Lightning.

I’m getting better at capturing lightning shots with my trusty iPhone X. I’m tempted to put a “weather camera” up on the roof specifically for Monsoon Season so I can share the excitement with the world. Do people still do that sort of thing?

We’ll probably get another round of thunderstorms in the overnight. The National Weather Service has predicted a good chance of storms for the next 24 hours, and then it tapers off over the weekend. Monsoon Season likes to take a break and then ramp up again; we’ll probably see more storms next week.

As long as the house cooperates and holds itself together, I don’t mind the thunderstorms. They’re still quite thrilling to me. The thunder and lightning here reminds me of some of the storms we’d get on the Eastern shore of Lake Ontario where I grew up, though the storms here move much slower. My sister and I would camp out in the pop up camper set up in the driveway and together we rode through a couple of impressive thunderstorms. One time we brought the menagerie of cats in with us so they wouldn’t get wet. We had six or seven cats at the time. They appreciated the extra pets they would get.

I think they liked the attention more than the thunderstorms.

Truman doesn’t seem too upset by the storms. During the first one or two storms at the beginning of the season he’d station himself under the buffet in the dining room, but now he just hangs out with us during the frivolity.

Like his ancestors, he likes the extra pets more than the storms.

Fuzzy.

Some days are better viewed through a bit of cheese cloth or with Vaseline on the lens.

Pause.

IMG 7870

Even though we live in the Mountain Standard Time Zone, my workday is pretty much relegated to Central Daylight Time to approximate the meeting schedule of folks on the East Coast. I am not alone in this approach, I have peers that live on the west coast that work an EDT or CDT schedule and don’t seem to be the worse for wear. At least twice a week this leaves me with a couple of 6:00 a.m. meetings on my schedule. I try not to be blurry-eyed when attending these meetings, especially when I’m leading the whole affair. 

I’m not a morning person. I try very hard to be a morning person and many Professional Growth books tout the advantages of starting your day before God, but try as I might, I’m just not a morning person. I fake it fairly well. Since I work from home and, outside of team meetings at work, I can set my own schedule, I occasionally divide my work day into chunks with a brief nap in between. It works.

This morning I started my day at 5:30 a.m. and I just felt a little “off”. I wasn’t physically ill, aside from a slight bloody nose that can be attributed to the dry desert air. I just didn’t feel quite right. I decided to do something I haven’t done in a very long time and I called off from work today. I sent a message to the team director and basically said “see you tomorrow”.

I then went back to bed for a couple of hours.

Upon waking I found myself feeling “mostly reset” but not what I would call optimal. So I decided to watch a couple episodes of “Bewitched” (my favorite show of all time) and just rest my brain. I didn’t focus on reorganizing anything or getting anything accomplished, I just relaxed.

I have a hard time doing that.

I then ended up taking another nap, this time about 30 minutes. Upon waking I can now say I honestly feel like I’ve hit the reset button. I feel great.

Because I never take spontaneous time off from work like this, everyone in the family has inquired to my well-being and the director did ask if everything was OK when I reached out to him this morning. 

Sometimes we just need to take a mental health day and let the world pause the best we can. I’m ready to tackle the rest of the work week starting with tomorrow morning’s meetings. This is the proper way to start my 54th ride around the sun.

Write It Down.

It’s a shame many schools have opted out of teaching cursive writing to students. Studies show typing notes on a keyboard, or even more expediently, skimming through a provided PowerPoint presentation, does not lend itself to comprehension or retention like writing something down.

Earlier this year I went to a “paperless” approach to work and over time I’m finding I don’t remember the smaller details about my various projects nearly as well versus when I was writing things down. I’m going to move to a more hybrid approach over the next couple of weeks to see if I can reverse this trend.

The thing about cursive writing, and penmanship in general, is that it was another expression of person’s individuality. I’ve always been curious as to what a person’s handwriting looks like. Some folks don’t have a lot of care as to what their handwritten prose looks like, others put a great deal into making it unique. I love that. It’s a shame it’s being lost with these younger generations.

While it is slower for many to write things down by hand versus typing it out on a computer keyboard, it has a certain sense of style. Perhaps in this day and age we just need to slow things down a little bit.

Words.

“Mr. Wing, do you know what a homosexual is”?

The 10th grade biology teacher’s voice boomed through the room with this question posed to me; it was his way of gathering control of the class for the next 41 minutes of 6th period and since we were apparently to talk about the importance of the prefix “homo” in the scientific world, the disheveled man apparently thought it humorous to fixate on me and ask this question that carefully treaded a line. The girl to my right, we’ll call her Jeannine, laughed at me. I’m not surprised. She wasn’t known for being an exceptionally nice person. To be fair, it was a nice change of pace to hear her laugh because usually she was crying about something or barking out with a special amount of bitchiness one can find amongst high school sophomores in the 1980s. To my left, my table mate, we’ll call her Lori, whispered “asshole” under her breath, just loud enough for me to hear her word of support. I turned beet red, stammered more than usual trying to formulate something, anything to come out of my mouth, and feverishly wished for the kid at the table in front of me to have a seizure or something. The rest of the class laughed, the word faggot was shared once or twice and I was asked that very same question by various members of that class for the rest of the week. This is the stuff sophomores live for. The teacher had control of the class, I did not, and I was humiliated.

I do not forget these things. It rings as loud in my head in 2021 as it did in late 1983. I imagine most gay men, especially those of us of a certain age, have not forgotten instances like these. This is what we grew up with. Welcome to growing up gay in the Gen X set.

“Well let’s face it, John will have a hard time being gainfully employed”.

Another nugget of wisdom, this time from a fellow classmates in Ethics class, which was in the latter half of my junior year of high school. This time it was 4th period and I really just wanted to go to lunch at 11:04.

“Why not?”, queried the teacher, who, at the beginning of class, had instructed us to arrange our desks in a circle so we could debate things like whether or not a functional homosexual like I apparently was destined to be (calm down Mom, I wasn’t a ‘functional’ homosexual at the time) was a good or bad thing for society. Would our gayness cause the fall of the United States. (Spoiler alert, it did not).

“His mannerisms and way of speaking are going to prevent serious employers from hiring him”, was the response.

I don’t know what happened to that classmate after high school and I don’t really care to Google him to find out. Why waste the bits? Who knows and who cares. In the moment I looked for support from another classmate, we’ll call him Mike, that I really knew “to be on the team” (he is and we actually shared a kiss a couple of years later) but he turned on me with the rest of them, laughed, and made detrimental comments. That was probably the first time in my life that I wondered if I was going to be anything at all and if I wasn’t going to be anything, why continue the charade? Was my life worth anything?

The teacher of that class had to dash off at 11:04 to do some Vice Principal duties, but he checked in with me at the end of class and asked if I was OK. When he saw tears building in my eyes, after the longest 41 minutes I’ve probably endured in my life, he told me I was a good guy and asked another teacher to have a chat with me in his office to get me grounded again. He knew I was mentally not well. I can safely say I probably owe my life to that other teacher. Her name is Karen O’Brien. She taught Special Ed, but through talking with her she helped me find my worth again that day and honestly probably doesn’t even know the depth of the impact she had on me that day. She talked me off a psychological ledge. Years prior to this she had put as her caption under her photo in the yearbook, “People – they fascinate me. I haven’t met one yet that didn’t impress me”. Words to live by. I think of her often. I should probably send her a thank you note someday.

Why do I share this? There’s a number of reasons. First of all, what we say matters. Whether we say it out loud, in print, or anywhere on the Internet, our words are making an impact, whether positive or negative. We might not know it. We don’t know the state of mind of every person that is going to read what we type or listen to what we say. We should never lose sight of this. The two incidents I talk about are from decades ago, yet I remember all of these things as if it took place yesterday. My frame of mind is better about all of this, but I still feel the sting. These things, and countless others during my school years, have made a permanent impact on my life experience. Am I better for it? Over 35 years, I can probably say yes, but it took a lot of soul searching, and that very important talk with teacher Karen O’Brien, to keep me going.

When I hear members of Congress calling one another “Communists” or spouting out provable falsehoods just to rile up a crowd I can’t help but think how much negative impact those words are having on the country. When I see people touting things like “Straight Pride” or all the bad things that will allegedly happen to gay people because of who they are, I worry about those that don’t have a Karen O’Brien talking them off a psychological ledge.

I share these things because the distance of time and the subsequent experience of life has safely moved me beyond these negative events in my life. Weirdly, I’m probably a better and stronger person because of them.

Let’s use the right words. Let’s send positive energy into the world. Let’s not use negativity to command a room. Let’s be one of those people that impress others.

Impress each other in a good way.

Comparison.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve allowed myself to enjoy chocolate milk. I love the stuff. When I was a kid, as early as second grade I required an extra seven cents per day so I could buy an extra milk at lunch time. I would buy one half pint of white milk and a half pint of chocolate milk. Aside from the year the school budget failed and we went on “austerity budget”, the milk at our school was purchased from a Central New York company called Byrne Dairy. They had, and continue to have, convenience stores all over the region.

Once in a while we’d get a quart or half gallon of chocolate milk for home. It was a luxury afforded by Mom and the grocery shopping exercises, but it didn’t happen very often. We’d bring home a half gallon of chocolate milk in a glass bottle and it would be a delight. My sister would finish it off in less than a day.

I’ve always considered Byrne Dairy Chocolate Milk the gold standard of chocolate milk experiences.

My husband and I were at Safeway today and I discovered that while we don’t have Byrne Dairy anywhere near Arizona, chocolate milk is available in half gallon glass bottles. I was a little shocked at the price ($4.99 plus $2.00 bottle deposit), but we took out a second mortgage on the house and I brought home some chocolate milk.

It is very good chocolate milk. It’s not quite the same as Byrne Dairy’s chocolate milk. Though, I ponder to think that Byrne Dairy’s chocolate milk today probably isn’t the same as I remember as a kid. High fructose corn syrup, mass production, and all that.

I still recommend a chocolate milk experience once in a while.

Family.

I always enjoyed family gatherings in my Grandma and Grandpa Country’s back lawn. Looking back at things, I also enjoyed the same sort of thing at Grandma and Grandpa City’s house as well. I guess I just enjoyed excuses to eat with friends and family. The country and city experiences were markedly different but equally enjoyable. And this is not me trying to be some sort of mediator or balancer. It just was.

When it comes to siblings, it’s just me and my younger sister. But I always felt part of a bigger family because we would get together with cousins (and aunts and uncles) very often. Living across the street from Gram and Gramps, coupled with weekly gatherings on Sunday, made for this type of closeness. While at school I was often called “weird” or “strange” or “odd”, amongst a wide assortment of other vulgar names that can be attributed to my homosexuality, my cousins rarely vocalized anything about my eccentricities. My sister and my cousins are the only ones my age I felt comfortable around, as they would just go along with my latest scheme of staging a parade or turning one of the barns into a school or buying bags of candy at a general store and having a “candy picnic”, where we chowed down a bunch of sugar and went into subsequent sugar comas. I was nearly equally (is that proper grammar?) as close to my city cousins, but because we didn’t see them as often and there was a little more of an age spread, I’d tone down my grand plans and just hang out in my weird way. It was still a pleasant experience.

As we got older, it was apparent that our life experiences would take us in different directions. Because of this my comfort level around my cousins waned quite a bit but never fully dissipated. I purposely mask my “eccentricities” because I guess at this stage of my life I’m suppose to act like an adult, but honestly this takes a lot of mental effort. Using mental energy in this way is exhausting, in fact, very exhausting. I’m literally tired of doing it.

It’s been a long process for me to make peace with my off-kilter or askew way of thinking and use less effort in trying to fit in. Instead I now just focus on not scaring the heck out of people or at the very least making people wonder if my UFO is parallel parked on the roof.

I still look back on the memories of these family gatherings with a smile and fond thoughts. I also wonder who selected the colors in that afghan on the ground and why weren’t we using a solid color blanket instead of an afghan that was meant for the back of the couch. Or as it was called by my city family, the Davenport.

Admit It.

Sometimes you just have to admit that life isn’t all cotton candy and roses. My mood has been crap this week. I never feel like I’m a genuine citizen of society, but I’ve felt like I’m way out there all this week. My disjointed-ness finally settled down yesterday morning after a decent night’s sleep.

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Chaos.

I see a lot of chaos in this photo. I’ve scribbled the family’s Chinese take out order on my the notebook adjacent to my work computer. The left margin is not flush. I’ve written the letter “e” in two different ways. The blotted out area is my Tucson phone number, written old school without an area code, and of course this is all mingled with a few scant details about a work project I’m working on. This particular work project is one of several projects I’m coding in parallel.

Luckily, the Chinese Food was very good.

Warm.

The weather is suppose to reach 110ºF and higher starting Saturday. When telling folks about our move to Arizona we’re often warmed that it’s going to be hot. Then someone in the conversation says, “But it’s a dry heat”.

It IS a dry heat.

I try to get my morning walk in before 8:00 a.m. Sometimes my work schedule does not allow this but I won’t go for my walk of the neighborhood after 9:00 a.m., the sun is just too intense and uncomfortable for me.

Earl bought me a hat more suited for the desert sun and I’m finding it enjoyable. The walks are pleasant, but when I get back to the house the first thing I do is wipe the collected sweat off the top of my bald head.

Neighbors are friendly when our paths cross in the neighborhood; everyone says “good morning” and folks driving by all wave. I wave back. I’m happy to be in our little development here. We’re a few degrees cooler than the more urban areas of Tucson. It’s still very hot but I find it enjoyable. I’ve just had to adjust my schedule to enjoy the sunny weather accordingly.

After all, it is a dry heat.