Monday, April 30, 2018

I may take a small break in May

May is crazy busy around here, especially the next two weeks due to multiple school activities my kids have as the school year winds down so I am thinking this would be a good time to step back and not try to update online things as often.

These online things include but are not limited to this here blog and several of the social media accounts I unfortunately have love so much. I am really trying to not pick up the phone and open Twitter and lose twenty minutes one, two or three times a day especially during the hours of 6AM to 6PM.

There are also flowers to tend to and books to read and a new set of chairs on the deck that I need to sit in a lot since the weather has finally transitioned from fourth winter to our famous two weeks of spring before summer hits full blast.

Need me? I'll be here as much as possible. No internet connected devices allowed.

I expect that the podcast will roll on as normal. It doesn't take much time to record an episode as long as I don't get an idea and try to put something together with 20 clips. In order to keep it simple, I'll probably just stick with the day to day stuff. You know, the ephemera that I hear the folks love so much.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Attic cleaning adventures

This week I started tackling the attic and cleaning up things I have been ignoring. This is stuff that is out of the way and not necessarily urgent but it's stuff I know I don't need and it can't just simply go into the trash bin for pickup. It involves packing the car and heading to the dump. That's actual work and it goes against my laziness!

I'm not proud to say that some of this stuff had been the attic for at least 10 years including the box that a pressure washer came in years ago (the actual pressure washer lives in the garage and I have used it only twice that I can remember) and a stack of Styrofoam coolers we used for a party right after we moved in the house that I felt guilty about throwing away. There was also furniture held together by Gorilla Glue that I saved in the name of maybe I will use this again. Also there was this big plastic piece from the back of my Buick that was cracked so I replaced it with a perfect one from the junkyard. It was too big to go in the trash so it ended up in the attic.

And, there was an old turntable combo unit that died. I had replaced it and only saved it because my mother had given it to me years ago. How crazy to save something that was broken! I got my use out of the gift and should have tossed it when it stopped working but, nope, guilt dictated that I lug that thing up to the attic to deal with on a future day.

The famous closet from Fibber McGee and Molly - proof that clutter is not just a current-day problem!
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibber_McGee_and_Molly

Well, that future day was yesterday and all of this stuff and much more is gone. I had gone up in the attic and first thought to myself, "Why not put this off to another day?" because really, it was not urgent to get it done yesterday. It was not in the way! But, something motivated me to go ahead and take care of it.

And doing so made me realize that I am now at the "next level" of cleaning things up. I'm being more proactive and more discerning about what I really need vs. what I just think I need or thought I needed at one time or only keep because I feel guilty or only keep because I am too lazy to deal with the work involved in disposing of it.

Coincidentally, I had "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning" on hold at the local library and it finally became available so I started reading it this morning and it is perfect for taking this project of cleaning up and cleaning out to that next level. There are so many great quotes and ideas from "Gentle Art" that I want to share but I will save that for either the podcast or a more dedicated entry here on a later date.

Basically, the Marie Kondo books, which I learned a lot from, show you how to organize for today but "Gentle Art" tells you about getting prepared for the eventual end and not leaving behind a ton of stuff you don't need for your family to deal with when that eventual end does come.

I know my major motivation for cleaning up has been my experience dealing with all of the stuff my mother left behind and even with all I have cleaned out, I still have even further to go at both houses and that means it's time to start making the tougher decisions about nostalgic items and duplicate items (those "just in case" things) and it makes me wonder just how much further I can really go. I think I am really ahead of most folks when it comes to lack of and organization of material things but I do believe that I can do even more to get to even less!

Monday, April 23, 2018

We WANT to be distracted

I went to two musicals put on by local high schools over the weekend. Both were great - it's a whole new level of performance compared to when I was in school - and both featured students pleading with the crowd to either turn off phones or at the very least put them in airplane mode so they would not mess with the wireless microphones being used.


Since I have been trying to minimize distractions in my life and use the "smart" part of my phone less and less, I don't have a problem with not using my phone during performances but a lot of people around me at both performances seemed to need to scratch the itch of fomo repeatedly. Maybe we just get bored without multiple apps fighting for our attention. Maybe it makes us feel important and feeling important is a drug we can no longer do without.

I observed lots of people "sneaking" peaks at their phones and you are not really sneaking when you glance at your bright screen in a dark theater and multiply that by hundreds of people and I can't imagine what that looks like from the stage if you look out into the audience. There must be little flashes of light all over the place and most of them are coming from people's laps.

What really surprised me is that most of these folks were my age or older! Everyone seems to be obsessed with staying connected regardless of age.

I wonder if we are just no longer capable of disconnecting even for a couple of hours. How did we live when we had to concentrate on just the performance in front of us or the class we might be taking or the job we were trying to do?

Scatterbrain is going to be classified as a disease soon and probably accounts for multiple mistakes and even accidents at workplaces across the world. Who knows how many people have been maimed due to Notification Distraction!

I guess I was lucky to have gone all the way through school with no cell phones. I was able to concentrate in college without beeps and boops and buzzes and when I couldn't concentrate I guess I was just bored and being bored is rest for the brain! Now our brains get no rest at all!

I will be the first to admit that I also have more progress to make on this. When I get a work email notification here in the home office, I hear the sound from my laptop, the sound from my iPad (I keep my work email there also in case for the rare instance when I need to fix something at night when I don't want to have to open my laptop), the sound and vibration from my phone and the vibration from my "smart" watch!

Multiply that by Twitter notifications and Slack and other email accounts and iMessage and my devices are getting a workout and so is my head. If I turn off notifications, I might miss someone that DM's me only on Twitter or that messages me only on Slack so I have to leave those on.

I have gotten rid of or turned off notifications for most of my other apps. For example, I have removed Facebook from my phone and I no longer stay logged in to Facebook Messenger. It's just too much to be available multiple ways. If I do keep notifications on for an app, such as Instagram, I have the notification sounds off but even that is not enough of a distraction reduction since my phone sits right here when I work and the flash of a notification on the screen is right in my line of vision.

http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1098.html

What can be done? I DON'T KNOW!

But I'm working on it. I love my quiet time. I need my quiet time. My brain needs rest. I don't need to feel needed because I am getting beeps and boops and buzzes.

The one thing I can't tell you is that life without the distractions was better. Let's go back to my junior year in college. 1993. Did the lack of tech make me any smarter, clear thinking or able to do more with my brain power? I don't think so. I just found other ways to waste my time and distract myself. I would go to the mall and the library or dive into various dumb hobbies rather than study for Group Piano or other classes I didn't like. Now I can just sit in my chair and have all the time wasters and work avoiders right at my fingertips.

So, the tools of distraction are different now but I don't think life is necessarily better or worse. The basic problem of WANTING to be distracted hasn't changed at all.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The position of My Social Conscious™ has been filled

Sorry. Applications are no longer being taken.

But there are plenty of people who so desperately are yearning to be My Social Conscious™ out there on the internet. They are all over Facebook and all over Twitter and I even see them sneaking into Instagram comments. I'm sure they are everywhere on every social media platform and comments section and message board.

It happens to be a holiday and at least one person, maybe more, will post have a great holiday and here's why you should feel guilty celebrating it.

Someone famous dies and at least one person, probably more, will post about the terrible things they did or the terrible things someone related to them did or the terrible things their great-great-great grandfather did or the terrible things someone they once passed in a Walmart and said hello to did.


The internet is not even an effective outlet for anger. Instead of getting it all out, it seems to expand and expand, a fire feeding off the anger of others. I try to remember how we handled things back before the internet. I guess we either really took action (posting on social media is not an actual action, it's laziness and feels like action but it is really not action) or we blew off steam doing something else (maybe cutting up a pile of wood?) or we just sucked it up and went on with life.

When I add someone as a "friend" on Facebook, it's because they are or at one time were at least the most basic definition of a real friend. When my Facebook "friend" decides to use this open door into my life to then try to become My Social Conscious™, posting continuous rants and whatnot, I have to make a decision. Typically, I just mute them but we remain "friends" because I don't want to have to totally sever that connection.

I don't need one more person hopping up on their soapbox and pointing a megaphone in my general direction and yelling day after day, post after post. I'm sure you don't either. Maybe what I write here is the same thing to you. The difference for me is you come to this site to read it. I don't post about this blog anywhere but on a dedicated Twitter account. I don't spam my Facebook "friends" and I rarely share posts with followers I have at the @upinthisbrain Twitter account although I do if I feel like it's important enough to be seen by more than the 17 followers I have at the @upinthisblog account.

I try to leave it up to you if you want to see what I write here and I certainly don't throw message after message in your Facebook feed about how you should feel terrible about living two doors down from a Republican because it's contagious.

I'm just tired of the negativity. Day to day life has enough ups and downs. I choose to use social media as an escape from the downs. I don't expect people to use social media in the manner I do. I don't expect anyone to change how they use social media so they don't "trigger" me. I'm not even bothered by those who occasionally feel the need to post something political now and then. It's the people that hammer me that I am just plain done with.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sometimes the Recycle Bin is where it belongs

I was just looking in the folder for the next Up In This Brain podcast. It was full of little odds and ends audio clips that I had recorded over the last week or so and songs I wanted to share. Going into each file and pulling out what I wanted to share was looking like a lot of work. It was discouraging just looking at the contents of the folder. Did I really want to open Audacity and start importing files and start editing?

That's when I had a better idea. I moved the whole folder to the recycle bin.

Then, I emptied it before I changed my mind.

Ah, that's better! The stress is completely gone.

Sometimes, I get to a point where starting over is better than tackling the work of piecing something together hoping that I can create something that feels right out of a bunch of parts. Now the canvas is blank again and I can create something completely new and that is exciting.

And, nothing is lost because not one thing I had put in the folder felt like it had that "spark" to it that would make it even barely special. No amount of polishing was going to make it shinola.

A final note - I sure miss the Oscar the Grouch extension I had on my Mac Classic many years ago. It made deleting files fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The music is the memory

Like most people, a lot of my memories are connected to music. A certain song comes on and boom! It's 1979 again or 1988 or 1994. As part of that connection, a special event should pop into mind for certain songs, right?

Example: a few afternoons ago, I am reading and listening to Pandora when this song comes on:

I am transported from the beginning of April to the end of October in an instant when I hear it but not specifically to any particular October. October of 1980, although I have pictures, does not jump out at me. Neither do the Octobers that followed.

So, I am realizing more and more that the music itself is the memory and most everything else is fuzzy. Now don't start thinking I am about to reveal something is terribly wrong with me. It's always been this way. I DO have memories of events, people, places, and all of that and there are a certain few songs I tie to people and important events but the far majority of the songs I hear make for a more general reminiscence - a more vague trip back in time.

Here's one I heard the other day. It makes me think of colder weather so I'm guessing this was a hit in the later part of 1984:

Aside from that thought, I have no specific memory that is tied to it.

What is tied to it is the same thing that is tied to most songs, this "feeling" of the time I was hearing the song a lot and the general situation I was in. On top of that is the distance between this time when I am hearing the song and the time that song represents.

It's hard for me to believe that forty years has passed since I first heard this song:
Forty years! How is that possible? And, there are days when it seems like those forty years went by in an instant. Poof! From 1978 to 2018.

Time is weird, I guess. Or is it science? Oh, well. I have more vague memories of times gone by every time I turn on the radio and I guess it's better to have vague memories than a truckload of vivid regrets!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I am not looking for advice

I understand that people like to be helpful. I think it is within our nature. I know that there have been times in my marriage and friendships when I have started giving unsolicited advise when the most helpful thing I could have done is just sit and listen.
I'm not sure why I think I would be called upon to give advice in the first place. I understand that I do not possess all of the answers for you or for me. In fact, I may possess painfully few answers. I have found that most of life is reactionary no matter how much we try to prepare for the what ifs, large and small.

I write this today because unsolicited advice has brought my creative output here at the blog and over at the podcast to a halt. I stopped writing here and my podcast has focused on what I would call "detached" topics for the better part of the last month.

What an odd thing to do, I know, to come here and publicly state that I don't need advice when I am publicly sharing snippets of my personal life, some lighthearted and some quite raw and uncomfortably honest. Why am I sharing this stuff, then? Or, a better question is why was I before I stopped?

For me, it is the just the process of sharing or working through certain things here or on the podcast that provide me the relief I seek and fill the needs I have of a creative outlet.

Do I know it is rare and probably considered weird that I picked up the recorder and spoke at length just hours after my mother passed two years ago this week and then shared that file on the internet? I know it's rare and I'll leave it up to you to decide if it was weird or not. I don't think it's weird or I wouldn't do it.

Pressing upload at the podcast or publish here at the blog is my payoff.

I don't record or write because I am seeking advice or opinions or even observations about my life.

Some comments I have received, publicly or privately, over the last few months have not just made me feel awkward about pressing upload or publish but they caused me to not even open the laptop and start typing out an entry and to not pick up the recorder at all.

It's painful to give up what you enjoy in order to not feel scrutinized or analyzed.

So, with this post, I am coming back and I will share in the way that I enjoy as a person and the way I need as a creator.

If something I write or say helps someone get through a bad, weird or difficult patch in life just by knowing someone else is out there going through that same bad, weird or difficult patch in life, that is wonderful. You can choose to comment with something positive or thankful or not comment at all. The act of sharing it was already the payoff for me.

If something I write or say makes someone laugh and forget about the real struggles of life even for a few seconds, even better. You can choose to comment with something positive or thankful or not comment at all. The act of sharing it was already the payoff for me.

I can't help what you might consider of me and I understand that I put myself out there for that consideration by sharing here and on the podcast.

What I don't need is fixing because I don't consider myself broken.