The United States

The State of the Union, brilliantly set to verse…

Post-Tragic Life

Anxiety inducing news, everywhere you turn
Old men lighting fires, watch the word burn
I’m beginning to think the people won’t learn
As long as there’s crumbs, we’re dying to earn

The news is real, but it’s twisted to lies
Often repeated, epic in size
By smiling faces in clever disguise
Hoping for change, but nobody tries

Scared, and stressed? There’s a pill for that
Or just buy our product, be happy and fat
But fat isn’t happy, now what do you do
Not to worry, there’s a pill for that too

Scapegoat a race, it’s been done before
Weren’t we against that, in the last world war?
So if not for freedom, what do we fight for?
Just so the rich, can have even more

Children in cages, scared and alone
Taken from the desperate, fleeing their homes
Legal points of entry, blocked by Border SS
Forcing illegal crossings…

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The Last Straw

 

A favorite movie from my youth was one called Billy Jack, the story of a half-white, half-Native American (um, Indian in those days), former Green Beret who, shall we say, has some anger management issues.

In one scene, Billy arrives in town to find some of his friends being bullied by some locals in a diner. After surveying the damage, he offers his heartfelt confession to the chief bully, Bernard, that he really, really tries to keep his temper in check. But when he sees these acts of cruelty inflicted on his friends, and I quote:

”I just go ber-serk!!!

Then he starts some serious butt-kicking.

That’s about where I find myself now.

 

I’ve witnessed a lot of events in our country, and our world, in the last year and a half, facilitated by people in Washington, DC, that have strained my limits of tolerance.

I’ve seen some completely boneheaded, irreconcilably stupid, downright reckless acts committed in the name of Making America Great Again.

And I have, for the most part, held my tongue about it, mainly because I thought the people behind these actions, along with the people who support the people behind these actions, care not one little bit about what I may think.

But, when I see picture after picture of immigrant children – children! – locked up in cages like a bunch of dangerous criminals, having been separated from their parents….

When I hear the President blame Democrats for this whole debacle, when any idiot knows that Democrats are the minority party in Congress, so they essentially have no power to enact or change anything…

And when I hear the Attorney General of the United States have the gall to cite the Holy Bible to justify these cruel and barbarous acts, and the Press Secretary (among others) then defend that Scriptural perversion…

Well, now I just have to speak up, because the next stop is berserk.

 

This is beyond outrageous. It’s beyond shameful. It’s beyond disgraceful. It reveals a country that has given up its decency, compassion, and humanity, in exchange for fear, prejudice, and hatred.

A country that has heard all the same old lies about immigration so many times as to believe them all, without question.

A country that has revealed to the world its true attitude, in all its wretched ugliness.

I don’t know the answer to the immigration issue. Apparently, nobody does, or it would be solved by now.

But I guarantee, there is nobody – absolutely nobody – who can convince me that this is it.

And I think it’s time for us all to just go berserk.

How You Doin’?

 

 

From the Associated Press, 06/08/2018:

“Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions. He was 61.

“CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin. It called his death a suicide.”

 

From the Associated Press, 06/06/2018

“NEW YORK (AP) — The husband and business partner of designer Kate Spade, who died in an apparent suicide, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.”

 

From the Washington Post, 06/08/2018:

“Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the individuals had no known mental health condition when they took their own life.”

 

Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t see how serious a problem this is?

We’re dying, folks. By our own hand.

In ever growing numbers.

I find that both terrifying and heartbreaking.

Not to mention, completely unnecessary. This doesn’t need to be happening!

My brothers and sisters, we need to look out for one another. Where are we failing?

Well, I have one possible explanation:

The CDC report pointed out an apparently high number of suicides among people without a known mental health condition, saying: “In the 27 states that use the National Violent Death Reporting System, 54 percent of suicides were by individuals without a known mental illness.”

But Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, added an important asterisk to that statistic, saying that, “When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims, 90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” So, many of the suicides were completed by people who were never even diagnosed, and consequently, never got any treatment for their condition.

According to the report, a likely reason for that is, most people aren’t asking for help. Especially, men. 

 

And, listen, I understand the reluctance. Mental illness still has a huge stigma attached to it. Nobody wants to admit there’s a problem, because it comes with a great big Scarlet Letter.

So, rather than be negatively labeled, people will just keep killing themselves.

THAT’S why the stigma has to be eliminated. That’s why we need to discuss mental illness as easily as we do cancer, or heart disease, or any other physical malady. It’s an illness, and it can and should be treated. People with mental illness aren’t crazy; they’re sick, and they need help.

And here’s the important part: If you know them, they need you to ask them if they need help.

I know that’s tough but, many times, they’re simply waiting for someone to ask them; they just won’t come out and say it.

Look, I’m no doctor. I’m no psychiatrist. I do have an illness. It’s called clinical depression, and I sure enough need help for it. And I’m getting it. Because I deal with those thoughts that visit me sometimes, and tell me just go ahead and check out, because you’re hopeless, you sorry, no good SOB.

But then, I realize: after posting information on this blog about what some of the warning signs are in someone who may be suicidal (08/31/2017), where to go to get help (08/31/2017), and how to help someone who is suicidal (09/13/2017), and after offering personal encouragement (09/23/2017 and several other dates), it would all ring pretty hollow if I just went and killed myself, wouldn’t it? I’d be the world’s biggest fraud. (Well, second biggest; you longtime readers know who I think has a lock on first place.)

But, back to my point: We all need to learn to be more observant of the behavior of those around us and, if we notice something that’s off with somebody, ask if he or she is okay. That’s not nosy, that’s caring.

And, you never know. It could be the difference between someone getting help, or ending it all. The stakes are that high.

Please, folks, let’s get out of ourselves and our cellphones a little more, and check in on our family, our friends, our colleagues. They may be waiting for us to ask.

But for how much longer?

By the way, how are you?

 

Our Sweet Girls

 

 

Ten years ago this month, we brought these two adorable bundles of joy home from the animal shelter:

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Cute, right?

We don’t know their exact date of birth, but they were estimated to have arrived late March/early April. These two sisters. Lizzy and Izzy, as we so cleverly named them.

They looked so much alike, we put a drop of white-out on Izzy’s head, so we could tell who was who. (Not even noticing that Lizzy, as she does today, had more white hair in her little ears.)

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We’d only planned to adopt one cat, but when we learned these two were sisters…well, we just couldn’t break them up, you know?

And, like any two sisters, they have their own individual personalities, along with their times of getting along and not getting along.

Mostly, thank goodness, they get along.

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And they have given us so much joy in these ten years. We can’t imagine life without them.

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I wrote part of this while sitting on the couch with my feet propped up and Izzy lying comfortably between my legs. Life is good.

Izzy is definitely Daddy’s Girl. She runs to greet me when I get home from work, accompanied by her audio stream of “Meow”, which she can say about a hundred different ways. She’s probably the most eloquent “meower” I’ve ever met. I don’t know what all those meows mean, but I think they all have the same basic subtext: “Give me ATTENTION!”

Although she may be Daddy’s Girl, Izzy is Mama’s Sleeping Buddy. She’ll come get in bed with us at night and, though she may visit Dad for awhile, she eventually gravitates to Mom and lies down next to her, because she knows Mom will cover her in a blanket, so she can stay good and warm while she sleeps. Only thing is, if you ask Mom, she’ll say Izzy takes up too much space in the bed. She’s sweet, but she’s a bedhog.

And, in the morning, brother, that girl is ready to eat! (Izzy, I mean, not Mom. Well, maybe, Mom, too.) You had best get her some breakfast right away. Fortunately, she’s not picky; pretty much anything you set in front of her will do. But you will hear from her until she gets it.

Izzy always wants to be where we are: in bed with us at night, on the couch with us while we watch TV…whatever you’ve heard about cats being antisocial, she ain’t that.

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One thing about the couch, though: she gets up on top and lays there while she whips us in the head with her swishing tail. Gets a little annoying. Well, not when she does it to my wife, just me.

Then there’s Lizzy, Mama’s Baby. Our quiet girl. Relatively speaking, anyway. She has gotten a lot more vocal than she used to be, we’ve noticed. Used to just be a cute little peep now and then, but she’s, um, found her voice now.

She’s slightly bigger than Izzy, so we call Lizzy our “full-figured kitty.” Like I said before, she’s still got the white hair in her ears. And whiskers that go nearly to the floor. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

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Lizzy’s much choosier than Izzy about where you may pet her. Izzy’s basically an “anywhere, anytime” gal, but Lizzy prefers Mom’s closet. Sometimes Dad’s. No, I’m serious. I guess she wants privacy; she wants to feel like there’s no other cat but her in our world. They can both get pretty jealous of our attention.

And Lizzy never passes up an opportunity. When she hears one of us get up from the couch, that’s her cue to come from wherever she is in the house to the living room, where she will shamelessly try to guilt someone into taking her to the closet for some well-deserved petting. Shameless, I tell you!

Oh, and Lizzy and Izzy both love weekends; Mom and Dad are home, instead of at work all day, so they have more time to pet those kitties!! And these girls will take full advantage of that. Hey, can you blame them?

Well obviously, I could just go on about these two. They’re our precious babies, and we love them so much. We’re happy they are in our lives, and we sure hope they are a while longer.

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One last thing: Studies have shown the benefits for people with depression and anxiety of having a pet, and I can definitely vouch for the wonderful “kitty therapy” I’ve received from our girls. You listen to the blissful purring of a cat sometime, and tell me it doesn’t just make your heart melt.

Or, if it doesn’t, don’t tell me. I’d rather not know.

Do yourself a huge favor: Go to your local animal shelter and find somebody (cat, dog, whatever you choose) that’s so anxious to give you all the unconditional love he or she has to give. I guarantee, you’ll gain a new best friend.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…

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Treading Water

 

I’m sorry, folks.

The truth is, lately, I just don’t care about anything enough to write about it.

And I don’t know when I will.

But, even if I did, I’d likely tell myself you wouldn’t care, so why bother writing? That’s due mainly to my rather low opinion of myself these days. Depression, and all that.

Besides, trying to write anything lately is like trying to swim in mud. I just bog down at some point.

I’m sorry to disappoint any of you.

I don’t know if I should even post this.

But I just want you to know, I’m still here.

That’s about all I want to say for now. I love you all.

This Is Me

 

I have clinical depression.

I was diagnosed with it in 2003. For all I know, I’ve had it for much longer.

It often leaves me irritated, angry, impatient, indifferent, unmotivated and, definitely, depressed. It leaves me with feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

It steals my concentration, paralyzing me to the point of straining to write every word on the page.

Or do anything else, for that matter. I just mostly don’t care.

I don’t care about taking care of myself. I know I should eat better and exercise, but meh. My therapist has offered me some practical things to apply toward improving my mental health, but who wants to do that?

That’s probably what I experience, more than anything: just a whole bunch of whatever.

I’m not always like this, you know. I have my good days, where everything’s generally cool, and I’m doing okay, and life feels good.

But then, there are those other days. And sometimes, those days get pretty dark.

And, if it gets bad enough, my depression will get me thinking, maybe I just don’t belong here, anymore.

Maybe I should rid everybody of me.

 

Men, does this sound like you?

Okay, well here’s the part that probably doesn’t.

I’m talking to someone about it.

I’m getting help for it.

It took some time for me to get to that, mind you. I thought psychiatric treatment was for crazy people, not me.

Maybe you think so, too. Maybe you think you’re weak if you’re depressed, or if you have anxiety. Maybe you’re embarrassed to tell anyone what’s going on with you. Maybe you think you can snap out of it, or you can overcome it by yourself.

The truth is, guys, you can’t. Ask Michael Phelps. Ask Kevin Love. Ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Ask me. You need to talk to someone. You need help. And the sooner you face up to that, the better.

I know that, based on what I’ve said here, it doesn’t seem like I’m any better. Unfortunately, this is something that takes time to treat; there is no quick fix. And I readily admit, I have a ways to go.

But, I also know, just the act of talking about it with someone brings great relief. It’s a good first step.

Fellas, I’m pleading with you; too many of us are killing ourselves because we wait to ask for help until it’s too late.

Please, don’t let that be you.

 

 

Never. Not Once

This is great stuff. Read it and consider seriously what this gentleman is saying.

Note To My White Self

Note to my white self…

In light of the recent events at a Starbucks coffee shop, it seems prudent to understand what such incidents teach you as a white person.

You have never been asked to leave a coffee shop because you haven’t purchased a beverage yet.

You have never had a store clerk call the police to have you removed from the premises.

You have never been arrested for asking to use the restroom.

Never. Not once.

You have never had black men yell “Honky” and throw garbage at you from a passing vehicle.

You have never had a person cross to the other side of the street when they see you.

You have never had people stare right through you when you said “hello.”

You have never had someone tell you they hate you because of the color of your skin.

Never. Not once.

You have never had…

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The Fab Four

 

Okay, show of hands: How many of you became an uncle or aunt before your eighth birthday?

My hand is up.

By virtue of my two brothers being so much older than me (so much older!), my first of three adorable nieces showed up in January of 1967. Yeah, I know, I’m old, too. The other girls showed up in 1970; one in March, the other in July. Last to arrive was the nephew, just before Christmas, 1971.

(Don’t tell any of the girls this, but by the time that boy came along, I was elated!)

I was taken with all of them from the start.

I’m not sharing any pictures here but, trust me, they all were cute.

And, I had fun with them. I guess it was good that I was close to their age, so I could match them in energy. Most of the time. We did plenty of running around, indoors and out. And, I always loved making them laugh, usually by being silly some way or other.

Of course, to hear them tell it, I did cruel and terrible things to them when they were little.

Believe all of it. I could be kind of a devil sometimes. Couldn’t help it. 😈

But, they were all sweet kids, and I enjoyed our time together. Naturally, it’s just in retrospect that I understand exactly how much they meant to me, then.

They still mean a lot to me, of course. They’re all adults now with their own families and obligations, so I almost never see them anymore, but I think of them, often.

And, I love them all very much.

You hear that, guys? Your old uncle loves you, like he always has.

I promise, I’ll try to do better at staying in touch, but always remember how special the four of you are to me. And always will be.

 

Oh, and that also goes for the two nieces and nephew on my wife’s side. Y’all are pretty darn special, too. I don’t know why the nephew’s always last to arrive, though; what is up with that?

The “Terrible Twos”?

 

April 13, 2016. I unleash the inaugural post of my new blog on an unsuspecting world.

And the rest, of course, is history.

Well, my history, anyway. So, here I am, still writing two years later. And, to my amazement, you’re reading what I write! Some of you have even been with me for the whole ride.

This leaves me mystified and gratified, all at once. Even more so, my work has been read in 66 different countries around the world, by now. THAT is incredible to me.

 

As I’ve said before, I write primarily because writing is easier than talking for me. This is a way for me to put out there what I think and feel, but could probably never bring myself to say aloud. I’ve always kinda been like that.

At times, though, even writing isn’t easy. My depression holds me back sometimes; gets in the way of me finishing the four or five posts that I’ve started. That’s why you haven’t heard from me recently; I’ve been stuck in the Land of Half Way.

I guess, the 2-year milestone gave me some added impetus to see this one all the way through to the end.

So, I’m glad to have this outlet. And, I’m especially glad so many of you have found it interesting enough to read – more than once, in many cases. Thank you so much for visiting. You’re definitely welcome anytime.

I love you. Later, y’all.