Posts Tagged ‘chad calease’
Okay, so it may be cheesy to write like this, to point out my own gratitude for access to the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, all of it, and all of the things, minutiae, we seem so gifted at overlooking. Days like today, however, find me beside myself having met someone who is without one of these and who is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, gifted with other ways to experience the world, and who reminded me that, of all the senses, there really is only one – touch.
Dash and I were at a framing shop getting a gift made, looking, touching, and talking about all the woods, canvases, and colors within, when a woman’s voice said, “Your son has a beautiful voice – you two have a most delightful bond.” Complimenting a Poppa’s little boy is certainly the way into his heart! We had the most amazing conversation. She was an artist who, after experiencing and living through a horrible car accident, had suffered brain trauma that left her without a sense of touch. Our conversation meandered in and around the senses, their value, and what comes of the absence of them. Especially touch. It is the only sense, really.
Touch is the light that graces the back of an eye, illuminates the retina, blankets cones, sends messages along the retinal nerves to the brain, all neurons firing across networks of touch, which become our perceptions. Likewise, vibrations wiggle inside ears against drums to give us our perception of life through sound. Taste is touch, too. Everything, in the end, is.
I have learned most everything from my pals (or from the Internet). Every triumph and tragedy in my life I have shared with pals. I have had a grand tour of this place so far sharing it with pals. Pals have inspired me to do all kinds of things, from the ordinary, expected things, to the occasional, unexpected, extraordinary thing. I herein thank you, pals, for being there as I have been all over the place, lived and worked in the US, Alaska (it’s not really the US) and overseas, written you letters, emails, played pranks, sent gifts of time, sound, and motion picture, spent time and resources making sure you were a part of my favorite moments, lived an interesting life, owned stuff (as if it really matters): a house, condo, cars, had interesting jobs, worked for others, worked for myself, mostly to be able to share more time with pals, taken most challenges with a smile, known things that others did not and still let them discover on their own terms, raised pups into great companions, made mistakes in the raising, found lessons in the mistakes, been gifted with the powers of observation, sat on floors with children and dogs, committed time to community, played with the cats even though extremely allergic, listened to the music and conversation at the same time, believed when everyone doubted, have found comfort in present company even while stupid and wet (usually due to poor planning or capsized boats – or both), traveled extensively to the point of wanting to be planted somewhere, rocked back and forth to a mysterious rhythm only I can hear, eaten muktuk in the company of Native Elders, loved and lost, known the agony of defeat and the sweet sweet taste of victory, seen and listened to most every band play live I have ever wanted to see/hear, hiked, biked, trekked, sailed, sported, risked, sampled most everything offered graciously to me, gotten away with exquisite mischief, gifted absurd amounts of money to the less fortunate, given when I had little, accepted the grace of others, passed uplifting words to complete strangers, suffered every fool with a smile, argued with the best of them, feared the worst of them, harkened to the brightest of them, been taken in by the most well-meaning of them, spoken my feelings, hardened my heart against the most untrustworthy of them, gone against my instincts even when I knew better, tasted the fear of mobs, drawn self-portraits during times of duress, drawn self-portraits during times of prosperity, admitted I was wrong, didn’t gloat when I was right, was with Mom when she passed through this world, watched in awe as Dad survived cancer not once but twice, written secret letters to myself (some got mailed but most did not), kept a sleep journal for seven years, kept a food journal for 10 months, gained and lost mass amounts of weight, won awards of various kinds, some I cared about and some not, been respected, disrespected, shown dedication, made most decisions quickly, made a few decisions after much deliberation and negotiation, made the most of situations that did not suit me well, talked when I should have been listening, listened when I should have spoken up, added value where I saw a need, advocated for change where it added value to the collective, been listened to, ignored, loved, nurtured, misunderstood, found hope in the face of adversity, been abandoned and left for dead, redeemed, made things harder for myself, doubted my own mettle, rediscovered myself, been a friend to those who deserved it and those who did not, given second chances to those who deserved it and some who did not, said goodbye to those who only knew how to take, had empathy in the face of anger, gotten sick and fed up and said so, let go of those who cannot forgive, forgiven even when no one else understood, held onto those who would one day slip away, tried to lead when should have followed, followed when should have led, followed and led at just the right time, have escaped narrowly, cried quietly in the rain, sung loudly in the snow, slept heavily under the Moon and lightly under the Sun, have stayed awake longer than humanly possible, swam longer and farther out than most, have overcome and given in to self-doubt, have never lied just to be right, have always admitted it when I was wrong, begged to be understood, said goodbye to too many too soon, watched some falter even as I tried, screamed to try and be heard, whispered to break through, waited to make peace, hurried to try and slow down, asked for forgiveness and been both granted and denied, learned from my mistakes and even still sometimes made them again, have thrived in times of scarcity, suffered in times of abundance, been betrayed, been honest in spite of it, been courageous and calm while others panicked in fear, doubted myself when I could have been sure, been sure when it was anybody’s call, risked affection, believed enough to be vulnerable again and again, discovered kindness in the most unlikely places, felt despair beyond what is bearable, challenged out of respect and care, pushed myself while having love and wind at my back, been too firm and also wishy washy, been a hammer, been a nail, been taken for granted, taken others for granted, too, seen pals accomplish their dreams with my own two eyes, fell willingly into love, heard heavy truths without being prepared, heard untruths right from the source, kept secrets lest they dissipate in conversation, resisted with all my heart, loved with all my might, believe the unseen has properties, seen hidden messages received and missed, anticipated success, built, rebuilt, and salvaged my spirit after it was crushed again, been confused about where to go, when to hide, who to dog, and who to hold forever by my side. In truth, there would be so much less of a story without you, my pals. Thank you for being my pal. Every single one of you. I love you.
Viruses have evolved. Big time. We have many words for viruses, depending on the type. Malware refers to specific types of them. Ransomware, for example, is a type that holds a computer hostage until a fee is paid. Some ransomware just freezes our PCs and asks us to pay. These threats, typically can be unlocked without paying up using a decent anti-virus program.
However, we can avoid them altogether using some common sense. These threats all require us to click on something or do something , regardless of the type it is. To be clear, viruses do not simply “appear” on our computers without us having done something to enable them to be there.
The main thing to remember while using any device is this:
If we did not seek to do something, we should not do it.
CryptoLocker is no different, however, once activated, our PCs and software keep on working, but personal files, such as documents, spreadsheets and images, are encrypted, making them inaccessible even using Government grade tools to decrypt them. This stuff is nasty. This video explains it best:
The President, during a State of the Union, does rally the troops to begin the next industrial revolution. The launch of MakerBot Academy may indeed be an attempt to realize President Obama’s urge to: “ensure that the Next Industrial Revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.” The plan is pretty simple, and already underway, from where 3D printer maker stands. The company is launching classroom curriculum and a partnership with DonorsChoose.org and Autodesk that will bring 3D printing to the mainstream classroom. In my own learning about the available hardware, including visiting 3D Printing labs all over the city, the Rep2X is by far the most well-supported, both in terms of product and community. If I were spending my own, hard-earned money, I would spring for their stuff. An exciting initiative led by an exciting company.
Wikipedia hosts a great definition of Net Neutrality. In a nutshell, it means:
Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.
There has been extensive debate about whether net neutrality should be required by law. Since the early 2000s, advocates of net neutrality and associated rules have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, and protocols), and even block out competitors. (The term “net neutrality” didn’t come into popular use until several years later, however.) The possibility of regulations designed to mandate the neutrality of the Internet has been subject to fierce debate, especially in the United States.
The following is what happened, exactly, last week:
The Senate panel narrowly rejected strict Net neutrality rules today, dealing a grave setback to companies like eBay, Google and Amazon.com that had made enacting them a top political priority this year. By an 11-11 tie, the Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve a Democrat-backed amendment that would have ensured all Internet traffic is treated the same no matter what its “source” or “destination” might be. A majority was needed for the amendment to succeed.
Access to websites used to be neutral. Google had as much priority to load quickly as your personal blog. Under the new rules, if you don’t pay as much as a competitor, for example, for priority connectivity to consumers’ browsers, your site will load way more slowly than the other guy’s. This is great news for some companies who support it, like Verizon and AT&T. What about others? How much would you be willing to pay to ensure your site is responsive and provides users a great experience? How many ways can this work against small and medium-sized businesses? What are the advantages of eliminating Net Neutrality? What are the disadvantages and how will they balance against the revenue it generates for big business? How will this affect a global culture over the long term?
I recently moved again. It was actually fun this time. Everything about it was invigorating and welcome. I moved from one urban neighborhood in Chicago to another: from the shopping-oriented Andersonville neighborhood, to Bucktown, primarily residential, with a mix of older single family homes, new builds with edgy architecture, and converted industrial loft spaces.
Andersonville, although only 10 miles or so from the Loop, is a whopping 40-60 minute daily commute. Sometimes more. The highway is at least 20-25 minutes away. It is a cool neighborhood but a hassle to get in and out of. Bucktown, on the other hand, is highly accessible being more central to everything. Not so far north. It also feels more urban. Closer to the Lincoln Park Zoo, expressways, and all points downtown. In fifteen minutes I can be almost anywhere on a bicycle or the Blue Line. The change has been a great one in addition to being by far the easiest and most fun move of my moving career. How’s that for a change? Helps when good pals offer their resources, too. Many hands make for very easy work : )
Growing up, my family and I moved all over the map. By the time I graduated from high school, I remembered seven distinctive states. There were more than that, though. Sometimes, too, we lived in multiple cities within the same state. Dad was an operations executive for large women’s retail companies so his work required long hours, lots of travel, and – yes, relocating every two years or so. We knew nothing else. I, for one, knew that if I saw his car in the driveway in the afternoon, chances were good changes were coming. I learned to get packed quickly, efficiently, and without much fuss. We all did.
Since then, I have lived in many more cities, states, countries, apartments, houses, condos, lofts, and flats. It has always been a challenge but each next place was always my favorite. Each culture an addition to my overall world view of this amazing planet we live on that I am only temporarily a part of. I collect cultural experiences and perspectives the way someone may collect baseball cards. To each their own.
Still, moving, no matter how many times we did it, never got any easier with practice. It is hard like the first time every time. Going earnestly into the void of the unknown, such as new school, new friends, new posture, new lingo, all of it, was always unsettling for a little while. My parents, too, must have often felt crushed under the weight of finding a house, schools, church, everything. Somehow, they stuck together and made it fun for us kids – during the actual move itself, staying in hotels for often extended periods of time, it WAS fun because we found ways to make it so, thanks to their example.
Point is, most things in life are like this. Changes. Big. Small. Moving with them instead of fighting them always makes for an invigorating time, a time of introspection, a “gee-how-can-I-do-this-even-a-little-better-next-time” sort of feeling. Dad was always the best at this. Thanks to him, we were always steeped in a solutions-oriented approach to life’s tweaks, bumps, and otherwise unplanned changes. This may be the greatest skill one can pass on to their children. Thanks, Dad. Life is exactly what we choose to make it.
The question at last night’s inaugural 20×2 Chicago was
How could you?
Now, the question was interpreted in many ways, using many tools and tones, by many people, including writers, filmmakers, movers and shakers of the online world from near and far. Each story was crafted from relevance only the engaged and active participants could muster. I was honored to be among the hundreds in attendance, and even moreso to share the stage with such talented folks, and look forward to the next opportunity to contribute to the incredible cultural vitality of this city.
I accompanied Ms. Agerbeck on my trusty upright bass, Hawkes, as we attempted to synthesize Synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. Recently, difficulties have been recognized in finding an adequate definition of synesthesia, but last night we gave it our own go at it. As I played, Brandy drew her visual interpretation of the sounds in color and texture on a huge whiteboard. Big shout of Thanks to Martyr’s sound engineer, Ted, who did an amazing job of dialing in Hawkes’ sound – could not have done it better myself – thanks, man! We were very pleased with our contribution to the night’s answers.
Others delivered stories both fictional and non-fictional, poetic and iconoclastic, each derived from an assortment of unique experience and humor. Each of the 20 answers were as different as could be. There are far too many highlights to mention them all but suffice it to say it was, for me, an entry into a town I moved to over two years ago and have only just begun to discover. Special thanks to Andrew Huff and his team at Gaper’s Block for putting it all together and the Austin fellas for making the night something to remember.
I am going to let all five of you who might be reading this in on something:
somewhere along the line, without meeting him or seeing this film, I decided to aspire to be like Daryl Zero. I often speak silently to myself, sometimes even out loud to others in silly, seemingly nonsensical phrases that carry beneath the surface great depth. Only my very closest friends pay attention to, notice, or “get” this. All others consider me a babbling fool, which I do not debate. I am that, too.
The former, however, is a quality I no doubt inherited from my dad, who raised me by speaking this way to me as he illustrated the complex way the world works. He is equally misunderstood though equally and oppositely gifted in a verbal, literal sense. To this day, he cannot spell the word ‘soccer’ but he can, with a quick flourish of words, render the entire room captivated by his spirit and expressive way of communicating ideas both dark and whimsical. It is as if his odd, though compelling, phrasing holds insights we can unlock if only we stop a moment to consider and decode them.
Daryl, here, demonstrates a very similar manner of doing this. We may have all fallen off the same tree somewhere. In this clip, he says something that, on the surface, seems silly. Thinking about it again, however, reveals some heavy existentialism. I love this. Some of my favorite art does this successfully.
When wisdom is successfully embedded in silliness, does it have the greatest chance of getting through to us?
Sorry it has been so long since I have written. I thought for a while there that I might be special but, no. I am like all the rest: a fair-weathered friend. I come to you only when there is no one else. I have no explanation but I can offer you an apology. Here it is:
Loneliness, you are true blue. Loneliness, you have always been there, no matter what, no matter who else has given up or otherwise moved on. You stay. You listen. You observe us as we move onto the next shiny object, excuse, false narrative, temporal distraction.
Not you, though, Loneliness. You persevere. You remain. Indefatigable, that is what you are, Loneliness. Steadfast. You are as steadfast a friend as ever there was, a bottomless depth of patience and persistence, immune to each and every abandonment and betrayal, resilient to each and every time we trade you for a better deal. You take no offense to slights and expect no courtesy. As the novelties come and go, do you falter? No. Does your dedication wane? Never. As the Sun rises, so too does your timeless cadence, in step beside me even as I am unaware in my pursuit of the instant and empty, of lesser gratifications. Loneliness, you are a tower of endurance. A role model of clarity and presence. Why do I ignore you so?
Well, here I am. I am here to offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology, Loneliness. All along, right beside me you have stood, right under my nose, only waiting for me to come around, to be opened up, to notice you, once again. How long you have waited, Loneliness. How you have endured. I am embarrassed. I am humbled. I am grateful.
Hello, oldest friend. Thank you for sticking around.
One year ago, this man’s days were numbered. I am grateful for this man. Dad. This time last year, his health outlook was tenuous at best. One year later, here we are riding our bikes together all over, singing out every silly damn thing that pops into our heads, greeting every pup and friendly folk we see, and simply rejoicing in the redemption that is a second chance at life. This guy.
See, as he miraculously recovered, a staggering feat that left doctors’ mouths agape, our mother began a brief and torturous decline and has left us even as he achieved, by her side every step of the way, a full recovery.
With Little Boy in tow, singing, laughing, goofing, hugging, smiling, listening, tasting, watching, showing a nearly-two-year-old the world through the eyes of people who love to ride their bicycles around, he meets people, dogs, most of them already know him – this is not the first time we have ridden all around here. It is a small town, you see. Along the way we are seeing big, loud trucks, high-flying and low-flying birds, quiet rivers, bridges, passing houses, stores, and all of the sights, sounds, and smells that make up a small, Midwestern town. This is a vacation unto itself. It restores our faith, restores our souls, and bonds us like never before. It is beautiful tragedy. Smiles tracked with tears. Confusing, those, but oh so hard won. Especially through the eyes of a nearly-two-year-old. Please don’t let it end, we shout into the canopy of trees passing overhead as we ride. We ride. Thank the gods. Each and every last one of them.
Is gratitude as good as it gets? Is grief as bizarre an animal as they come? Does it thrash us about like an alligator taking a wildebeest into the river? Can it grab us unexpectedly, bumble us around and let us go, then capture and thrash us again? How do we overcome it? Gratitude. For each and every small minutiae that make the components of a day. The slowness of life. It goes by fast. Can we savor it? How about this? Shut up and ride.
It started the evening of April 23rd. I was in Chicago, on a conference call with some people. We were collaborating on a volunteer project for an inner city youth program, a very ambitious project to say the least, one we were pow-wowing over passionately when, suddenly, I received a text from Dad:
Mom’s vitals declining rapidly. Best be on your way
I had been making the five-and-a-half-hour-each-way journey to Cedar Falls, Iowa for months. I had, in fact, just made it the day before, having spent a long weekend into Monday there in hospice with her and Dad. The doctor reassured us she had at least another week in her before the final decline. At that point, she had been in hospice for three months. We were all on edge, fatigued, jumpy each time our phones buzzed, during the day and/or during the night.
I hung up with the conference call and called Dad. He was there alone as the others in the family had left from the weekend. She was one of eleven siblings so the visitors had been steady week after week. Some of them were returning upon hearing the news but likely would not arrive until after it all had gone down. I reassured Dad that I was on my way. I called hospice and spoke with the nurse. She said Mom’s blood pressure was 30 over something, barely enough to even feel a pulse. She said it was imminent. I swallowed the last sip of water from my water bottle, looked out at the night and collected myself. I had to get ready to go.
I made a step to the kitchen and the phone rang again. This time it was related to my then 18-month-old son. His mother was working in rural Wisconsin and had taken him with her that week to the tiny berg. She was panicked in tone and informed me that he had diarrhea and had been vomiting most of the evening. Being that the berg she was in was about an hour from the nearest Target, she worried about having access to Pedialite or some other hydrating solution for little ones should he need it. She asked if I would come, bring some Pedialite, and help her take care of him. She made it very clear she could not take him to daycare in the morning if he had had diarrhea within 24 hours of arriving there. The option of her staying home from work never entered the conversation, so I agreed. What is more important than taking care of your child, even as your own Momma is taking her last breaths? It is what Mom would have done, after all.
So the choice was clear. I only thought for a moment how I would feel if Mom passed away while I was en route to rural Wisconsin, well out of the way to her side in Cedar Falls. I knew exactly what I would do. I would silently pray/communicate to her the whole way that she might hang on until I got there. If it worked out, great. If not, I would be okay, too. I would have done what she would have done – make my son the priority at all costs, in any case. This was not, after all, the first or last time I would drive through the night to be at his side when push came to shove. I deeply enjoyed it. Not his being sick, of course, but feeling that useful, that needed, and that important to the survival of a little life like his. I was on the team, all the way. These are moments I will remember for the rest of my life. Is that why I write them here, now? It is not as if I could or would ever forget. I suppose I write this here now to help begin to process. Grief is such a bizarre animal.
I casually mentioned the state of affairs with Mom, so as not to seem selfish yet respectful of its gravity, collected myself, hung up and in about 10 minutes had packed an austere bag of necessities for the next few days. I had phone calls to make before I left, assistants to notify, superiors to inform, last minute things to do, domestically. I could not have known how the next day would unfold but I was ready for the river, whatever current was waiting for me. I shut off the lights, made sure the doors were locked, and jumped into it. It was startling.
First, was the three-and-a-half-hour drive from the city to the middle of Nowhereville, WI, but only after retrieving Pedialite from insert big box retail store name here. There was construction and deer crossings, and phone calls from friends that left me at moments too tearful to see straight, hence pulling over a couple of times, and mostly a lot of silence as I drove. And prayed or whatever it is we do to communicate to something larger than ourselves. What music do you listen to on such occasions? When I could not settle on anything I mostly just kept the music off. Although, at one point in my shuffling, a Christmas carol by John Denver and the Muppets was rather oddly soothing. Weird.
Upon arriving in that small, Wisconsin town in the middle of the night (shortly after 3am), I could already tell my son was beginning to feel better. By morning, he was snoozing comfortably beside me as his mother left for work. After our snooze, he woke smiling and then we danced to a new song I turned him on to and we made breakfast, hung out, danced some more, made a doctor appointment to make sure we was a-ok, and generally enjoyed the morning together. There is no better way to endure grief than in the company of a child.
By the time the doctor appointment came around, late morning, he was definitely feeling better and took the biggest, healthiest greezer in his pants in the lobby while we waited. One of the nurses was kind enough to let me change him in one of the unused examination rooms. Good thing, too. Stinkeeeeeeee. I knew right then that he was on the mend. Question I had for the doctor now was, can I travel with him? Is there a chance we can make it to Mom’s side before she slips away?
The doctor, upon examining him, taking a gander at that diaper, gave us a resounding, “Go. Now. There is nothing more important and he is fine to travel. Go!” We were up and out of there in a flash. We packed up all the stuff a little boy needs into our trusted Subaru wagon and drove off towards Iowa and Mom. Dad was not answering his phone. No way to know what the river looked like up ahead. No matter, the little boy and I rock and rolled down that road as if there was nothing else. He was still really digging that song. I was grateful and tearing up now for the sheer joy of him.
Upon arriving, it was self-evident that it was imminent. Mom was not responsive (had not been consistently for a few days now), though something had changed: her breathing. She was breathing so shallowly now. Her whole chest seemed to heave with the effort of merely maintaining stasis. Her eyes did not flicker beneath their lids. Her skin was grey and patchy. It felt like paper.
I had not slept much, save for an hour or so with the little boy earlier that morning, so was beginning to feel the effects of 36 hours of sleep deprivation. As a young man I was built for this. Now, it was wonky. My senses were caving in on me. I was experiencing audible distortions, seeing things, shadows running out of my peripheral vision, and I was trying with all my might to be present. I wanted to feel all of this but was collapsing under the weight of it. Isn’t it remarkable, though, how much we can take?
My sister arrived then and we sat on either side of the bed with Mom. This was the second most beautiful moment of the experience of Mom’s decline: my sister and I, sitting on either side of her, telling her how much we loved her. We thanked her for being so gracious and kind and for teaching us so much. We told her it was okay for her to leave now. We would not be upset. We told her she had earned it. Time to go.
The first most beautiful moment was the weekend before. She was still responsive at times and I had a particularly emotional stay of it that weekend as we all knew it was getting close. Through my own swollen, tear soaked expression, I was able to say,
“Mom, when you get wherever it is you are going, please tell them thank you from us. Please tell them we said ‘thank you for our Momma.’”
At that, she acted as if she was trying to sit up, opened her wide, blue eyes widely, madly, even, and looked at me deeply as they welled up with big, bucket-sized tears that streamed down her face.
That is the last time I ever spoke to her and can be certain she heard me.
Now, I sat beside her at approximately 10:30pm on April 24th. Everyone was heading back to Mom and Dad’s new apartment. It was a place we had no memories of as Dad had moved them into it during the beginning of Mom’s decline. Once she had become mostly unable to walk, he made the tough choice to move to a place where she could live as independently as possible. It would hardly make a difference it was such a short amount of time. Within only a few months, we were faced with moving Mom to a nursing home. It was one of the toughest days of our lives.
Now, here we were some months ever further down the river. As everyone was fixing to leave, it was clear to me that I would stay. I knew in my heart she would not make it through the night. I was so tired I could not see straight. I left her side for a few minutes to get something to eat across the street at the nurse’s insistence, returning with some noodles from a Chinese restaurant at that late hour. I sat beside her and talked as I ate. I talked about how grateful I was. For her teaching me to play baseball. For teaching me about music. For her kindness and dedication. I apologized for my stubbornness and willful irritability during my twenties (we had already had this conversation it seemed like so many times but I was doing a full-on inventory), and mostly told her of everything wonderful about her heart, her soul, and her love for her family. She had the done very best she could. I know no one more devout and true to her family, her God, or her privacy.
She lay there, silently. Chest heaving. Breath shallow. I could not eat but a couple bites, after all. The exhaustion of the previous night’s journey was overpowering me. The moment hardly lent itself to appetite.
Even though I was running out of steam, memories inside me stirred from a long slumber. Out of my control they ran rampant through the rooms in my mind. Next thing I knew I was relaying one of them to her out loud.
When I was very young, around eleven, I remember Mom being famous in our neighborhood at the time for her homemade pizza. Every kid we knew would constantly vie for an opportunity to come to dinner on a night when she was making it. The smell of it wafted across the streets and yards of our neighbors, so it was difficult not to detect. She made it more frequently in the summer, often sending me out with bundles of the stuff, leftovers, wrapped in aluminum foil, to be delivered to this pal or that. It was the most happy time in her life. She loved that place, that house, that chapter in our lives. She held those memories closer than the rest of us did. The smell of those pies sticks in my head like glue to this day, along with the words she used to say whenever I went out to play, because it was also one of the last things she would say to me, “Don’t wander too far from the house.”
As I told this story that was the end of the noodles. I chucked the lot of them into the trash as I said, “Nothing compared to the love you put into those pizzas, Momma. I will make pizzas, too, but of course they won’t be like the ones you make.”
I sat there, spent, my arms folded on the side of her bed with my chin resting on them, a wet, soppy mess of me. I was in between moments. I did not want to sleep but at the same time was so ready for her to let go. We were all exhausted from the journey down the river that led to this moment. It is a hard way to live, waiting for someone you love to pass on. It is a cruel struggle between wanting them to hold on, even come around, and battling feelings of relief from when it is over. Oh, funny life.
I last looked at the clock at 1:45a. I told her, “Momma, I am beat. I am going to get some sleep, too, okay? Let’s take a little snooze. I am going to hunker down here next to you (one of the nurses had extended the chair and made a comfy bed of it for me), but before I do I am going to say goodnight like we used to, k?”
At that, I realized it had been almost 25 years since I done what I was about to do.
As children, upon preparing to sleep, we had a ritual identical to the Waltons. I would typically start it out, until my little sister got older and would make an equal contribution to getting it rolling before we retired each night. It went like this:
“Good night, Momma”
Upon which she would reply from her room, “Good night, Chad.”
“Thank you, God, for Momma.”
“Thank you, God, for Chad.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she would reply (or Dad, too, when he was home).
“See you in the morning light.”
“See you in the morning light, too.”
On this night, however, as she lay there, quiet, motionless, and grey, it was only I:
“Good night, Momma.”
“Thank you, God, for Momma.”
“I love you bigger than the whole wide world.”
I fell asleep. It felt like I had been asleep for a very long time when the nurse nudged me gently at 2:30am, only forty-five minutes later. She whispered kindly, “She’s gone.”
It was April 25th, 2013. Three months ago today.
Momma, I love you.
I miss you.
Our family had many conversations about a reboot, about just letting her start over from scratch or some kind of baseline, as her responses continued to jump all over the place, though, none of them maintaining any stasis for any period of time greater than a couple of days before she would inevitably slide deeper into a place far removed from us, and far removed from the woman we know and love. It turned out there would not be time for that.
In a period of about 20 days, after struggling to maintain a seemingly slowly declining level of motor function, Mom went from being mobile with assistance to not able to walk at all. We all stood, stunned, unable to process such rapid decline, which to us was cruel and hard to accept.
Turns out vascular dementia is far more common than any of us ever would have known. It is largely unknown, regarding treatment, as it involves, at least in Mom’s case, dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of micro-strokes taking place in the brain throughout the day, commonly as she sleeps. The combination of micro-strokes slowly, gradually continues to affect more and more systems and shuts them down ever so slowly. Due to the complexity of the brain, medical practitioners call it a “moving target” – something difficult, if not impossible, to diagnose, let alone treat. Yet, it goes under-diagnosed in many cases. And over-treated as other disorders in many others.
I am grateful we were able to spend her last night at home together. Lying beside her in the night, I thanked her for her grace, her care, her love, for all of her lessons: from teaching me to be on time for things, to always express gratitude to those who make our lives rich, for being mindful and choosing friends wisely and sometimes not-so-wisely, and for making us kids the most important thing in her universe for as long as we can all remember.Tears were shed, no doubt, but smiles emerged and laughs squeaked out of the darkness, too, as she had some sentient moments filled with her memories and insights, including, “Give that little boy all your love, don’t hold anything back” – regarding my 16-month-old boy, her only grandson. We hugged, we cried, we savored each and every moment of that night.
It was the last night she spent at home after almost 48 years.
How do we handle these events? Somehow. By lack of sleep, more-strenuous-than-usual workouts, very long walks and talks, somehow, we get through it. By remembering and listening to the stories, the beautiful, wonderful, vivid stories Dad tells about when they first met. How they got through their own struggles, starting with nothing and overcoming obstacles of all shapes and sizes. They did it together for almost half a century.
There is no way to know how much longer she will be with us. She sleeps mostly now, generally unresponsive to requests to eat, drink, or take any meds. There is not much left of her but skin and bone. Her beautiful shape has withered to a ghost of who we expect to see under the warm blankets wrapped around her as she sleeps the hours away in a place none of us recognize.
The people who are there to help her are good people. The hospice nurses check her vitals and have a good manner with Dad, who reassures us she is comfortable. For the time being, she is in the very best place she can be. My little sister and I visit every chance we get as the weeks have dwindled by, in between work and family and hoping the phone does not ring. Long days and nights.
Why am I writing this, anyway? Honestly, I guess I just don’t know what else to do. Grief is such a strange beast. I know I should be sleeping. I suppose I put these words here so I can see them clearly, as my feelings change so fast it is hard to make sense of them sometimes. My own moving target, perhaps. I will look back at this one day soon and being to process all that is about to change for all of us in my family. In the meantime, I am a dresser filled with drawers of undeveloped film, rolls of the stuff tousled about with each opening and closing of each drawer, uncovering more and more photographs taken by memory’s camera, of time and fleeting emotions. A family’s life history in pictures, moments, memories of notions.
Even as it is a brutal process, I am grateful for such vivid reminders, as gifts of the highest caliber they make the suffering almost bearable, especially the stories my dad has shared about them both, things I never knew, memories now my own, even as they are mere representations of the real thing. This is being alive and then passing on alone, together, moving with the tidal motions of life and death, choosing our narratives and building our mythologies.
So thank you, Mom and Dad. You gave me the tools I need to do whatever it is I choose to do, so you did something right. You gave me life and the choice that is mine how to spend it. You have passed the torch. I will carry it for awhile and thank the gods, each and every one of them, for you and for your guidance, eloquence, patience, support, and love. Words are not enough to give back what you have given but – just so you know – I love you. Forever.
Experience is the move. The move to a new understanding, a motion towards a richer perspective. We spend our lives chasing it, striving to open up new opportunities for it, while surrounding ourselves with those who have it. A simple thing shrouded in a complicated skin, we crave it. Like water, we want to sit by it, live next to it, walk along it, sail across it, swim in it, drink it. Be it.
So many things contribute to the quality of our experience. Our choices in friends, careers, and habits are shaped by our interests and desires, which are likewise shaped by the friends, careers, and habits we allow into our lives. The cycle is fascinating and seemingly both within our control and without it at the same time. Perhaps, that’s what makes it such an elusive yet tangible thing all at once. The best things seem to work this way. A combination of choice and fate at work all at once. The simple wrapped up snugly in the complex.
Those of us with great experience generally tend to take it for granted while others seeking any at all wonder how to obtain it. A wise woman who mentored me once shared her secret to gaining experience, while ensuring its quality. She said,
Listen closely to the perspectives of someone who has not done something before. Their perspective is still fragile and open to influence. When we have experience, we tend to close our ears to amateurs, thinking we have a grasp of a skill or trade. Amateurs have an advantage in the potential of discovering things we missed along the way. Amateurs may in fact have much to teach us. Experience alone doesn’t optimize opportunities for innovation and discovery. Only openness to experience can.
Turns out, the number 27 is magical. The Internet can tell us why, mathematically, the number 27 is so unique. For example, 27 is a perfect cube, a completely balanced equation. In math, that is saying something.
For some reason, 27 pops up a great deal, lately, which is what led me to learn more about it. While doing so, I made a list of 27 things my 27-sided-self values.
I do not take myself too seriously here, rather this is just an exercise in making a playlist, I suppose, of thoughts and notions to help move the ball closer to the goal of staying committed to growth, being a better communicator, a better pal, partner, father, son, and generally well-balanced cube, er, dude:
1 – Arguably, one of the greatest strengths may be helping others feel more comfortable being themselves.
2 – “Please” and “thank you” are two of the best parts of any language.
3 – Good moods are contagious. Help spread them like colds.
4 – Be mindful of others’ aural, physical, and visual space. We all have different boundaries.
5 – Respect and trust require respect and trust.
6 – Words and tone of voice deliver packages to others. Stop sometimes and wonder what it may be like to receive them.
7 – Short fuses burn ourselves and others. Take a moment, get all the facts, or step away until it passes.
8 – Being open to constructive criticism is worth risking the initial discomfort of trying it on. Nothing to lose.
9 – Read, preserve, and share books and stories. Like music, they are the crux of so many good things.
10 – Good aesthetics are like good manners. Create atmospheres that foster acceptance. See #1.
11 – Any voices inside that say “You are not good enough” are illusions, shadows of fear. Break through them.
12 – Skills are not demonstrated better than by putting them to good use for a good cause.
13 – Laugh. Play. Pause objectives. Let fun in. It is not irresponsible or a waste of time.
14 – When I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, pause and read #24.
15 – Keep moving forward. Giving up is easy. Building anything good takes compromise, resources, and work.
16 – Things work out whether I like it or not. Do not underestimate the “unswerving punctuality of chance.”
17 – Do not be afraid to accept or admit I need someone who will not give up on me.
18 – Forgive myself. Moments of weakness do not make me fundamentally weak, only fundamentally human.
19 – Make and share good, healthy, and tasty food with friends whenever possible.
20 – Risk being affectionate and vulnerable.
21 – Keep money and ‘need vs. want’ in perspective. Measuring against others is an empty pursuit. See #11.
22 – A brief stop to smell the roses is worth being ever-so-slightly late for on occasion.
23 – Values only mean something if stood by when inconvenient.
24 – Stress kills slowly and silently. Reduce it by taking a break, a walk, reading, writing, or something.
25 – Music in any shape or form helps everything.
26 – Stop and listen. A clear mind is open to ideas.
27 – Keep it simple. Show up and do my best.
My awareness of adaptation began in Mr. Johnson’s 6th grade class. I was a 5th grader who school administrators felt belonged there, rather than with peers my own age. This, unbeknownst to me at the time, required a great deal of adaptation. Being smart in school was not sexy then like it is now.
Mr. Johnson began explaining the concept of adaptation using chimpanzees as context, specifically how they never sleep in the same place twice. Chimps make a new bed for themselves every night. Mr. Johnson explained how this was fascinating and went on at length to help those of us in class imagine what that would be like. He said this repeatedly: “It’s all about what you get used to”
While Mr. Johnson told his stories about chimps and adaptation, I played with a small, red stapler that said GIANT on it in big, white letters. Before he began, it had run out of staples and I needed one to bind one of my completed assignments with. I had already reloaded it with one of those bound stacks of small staples but continued to futz with it. It was splayed open like a Swiss Army knife as I listened. As I got more and more into what he was saying, I paid less and less attention to what I was doing. At one point, I pressed the stapler back together, closing it on itself with a kerchunk, putting a staple squarely into the center of my thumb. It happened so fast, as I was so engrossed with Mr. Johnson’s propositions, I hardly felt it.
Mr. Johnson was talking now about signs, traffic signs, specifically, and how new signs have little or no power because they have not been looked at much yet. People, drivers, have not had time to adapt to their existence yet and so they are likely to be ignored. Regardless of words or symbols, he continued that the average driver overlooks many details.
He went on and I looked at the ends of the staple through my thumbnail. I could see them clearly. My instinct was to pull it out. Instead, I paused and thought about adapting to having it in my thumb. What challenges would it really present? Beyond the obvious, such as infection, etc, I imagined what it would be like to tie a shoe with a staple in my thumb, wash my hands, the potential discomfort of grabbing things tightly, such as climbing a rope, and the pain I may have to adapt to.
The staple remained in my thumb for the duration of Mr. Johnson’s lecture. I did not want to pull it out during because I knew it was a puncture wound. I did not want to bleed like a stuck pig and have to excuse myself from his class. I was already on everyone’s radar as a misfit for being moved up a grade and drawing more attention to myself was the last thing I wanted to do. Instead, I waited patiently. I calmly listened to the lesson on adaptation even as I sat there, adapting to injury, working against my instinct to do otherwise. I quickly realized that urgency is often a product of conditioning. I imagined letting the staple become a part of me. It would not kill me. It probably would not even affect me enough to impact my overall quality of life. I sat there wondering what urgency means in other parts of the world. It’s all about what you get used to.
So, wherever you are now, Mr. Johnson, thank you for illustrating those ideas for me in that time and place. It was one of the most memorable lessons ever. It was powerful for the synchronicity of my wonky experience, too. As I was learning about adaptation in theory, I was applying it in realtime. Mr. Johnson, you never knew it but your lesson was more successful than you intended. As it unfolded, I was introduced to being more aware of myself and my instincts. I was learning to be more mindful of choices, to adapt and, as a result – I am more aware of what I get used to whether I am stapling myself, listening to someone, or – reading the signs.
I set some time aside to paint the other day. It had been so long since I last painted my brushes were pretty much hosed and the acrylics I had were bunk. Not to be stymied, I had the realization that, up to now, having a fair amount of digital literacy, I have never attempted to make a piece of fine art worthy of hanging on my wall using digital tools in any combination.
So, I set out to let colors and textures wander into forms pleasing to my eye and lead my tinkering. They ended up moving in a rather pixelated direction. I allowed the colors to distinguish themselves yet remain playfully arranged into seemingly real and imagined orders at the same time. What I saw all the while I was making this made me think of water moving over landscapes for hundreds of thousands of millennia, changing the literal face of a known world into something completely new, reinvented by the passing of time, viewing modern cities fallen to ruin from hundreds of miles above. You can click on the image to view it larger, if you wish.
I have a rather odd habit of imagining myself hundreds of miles up looking down on myself and what is around me. I had this same feeling as I created this piece. I call this work pixelier, pronounced as the French would in a silly, tongue-in-cheek way.
I will mount this on wood, at approximately 54″ x 31″ – It will look great in the hallway or perhaps make an even better present.
When this came out I must have watched it ten times. Thought of it again today out of the blue. What a great short film:
Beautiful and meandering live version of title track off his greatest album:
This past week alone, two pals of mine, who have historically resisted change, have traded their old-school cell phones (of the Symbian variety) for next-gen SmartPhones. One, an Android, the other, an iPhone. Upon getting home and beginning to introduce themselves to a new paradigm in communication technologies, each contacted me separately to ask what they need to know to get each to work the way they want, having discovered things about each that come up short.
Technology, by the way, is always a trade-off. For each convenience offered, there are always new obstacles to overcome.
As far as operating systems go, this is a seemingly timeless (and predictably endless), Coke vs. Pepsi debate. The two leading mobile/tablet platforms, Android and iOS are both far from perfect on their own. While they do have much in common, such as superb haptic interfaces and decent battery life, this is true especially when it comes to making each work the way we want, out-of-the-box. There is a tradeoff involved in each of them. This overhead includes installing and configuring them to work just the way we like.
iOS, for example, while far more mature, stable, and predictable in performance, is missing a great deal of core functionality, requiring us to jailbreak it in order to fully realize the device’s potential as a tool, both for work and play.
Android, on the other hand, is friendlier in this regard, however, lacks much of the stability and ease-of-use, requiring third party ROMs installed for seemingly every other app. This is reminiscent of Windows’ driver requirements, each of which further contributes to a system’s unpredictable performance.
Much of this is due to the Android Market being less discerning in terms of the quality of apps it allows into the wild. We do complain about Apple’s App Store for not being as utilitarian as we’d like, however, it is far more discriminating about the quality of apps offered. This, in addition to superior hardware design, contribute to making iOS the more stable and predictable platform.
The best of breed, IMHO, is jailbroken iOS. The addition of tools, such as coreutils, Terminal, OpenSSH, and SBSSettings, adds the invaluable functionality of Debian to the stability of the existing platform atop the elegant design and usability of the hardware.
As stated earlier, though, not without a little time and effort ; )
As an example, one of the additional steps required on iOS (post-jailbreak) occurs after installing and configuring OpenSSH. Upon connecting to devices, we see the following error once we are logged into a shell and perform the ls command to view contents of the current directory:
>ls: unrecognized prefix: hl
>ls: unparsable value for LS_COLORS environment variable
This issue is well known and documented in a Debian Bug report log:
#544871 â€“ coreutils: ls complains about LS_COLORS: unrecognized prefix: hl, color define has been changed from hl to mh, which produced the error.
There is a simple solution to this. Do:
modify the dircolors value thus: eval â€œ$(dircolors -b | sed s/hl/mh/)â€
then do: source /etc/profile.d/coreutils.sh
Well-known is documented is great, however, it is preferable to not have to modify anything at all and without requiring additional time researching and/or sleuthing. Things are indeed getting better, though, and as each evolves, we will continue to see improvement in the way each is used and developed, requiring less and less overhead at the outset in order to have access to the modern Swiss Army Knife that each can and will eventually be – out-of-the-box : )