Writing

Through The Looking Glass

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The reflection in the store window followed my every movement. The Edges blurred, the detail faint yet, familiar. I paused and peered deeply into the glass; It was my Father, it was my Sons.

Writing

Karma; I’m Now a Believer

The World: Hey Michael, Karma called looking for you.

Me: Crap! What did she want?

The World: I don’t know, but she was really pissed!

Me: What did you tell her?

The World: I told her right where to find you.

Me: Why would you do that? You’re not still mad about the…

The World: Uh huh, I told you I would get…

Me: Seriously?, Gawd…

Writing

What I learned From the Playground Bully

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During my childhood, the playground bully was a staple; usually ruling recess with an iron fist.  While I went to great lengths to avoid his and at times her attention, some days it was my turn in the barrel and that was the accepted reality of the times.

The bully’s of my youth were usually larger, meaner and more comfortable with confrontation than I was at the time. Their reputation usually preceded them with anecdotal stories which were relayed from student to student and thus the bully became larger than life. That was the playground. That was life. We survived and moved on.

As I look back, I realized that the bully’s of my childhood and the people who confronted those bully’s, taught me volumes about existing in the real world beyond the playground.

1. Size Matters: You don’t run your mouth to someone twice your size and expect to walk away unscathed.

2. I learned very early to think strategically: To get from A to B required a plan of action in order to avoid a confrontation, especially when I knew they were looking for me.

3. You learn to think quickly and measure your words: Every utterance had the potential to either provoke or calm the situation.

4. You learned diplomacy and the ability to reason your way out of trouble: I learned the importance of “engage brain before mouth”. I also learned how to reason with the bully, which rarely worked but was worth trying.

5. I learned team work: When the bully would go too far and it became time to end his reign, I learned early that by joining with others and confronting the bully, he would ultimately cave and run.

6. I learned to respect bravery: Every once in a while, someone would say “no” and square off with the bully. Win or lose, I admired the one who was brave enough to say “no more”. Their singular action usually started a chain reaction, in which a group formed and drove the bully away.

7. I learned compassion: I also learned why they were a bully. Their home life was a struggle and they were generally unhappy and acting out. I also learned that most bully’s would rather have friends than enemies.

8. I learned to choose a side: Either you were part of the bully’s circle or you weren’t. I learned the value of compromising with those who disagree. Everyone has their own problems, wants and desires and you learned, to whatever degree, how far you were willing to tolerate their position . The bully affected us all: either you were with him, which made life easier, or you were against him. Either way, you chose.

9 I learned to adapt and to cope: The playground  was your world now.  It’s not like you can just leave, so you learned to make it work.

10. You learned who you DIDN’T want to be like in life: In the presence of a bully, who you are, is defined relatively quickly. I wanted to be the one who “stood up”.

I remember two pivotal events in my life that formed a core belief that I still live by to this day.

The first occurred when I was about 10 years old during a Boy Scout meeting at a park. We were surrounded by eucalyptus trees when we heard the sound of a boy screaming for help. We spotted a large tree house and saw older boys hitting him with belts. I was stunned at the cruelty. My next door neighbor, Renée, immediately went to the tree, climbed it and the older boys began suffering her wrath and were jumping out of the tree in all directions, running for their lives. She then returned with the greatful boy who was without a shirt and covered with welts. She was my hero. We all just stood there with our mouths open, including the other adults; she didn’t fail to act, she took charge.

The next event occurred two years later in junior high school. I was wearing a religious shirt that said “Only He can prevent eternal fire” with a picture of Smoky the Bear on the front. I really liked that shirt but an older kid, who enjoyed picking on 7th graders, didn’t. He grabbed my collar and stretched it almost to the point of tearing the shirt. I was furious and attacked him. At 5’ 6” and maybe 120 lbs, I was no real threat but I did everything but chew his ear off and he actually fled never to bother me again.

Those two events changed me forever; I learned to never underestimate the sheer awesome will and power of a Parent in defense of a child, whether it’s her’s or not. I also learned to never, ever tolerate a bully. You either step-up or you sit down and shut up. Dante reserved the anteroom of hell for those who can’t decide which.

The Playgrounds of my youth were a microcosm of the outside world. After high school, I felt generally ready and prepared for the harsh realities of adult life.

In an bizarre way, we owe a twisted debt of gratitude to the school bully. Unintentionally, they contributed to the overall social development of the students they encountered. Sadly, I do recognize, however, that while some were able to overcome the bully’s existence, others, tragically were not and took their own lives.

Bully’s are a reality of life. They cannot be legislated away nor can they be ignored. I feel our best course is to explore the reason why children become bully’s and try and effect a change on that level.

 

 

Writing

The Modern Prometheus; Trump, Bolton and The Political Experiment That Haunts Me

About 5 years ago, I was watching one of the TV news channels, when this bitter sounding man began speaking about world conflict. He was providing critical analysis about the way in which America was influencing the world politically, and he didn’t seem very happy about the way it was currently being conducted. I remember being surprised at how quickly I developed a dislike for him. He was antagonistic, argumentative and seemed itching for a fight with whomever would give him the opportunity. I also remember that I didn’t like his mustache, it made him look “dated” and old, but it did seem to complete his overall persona as a grouchy old curmudgeon.

Over the following years, I would see him return to the news channels, usually as a guest commentator giving his personal views on the world situation, and without exception, he would scare the hell out of me each time. Ultimately, I concluded that he was the harbinger of World War III and that I was very thankful he was only a commentator and had no “real” power or authority. I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God this guy is not in charge of anything, he’d land us in the middle of a war”. “This guy’s” name is John Robert Bolton and he was America’s ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush.

And so it went until last week when President Trump made the same John R. Bolton the National Security Advisor-designate, effective April 9th, 2018. This is about as real as it gets and to me, this is a problem. Barring a brief moment of sanity by President Trump, John Bolton will begin scaring me to death on a daily basis on April 9th.

It’s a fine thing to be bold and resolute in your convictions, provided you temper that passion with patience and a desire for peace. I have observed neither quality in Mr. Bolton. For that matter, I don’t see those qualities in President Trump either.

President Trump (who I voted for) is acting like a petulant child as he conducts America’s business; hiring and firing as if our government was his personal TV game show. His behavior, while initially tolerable, has become grotesque. This unorthodox political experiment has created a monster of sorts.

Electing Donald Trump and taking a break from the “usual politics” initially sounded like a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunately, it has been disappointing and is quickly becoming intolerable. I’m afraid that our attempt to breathe “new life” into an antiquated and dying political system has resulted in a Frankensteinian outcome that we neither expected nor desired. I, for one, will not make the same mistake twice.

 

 

Writing

The Secret of my Success; One Scoop at a Time…

I’m working in the yard doing the most unpleasant of jobs; filling a large orange bucket with crap from our dogs. When the kids were young, we called it potty patrol. Now that they’ve grown up and gone, the task falls to me and apparently, I’ve been derelict.

It seems that our two black labs, Archie and Abby along with our Granddog Nala, and Sweet Pea, a chihuahua, have all decided to go into the fertilizer business.

With shovel in hand, I began and am quickly lost to the land of daydreams. I thought of my past jobs, as I’m currently staring down the barrel of retirement and am amazed at the success that I’ve enjoyed. I found myself back in a Police Cruiser, then I think of my career in the financial services industry. I remember the businesses that I was a part of building and their successful growth which ultimately culminated in a profitable sale, creating the early opportunity to retire. I’ve always had goals and with complete tunnel vision, I did my part to make them happen.

My mind then returned to the present and I see my half-filled bucket of crap. Oddly, I’m annoyed that it’s only half full and immediately set out to fill it to the top line, about an inch below the rim. I’m now laughingly focused on this goal and set about finding as much crap as possible. I’m wishing that we had a Great Dane which would increase the volume while cutting the fill time in half. I mean, it’s all about efficiency. I then realized what I was doing and the silliness of my endeavor…and then I filled the bucket to the line..

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It occurs to me though, that the reason for my past success is that I make goals, then “doggedly” pursue the meeting of them and that apparently no goal is too silly to pursue. It also seems that I’m quite “anal” and that I like to win and I win by crushing the goals that I set.

I filled that bucket; one scoop at a time and relished in my success. Then I took pictures…

Nala appears to questioning my sanity but does seems appreciative of my efforts.

 

 

Writing

Words to live by

The next time you’re facing a question of value; should I buy the quality shoes or spend the extra money for the better “this or that?” Remember this: If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet. Translation; You’re worth it!

Writing

I Used To Be A Parent…

To be a parent to a child, I had no idea what to do. No handbook to guide me, so of course, one became two. Then two became three as my sanity waned. When three became five, sanity then ran away; it’s face now on a poster, wanted for escape.

All grown up, they’ve since moved away. They’re chasing their dreams in the most excellent of ways. We cherish the moments when they call or come stay, but we seem more like friends, than parents these days.

Oh, and sanity called me just the other day, to say hello and see if I’m ok. But at the mention of grandchildren, sanity groaned in pain, then just like old times, hung up and fled; as some things don’t  change.

To be a friend to my children, I have no idea what to do. No handbook to guide me…

 

Writing

The Olympics, Curling and Doping. Really!?

Clearly, I’m missing something here. An Olympic curler has been accused of doping. Is there a rigorous activity I’ve overlooked? Some nuance that has escaped my eagle-like eyes? Let’s see,

Curling: One person shoves a flat rock-thing across an icy surface, then stares at it intensely. Then, two other people try and stay ahead of it as it moves slowly across the ice, sweeping the rock-thing’s desired path with brooms, hoping it will stop where they want it to. Oddly, it reminds me of shuffleboard; without the senior citizens.

Did I miss anything? It seems that at worst, you might fall on your ass or get a splinter from the broom.

Doping? I hope not.

Writing

Today, I’m Nero; Let it Burn.

It’s early in the morning and I’d like to turn on the TV. Ultimately though, that would lead to the national news and their dreaded panels or the local news where I would learn whose tractor flipped over or how the local chess team did. Other than that, it’s commercials about erectile dysfunction, Flo selling insurance or someone reminding me of how I should be feeling about an issue, which is frustrating and annoying. Keeping an opinion to yourself, is apparently a “cop out” in today’s world.

I get it though, we are in trouble. As a society, we’ve actually ground to a halt; paralyzed. The media, the people, the politicians; it’s either “this way or that”. Compromising, which used to be an act of meeting in the middle, is now seen as “giving in”; failing to get your way or “selling out” your cause. We are inundated daily with opinions and being forced to choose a side; and that side had better agree with the “popular” position or you will suffer certain backlash from their group. Well today, I’ll be Nero while Rome burns. If me not engaging in this mess matters that much, then burn baby,  burn, we’ll rebuild again tomorrow.

I don’t feel like turning on the TV or fighting with those who disagree with whatever position I have or don’t have and I definitely don’t care whether the chess team won or lost. Today, I don’t want to hear your opinion and tomorrow’s not looking too good either. However, erectile dysfunction is something to ponder, as I am getting older, so I might need to watch that commercial again.

No, I think I’ll just read a good book this morning and watch the sunrise. We’re still allowed to do that, right?