The World In The Palm Of Your Hand

[Re-Posted from 2016-07-15]

As Heather and I sat on our patio last night, it occurred to me that a large portion of the United States’ population hold in their hands the key to escape oppression, ignorance and poverty.  This “key” is called a smartphone.

These devices have been used recently to create videos of everything from cute cats to the final breaths of shooting victims.  The latter videos have incited a level of violence not seen in our country for several decades (thinking about the late 60’s and civil rights protests).  The owner’s of these devices are obviously well skilled at operating them. They know how to create videos, post comments and organize protests (often disguised as riots).

Many of the device owners have proclaimed they are being oppressed by the police, the “man”, and a variety of other entities.  They complain because they feel they aren’t getting their “fair cut” of the wealth.  They complain about not having an equal opportunity.  My friends…they are wrong.  That same device that empowers them to instigate violence can also be used as an educational tool.  How smartphone owners are able to afford multi-hundred dollar devices remains a mystery to me.  How they are able to keep these devices connected to the Internet continues to remain a mystery to me.  What is not a mystery is the amazing number of free tools that have been made available to everyone.  Not just white people…not just brown people…but for everyone.

If the police are arresting a suspect, you can pretty much expect several smartphones (with cameras) are recording the incident.  These events happen at all times of the day or night.  Then YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and every other social media website will light up with excitement from the 30-second clip.  The whole story is never shown.  Even the so-called “media” buys into the frenzy.  How much more usefulness is that smartphone capable of providing?

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How about Google for example?  Yes, you can ask Google just about anything you want…and you’ll get your instant response.  But, did you know that Google has been scanning books into a massive online library for years now?  Those books are available to everyone.  Everything from literature to science to history…all available in the palm of your hands.

Another example is MIT (otherwise know as Massachusetts Institute of Technology)…on of America’s most prestigious technical colleges.  They offer an enormous amount of classes, books and other information…free of charge.  All you have to do it go to their website.

And then we have Stanford University.  They offer free classes…yes…free.  They don’t discriminate…there is not affirmative action…there are no hidden quotas.  You just sign up…and you can take classes.

Here in the State of Tennessee, we have a system called the Regents Online Degree Program (RODP).  I suspect many other states have similar programs.  You can earn a degree by taking classes entirely online.  And…if you are in-fact poverty stricken…you’re in luck…you’ll most likely qualify for a Pell Grant that will pay for all of the expenses. That’s a “grant”…you never pay it back.

With those same devices that are being used to post hate and violence…you can learn.  You can become educated.  Regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, or economic status (given my comment that smartphones are ubiquitous even in the “poverty stricken ghettos”).  Not a single person has a legitimate excuse to complain about being stuck in a crappy situation.  If you have time to surf Facebook…you have time to read a chapter from a textbook.  If you have time to stand on a corner and video the police doing their job…you have time to take a class.  If you’re not content in your current situation…you have the power in the palm of your hand to change it!

What are you going to do?

Finally, after you’ve watched that 30-second video clip…and you’re pissed-off and want to retaliate…use that same smartphone to finish what you just started.  Get the whole story.  Take the time to find all the facts…not just the part someone posted to elicit your emotional outburst.  Educate yourself…in all aspects of life.

Ignorance is not bliss…it’s just ignorance.

Of The Seven Dwarfs…I’m “Sleepy”.

[Re-posted from 2016-01-09]

So Doc & Crew have been trying to find help for the increased migraines/headaches that began over this past summer.  They’ve got me taking Topamax (topiramate) for the last week or so.  The medication is primarily used for seizures but also has a use for controlling migraines.  The drug has an unfortunately long list of side-effects…sleepiness or tired feeling being the one hitting me the hardest.  That’s not exactly what I need right now…but I will admit…the headaches are a little less painful.  The question now is…do I continue like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Sleepy” and lay around unconscious all the time with no headaches or do I say “no thanks” to this drug.  Of course, there’s always the possibility of a lower dose and some happy middle-ground.  I’ll be discussing all these details with my medical team on Monday.

Btw, I’ve migrated just about all of my medical services to the Murfreesboro area.  I only go to Nashville if it’s absolutely necessary.  I’ve made previous Facebook commentary about the current conditions at Vanderbilt.  I recently received a letter from the Adult Lung Transplant Dept. Director stating the facts we already knew: folks quit, understaffed, understaffed, understaffed.

Oh, and for those of you who are curious about the DSA (Donor Specific Antibody) issue that was so “hot” back in May, I haven’t heard a word from anyone at Vandy since September.  I’ve had my local Doc perform blood draws for me.  I contacted Vandy myself to see what labs they would want.   Gotta love ’em.

Until next time…

Family…

[Re-posted from 2016-08-28]

What exactly is “family”? Can you sum up the meaning in simple words like those listed below?

family_synonyms

I’ve had folks tell me that, “Friends are the family that you choose for yourself.” That’s a somewhat cynical (and yet sickly comical) way of looking at “families” when they seem to be full of disorder. This weekend, many “family” issues have been on my mind and my heart. Most of these issues have been lingering for years…unaddressed or ignored in hopes that someday they would be resolved. But the truth of the matter is…they won’t be. I don’t say that as a pessimist, I say that as a realist.

A family, at its core, is constructed of individual humans. And as we all know, we’re all different. To expect harmony in a family (at all times) would be a completely unrealistic expectation. Sure, there are “good times”…ever “great times” experienced by families. But there are also times of conflict, heartache, worry and destruction.

My first family was my mom and dad, brother, and sisters. We experienced all of those adjectives…the good times…and the bad. Sometimes it seemed we were all on the same page…other times we were all on our own planets. And as time went on, and we grew older and started our own families, the conversations changed…the times together became fewer and fewer. Where at one point you knew just about everything each other was doing, sometimes you don’t even know where they are on this planet…and if they’re even still alive.

My second family. I built that. Or at least had a 50% participation rate in the construction. Wife, son and a daughter. Many changes during those building years. Lots of good memories…lots of bad ones. All things change…and so did this family. Wife is no more. The children are now adults.

And now I have my third family. Wife, two grown children, an adopted cat, a Basset hound…and a host of “friends” that are the best family a person could ever ask for and never have the right to deserve.

Along the way, another family, a holy one has been watching over me. A heavenly “father” has seen that I should survive all of this mess down here on Earth. At times I thank him…and others I question his sanity (and my own).

The quote about the “friends being the family you choose for yourself”? There’s more truth in that statement than I wouldn’t want to admit. I have an abundance of cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, aunts and uncles…but I also have some “friends” that are more faithful, honest and reliable than the people who share my bloodline. Please don’t think I’m discounting all of my family…but I find it truly fascinating how someone you “meet” can be a better family member than those who share your last name (or family tree).

Sympathy is the last thing I “ever” have asked for in my life. I don’t want it…nor do I need it. What I would like is “understanding”. Understanding of who I am, how I think, and what I wish to experience with the time I have left on this planet. Every day and night, I thank God for “my wife and children, my family and my friends”. I thank God for “forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life through his son Jesus Christ.” Each day I say, “thank you Lord for all the blessings in my life…they are clear and abundant.” I thank God, “for allowing me to see the sun rise another day.” And finally I ask God, “to give me the strength and wisdom to face what is in front of me today.”

Recently, I’m not sure what to think about what has been put “in front of me”. I have a brother, who I love dearly, destroying his life…daily. I have a person I’ve called “sister” who has disowned me for reasons I don’t even know. I have children who I love with all of my heart and soul…who are absent from my life. I have a wife, who I gladly give all that have and all that I am…even though my gift isn’t what I wish it could be.

Friends…and family…my heart aches. I want to fix everything. That’s what skill God gave me. He gave me the gift to fix things…but how do I fix the things for which I have no control? These things that pain me are powerful. I’m the mechanic without a single tool in sight. The writer with no ink. I have prayers, hope and the lessons I try to learn from others…but I don’t feel I’m making any headway. The wheels are spinning but I’m not going anywhere? Is that how you would say it? Well, the problem is…I am going somewhere. Certainly, we all are going “somewhere”. It’s just some of us are on a train that “statistically” will reach the end of the track faster than most others. And so, I sit here at 5:30am on a Sunday morning….laying out my heart, soul, thoughts and emotions for the entire world to see. Maybe this post belongs in a “journal” and not on a “blog”. But as I said in the beginning, this project was intended as a place to share my experiences in the hopes that some “good” will come from these writings.

Family. Something I’ve wanted all my life. Something I’ve never quite figured out how to “hold on to”.

I know that several things will occur when this post is published. Some people will get even more pissed-off at me. Some will suggest that, “I’m venting.” Others will offer their “sympathy and prayers”…that God might see me through these trials (I thank you in advance). Some will be confused. Some will be oblivious.

Maybe the best that I can hope for is that “lines of communication” will be established. That by sharing…what burdens me will be known…and not hidden. Maybe a little light will be cast into the dark corners where the giant elephants sit. And maybe…just maybe…God will offer his blessings to me one more time…and give me the help I need to “fix” that which is broken.

Family. Something I’ve wanted all my life.
Family. Something I need in my life.

P.S.: Please forgive my typos and grammar…and if this was handwritten…please forgive the tear stains on the paper.

Missed Opportunity…

[Re-posted from 2016-07-14]

On May 24th, I posted litany of  complaints about situations I was dealing with at the time.  I made a mistake.  That list didn’t belong on Facebook, it belonged on a roll of toilet paper.  It was literally a shit list.  Instead of posting about all of the blessings I have that enabled that gripe list…I simply threw out my trash for everyone to see.  It’s not that I care if anyone sees my trash…I often share with others “everything” (good and bad) that’s going on in my life…I posted that list as if it was important.  I posted that list as if all the good in the world had vaporized only to be replaced by a shit-list of complaints.  How quickly I forget all that I have…all that I’ve learned…all that I’ve been blessed with…just to complain about a few petty items.

I missed an opportunity…an opportunity to share how even in the face of hardship and perceived failure…God was STILL sending blessings my way.  For that…I apologize.

1.) Just spilled my huge glass of milk all over the place.  [How many people would love to have a gallon of milk in their fridge?]

2.) Was involved in a “hit and run” (the teenager who hit me left the scene instead of waiting for the police as I suggested) today. Just car damage. The officer tracked her down using the picture I took of her as she fled the scene. Yeah…this was while I was heading to my therapist’s office.  [Not only do I have one, but two very recent model cars that are in great mechanical condition. Additionally, I’m blessed to have health insurance that pays for mental health help.]

3.) The kitchen sink was clogged up last night. Had to disassemble the plumbing to remove “plastic” stuff stuck in the drain. Nothing like Drano and sewage water to make you feel all “clean and healthy”. [I have a beautiful home…with running water…dishes to eat from…and frozen popsicles to enjoy during this current heat.]

4.) The garbage disposal seals are now broken and leaking. Will be purchasing and installing that now.  [I have so much food that I’m able to put part of it into the sewage system and garbage can.]

5.) Got an X-ray of my left hand today…hoping to figure out why it’s been bothering me since March.  [I have health insurance that allows me to see a doctor in the first place.  I have doctors that see me immediately (I’m not on a wait list that gets shredded).]

6.) Darn soldering iron broke…right when I had something to repair. [I’m blessed with skills and knowledge that have provided a comfortable life for me over the years and I have equipment (toys) that benefit my hobbies.]

7.) Kindle I fixed for a friend “let it’s smoke out”. You do know that electronics run on smoke…right?  [I have friends! And they’re loving, kind and understanding…regardless of my faults and mistakes.]

8.) Had my annual studies on the 9th (13yrs. on the lungs back in March). The results require me to have a face-to-face with the transplant docs on the 31st. More on that one later…  [A young man died and his family chose to let me have his lungs and a 2nd chance at life.]

9.) Drilling a pilot hole while putting up a few more plant hangers outside. Drill bit breaks off in the post.  [A wonderful father and husband died recently…his generosity (even in death) is why that structure stands to begin with.]

The comments in (blue) are the items I should have told everyone about.  I hope the next time I have the desire to bitch-and-complain about how crappy things are going…I can refer to this post and remember that I’m blessed way beyond what I deserve.

Can You Hear The Jackhammers And Power-saws?

[Re-posted from 2016-06-01]

So, I was listening to some old George Jones tunes the other night…reminiscing about my mom.  She loved the Possum…and even a die-hard rock-n-roller like me can respect the genius of some of his lyrics.  Though the song has nothing to do with the way I’m about to use his lyrics…I think he was on to something…but just wasn’t aware at the time.  For example…

“I’m still around…’cause I’m not ready yet.” – George Jones / I’m Not Ready Yet (1980)

But here’s what I think ‘Ole George forgot to add after the word “yet” — “…God still has me under construction”.

That’s how I feel right now.  I’m still around…’cause I’m not ready yet…God still has me under construction.  And when God has finally finish molding me, and used me for his purpose on this planet…I’ll get to go home.

Yes, you can now tell all of your friends, “Uh, I think Mr. Bill has lost his last marble.”  But of course, folks have known that fact for a VERY long time.

God bless you all!