Divided We Fall

election_2016-news-102016_v4

 

Donald Trump is going to be the POTUS. Donald Trump. POTUS. How could this possibly happen? How could we elect someone so ridiculously unfit for office?

Here’s who we elected on Tuesday night:

  • A misogynist
  • A racist
  • An unethical cheat
  • A man who hates Muslims
  • A man who mocks those with disabilities
  • A man with zero political experience
  • A reality TV host
  • A man who wants to build a wall to keep out immigrants
  • A pariah

Who voted for him:

cwzb3uqxcaansel

White people elected a narcissistic bigot. How shocking. All across social media all I see is indifference. Folks who, after the election, just say welp, let’s just love one another and respect each other and say kind things to everyone. No. You’re chasing “Likes.” You’re not standing up for anything. You’re not an ally for the voiceless. You won’t be placed on a pedestal because you refuse to take a stance. This is what supposedly “nice people” do, they tell us to look the other way. They tell us to not be angry. They tell us that everything will be just fine if we respect folks with awful, outdated beliefs. They are part of the reason Trump was elected. Evil will always win if people remain silent. Bigotry will always win if people don’t intervene. Our complacency elected a man who is certainly the most unqualified person to ever run for POTUS. Our arrogance allowed the racists and misogynists to win.

20161110_120652

Hillary Clinton was not a flawless candidate, but she was the proper candidate. She doesn’t hate or judge folks based on skin color, country of origin, gender, sexual preferences, or disability. Clinton annihilated Trump in every single debate because she obviously has a clear understanding and nuanced take on foreign and national policy, while he just utters nonsensical stuff like nasty woman, make America great again, and bigly. She was born to lead the same way he was born to profit and discriminate. She was the only choice if you employed a shred of logic and compassion. But we elected a charlatan. A human stain. A friend of the rich and privileged. An enemy to the poor and forgotten.

20161110_120739

I underestimated how many racists and misogynists were out there just waiting for the right moment to reveal themselves. I was a bit naive to the brewing hatred lurking in white folks in 2016. Trump was the light on the porch; the secret bigots were the bugs flying into his deceitful glow. He won, not because of an avalanche of support, but because of our lack of support for a better candidate. Enough of us did not even vote. Too many of us assumed Clinton would win. Too many of us never challenged the neanderthal outlook of Trump voters. We were silent. We were indifferent and nonchalant. We looked the other way. We got exactly the POTUS we deserved. The blame rests upon our shoulders.

screenshot_20161110-121614

The kind and supposedly caring folks mean well, I don’t dispute that. But meaning well is safe and unproductive. Meaning well is not an agent of change. Meaning well after electing a monster is rather meaningless. It can be difficult to be outspoken on social media, we might be afraid to offend family or friends. Someone might block us or unfriend us. Who cares? We can’t be deterred by pettiness. Use your voice, scream your views to the digital world. Be persistent. Be heard. Just don’t be a reticent ghost. A mute sheep. That’s how an abomination like Donald Trump gets elected.

I’m angry. I want to be angry. Anger is the only available emotion at the moment. More people should be drunk with anger. If you have a daughter, wife, sister, mother, aunt, black or Hispanic family member, Muslim friend, LGBT co-worker, or disabled relative, you should be angry. How can you not be?

We can’t unring the bell.

We failed.

Smooth Up In Ya

5cead049a1d26897e565d4134ec8d4bc

 

I can finally scratch use a BulletBoys song as a blog post title from my bucket list. Though I believe their song is a bit more lurid than what this post is about.

I’m officially on the smoothie train. Choo Choo? As I continue to improve my eating habits, I realized I still wasn’t including enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. The main reason is that I don’t like fruits and vegetables. Or I’m not used to consuming them, as my previous diet consisted of gallons of slop masquerading as a delicious, addictive dinners in boxes and plastic wrap. Frozen pizza or kefir? Corn dogs or watercress? Hot Pockets or chia seeds? The previous me always chose the former because it was easy and I can be a bit lazy at times. And I think when a person struggles mightily with addiction and depression, we tend not to eat properly. We just stuff crap down our throats and head back to the racetrack, the pipe, and/or the couch with the sole intent of killing the hunger without caring about vitamins and minerals and overall nutritional value. Junk in the belly, then a dose of poison for the mind. It’s a lovely way to live if living like a degenerate vagabond sounds fun to you. Anyway, I needed more fruits and vegetables in my diet, so I hopped aboard the smoothie train.

First, let me say that my posts about food/ health are geared more towards folks who have dealt with relentless mental adversity at some point and they have a growing desire to make changes, tiny or massive, in an attempt to begin life again. My advice is quite simple, I’m not offering anything revolutionary or complex, just basic ideas to help a person get started on a new path to a healthier lifestyle. I only write about concepts that have worked for me. I was a notoriously horrible eater my entire life and If I can make adjustments, anyone can. Choo Choo?

I bought a blender. An affordable blender. I’m on a tight budget and I always use research to help me find quality products at a fair price. I settled on the Hamilton Beach Single Serve blender. The reviews were almost universally positive, and at a cost of less than $20.00, I couldn’t resist. You can find this one at Wal-Mart and many other big box stores. This isn’t really a device to use if you’re making smoothies for the entire family. If that’s the case, you should probably spend the extra cash and purchase the highly-regarded Vitamix or something similar. The Hamilton Beach makes a single serving, which is probably why it’s called a single serve blender. One benefit/detriment: When you buy one, the people behind you at the store, as well as the clerk, will know you’re a lonely drifter who finds solace and connection in fruity, blended beverages, and you’re one who eschews the taunt of organic love, not because of enlightened philosophical insight, or the caustic belief that long term relationships breed robotic emotions and monotonous hearts, but because making a smoothie is more appealing than staring at bland walls during the dark night of the soul, when you realize that you mock fated love and all its entanglements because it continues to elude you. So, enjoy buying that single serve blender!

I was now armed with a machine that obliterated things. I briefly thought about blending my mercurial pet, but I wasn’t convinced the Hamilton Beach could pulverize cat bones. And she would most assuredly seek feline vengeance with her other eight lives. No gracias. I also considered dropping a lock of hair from a previous love interest in there, with the hope that I could drink a chilled glass of sweet and sour indifference mixed with coconut shampoo. But that seemed too Ted Bundy-esque. I decided to go with fruits and vegetables.

Through vigorous keyboard pounding, I learned that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones. The difference between the two is almost nonexistent, contrary to the narrative that fresh is always better. When produce is frozen, it occurs at peak ripeness and it retains most of its nutrients and will continue to do so for months in the freezer. Fresh produce loses nutrients each day it sits in the grocery or your refrigerator. Tick Tock. Here is one of many online articles about this subject. You can use whatever you want. I actually do freeze a couple of fresh fruits myself, like bananas and red grapes. Basically, you lay them out on a sheet pan with parchment paper and place them in the freezer for around 4 hours. Then remove and place them in plastic freezer bags. Keep in mind that frozen fruits and vegetables tend to be more budget friendly as well.

The grocery is teeming with frozen produce. I had no idea, to be honest. I ended up choosing a large bag of a fruit medley consisting of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I also purchased bags of frozen kale and spinach. Wait, what? I BOUGHT KALE AND SPINACH. Choo Choo indeed! And being an aspiring hipster doofus, I bought some almond milk. I was wearing skinny jeans and an ironic t-shirt when I bought the almond milk.

When I got home, I made my first ever smoothie. It was divine. Tart and refreshing, it was like drinking a frosty, liquid unicorn. And the bitter taste of kale was obscured by the luscious fruit. So good. Ridiculously good. I added a splash of water to thin the smoothie out a bit. I make them too thick pretty much every single time. I do not add a sweetener of any kind. Nor do I use fruit juice. Almond milk, fruit, vegetable = delicious. I also make a pumpkin smoothie. I use pure pumpkin, frozen bananas, pumpkin spice, almond milk, and a touch of vanilla extract. Pumpkin is basically a super food, which was news to me. Just make sure the can only includes “pumpkin,” and nothing else. That goes for other products too, like “peanuts” should be the only ingredient in peanut butter and so on. You can experiment with various recipes as well. I recently began playing around with peaches, red grapes, apples, and spinach in a smoothie. You can do whatever you want. The goal is to incorporate nutrient-rich foods into your diet any way possible, and smoothies are an efficient delivery mechanism for that purpose. If you want more smoothie recipes, you can check out the videos of the Domestic Geek on YouTube.

An app called ShopWell has also helped me at the grocery. You can use the app to scan barcodes on food products and it will give each item a score from 0 to 100, as long as it’s in the database. I use it often. Fooducate is another solid app that gives you nutritional information on a vast amount of products. EWG is another site that uses food scores and whatnot.

I’ve also recently been intrigued by aromatherapy. The use of certain aromas to soothe the mind and whatnot seems to be a legitimate practice that is lauded by many, and continues to gain traction in a world where we are constantly searching for a personal pool of serenity. I bought an ultrasonic diffuser and essential oils. I currently use lemongrass, peppermint, and grapefruit. The living room smells wonderful and maybe it’s helping my mood, time will tell. doTERRA, Edens Garden, and Young Living are three respected essential oil companies if you’re interested in learning more. You can also watch videos by the Healing Cave Lady on YouTube. She is knowledgeable and passionate about essential oils and diffusers. She knows her stuff. I also made a couple of reed diffusers using small glass bottles, bamboo skewers, and scented oil. I use one in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen. I’m brand new to aromatherapy, so I’m still learning. It’s only been like two weeks or so.

There is no magic bullet to combat depression. But therapy, medication, healthy food choices, sunshine, exercise, and aromatherapy all have the ability to help in various ways. Try one, try all. Acceptance = Quitting. Persistence = Trying.

The most formidable opponent of change is ourselves. Our attitude. Our expectations. Our flimsy confidence. Our irrational fear. The first step when attempting any type of physical or mental transformation is to start small and only take on what you feel comfortable with. You won’t wake up tomorrow a new person because you drank your first smoothie or ate a salad for lunch. The goal is to let healthier food choices become part of your daily routine. This can happen slowly, you don’t have to change everything overnight. Day by day and meal by meal, you can gradually make improvements in what you choose to put inside your body. And at some point, you’ll wake up and realize, damn, I’m kinda proud of myself. I didn’t eat junk food all month. I’m on the right path.

Improved health is only a blender away. Get that smoothie up in ya.

 

{The draft of this post was finished before the election results. I’m gutted at the moment. I shared my views a bit on Twitter and Facebook, but let me say that I’ve never been more disappointed in my fellow Americans as I am right now. The bigots and misogynists won. We elected a man who talked about grabbing women by the pussy. We elected a man who wants to build a wall to keep immigrants out. We elected a monster. A reality TV host. I’m sickened by the uninformed, shady Trump voters who set this country back 50 years. What fruit, vegetable, or essential oil can remedy this? America is a dumpster fire.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep-Six

1843_tid_00

“I’ve had so many knives stuck into me, when they hand me a flower I can’t quite make out what it is. It takes time.”
― Charles Bukowski

We spend our lives discarding things until there’s nothing left to toss away. We are the snake perpetually shedding its skin. Friendships, lovers, addiction, food, morals, children, pride, money, memories, ethics, kindness, and rage. Hours to days to years to decades, a lifetime of erasing who we are, who we were. Who we don’t want to be anymore.

We achieve gain from loss. We sell to buy. Burn to build again. Kill to induce change. Maybe that’s the natural evolution of the mind and heart, the unending desire to slice off parts of us to combat and transform our relentless fatigue. The parts that don’t matter. The diseased parts.

I wonder where all these lost and outdated things go to plead then die. Maybe it’s a surreal hell, a bottomless canyon of lonely gadgets, twisted souls, piles of forgotten intentions, plastic bones, and toxic silence. Humans and inanimate objects united in the suffocating truth of not being needed anymore. Screams buried in ash and shadow. A compass stuck pointing south.

There are times when we should throw something away but can’t find the strength to do so. That same addiction some defeat continues to haunt and harass others. A bored partner who doesn’t feel nor offer love anymore but the other still does and always will, to the detriment of both. The depressed folks who crave simplicity of thought inside a tranquil mind but never find it. There are winners and losers in every situation. When we discard things, the resulting effect will be either pleasure or pain, depending on the value assigned. All shiny objects eventually dull and must be exchanged for something polished, luminous, and unique. It is the cycle of distraction, this compulsion of ours to lose and replace, subtract and add.

The only question to be answered is whether we care about the things we leave behind. Or if we should. Or if we ever did.

Does a snake grieve for old skin on those dark, empty nights in the hole?

 

[This will be my last post for a bit. It’s time to unplug from the online world in an attempt to recharge the creative batteries and whatnot. Plus, I’m just burned out on writing and all things digital and artificial. Keep writing. Keep striving. And you best vote for Clinton. Seriously, Trump is a racist misogynist who would destroy this country. This should be obvious to all.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Niño

josefernandez_052114_blogcut

 

I’ve never been the type of person who gets all that upset when a celebrity/famous person passes away. I didn’t know them, it’s easy to be indifferent when you aren’t connected to someone. I might quote them on social media to show respect and whatnot but I’m not hurting or traumatized. But yesterday’s news shattered me.

José Fernández died in a boating accident. José Fernández, 24 years old. José Fernández, beloved pitcher for the Miami Marlins. José Fernández, who suffered tremendous hardship just to make it to the USA from his birthplace of Cuba. José Fernández, the kid with the electric arm and smile-inducing charm. José Fernández, a superstar.

giphy-1

The handsome hurler was the kind of pitcher you rooted for even if he was facing your favorite team. His repertoire of pitches was nasty as hell, and his energy and kid-like enthusiasm were infectious. He could wow us with a wicked curveball and make us smile with his endearing goofiness. Even the get-off-my-lawn old-timers were like yeah, that kid’s pretty freaking awesome. He had that rare ability to melt the hardest of baseball souls. José Fernández was the main attraction every time he toed the rubber. We were all mesmerized by his sick strikeouts and his genuine joy for the game. He played baseball the right way.

Yesterday was difficult. I got emotional a few times throughout the day because a man I never met died unexpectedly. He was so young. So talented. So happy. The silly boy inside me will miss him. The jaded adult inside me will miss him. He was unique and awe-inspiring and warm-hearted. He will never be forgotten.

giphy

José Fernández served time in a Cuban prison for attempting to defect to America. He once rescued his mother, who fell overboard during the voyage that ultimately proved successful. He dove into turbulent seas to save his mom. Come on. I can barely save chicken thighs in a Tupperware bowl, and this remarkable human being risked his own life for someone he loved. He was an inspirational and courageous man.

fernandezmom

The baseball world is mourning the loss of a phenom who brought flair and authentic exuberance to the diamond. I can’t fully articulate my thoughts at the moment because this tragic news is so very shocking and sad. But I have been soothed by the responses of fans and other baseball players on Twitter. There is a ton of pain being expressed, as well as some wonderful memories. Baseball will never be quite the same without José Fernández.

Rest in peace, kid.

 

img_20161024_164223

 

A Game of Submission

Alcohol Vapor

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”
― Harper Lee

 

A pattern has revealed itself on social media over the last few months that makes me feel uneasy and a bit suspicious. My view on this matter might not be a popular one, but it’s something I take seriously. To be fair, the folks alluded to below are good people and they’re talented, this is not an indictment of their ability to create, to craft an engaging tale.

 

1- Writer befriends editor of respected journal/lit mag on Twitter.

2- Writer chats up that editor. Humorous anecdotes, sports talk, books, etc…

3- Writer sends a story to his/her new BFF editor.

4- Writer announces he/she is thrilled to have that story accepted by the above-mentioned editor.

 

1A- Having friendships with editors is fine.

2A- Sending them a story after conversing with them is not fine. It’s bad form.

3A- It’s a cheap way to enhance your chances of a future publication. Was it the story or your friendship that led to the acceptance? A combination of both?

4A- Let your writing speak for itself. Write a story. Send it out to magazines. That’s it. Don’t pollute the process.

 

I feel it’s imperative to honor the submission protocol by letting our integrity trump the obsessive goal that we all have as writers to get a story published, especially if that journal is considered hip and/or esteemed. Validation is a seductress. But you have to earn the addictive nectar she holds in her palm, you can’t use chicanery to pry it from her grip. We should be judged solely on the potency of our stories, not the self-serving connections we’ve engineered on social media.

I haven’t been writing much lately because of the nonsense I see on social media. The same writers tweeting the same writers at the same journals. The writing community can be a bit cliquish, narcissistic, and repetitive. Every story is “phenomenal” because it’s perceived as nice when you tell someone that their work is great. But it’s dishonest if it’s not the truth. It’s not nice or supportive to compliment a story just to play the kind and courteous game.

Popularity is not a goal of mine. I’ve seen writers blow up on Twitter because they have invested vast amounts of time and energy in building a following, which is fine on the surface. They know that if they relentlessly praise other writers, regardless of authenticity, they will receive the same praise back when a story/poem is published. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty smart to do that if you’re chasing accolades. But what if you’re chasing honesty? Some of these writers are truly gifted, I admire their talent. They deserve the spotlight. Others are a product of wireless manipulation, vigorous self-promotion, and a dollop of plastic acclaim. Popularity should be a result of exceptional writing, not the machinations of a duplicitous impostor.

This also applies outside of the digital world. Folks who are always overly polite. Folks who think saying extremely positive things to the point of redundancy is proper and noble. Sincere kindness is a wonderful thing, it brightens the soul. Artificial kindness is emotional terrorism, it darkens the soul. Maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but deception lurking in a compliment is both harmful and unacceptable. Tell people the truth, not what you think they want to hear. You can soften the blow if you want, but be honest and direct. How can we grow as writers and humans if we’re being spoon fed a diet of fraudulent or exaggerated praise?

It’s okay if you don’t enjoy a story of mine. It’s okay if you don’t like me for whatever reason. But shoot straight with your words. Tell me I’m a hack. Tell me I’m a raging, selfish prick. Tell me I’m ridiculously handsome and charming and a “phenomenal” writer. Tell me you secretly desire to poison me with a delicious cocktail of antifreeze and grape Kool-Aid.

Just be honest.

 

 

 

 

Star Spangled Blather

Colin-Kaepernick-stare-getty-640x480

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

― Elie Wiesel

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose not to stand for the national anthem during an exhibition game. He gave a rational and profound reason for doing so. He broke no law. He exercised his 1st amendment right. He did not physically assault anyone. He did not murder anyone. And, as expected, white folks blew a gasket. They took to social media and eviscerated him with an antiquated savagery usually reserved for the worst of the worst in our society. His crime? Not standing for a silly song. Insanity. Four out of thousands of horrific tweets are below. It was a like a digital KKK meeting. 

20160906_165222

 

The connection between sporting events, nationalism, and the worship of all things military is baffling to me. We take our families to enjoy a day at the stadium and feast on nachos, hot dogs, and the physical prowess of our favorite players. We root root root for the home team. Or, in my case, the away team because I’m a rabid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Nationals. We indulge in over-priced beer with our friends. We escape the monotony of life by distracting ourselves with a dose of loyal, authentic fandom. The last thing on our minds should be empty, worthless gestures of patriotism. We shouldn’t be forced to take part in a ritual that has nothing to do with blasting home runs, tossing a touchdown, or eating popcorn and snow cones.

Standing for a song written by a massive racist slave owner, Francis Scott Key, might seem patriotic to a majority of folks. And those same folks probably have zero empathy for the plight of black Americans, how being oppressed for centuries impacts and changes your vision of this country and its customs, its white privileged patriotism. How exactly does a song show devotion to your country? How does standing up like a sheep highlight your respect for veterans? Ask yourself why you stand during the national anthem. Could it be you’ve been programmed since you were a child to stand at football games? Do you also play the anthem when you’re at home chilling on the couch? Do you play the anthem when you go to church? Do you play the anthem at a wedding? Do you play the anthem when you’re at work? No, but you must stand at a Bengals game on a lazy Sunday or you’re disrespecting veterans and your beloved USA. Please.

Colin Kaepernick is a courageous man. He said no to tradition. He said no to having senseless pride in a bigoted song. And why did he decide to protest?

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He wanted to shine a spotlight on police brutality, the unjust treatment of blacks by those in positions of authority. If you read his quote and still think he was wrong, then shame on you. The racists love to say that black folks, especially the #BlackLivesMatter movement, are too violent when they protest. They burn cities to the ground! They assault innocent people! They loot! Well, Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully and quietly and white America still raged. It makes not a bit of sense.

I have respect for veterans. I understand and appreciate the service they’ve provided for our country. They fight and protect while I read and write. I would never question their bravery and character. But coercing us to honor them at sporting events is beyond the pale. If you truly want to show your pride and/or admiration, why not send a care package overseas to military personnel? Why not donate money and time to help veterans who struggle when they return home? Many suffer from PTSD and addiction, and some end up on the streets. Help them if you’re so concerned about saluting veterans. But no, folks would rather trash a football player than actually do something positive. Race, as always, plays a significant role in how we digest a situation and react to it. In 2016, we’re annihilating a man for the inspiring act of remaining true to his longstanding personal convictions. White folks hate when a black man/woman speaks out, especially when they also refuse to bleed red, white, and blue just because it’s some warped artificial tradition.

We are not obligated to do anything, we are a free people. Don’t walk with the herd, don’t drink from the community well. Voice your beliefs without being concerned with the opinions and ridicule of others. Veterans deserve respect, as do teachers, mental health workers, philosophers, scientists, artists, Colin Kaepernick, and so many others. There’s room on the pedestal for folks not wearing camouflage and medals.

Love your country and military with the entirety of your heart if that’s your thing. But don’t mock and denigrate others who may not share your fervor for a nation with a history steeped in rampant prejudice.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Misfit

hqdefault

 

In layman’s terms, the goal is for a clinician to be able to take a person in crisis and read him like a book. Even when they have to read between the lines.

 

Recently, I stumbled upon an article in Cincinnati Magazine regarding suicide and the search for a solution of sorts, a way to predict who might be most at risk. With the use of computer programs, video recordings, and actual suicide notes, the scientists, doctors, and researchers hope to identify various word patterns and phrasing that will pinpoint when a person is on the brink of taking his/her own life. To examine and decipher the words of someone having dark thoughts is an intriguing concept, and one with the potential to reduce future suicide attempts. Hopefully, this creative approach proves effective.

I admire the folks mentioned in the article for devoting so much energy and passion into helping those struggling with mental health issues. It’s a fascinating and insightful piece. Also, the title of this post was pulled from the article, it was part of a suicide note when a gentleman referred to himself as a beautiful misfit. A haymaker to my soul.

You can read the article here

 

How can you tell when another human has moved beyond ordinary despair or sadness or frustration or confusion, and in defiance of his body’s biological imperative to survive, is at risk of ending his life?