Wednesday, November 30, 2016

312. High School football

I’ve got something to admit: I kind of like high school football. Like a lot of sports fans, I have had a complicated relationship with the sport. There’s been all the talk about concussions and serious injuries. I know I wouldn’t operate well under the typical coach/athlete relationship. There’s too much yelling, too much early practices, and those practices often smell terrible. That’s nothing to say off the issues at the college and professional levels.

NFL ratings are down this year. I, and many others, are not sure why. I think it’s probably a mix of lack of star power, gradual decline in interest, a presidential election, and a burgeoning mix of other entertainment options. (Except everyone wants to point to ONE THING. Also, if you think Colin Kaepernick is the reason most people aren’t watching, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)

Which brings me back to high school football. Two weeks ago, I went to a semifinal matchup between Marshall and Benilde-St. Margaret at U.S. Bank Stadium. I met up with some old friends from the area and we watched the game together. Even though Marshall lost, it was without a doubt the most entertaining Marshall football game I had ever watched. Most of the games ended up as lopsided contests. This one was tied at halftime. It remained close until BSM ran away with it.

Even though I’m no longer a Marshall resident, it was nice to be out there supporting the team. I saw a few people I knew and I caught up with them. My high school didn’t have a team. I was fine with that, but our community was so small, so it was difficult to gain that bond that comes with watching a common event as a community. (Though we had plenty of other things.)

I think the reason I like high school football is that it gives people a reason to leave their houses on a Friday night. It forces you away from your screens and out in the community. You have to say hi to people and get to know other better. After the election, I’ve been trying to find some cultural touch points that people of all political spectrums can enjoy. I think high school football can be one of them.

I don’t know if I’ll let my hypothetical future son or daughter play football. I’m glad I do not have to make that decision just yet. I wonder if that decision will be made for me by the time I get that age. And while I believe that concussions and player safety are a huge problem, sometimes you just have to face a little bit of danger. Some towns have few things to rally around other than the football team. I don’t want people to lose those things.

I never was a fan of the letter jackets, the stereotypical football bullies, the smelly pads, or the whole enterprise in general. But now that I’m an adult, I can see the good in the game.

311. Coffee

I remember the time I started drinking coffee regularly. It was the first summer after college. I was working up at my old high school as a summer camp counselor. This was the first time I worked with kids on a regular basis. I had to be enthusasistic, energetic, and entertaining. All difficult things for a college-age kid to do early in the morning. I had been an early riser for most of my life, but something changed around this time. I felt sluggish in the morning.

So I started getting coffee with breakfast. I remember that at first I needed cream with it. I would put two irish cream packets in my travel mug. At some point I switched to no cream. That’s what got me through many different parts of summer camp and college. I now drink 3-4 cups a day. I’m probably above-average. Hopefully it’s not unhealthy.

One of my most proud accomplishments was when I organized the golden mug challenge at Chippewa Scout Camp. Our busy time of the summer was the second week in July through the first week in August. That’s when most of the troops came. On our peak week, we had almost every campsite full. One site had about 100 people on it, and another was close to fifty. Usually troops were about 25 people all together.

As commissioner, I had to walk around to sites to make sure the leaders were happy. I loved that job because I was good at it. It was fun just to shoot the breeze and meet people from all over the state and midwest. During the busy week, I noticed that two of the biggest troops had their own espresso machines. They were some pretty funky gadgets. Most troops just had a simple stovetop coffee machine. I think one of those fancy ones was fueled via propane. The leaders would always want to stop and chat for a while and have a cup of coffee, I would happily oblige.

Of course, I brought up the other propane gadgets, and being scouts they were naturally competitive. Troops would ask if they had the best coffee. There was only one real way to settle this: a coffee off. So I announced the golden mug challenge after a meal and the leaders seemed pretty amped about it. I got a group of staff members to help sample the drinks on a morning in the parade field.

Boy were there some great creations. One troop shaved bacon chocolate into the drinks. Another guy made a camp-made orange cream using only ingredients in the dining hall. My one regret is maybe that I should have had sample size cups, instead of using whole mugs. We were all pretty jittery after that many shots of espresso. I tried replicating the program different weeks over the next two years, but with only slight successes. None of them matched the energy and enthusiasm of that week in 2009. Oh well.

That was the camp program I was most proud of. It also fed my (slight) addiction to coffee.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

310. Tragedy

Today, like so many other days in the last few months, was a gray day. There was the tragedy with Chapecoense, a plane crash killed many of its players. The team was on their way to the first leg of a championship game. I had never heard of the club before today, but they seemed like they had accomplished many good things. The one good thing that came out of this was the reminder that soccer is a community. I follow the Instagram and Twitter accounts of many different soccer players and clubs. Just about all of them posted some sort of tribute to the team. That was touching to see. I’m guessing there will be more tributes this weekend as more players play games.

That’s one thing I find touching about club football. While watching Premiere League games, I’ve heard the fans breakout in applause at various times throughout different matches. Usually it’s in honor of a fan club member who has passed away suddenly. I like that the clubs remember why they are really playing the games. I love the club format of European soccer clubs. It feels so much more real and raw than the straight up business ownership structure of U.S. professional teams.

Tragedy seems to come along so often this days, that we don’t often know how to deal with it. I think social media has ruined that aspect of life. Many people turn to social media in times of tragedy, and I have as well. While refreshing at times, there are those who think there is a right way or a wrong way to mourn someone or something. People call others out and beg them to move on, and then there is backlash to the backlash. It’s all very unhealthy.

I had lunch with a friend today who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. We got to know each other in college when we worked on some campaigns together. She’s now a lawyer and I see her every so often for lunch. She, like so many others, was distraught over the results of the election. She worked for a number of female candidates in the election. I really respected her for that.

We talked and caught up about work, life, post-election recaps, and future plans. We also shared some ways of self-care in this tough time. I recommended some books, she talked about a “checklist” for the next few years. I agree with that. We all have things we need to do.

Maybe we should all just feel how we need to feel for the next few years. Some people deal with it more easily than others, other people just need to rant and let things out. I don’t disagree with any of that. Maybe we should give each other the benefit of the doubt, hold out our hands when we need to, and offer up help when we want to. There’s somebody, somewhere out there that needs some help. It just takes a little bit of time to find them.

309. Open to Joy

I’m not much of a holidays person. I’m not sure why. I don’t hate the holidays. I like opening presents, I don’t mind seeing family, and I can sing a Christmas carol or two when called upon. I don’t enjoy decorating, I didn’t get a tree this year, and I try to avoid any sort of shopping for as long as possible. I’m just sort of meh throughout most of the season.

One reason I think is because I’m not at a stage where I’ve been settled in long enough somewhere to celebrate Christmas. The last half of my life has involved finals, travel plans, or covering late games. I didn’t make the time to put in for Christmas because I had other things on my mind. I guess that’s ok.

The other thing is that I always find the relentless push for sales a bit sickening. I just got an email telling me about “Giving Tuesday” Seriously? We’ve had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. I don’t mean to disparage charities who obviously want to raise much-needed funds, but man these are a lot of days to keep track of.

I decided to give people a little bit of a break when celebrating the holidays this year. Other people get joy out of them, and I’ve made a conscious effort not to get in the way of other people’s joy. It’s been too crappy of a year to not let people celebrate and grab joy out of life how they please. I think if we all did that a little bit better, things would improve by a lot.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my cousin’s this year, once again. The gatherings are getting smaller and smaller. As other people’s families grow, plans change. I can surely understand that. I know there was a lot of talk about politics and what not to talk to your families about over the holidays. While topical, I think it was a bit overdone. You can choose not to talk about these things. Maybe some discussions get a bit heated, but I’d like to think the majority of families know when to stop discussing things, or change the subject. I know I’m a straight, white, male who has had a pretty solid relationship with his family for most his life.

I went in thinking It’d eventually come up, but it never did, and I was fine with that. I listened to my cousin talk about her new dog. I talked with my other cousin about soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann’s firing, and other random projects. And as always, I took a little ribbing from my uncle I tried to update him about my life. It was all well and good. We ate a meal together and spent some time with one another. That should be enough.

I don’t always enjoy the holidays. I kind of just ride them out. I’m trying to be just a little but more joyful his time around. People could use more joy this year. I’m just going to let myself be open to accepting it.

Monday, November 28, 2016

308. Oatmeal

I’m going to start eating more oatmeal. I know it’s not the most exciting breakfast. I know that it tastes like soggy cardboard. I know that it’s usually the choice of old people. I just need more simple things in my life. There are advertisements for products that will give you protein, or that will help you trim belly fat, or ones that will make you feel full without being groggy. Or there are big companies trying to pull of “natural and sustainable” when you know they were just added in as buzzwords at the last minute by some marketing executives. I want something boring.

Boring is underrated. Consistency is underrated. Healthful is underrated. Oatmeal is all of those things. 2016 is the year of making the complex simple. The whole world has felt out of control at times. There’s been despair, anger, frustration, and a big ‘ol sense of WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON. I don’t want to get caught up in a cycle of despair anymore.

So I think step one in fighting that is making sure you have a good breakfast. I’m a lunch guy, but I have total respect for breakfast. Breakfast gets no respect. People are always sleeping in and then they are in a hurry. They don’t have time to just sit down and percolate to start the day. I live for those few moments of silence and simplicity before I start my day. It’s very underrated. I think an easy way to do that is to make some dang oatmeal and enjoy it for 20 minutes before I get on with my day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be mindful of things. It’s so easy to give in to despair. I think it takes courage to be optimistic. It takes courage to facing problems and not giving in. It takes courage to refuse cynicism. I think all of those things would be more easily accomplished if everyone just had a dang good breakfast before they went on Twitter and ranted about whatever they thought was bugging them during the day. Making opinions and decisions on an empty stomach is always a bad idea.

We also live in the think piece and hottake era. Every minutiae  of political and pop culture has to be dissected a billion ways before you can enjoy it. Everyone has an opinion about something and now there is very little stopping you from throwing that opinion into the world. I really don’t think that’s a good thing. Just because you have a microphone, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it.

Oatmeal simplifies that. Very few people have opinions about oatmeal. Well, plain old unflavored oatmeal that is. I respect that about a product. Very few things are able to stick around for that long without eliciting furious takes from the culture. I just want things to slow down for a little bit, and I think that will start with some oatmeal.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

307. A Most Sacred Place

I decided to go to a new church this morning. I went to the 9:30 a.m. Mass at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis. If you’re from the Twin Cities metro area, I’m guessing your mind tripped over the last two words in that sentence: North Minneapolis. If you don’t know, it’s the “bad” part of town. It’s our Southside of Chicago, North Philadelphia, etc. I’ve stayed away from it. Mainly because I haven’t really had a reason to go explore it. This was a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone for a while.

The church was small. It was adorned pretty much like any other small church you’d walk into: cream colored walls, creaky pews, stained glass windows, etc. My friend gave me a heads up that it was a friendly parish. She wasn’t wrong. The priest invited the congregation to greet guests prior to the beginning of the service. People held hands during the Lord’s Prayer. People got out of their pews during the sign of peace. My friend, who was part of the band that played during Mass, said that people would probably just keep shaking hands if the music didn’t start up again.

The thing that struck me most was during the homily. The priest read a part of letter from the prior priest. He said the Ascension was, “One of the most sacred places on earth.” There was an audible gasp from the crowd. North Minneapolis. Sacred. That’s not something you hear from anyone.

Judging by my Facebook feed, the last few weeks have involved a lot of self-reflection for lots of people. We wonder what we can do. People have posted heartbreaking stories of people of all different backgrounds getting harassed after Trump’s win. It’s terrible and heartbreaking. However, in wondering what we can do out there, we often miss what we can do right here. Right here is a sacred place. Right here is a garden that needs watering. Right here is where we are.

That doesn’t dismiss the large problems faced by people all over this country and the world, but I believe there is power and liberation in thinking small. After Mass, my friend and I went out to breakfast at a place called Breaking Bread. It was a wonderful breakfast. The place was a small cafe. The paint job was colorful, local art hung on the walls, and there were a number of friendly women there to greet us--everyone working there was a woman of color. I got a frittata to go along with a biscuit, one of the best I’ve ever had.

It was an extremely pleasant dining experiences. The wait staff was delightful, the food delicious, and the company was wonderful. My friend talked with our waitress, found out the she was a cosmetology student, and got a standing invitation for a facial from the waitress at the school she was attending.

Afterwards my friend remarked, “I love this neighborhood, you just meet friendly people.”

North Minneapolis, sacred and friendly.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

306. Looking Back

I spent the last few days at my parent’s house. Since I didn’t bring a book or my laptop, I decided to do some digging through old journals, notes, photos, and other objects of record that I’ve kept in shoeboxes underneath my bed. Some of the stuff was fun to look back at: old photos and letters from friends. Some of it was sort of cringe-worthy: old photos and journal entries from that long ago.

I don’t miss being a teenager. A lot of people think that was the best time of their lives. Nah, it wasn’t. Oh my teenage years were just fine, but I don’t miss the hormones, the inability to drink, and the constant thinking that the world is conspiring against you. I’d rather go back to my senior year in college. You can drink, you’re the big man on campus, and you’ve got a slight slight sense of what to do with your life.

If I could say a few things to my younger self, here they are. Quit worrying so much. Things will be fine. Less than one percent of the things you’ll come across on a daily basis. Just let things go. It’s not the end of the world when you break up with a girl. You’re not going to ruin your life if you fail a test. Just put your best effort it. A B+ life is just fine. It’s still much better than most everyone else, and you don’t have the pressure to keep being perfect. Shoot for above average and you’ll be just fine.

I think the other thing I’d say is that you need to learn to trust your instincts. That’s such a cliche term. No, it’s trust that inner voice. Or, wait, you know what you want, you just have to trust that it’s the right thing. There are going to be things in life that you think are going to make you happy, or bring you the level of satisfaction that you want in life, but that’s rarely the case.

I’d also say, learn to wait. Being able to control yourself and your spending is a good habit to get into. Impulse buys are a top-10 worst characteristic of human beings. Think about what you want to get. Will you get use out of it? Will you enjoy it? Or will it automatically just end up in your closet? I’ve been better at this than I thought I would be. I get this weird feeling when I’m on the edge of buying something that I don’t know if I’ll need.

Also, don’t whine so much. Yeah, things are hard. Yeah, you’ll probably need to process a lot of things. But you don’t need to complain about every paper, every little assignment, or everything you need to do. I think negativity is contagious, and the opposite is true as well. Most things you feel negative about will dissipate in a matter of time. It’s just a matter of breathing and letting them disappear.

Friday, November 25, 2016

305. Small

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. I’ve been wondering about that a lot with regards to social media recently. In my hundreds of connections, how many people do I really care about? How many do I remain “friends” with because I fear offending them if I cut off that relationship. I’m guessing I probably only interact with about 100 or so of my Facebook friends. And probably only a quarter of those on a deeper level.

I’ve seen a lot of posts about the election, mainly outrage and anger. Which I understand and empathize with. I don’t want to tell people how to feel. If you’re complaining about what you see on Facebook, maybe you should spend less time on Facebook. It doesn’t make sense for you to do something you don’t enjoy.

But, on the flip side, should I be the one carrying emotional burdens for people I don’t care about? A Facebook friend of mine, a college classmate, ranted about something. I didn’t necessarily agree with her, but I don’t like seeing people annoyed or angry either. But, is it my responsibility to cheer her up? Why should I burden myself with what she’s putting out in the world if I’m not going to do anything about it? Granted, there are times when semi-close friends right heartfelt things that I am genuinely moved, or troubled by. I simply acknowledge it with a comment or a like. Sometimes that’s all you need to do. I just don’t want my day ruined by people I have little to no connection with. If you’re going to ruin my day, you better friggin’ care about me a lot.

And while I like to think I have smart, well-read friends who post interesting articles on their Facebook page (I like to think I am one of those people), it’s a lot more annoying than you think it is. While I do find genuinely interesting stories, I eventually get sick of the takes that accompany them. I’m not friends with you because of your punditry (well, I am friends with a few pundits, but I won’t name those five people), I should be friends with you because I genuinely enjoy you as a person. From what I’ve learned in my training as a journalist: a lot of pundits are jerks. I have a right to remove jerks from my Facebook feed.

Then there are people who would just say, why don’t you quit Facebook then? I mean, it is pretty awful, but I do enjoy seeing pictures of people I care about, passion projects that people show off, and it is an easy way to reconnect with a friend I haven’t heard from in a while.

So, I think I’m going to keep the joy small. I’m only going to carry burdens that I am prepared to carry. I am going to give help when I feel like I can give it, and politely refuse when I realize that I cannot give it. It’s ok to say no, and it’s ok to let others pick up burdens when you can’t. All you can do is show up and offer your gift. If you can’t give it, don’t offer it.

304. Thanks

Writing hasn’t been easy this month. Physically, it’s been just fine, but trying to dig up a little bit of yourself and throwing it into the pixels has felt like a chore this month. I blame the election, my time on social media, and the culture of outrage and dread that has spread like unrelenting black mold this year. I’ve just wanted to avoid it and step away for a while. So, I did. I just didn’t want to right anymore takes about the election or any of the numerous problems our country is facing. There are other people who can do that better than me, and I didn’t feel comfortable in the chorus.

So, at the expense of my 2016 New Year’s Resolution, I’ve slacked off on writing. I do this too often. I get so close and then I just sort of shut down. I don’t want to do that to end out the year. So, I’m going to fill out a blogging schedule and stick to it for the rest of year. I’m going to have to double up on posts, which is fine. One thousand words a day isn’t all that much in the swing of things.

These last few weeks have taught me that if you want something out of the world, you have to put it in. I want joy and kindness, so I’m going to put out some joy and kindness. As yesterday was Thanksgiving, here are some things I am thankful for.

-I am thankful for the half-dozen friends I text on Saturday mornings during Premier League games. You make watching more enjoyable. I appreciate sharing takes on different players, Men in Blazers inside jokes, and thoughts on CRAP jerseys. It’s a nice little tradition and community on Saturday mornings.

-I am thankful for my family. Everyone thinks their own family is screwed up. And everyone is right. I’m fortunate that mine did their best in spite of it all. Despite the problems we’ve faced, I’ve had a pretty good life and I thank my family for that.

-I am thankful for running. As I am fond of saying, I’m better writing about sports than playing them. I am thankful that I’ve found a proper outlet for my athletic needs. I’m not a great runner, but I train and work my hardest. I’m proud of that. To coin a metaphor,  I’ve always thought going for an A+ was gaudy and unsustainable. I think if you shoot for B+’s in life, you’re going to do just fine.

-I am thankful for my ability to see the good in most everyone. I’m able to empathize with people easily, which is both a gift and a curse. However, I think it makes me a warmer person. I like having that effect on people.

-I am thankful for joy. Joy is the most single underrated emotion on the planet. Everyone says they are happy, but few ever readily admit to being joyful. When am I most joyful? When I’m running, catching up with friends, listening the Men in Blazers, watching Premier League Soccer, helping others, coming out of Mass, sitting and enjoying coffee and a newspaper, and writing.

303. Winter

We finally got some snow on Friday. It wasn’t a ton here in the metro area. It wasn’t the soft fluffy kind that you think about filling your childhood. No, it was windy, crunchy, and icy. Not great. It was the kind of stuff you hate to drive in.

I went for a run on Saturday afternoon. I enjoy cold-weather runs. I bundle up with some spandex, and some synthetic fabric layers. There are usually far fewer people running in the winter than the summer. I think that’s why I like it so much. I just don’t have to deal with people. I get a little bit more time to myself. And I enjoy the way I generate my own heat to keep warm. (Except I don’t like ice. Running on ice is awful.)

I ran just over three miles on Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining. It was cold, but not too cold. Just enough to make your face feel something different. I also like that feeling when you get done and step inside. It’s harder to appreciate the warmth if you’ve never been cold.

Like most Americans, or at least the ones in my social media feeds, I’ve spent a lot of bandwith processing the election these past few weeks. There’s been a lot to unpack. There are just so many issues to discuss and fix. If there’s one good thing about the results of the election, it’s that many people are waking up to the reality of living in a democracy. I forgot who said it, but democracy is not a spectator sport. You need to be involved and engaged. You need to participate to make the system work. I think that’s what a lot of liberals failed to do in this election.

Last week, I heard some women talking about how they couldn’t believe how cold it was out that day. It had just started to dip below 50 after a good stretch of 60 degree days in early November. I shook my head and thought to myself, “You do realize it’s November, right?” These past eight years have felt like a late summer to liberals. Oh, it’s just fine, Obama’s in the White House. I’m comfortable here. Our nation is just fine and everyone’s happy.

A Facebook friend of mine posted before his state’s election that he nearly couldn’t vote because he didn’t register, or something like that. His right to democracy was almost taken away! The thing that pissed me off was that he didn’t have the foresight to look what he needed to do to register. I get it it that it takes time, but good God man, put in a little effort before you rant on Facebook.

Winter does come. (Or whatever winter will look like in the age of climate change.) It does get colder. People who disagree with you and the things you stand for will take powerful positions. Yeah, running in summer is nice, but what do you do when winter comes? Good thing I like to bundle up and go outside.

Monday, November 21, 2016

302. What to Write

I’ve been struggling what to write these past few weeks. I haven’t been motivated to say much after the election. The last few weeks have felt like a gut punch. Yeah, I know I’m a straight, white male, so I’ll be fine. Does that mean I can’t empathize? No. We all have pain. Lots of people have (and will have) it worse than me, but that doesn’t dismiss it.

So, here’s just spaghetti at the wall on what I’ve taken away from the last week:

Show up, give your gift: I am a person who likes to give. I’m fairly generous with my time. I could be more generous with my money, but I’m always generous with my listening ear. I’ve had trouble identifying what that “gift” is. I can’t remember exactly when this hit me, but I think mine is kindness and empathy. That’s what I have to offer. It took me a while to realize that that is a gift that is totally all right to give. There are times when I could give more, but start there. I spent most of the day last Wednesday reaching out to people I think we can burn ourselves out by giving too much of ourselves. I’m better identifying when I am no longer kind. I know that it’s untenable to be a kind person all the time. I do know it’s at my heart though. I know when the thing I am doing is out of kindness and when it is out of spite.

Showing up means exactly that. Get out of your house. Get away from a computer screen. Come to those volunteer events. Go visit a friend, or a relative and just talk to them. I think our generation has been conned into thinking that tweeting or changing your Facebook status is the same as showing up. No, it’s not. Get out there and show your big beutiful face. People want to see it.

Don’t offer a gift that you are not willing to give: I have a friend who is particularly distraught by this election. She’s been going on and on about it on social media. It pains me to see her dismay. She also seems to be resentful to people who haven’t reached out to her. Granted, this person is not one of my better friends, but we’ve kept in touch over the years. I asked her via social media, “So what can we do to help?” She responded with a “I don’t know.” I’m not willing to be a constant listening ear to he, but I tired. I don’t live close by this person, so I probably can only give so much comfort. I showed up and offered, but that’s about all I can do right now.

Put out what you want in this world: There’s been a lot of people in dismay over the various racist acts that have been enabled due to Trump’s election. I haven’t seen, or heard any yet. I haven’t run into graffiti, nor have I heard any racist slurs. Maybe I live in a bubble. However, this has enabled me to be a nice person. I’ve tried to say hi to more people. I’ve tried to be just slightly extra kind to those who are different from me. I’m trying to go on offense with kindness. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. I’d like to think it will. That’s what keeps me going.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

301. A letter to Melanie, 11/08

Dear Melanie,
I’ve been thinking about what to write to you after the election last Tuesday. This isn’t the letter I wanted to write to you. If Hillary Clinton had won, I probably would have written you something about glass ceilings and pantsuits and great it was to live in a country that elected a woman as president. Unfortunately, I am not writing you that letter. I’m writing you a letter that may be considered more of a gut punch than a pat on the back.

Last Tuesday came down to this: the decent candidate lost, and the indecent candidate won. Taking away any discussion on policy, that’s what it came down to. The bully, the racist, the sexist, the fear-monger won the election. And the sad part is, so many Americans equated that sort of campaigning with leadership. That will baffle me and frighten me for a long time for a long time.

It’s probably not going to be OK. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. The world is going to seem like a much scarier place for a while. I don’t think any adult ever wants to tell a kid those things. I am sorry for that.

I’ll let you in on a secret: adults get scared, a lot. We just like to think we do not. This is both good and bad. I used to think that my parents knew what they were doing all the time. They don’t. This is the first time in my life that I am very, very scared for the future. I am scared for the future of race relations. I am scared about international incidents. And I am scared for the health of the planet. I wish I wasn’t.

I have many, many thoughts on everything, but here are the few bits of wisdom that I’ve been able to pull out of the wreckage of this past week:

-If you want something, put it out into the world. If there is anything good that’s come from this election, it’s made me realize what I can and cannot control. I can’t solve systemic racism, but I can put kindness out into the world and learn a little bit more about these big problems. I want a kind, safe, and welcoming planet, so I’m trying to be an example of that. I’ve tried to say hi to a few more people. I’ve tried to be a little bit nicer to those I interact with on a daily basis, and I’ve just tried to be a listening ear for many. I probably wouldn’t have done any of those things had Hillary won. Be an example, don’t wait for others to do it.

-All you can do is show up and offer your gift. You have many gifts, Melanie. I’m excited to see how you grow and use them. There’s going to be a part of you that wants to solve all of the world’s problems, but also feels pulled down the weight of them all. All you can do is show up and offer your gift. It’s not up to you on whether someone takes you up on your gift, all you have to do is keep showing up. I spent most of the day last Wednesday texting friends and asking how they were doing, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in a while. It felt good just to check in with them. One friend, a woman of color, was furious and terrified. I wanted to comfort her, but I didn’t want to tell her that “it’s going to be all right.” I told her that the country and my life is better with her in it, and that I would do everything I could to make this country a safe and welcoming place for her and for people like her. Just show up and offer your gift.

-My biggest direct piece of advice is, learn how to introduce yourself to people. Be the one to break the ice. Say hello to people and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to walk up to a stranger at a party and say hi. This is a skill that people are losing. I think a lot of the mess we’re in has stemmed from people not wanting to get to know one another, and also substituting “real” relationships with one's online. While those types of connections are fine, they are missing that warmth that comes with genuine human connection. Get to know people who don’t look like you or live in the same culture you do. That’s hard, but it pays dividends.

Be an example.
Show up, offer your gift.
Meet people who aren’t like you.

That’s all I got for now.


Friday, November 11, 2016

300. I am not rooting for Donald Trump.

I am not rooting for Donald Trump. Yes, I accept that he will be my president in January. No, I am not moving to Canada. I don’t want to see a single iota of the hatred and vileness that he preached on the campaign trail to succeed. Sure, I’m rooting for him to not destroy the world, but that’s really about it. I rooted for Obama. Lots of Republicans said that as well when he got elected, look how they treated him. So, no, I’m not going to root for Donald Trump.

Here’s what I am rooting for instead:

I am rooting for this country to succeed in spite of the many vile things that Trump represents. I am rooting for democracy. I am rooting for more people to vote. I am rooting for people to get involved in their civic organizations, their places of worship, and in their government. I am rooting for free speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press.

I am rooting for people to stand up to racism and sexism. I am rooting for Black Lives Matter. I am rooting for immigrants who want to come here to make a better life for themselves and their families. I am rooting for refugees to make it here safe and to feel welcomed. I am rooting for the good cops who just want to do their job well and get home safe. I am rooting for my fellow white males to stand up to racism, sexism, and homophobia. I am rooting for the Nasty Women in my life.  I am rooting for my friends of color, and in the LGBTQ community to feel welcome, safe, and loved, and to succeed. I am rooting for peace and reconciliation between disparate groups.

I am rooting for my “other”, the groups who I have unknowingly demonized and stigmatized, to succeed in spite of my ignorance. I am rooting for people to get out of their bubbles, off of their phones, and into healthy, robust conversations with people unlike themselves. I am rooting for self-reflection and fewer angry tweet storms. I am rooting for healing. I am rooting for people not to be so arrogant. I am rooting for people to feel less self-righteous.

I am rooting for the people who got left behind these past few years. I am rooting for small towns and tight-knit communities. I am rooting for businesses who are committed to creating good jobs. I am rooting for labor unions. I am rooting for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I am rooting for those who just want to do their job, raise their family, and help their community. I am rooting for the people who feel like they just can’t hang on to hang on for one more day. I am rooting for the mentors, the hug-givers, the people who provide a listening ear.

I am rooting for our veterans to get help that they need. I am rooting for them to succeed as they reenter society. I am rooting for our military leaders to make wise decisions.

I am rooting for our teachers. I am rooting for students to succeed in spite of schools that are behind on repairs and lack the proper materials to succeed. I am rooting for people to feel empowered by education. I am rooting for knowledge to become cool again.

I am rooting for those scientists and policy makers who are relentlessly fighting against global warming. I am rooting for those developing clean energy. I am rooting for organic farmers. I am rooting for those who want to leave this planet better than they found it.

I am rooting for kindness. I am rooting for civility in our discourse. I am rooting for compassion and empathy. I am rooting to give people the benefit of the doubt. I am rooting for people to write to their congressperson. I am rooting for people to feel empowered by democracy.

I am rooting for a safe, healthy future. I am rooting for little girls who want to become president. I am rooting for little boys who want to do great things. I am rooting for people to not feel overwhelmed by all of this.

I am rooting for you, tell me what you want to do and what you want to do, and I will root for you.

Monday, November 7, 2016

299. Doctor Strange

The Marvel movies I have the most trouble following are the ones that are just slightly off the normal superhero storyline. They’re ones set in alternate dimensions, ones that have characters with names that I have a hard time remembering, and ones that involve different worlds. That’s ok though, I still enjoy most of the films. I saw Doctor Strange tonight. I wanted to go see it, but it was either tonight, or wait till the weekend. I toyed with the idea of seeing it tomorrow night while election returns rolled in, but I decided against that line of thinking.

I had medium expectations for the film. Probably my favorite Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War, came out earlier this year. I didn’t expect it to be at that level, but I had read that it had cool visuals, and of course, Benedict Cumberbatch. The story involved the egotistical, yet brilliant neurosurgeon Doctor Strange who loses control of his hands in an auto accident. He goes searching for miracle cures, which leads him to the far east. He finds what you could call a monastery and learns how to control magical powers, travel in alternate dimensions, etc., etc. The two movies it reminded me a lot of were Batman Begins and Inception.

Much like Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, Strange is in need of an escape. Although Stange’s training involves a slightly more mystical level. There were ancient texts, weapons, and lots of other stuff in that area. Enjoyable, it’s slightly less fun than the play between Captain America and Iron Man, but Cumberbatch keeps it enjoyable. I’ll be interested to see how his schtick plays among the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe Crowd. You can only have so many guys play the smarmy, but lovable a**hole route. Iron Man is definitely the alpha male in that department, but you’ll have Strange, Ant Man, Peter Quill. It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out.

In the end, I’d say this was in the top half of my favorite Marvel movies. That’s mainly do to Benedict Cumberbatch and the awesome cinemetography. There’s a danger in superhero movies, in the words of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, to go all “smashy, smashy.”  This definitely had those aspects, but I actually enjoyed watching all of the effects. They were pretty trippy. Though the final battle isn’t quite what you expect.

I like when superhero movies wrestle with some real world issues. I enjoyed the register or not storyline in the Captain America. It gives the whole story a little bit more weight. Doctor Strange was a little bit light in that aspect. The story was fine, but I don’t think I would watch the movie again. This was kind of like the Thor movies. Those have always been my least favorite of the Marvel flicks.

It looks like we’ll have three Marvel movies coming out next year: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnorock. I think I’m most excited about Spiderman. He’s always a fun character.

298. 2017

I am already looking ahead to 2017. I know that’s a little bit dangerous. It’s good to live in the now. It’d be good to try and salvage what I can from 2016. Personally, 2016 has been just fine, but I guess it’s the Apocalypse on any sort of national scale. Actually, let’s check back in after Tuesday. I guess I’m just so sick of talking about the election. I don’t think I’ve heard a single person by joyful about it. It’s all dread, fear, and anxiety. There is no joy in their voices. There’s no joy in my voice either. So I’m going to look forward to something else: 2017.

Here are things I’m thinking about making my New Year’s Resolutions:

1.Get to Spain. I’ve been talking about this Europe trip for far, far too long. I just about have the money I need saved up. I’m still not married and don’t have any kids. More and more of my friends are moving into the lifestyle where they have spouses and kids to think about. That’s fine and great, but I want to take advantage of the freedoms that bachelorhood entails. I’m not sure when just yet, but hopefully in the first few months of the year. It’s still settled in somewhere deep and I haven’t quite lifted the feeling from me. It’s time. I’m hoping I can get to a Barcelona soccer game. Or a little bit of the Camino Del Santiago would be nice as well. I’m going to start looking more closely at what deals and times I can go. It’s time.

2.Run a half marathon. Running may have been the breakout activity for 2016 for me. I made a New Year’s resolution to run 500 miles this year. I only have about 50 miles left to go. I’ve enjoyed seeing my progress improve. I love the feeling of coming back from a five mile run. It feels like it’s just more than the average trip I used to do. I think a half marathon would be a good next step for me. I did a 10K this year. I followed a rough training plan and finished in under my goal time. That felt cool to accomplish.

3.Try to get published in Modern Love. One of my guilty pleasures is reading the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times every Sunday. Readers submit stories about different aspects of love. That involves a whole swath of things: dating apps, relationships in old age, love of family, etc. As a hopeless romantic, I’ve always thought I’ve had a few good stories to tell in that area. I need to set an official timetable to get them in. I submitted one a while back. At the time, I thought it was pretty good. I read it back a few weeks ago. Oof. Not great. Just keep trying and things will happen.

If I’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that one should keep things simple. Do just a few things well, as opposed to trying to do everything. I think if I focus on these three things, it’ll work out.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

297. Shock to the system.

It’s the sixth of November. It should be a time when things cool off a little bit. Summer is over, the leaves have fallen off the trees, it gets dark out super early, baseball season is over, and the playoffs for the NFL haven’t quite started yet. It’s that pre-Holiday hibernation that all of us slumber into.

Instead, it hit 70 degree today. I’m sitting here at my kitchen table in a hooded sweatshirt and gym shorts. Both the kitchen window are open and the fan is on, mainly because the heat in the building has already been turned on. It’s not comfortable. My downstairs neighbors are smoking on their patio and the smell is wafting through my windows. They were having some sort of house party earlier where I could hear the bass through the floor. It’s November for pete’s sake. Slow down just a little bit until Christmas.

I walked around my neighborhood for about an hour this evening in the same outfit. It was a pleasant temperature, even if it was out of the ordinary. There is also the 11th hour discussion about polls, voter turnout, weather forecasts, and lots of other things. It’s all very high tension. It’s very off brand for November. I don’t love November, but I like that there is a winnowing of people who can’t stand the cold.

Like most everyone else, I’ve been upset the past few weeks regarding politics. I can’t stand the news anymore. I just want it to stop and get on with everything. I just want it to get cold, feel the zip in the air as I leave for work, bundle myself up in a hoodie or a sweater, and enjoy the freezing weather. You can enjoy it if you prepare enough.  Though it feels like that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, even after the election.

This whole thing feels like it’s dragged on for quite a while and no one really enjoys it. I doubt the candidates do. I don’t think anyone’s been joyful about the whole thing. I’ve decided to give people a pass on celebrating Christmas early this year. Who cares? If it’s something that lightens the mood, I’m all for it. We need more things in our lives that people are genuinely happy about. It’s good to see people get excited about the things in life they are genuinely happy about. Joy is a thoroughly underrated emotion.

I am joyful about the cooler weather. I love the feeling of walking out in just the right amount of outerwear where you are not cold and you’re not sweating either. You can feel the air shock your throat as you walk. It’s a shock to the system after months of breathing through straws throughout the humid summer.

Our country has been running through this noxious cycle of venom and hatred. I don’t know why we’ve allowed this to happen. I think it truly is bumming us all out. Let’s cool it down, put on our sweaters, and get back to the bare bones things of life.