Thinking About My Alma Mater

I sometimes hang out with a crusty old Vietnam vet. He is a sweet old man with whom I have some of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had in my life. I saw him a few days ago, and he told me he was having a rough week. “There was that shooting in Michigan,” he said. And it had gotten him down.

This man and I have had some incredibly deep, emotional conversations. But we haven’t gotten into a whole lot of the mundane details of our lives. So he was completely unaware that he was talking about my alma mater.

Since the night of February 13, when someone murdered three young people and critically injured five more, I’ve been sad, hurt, scared, angry… and kind of numb.

I’ve been afraid that this would spark yet another debate about political issues that will lead to nothing. If you know me, you probably know that I hate to talk politics anyway because I’ve grown so tired of the uneducated opinionating and just plain hatred that these discussions tend to stir up. Fearing all that, I numbed myself. I needed to grieve and not deal with all that other crap.

Seeing my friend’s pain opened that right up for me. We weren’t talking politics. We were just two crusty old combat vets talking about the feelings we have when we hear about such violence. We are no strangers to violence, but that does not make it our friend. I was finally able to cry for my alma mater and the people who were affected.

I wanted to write something in the immediate aftermath. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to write the kind of thing I wanted to write. And I still can’t. But this is something. This is a start.

The day I publish this is a rare completely free day for me. I’m going to go visit some friends and maybe even grieve a little more. And maybe we’ll say a prayer or send some energy out into the universe for those affected by the violence at my alma mater and everywhere.

Excerpt From My Next Book (Maybe): Ed

My blog has been quiet, but my mind sure hasn’t. Things have been a tad crazy in my life, but I’ve done a whole bunch of writing. It just hasn’t been stuff that I intended for here. So in case you’re just dying to read something from me, I thought I’d give out a little excerpt (or at least a draft of an excerpt) from that next memoir I intend to maybe some day publish.


This is one of the few times I’ll use someone’s real name. I won’t use his last name because I couldn’t tell you how to spell it exactly. And I would hate to spell it wrong. 

This story begins when I was a 20-year-old journalism student at Michigan State University. It pretty well ends there too. Most of the story all happens in one day. But I digress. 

I had one last story to write for a news writing class. My chosen topic was sexual harassment which was hot news at that particular time. It started well too when I scored an interview with a nice man at the state’s EEOC office. The meat of my story was to come from the supervising professor for this writing class. As luck would have it, her office hours were scheduled right when I had a good amount of time. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a story if it cruised easily from there. When I arrived at this professor’s office door, it was locked. She was nowhere to be found. One of the instructors for the class came walking by. I thought this might be a saving grace with a lead to where I could find her. He jiggled the office door handle, turned to me, shrugged, and said, “SOL.” 

Dejected and lacking sufficient material for the kind of story I was needing to write, I sought the advice of my primary instructor. He gave me a lead for a brand new story. “There’s this guy at the Office of Public Information. His name is Ed. He’s about to retire. He’s this crusty old fart who will spin you a nice yarn. Go write a story about him.” The next day I was on my way.

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For My Barroom Girls

I’m guessing you noticed today is Thanksgiving. It’s also my mom’s birthday. She would’ve been 76 today. This is my 12th Thanksgiving without her, and I have to say it still hasn’t really gotten easier. Nevertheless, I’m going to carry on and try to do some things today to make her proud. One of those things is to publish something for my Blogversary.

I missed my Blogversary last year. Maybe the year before too. As you may have read earlier this month, things have been not so good for me for a couple years now, especially in the department of my mental health. But I’m happy to say things are on the upswing. Let’s just hope it stays that way.

In fact, let me get real honest about this upswing. There have been plenty of potholes on this road. Anxiety has slapped me around a bit from time to time. Overall, though, I’m happy to say I feel like I’m on a really good path and think this time it just might be sustainable. So let me take this day to give some thanks to some of the folks who have been so helpful in recent times.

(I need to squeeze in an extra note in here. I already had this whole thing written and scheduled to publish when I went to the bar after a particularly rough day. There wasn’t a single lady there who’s ever really made a significant dollar off me. But somehow when I walked in the door, they lined up to hug me. They’ve never gotten a thing from me but a tiny bit of kindness and some basic human respect. It’s what my mom taught me to do, and for that I have been so richly rewarded. So let me give an extra special thanks to the most important girl ever. I love you, mom.)

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Happy Veteran’s Day and Happy Heavenly 100th KV

It’s Veteran’s Day, and it’s Kurt Vonnegut’s 100th birthday. I still remember hearing about his death more than 15 years ago now. I was in Basic Training and got the news from a guy from my mom’s hometown. It was some shitty synchronicity. KV had died after a fall at his house. So it goes.

Today I’m going to dig out one of my old uniform tops and wear it around for a while. I’m doing it as a favor for a friend, but that story is too long to tell right now. It’s probably going to make me extra grumpy today. I’ve already been thanked for my service multiple times this morning, and I’m sure this will make it worse. I hate it when civilians thank me for my service, but I do my best to be gracious and grateful. I just wish people understood that I didn’t do it for them. I did it for me. And my buddies.

So I’m going to say thank you to all those old friends of mine. They brought me home alive. Sometimes I wish they hadn’t, so I wouldn’t have to carry this burden of grief for all those who aren’t still walking around. But that’s not how it played out. And now my duty is to carry on.

I’m dreading the thought of wearing that old uniform top, but I did promise a friend I’d do it. I’m just scared that someone is going to call me a hero which is way worse than getting thanked for my service. I’ve never been able to be gracious with that one. I always feel the need to set them straight. Too many times I’ve stood on an airfield shoulder to shoulder with my buddies, saluting a hero on their way home draped in the flag.

I’m no hero. I got to come home alive, thanks to all those friends of mine.

The heroes have their day in the spring, and they well deserve it. Today is for me and my buddies still carrying on the mission. Each of us does it in our own way, but we’re all still doing it in some way, even if it’s just thanking each other. While I do appreciate the thank you’s I get from everyone else, it’s theirs that mean the most to me. And I will forever be grateful to everyone with whom I shared that time in my life, all those years ago in so many places across the globe.

Thank you, battles. I love and miss you all.

“Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers, another round for these friends of mine…”

She Left Home

Things have been a tad crazy in my life lately. But let me start by explaining my absence.

As I write this, I couldn’t tell you the last time I published a blog post. You might think that my mental health is somehow involved, and you would be absolutely correct. My mental health has not been at its best for quite some time now. Even though I’ve been quite functional and at times have even seemed happy, deep inside I’ve been depressed and miserable. I’ve definitely done a lot of future planning and thought about things that might lead to greater happiness in the future. However, part of me had serious doubts that some of these things would really come to pass. At best, I thought I might be able to retire early (in 7-10 years) and then maybe find some time to do things I really want to do.

And then my wife left me. Maybe you heard about this. A couple days after the big event, I posted about it on Facebook. If you missed that, then this might be coming as a bit of a shock to you. But it’s quite true. I came home on October 11 and found her gone. She left me a letter to explain things, but I haven’t laid eyes on her since I went to bed on October 10. We’ve exchanged a few text messages but haven’t spoken. She moved out as fast as she could while I was at work and took the dog with her.

I’m not going to get into my grievances about our marriage. Maybe some other day, but those are just not needed now. The fact of the matter is we haven’t been happy. I couldn’t tell you when I was last happy. I certainly won’t speak for her.

So here’s the shitty thing that I just have to say: I’m grateful to her for leaving. And I’m not even mad about how she left. I would probably have done the same thing, plus it helped us both avoid some awkward scene. I’m relieved that it finally happened, and I hope she does find her own happiness. I am certainly feeling like I might be able to find mine now. And part of that is getting back into this writing game.

It also helps that some nice things have happened to me recently. I’ve made some new friends recently, one in particular, and that has brought new inspiration and encouragement. This has gotten me working on a second memoir which will hopefully improve greatly upon that first piece of trash. Plus, one of my best buddies from the Army has moved to a nearby town. Work schedules and things have kept us from getting our crazy on, but rest assured a plan is in place and the good times will be rolling soon.

With the thoughts of potential early retirement, I’d been giving a lot of thought to what my future might bring and where the wind might blow me. Now I’m feeling completely unmoored and pondering so many possibilities. I am not about to commit to anything anytime soon, but I’m excited by the possibilities.

I cried like crazy when I first found that my wife was gone. I really did love her. I still do love her. But we’re not made for each other. I sincerely hope she is much happier now. I certainly am, and I’m looking forward to so much more.

I Dislike Liars and Cowards, and Aaron Rodgers Is Both

I got a COVID vaccine at my first opportunity. That being said, I’m not a crusader and definitely try to avoid shaming people whose choices differ from mine. I don’t talk politics because such discussions are just a toxic mess of tribalism, and the vaccine debate is very much the same. So when a famous person, most notably professional athletes, choose not to be vaccinated, I generally abstain from any ensuing debate.

Naturally, this makes you question my headline. Green Bay Packers quarterback has been much in the news after testing positive for COVID after saying this past fall that he had been “immunized”. He was not vaccinated and will miss at least two games after his positive test. He has said he did not lie and had undergone alternate treatments to boost his immune system. However, when posed that question about his vaccination status, the first word out of his mouth was “Yes”. Further on his response he said, “There are guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated. I think it’s a personal decision. I’m not going to judge those guys.” Clearly, he is indicating that he is not among the “guys” who have not been vaccinated. Add it all up, and Aaron Rodgers is definitely a big fat liar.

But wait, there’s more. And this is where I find him even more disdainful. Aaron Rodgers is a coward. I don’t say this because he has refused to be vaccinated. Fellow NFL player Cole Beasley and several NBA players, Kyrie Irving probably the most famous, are among professional athletes who have publicly voiced their refusal to be vaccinated. I disagree with their decisions, but I appreciate their honesty and admire the courage they have demonstrated. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, blamed his lie on “the woke mob”, “cancel culture”, and reporters who failed to ask follow-up questions. I call bull shit.

First of all, Mr. Rodgers, your response to the question very clearly suggested that you were actually vaccinated. YOU FUCKING LIED, and now you’re acting like a little child who was caught in that lie. Be a man and own up to the fact that YOU FUCKING LIED. Don’t try to blame anyone else. I do understand how annoying people can be on the issue, and I could forgive you for refusing to answer questions about your vaccination status. Admittedly, that would have made the answer rather obvious as happened with some other famous athletes, but it would’ve been better than your cowardly lie.

I don’t care if Aaron Rodgers chooses to get vaccinated or not. I took my two shots and will take whatever boosters come along. Kyrie Irving has refused based on his belief in body autonomy and is losing millions of dollars as a result. Although I’ve made a different choice, I respect Kyrie Irving for his efforts and admire his courage. Aaron Rodgers has displayed no such courage. Aaron Rodgers chose to lie and showed the world that he is a coward.

Are You Listening? Am I?

I have worked with a broad cross-section of people: straight, gay, cis, trans, white, black, brown, criminals, survivors, rich, poor, dropouts, doctors, left, right, middle, and on and on. I have learned a lot from them, and I have taught them a thing or two. I did it by listening, even when they said things I didn’t like. Especially when they said things I didn’t like.

I believe true change occurs when we are most open to listening to each other, especially when we disagree. I’ve never seen anyone persuaded by being told they are terrible for their beliefs. I have seen people consider different viewpoints when they have felt heard.

This, however, is not how the world seems to work nowadays. When I look out into the airspace, I see blaming and shaming. But I don’t see things getting better.

It strikes me as ironic that people get so upset with me when I suggest this. In the wake of the 2016 election, I participated in a discussion about creating a safe space for discussion. I brought up the idea of listening to all viewpoints, even the ones most of us found disagreeable. That didn’t go over very well. Of course, my idea of a safe space often differs from others’.

I’ve been seeing a similar climate lately. For years, I’ve been trying to hear from people who feel afraid and targeted based on their skin color, religion, gender, etc. I can’t change these things by blaming and shaming. I know that eliminating racism, sexism, every other -ism in the world begins with me acknowledging those prejudices within myself and working toward doing better.

I have also spoken many times with police officers who have taken on a heavy responsibility, sometimes being responsible for life and death decisions. My mom even knew an officer who was involved with a non-fatal shooting. It was completely justified (too long to discuss here), but his life spiraled afterward. These decisions have to be made in split seconds and carry heavy consequences for everyone involved, including those officers who have to make them.

That is not to say that anyone should be allowed to act with impunity. We must all be accountable for our actions. But we can also make a lot more positive change in the world if we strive to listen to and understand each other.

I stopped talking to large degree in the wake of the 2016 election. I didn’t feel like anyone was truly listening. I haven’t been listening nearly as well myself, tired of seeing all the blaming and shaming. I want to do better, though. So I’m going to start talking more and even more so trying to listen, especially to those with whom I don’t agree.

There’s a Method to My Mumblings

It occurs to me I have failed to write any daily double digits for some days now. I’ve been kind of backed up with writing a grad school paper that’s all about method which means it’s even more boring than these blog posts. I think I’m mostly done, but I also feel there are multiple things missing. Unfortunately, my brain is now fried, and I don’t think I can accomplish any more. So instead of working on that I’m writing this terrible blog post.

This One Is Extra Nerdy

I’m well past the point where I should be reading research for my big final master’s degree project. I’ve certainly read plenty. But I keep finding more. And this means the literature review that I just finished will need even more work than the edits I had already planned. Somehow, though, I’m loving it because I’m a nerd and love reading research. Still, someone needs to save me from myself.