I can’t read

reading.jpgFor the last several weeks, I haven’t been able to read much at all. I have something like 4 books going at once, which is probably part of the problem, but every time I sit down to read, it immediately loses its appeal and I end up watching The Golden Girls on my phone instead.

The only reason I’ve been able to make any progress on any book lately is because I’ve been listening to audio books. Currently, I’m listening to The People’s History of the United States – the unabridged version – and at 34 hours long, I have been listening to it since January 23rd. I’m in the homestretch now – only 14% left to go (around 3 hours) and I’ve been listening to it while I do dishes and on those rare days that I actually get my act together enough to walk to work. I always knew that listening to it was the only way I’d ever read that book, and I’m glad that I’ve done it the way that I have.  I’ve also read bits of it in the Kindle version of the book, but by and large, it’s been mostly listening. After I am done listening to this book, I’m going to listen to the book Nixonland, which is almost 37 hours long. Should be done about this time next year.

Another audiobook of sorts that I’m listening to is Mort by Terry Pratchett. It all started a couple weeks ago when Heidi decided that we should read a book together out loud. Back in the early days of our marriage, we used to do this a lot, especially with the first five Harry Potter books. We haven’t done it in years, and it’s kind of fun. Anna is even listening. We’ve had such a good time doing it that we will probably do another after we are done with Mort.

The novel I have going is called No One Can Pronounce My Name which is quite good but for some reason I stalled out around 50% of the way through the book. Fortunately, I picked it up last night and read 60 pages, making a good dent in it and renewing my faith in the fact that I can still read books if I put my mind to it. No One Can Pronounce My Name is the story of an unlikely friendship between two Indian-Americans, Harit and Ranjana. It is so much more than that but, much like I always used to say about John Irving novels, the book really kind of defies synopsis.

Sometimes when I find myself uninterested in reading it’s because I have been finding my story from other sources, be it through movies or TV or podcasts. But I haven’t been doing much of that either (save the aforementioned Golden Girls binge and I’ve seen every episode of that show a thousand times.) Listening to audiobooks really makes my podcasts pile up, but I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I can’t really do both. I have a love/hate relationship with podcasts anyway, usually preferring to listen to music anyway, but I do have a few favorites that try to stay caught up on.

My goal is to read 30 books this year and so far I have read 14. I am so close on the three that I mentioned that once I finish them, I will only be two books behind for the year. So there is still hope! Unless I get distracted by The Golden Girls.

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Do work and Facebook mix?

facebook-earnings_large.jpgYears ago, in the early days of public Facebook, I added just about everyone I knew, including people I worked with. It seemed innocuous enough because Facebook was pretty innocuous. But as Facebook has changed over the years, I’ve found myself wanting a little more separation between my work life and my home life, almost to the point where I want to unfriend all my co-workers. I do this not because they are bad people or because they would use my social media against me, but because I just am feeling vulnerable lately and the amount of exposure that Facebook seems to give is leaving me uncomfortable.

I already filter most of my co-workers out of my Facebook feed, but there are times that I am lazy and just let stuff go. Anything remotely political I filter them out of because I believe the politics has no place in the workplace.  If we want to talk politics, let’s go take the conversation over to HR.  But to unfriend them seems so final and so rude, and then there are some that have become actual friends and don’t want to unfriend them.

Only two or three of my coworkers (and former coworkers) have made the jump from my Facebook Work Filter to the general feed. One of my coworkers is a genuine honest-to-God friend so has never been on the filter.

I’m curious to know what other people’s experiences with work and Facebook. I wonder if I should just restrict them all to public posts, of which I do extremely few. It could also be that I’m overthinking this and being way to self-conscious about it. (Who, me?) Those of you that know my Facebook feed know that I am not controversial as a general rule but I just am feeling very exposed and that could have a lot to do with my state of mental health which has been delicately balanced on the head of a pin for most of the year.

What’s a guy to do? It’s a hard call.

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Cover of love

Well, we’re back from the eclipse and while at first it seemed like it would be a bust, the rain stopped and the skies cleared just in time for the celestial show. It was everything I thought it would be and more – it was awesome in the true sense of the word. Seeing the moon completely blot out the sun except for the corona was an amazing moment. It was as dark as a summer evening, the temperature did drop and the streetlights all came on. For two and a half minutes, it seemed like politics and all the problems of the world didn’t really matter. Everyone around me was focused on something bigger than all of us.

It was over way too fast, but it was still worth the drive down.

Speaking of the drive down, I rode down with my mom and dad and we listened to their Sirius XM satellite radio. They were listening to 80s on 8 (probably for my benefit) and the old school MTV VJs were counting down the top 40 songs of 1989 and a song played that I had not heard in forever and had, quite honestly, forgotten about. It’s the OTHER Michael Damian song “Cover Of Love.” (The really famous Michael Damian song being the #1 hit “Rock On.”)

cover of love.jpgLike I said, I had completely forgotten about it, but as soon as I heard it, I wanted to see if it was available for purchase anywhere. To my great surprise, it isn’t streaming on Spotify, nor it the album, Where Do We Go From Here, on iTunes or Amazon. I’m kinda of the opinion that nothing should be out of print in this day and age, but apparently there is no kind of demand for Michael Damian’s 80s output. There’s lots of used copies of the CD on Amazon, eBay and Discogs, as well as the single, “Cover of Love” (mostly on Discogs, mostly in pretty rough shape but the prices weren’t too bad.)

Then I got to thinking, do I REALLY want a Michael Damian CD? Probably not. And while I never met a 45 with a picture sleeve I didn’t like, I didn’t think I really needed to go out and buy the single. So I did the next best thing, made an mp3 rip from the YouTube video which I kind of can’t believe exists (from Night Tracks, even.)

This will probably do even though ripping from YouTube never gives a great quality mp3. Because when it comes right down to it, I don’t need a Michael Damian CD, even if it is $1.25 + shipping. Some day I might buy the 45, but that day is not today.

But I sure am glad that I was reminded of the song because it’s kind of a jam.

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Eclipse bound

solar-eclipse_1024.jpgI’m about to end 4 days of living in bachelor “paradise” (quotes because I really miss my family tons) and head to Kearney, Missouri for the once in a lifetime chance to see a total solar eclipse. I’m super excited, have the glasses, and can’t wait for the Earth to fall into the shadow of the moon. I’ve been a little bit anxious about the weather – silly, I know because it’s not like I can control the weather or anything – but according to the latest Weatherbug forecast for Kearney, tomorrow is supposed to be partly sunny and the chance of rain that has been in the forecast all week is now gone. It’s raining like cats and dogs this morning so hopefully the rain is early and will move out by the time the moon moves in front of the sun tomorrow around 1pm-ish. Really, that’s the only time that the clouds need to get out of town and let the show happen.

The weather forecast for home is 50% chance of rain, so I’m especially glad that I sprung for the hotel and am traveling the 3 hours for a shot to see a total eclipse because it sounds like it’s going to be cloudy and rainy here at eclipse time. Plus we’re not in the path of totality and with it so close, how could I not go?

Whatever the result, it should be fun and I’m super pumped to see Heidi and Anna again after they’ve been gone to Anime Fest in Dallas since last Wednesday.

In the meantime, here’s my favorite tweet about the eclipse.

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1812-Measuring-Tape-in-Eights.jpgSo today I finally admitted that I need to buy new pants. This was partially because my I am super hard on pants and they were wearing out around the leg cuff, belt loops, and, in one case, the butt. But it was largely due to the fact that I am having a hard time fitting into them these days. I started the year out with great ambitions to lose weight and at least get back down to where I was about a year ago when I had lost 20 pounds and was feeling super good about myself and how I looked.  Then the summer happened and I stopped caring and I gained it all back with a few more just for good measure.  For most of the year, I have been hovering in the low to mid 240s, but recently I have been flirting with the 250 mark and much like love for Janet Jackson, that will never do.

I know that a lot of it has to do with my state of mental health, which for most of the year has not been great. As Heidi pointed out to me today (and as I well know), I do a lot of emotional eating. If there’s sweets around, I will eat them, usually to excess, as if they are the only sweets I will have for the rest of my life. Also, the cafeteria at work, despite going through a massive remodel, is somehow even more lacking in healthy options.

I also have not been exercising at all. Today, I made a point to walk to the library and back, which is a 2 mile round trip. I also mowed the yard for the first time since Memorial Day weekend (I know) so I’m ending my day with just over 14,000 steps. I know that exercising will make me feel better, even mild exercise would be better than nothing, but I’ve been feeling so shitty that I can’t even manage to push myself to even start anything.

So it’s not surprising that I have mixed emotions about getting new pants. I love to get new clothes, but the fact that they had to be bigger than what I was wearing now was a bit disheartening.

To say 2017 has been a hard year for me is putting it mildly. I’m not sure that I’ve felt the specter of depression as much as I have this year since college. I know how to deal with anxiety – I’ve gotten so good at it that I can practically do it in my sleep – but I’ve forgotten how much feeling like shit saps your energy and makes you not want to do anything and makes you go nearly 6 weeks between yard mows. I didn’t shower today at all – something that very rarely happens – and I am tired pretty much constantly. The littlest things set me off. Like the fact that when I was pulling the car in the garage tonight I have not replaced the tail light that broke months ago. Then I saw the grill that has not been used at all this summer and I think about how most people are outside grilling and sitting on patios and decks having fun and I’m sitting here writing a blog post about how I feel like shit 90% of the time.

I don’t want sympathy or pity, but this has been ramming around in me for months now and it comes out in random ways like getting mad at a cat or telling myself stupid shit that I know is not true. Don’t worry – I have a good therapist and am on good meds, the meds being part of the reason I can’t lose weight, I just know it. When I sufficiently distract myself, I can have a semblance of a normal life but it doesn’t last for long.

I will be okay. And I will get better, even if it’s only by inches. And at least I’ll look good while I’m getting better.


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Lighten up or toxic masculinity?

I saw this on Facebook this morning and my first reaction was a chuckle which was followed quickly by “wait a goddamn minute.”friends for 7.jpg

I get that graphics like these are meant to be funny, and a part of me does think it’s funny. But the larger part of me really gets pissed off at this kind of stuff. This graphic implies that men cannot be close without there being some sort of sexual element to it, which I think really hurts men in the long run. Most, not all, but most men are very lonely because we have been taught that cultivating relationships with people other than our partners is not important. Fortunately, I have a spouse that recognizes that and encourages it. There is little more satisfying to me than a good friend that I can talk with who sees me, flaws and all, and still chooses to be around me. I am fortunate to have a few of those in my life. My life is infinitely richer for their presence, and there’s no hint of sexual in any of those relationships.

Implying that there is a sexual component cheapens the entire thing. Even gay men have close male friends with whom they are not sexual, so even when it IS gay, it’s not.

I know it’s just a stupid Facebook picture, and I should just chill the fuck out. But this really hit a nerve for me and is indicative of the toxic masculinity that is pervasive in our society, a type of masculinity that is only emboldened by the current political environment.

So should I lighten up and take it in the spirit it was meant? The person who posted it certainly meant no harm in it as I know they are very pro-LGBT and they tagged their current boyfriend in it, saying it was him and all his friends. In that respect, I should lighten up. But I will never stop fighting the perception that men can’t be close without there being a sexual component. Regardless of orientation, it’s simply NOT TRUE.

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gravity.jpgRecently, my wife and I both backed the Kickstarter for the Gravity blanket, the weighted blanket that is alleged to help treat, among other things, PTSD, OCD, and anxiety related disorders. I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, but what won me over was the science behind it. Well, just watch the video.

I am actually quite excited to be getting a 25 pound blanket, even though I suspect at first it might feel like one of those lead lined smocks they put over you at the dentist when they X-ray your mouth.

I feel very overstimulated these days and I’m taking whatever I can get to help ease the anxiety in my life. Also, I’m trying to become more mindful and if this involves any sort of meditation, I think the blanket will come in very handy.  Unrelated to Gravity, I’ve also decided that I’m going to try to keep up my yard a little more and practice mindfulness that way as well.  The yard is such a beast but even a small amount of taming will do it (and me) some good I think.

You can back this Kickstarter for the next 50+ hours and get your very own Gravity in late September/early October 2017. The cheapest level is the $189 level (the $169 level is sold out) but I think this is a small price to pay to have another weapon in my armamentarium for my ongoing attempts to quell anxiety and stress in my life.

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