Our twentieth year online!

Alright.

Okay.

Alright.

Let’s try this again. I hope this will be everything it would have been yesterday.

I’ve got some big, site related news! As of December 1st, 2016, our site has been in it’s twentieth year of operation! No, we’re not twenty yet. That doesn’t happen until December of this year, but by then I’d only get one magical month were the copyright notice said: 1997 – 2017… AND I got to hang that big 20 up for everyone to see on the homepage.

Don’t get me started on counting. I’m a self-starter, I can do it myself. NOTE: if you’re not up for a digression/rant on how we count years, skip to the end of the rant. You’ll know it when you see it.

Why does “I’m twenty” have to mean I’ve finished 20 years? Why do we have a quick shorthand for every age EXCEPT the year between the day we were born and the first anniversary of our birth?

“Weren’t you two back when that happened?”

Oh no. I was… let me see. What’s the best mathematical equation to represent my age? X < 1, where X = my age in completed years? I have no idea how many months it was. I think mom said I was crawling around that time, so maybe somewhere between 7 and 11 months? Infant doesn’t seem right, but toddler seems too old. Eff me! I give up.

“Umm, ok. Let me see if Cheryl needs any help in the kitchen.”

But we’re at a bar. What would Cheryl be doing in the kitchen here? She’s at home.

“Yeah, I know.”

See! You don’t need that kind of awkwardness in your life. I know I sure don’t. Why isn’t the day of your birth the first birthday? It’s only the reason you’re here, so I guess it’s ok not to count that one… AT ALL! Further, I think it’s high time we changed the language of age. Talking about how many years old you are stopped being cool at twenty-five. I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to give up a year if I could say: “it’s my 46th year,” rather than saying “I’m 45 years old.” Is it any wonder so many folks don’t want to talk about their age, when most of the time they’re asked the word “old” comes up, either in the question or in the answer?

HERE ENDETH THE RANT.

So, twenty. Right?!? It’s been cool, even if I haven’t done much posting on the blog the last few years. If I ever find my old back-ups (I have three spindles of CDs – somewhere) I may share the original site I created with Adobe PageMill, BBEdit, and Graphic Converter (on one of the original Bondi-Blue iMacs no less), which appeared on AOL’s servers for a time. The absolute best was when I hosted it from a server running at home, geeking out on home networks/security, Movable Type, and managing a few different flavors of databases. Running much of my current site from a hosting service with WordPress almost feels like cheating.

Before Facebook there was blogging, and many (if not most) of my Facebook/Twitter friends are holdovers from blogging, or folks I met through blogging. This site gave me an outlet, introduced me to people with backgrounds I never would have crossed paths without it, broadened my world-view, and made me a better person.

Because of this site, and one post in particular, I often win google. I’m purposely not naming it again – I already get too many hits from those search terms, but if you drop the “beware of” and do a search for the remaining words in that title, I’m almost always top five in a google search. I joke with friends that I’m the world’s fourth-foremost expert on the subject. Though, results of your searches may vary, due to location. Further, I don’t expect most of you to be impressed. Even with this lofty achievement (for a guy like me), I bet most of you would blow me away.

Anyhoo, I’d like to thank both of you for sticking around through the lean times.

Thinking thoughts while tired

Where do I begin?

Life is a kick in the ass. Sometimes it’s a kick you need or in hindsight, maybe even wanted. Other times it’s just a fucking kick.

Above all, life is exactly what your parents tell you it is: not fair. Some of us are kicked down, hard and often. Some of us get the kick we need, over and over, and never get the message. Some are fortunate not to need a kick of any kind. Others… well, it’s all we can do not to give them a kick ourselves.

You might want to give me one now, to see if it would shake some sense out of me or into this little post.

There are moments in life I desperately wish I could describe, something I think is a product of all that kicking – or being kicked. The best my feeble mind can come up with is emotional overload, though that’s not quite it either. It makes it sound bad, yet in many ways it’s the opposite. There’s the moment when you’ve spent 36 hours in the hospital with a loved one, watching them suffer, knowing there’s nothing you can really do – then your child is born. Once in a great while, there’s a moment towards the end of a special story when an author brings you to this place through the experience of his or her characters.

At these times I’m moved to tears which flow freely. For a brief moment I think I may understand the range and complexity of human emotion, in ways I thought I had before, but really only scratched the surface.

It passes but it leaves something behind. I feel raw but richer.

Adam saw me this evening after such a moment and I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried to reassure him nothing was wrong. I tried to explain some of what I’m telling you now. Two things occurred to me. One, that I’m not doing a very good job of describing anything; and two, that he may not be ready. He may not be ready for many years.

He needs to be kicked around more… live more life, wander the experience of others, and exercise those emotional muscles, hopefully building a strong sense of empathy.

Then, some years down the road, maybe I’ll be able to look back and know I have done my job as a parent right.

Maybe I’ll have another one of those tearful moments for myself.

Notes from the surgi-center

Methinks the invention of the outpatient surgery center is the best thing to happen to Western Civ since artificial flavoring. I can’t substantiate this claim. I can’t explain myself. I didn’t give it any more thought than it took to move my fingers across the keyboard.

That’s right. I’m in random thoughts mode.

How is this any different than the other 23 hours of the day, John?

Do you say ah-loo-min-um or ah-loo-min-ah-min-ah-mum? I find it best to alternate randomly between the two – to keep folks on their toes, but your mileage may vary. Mayhaps you don’t find it necessary to say aluminum at all, but who asked you?

Oh yeah, that’s right.

I’m anoyed by my own phone making noises when I type. It’s the first setting I turn off on a new phone, or whenever someone lets me borrow their phone. Man, does that piss people off. So imagine how I feel in the surgi-center lobby, surrounded by folks (who otherwise had the good sense to buy an iOS device) with the clicking sound turned on. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine it sounds nothing like an old-school news room.

What?

I miss having my daughter around. That’s not meant to be funny.

Deep, yeah?

Why am I at a surgi-center on this fine Thursday morning? It’s nothing serious so don’t worry. I’m the designated driver for someone having an injection for back pain – an injection of the going deep kind.

An epidural? Why didn’t you just say “epidural,” John?

Hell if I know.

Potty mouth.

Did you know surgi-centers are the new coffee house for the 21st century? I’d swear I recognize half a dozen folks hanging out over by the window. Coincidence? I wonder how often I could pull off coming here to hang out, drinking the free coffee, before someone called security?

Is that them now

  

You don’t want to read this

I don’t want to write this post. I don’t feel like doing much of anything these days. Some of the time I try to put on a mask of good humor but it’s hard. Some folks are better at masking their depression. Some can keep it up longer or be more convincing. I’m neither.

Depression has been with me almost as long as I can remember. It’s not always active, like a cancer in remission, but sometimes it’s one perceived misfortune away from rising to the surface with its claws bared. It’s also not predictable. I go long stretches feeling emotionally resilient. I say “sometimes it’s one misfortune away” because it’s not… always. Sometimes something as small as a forgetful friend can trigger it, but I’ll weather something relatively big like the death of a relative normally (not conflating sadness or mourning with depression).

Depth and persistence also vary, seemingly without relationship to the severity of the trigger. (Although I talk about the move a lot in this post, it’s only what I think of as the trigger. The depression covers many issues I’m not discussing in the hopes of keeping it simple.)

This time it’s been long and it’s been bad – the worst since I’ve been married.

It’s been about nine months since our decision to move to Orlando. Sure, it’s been a big change, but it hasn’t been the end of the world. Yet the decision haunts me. I think about it every day. It visits me in my dreams. I used to have bad dreams like this and wake up relieved it was a dream. Now I wake up relieved it was just a dream, until I come to realize it wasn’t.

Before the move, my job was almost perfect for me and I knew it.

I know I’m not perfect, but I recognize I have some skills that help me stand out. I’m above average at some things, even quite talented at others. I also recognize my shortcomings. I work at them but I’m not going to bullshit you or anyone else and pass off pseudo-weaknesses as hidden strengths. No matter how much we try, no one can turn a wart into a flower.

My job was almost perfect because it allowed me to use most of my strengths, and with a little bit of work, mask most of my weaknesses. Most important of all, I enjoyed it. At times I loved it. I was in a position to help people – lots of people. My skills put me in a unique position to help my coworkers statewide, who could then help many, many others – directly because of my efforts. (There was a time when Judges hearing domestic issues around the state sought me out for help, though the main office wasn’t overly impressed when they found out, “suggesting” I stop.) I rarely brought problems home with me from the office. Even after 18 years, I could leave at the end of the day feeling a bit of a rush.

How many people these days are lucky enough to be able to say that?

In those dreams I left my job for various reasons, only to find I’d made a big mistake – and I couldn’t go back. Now I can’t help but think those dreams came true.

The move has flipped the equation. Although I work for the same state agency and the same department (just a different location), it’s very different. Those differences tend to hide my strengths while exaggerating my weaknesses. I don’t like to use the word hate, but I’m awfully close.

Cheryl had the same problem before we moved. That’s why I agreed to it. We faced several certainties: she didn’t like her job, we didn’t make enough money to keep up with our expenses, there were no opportunities for Cheryl to move up or grow where we were, and my health did not allow me to help as much as I would have liked. Cheryl was stressed and I was depressed due to my prominent role in our problems.

Our situation before the move was not sustainable. The move would reduce our expenses while increasing our income, and give Cheryl something she’d lacked for a long time: a job she liked.

The move presented fewer uncertainties. Although I’d be giving up my “perfect job,” I’d be transferring to another office within the agency (though taking a voluntary demotion to help the transfer happen faster). I had my fears… worst case scenarios that plagued my mind, but I knew they were unlikely. I couldn’t deny Cheryl a little happiness after carrying me for so long, especially when the move could just as likely turn out well for me too.

I was sitting in my car during a lunch break in December of 2013 when Cheryl got the job offer that moved us to Orlando, and I told her I thought she should take it. My mind has replayed that moment countless times since. It was a great fall day in Florida. I had the windows open and I was lying back, just enjoying the quiet, the cool air, and the gentle breeze. It’s an unlikely setting for my life to seemingly turn upside-down.

There’s a dark corner of my soul where I blame Cheryl for the move and my depression. At night before I go to sleep, waiting for the dreams to take me back to that moment in my car, I get mad. I get mad at her for “making” us move. I get mad at myself for agreeing. I get angry with myself for making the move necessary – if not for my poor health, maybe we could have avoided some of the money problems and stayed. Then I come full circle. I remember depression was with me LONG before WE decided to move. I get mad at myself for blaming Cheryl, who has only tried her very best through it all. I don’t like to use the word hate, but I’m awfully close.

Some nights I’m much more than close.

Among my flaws is a shyness, or social awkwardness, which makes it hard for me to make friends. I left the few I have behind. Here I have none, with no prospects. I go days where depression wins and I trade no words with anyone but immediate family. Not friends, not coworkers, not my boss (a big part of my problem at work, methinks)… no one.

I’m seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist – who I must admit is the best one I’ve ever seen. (He’s the first to offer insight I hadn’t thought of myself first.) I’m living with constant pain in my neck and head, but I’m seeing a doctor I trust who’s trying a procedure I think will help on Friday.

But I scare myself at times. I don’t always discuss my deepest episodes of depression with Cheryl. I don’t want to be an anchor anymore. But when I do have a chance to talk about it, I’m not always completely honest with either my psychiatrist or my psychologist. I know what the consequences could be, and they scare me more.

I feel worthless.

I feel lost.

I feel alone.

When I think everyone is asleep at night and no one is listening, I cry.

But for the love of my wife and family, I feel like I have nothing of value.

But that isn’t nothing, is it?

Most importantly, I do not feel hopeless.

That’s something.

If this post seems like more of a mess than usual, it’s because I typed it all with my thumbs, on my phone, with autocorrect, at work – waiting for our network to come back up.

The case against math

It’s a great day for a blog post! I’m not particularly depressed at the moment and I’m in the mood for a little nonsense – which as we all know are the perfect ingredients for a little writing.

I was looking at someone’s date of birth (something that comes up often in my line of work) and noted the year: 1994. My imagination stepped back in time. I lived in Orlando then, as I do now. It makes a little more sense if you knew I lived somewhere else the twenty or so years in between. It was the year I got married. I’d graduated from UF the year before. I was still using a Mac Plus I bought at UF as my primary computer.

Oh, and this 20 year old “child” was born.

In many ways I should be twenty too (as in “also,” not to be confused with 22), just not in any objective or observable way that follows nature’s laws.

It’s a shame too, because I think I’d make a pretty damn good twenty year old (or 22 year old, for that matter)… not that I don’t cut a fine specimen at forty-something.

High on my recent brush with perspective and simple math, I asked my cube neighbor what she remembered from 1994.

“Nothing,” she replied. “I hadn’t started school yet.”

What? You don’t remember anything before high school?

“No. I hadn’t started grammar school yet.”

Ok, I’m not gonna lie. That hurt a little. I’ll bet you saw that coming from wherever you are though, am I right?

So you’re telling me I was old enough to vote for the first Bush – though I didn’t, for the record – and you don’t remember him?

“Yep. That’s pretty much what I’m telling you.”

Skip back twelve hours or so… to another close encounter with subtraction.

It was evening. Beth was acting like a teenager which as it happens is age appropriate – she’s seventeen. She was complaining about all of the burdens she carries, i.e. the yoke of responsibility placed on a twenty-first century teen. At the time I was not in a good mood, so it was a bad time for her to say something like: “what are you guys going to do when I’m not here anymore?” Good thing for me, I had a rare moment where my brain to mouth filter worked while I was in a bad mood. If it hadn’t, I would have immediately replied, “probably not much different from what I did most of my life, before you were born.”

Good filter! Good! I would have regretted that the moment I said it.

But then I did a little more math. Have I been childless most of my life? I ran the numbers and decided it had been – but not by much. The pre-Beth era of my life is at 60.5% and sinking. There are times in my life when nothing in my body hurts (the last time was last Saturday around 8:32 a.m.) and I still feel like that twenty year old. In my mind, I’m still that college student, who’s idea of dressing up is wearing a pair of black Chuck Taylors with a shirt and tie.

Now here’s the funny thing. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like a few of the things that come with getting older. Granted, I’m not old yet by most folks standards. But without doing a run-down of my medical history, I’ve had my share of “old folks” diseases that occasionally make me feel physically “old.” Mostly, I enjoy telling stories. Life is rich with stories and I feel this accumulation of wealth with every passing year.

No, I haven’t really made a case against math. If you don’t recall – and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t – my post titles are chosen for how they sound in my head, and rarely have much to do with the substance of the post.

Exit

I looked up on my way out the door this afternoon. There’s an exit sign pointing to the parking lot as you leave my office.

“Tomorrow will be the last time I look up at that sign.” I thought to myself.

Tomorrow will be my last day at work in Clearwater. I’ve worked there since the fall of 1996. Seventeen years wouldn’t give a lot of folks pause, but if you were to look through my eyes it would seem like forever.

We didn’t have kids. We were a month or more from learning Cheryl was pregnant with our first. We lived in a small, two bedroom condo we rented from Cheryl’s parents. I still drove my first car purchased with my own money. The adventures of George Bush were safely contained in Texas, and he and his pal Karl had yet to be inflicted on an unsuspecting nation.

But the most startling thing of all: a Democrat was Governor of Florida – good ‘ole Walkin’ Lawton Chiles.

It’s not like I’m quitting my job though. I’ll still be working for the State of Florida on Friday, in the same capacity I’m doing so now. I’ll just be doing it from a drab, state owned building in Largo. We’ll be trading old-growth oaks, shade, and a view of Tampa Bay for pavement, concrete, and lots of pink stucco.

A Judge I worked with years ago used to ask me, “Do you have to pay the State to work here every day?” Despite the location on the water, the buildings themselves weren’t kept as well as others might, which made the lease affordable for a government agency – even in Florida. Still, I’ve always thought we had it made.

You can’t put a price on a little bit of peace amid the chaos our jobs can be.

Well, I suppose you can if you own the place.

Choices

It’s raining today.

I’m not running, popping an umbrella, or shielding my head to protect The Do. Sometimes I’m not just capable of adjusting to the rain, I enjoy it. Sometimes I walk a little slower. I figure I’m going to get wet either way, it’s only a question of degrees. So why trouble myself over water? Why let it ruin my day?

Rain is rare enough here that walking through it can be a novelty.

Today I slowed down, felt the fat drizzling drops pat my head and shoulders, and let my mind wander off to metaphors near and far.

Falling down

I learned a hard lesson on the asphalt streets of Florida when I was young. It involved a skateboard and a steep hill for Florida anyway. Come to think of it, there might have been a bike and a hill at some point. Damn! There was that time with a sled, a hill, and an icy road too.

Put it this way: I know road rash when I see it.

Memo to self: you are not a quick learner. Keep that in mind the next time something hurts.

The lesson is this: sometimes it’s better to pick your fall than have a fall pick you. Maybe you learned this lesson yourself. Maybe you didn’t have to learn it – some things just come naturally to you like self-preservation. I’m just here to fill in the gaps.

Falls are terrible pickers. They don’t care what lands first, it’s orientation to your velocity, or the textures of the various surfaces on which you may land/slide. I may not know you, so for all I know you may be a terrible picker too. But if I was a betting man, I’d still put my money on you (site unseen).

Today I learned a new lesson as I was applying an old one.

I’m not ready for downhill skating. When the whir of the wheels approaches the pitch of a whistle, I’m going WAY too fast – especially when I’ve just skated up the same hill and my legs have the rigidity of two narrow columns of memory foam.
I was not proud of my error in judgement. However, I’m happy to report my quick thinking assessed the situation and computed a relatively safe landing. I’d reached totally-mental velocity too quickly for standard breaking measures. I had just enough control to stay upright and stay on the street. As I was racing past folks’ front lawns I noticed one with a high sand to grass ratio and decided to ditch. Ditching in Florida grass can be almost as painfull as asphalt. Imagine a nice soft lawn and a roudy bunch of aloe vera plants decided to mate. You’d get a Florida lawn – without the soothing gel.

I’m a firm believer in the feet first fall. Protecting the rest of your body with your face is almost never a good strategy. For sand, I prefer a slide like a baserunner stealing second – not landing on my ass, but not directly on my hip bone either – somewhere in between. I bend the inside (lower) leg a bit to absorb some of the impact, trying to keep my feet up to avoid getting the skates stuck – an important point. If you inadvertently plant one of those skates, stopping your foot suddenly as the rest of you keeps moving, it can get really ugly really fast.

When it was all over I looked up to see if anyone was watching my triumph over disaster.

The neighborhood was very quiet.

I got back up on my skates and kept going. That there is an honest to goodness life lesson. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off (in my case literally), hold your head high, and keep on keeping on.

There won’t be any more hills for a while though.

This is where I live

Here’s a little something someone threw together to show off life in Dunedin (shot downtown). Half the video is devoted to credits, so don’t be intimidated by the length.

It’s nice to know there are a few quirky places in Florida (like my home town)… that it’s not just beaches, strip-malls, swamps, and theme parks.

Note Casa Tina at about 1:30 in – one of our favorite places to eat (on those rare occasions we eat out :-)