Small world

I sometimes feel bad that my indoor cats don’t get to go beyond the deck.  They’re world is so small.

Then I think how relatively small my own world is. I’ve been to a number of states in the US, but I’ve never been abroad. I’m not a socialite who has a hundred friends or so. I don’t go to a lot of different area eateries or places of note. There’s a lot of things I haven’t done, places I haven’t been, people I don’t know.

But it’s okay.  I’m branching out more as I go. I’m making more friends, trying new places and things. Unlike the cats, I have the internet, so I can at least virtually explore the world and its varying people and nature.  I can always explore the world around me through the people I see everyday. They all have stories to share. That’s pretty exciting.

I will not stop believing that I’ll get to do the things I want to do, as long as I stay determined and motivated.  And as for the cats, well, they have me and my brother, and each other, and the deck and windows. They seem content.

Am I content? Hmmm. Have to say not entirely. I’m trying to be happy with where I’m at, while staying hopeful about the future. I do pretty well at that. That’s good enough for now.

We’re all in this together

With so much division in our nation, right now,  it’s hard for any of us to remember a frequent theme of mine: “We’re all in this together.” I must admit I too have had many an argument on Facebook,  and tweeted or re-tweeted some harshly worded political messages. Some of my social media friends may find it hard to believe, but I’ve actually refrained from posting things many times because I feel like everyone is sick of it.

So how do we breach the divide? How do we, the common folk, the labor force, the consumers, the middle class, work together? Wait, we do it everyday.  At our jobs, at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office waiting room, at the fair or the park, and many times, coming together in a crisis.

I work with one woman who hates Trump and one who whole-heartedly supports him. The funny thing is, I (and many of my coworkers) don’t like the person who shares my ideology, while I enjoy conversation with the opposing one. We never talk politics, but who needs to?

Perhaps, we need a middle-of-the-road third party to replace these privileged politicians, these manipulating players, these bickering bureaucrats.

I think, when it comes down to it, we all want the same thing. Safety, security for the present and the future for our families and friends, and everyone else, and a little extra for fun stuff, and, of course, someone special to share it all with.

Obviously, there’s a great deal of disagreement on how to achieve that, but the answer is usually somewhere in between the extremes. We all feel helpless and angry at different times when major events occur that we have no control over.   Maybe that’s why there are so many social media “debates”. It’s all we can do. Doesn’t help, does it?

Personally, I think we’re all being played by the rich and powerful as they consolidate their wealth and influence. Divide and conquer. We are certainly divided.

So, let’s try our best to remember that we truly are all in this together. We’re all just trying to get by, muddling through as best we can.

Sunrise, sunset

A follow-up to Tuesday’s post: I was about to hit the snooze button the very next day, when I spotted a red glow through the closed blinds. A peek through revealed a gorgeous sunrise. I took it as a sign, and opened the blinds to enjoy a good long look at nature’s beauty. Then I went back to bed. Just kidding, I’m happy to say.  Did I get ya?

On the contrary, I turned the alarm off and got ready for work. I got there the earliest I have in a while. I quite accidentally overslept today, but still got to work a couple minutes ahead.  Momentum starting.

Then I was reminded by a news update that today was the first day of summer. It was a good day. Now, I’m watching the sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and enjoying the longest day of the year come to a close.

The lightning bugs rise up from the lawn to meet the day’s last light with their own. Earlier, my cat joined me in my chair on the deck, purring and padding my shirt. He has really soft fur, soothing.  I feel like I can do this. Working a lot, trying to write, keep house, take care of business, and myself.

I guess you have to find inspiration in the everyday beauty around you.  Find strength in the people around you, most of whom are dealing with the same things, or similar that you are. We’re all in this together. We can do it!


Photo credit: Eric Ritchey, Summer solstice sunset, 6/21/2018

Time to get serious (and this time I mean it)

I’m talking about discipline. Self-discipline, to be specific.  I’m 60 pounds overweight.  My old punctuality problem is back.  I’m not working out, and as you may have noticed, I’m not writing much. Ugh. It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it?

Part of the problem is that with my weight at my personal max, my sleep apnea is worse, and the lack of energy has made it very difficult to get other things done. I’ve had several naps rage out of control lately. I plan on 30-45 minutes and end up losing 3 hours, or more, even going so far as to reset the timer on my phone to sleep a while longer.

So, I’m not really blaming myself, or being hard on myself, but I am determined to push forward. Don’t worry, I’ll get medical attention for the sleep apnea worsening, but I’m not waiting for that to be wrapped up. I’m forging ahead with my discipline renewal now.

Am I setting myself up? I don’t think so. I’m very determined, tenacious, a little stubborn, perhaps. I know I can do better. You’ve got to do the best you can and allow for some minor slippage when you’re working on life improvements.  Don’t beat yourself up. The world does enough of that.

One thing I managed to figure out years ago, is that discipline is an interconnected thing. It’s hard to be disciplined in one area while completely lax in another. For example, sticking to a diet and exercise plan will actually help me work on my writing.

You don’t want to take on too much all at once, but you do want to have a brand spanking new mindset, one that accepts the reality of the occasional setback, but marches on relentlessly to the goal, knowing you’ll get there. That’s what I’m going to do.

Who’s with me? We’re all in this together, after all!  Go to it!

Roots for the future

My recent family reunion reminded me that it’s important to have roots in life. Everyone needs a base, a center, etc. If you’re a Big Bang Theory fan like me, then you can say, like Sheldon, it’s your 0,0,0.

Like many Americans, I don’t know my lineage beyond a few generations.  I know the Ritchey’s who settled the small town my Dad comes from were German, that I have a Scottish grandmother and a bunch of other DNA thrown in, including some Native American.

I’d like to know more of that, but for now, I’ll focus on what I know. My dad was one of eight children, of whom four are left, including my dad, thankfully.  From the time I was 5 or 6, we had our reunion at the same place every year, for a week. Yes, a family reunion that lasted a week. It was because those eight siblings and their families had spread all over the country. It was difficult to time everyone getting there at the same time and wasn’t really worth going that far for a day or weekend. Of course, many only did the weekend but I stayed the whole time almost every year.

I had one cousin, in particular, who was only about 10 months younger with whom I could pick right back up where we left off, after a year, as if we’d just seen each other the day before.

It was important to me to have this, since both of my grandparents on that side had died before I was born. I didn’t have that sense of lineage, or legacy. My maternal grandmother also died before I was born, and my maternal grandfather, the only grandparent I knew, died when I was just four, so I have few memories.

My many aunts and uncles were my only connection to where I came from.  They and my cousins were my reminder that I was part of something bigger, though I only saw them all once a year.

In the last few years, some of us have returned to the old place we had the reunion for so many years, though only for a weekend, not a whole week. There were a lot fewer in attendance this year, but the memories of those gone were shared.

As my dad’s generation fades, I’m so thankful for the time we’ve had and the time remaining. It sure makes you feel how fast the years go by.  I was also reminded that feeling old is, well, relative. Pardon the pun.

As I was talking with a couple of more distant relatives this time, and acquainting/reacquainting ourselves, I remarked that we started having the reunion when I was 5 or 6 years old, and now I’m 46.  They told me I was young yet. I was comforted by that perspective. I do need to work harder on my long term goals, and more urgently. I’ve started doing that over the last year, though. I don’t have time to waste, but I do have time. Time to be a writer, to travel, to meet my soul mate, and grow old together.

As I do all that, I will carry a legacy of a generous, spirited, warm and fun-loving family. I will strive to bring them honor, and to be the man I’m meant to be.

The fun we had getting in trouble

I’m a Generation X member, born 1971.  I’m not going to talk about how spoiled and privileged, and yet challenged and cheated the younger generations are. I’d just like to offer a reflection of the things we did that would be treated as much more serious matters today.

First, we actually walked home, like a mile or more. (Our parents walked ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways). But anyway, a group of us used to walk home together, who went in the same direction. I was the youngest, as most were in my brothers class, one year ahead. That was an issue sometimes when we played at our house, but that’s not today’s topic.

I’m reminded by my self-assigned subject, of the old barn in an area between alleys behind houses on two streets. It had a concrete ledge along the long back side of the building. Everyday, we would all go across the ledge facing the barn, assigning different environs to the small patch of bushes and weeds behind us. One day, it was the seemingly eternal drop that Obi-Wan Kenobi saw behind him as he maneuvered to disable the shields of the death star.

Another day, it was a pit of crocodiles or snakes, or Niagara falls. You get the idea. One day, I was the last to notice that everyone had stopped and turned to face away from the building. (I had chronic ear infections and hearing issues.) Anyway, when I finally got clued in and turned, there was the principal of our school. He was a good man. He just talked about how this was not our property and we hadn’t asked permission to be climbing all over it. He reminded us that we could fall and get hurt, and, most importantly, that our parents would be apprised of the situation. I honestly don’t remember my parents talking to my brother and me about it. I think the threat was enough. The principal also was known for his thick paddle with air holes to get more speed as it was swung toward your butt. Anyway, we never traversed the ledge again.

Another fun game my brother and a couple freinds liked was bike tag at the car wash. We would zig zag and careen crazily through the stalls and the openings between them near the bay doors. It was dangerous, but we didn’t understand why the owner would yell at us. We never got hit by a car, but we almost ran people over a couple times.

I forgot to mention, that the way you tagged each other in bike tag, was to scrape your front bike tire against the back tire of the player you were pursuing. I remember a spectacular crash one evening when I was pursuing my friend and he had to brake suddenly becuase he miscalculated how close he was passing around a telephone pole in an effort to lose me. I scraped his tire all right, but bounced off it and the momentum carried me forward so that my front tire hit his pedal and foot.

I’m not sure what direction I went or how we ever got the tangled mass of metal separated, but miraculously, neither of us was seriously injured. My freind ended up sitting upright against the pole, looking back at me extricating my leg from the frame of my, er, his, er one/both of the bikes. We laughed it off and went home.

It was dangerous, but we had fun.

There was a creek behind my house that we used to go “wading” in.  We often went barefoot, until one of our friends stepped on a piece of glass from a bottle and sent a red band downstream with their blood. Then we always wore shoes.

We rode our bikes everywhere, all over the small town of Bangor, without adult supervision. If we wanted to go the mile or so uptown to the only small business that was the pre-cursor of a convenience store, then we went.

We’d also go down to the wooded area with trails, known as the “bunny trails”. There were some really steep hills with rocks and roots and gravel and such in the way. We never did a face plant, but we could have.

There was a railroad tressel at the bottom of the hill. We would race down there when we heard the train whistle and sit watchingh the coal cars rattle by from a few feet away. It was scary, but we loved the noise, the rumbling of the ground and the enormity of it all.

We took risks, we were sometimes unsupervised, and it could definitely not happen now. I’m not a parent so, it’s not fair for me to try and judge which is better: the ’70s/80’s or now. I wouldn’t presume. Surely, there were a lot of avoidable injuries. Surely, children must be protected from predators and cannot be left alone till a more appropriate age for these times.

I wonder though, if we passed the happy medium sometime ago, and went too far with zero tolerance, school uniforms making a comeback, child seats till they’re 8, liability, no corporal punishment, yada, yada, yada.

Again, I don’t know, especially since kids are dying just for going to class. I just hope and pray for balance and good leadership.

How I met my bully

I had a paper route when I was a kid. I think it was from about 6th to 8th grades. It was a small town rag, the Bangor Daily News, eight pages or so. Pretty light work. Good thing since it was a whole dollar for the two week collection period. Guess I’m dating myself.

I remember delivering it through all kinds of weather. A record summer where it was in the 90’s about every day all summer. An ice storm which found me teetering on the edge of the curb as if I stood at the top of a hundred foot precipice, desperately trying to save face and not tumble over the edge in an embarrassing array of flailing limbs.  The jock who delivered the bigger regional newspaper in the same part of town, looked on with a sort of bemused suspense from across the street. I managed to recover my balance, long enough to take a step and then fall anyway.  No harm was done.

Then there was the thunderstorm that blew my umbrella inside out, and the time I went to put up my umbrella, but when I pushed the button, it flew right off the handle on to the sidewalk. And then opened. Good times.

I look back now and laugh, and value the character building experience. Some of that character building came in a different way, which I value even more, though it’s not so funny.

I had several encounters with an older kid and his sidekick/friend. To this day, I’m not sure if he wanted to fight me and was pushing me to that end, or if he just wanted to see how much I would tolerate.

What I do know is that I was totally passive in those meetings. I talked back to him, kind of defensively, but I didn’t raise a fist, or shove him or block him or anything physical. I tried to just keep walking. They would walk along with me, but block my way at some point. It wasn’t that I was refusing to be violent, or making a conscious decision to be forgiving or turn the other cheek. I simply didn’t want to deal with it.

I didn’t want the other boys to be there, to bother me, or even to talk to me. I just wanted to deliver my papers and make the long walk back home to resume reading the latest fantasy epic I’d picked up at Waldenbooks at the mall. (Now I’m really dating myself.)

I couldn’t understand why anyone would do that to another person. It was so alien to me. Unfathomable. And I suppose that led to the feeling that I was doing something to deserve it, that I must have annoyed him somehow.

The bully started with verbal antagonizing the first time I saw him and the sidekick. I can’t say for sure how many times I ran into them, but two times were more distinctive.

One was shortly after a snowstorm and in his efforts to pick a fight had me head first in a snowbank. I was trying to get up and he was pushing me down. A car going by honked loudly, and slowed down. That was enough to scare them off for the day.

The other time, the bully was taunting me with a cigarette saying I wouldn’t even know how to smoke it. I said I didn’t and I wouldn’t want one. He flashed his lighter in my face several times, until finally he accidentally caught a bit of my hair with the flame. I remember that he looked genuinely concerned, and he patted the singed hairs out.

Both boys laughed heartily of course, but some part of him felt bad. I thought about the look on his face sometime later, and I knew that he didn’t come from a good family, just by knowing the part of town he was from. I assumed that he was abused, and that’s why he was acting out. Yet, despite all that, he felt bad when he went too far. I could forgive him then.

But again, I can’t say there was any lofty nobility at the time this was going on, except for God’s presence in me. But I think my low energy, depression and anxiety, and low self esteem left me all but paralyzed in the face of a bully I just wanted to avoid.

Perhaps this is why I get so incensed by injustices now. But some kind of reaction is good for me, and anger can be useful when channeled into something constructive. I hope I’ve found a good balance.