Ch-ch-ch-changes

I started a new job about a month ago and I’m really enjoying the change of pace, the learning/growth opportunities and having moved out of the food manufacturing sector and into electrical component manufacturing sector. I’m on 1st shift, which is great, but would be better if my wife wasn’t working 2nd, as I don’t see her all week. 

Today I erased a handful of social media apps off my phone, including Facebook. I truly feel giddy with liberation or, perhaps, it’s low level anxiety at losing that outlet/connection. I’m not entirely sure. 

I quit those apps to be more present when spending time with my son and to hopefully spur more creativity. The only social apps I kept are writing/creativity related. I’m keeping this short, so raise your glasses for a toast to change and to creativity! 

If anyone has done the same or similar…don’t hesitate to comment on how it went!

I’m radioactive!

Radioactive_a04f8f_2188213

Standing in the back aisle of the local Kmart, I came across a test kit for determining if your microwave is leaking.  My first thought was, holy crap…my microwave could be irradiating my beautiful single-wide trailer, with me and my miniature schnauzer included!  My second thought was, I wonder if I concentrate really hard if I can get this little tester to light right up.  Stay with me…this is how my mind works.

I picked the tester up, it had a shiny black surface, like vinyl.  The packaging showed an ominous radioactive symbol, a bright red, right in the middle of the area that now appeared black.  Apparently the tester detects the microwaves and the symbol appears, like magic…like finding a pure white, wooly caterpillar–foretelling of a long hard winter, but in this case sterility and bleeding gums.  Again, the idea of concentrating my mental energies on this tester, to bring the symbol out of the black depths had goose bumps running up my neck.

I clutched the tester in both hands, pinched between thumbs and pointer fingers, like someone reading a winning lottery ticket for the fifth time.  I concentrated on the area where the symbol should be, my eyes almost crossing.  I held it about six inches from my face.  Five seconds in and I swear I could see a ghost image of the symbol, like the lady of the lake rising from the depths–the sword represented my newfound psychic abilities. My pulse quickened.

If such a thing is possible…I concentrated harder, spurred on by the ghost image.  My eyes were slits and perspiration beaded on my forehead.  The faintest pink pulsed within the specter and what was once faint began to take form and showed clearly distinct lines.  My eyes widened as the symbol took full form–a phoenix from the ashes.  My heart pounded.  I glanced around to see if there was a witness.  I stood alone.  I frantically flipped the package over and read the small print.  What were the repercussions?

My eyes quickly scanning the fine print.  A bowl.  A bowl of water is placed in the microwave.  The water boils.  The boiling water creates heat.  Heat.  The tester measures heat.  Heat?!?  My fingers pinching the tester right where it’s affected by heat.  My shoulders slumped.  I was once again a normal citizen.  No longer a member of the mutant brotherhood.  I chuckled nervously to myself, wondering where this placed me on the MMPI.

Affirmations 


I suffer from the same crippling self-doubt most writers do. I can, also, find myself falling into a complaining vortex. I have toyed with the idea of affirmations, of getting up early and looking at myself in the mirror, and saying, “Erich, you are a writer with a story to share that people will want to read!” And, I’ll rewire my brain and quickly ascend the world of the literati. Anyway…I could never do it consistently. Soooo, I used the calendar app on my iPhone and created events throughout my day–reminders of how good life really is and how I am meant to write. I read the event when it pops up, I whisper it aloud to myself and I smile. 

Here’s to a better me! If you like the idea, of course feel free to do the same, but let me know how it goes or what types of affirmations you might use, as I could always use more. 🙂

Happy writing!

Closer to Home, Father I Roam pt. 2 


In an earlier post, Closer to Home, Father I Roam, I talked about the loss of my father. I talked about our relationship, about his being supportive of my writing and how his passing affected me.

I talked about how I am embarking on an inward journey, in attempts to better understand him, creating some of the same neural connections…through reading the same books he had read. He left a map of his adventures–his Nook reader and a library of titles. 

I picked The Shannara Trilogy and was not disappointed. I’ll be the first to admit that I moved through the first two books slowly. It was as if I was subconsciously coming up with excuses to not buckle in and read, at least not nearly as often as I had in the past. However, I did really enjoy them, as they are definitely in a genre that I love. Now I’m not going to do anything close to an in depth book review, but simply say how the journey went and what I took away from it. 

I’m currently about 100 pages away from finishing the third book. I take it with me to work and inevitably I end up going down an internet-search-wormhole and make no use of my breaks, whatsoever. Irritated with myself I’ll return to work, vowing to read the next time. Some part of me doesn’t want the story to end, just like I wish my father’s story was still going on, I guess. 

My takeaway, at this point, is simply my seeing a parallel between my father and the Druid Allanon. He wasn’t really there at the beginning and until later in life he was kind of a mysterious figure that moved in and out of my life. Most importantly, he gave me my love for reading, which blossomed into writing and is the most powerful magic I know. 

I will try to push through the last 100 pages and then see what’s next. I hope to report back on this pilgrimage. I miss him sorely, but these breadcrumbs I’m following will not only bring about a deeper understanding, but will also take time…putting me closer to him in a more final way. 

To me, sharing a book with someone is probably one of the most intimate things you can do. It was, for a time, a life you lived and now, through your actions, they share that life. Share your lives with those you care about, my friends. 

EnChroma: Glasses that cure colorblindness

test_result

This is not a testimonial for EnChroma, nor a recounting of someone using it for the first time. Though, I am sure you have all seen the tear-filled videos, where the colorblind individual is first amazed at all the colors they have never known to exist coming to light, the colors that were once hidden from their very perception come flooding in and shortly after, the tears come flooding out. I am mesmerized by these videos and I think I’ve come to understand why.

This shift in perception is not as severe as those gaining the ability to hear for the first time, as these videos are also incredible, but for me these EnChroma videos carry greater weight. Let me explain. These EnChroma glasses show you that you’ve been seeing the world wrong, well…your whole damn life. With the simple donning of these glasses you realize that the reality that you’ve built from your own perceptions is simply false and you were only seeing part of the picture. Talk about eye-opening.

What moves me, of course, is the transition from awe to tears. Now I know that many of these people are experiencing tears-of-joy, but I think that in some cases they are feeling the weight of having been robbed their whole life, of what everyone else simply takes for granted. In either case, I begin to think about this shift in metaphorical relationships.

The best way to become empathetic is to read books. In this instance the books are the EnChroma glasses, and the more diverse characters, circumstances and emotions we experience through reading…the more shades of color we can feel in ourselves and in others. Could you imagine what it would be like if you were a sociopath, had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Empathy Deficit Disorder and putting on a pair of glasses immediately gives you the insight of empathy, that the world you thought was inhabited by automatons is really filled with complex people, like yourself, that feel the full range of emotions that you do. If having these disorders caused you to treat people poorly throughout your life, then you suddenly realize what it must’ve been like for them.  I would expect that this shift would go from a state of awe to those same tears seen in the videos.

What about where you sit on the politics spectrum? Now I’m not going to turn this post into a soapbox for my political views, though I’m sure I could, very easily.  Instead, I would just like to think that if there were glasses that allowed you to see the world from the other end of the spectrum (liberal vs. conservative or democrat vs. republican) that we could make better sense of the issues…from a bipartisan, possibly objective, standpoint. All too often we box ourselves in and are unable to see the truth in something that simply doesn’t fit our political viewpoint. Would the awe still be followed by the tears? Of realizing how we had been robbed of a certain kind of sight, not since birth, but from when we developed our political affiliation?

What about religion? Could you imagine if putting on a pair of glasses gave you the immediate insight of what it meant to belong to a certain religion that was not your own? To have the long view, of how the world and this religion has evolved and has been treated over time. Would we gain an unprecedented level of tolerance for these other religions? What if we take it one step further and develop glasses that allow an atheist to see what the world looks like through the eyes of faith, or a pair that strips it all away and lets you see the universe as a product of physics and science? How would you change as a result? Would you change? Would you weep at the loss of faith, or the loss of empirical evidence being enough?

What if the only pair of glasses we would ever need, that could take us a long way down the road of acceptance of others, was simply a pair that allowed us to love ourselves…unconditionally. If we love ourselves then we can truly begin to love others, and in accepting our flaws we can love others with their flaws, as well. I can love myself with all my shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, and having gained the self-assurance this lends, I won’t have any self-hatred to project onto others. We can all become brothers and sisters in the human race, tearing down the “walls” that divide us and celebrate our differences as those things that make us unique and beautiful.

Unfortunately these glasses don’t exist. Until they do…I’m going to keep on reading books. I’m going to add as many shades of color to my understanding of the human condition and emotions as I can, work on being an empathetic person and try to make ground on loving myself for who I am. I hope you do the same. Good luck!

Corn Soup

corn soup

Corn soup is standard fare at my family gatherings.  It is a traditional Native American dish, and I’ll admit…it wasn’t one that I particularly liked, when I was a young child.  How I remembered it, from my youth, was that it tasted very bland and the broth was little more than starchy water.  I avoided it as much as possible growing up, but I would always have a small portion, so as not to be rude.

Now I’m all grown up, sorta…not so if you ask my wife 🙂 and I love it!  Let me be a little more specific about how my taste has matured.  This isn’t one of those situations where you hated onions as a child, but one day you have them on a slice of pizza and it’s like you were having them for the first time, and you can’t understand how you went your whole life without them.  I basically am still not entirely impressed with the flavor of corn soup, though it has gotten better, but I now taste my history in each spoonful.  I sit at a crossroads with every sip, I recognize long lost feelings from my childhood, from the loss of loved ones (as death is often a reason for family to get together) and for the celebration of new life (much better reason to get together).  All of these emotions, these sensory anchors, wash over me like the fading images of a dream slipping from awareness.  I absolutely LOVE corn soup!

My question to you: do you have any similar experiences, food(s) that you eat to connect with your past?  How does eating it make you feel?

I’m psychotic, er…I mean psychic.

future-1126760_1920

Okay, lets start with a mild disclaimer, that I’m not entirely sold on the concept of having psychic powers, but I have had some very salient, personal experiences with it. A more recent example reminded me of the previous ones, as I had purposefully tried to forget them and with good reason.

I was at work. I’m a 2nd shift supervisor at a factory, so I do a lot of running around making sure everything is running right and that everyone is following procedure (safety, good manufacturing practices, etc.). As I was walking I blurted out a line of dialogue from a movie I vaguely remembered, “…blew the shit out of our fruits,” which had absolutely nothing to do with anything I was doing at that moment—purely spontaneous, nonsensical muttering. The next morning I was scanning the channels and the title ‘Shanghai Knights’ rang a bell. I selected it and it not only happened to be the movie that the line of dialogue was from, but the very next line spoken was the one I blurted out, and THAT made me take notice.

Now I had mentioned how I had essentially tried to forget about previous premonitions and that I felt I had good reason, and I will get to that, but I will cover a couple innocuous examples first. Back when I was too young to be legitimately working, I had a part-time job at a comic book store. I stocked shelves, assisted customers and mostly read when things were slow—it was great. Well…I got into an argument with another kid working there at the time, and I became so frustrated that I got a headache. I told him that I was done arguing as I had a headache and he said, “That’s my superpower…I give headaches to people I argue with.” This being a completely normal thing to say, as we were both nerdy, comic book geeks. Pissed off, I blurted out, “Yeah, well…I popped both of the tires on your bike!” Now I said this to just get him out of my face, and he did immediately go outside to check on his bike. He was back in the store in a matter of seconds and basically called me an asshole. I was sure he was messing with me, so I went out to look at his bike and lo and behold…both tires were flat. I tried unsuccessfully to talk my way out of that one and was made, by the store owner, to walk my coworker home.

In high school, I had two real good friends, who were brothers. We were going to go hangout at a girl’s house, but Mikey, the younger brother, said that he shouldn’t, as he had to be back home for dinner or he’d get into trouble. I blurted out some insane scenario where he could tell his mother that someone stole his sneakers and because he had to chase them he’d missed his bus and didn’t get home in time for dinner. I was trying to be amusing, I guess. Mikey did end up going with us to the girl’s house and when he said that it was time for him to go catch the bus, she jumped on his lap and her sister pulled his sneakers off an took off running…locking herself in her bedroom. By the time he got his sneakers back he had missed the bus that would’ve gotten him home on time.

During that same school year I had a much more ominous premonition come true, one that shook me to my core. Now mind you, during this time I was skipping more classes than I was making it too and was in ISS almost every day that I decided to actually show up to school. On this particular day, I decided to turn over a new leaf and go to all of my classes, even the ones that I didn’t like. So I found myself sitting in my math class, hoping like hell that the teacher wouldn’t call me up to the board to solve a problem, as I was completely clueless at this point. The teacher called another student up and as he walked by I blurted out in the lightest of whispers, “You’re going to die.” Now here is where I usually get weird looks from people when I recount this story, but I assure you—I did not wish him dead…I did not want him harmed in any way. I didn’t really know who he was as we didn’t associate. The words simply spilled from my mouth without a single thought. Well, the next day the school canceled all classes and as I walked the halls I just kept seeing groups of students huddled together crying. I learned that a student from my grade, while playing basketball at a local boy’s club, collapsed and died almost instantly from a burst valve in his heart. You guessed it—he was the student from my math class. I didn’t tell anyone about this, certainly not anyone that went to my school. I was afraid that I would be thought of as a lunatic, I became afraid that I might blurt out something similar to someone much closer to me, so I buried it. I stopped blurting things out off the top of my head and became much more reticent. I thought before I spoke and if something did pop into my head…I didn’t blurt it out. Eventually I stopped having the urge to blurt out, until a few days ago, while walking around at work.

Am I crazy? Do any of you believe in psychic powers? Have any of you had anything psychic happen to you? Help me feel a little less alone…

Foot in mouth


I was at a family member’s house and they had a friend over. This friend was holding my little cousin, who was crying inconsolably. I reached out to take her from the friend and said, “Ohhh…did she give you the evil eye?” It was at that moment I remembered, that the friend had a clearly visible cataract on one of her eyes. Foot in mouth.

Does anyone have examples where they said something similar?

Privilege of growing old

army.mil-34129-2009-04-02-100411

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Author Unknown

During the summer of 1990, shortly after graduating high school, I got the opportunity to take a road trip across the U.S., from NY to Montana to Arizona to Georgia and back again. I got to see Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon and a bunch of other sights. It really does give you a better perspective on how vast and varying our country is.

I’m not going to get into a great deal of detail on this trip, but am going to focus on one time period. Shortly after leaving New York, having gone through Pennsylvania and then up through Michigan, an occasional motorcycle would pass by. Now I probably didn’t even really take note at the time, except maybe to notice how loud they were, but probably immediately forgotten. Now, no one in my immediate family owned a motorcycle, so I didn’t have any reference to go by, like…oh, that’s a pan head or knuckle head. So they passed with little notice.

The farther along on this trip I went, the more motorcycles seem to pass by. By the time I was halfway through Minnesota, lines of motorcycles a quarter mile long would pass by me. There was no way not to notice them at this point. When I tell this to someone who rides, they immediately recognize the fact that I must’ve been nearing the Sturgis Rally…which I had been. Completely coincidental, I ended up at Sturgis AND found a room on the 50th anniversary of the rally! Most do not believe that part, but it is true.

Now, why did I centered on this particular time period? It reminded me of growing old. I’m 43, now I wasn’t sure if I should’ve put ‘only’ in front of that or not, but 43 sometimes feels young and sometimes not. I’ve often thought about what it means to grow old and what it all entails. The quote, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many,” by an unknown author, surfaces more than most. My initial feeling on the quote was the differences in healthcare from third world nations to places like the U.S., but lately, with the passing of my father and father-in-law, I find a sense of Irony with the quote.

Now when you’re young, as long as it isn’t someone from your immediate family, you probably barely register the passing of fellow human beings, unless they make a lot of “noise” when they pass. However, when we get older these happen more and more frequently…until we can’t help but notice—especially, of course, when it is someone we are close to. I feel like the word ‘privilege’ seems odd, as we, that remain behind, get to see more and more of those we know and love pass. The closer we get to that final destination ourselves, the more it would seem like a never-ending procession passing by. Is this our privilege? To witness this procession?

What are your thoughts?