Tag Archives: life

Personal Crossroads

d64912afea_2012-originalWhen I was about 19 or 20, I moved to Longview, TX. It was my first apartment along with my first real “job” on top of being 120 miles from home. It was a new adventure. I turned 21 and another first happened; I bought my first handgun and later, my CHL.

I’ve been around guns all my life thanks to my uncle, who not only taught me to respect them from a young age but also how to care for them, when to use them and when not to use them. I credit him alone with recognizing that I was very interested in firearms and instead of hiding them away, invited me to handle them and later to shoot them. He passed away many years ago but he will always get the credit for giving me a proper respect for firearms.

If you know me well, you know I enjoy the right to own firearms and add another level of protection to myself, my family and my home. If you know me extremely well, you know I am proficient in using them when the need arises. You rarely see me advertising this right on Facebook because I don’t believe it is something that needs to be advertised. You will also rarely see me join a gun debate because, again, I don’t think that kind of thing needs to be argued. I don’t check in from the gun range, I don’t post pictures two-fisting Glocks. The occasional shot of Celeste holding an M4 slips into my Facebook album on occasion because, honestly, that is just pretty (and she is proficient with it which is even more pretty to me).

Although I’ve had my CHL from nearly the day it became a law, I rarely “Conceal Carry”. I keep firearms in the cars most of the time, in the house all the time and I make sure I carry one on long trips. I rarely carry into Star Bucks or Walmart (I know the hardcore are going to balk but that’s ok) and I have not exercised my right to Open Carry even though I fully support it and enjoy the option.

Until recently, I haven’t felt like I “needed” to carry into Walmart, Starbucks or anywhere else like that. Part of this is my training, I feel I can handle myself in hand-to-hand combat well enough not to need to carry all the time. Even in a gun situation, I’ve trained and trained over the years on how to disarm someone whether they are holding a knife, a bat, a small child.. or a gun.

But… Things are changing.

I was downtown, maybe five blocks away the night five officers were killed during a protest. I was armed. I was happy to be armed but I was also happy I didn’t get caught in the middle of it and that my biggest inconvenience was getting out of downtown due to road closures. I keep reading about random acts of violence against minorities by bigots. I keep reading about racist epitaphs left at schools and little girls raped by entitled college white boys.

I keep hearing about hate.

I don’t hate much personally. There are few things in this world I will affix that title to but it seems like those things keep cropping up more and more lately. Rapists, murder of innocents, abusers of women, etc. More and more I think “Man, I should be carrying just in case”.

Perhaps it would shock you to learn that I’d prefer peace over carrying a gun. Hell, I’d prefer legalized sword carrying over a gun but we do not have either and the criminals have guns. Utopia is not possible but a better class of living is in reach if we can come together as a nation and decide to work toward it.

There is a famous and way-overused Ghandi quote; “Be the change you see in the world”. It’s splashed on meme’s, t-shirts, number stickers, tattoos and everywhere in between. It is also true.

For now, I’ll keep looking around, taking in my surroundings, remaining aware and do what I can as one person to make my place in the world a better one. I hope you will do the same and then perhaps, one day, our children, or their children will enjoy a time without war, without hate, without bigotry and with more understanding and respect of each other.

Headaches from Hell

MigraineSince my early 20’s I’ve been plagued with nearly daily headaches in one form or another and occasionally several forms at once. I’ve been diagnosed with ocular migraines (painless but annoying), Migraine with Brainstem Aura (Usually reserved for young people and mostly girls), Chronic Migraine and Tension Headaches. On occasion I also get hit with Cluster Headaches which make the rest look like child’s play. Sinus Headaches are nearly a daily occurrence for me Spring – Summer, which, in Texas, is nearly all year.  Normally only those closest to me hear me bitch and complain about these and because I have lived with them nearly half my life, I’ve just become accustomed to them. As I write this I have a Tension Headache.

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of tricks to combat these annoyances. I don’t like taking medication and especially narcotic painkillers which usually do not do much in the way of relief and tend to make me nauseated.

I decided to write this today after trying yet another approach which I’ll get to later.

Treatments I’ve found to work

Below I’m going to list treatments I’ve personally found to work for various headaches. Unfortunately some of them I’ve never found relief from aside from time in nearly 20 years.

Cluster Headaches – These bastards have no treatment. They come on fast and thankfully last only an hour or less. Less than 1% of the population suffers cluster headaches. They are debilitating to the point of near paralysis due to pain and I often faint when they come on. (Driving is fun!). Also thankfully they are rare and I can usually tell when one is about to hit. Time is the only thing that kills the pain. I’ve tried everything from morphine to NSAIDS in high doses.

Tension Headaches – These are usually at the cerebral cortex (back of the neck high up near your hair-line). These are a squeeze type pain and pulse at times. Tension headaches can last for hours and can be caused by sinuses but also by tension in the shoulders and neck. One of the more recent (today actually) treatment was to use a TENS unit for an hour. This dulled the pain immediately until the NSAID’s kicked in. Ibuprofen also tends to help as do muscle relaxers (The TENS does something similar in the area of muscle relaxation through stimulation).

Migraine with Brainstem Aura – Narcotic painkillers knock these out after while but I hate taking them. Normally a dark room and high humidity (hot shower in the dark) help these. Vision is affected with this type as well and can last after the pain resides (Ocular Migraine).

Chronic Migraine – About the same as above although dark room or a blinding mask of some sort usually help the most in these cases.

Sinus Headaches – I saved the “best” for last. Sinus headaches are something I’ve lived with the longest and most frequently. Daily for months at a time. So much so that at times I’ve been black listed from buying Pseudo-ephedrine based medication (The ones that are OTC but you have to get from behind the pharmacy and give your license for). These can trigger tension headaches as well. The pain is everywhere; back of the head, sinus cavity, under the eyes and the worst, for me, pressure in the ears that causes a similar pain to that of perforating and ear drum. Hydration is probably the number one treatment I’ve found especially when it comes to clearing the pressure in the ears. OD’ing on water during these times cleared the pressure within a couple hours. Pseudo ephedrine based treatments like Advil Cold and Sinus or almost anything with a “D” in it (Claritin D) also relieves the pressure and pain. Wet Heat also works well. I’ll usually soak a hand towel and then microwave it for a minute, let it cool a bit and press it into my sinuses. Sinus washes also help.

Summary

The above is based on my own experience. I’m obviously no doctor. Hopefully something above works for you as well.

40.

dadI didn’t wake up today and feel any different. I don’t look different than yesterday, I don’t feel different. Today however, at around 4am, I turned 40.

For as long as I can remember, people have made jokes about being 40. There are the black balloons, the Hallmark isles full of silly cards. But I don’t feel any different. Perhaps a little reflective, maybe nostalgic. I remember celebrating 30 with my oldest friend and her then-husband and my then-wife at an Olive Garden somewhere in Mesquite, TX. (I think?). She had tiny daughters who are now driving and looking at boys. I had more hair, less grey and less experience. So life has changed quite a bit in ten years but then again, not much has changed at all.

mom_jenI feel grateful to have made it to this age. When my own father was 40, he was fighting a losing battle for his life and would be gone by age 42, something I think about often when I need to be humbled. After he passed, I remember armoring myself with thoughts like “He lived a long time!”  To an 8 year old, 40 is a long time but we know that is just not true. I cannot fathom his battle or my mother’s.

me_handI feel lucky to have so far lived the life I want to live. I have an amazing mother and sister, both who inadvertently taught me to be the man I am simply by being strong women. My career is in demand with both Amazon
and just last week, Facebook, trying to recruit me into their fold. I am surrounded by many wonderful people and I have side-lines that let me do what I love such as DJ’ing and Photography with a career that is flexible enough to allow pursuit of them. I have worked hard to get where I am, nothing was handed to me but I am also lucky to have had support from family and friends. However, when all of these things start inflating my ego, I just remember the fight I watched my father battle when he was my age and I remember it can be taken away without warning.

noraThis post isn’t depressing, it is elating. I am excited about the rest of my life. Scared? Perhaps of the unknown but I come from strong people who always made it work and therefore I believe I will.

Because I like lists, which you know if you follow this blog, I’m inclined to create one (or two?)  here.  These are burned into me, are part of me. I can recall them vividly any time.  Some will be vague, some will be recognized only by a few and perhaps some by no one else but myself. So.. Here are my top 20 (that I can think of at the moment) favorite life memories in no particular order.

20) – A trip to Galveston when I was 20 to meet a girl I met by chance in Dallas who was on a trip from Illinois. We spent the night on the beach just talking and I never saw or heard from her again.

19) – Meeting Ghost for the first time.

22171_1306031206313_8312790_n18) – Bus trip to New Orleans with a bunch of crazy kids and a similar trip to Orlando. (two for one!)

17) – The Belton trip.

16) – Yard work with my dad and learning to cut the lawn.

15) – Geeking out in my room when I was 8 or 9 with my babysitter in front of a Commodore 64 writing “games” from the back of a magazine in BASIC.

jessshawn14) – All the music that my parents played on vinyl in the house. Mostly Motown. Best gift was mom finding her collection and gifting it to me a few weeks ago. I’ve been listening non-stop.

13) – RV trips with my grandparents. Or visiting them during trips, I don’t rightly remember if we actually traveled in the RV.

12) – Sledding a toboggan at Pecan Knoll? Ridge? Park something.. (Mom will know) – In Illinois when I was a kid.

11) – My first day at my first “big boy” career job.

10) – Meeting my niece Nora for the first time.

313404_2464320602824_1096512190_32904960_1913039468_n9) – My first scuba descent into the ocean.

8) – Watching deer eating at dawn just outside a glass door in a cabin with a wide-eyed child sitting next to me before anyone else woke up.

599600_10151132877486454_1445420220_n7) – A concert with a favorite band and friend in Deep Elum during it’s hey-day.

6) – My first Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

cel5) – A certain swinging chair in Scarborough Faire in the middle of the afternoon after a bit of Meade.

4) – My 21st birthday at Detour with my best friend and twisting my ankle jumping off one of the aerial dance floors.

linds3) – The first time I ran a 10k (8 mile) race without walking. Still working on that half!

2) – My mother sitting across a table from me when I was a teen explaining some life lessons that have never left me and are a foundation for who I really am.

1) – The helicopter. I know if you are reading this, you’ll think “WHY THIS?!” but it changed me. I doubt I’ve ever thanked you for it, but it did.

…and at least 10 things I have left to do:

 

10) – Space Tourism.

9) – Taking my mother someplace she needs a passport for.

8) – Running a half marathon (Only 5 miles to go!)

7) – Completing my DM.

6) – A couples trip with my best friend.

5) – Ice scuba diving in Antartica.

4) – Thru-Hiking the entire John Muir trail.

3) – Leaving IT for good and building a wedding venue business.

2) – Teaching Nora to drive stick. (Assuming manual transmissions still exist) :(

1) – Building bottle schools in Nigeria or Ecuador.

5 Mistakes Men make about Strong Women

strongwomanI’ve been known to wax poetic about strong women in my course of blogging over the years. People generally write about things they are familiar with and while I am familiar with strong women, I won’t say I’m an expert.. on women.. at all..  As a male, to have the gall to say “I understand women” is akin to talking in the men’s room or not looking straight ahead while standing at the urinal. Men just don’t do it. Boys do. Which is why they are still boys.

I was lucky to have been brought up in a family of tough women whom I’ve written about. My oldest and closest friend is one of the strongest women I know. I have previously been married to and dated strong women. Along the way I have figured a few things out which you will find below.  I’m sure I have a lot more to learn.

1) She needs you.

No she doesn’t. Confused? She doesn’t need you. Simple as that. As a male, there is a good chance you’ve been brought up by a father who instilled male pride. That is great. If he also taught you about chivalry, courtesy and protecting your people then he is a saint. But. She still doesn’t *need* you. Women are no longer brought up to serve you. They are brought up to be independent, career oriented and self sufficient. The days of the hunter bringing home the game and the woman toiling in the house day in and day out are all but gone. Certainly some households still operate like this but not because they HAVE to, rather because they DECIDE to and believe me, being a housewife while you are out in the world at your “day-job” is a much harder job then whatever you are doing.

So. She doesn’t need you. You are going to have to deal with that. The mistake many men make here is to *treat* her like she needs you and you can never lose her. Taking advantage of a strong woman and acting as if you can get away with anything and she will put up with it is the fastest way to make her claw her way out of your life (and maybe your face along with it).

She does need you, she just doesn’t need you to tell her what to do or act like she can’t go on without you.

2) Treating her like “One of the Guys”.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the strong women I know like to be “one of the guys” but almost all of them will tell you that it should end when you leave the bar, pool hall, bowling alley, etc. When you and your lady are standing at home in the kitchen. In morning comfy clothes. Making eggs and brushing your teeth at the same time (I’ve seen this. In person), you shouldn’t be elbow nudging her in the ribs about that great hockey game you both watched last night. Yes she was screaming at the goalie louder than you, yes her man card might actually have more notches in it than yours but she is still a woman. No matter how strong a woman is or appears to be she is still the fairer sex and should be treated as such. I’m not saying coddle her, I’m definitely not, but putting your arm around her or stroking her hair instead of the elbow to rib nudge is a good start. Even if she is a bigger hockey fan then you.

Many men make the mistake here of thinking that her “one of the guys” personality is her all the time personality. This can especially happen when you’ve met for the first time in a public setting dominated by men such as sporting events, etc. Take time to get to know all sides of her and find things you adore about all of them.

3) Control Issues

Being in a relationship with a strong women is beneficial to the man who knows how to communicate and compromise. If you were brought up in a house where dad told mom what to do all the time, you probably do not appreciate strong women the way someone (like me), who grew up raised by a hard working single mom does. Strong, independent women don’t want to be told what to do. They want a partner, someone who compliments their strength with his own strength. Men who seek out women with weak constitutions usually do this due to insecurity within themselves. You’ll hear many men say “I love a strong independent woman” but then get into a relationship with one and two weeks later tell his buddies “She was too head strong” or “She was stubborn”. No. She was strong and independent and you couldn’t handle it. Simple as that. We all have insecurities but the difference is who controls the insecurities and who is controlled by them. A man whose insecurities control him will enter into a relationship with a strong woman and either be controlled by her or end up resenting her strength. A man in control of his insecurities will enter into a relationship with a strong woman and admire her courage, adore her strength and seek to build her up as she seeks to build him up.

4) The Gold Rush

I often hear “Men don’t want Gold Diggers”. Neither do women. Especially strong women. If she is out there building her career or making ends meet while you stay at home because you “can’t find a job” – eating Doritos and playing Call of Duty all day, she is going to kick you to the curb. Quickly.  A strong woman still wants a strong man who *can* take care of her, but doesn’t *need* to take care of her. Women find men who are “taking care of business” very sexy.

I have a close friend who years ago jokingly said “Nothing turns me on more than a man doing laundry”. That is a strong women who see’s a man taking care of his business. The opposite of lazy. The opposite of Doritos and Call of Duty.

5) Mr. Tough Guy

That crap you pull in the club to attract those little insecure minions? That won’t work with a strong woman. She is attracted to your strength, yes, but also to many other qualities. If you walk around all day like a peacock, it’s going to get old real fast. Strong women are still women and women have this thing called compassion that is built in. Men have it too, of course, but women are natural nurturers. There are going to be days when she comes home and just wants to curl up next to you. If you are too busy strutting around like Johnny Bravo, she’s going to find someone else who gets her softer side. On the contrary, she also wants to nurture. If you refuse to let her, say when you are not feeling well, you are taking away a natural joy that is built into her.

Hard to Handle

I’ve had many strong female friends say things like “So-and-so says I’m too independent”. Ironically one of those friends said this to me only a few minutes ago (which reminded me I hadn’t finished this draft yet!).

So, are strong, independent women “Hard to Handle”? That depends on the perspective. Instead of that phrase I tend toward “intriguing to know” or “always-keep-you-guessing personality” or even “an ever challenging intellect”. For an insecure man who is needy or wants to control the woman he is with, “hard to handle” might be the term that first comes to mind. In his case, he needs to decide if he his just not cut out to date a strong woman or address his personal insecurities and “be good for himself” before he can be good for another person.

Women who Call Men — “Boys”

boysslap punch in the face

Ever since I got punched in the face in 7th grade for calling a classmate “boy”, I’ve cringed every time I’ve heard the term. The “boy” in question was indeed a boy, but the term and the way I said it was derogatory; something I had no idea about at that age. Today, I hear the term used widely by adult women to describe the person they are dating and I have to wonder; “If he is a “boy”, why are you still dating him?”. As a man, I prefer to be known as a man and let my actions show I am a man. If the person I am dating should call me a “boy”, I’d have to ask myself what I’m doing to earn this derogatory name.

Panel of “experts“?

I spent part of the holidays sending out emails to a few people I’ve known a long while in the blogging community asking them about this topic. The guys all came back with the same reasoning I have and will explain. The women were divided, most came back explaining that while they understood the derogatory sense of the word, they thought most women who use the term were probably doing it because it sounded cute. A few even shared my belief that songwriters such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce have ushered this trend by utilizing “boy” in a cute way to refer men in song lyrics.  I understand this, and that is probably correct, but what about the guy? If he doesn’t like it, will he stand up and say something about it? The response I got from these same people was a unanimous “Depends”. Not too helpful until I pressed further at which point most came back with “Well, if it is something that bothers them initially, they probably won’t say anything because they don’t want to start an argument over something they can blow off especially in a budding relationship where he is completely enamored”. Later however, when the relationship settles, they may say something if it bothers them. Makes sense but why do it in the first place?

The women in my little panel came back with the same opinion I have on the matter; “Women who call men “boys” typically have control issues  and believe they “own” the man. Calling them a “boy” is their way of slapping his nose and keeping control”. Now. If you are reading this and saying “I CALL HIM A BOY CUZ IT’S CUTE OMG” don’t fret, you might be doing it because it is cute… Or… You might subconsciously have control issues and feel like you need to control the man you are with. Perfectly fine if he is a good puppy and likes being lead around.

Common Traits

One commonality I’ve found on my own is that the women I know who use “boy” in this regard are often strong women… with huge insecurities in the relationship department. It was an interesting enough trait to warrant more research. I asked two women I know who fancy the term and both, who I’ve known long enough to be direct with and get direct responses from were very candid. Both readily admitted they had thought about it in the past and come to the conclusion that it was probably a control word. Both also replied that they had some very rough past relationships and the outcome was as long as they felt in control, things were fine. “Boy” was their subconscious way of feeling in control.

At the end of the day, to most men, who have proven they are indeed men by taking care of their family and friends, helping without reward, fathering and raising children, being half of a successful relationship, etc the term “boy” is a slap in the face.

It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 60, it doesn’t matter if we laugh about it or act cutesy when a woman calls us “boy”, we do not like it. A boy is not yet a man. When a woman refers to a man as a boy we don’t hear it. What we do hear is “You are not yet a man, you have no experience, you are un-formed, you are without wits, you are useless to me as a woman”. That last one is especially terrifying. Every “man” wants to be a hero to his lady. Boy’s are not heroes. Every “man” wants to be the rock, the protector for his lady. Boys are not rocks and rarely can they protect. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

When a man *is* a boy

There are plenty of completely acceptable situations to refer to a full grown man as a boy. I’ve listed some of these below.

  • A boy donates sperm but refuses to take responsibility of raising his child.
  • A boy treats you like he owns you, trashing you to his friends.
  • A boy shows you no respect.
  • A boy only keeps you around because his insecurity makes him
  • A boy is afraid to say “I love you” when the time is right.
  • A boy thinks of his needs first and you needs last.
  • A boy thinks you are a tool for his satisfaction.
  • A boy takes no interest in your dreams and tries to destroy them.
  • A boy looks forward to his game console after work rather than time with you.
  • A boy physically or verbally attacks you.

Does the man you are dating sound like any of these?

No?

Then perhaps you should stop calling him a “boy”. It isn’t cute. It isn’t sweet. It is unflattering and demeaning.

Communication Dynamics in the Online Community

social.media_If you know me or you have kept up with my old relationship blog,  you know I make mention of communication quite often. I believe it is the heart and soul of any relationship from friendship to marriage.  Today, our need for instant gratification through the Internet, cellular phones and other media outlets has in my opinion both stymied and accelerated our use of communication. As with anything else, advancements come with a price and in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Global news outlets pushing feeds to your phone, that price has often been lack of research in favor of pushing information to the masses quickly.

Communication within relationships has not escaped this trend. You do not have to look hard to find someone on your Facebook news-feed complaining about their boyfriend or girlfriend or asking advice for a situation concerning their marriage. In other cases all out arguments are taking place in cyberspace. In my opinion this is no more acceptable than opening up all the windows and doors in your house and having a knock-down-drag-out fight with your spouse. It is not classy and it is a terrible way to seek attention.

What gives?

So what has caused this uptrend in open air arguments on the world’s public websites? I believe at least part of the responsibility goes to the ease in which we are able to access Social Media. Twenty years ago, we were forced to “think about it “. We did not know our significant other was out at the club with his or her friends until someone called us on the wall phone or we found out through the grapevine. When we found they had been lying to us about their whereabouts, we could not just pick up the iPad and immediately splatter Facebook with anger and hate over the deceit. We had time to think about it, time to prepare our argument and in that time we also naturally cooled down which allowed us to think more rationally. Today we simply pick up our smart phone, iDevice, log onto a computer or text a friend instantly. No time to think about our response, no time to rationalize what we will say. In this, we have become children, un-thinking in our words, lashing out with knee-jerk reactions to situations that might otherwise be handled like adults.

Facebook Official

Another area where communication utterly fails is in courting. If you don’t know what “courting” means, you should look it up. When I was nineteen I had a crush on a girl within my group of friends. I didn’t have her phone number, there were no cell phones, text messages, Facebook or Twitter. Instead, I talked to her friends, found out where she worked and asked her out while she was checking out customers at the grocery store. In person. Face to face. We spent time with each other and we talked on the phone; the kind that screwed into a wall or sat on a table with a cord attached. When we had an argument and one of us hung up as teenagers do, I couldn’t text her to apologize, I couldn’t run to Twitter to spew 160 characters of anger. I had to wait until the next day. When we were “going steady” it was official because we decided it was, not because my relationship status changed on Facebook. Social Media, online dating, etc has become the go-to for beginning and ending romances with the unfortunate consequence of pushing courting to the curb.

Growing up Connected

Our teenagers have grown up with the internet and most do not have any concept of life without instant access. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does change the social dynamic  quite a bit. Our kids no longer have to gather in the library together to study. They do it online. They no longer get together after school to hang out and gossip. All of this happens online and at times with tragic consequences. Bullying has bled out of the hallways and lunchrooms and into the chat room and more importantly, into the private bedrooms and living rooms of the victims. Where once bullying lived in the lunchroom where faculty and friends could witness and thereby stop or offer support, it has now been relegated to the victim’s private computer where parents might go unaware until tragedy strikes. It is absolutely the duty of every parent to understand what their kids are doing online until which time said child is recognized as developed enough to deal with the everyday pressures of the online community. The internet is not a babysitter and should never be used as one.

What can be done?

Our instant everything way of life isn’t going away, so what can we do to adapt? This is where communication must alter. There are extreme measures people have gone to such as swearing off social media. This won’t work for everyone. Open communication is still my favorite reprisal when someone comes to me for relationship advice. I’ve made plenty of mistakes both online and offline and I don’t consider myself an authority on relationships but for whatever reason, my friends are drawn to me with questions of “what to do”. Some of the advice I have given follows.

  • Talk. In person. – Body language and eye contact can never be replaced with text messages and Facebook statuses. The quality of conversation in person is drastically altered when you are making eye contact with someone you have an issue with.
  • Be understanding of a snap reaction. – They called you out online. In front of your friends and theirs. You are mad and your gut reaction is to retaliate. Online. Instead, contact them and ask them to speak to you over the phone or in person. There is absolutely no need to air the dispute in a public forum. Your friends do not need to be put in the awkward position of taking sides. If they refuse requests to talk in private and insist on using social media, perhaps it’s time to consider whether this person is mature enough to be in your life. Delete the status. If it persists, it’s time to block them until they cool down or come to you to discuss.
  • Don’t end relationships online if you can help it. – If it’s time to part ways with a friend or significant other and they are willing to speak with you offline, it is your duty to extend them the respect of communication. No one likes to wonder “why”. There are extenuating circumstances to this of course and you’ll make the judgement on those.
  • Plan “disconnects” – Something that some of my friends do from time to time is get together for dinner and when we sit down we place our phones in a pile in the middle of the table. The first one to pick their phone up gets the check. This can be done in a variety of ways and if you are dealing with social media issues involving your kids it can be something you do at home. You’ll be surprised at the amount of conversation spawned when everyone isn’t nose deep in their phones.
  • Utilize your online time to build offline relationships. – Social media, forums and chat rooms are amazing ways to meet people  and cultivate friendships, dating relationships, etc but they are nothing without face to face interaction. Get your online friends together for a meet and greet and get to know them offline.

There are many ways to positively utilize our online presence. The online community, just like any big city, has it’s beautiful parks and dark alleys. Navigating them in a way that brings the most positive experience to your life is something that only you can do. Trial and error are your friends here and finding your comfort zone between your online life and your offline reality can be tricky but it is achievable.

Playing at Platonic

Platonic love is a type of love that is chaste and non-sexual. The term is named after Plato, who philosophized about the nature of love. Platonic love in this original sense of the term is examined in Plato’s dialogue the Symposium, which has as its topic the subject of love or Eros generally. It explains the possibilities of how the feeling of love began and how it has evolved—both sexually and non-sexually.      -Plato

But does it work?

PlatoIn my experience, yes.. with some dedication and no… when one or the other parties is unwilling to work for it. Platonic relationships between men and women, women and women or men and men (Because this is 2013 folks and I’m not exactly the close minded type!)  are often fraught with hidden feelings, agendas, guilt, jealousy and  other complicated emotions. They can also be huge sources of joy if both parties are of a mind to work for them.

I have more female friends then male friends. I grew up in an all female house and I’m extremely in touch with my feminine side (I can also hunt you down and make you cry if you make fun of me for it!). While I do not relate better to women over men, or understand them any better then anyone else, there are just common female personality traits that I gravitate toward. In the same arena, the males I consider close are usually of like mind in that they are strong but compassionate which incidently are two traits I adore in women.

Below I’ll cite some personal examples from my own  life  that will cover successes, failures and everything in between concerning platonic relationships.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent… or guilty… :)

Ann

Ann deals with a damaged friendship due to a one way (mine) attraction. When I met Ann I was immediately taken with her physical beauty especially her eyes and quaint smile. I knew nothing else of her but as I got to know her, I was attracted to her personality, both the strength she outwardly showed and the confusion, insecurity and delicacy she revealed as we grew close. I was there for Ann during a rough time in her life and my motives were those of someone trying to get a person they loved through a tumultuous patch. Ann and I spoke daily, we hung out sometimes every night. Time moved on and Ann let loose, finally enjoying life. On one of these occasions we ended up in an intimate situation. I could lie and blame it on the alcohol but I knew that I was and had been attracted to her for as long as we had known each other. Ann wasn’t incredible in bed, I wasn’t seduced by her sexuality, I just simply enjoyed her in every way, intellectually, physically, emotionally. Post intimacy, I became attached and she built walls. We went quite some time without talking but eventually broke down some of the walls. We would talk, but not nearly on the level we had. What had been daily talks now were weekly or monthly. Only when Ann had imbibed too much and happened to be in my presence would she say something that lead me to believe that some part of her wanted to be with me but was afraid to act on it. Otherwise, once the haze lifted she would all but run at my mention of giving dating a shot. Later in our friendship, I believe Ann began to resent me or even take me for granted and only called me when she needed something.  More recently Ann and I have only spoken a few times a year. While no rift currently separates us, the damage of my constant attraction and little mentions of “what we could be” simply drove her to the point of lessening communication.  Ann also has an extremely difficult time communicating openly about personal things.  In the time since, I realize that we would be a terrible match for each other and have no interest in dating her, but, the damage has been done and she will always wonder if I’m harboring a desire for her.  Painful as it might be to have lost someone who I care worlds for, I have no one to blame but myself. I leaned an encyclopedia’s amount about platonic relationships from Ann.leo

Danielle

Danielle. What can I say. Danielle is by far the most complicated yet simple story in this post. Anyone who knows me will know exactly who I’m talking about name change or not. Danielle and I have been “something or another” for going on half our lives. We “sort-of-but-not-really-dated” in our teens. Became friends after many years of silence and then support systems while both of us were going through hell in our lives. Danielle is an example of a truly platonic relationship that has been built on a foundation of love, anger, mis-communication, adoration, history, understanding and many things in between. A simpler way to say this would be “we just get it”. Danielle and I don’t always communicate well, we’ve hurt each other, we’ve used each-other,  but we have also unconditionally loved each other; we have been there for the worst and the best. Many platonic relationships burn hot and fade fast but Danielle and I did it differently. We burned hot, doused all flame until the cinders were cold, started another fire, stamped it out and from those old coals a simmering flame rose up to what we are now which is true platonic friends. I don’t usually have trouble finding the words but I do when it comes to explaining the friendship between Danielle and I. As I mentioned earlier, we “just get it”. For all intensive purposes we shouldn’t be friends. Our views on many things are completely misalligned. Danielle is a devout Christian and I side with a nature based religion. On some of the biggest topics, we disagree. We have had endless debates on everything you can think of, been through ten times the attraction confusion mentioned in “Ann” above, fought, argued, nitpicked, snapped and yet she still invited me to her marriage to a man to whom when she began dating, took the time to explain that our friendship was important to her and that it wouldn’t go away. Danielle and I may not always agree, but we do have an enormous amount of mutual respect. We may not always communicate well but when the big things hit, we tackle them. When the big hurts enter our lives, we know we can turn to one another for support or a shoulder or just someone to say “do you believe this @#$#%!?” At the end of the day, Danielle and I fought for this friendship because we both discovered how precious it is. That was all it took.scorp

Michelle

Michelle deals with a long platonic relationship that has been everything from “friends with benefits” to “curl up in a ball and cry your eyes out”.  Michelle and I have known each other for longer than either of us care to admit. One thing we (mostly) do well is open communication. We have fought, yelled, laughed, been through hell in our lives and depended on one another for spiritual support. We have hurt each other and loved each other. What has saved us in each instance, be it the awkwardness of the morning after while in our teens or the fight brought on because of jealous lovers was communication. Maybe it took a day or a week or even months but we always came back to the table to hash it out. For this reason, this open communication, Michelle is still part of my life and I am part of hers.leo

Noelle

Finally there’s Noelle. Noelle and I started off dating and when that ended became close friends. I live by a rule when it comes to dating. “There was attraction to begin with, why ignore that if the dating part doesn’t work out”. In a few less words, I try to stay friends with those I have dated. This is not easy for a lot of people because jealousy can set in. Thankfully, I truly believe that unless something terrible tore you apart, there is no reason not to give friendship a try.  I’ve been mostly successful at it. Noelle and I are “buddies”, we share some of the same group of friends. This group of friends is one I feel most connected to. They are honest and caring folks, smart and hip. Noelle and I went almost directly from dating to friendship. There was no “take-a-break” space. She actually met another guy due to us dating. They’ve been happily married awhile now and I am great friends with both of them. This is the way it should be in my book. After our initial End Of Dating, there was some pain, there were some sad moments but we came through it quickly. We are so comfortable (or well, ok, I am), that we can joke about our past as dating partners which is fun (for me at least) when we get together with people who have known us awhile but didn’t know we dated. We got along well when we dated and we get along well as friends. The only difference between our dating relationship and our friendship is the now non-existent intimacy… Except when she and her husband group attack me on their couch.sag

Parting Thoughts

The few examples above are just a sampling of the amount of platonic friendships I have had. Most started out as friends and continue as friends. I have not posted an example of those above because those are more common and you probably have a few yourself. The hard ones, the ones where you have to fight for it are worth talking about. At the end of the day, I believe both people have to want to remain friends through thick and thin. It’s an investment and sometimes it will only be a one-way investment; Ann is an example of this. She doesn’t invest much in our friendship whereas I invest quite a bit. You have to be ok with that completely. You can’t come back later and say “she uses me” unless you end it with “and I allow it because I want to”. You also cannot hope they will come around and realize how great a friend you are. Some people will and some won’t and that is just how it goes. If you are strong enough and willing enough to continue a platonic friendship through some of the more complicated obstacles, it can be quite a rewarding relationship.

Biting your own neck

LittleLionMancolorI’ve been on a Mumford & Sons kick as of late. I’m a bit of a vinyl geek and have worn out their freshman album, “Sigh No More”. I ordered “Babel” from Amazon and it’s currently sitting in my mailbox to be claimed after work but I’ve been listening to the “AutoRip” since I bought it. (Amazon is great like that if you buy vinyl from them).

One of the most well known songs on “Sign No More” is “Little Lion Man” which (in my opinion) tells the story of a bold man falling and realizes he isn’t all he believes himself to be.

I’ve listened to this song countless times and one line has always stood out:

“Now learn from your mother or else spend your days biting your own neck.”

As a man raised almost exclusively by a woman, this has always hit home with me. To me this statement has always meant that one should learn from their elders while they can or spend the rest of their lives running in circles lost for knowledge. The guys over at rock genius.com tend to agree:

“As we know, a mother lion will carry her cub by the neck when he is young. If you don’t learn from your mother, you will be forever doomed to think of yourself as a child and even act like one.” – rockgenius.com

I learned a lot from my mother growing up but I didn’t actually know I had learned anything until I was much older. This is a common cycle I’m certain and one repeated through the ages. I had dinner with my mother last night which is always a good time. I really do not see her often enough and as I mentioned in a previous post I’ve come to terms with the fact that she is not going to outlive me. For a couple months now I’ve been coming up with a bucket list of items I’d like to ask her, do with her, etc. Some of them include:

  • Sit down with her and let her tell her story from childhood, to teens, to meeting my dad and after he passed, etc. I was there for some of it but I know there are stories I haven’t heard.
  • Travel to Chicago with her to visit her friends from youth and listen to their stories.
  • Travel out of this country with her. She’s left the US once that I know of, on her honeymoon.
  • Do several photo shoots of her in studio, out of studio, I don’t care.
  • Watch her adore my soon to be niece and her soon to be grand-daughter.
  • Have her watch me get the tattoo I have planned in her honor.
  • Take her for a night on the town to a jazz or blues club.
  • Have her cheer for me at my first half and full marathon.

There are more and some of these are extremely possible. Others are whimsical desires that her health may make impossible at some point. My mother is still strong and I get much of both my physical and mental strength from her but she isn’t the thirty-something I vividly remember twisting her ankle while jumping to spike a volleyball at a block party.

There is another song that sometimes comes to mind when I have to tell her “I’m too busy”; “Cats in the Cradle”. The difference is, my mother always DID have time for my sister and I. Even after my father passed and she had to work full time, she always made time. I have let my career and other selfish desires get in the way of spending time with the woman who gave me life. Part of this was my refusal to believe she wasn’t immortal. This must change.

Breaking up… With my employer

keep-calm-and-leave-your-jobLeaving a job you are comfortable with can be one of the most gut wrenching decisions of your life.

Currently I am a week into my two weeks notice for a company I’ve worked for the last (nearly) five years. The decision to leave did not come as easily as it has in the past. I’m older than I was, I’m more comfortable with being comfortable. My career, like many these days is in the technology field. People like myself are known for “job jumping” and when I was younger, staying at a company a few months or a year was fine but as I hit my late twenties, the desire for stability outweighed the desire to make a few more bucks.

I’m a different study when it comes to careers. There are many others like me but we aren’t *extremely* common. I did not go to college and I rely on my considerable experience, references and resume. The fact that my forte is in a niche area of IT and in fairly high demand helps as well. In a few less words, I am extremely lucky to have had the turn of events happen in my life that propelled me into what I do now.  While at one time in my life this might have made my head grow, these days I’m simply thankful for the abilities I have. For these reasons and others not mentioned here, the decision to leave my latest employer was one fraught with indecision, weighing of possible outcomes and straight up fear. On the other hand, it has also instilled a renewed sense of purpose, the attraction of new challenges and a sense of child-like exploration.

The company I am leaving is one I love dearly. Long after I’m gone, many things I created, designed or built will live on. The history I have here is one filled with memories of a smaller company growing quickly into a larger one. The challenges and the fun that go along with this will be something I take with me when I walk out the door for the last time. Would I come back? Absolutely. I’ve never said that about a company but the people and the environment here changed my perception of “no second chances”. Perhaps age and wisdom have something to do with it as well.

So how did I know it was time to go? This question is different for everyone no matter the career they call home. For some it’s a gradual procession of decision making, for others it’s a culmination of small events and one in particular “breaks the camels back”. I find myself to be a little of both. I’ve been asked my reasons for leaving by my peers and I’ve answered in a way that gives them enough information but not all sides. This isn’t out of mis-trust or anything of the sort but rather because there was no “last straw”. Instead, a turn of events beginning just over a year ago sub-consiciouly began pushing my path toward a final exit.

Some of my peers expressed shock that I was leaving. Some were not surprised at all. Some acted shocked while privately not being shocked. Some asked why, some asked where but most just said good luck when my notice was made public. The “why” was the most common and I’ll try to explain without too much delving into what my career consists of.

Until about a year ago I was a happy Engineer in a happy team. A team with the exception of myself, that has had no turn-over for six years. I worked with (and continue to work with for another week) some of the best minds I have met in my field. At times our personalities have clashed as happens with people trying to achieve the same thing in different ways. All in all things ran smoothly within the team. A new director was hired, we will call him Stan, away from another company and I took to him immediately, even traveled with him. He hired others from his embattled previous employer including the director who I began reporting to.  This particular person, we will call him Clint, was in many ways the polar opposite of his good friend Stan whom he reported to. Immediately our entire team began complaining to each-other about Clint but had no one to turn to because of the friendship and history between Stan and Clint. So we endured. Not long after I began reporting to Clint, there was an episode in his office. Myself and another engineer were talking about some issue. It was obvious that Clint was extremely frustrated. Clint’s frustration was in my opinion born of the fact that he was not at all technical and that he was getting pressure from above to resolve this issue. Clint is a big man, tall, broad and with a deep and rumbling voice which he uses to “command” his team. Clint is also quite a chameleon in that he can act like he understands something when he has absolutely no idea what is being talked about. This personality trait did not fool our team but I’m sure he has used it to rise among the ranks to where he is today. So Clint stood up and loomed over his desk at me. Clint raised his voice and began yelling in my face. I’m an A Type personality to the core, the other engineer is more B Type. The only person I’ll allow to scream in my face in such a fashion is my mother who bore me and deserves to vent on me when needed.

I do something strange in situations like this. I become very calm. I annotate my words precisely. When I was younger, other kids called it “scary quiet”. I quietly explained the Clint had two choices. One was to sit down, lower his tone and resume the conversation calmly. The other was to have me go around the corner to HR and have them mediate. He chose to calm down. You might be cheering me, you might think I won but that is not the case. From that moment on, Clint did not like me much. He was level to me, he was professional but I suspect behind the scenes was a different story. Actually I know it was. Since I gave my notice I’ve found out some interesting things about what Clint thought of me and how open he was about it to other directors and VP’s including Stan. I had been there years before Clint and I still had my network of people in all ranks.

Shortly after the argument, Stan pulled me in his office to offer me a promotion. Stan had always been good to me at least in person. He “took care” of our team when he first got there. As he moved quickly up the ranks, he had less time for us specifically but that is to be expected. I was offered a “promotion” to another team. This was a year ago and somehow I knew this promotion would be then end of my time at the company. Stan congratulated me and said he understood the transition would take some time. At first there was no change except the pay raise but change was coming.

Just after the promotion a catastrophe hit one of our databases. One I knew the most about. I took charge, directing those on my team to do this or that. I felt like I was contributing and I felt like my team was stepping up to a huge challenge with grace. Senior people in the company including the owner were on the conference calls. We came through it with no data loss. I got calls from people I didn’t even know knew who I was thanking me. One man in particular who had a ton of sway in the company shook my hand in person and thanked me. I felt like I had shined. I felt like my team had shined.

Regular work resumed, most of it dealing with the failure and how to be better prepared for it. This took most of the rest of the year until this past summer.

I regale all of this so you might understand events leading to my departure. Late in the summer I was finally moved from reporting to Clint and put under another director. He was extremely hands off. I was on his team for months before he even acknowledged me much less met with me to discuss strategy. Meanwhile I kept helping out with what I had always done. No one complained but Clint started directing his team, my old team, to keep me away from as much as possible in order to continue the transition track. This was expected. What was not expected was an argument that would be the final nail in my coffin.

Shawn and I had worked together since the beginning. He and I had not only dug trenches but worked in them. As the only two people specializing in what we did within the company, we worked non-stop. Shawn was and is the best engineer I have ever worked with. As part of my transition to my new role I was tasked with writing documentation about all the things I’d worked on, developed, scripted, built and completed over the years. Due to how thin our team was stretched there wasn’t always time for docs. Things had calmed down and it was time. I began writing docs in a Wiki application. One day I got in early after a tough morning at the vet with one of my dogs who had eaten a bottle of Tylenol. I had also been dealing with some health issues, had surgery and was just having a generally bad time of things at that moment. I wrote for a couple hours, not saving my work in the Wiki too often. Shawn jumped into a doc I was writing and added some comments of things that needed to be added. Somewhere along the line the doc got destroyed and the last save had been hours before. I was upset. There was too much going on in my head that had nothing to do with work. I ran over to find Shawn and found him in Clint’s office. I asked him to come to my desk as soon as possible. He came over and I was upset. To make a long story short it escalated in front of his team as Shawn had recently been made a manager over the team I had left.He refused to discuss it and an hour later I was called into my director’s office. I was about to have the most in depth talk with my new director then I had ever had in the time I’d worked for him. To put it lightly he was extremely hands off. He told me that Shawn and his entire team were upset with me, that they had told Clint I was impossible to work with. They even dredged up a misunderstanding I had with another team member months before to which the other team member, realizing his mistake, apologized to me. All of this was coming from Clint as Shawn reported to Clint. I felt betrayed by the team I had helped build, had mentored and for the first time, a team in my career I cared about. My director told me this could go to HR. All I could think about was that over the years, Shawn and my ideologies had clashed over things but we were always able to settle it and move on. This time I thought, he went directly to Clint. This argument happened on a Friday and I was so full of anxiety that I drove to the office on Sunday to make sure my badge still worked. I threw up several times that weekend. Monday came and went and no one came to walk me out. Shawn was still not talking to me and wouldn’t until a week after I gave my notice.

I started looking for a new position out of the fear of repercussions from what I thought was a mild argument. Apparently I was the only one who thought it was mild but no one would come talk to me about it. I was an island. As the week came and went I heard things from people including my director that had nothing to do with the argument but added to my anxiety and cemented my decision to leave. This was a terribly difficult decision but I felt like my back was against a wall. I loved this company but I couldn’t talk to anyone about the issues. My director didn’t want to talk about it. I couldn’t talk to Clint and Shawn wasn’t speaking to me. On top of this, the role I was promoted to turned out to not be the role I was sold the year before. According to my director the path for this team had “changed overnight without and forewarning from the powers that be”. I found out some other interesting things about my new team that in addition to the argument pushed me over the edge and into LinkedIn to start the job hunting process.

I found several opportunities  pretty quickly. Interviewed and on Halloween day gave my two weeks notice. My director wasn’t surprised, after all he had said that if I thought I wouldn’t like what the team was now to become, he would understand if I started looking. As I mentioned earlier, some expressed shock some didn’t but the ones who acted shocked but were not, like Clint, were the most interesting. He emailed me to “ask if it was true” a couple days later but I knew he had found out moments after I gave notice. Shawn sent me a text message asking as well but I ignored it. He IM’d me a week later and asked again and I simply said yes. Then he said he wanted to clear the air. I had expected this, Shawn wasn’t one who liked rifts with people he knew. I replied with “There is nothing to clear” but he persisted. We spoke on many things that hour. He genuinely seemed shocked that I was leaving but I don’t understand how he could be. I spoke level, not bringing up the fact that our argument and the ensuing anxiety was the straw that broke the camels back. We ended the conversation in good spirits.

I’ve probably given more detail then needed and if you’ve made it this far I congratulate you. With a week left before I begin my new assignment, the anxiety that always rears it’s head in situations like this has cropped up. “Will this be a good fit”, “Will I make a good impression”, etc. These are things only time will answer. I leave the company I’ve worked for the past five years with mixed feelings. Certainly there are a ton of great memories. There is also the undeniable mark I myself and the team I loved made on the company. There were triumphs to celebrate and failures to learn from. I take away a berth of knowledge that I didn’t have when I came on board. For this and the friendships I made, I am grateful.

 

Approaching 40

funny_40th_birthday_speed_limit_card-rc69ea849201d4e9180f6b16a30557f7d_xvuat_8byvr_512While I only recently celebrated my 39th birthday, I seem to be rounding up lately. Forty years. Roughly half a lifetime. Like the rest of you around this age, I’m sure you thought as I did twenty years ago that forty seemed so far away. My dad passed away when he was 42 and I was 8. I remember thinking he had lived so long. He had not. I look back on my twenties and I feel like it was days ago. I hang out with a few friends from my teenage years and we can easily and vividly recall adventures we had. None of us “feel” our age and I’m sure that is a common phenomenon.

Personally I have more energy than I remember having in my twenties. Perhaps this is just perception and perhaps not. I do find myself more concerned with things I didn’t care about even ten years ago. Things like 401k, savings, health, etc. In my 30’s it was all about finding myself which I still don’t feel I have done. In my 20’s it was all about finding my thirties.

Things that bothered me a lot ten years ago don’t phase me now. I’ve matured and yet I feel behind, a “late bloomer”. I got married in my twenties and it ended in my 30’s (we are still friends however) and while I have had my “career” since my twenties I’ve only in the past few years actually figured out where I want to go with it. instead or marauding around in an open field, I’m finally following a self prescribed path.

Stress is different now too. Things that used to stress me out now just amuse me and things I never thought would stress me out now creep up in the back of my mind. My mother’s age and health is at the top of the list. For the longest time, I was convinced she would live forever. Even after heart surgery I thought she was untouchable. I’m slowly coming out of this denial to realize she won’t outlive me.

Many things have changed in my life and I chronicle them often in my mind as  “the teens,” “the twenties”, the “thirties”. I’m sure most of you do as well. I both look forward to and accept as a challenge that which will come with “the forties”.