my dad was again sitting with me over a beer telling me his favorite, comforting sentiment…

Things always seem to work out.

I didn’t really believe that when he was alive. Now I’m starting to. Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll get as much accomplished as I can. And feel good about it.

Peace my friends