Of natural causes


My sister and I talked on the phone the day after her 73rd birthday. We talked about the future. She is a fan of the University of Buffalo, which we both graduated from. UB made a splash in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Now, next year, they need to get some taller players. She talked about bringing Mom to the game. Mom will be 95 and just surrendered her driver’s license. The women’s basketball team has done very well and is one of the top teams in the country. So many things are different from when we attended the college and that is positive.

We spoke of her granddaughter, my niece. Things she needs to be around to teach her. Things she she wants to train her son’s pet to do such as recognizing that he does not need to bark at everyone, especially family. It is horrible when you visit a house with a pet that is allowed to run the house. It makes the visit unbearable.

One of the more lighthearted moments came when we discussed selling girl scout cookies. I didn’t solicit my co-workers, many of whom enjoy desserts. But my sister said she put up a sign in her doctor’s office and sold about 25 boxes. She sold at least as many through her hairdresser. So she is going to send me a sign for next year.

We know what lies ahead but we are going to enjoy as much life as possible. We take fairly good care of our bodies and we both have health insurance. What happens often seems unfair. Recently a lifelong bicyclist died at 68 from natural causes. He had a heart condition. A few weeks ago someone else died from complications due to pneumonia. A much younger than me. Rage, rage and do no go gently. But someday we will all go. Reach out and grasp as much of life as you can and hold onto it.


Challenging myself



I was pleased to find that the fitbit I ordered through go365 arrived today. I put it together and got myself outside. I walked about 33 minutes which topped off an active day. Our office had a fitbit craze a couple of years ago. We are a big food agency. Most of our events are centered around food. Like this week, the office was very cold on Monday so the management made it up to us by ordering submarine sandwiches and and sodas for Tuesday. They also celebrated a birthday. We have been paying money to go to the Ymca which is often hard to reach and more expensive than places like Planet Fitness. I saw that the fitbit had a setting where I could challenge myself so I will do that this weekend. I have had a tendency to do almost nothing during the weekend but this time I am going to put in the work.


The third phase



The third phase of life begins just before retirement  and includes the lose of one’s siblings, the death of your spouse and the separation from one’s work colleagues. That is where I am at now. I discovered, much to my surprise, that I am at the age where I can collect full social security benefits. I was also told that I may be losing one of my siblings sooner than I had expected. And I cried off and on. It is difficult to have someone as your main support over almost 70 years and then face the possibility that person may no longer be around. In pre-retirement, collecting social security while still working seemed appropriate. Paying off bills and creating new investments while paying off debts seems like a realistic plan. I expect to live well into my 80s so I need a means of making money that won’t involve working all those years. I don’t intend to be anyone’s Walmart greeter. I will be working on the computer and talking with retirement experts to make this happen.



I am struggling. I thought I had found some answers for my foot problems by getting new orthopedic shoes from the VA on Friday. But today my feet were as painful as ever and I did not put on the shoes. I also was hit with some potentially devastating personal news that may or may not be true. I will have to wait for about a month to find out. I have cried a few times and tried listening to music. Joan Baez and Simon and Garfunkel mostly. Meanwhile I received confirmation that a fitbit is on the way as a reward from my insurance app. I have been earning points for exercise and the new shoes were going to help me. I made 11,000 steps Friday. I had noticed that my pattern had been to go all out for a few days and then be practically inert. I am hoping to become more consistent. But the wild card is what will happen with this personal news.

Words with friends



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.

Being grand parents



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?



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.