I started doing my podcast last August and this month I’ve had the most episode listens ever. Pretty exciting! The total includes people who have listened to an episode more than once because many of them.
There was a dip in Dec and Jan, too, because holidays and I didn’t post anything new.
I think I have around 160 subscribers but those are harder to count than you’d think. People switching podcast players, people moving in and out of cell networks, apps fetching the episodes for all their users.
Regardless though, my podcast is growing. Another fun stat for this month, people listening to the podcast now outweigh the people visiting my actual website. I never saw that happening. 😊
Maggie had a little scare yesterday. She had gotten off the school bus and was walking the minute walk back to our house down the alley. Some dude was also walking down the alley behind her and that didn’t sit well with her.
I generally get home 15 to 20 minutes after she does and it’s not that big of a deal for her to walk home and spend that time by herself.
Anyways, after I got back to the house we talk about what happened for a little bit, about the dude, and reviewed all the things you can do in a situation when strangers are following you. Be loud, be visible, make noise, make sure the whole world knows what’s up. It’s the same thing that animals do when they’re nervous and it works pretty well for them.
It also sounded like the guy may have just been walking 30 feet or so behind her, just going in the same direction. I’m not trying to minimize the situation but I know for myself when I panic, things aren’t truly what they seem. I got freaked out and freaked myself out several times as a kid when I was in situations very similar to hers. I can still freak myself out now as a grownup.
So anyways, here’s the real story.
Last night when I was saying good night to her I thought of something else to say around the whole stranger-danger topic. I started talking about it and then immediately thought that it probably wasn’t a good idea at bedtime.
I quickly changed the subject and we talked about something else for a few minutes. I was kind of hoping she’d forget about the whole. But people who’re more on the nervous side, they don’t forget.
This morning before school I said to her, “Last night I brought the dude up again and then realized that I shouldn’t have considering what time it was. I hope that it wasn’t on your mind as you were going to sleep. What is it?”
She said that it was for a little bit. I then told her I was sorry and that was the wrong thing for me to do, wrong thing for me to say. She nodded a little bit, absorbing what I’d just said. And then we got on with our day.
It’s important for me to be humble, for me to be human, failings and all, as a parent in front of Maggie. It’s okay for our kids to know that we as parents make mistakes. And more importantly, it’s good for them to hear us own it, too. Our kids will model their behavior after ours. Who they become as adults is directly influenced by who we are to them as parents.
And lastly, it’s crucial for me to ask direct questions if I’m worried that I’ve made a mistake. Like I asked Maggie if what I said had kept her up the night before. I could’ve just said that I hoped our bedtime talk wasn’t on her mind too much while she was going to sleep and left it at that. But that’s not good enough. I needed to ask her point blank if it was.
If I wouldn’t have asked her it would’ve left her alone with her feelings. That those uncomfortable feelings were hers to deal with. I wouldn’t have taken full responsibility for my part in causing them. And feelings like those need to be talked about, they need to be acknowledged by the person who was indeed at fault.
If I’m not 100% sure if I’ve done something wrong, I need to find out. Because that’s part of owning what I’ve done. I need to take the initiative and shouldn’t wait for somebody to tell me that I’ve hurt their feelings. Most of the time I’m pretty sure they won’t.
Let me first say that I’m an animal lover as much as the next Dr. Doolittle. It’s rare that I meet a dog or cat and they don’t end up liking me sooner or later. I think mostly that’s because I don’t care if they like me or not.
However, the neighbor’s dog and myself, we don’t get along. He barks at me from his yard every time I’m outside in my yard. Or when I’m walking to or from my garage. Bark, bark, bark.
Obviously he’s got the short man complex.
I’ve tried making friends with him. I’ve tried explaining to him that I’ve lived here longer than he has and that gives me seniority. And on my very worst days I’ll blow my megaphone at him when he so much as lets out a whimper.
So anyways, a little while ago I was out tending my yard and little Napoleon was in his house so all was right with the world. The neighborhood people were also out walking their dogs up and down the alley as they do. And every time they did I heard him barking from inside his house.
I was thinking to myself how annoyed I get just even hearing him bark every now and then. Can imagine the horror of actually living with him relentlessly barking all the eff’ing time? I thought so.
I could only giggle quietly to myself.
In other news, does anybody know what kind of plant these are?
Some of the taproots are almost as big as carrots. It looks kinda like a dainty fern and it’s soft as a feather. It’s also decided to take over the world. Well, take over my backyard anyway.
Update: they’re Queen Anne’s Lace. Apparently a couple of summers ago I did, in fact, let them take over the world.
I haven’t been writing as much because I’ve been struggling with my nicotine addiction. All sorts of things happen and don’t happen when I try to quit.
Sometimes I’ll spout off something about quitting on social media or whatever but lately I’ve just been keeping my struggles to myself. Because unless somebody was a daily smoker for over 30 years, they don’t really get it. I know people are trying to help but move along. Sometimes we just need to vent.
And then vaping made my addiction even worse because I could do it anywhere at anytime. I would vape at Maggie’s school during her recitals and in team meetings at work, too. I would use my vapor in the dentist’s restroom before I went in to see them.
When I go into withdrawal my ears will ring. Ring to the point that I can hear them in the next room. My head will start to hurt. Like I have a vice slowly squeezing my temples. It’s not a sharp pain but dull and warm and oh so intense. And when it’s really bad I’ll start to get lightheaded. Like I’m going to fall over. Detox always makes my stomach bloated and gurgly regardless of which drug it is. My intestines will fill with witches brew and putrid toxins.
I’ve not been sleeping that great at night which makes it hard for me to concentrate throughout the day. Concentrate on writing or whatever. And then because I’m tired I drink more caffeine. In the early evening when I’m dragging both feet I’ll make a couple cups of coffee because I’m missing my old smoking friend. I’ll jump from one drug to another. Trade this addiction for that one. I didn’t realize I was even doing it at first with the coffees because when you’re a drug addict the addiction is sneaky and silent.
I’ve quit smoking probably 20 times and generally end up smoking again because the physical pain gets to be too much. And I know that if I smoke or vape or whatever all that pain goes away.
And then I stopped this morning and bought a pack cigarettes because the hellfire withdrawal had been kicking my ass for the better part of two days. I’ll do that every now and then, buy a pack, smoke one or two and then throw the unsmoked away.
I never tell anyone when I buy a pack of cigarettes because everybody is always disappointed. Because I’m the poster child for success or something.
It was snowing this morning. In the middle of April. And as I was standing outside the gas station smoking, a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. He had to be at least 20 years younger and wasn’t wearing a winter coat. He was missing half of his index and middle fingers on one hand. He had a plastic grocery sack full of things he hadn’t bought recently.
He seemed reluctant to ask me for a smoke but he still did because nicotine is a powerful bitch. I gave him three cigarettes and he was more than grateful. I could see the look of relief on his face. I treated him with dignity and respect because all people deserve that no matter where they are in life. No matter what really.
He reminded me of my 19 year old self when I lived in Cedar Rapids with one of my brothers. No job, no money, and desperately needing something to fill my soul. Standing in the morning snowfall regardless of the cold, feeding my addictions however I could.
Somehow I made it out of that era with all my fingers and toes attached. But I easily couldn’t have. Somehow I made it out of that life alive and now have my own house, a career, beautiful daughters, a gorgeous girlfriend, and all that.
Somehow I made it over the hump and to the place where I have a choice in life.
Driving away I wish I would’ve given him the whole pack. I wanted to tell him that he could make it out, too. Make it out of whatever place he was in. That life is bigger than where your next cigarette comes from.
But I didn’t think about any of that until I was driving away. Plus, I’m suspicious by default.
Anyways, never underestimate the impact you have on people, especially strangers.
I think what annoys me most about driving on Randall Road is that the speed limit is 45 mph but with the sheer amount of daytime traffic and number of stoplights by the Commons, I never get to actually go 45.
See, if I can just get around these other cars I can enjoy the Road Warrior speeds as posted by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Or whoever makes up the speed limits. But no, I’m stuck not even going half that.
Like when I’m waiting behind the lady in Walgreens on State Street who’s fighting with the cashier about which M&M varieties are buy-one, get-one free.
No wait, it’s more like when I turned into the pasta aisle at Super Target on the east side of St. Charles to grab a jar of Newman’s Own Marinara but then there’s this dude and his cart blocking ALL THE SAUCES as he tries to pick out which Bertolli to buy. Just get the Tomato & Basil and let people move on with their lives.
I can see my favorite red sauce. There on the other side of his cart. It’s almost within my grasp but I just can’t quite get to it. But it’s right there. Just a few feet away.
But no, I don’t get to have my non-chunky pasta sauce nor do I get to drive the maximum speed limit on this north-south county highway. Because I can’t have nice things.
And yes, lady driving next to me: I am brushing my teeth while driving. I’m on my way to the dentist.
The new MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is pretty nifty but I’m in the habit of resting my fingers on the ESC key at various times. I don’t know why it’s just one of those things I do because I’m me. However, I can’t do that anymore because all kinds of shit bust loose when I got to rest my fingers up there.
Well over half the conversations I have are all words. Personal and professional. All reading and responding. I want to say there is no voice in them but each author has their own in black and white. It’s still all words though. Nothing verbal. The only emotions are the ones I assign based on how I know the sender.
I try hard to read everything personal I get as really great news. At the very least I try not to assume those words sent to me and meant for me are negative. When I get a text or an email I take the words literally unless I know the other person is joking.
Words can be tricky, though. I do my best when I get a suspect message to pause and see the sender as a whole human being. Just take a minute before I get trigger-finger happy with a response. That pause helps defuse any bomb I think I might be holding. Believe it or not I’ve misread and misunderstood words before and then jumped to nasty conclusions and ended up looking like an ass.
My point is that I do my best to imagine the sender sending cheery communications and that in turn keeps me on positive path when I reply.
In somewhat related news, Biz Stone (one of the founders of Twitter) said a few years back that he was “operating under the assumption” that everybody liked him. I enjoyed reading that because for much of my life I assumed that at least half of everyone was out to get me.
Treating people as if they liked me and as if I liked them did wonders for my relationships. Watch someone’s face light up when you tell them that you’re excited to see them.
After I altered my interactions with people, they in turn started treating me with love and respect. They started being excited to see me as well. And I got to let go of pretty much all of my paranoia.
It’s always good for me to remember that “acting as if” can and will fundamentally change who I am. And also that I’m never going to be able to “will” away paranoia and friends. I need to find a positive behavior to practice instead of trying to force myself to give up a negative one.
And so then what started me writing this correspondence to you guys is this other guy I traded work emails with for years. And because I knew he could be a jerk in person I assumed most of what he wrote to be jerky as well. The communications were an exercise in combat. Mental conflicts that were simply exhausting. I ended up dreading each time I got a notification ding.
Now some time has passed and I’ve gotten a little separation and I wonder what our conversations would’ve been like if I just pretended that everything he wrote came from a good place. I’m 99% sure that it didn’t just because I knew how he could be back that, but every now and then I “pontificate” how the dynamics would’ve change if I would’ve simply changed my point of view.
Read and responded to everything he sent like we were working toward the same goal. Maybe even that his words were “really great news.”
If instead of seeing him as hostile, I just saw him as a person who liked me. If instead of reading his words as angry, I read them as happy. Regardless of his intent.
I was hesitant to do that when I had the chance. Even though I think it’s a worthy cause, I also think there’s a damn good chance I’d have just come across as sarcastic or snide.
It’s too late for me to have a better relationship with that guy now but it’s not too late for me to interpret every new email or message I get as simply delightful.
What if I operate under the assumption that all communications I get are good? 🤔
What if I operate under the assumption that all people are good by default? 🤔
On a person’s special day if I tell the person that I forgot to give or get them a present, it’s like instead of giving them their actual present I’m giving them an “I forgot” instead. Regardless if I actually do give them the present later.
It’s better to not hear anything at all, to be kept wondering, a little mystery perhaps, than to get an “I’m sorry that you weren’t high enough on my list to remember but here’s this apology instead.”
Nobody likes to hear that they were forgotten or feel like they’re an after thought. And when they actually do get their present, it has this uncomfortable bow attached.
So if, on a special day for someone, I forget to “do” what I’m supposed to do, I try to stay away from telling them that I forgot. I’d rather play it cool and “do” what I’m supposed to do as soon as possible.
And then there was that one time when myself and two older friends were drinking and carrying on, using too many drugs, and just driving around out in the country.
And then they decided they wanted to rob a house.
Being younger I went along with their plans because that’s what I usually did. Everybody I knew, everybody that I got high with in the early 90s was older. Sometimes a lot older.
And I went along with them because a- it was generally fun being up to no good and b- I liked that they invited me along. Even if I was always somebody’s little brother.
I wanted in, I wanted to be part of the adventure. I wanted to be part of a revolution but there was none around. Being up to no good was as close as I could get in rural Iowa to being a revolutionary.
The two I was with that particular night were a couple and I was just along for the ride. Sometimes I would end up in the backseat of somebody’s car and that was totally fine by me. Going anywhere, doing anything, getting high and not being me.
When we got to the house, for whatever reason the lady decided to park in the driveway. It didn’t strike me as odd at first since we were out in the middle of nowhere and it was well past midnight. And I was lit.
As we sat there in the dark, they immediately started bickering about how we were going to actually break into the house.
Basement window? Backdoor? Garage?
After we sat there for 10 or 15 minutes the reality of the situation started became all too apparent. There I was manning the backseat of a beatdown car in the driveway of a house we were about to rob while two methheads couldn’t agree on the best way in.
I could see this adventure playing out only one way. And it involved me going to jail. Again. But this time it wouldn’t be for something trivial like public intox.
Playing it cool, I leaned up and put my arms on their bench seat and said, “this is a bad idea.”
They were drug addicts so much more than me, way worse than I ever was. Robbing the house was gonna give them drug money and I certainly didn’t think they’d pay much attention to my meager protest. I was always somebody’s little brother after all.
But in the few moments that followed my B&E objection they changed their mind. A glimmer of reasonable moonlight broke through their teeth grinding addiction. And then she started the car.
And we then left.
As ridiculous as this story is, it’s also one of the few times where I felt like an equal among that group of people. I felt like that my voice not only counted but was it taken seriously and then acted on.