Monday, April 10, 2023


Is it Fair for us to Assign an Identity to Someone Else?

I was minding my own business yesterday, leafing through Facebook, when I came across a post from a FB friend - I’ll call him Joe. He was an acquaintance from the YMCA where my wife and I exercised years ago. We’d spoken maybe half a dozen times, over as many years and he’s certainly not an introvert. He did not keep his political beliefs or sexual orientation to himself then, nor does he today. Joe seems reasonably smart and I just discovered he’s the current editor of a publication addressing diversity - certainly a worthwhile cause.

Play Pickleball at Oneonta Family YMCA: Court Information | Pickleheads

In yesterday’s FB post he really vented about an obviously gay dude who surprised him by sending a meme in support of a former president who’s not known for being supportive of minority groups. To my knowledge, Joe knew nothing about this stranger other than his sexual and political orientations, yet he seemed proud of how he blasted this new adversary. He threw as many nasty names and insults as he could, and then unfriended him. Boy that must have hurt. I’m sure the exchange dramatically changed the guy’s political trajectory! I Jest.

Although I’m no fan of the former president and have my guesses as to what Joe was angry about, I was particularly struck by HIS blanket disdain for anyone, based solely on one thing that he didn’t like or understand. Imagine that!

After seeing his rant, I did a little fact-checking about our former president and the LGBTQ cause. It is NOT as black and white as I thought it would be. The HUGE problem is that “News” networks like Fox , MSNBC and CNN rarely report news that doesn’t fit their agenda and groomed audiences. Anything worthwhile that Trump actually did do regarding the LGBTQ community would have at best been aired on Fox, but even that’s unlikely considering the subject matter.

Why such anger?

My suspicion is that Joe had pre-emptively put his FB “friend” in a nice neat box. But then he discovered that his “friend” had the gall to sneak outside that box. Joe’s world revolves around his identity as defender of diversity, but it’s possible that his FB enemy doesn’t live there. Maybe he just visits the issues of homosexuality or diversity as necessary. His FB enemy was a unique individual, just like all the rest of us.

People are enormously complex and make their choices for a whole host of different reasons. When we know very little about someone, we’re almost coerced into trying to make connections between their actions and the identity that we have unknowingly assigned to them. But sometimes, we don’t see the dots.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Labels - Can't Live With 'em, Can't Live Without 'em

(Photo by Nathan Dumlao)

What’s the one thing that all of the following have in common - beyond the fact that they’re all labels?

High-achiever, moron, quitter, republican, racist, druggie, mean bastard, entrepreneur, democrat, athlete, failure, hero, janitor, optimist, imbecile, angry white guy with a weapon, homeless loser. Anyone who immediately goes to the comment icon and contributes their guesses, will get a FREE virtual hug, handshake or high five from an unknown author. If you also answer correctly, you’re the grand-prize winner and will get all three.

Before I give you the answer, let me just say that I’ve always struggled with the concept of labels, in part because I’ve often been on the receiving end of too many. Who knows, the buried psychological trauma from being called “Spaghetti Arms” throughout junior high, might be the underlying reason for me writing this post. I do jest and recognize that labels negatively effect all of us. To many, it’s far from a joking matter.

Just recently I figured out another reason why I personally detest “labels.” Their sole purpose in life is to provide a mechanism for us to file away people and things into nice, neat categories. Well, I really dislike filing anything. I prioritize being neat right up there with cleaning the hairballs out of our vacuum, and I’m not sure what the word “organized” actually means. But I digress.

To answer my opening question, ALL of the italicized labels above have been or are ...

     This is an excerpt from my new and improved blog / newsletter - "Us AND Them" and is continued at

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Stepping Back to Get A Better Shot at Moving Forward


Periodically, I find myself immersed in a conversation with a friend or acquaintance when I notice two different types of subtle changes in their demeanor. The first may be the wobbling of their upper body with closed eyes and almost a snoring sound. I take this to be a good sign - that maybe I have a soothing voice. There’s another pattern I’ve noticed - maybe the twitching of their eyes, a little foam leaking between pursed lips or clenched fists pounding on hard surfaces near my head. I’m a pretty perceptive guy so when I see either of these patterns, I have this little timer that goes off in my head - and within say 10 minutes I automatically shut off my efforts at enlightening them. ONE DAY I LEARNED THAT ALL MY FRIENDS AREN’T ALIKE!

 George is one of my best chums here in our small mid-western town. He is very active in local causes that help the poor and the disadvantaged - he’s a good guy. We go to the same UCC. For the un-anointed that stands for “The United Church of Christ”.  I’m at least intrigued by the less traditional interpretation - Unitarians Considering Christianity. But I digress.

We both enjoy things like tinkering with and riding our motorcycles, though his is a Harley Road Glide  and mine is a Kawasaki Z 900 RS - quite different though fundamentally the same. He’s helped me attach the wings on the ultralight airplane I was building. We do occasional bacon and eggs at the local diner but mainly just appreciate shooting the breeze. Speaking of shooting, we’re both gun owners who would never support nixing the Second Amendment. However, he worked for decades as an FBI agent, and I’ve worked for decades as a Physician Assistant doing a lot of ER shifts. I’ve worked in a couple of refugee camps. We’ve both seen first hand what bullets can do and yet we have widely different views on gun safety . . . and a few other hot button topics.

A few months ago we were having a nice, low-key discussion at a town park during a festival. Then the exchange of ideas drifted toward something political. Over the course of less than fifteen minutes, it became progressively more heated until all of a sudden George threw up his hands signaling - “TIME OUT”. . . I’m really not used to that! He then followed up with - I value our friendship too much to continue this conversation.” With minimal reflection, I not only agreed but especially appreciated his mentally stepping back and establishing boundaries. This was a most valuable lesson for me.

Every conversation or transaction that we partake in has potential risks, benefits, and opportunity costs. We each have the option of grabbing the steering wheel when we see falling “rocks” up ahead. How would things be different if every time we witnessed an interaction going sour, we merely stepped back and asked - “What’s the most important thing to take away from this moment?  

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

If We Can't Hit The Notes, Harmonize



Each of us got to wake up this morning, at some

specific point, on the ride of our lives. We're hurtling

through space at 67,000 miles an hour, riding a

spectacular blue and green planet unlike any other -

it is teaming with life. And to make matters extra inter-

esting, none of us knows exactly when our trip will end. 

    Please hold up one second and let that settle in! 

     On this journey, we are so much more alike than 

different.  However, we are still not the same - any

more than the instruments of an orchestra. 


    As I try to grow through my mid-life crisis, I’m

realizing that my biggest challenge shouldn’t be to

join in with the disparate voices around me. I’ve learned

that, with all of our different roots and experiences, we

just can’t hit the same notes. The purpose of our “RIDE”

together might be to discover the best way to

HARMONIZE with an ever enlarging family of fellow

travelers and this amazing earth.

     In order to better harmonize, it really helps to first 

understand why the voices around us seem so different. 

And that’s a large part of what my blog is about.  Please 

join me in this discussion - EVERY VOICE COUNTS

     Comments and “Shares” are greatly appreciated !

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Why am I here?



      I've been blessed with a number of days where 

the answer was not only suggested, but placed right 

in my hands.  One of the more dramatic experiences 

happened when I was working as a relatively new 

ER physician assistant in Upstate NY.  As I was 

charting on one patient, I heard over the hospital speakers:

"CODE BLUE - Radiology."  As I stood up, I saw an 

X-Ray tech running down the hall toward us.  Drooped 

over his arm was a completely lifeless two-week-old 

baby boy!  I tipped his head back, but still no breath, 

no pulse, no heart sounds. I started thumb compressions

as the ER doctor located a newborn-sized face mask.  

With my hands squeezing his tiny chest, that little

guy not only came back to life, but let out a glorious 

wail!  And that day I knew why I was here. 

     As with a large portion of people who work hard 

every day in their chosen field, my job had morphed 

into more of a grind. I spent most days just running 

to put out simultaneous brushfires. In the back of my

mind I always knew that it was usually a significant 

event that brought our patients to the ER.  But this 

one little boy woke ME up!

     Some special days we're just blessed with an 

opportunity to make a tangible difference in someone's 

life.   First responders, teachers, scientists, plumbers, 

and even politicians* may benefit others all day long

but the best of them just do their fine work noiselessly,

making the world a better place, and that's  A GREAT 


*Counselors, electricians, parents, laborers, waitresses, &

CPR instructors, etc.  - you get the idea. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Resets Are Merely An Option


     "Nightbirde",  an inspiring Singer-Song-writer & winner of America's 

Got Talent.  December 31, 1990 - February 19, 2022

     What do kindergartners, NFL quarterbacks, and the conductor of 

the London Philharmonic Orchestra have in common?

                            They all get  TIME OUTS !

     Be it naptime, commercial breaks, or the pause between movements in

a symphony, these are all well acknowledged opportunities to step back and 


     January first of each year is an opportunity to not only turn the page of a 

calendar but to replace the whole thing!  It could be a big flippin' deal -at

least symbolically (and punetically).  We get to reflect on where we've been, 

where we are and where we'd like to go.  For some, that's admittedly and 

unfortunately a sad look, but attitudinal adjustments can be life-altering.  

      To quote  Nightbirde  *,  (Jane Marczewski)

"You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore until you decide to be happy".

These are words I need to repeat to myself every day.

* link to a performance that showcases her amazing talent and beautiful heart.

Friday, December 30, 2022

In 2023, Are We To Be Enablers or Explorers?



We are, in some sense, a part of every problem that we encounter.

         We can be a passive observer, 

         We can be an enabler, or 

         We could be someone who gives their best to facilitate positive change.

                         We Get To Decide !

   We are, in a similar way, a part of every problem that we face within.

             We can be passive observers,

             We can be enablers, or

             WE could be explorers that dig deeply and honestly to

                     uncover the true obstacles that keep us from

                     moving forward.

                         In 2023 - We Get To Decide !



Thursday, December 29, 2022

Surviving Stupid - The First in a Series

      I like to think that there's a big difference between acting stupid 

and being stupid, but periodically I have blurred that line. The ability 

to ignore red flags of reason was a trait I picked up from my father. 

It's never intentional, but like many maladaptive behaviors

it just weaves its way into one's life story.


      A Beautiful, Horrifying Experience

     When my daughter was just a toddler, my wife and I took her to 

the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.  Relatively few animals were confined 

to small cages and most, such as the grey wolves, had large enclosures.

All three of us enjoyed aimlessly wandering, as we took in the

marvels of God's handiwork.  By late afternoon however,  I started

 to wonder.  How could any respectable zoo not have a big cat area?  

     We turned onto the only remaining asphalt path which eventually 

led to a huge enclosure in the trees.  Bordering the path was an old

split-rail fence.  And set back from that was a tall heavy-duty

anchor fence surrounding the enclosure. A small cement building sat

 in the front corner, surrounded by a bright halo of the setting sun. 

     It was then that I got to "thinking."   Even with my toddler on my 

shoulders, it would be so easy to just step over that fence.  What mortal

could resist?  As we neared the dark building, the sun's glare eased, 

and my eyes started to adjust.  I saw a heavy door with a few bars in its 

opening.  As I started to look in, there was an enormous WHAM as a 

Siberian tiger pounced and shook that door.  The encounter lasted a mere 

second but I still vividly recall that amazing animal eying my precious 

daughter like she was some twenty-five pound Big Mac.  "Oh Shit," was 

all I could get out as I slithered away.

     Over the years I've thought about this little incident many times and it 

still gets my juices flowing.  Then there are the lessons, the biggest

being a new perspective on those ridiculous warnings that we all detest.  

"Don't carry packages from strangers onto airplanes," or "Don't operate 

chainsaws while on mind-altering drugs."  Those messages are for everyday 

people, all too much like me.  


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Tiny Glimpse Of a Bigger Picture


     Hopefully everyone has had at least one really fine moment when they've

sensed a connection with a force or spirit beyond comprehension.  Maybe it's 

a fleeting glimpse of some bigger picture or the suggestion of a higher purpose

which rattles our spiritual foundation or lack thereof.  


     One pristine summer day, maybe twelve years ago, I was headed from the

mountains of  Upstate New York to Wrightsville Beach in Virginia.   I was riding

my newly acquired, 600 cc Honda Shadow.  It was pretty much a toy version of a 

Harley Davidson Sportster.  Think "Easy Rider", but with a top speed of eighty in 

a racing tuck. I had worked my way from country roads to the eight-lane beltway

around Annapolis. My throttle was wide open, I was lost, and continuously 

tail-gated / surrounded by tractor trailers.  I could be cool and suggest it was 

just a hassle, but I truly thought I was going to die right there - my legacy being 

an unrecognizable splat in the road.  To my great relief, the traffic eventually 

thinned and I triumphantly exited at the first rest area I saw.

     As I relaxed my derriere on the wide supportive surface of a picnic table, 

an elderly couple walked by, talking in hushed tones.  I said something 

like,  "How are you folks doing on such a beautiful day?"  They gave a positive 

answer but their tone betrayed them as they looked at each other.  My response 

was, "I'm not convinced."  They came toward me and over the next twenty

minutes or so,  shared a snapshot of what they and their seriously ill daughter 

were dealing with.  I listened as they shared the many dead ends they were 

facing.  Their story was heart-breaking, but the despair they initially emanated 

lessened as their floodgates opened.

     After we hugged and parted, I pulled out my map to figure out where

 I was, and how to get back on track.  Then I had a thought - What 

if I was on the right track the whole time?



Thursday, December 15, 2022

When an Instructor Becomes the Student


       For quite a few years I've worked teaching adaptive sports to people with 
physical and cognitive disabilities. I learned early on that there's no helpful 
place for pity to dwell in a particularly challenging life.

      Last month, I met a guy named Tim while traveling through Racine,

a city near Milwaukee. He was in the local Kwik-Trip gas station blindly tapping

his way up the aisle - I mean literally!  He was holding a frozen chicken pot pie

in one hand and finding his way with the other. When I said - “Hello,” to let him

know I was up ahead, he gave a hearty “Hi” like we were old friends. He

looked to be close to fifty and had a ruddy complexion suggesting he wasn't

any homebody. He asked - “could you do me a favor and tell me how I'm

supposed to cook this?” I slowly read the instructions, then reminded myself

that this guy is blind, not dull. He thanked me, and we said our goodbyes.

After I’d made a pit stop and gotten my coffee, I headed out toward my car.  


     There he was, cheerfully tapping his red and white cane through the gas

pumps and cars toward the four-lane highway. I “nonchalantly” raced over

and asked if I could help him, to which he responded - “I’ve been here a lot

and I’m just headed to the motel down the road”, as he pointed toward the

setting sun.  But I didn’t see any motel.  I gave him a ride and about a

half-mile down the road he told me to “go in the next driveway” (based on my

speed).  As we went around the curve, he pointed ahead - “room 34 should

be “about there” and he was off by one car width in the pothole-laden parking

lot.  The motel was a dive but he seemed perfectly content.  As we came to a

stop, he put out his hand, and with a smile, introduced himself. “I’m Tim, but

there are a lot of Tim's out there, so my friends just call me ‘Blind Tim’"

Thanks for the ride. “

     As I drove off I realized Tim showed no outward signs of carrying any extra

burdens in life. He seemed perfectly OK with the hand he'd been dealt.

As for me, I'm afraid I would have found a little room for self pity.

But then again, I'm not close to a finished project.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Dragons - Facts Versus Fiction


My six year old granddaughter “Belle” and I were having a heated discussion this morning about how long dragons live.  She was riding a green rubberized, pre-adolescent "girl dragon." According to attached paperwork "Waddles" had immigrated from China.  Belle has spent literally half her life with this gentle dragoness from Walmart who, disappointingly, has never even let out so much as a puff of smoke, let alone fire. Nonetheless, Belle just knew, “dragons live twenty-three years.”

      My wife chimed in - "hundreds of years." She's into metaphysics, and was adamant.  She’s so well read about this kind of thing and even knew about real drawings of dragons who had been thriving for centuries.  That kind of information is hard to argue with.

     But I got to thinkin’. I’m the oldest and wisest here - and I’m not buying any of this.  There are actual scientific wizards somewhere who can prove it’s impossible for dragons to survive beyond one year after they’ve burped their last fireball!  Just imagine all of the action figures out there who have dedicated their entire lives to eradicating these vermin and now they’re gonna be defenseless!  

     The truth is, “I may not have any actual evidence but I have a lot of theories.”  Thus, the facts are irrefutable. A dragon's days are numbered after it passes it's last flaming gas. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong!

Friday, December 9, 2022



   It’s 2 AM, and my cup is full - not with coffee but with blessings (the java was consumed five hours earlier while driving home from a concert). I had just slowly awakened to the song - “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne. It was running through my head but I was stuck on the first line: “The streets are filled with laughter and light and the music of the season,” but I couldn’t remember the word laughter.  In my half-sleep, I kept wanting to insert the word Magic.

    Back to last night - with my precious granddaughter on my lap, and my wife Emily & daughter Vera to my left side, we are watching my nine year old grandson, Nathan*, on a Christmas stage with fifty other kids. They are  singing their hearts out. “Nathan” is not, and probably never will.  He’s on the non-verbal “end” of the autism spectrum if there is one.  We watch as he smiles and makes a slow turn to check out the voices behind him. Then, with his hand on his butt, he checks out the singers on the other side. The clarity & beauty of voices surrounding him almost hurts, but it’s therapeutic.

( *Nathan is not his real name)

     As my wife dries her eyes, I see my daughter's loving arm wrap around her shoulder, and I silently pray. I’m praying, not for him to sing, but merely for a sign that he can in some way connect with those kids that are having silly fun all around him.  Nathan turns again and I realize his pivot point hasn’t changed in over five minutes and that’s amazing progress for him.  As the third song ends, the crowd goes wild and Nathan joyfully claps.  My daughter comforts her mom with a smile, adding - “he's having a blast” - and it’s true.

     We make our way to their van and then back to their house. Nathan runs into the dark to his frost-covered swing.  Ten minutes later he joins us for a parting hug as we head out the back door.  My bride and I walk slowly to the car parked out front.  As I get in, I notice silhouettes.  Nathan and Vera are watching us from the front picture window.  I wave like I have dozens of times over the years.  I see Vera point to us as she waves.  And for the first time ever, my much loved grandson waves back!   

       Is it any wonder that I can’t sleep and can only think of the word Magic?