Words with friends

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I just read a story about friendship that developed between two people who began playing an online Scrabble type of game called Words With Friends. After browsing stories on my blog hosting service WordPress I found an article about Spencer Sleyon,  22, of Harlem, N.Y., who has played Words With Friends, which is an online game similar to Scrabble, with 81-year-old Roz, of Florida, since last summer. I decided to go onto twitter and found that the Rev. Amy Butler of the Riverside Church in New York had arranged for the meeting in the retirement community where Roz lives. After playing more than 300 games together, the two met face-to-face in West Palm Beach last Friday.  Spencer told The Root ”it was a cool experience,”meeting his online best friend.

A hastag #relationshipschangeus has spread across twitter with news of the story. I am touched by this because I sometimes feel I spend too long talking with Facebook friends instead of with people face to face. Increasingly however I have been attempting to create some overlap so that I have people I contact regularly online and in person. In fact I was moved over the weekend by a conversation I had with a friend who I talked about on Facebook.

I have connected with several people from my old high school and met one of them. I learned some things about my old school that I was unaware of and it gave me a greater understanding of where I came from.

Another benefit of using social media has been my debate with a group of friends on Facebook about the best sewing machine to buy my eight-year-old niece. Having this medium allowed me to talk with several friends even though we were never in the same location together. I liked reading about which machines and stores everyone preferred. I shared these observations my my sister and my significant other. Tonight I finally ordered the machine and my next step will be talk about the wonderful things my niece does with her present. When you share words with friends, either as a game or a Facebook post you can create relationships.

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Being grand parents

 

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Sometimes I regret not playing more of a role in my nephews’ lives. My oldest nephew, John, was born the year I graduated from high school. When I was graduating from high school, I was experiencing deep depression. I felt loss from a woman I loved. I was protesting the war in Vietnam. I wanted to be a part of history. I was a horny male teenager. The depression was the most difficult of those things to understand. I remember writing letters back home in lower case to try to make them understand I was not doing well. Depression was a family characteristic. My mother and older sister have also lived with it. When you are 17 or 18 everything seems so overwhelming. The depression was about what my mind was saying about feeling empty and lonely.

Nobody who is that age is old enough to understand. If there is one thing I regret I wish I had learned to understand myself sooner. My younger brother also lived with a mental illness triggered by use of hallucinogens. I believe that I survived because of a combination of nature and nurture. James left home as a teenager and went west at a time many people were feeling alienated and wanting to get away from home. I was old enough to go to Howard University and be a part of history and the largest anti-war demonstrations in American history.

When you are young and you are struggling you have more options than I saw as a teenager. For me, the best choice after dropping out of college was the military. But when I returned to civilian life, I struggled with economic security. I heard the voices of my nephews but I was in no shape to be able to help them. Now that things seem to be different and I have gotten help I am no longer being driven by depression or mania. I am doing well. I was part of my niece’s life at an event to retire the flags last week. I cannot go back into the 1970s but I am proud to part of the present.

Why am I such an asshole on Facebook?

 

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I have been thinking about my public persona since last year’s presidential election. It was the most polarizing election I had ever witnessed and I noticed that the many candidates and their supporters were very active on social media. I was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders who I had noticed for the previous two years saying more and more things I approved.

But as I joined different Bernie Sanders groups I became concerned that some of them seemed to use ideas from the far right in attacking Hillary Clinton. I also saw nude pictures of Trump’s wife being circulated as if she was a campaign issue. As the campaign wore on I noticed people in the Sanders camp trading stories about law suits and supposedly uncounted votes and there was nothing you could say to them that could change their minds. I decided some websites were publishing fake news and told my friends to stop spreading them.

Similarly the things I saw from so-called Jill Stein supporters portrayed Hillary Clinton as a war monger. When I looked at what Stein presented I was clear that she was unqualified and a waste of time. I found myself in more heated discussions and blocking people on a regular basis. There was no evidence that the Green Party had any impact or tried to raise issues between the presidential elections.

Another source of Facebook arguments is on atheist and humanist pages. Some religious people troll these pages and I enjoy mocking them and their beliefs. Why not? I often  block these trolls who think that all I need to do is read the bible. Not going to happen.

Trolls are people at the bottom of the social media visiting and disrupting sites they don’t agree with, throwing insults and disrupting discussions. They are not worth anyone’s time so I get rid of them.  Trolls are  people who are looking for a fight.  Occasionally I am accused of being a troll when I ask questions. I visited a page for a candidate for governor of Wisconsin and someone very soon said he thought I was a troll. I think supporters of candidates need to be less defensive.

What I find more surprising  is that I have been drawn into arguments with people in introvert groups. Some of these were very religious people who liked to regularly ask people what religion if any they followed. Others were introverts who were incredibly socially isolated. One man talked about not he had not left his room in 3 years and it would be my fault if he went back into there. Obviously you don’t want to communicate with people like that so I needed to block them. Other people in introvert groups were pushing their politics, especially Donald Trump. I left most of the introvert focused groups I had joined because I become tired of seeing them talk about how wonderful it would be to live in the middle of nowhere.

I have grown more impatient this year in my political discussions. Some people still want to fight over last year’s elections. I have focused a lot of attention on the off-year elections and found reason for hope. The people who want to talk about how they distrust the Democratic National Committee or want to bring up Donna Brazile are a waste of time, in my opinion. I don’t want to be drawn into more arguments about who does not like Hillary Clinton because there is not enough aspirin.

I am surprised that I am really a hardass on Facebook. I don’t usually go around telling people STFU in person. I may be arguing with people who are at least as old and grumpy as me in which case they are used to me. For everyone else, if you were not such a knucklehead you would have blocked me or been spending more time with your loved ones instead of arguing on social media.

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The end

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One of the more unusual discussions I had with my family during Thanksgiving week was regarding my nephew and his stepfather Richard. Richard is a 60-year-old with the body of a man 20 years older. He has never taken good care of himself and as a result he has developed certain conditions such as diabetes. In fact he is facing the possibility of having his toes amputated before the end of the year and more to come.

Richard did not have a close relationship with his sons and so neither is feeling willing to pay the expense of his funeral when it comes in a year or two. My sister suggested getting one of those life insurance policies sold specifically to cover final expenses. I bought one at her suggestion several years ago. However I am also thinking that I should suggest cremation. But the problem is I will not be in a position to advocate for my body. My solution will be to write down my wishes including whether I would wish to have any and all measures taken to prolong my life.  This will be something different from what usually happens in my family where we seldom live a will or final instructions.

I think that Richard might serve the African-American community better as a cadaver at the university medical school. There, they could study the impact of preventable disease on the human body. I am not certain whether he would have to contact the university but someone should talk with him as soon as possible.

African-Americans are infamous for neglecting ourselves. My nephew told about the things he had suggested much in vain for Richard to use in the hopes that he might have a better quality of life. A lot of the women in our family have lived long healthy lives well into their eighties and beyond. However, a lot of the men die relatively young. I have outlived my father by several years.

I saw a movie about a black man who confronted the unhealthy lifestyle choices in his family and began eating and exercising more. It became contagious and they were no longer living with diabetes. Death will eventually come to all of us no matter how healthy we try to live. But we can live longer, long enough to see more generations of our family grow up and long enough to provide good examples for them. There is no need to rush to see the end.

A secular grace

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Dinner music was provided by Clifford Brown

 

I was asked to say grace tonight. The last time I was asked, I respectfully declined but this evening I found these words:

We are all we got.

This is the day.

This is the one

Wild precious life

We are given

So let us find a way

To rejoice and be glad in it

Too many pills

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My sister Chris is on the left and our mother and keeper of black walnuts is on the right

 

My sister lives with chronic pain from various medical conditions which to becoming disabled. She just told me about a doctor who is being investigated for over prescribing pain medication at his clinic. When she was healthy my sister was a pharmaceutical representative. So she knew a little something about medication. Then she had to learn a lot more once she became a patient. She also has a college degree and paid attention to the number and type of pills that the doctor was prescribing.

Chris found that she could not tolerate the medication and described the doctor’s waiting room as a kind of casting call for potential addicted people. You will not see stories about people like my sister in the flood of media coverage about opiod abuse largely because of the color of her skin. Today’s newspaper has an article about white millennials as the face of the crisis. But long before it was a white problem, there were African-Americans in pain clinics who were being given way too many pills. Chris escaped because she recognized what was going on and changed doctors.

 

My mother and her nuts

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A few years ago I wrote about how my mother had gone on a black walnut kick. She developed the idea that she could somehow sell these things to the Lexington Food Cooperative not far from her house. As with many hair brained schemes this one took the cake. First, black walnuts are among the hardest things on earth. Do not let your children or angry spouse get hold of these things because with a little practice and a good throwing arm one could create a lot of damage.

Second, as far as human consumption of these little missiles, forget it. You would probably destroy your house attempting to crack he things. Better to stick with peanuts or regular walnuts. I doubt that you would want to run over the black walnuts because that would damage your rims.

Third, as I described in my earlier post, they are very good at attracting squirrels. I survived a harrowing adventure with black walnuts and a hungry squirrel in my apartment years ago and have never gone near them. I heard about that story I thought surely that would be the end of my mother’s nut collecting career.

And I was wrong. Because there in the corner of the basement are the aforementioned nuts. I am certain that they are included in Mom’s will. When she passes on at 110. Nuts to you, bub.