Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts....the ramblings of my mind

So, spring break is coming to an end. It's been a nice week where I was able to do pretty much whatever I wanted. No real requirements on my time. I find times like this revealing, because it reveals what I value when I don't have the structure of going to work every day. I must choose to do whatever it is I do on these days.

And the overwhelming thing that I've noticed over the past week is just how important family is to me.

Some of you are aware that my grandmother died last Wednesday. While the end of the life of a loved one is sad, it was actually a good thing for her. She had suffered from Alzheimer's disease over the past several years. It became rather severe over the past year or so. While Alzheimer's is always a destructive disease that robs a person of their very being, I think we found it even more painful because my grandmother had been such a strong person throughout her life. She worked for over 50 years, beginning back in the midst of World War II when her six older brothers all went to serve in the military, continuing through raising a family of five kids, and even through a good portion of my own life. She finally retired not long after turning 70 back in 1996. She was a vibrant and loving woman. No doubt the second strongest female influence on my upbringing after my own mother. I owe a great deal of who I am now and who I will continue to be to the values that she taught and then further reinforced.

So while she will be missed greatly, we've already grieved her piece by piece as the disease kept her away from us. As my uncle Bill said at her funeral service, she's not truly gone. She lives on in the hearts and minds of those she left behind. I can only hope that I have even a fraction of the impact that she had. I can't help but think that I will not.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I don't know about you, but I enjoy watching the HBO show "Entourage." For those of you who have never seen it, the show basically follows the adventures of a young hot actor in Hollywood named Vincent Chase and his "entourage," made up of two childhood friends and his older brother, a D-list actor. I find the show entertaining because I enjoy the interaction between the main characters. That said, an episode I watched this past weekend provoked some thought.

The plot of said episode centered around a bet made between Vince and his brother Johnny. The brothers bet $5000 about which of the other two members of their group (Eric and Turtle) will succeed in having "unemotional" sex by the end of the day. Vince backs Eric and Johnny is in Turtle's corner. The bet came about as the result of a discussion about how Eric isn't a "real man" because he wasn't interested in a waitress that had been giving him a look of interest. Eric says he doesn't care if she's into him because he doesn't date waitresses because their schedules are a nightmare to deal with (I can definitely understand that...I've known people who work in the food service industry and their schedules really DO suck). Turtle and Johnny go on to really razz Eric because he's looking for a relationship instead of empty sex, Johnny going so far as to call Eric "a pussy" because he has a "nesting tendency." The guys just don't value relationships in any way outside of the physical nature and would never allow themselves to be tied down to one woman.

Now, admittedly, this show is talking about today's Hollywood. And God knows, people in Hollywood tend to live very much in the moment, which is why you see actors who made millions ten years ago being broke today.

At the same this attitude commonplace? I'll admit to a certain level of naivete in this regard. Those of you who know me know that I'm a large man for whom casual sex (particularly with strangers) wouldn't really be an option. I'm not the kind of guy some random woman would just agree to have sex with. But I would never want that in the first place. Forget all the dangers involved with having sex with someone you don't really even know (STDs, etc.). It's exactly what I referred to it as earlier in this post: empty. have a brief period of fun. But it's over. And, without the emotional depth that comes from a relationship, what's the point? It strikes me as not being too different from partaking of drugs. You get your momentary high and then you come back down.

I guess I just hope that my reaction isn't overly unusual. I suspect, unfortunately, that a fairly large number of people would view me as "old-fashioned" or even "out of date" in my views. Well, so be it. I spend my life in pursuits that I find meaningful rather than in search of "fun" or just "feeling good." For the developed intellect, fun can be found in so many forms. And behaving in the way that the Entourage crew's so destructive. To oneself as well as to the people you're around.

Eric said it best in the episode when Johnny was giving him crap, "I'm looking for a relationship so I don't end up like YOU, Johnny. Alone in my old age." Unfortunately, due to events in the episode, Eric abandons his viewpoint and ends up having sex with a girl he met that day. Kind of sad, in the whole scheme of things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Have you ever had the experience of being recorded and then hearing your voice played back to you? Every time it happens to me, I'm always surprised by how my voice sounds. The inflections are the same...the pronunciations are the same. But the tone...the timbre. It's always different from the way it sounds in my own head.

The same thing happens with photographs. The way I like in pictures always looks different from the way I look in the mirror.

My musings above were prompted by a Facebook status update of a friend of mine...she wondered if we ever TRULY know other people. And I've come to the conclusion that we really don't.

Because, in the end, we don't really know ourselves. I'm absolutely fascinated by the differences in perception between people. I know how I see myself. I know my own quirks and tendencies. But, at the same time, I have absolutely no idea how those same mannerisms and habits come across to other people.

It's something that I'm always intrigued by. It's part of the reason I fill out the goofy quizzes on Facebook that supposedly give you information about yourself. Admittedly, part of the curiosity comes from a natural self-centeredness that I believe we all feel to varying degrees. But I think the primary source of interest is just the thirst for more knowledge. I want to understand how other people view the world.

If we all observed the same occurrence (a car accident, for example), we'd each have a different story to tell. I mean, there would be some things that would remain relatively constant. However, the smaller details...they vary so widely in instances like that. That difference...that tendency we all have to focus on one thing or's just one of those foibles of the human condition that astounds me. How is it that 20 people can have the same collection of data (car hits another car) and still come up with such variance in the remembering of the occurrence?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Philosophy from "Hitch"

So I was watching the movie "Hitch" this afternoon.

If you haven't seen the movie before, Will Smith plays a character named Alex Hitchens, nicknamed "Hitch." This is both a connection to his last name as well as a connection to what he does for a living. Hitch works as a personal consultant whose goal is to help men have success in building a relationship with a woman they've interested in.

Anyway...I really appreciated the movie because I feel like it brought up an important point about the way we related to each other:
  • Women are SO careful about being open with men, particularly those they don't know well. Primarily because there are scumbag men out there who will take advantage of vulnerability in an effort to "get some" and then move on to the next conquest.
  • Men who AREN'T scumbags forever have to play the guessing game to figure out what women really want because they're not open about how they really feel. Of course, this leads to a lack of confidence in the non-scumbag men in many cases.
And what has happened as a result of all of this? Focusing on superficiality, because we end up playing all these stupid games. The sad part is that none of it is malicious for the large majority of people. We're just trying to avoid getting hurt. Nobody likes being hurt.

Thing is...this is probably the reason behind most of the divorces that occur and most of the broken relationships. In our quest to avoid emotional pain, we fail to be completely open and honest. As a result, we CAUSE emotional pain to ourselves AND those we believe we care about.

Imagine how much easier life would be if we were all honest in a positive way. I don't mean walking up to a colleague and saying, "Why are you wearing that hideous shirt?" But what's worse is NOT saying that, but then gossiping about that same shirt to other people behind that person's back. And what's the point of that anyway? I mean, if you don't have something constructive to say (mind you, constructive doesn't always mean being complimentary), then don't say anything at all. If you're not willing to spend the time and effort to help that fashion-deprived colleague, then don't say anything at all. To ANYONE.

Now, I won't sit here and pretend that I don't fail in this regard myself. Trust me...I fall short on a daily basis. But I genuinely believe this: honesty truly is the best policy. If you combine honesty with the Golden Rule (and let's face it: who other than the exceedingly selfish doesn't believe in that particular maxim?), then it works.

In the end, to be happy? Be honest. Be yourself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same.

Just got home a little while ago from a night hanging out with old grade school classmates. A great time was had by all (at least, I hope so!). It's always nice to see people that you've been separated from by time and distance. I mean, back in the 80s, there were the people that were the most important to me other than my family.

For those of you who don't know, I attended a very small Catholic K-8 grade school in Toledo. As a result, I was in the same class with a group of roughly 20-25 kids for eight years. Add to that participating in sports sponsored by the school and you're talking about 8 or 9 hours a day of spending time with this same group of people.

And then it ends. Rather abruptly for some of us. I went on to high school and saw very little of my old grade school friends. Met some new people. Found new activities to do outside of school. It's life, right?

And then Facebook came into being and started allowing people who didn't have emails with college domains to create pages. All of a sudden, I'm in contact with men and women who I haven't seen or heard from in 20 years. Thank God for technology, eh?

But what I found rather striking tonight is that some things really never change. Those of you who have known me since childhood likely know that I was an exceptional student in grade school. So much so that my parents had me tested and I skipped first grade. And for the rest of my grade school experience, in addition to whatever else I became known for, I was ALWAYS known as "the smart kid." In a school of 200 kids, EVERYONE knows the little twerp who skipped first grade, you know?

Flash forward 20+ years later. I'm still "the smart one." And for reasons I don't quite fully understand bothers me. Because I don't always feel that smart. Having gone off to the University of Michigan out of high school, I found a whole community of people who seemed more intelligent that I. I don't deny having an innate intelligence. But I've met people in my life who make me feel like an intellectual dwarf.

There's a part of me that wishes that I could be described using a positive OTHER than my intelligence. This is something I've struggled with for years. And here's the weird thing...why? What is wrong with people appreciating the talents I was born with? Why does it bother me, even just a little?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm home...

...and EXHAUSTED. But it's a good kind of tired.

On the last leg of my drive from Dublin to Dundee, I was thinking about how good this summer has been for me. Mainly because this is the summer when I stopped making excuses and just DID stuff.

I mean, I've been talking and thinking about starting an exercise program. And this year, I finally did it. I've been talking and thinking about driving out west and seeing places I've never seen before. Finally got up the nerve to just do it. And that experience is remarkably empowering. I've fulfilled some true dreams of mine and had the reward of fantastic experiences.

It just makes me realize how much I hold myself back in life. And I think that's true of most people. We all come up with all sorts of very reasonable explanations for why we can't or shouldn't do the things we'd really like to. Sometimes, just have to go for it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


So, many of you who know me know I've been on a roadtrip through much of the northern central part of this country. And, as a result, I've had some interesting experiences as well as some thoughts that have occurred to me.
  • I failed to get a picture of this because I just wasn't ready for it, but I can describe it. My sister and I were at Mount Rushmore and we overheard a group of women (who appeared to be from one family) talking. One of them says, "I'm so embarrassed for him." To which a younger one (probably her daughter) replies, "Hey! He's doing it for a whole buck." Suffice it to say that this exchange piqued my interest, so I'm looking around to see somebody doing something stupid. Next thing I know, I hear "Mary had a little lamb" being sung at very high volume and decidedly off-key. The girl had dared her little brother to go over to a short wall in front of the monument and do this. There were easily 200+ people around, just giggling at how brash he was. REALLY funny.
  • I'm so glad I've gone on this trip. I've often said over the years that I'd like the chance to go to the UP or out west to places where there's just so much open country, relatively untouched by humans. And I was right: I really have enjoyed that chance. Seeing such wide expanses of rolling grassy hills in South Dakota was so AMAZING for someone who grew up in a city and has always lived within an hour of that city. It's an entirely new experience for me and it really makes me want to visit Ireland. My sister and mom went several years ago and my sister has assured me during this trip that, while the landscapes in South Dakota HAVE been very interesting, they're nothing compared to Ireland in the summer. And, for the first time, I really have a true yearning to see it.
  • I'm becoming much more adventureous in life. And I really like it. For years, I've allowed my weight to be an excuse for not getting out there and experiencing things. It's part of the reason I didn't really even try to get tickets to Super Bowl XL, despite the fact that 1) it was held in Detroit, not more than an hour away from home and 2) my favorite team was playing in it (and ended up winning it). I just assumed that I would be too uncomfortable in the seat and didn't even really consider it. And that's a mistake. I missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. That's why I'm really happy I found the motivation to be serious about losing weight: there's so much I've been missing.