Like; It’s a Disease, Man.


Okay, so I’m not sure where to start, but–like–there’s a serious psychological plague going around which may be more contagious than–like–Covid-19.

It’s the LIKE twitch.

How do you know you have it? There’s only one symptom. If you use the word LIKE in nearly every sentence, sometimes more than once if you use run-un sentences, you have contracted this obnoxious condition.

Do you know anyone…er…um…like this?

If you struggle with avoiding use of the word LIKE, I have bad news. The only way to break the habit is to either mentally control everything you say, willing yourself to use other words, or to avoid people with the LIKE twitch.

In my case, my older brother has it…bad. And, just from a little time with my sisters, he has given them a taste of it. They’re not full-blown sick in the head, but they are at the tickle-cough stage.


The LIKE twitch is similar to the following conditions I’ve already had to elude:

Rapid and obsessive eye blinking.

[I once saw a kid on a school bus with this condition. He drove me crazy until I finally had to stop talking with him and look away.]

Clearing your throat in a way that may be associated with acid reflux.

[My fifth-grade teacher had this one and passed it to me; it took half of the following summer for me to stop grinding my throat.]

Repetitive use of the phrase “Utterly ridiculous.”

[My sister picked this up from watching the CG superhero show Miraculous…and then she passed it to our mother.]


Ask your doctor about using Thesaurus, today.

Think of two synonyms for LIKE and call me in the morning.


Don’t Let Your “FEED” Rob You of Family Connections


You know something is vitally wrong when someone cannot take the time to look at your email because they’ve already given that time to their “feed,” that term for what so many “cows” are fed by some anonymous online source, that stream of stuff, including TikTok-worthy videos and images, which is said to be custom-picked to appeal to every person, based upon their online activity. Are we that lost, as a species, already? Are we already submitting to the machine and forgetting what we claim is important, like family?

I saw a particular episode of the Parent Test, a recent TV show in which one of my favorite comediennes/actresses, Alexandra (“Ali”) Wentworth, and some guy, who looks a tad uptight, evaluate different types of parents by having them face various “challenges” as families. In that episode, the farming parents were asked by their kids to put the cellphones away for a day. And, the parents claimed to be somewhat surprised by the request. [Honestly, with ABC and television, lately, in general, I am not sure how much is staged/planned; but this felt slightly staged…like one of many Public Service Announcements.] I don’t think the farm family, if they even have the technology, would have this problem…or wouldn’t be the only ones. If you look at most of the video footage taken by the various families, there is some sort of “tech” in each segment. It’s everywhere. It’s like one big deceptive ad for some ISP (internet service provider). It’s sickening, in a way.

So, on a personal note, I have family who have submitted to “the machine” while still occasionally throwing a jab at others, including me, for how they either don’t make good use of technology or waste time on “pointless” interests/pursuits. ‘So easy to judge others and then disappear into the void of mindless scrolling…and scrolling…and ignoring what’s in front of you.

GOOD GOLLY! I want to scream and vomit.

What has happened to so many?!

Whoever is responsible for this madness, which seems like such an evil plot or a very poor miscalculation of technological power…there is a very special place in the “world below” for sick individuals like you.

I cannot even get my sister to look at artworks I thought would not only get her to laugh but give me some feedback on how I am doing with my art skills.

My other siblings send me emails so short and quick that they often just contain a link I’m supposed to click? In the age when we should already be aware of scams that appear like that? I tell them no; they have to include a message with that link to let me know it’s really from them. I am not just going to jump at every link; I already made a costly mistake with that move, once.

And, on top of the stuff that happens on these devices, it’s affecting social interactions. My siblings seem less tolerant of discussing anything and become more easily distressed when asked; and, if I look, I’m sure I’ll find them scrolling through that “feed,” again. It’s really, really sickening.

I ask them, repeatedly, who sends that “feed?” Where do they get it? Fbook? If it’s Fbook, I’ll add a few pounds of strength to my grip the first chance I get to strangle someone from that hot mess. If Fbook is to blame, I will just add another few pounds to the weight that keeps my hand from touching that disaster-waiting-to-happen. I refuse to submit.

But, what can I do?

I used to feel guilty for dabbling in online chat and other “traps.” I used to think I was a freak living in the shadows instead of socializing like “normal people.” I did it to fill in what I was missing but kept looking up and out of the rabbit hole, hoping some better reality would come along so I could turn off the internet and get on with my life. And, when the “feed” I was looking at lost its charm, when I either felt too sick-in-the-head (in part from the opinions/input of nosy people) or tired of going to bed feeling as empty as I was when I started looking, I stopped using those rabbit holes. I’m not saying I “quit cold turkey,” but I grew tired of being disappointed by the “filler.” And, even when I was somewhat hooked, I knew I wanted something else. I just couldn’t seem to get what I wanted from anyone, not from the people I knew close to home nor those I was meeting online. [I still find myself dabbling and feeling this way, just with different outlets that don’t suck me in the way the older ones did.]

I don’t even get along with my family, not very well, anyway, and I still want better interaction. I don’t want my family completely disconnecting, correcting each other and being guilty of judging the rest of our lives, when we’re not casting some sort of appealing illusion which makes others think we are glamorous arm candy. I don’t want to be a reality-TV disaster. Right now, I’d just be happy to have my siblings give time and honest opinions on my creative output without telling me I have too much time on my hands and that I talk/think too much for “social norms.” I can’t get them to look at something I wrote because they already spend too much time looking at glowing screens/text. That’s so sad.

What seems to be normal, now, isn’t normal…or tolerable…to me. This “norm” is sucking the warmth and comfort out of everything. It’s a bug zapper waiting to close the door on humanity. One day, someone’s going to say, “J-Just one more minute.” They’ll be looking at their little glowing screen, letting their good eyesight wither and die…and some big black box is going to close in around them, sealing them away for eternity.

I’d rather chuck it all in a void than lose complete touch with real people. I’d rather have a real hug than an emoji or short video clip.

Damn. How do you stop this runaway machine?

And, why can’t you “cattle” wise up?

I’ve never been the biggest family-gathering person; I’m a bit of an introvert who struggles with social anxiety. But, even I feel this is the onset of something very wrong and want more warming, social interaction in this world. I certainly do not want to see every human being glued to a glowing screen in their hands.

Can you imagine? ‘Being a tourist and seeing everyone around you sitting quietly with a small screen glued to their hand(s), perched on fountains and fences and leaning against buildings…all hypnotized by some glowing, radiating slice of technology? You might hear the wind and seagulls/pigeons over everything else…because the people won’t be talking or walking, anymore. It’s an unsettling thought.


Harmonious Year of the Water Rabbit, 2023/4723


Finally, after so much turmoil and chaos, we can all relax…hopefully.  Why?  Because it’s time for the Year of the Water Rabbit (in lunar/Chinese astrology).  Now, as usual with these lunar/Chinese years, not everyone has the same level of good fortune.  Some signs may need to be more alert and careful than others (who are free to unwind and enjoy themselves).  But, everyone should be free to experience some much needed peace, tranquility and harmony.  It’s a spa year.

What kinds of opportunities might you find this lunar year?  Real estate; maybe you find a good deal on a new home or get a good price for one you need to sell/leave.  Employment; maybe you finally get a promotion you’ve wanted without a stressful discussion or filing process.  Romance; if you’ve been struggling to find a life partner, this is a great year to find one.  [I sure would like to find one.]  Family; if you’ve been having conflicts with family (as I have), now is a good time to either resolve them or not be troubled by them.  [In some cases, you may need to be the one who sows peace and harmony rather than simply benefit from what others provide.  And, any peace/calm you can provide will benefit you.]

In short, anyone who is a friend of the Rabbit (dog, pig, sheep/goat, ox or rabbit) can cheer up and enjoy the following lunar year.  Nothing should go wrong.  Luck is on your side.  Anyone who otherwise creates friction with the Rabbit (dragon, horse, rat, rooster, tiger and possibly some snakes) should be warned not to cause any conflict/fuss with peace-loving types as this could counter the opportunities now open to you.  In other words, don’t sour the cow providing your milk.  The general words of advice for the latter group of animals are “focus” and “calm.”  Be like the Sagittarius archer who steadies his/her bow before firing an arrow, and you will not miss your target/goal.  Have patience and cultivate peaceful interactions.  Enjoy time with the family and do what you can to help them/each other.




Response to She’s Cut Off From Grandkids, Too… (Ask Carolyn)


Ask Carolyn (Hax) column originally titled “She’s cut off from grandkids, too, not just ‘angry’ grandpa.”

This letter/case addresses an aging mother/grandmother who is being denied time with her son’s children because the son refuses to visit and even speak with her. But, the enclosed blame for the lack of communication is placed upon the son’s father who is described as being a toxic, angry parent. The mother/grandmother feels she has been only kind, caring and supportive and thus has no reason to be denied time with the grandkids; she believes her relationship with the son was a good one…until he stopped communicating with her (and his father). The mother/grandmother tries to bridge the gap by sending gifts to the grandkids…and there is no mention of how those gifts are used/received.

Carolyn (Hax) does a decent job of bringing my attention to one possibility I did not consider, while reading the letter…and also possibly making the mother/grandmother feel exceedingly guilty/self-conscious in an already tender, tragic situation. The psychology here may be more fragile than it appears in text. And, I wouldn’t want the already troubled mother/grandmother to do anything further to ruin her health or end her life as a result of “tough love” from a columnist. But, as Carolyn seems to suggest or hint at, the psychology might also be something in the head of the mother/grandmother who is in denial of her part in the parenting mishap. [I could say the same of my parents. One (if not both) is definitely living in denial.]


Very Sad Grandma, I hope you are NOT my mother and thus someone who refuses to take any blame for how she performed (and continues to perform) as a parent…even though she might be right when she says she did the best she could…even if that means she just wasn’t ready/fit to parent. I hope you are just as much aware of your own potential missteps as you are able to point fingers at your son’s father, the other half of the parent equation. I hate to admit I am skeptical…because you did not make any mention of what even MIGHT be your fault…because you claim your relationship with this son was good. Either way, we, the readers, have little to no evidence, just your word.

[Acknowledge that it takes two to have a child and be parents (plural); admit that much. I am not saying single parents cannot adequately parent, in some (not all) cases. But, certainly, two happy, healthy mentors can do better than one struggling to make ends meet, so to speak (just like two kidneys over depending upon one).]

But, I also hope you are not the self-sacrificing, martyr type who will blame herself for more than she is guilty just to open a closed door and then repeat the problem that closed it. And, I hope you are not the sort who perpetually blames herself until she is a mindless corpse (because no amount of confessing seems enough to improve the situation). I hope you are not a “doormat.”

I will acknowledge, as any of these advice columnists must feel like saying though it is rarely if ever addressed, sorting out such a touchy subject outside of a therapy setting, where you can hear from all sides, provided all sides are present and permitted to speak freely in an orderly fashion…if that ever happens in our modern world, anymore…sorting out your big crisis through a newspaper column doesn’t seem very effective, productive and/or sensible. You write out your thoughts as they come to you, emotionally, in the moment. If you’re lucky, you review what you wrote before turning it in to the columnist. The columnist reads what you wrote and has to wrap their assessment into a set space.

…The whole thing just feels like a futile and tensely packed situation with no clear resolution.

[I would also like to address how writing an emotional plea to anyone, for advice or just to be heard, is a confusing effort when you include more than one person of a particular gender in a single sentence. This letter becomes a bit confusing at points, mixing the father of the son with the father of kids of his own. See what I mean? We need to break these sentences down to be extra clear; discuss one person at a time and watch those gender-specific words.]

Regardless, I have a few thoughts/ideas of my own I’d like to offer, if you are receptive.

There is one path Carolyn does not even bother to consider…because she is focused on the possibility that your relationship with the son’s father might be…er, dead. You might be divorced. You might be separated. You might no longer get along with the son’s father and feel you have separate rights to be with your kids and their kids. The path I am referring to involves you setting a “date” with your son to meet and be with the grandkids AWAY FROM THE FATHER.

Is that not possible? Couldn’t you contact the son and suggest a time and place you could meet which would not include “angry dad” and thus spare the son the agitation of being around the worst parent one more minute?

If the answer is no, if the son gives absolutely no response to any communication you send…how do you know your “gifts” are even received and/or put to good use? How do you know they are not tossed in the trash?

If you cannot make ANY contact with your troubled son, in which he responds with some form of opinion/thought, you really don’t have much you can do except go on with your life…YOUR life. [And, that doesn’t have to include your “angry” partner…at least, not all of the time.]

Yes, it would be lovely if every branch of every family could cohabitate and share life’s joys….but that seems like a hoop dream, lately. It’s romantic TV fantasy; it’s a family show from the 1950s, promoting good values where there are none. It’s propaganda to sell you dish soap and cigarettes for when the kids are asleep. Maybe real family life isn’t so rosy. Ya know?

But, if you can, try the secluded meeting option. Try setting up a meeting with your son and the grandkids in which “angry dad” does not attend. Then and only then might you be able to resolve what is surely keeping you distressed day-to-day (because you cannot let this go).

IF you can make contact with your agitated son…and IF he (still) refuses to meet with you apart from the father he (supposedly) detests, you’ll have your answer, as tragic as it may be. You are partially to blame for the son’s anger. Either you report back to his father in a way that makes you an associate to the problem, a subordinate contributor…or you are equally “bad” and just don’t see/admit it. Either way, you’ll know. Then it’s up to you, sigh, to accept the fallout and move on with YOUR life.

[On a recovery-from-fallout-with-my-son note, consider giving your motherly time and attention to kids who are not your own…not collecting lifeless dolls the way my mother’s family seems to do, voiceless, infantile representations of what they initially desired and not at all what happens when those cute little dolls mature. Consider being a mentor and, potentially, a gift giver to kids who lack guidance and emotional support. You won’t be able to take them into your own home (unless you legally adopt). You cannot call them your own, say or do anything that might violate some legal/family boundaries. But, you’ll be able to put that energy you currently cannot give out to good use, I’d hope.]

Carolyn isn’t wrong in suggesting sending a “genuine apology” *without any mention of you wanting time with the kids.* That IS the key/trigger, here. You cannot confess feelings of any kid to the son AND say you want to see the kids. That’s like attaching TNT to a care package…or giving a present with a tag that says “NOW, WHERE’S MY PRESENT?” You don’t want to harm your son, but you might be by mixing your wants for one thing with another…and by ignoring the bomb wires attached to your own hand in the parent trap. Cut the wrong wire, and you blow up your contact opportunity. It’s not pleasant to hear…but may be the truth.

So, to mend fences, or, at least, re-establish communication (if, currently, there is none) yes, try to apologize without a “gimme” clause. But, if you genuinely believe you are not to blame, at all, I don’t think an apology makes any sense. If you are guilty of something and take no blame upon yourself, you’re lying through your smile. If you blame yourself for something you didn’t do, putting yourself on the sacrificial table like a martyr, you’re adding unncessary emotion to the situation and could arrive at the same conclusion, a son who thinks his mother doesn’t know what she is saying and thus isn’t understanding the situation.

But, at the very least, if you cannot hear back from that son yet CAN admit some responsibility, yes, send a letter of apology…and then…pardon my language…SHUT UP. Stop beating on the door that won’t open (and let that door open, again, when/if it chooses to do so). Let that son reach out to you, if he still can. Communication is a two-way street. And, no one person, not even a guilt-free parent, can pave a smooth street, alone. All of your “force” isn’t repairing this road. So, accept what you did, try all that you can and then let the matter go…or sink with the ship.

[And, pardon me for mixing road metaphors with aquatic ones.]

Understand…this may be a wound that needs more time to mend before that part of the social body that is your family can continue to function. Like a gash on one of your limbs or a broken bone, we cannot rush recovery time, even if your insurance won’t cover more rehab. The body heals as it can, as it will. So do relationships, sometimes. Sometimes, effort is needed to accelerate and make productive change/improvement. Sometimes, nature just needs to take its course at its own pace. This may be an instance of the latter. Picking at the “scab” could just make matters worse.

[Don’t be the kid who won’t shut up in the backseat of the car, repeatedly asking, “Are we there, yet? Are we there, yet?” Kapeesh?]


A Typical Day at the Local Goodwill Store

You decide which looks better.  This is what happens when someone tries to offer discount second-hand goods to humans who are too quick to turn a profit on kindness.

Can You Help Assess My Crazy Dream? Jan. 11, 2023

Wednesday January 11, 2023

A doozie of a dream in three parts!

Part 1

It’s an odd spooky-mystery-comedy movie with a guy that looks like Jack Lemmon as the protagonist, who seems troubled by some spook in his apartment. The spook somehow becomes attached to the blonde woman he likes, who is with him at the apartment, and she starts acting strangely violent and creepy. He gets her to leave with him, for some reason, takes something like a voodoo doll or carved hunk of wood…or a large plant root? out of her purse before they go and leaves it on a table/countertop. Shortly after the couple goes out on some sort of dinner date, they return, and only “Jack” enters to find the apartment going batty with some sort of raised bumps on the floor, broken floor tiles and things flying across the room. He grabs an oversized, cartoon-like fire axe (with a red handle the size of a broomstick and a wedge blade as big as a large pizza box) and swings it down onto something (I assume whatever he took out of the woman’s purse and left in the apartment) before falling on his butt. The chaos in the apartment quickly ends. Two older men in trench coats, one stout, one skinny, enter and congratulate “Jack” on defeating the spook. The stout one says, “It’s a good thing she left it here.”

The End?

[Now, I have no idea what prompted that dream portion, considering I haven’t watched any old BnW movies in a while…at least a week. And, even then, I didn’t sit through the whole movie. I haven’t seen anything with Jack Lemmon in probably a year or more. And, why the ghost story?]

Part 2

In my attempt to get more resolution to the previous story…as in what happens with the date/girlfriend after “Jack” defeats the spook?…

One layer of dream peels away to reveal another…

I find myself sitting outside in some sort of verdant, very green, very grassy, very breezy Greek-like theater, as if an ancient ruin has been covered with plants. I’m in what I presume is the highest row of seats, at the back, looking down at empty rows of stone slabs draped in plants. I feel the chill of shade coming from a large wall (or cliff) at my back, which extends about two rows ahead of me. Beyond the darkness, my eyes adjust upon a startling sight, a massive, white Buddha-like figure sitting with his legs crossed at the lowest point in the theater, a large grassy clearing basking in daylight. His head is topped with an equally massive headdress which is the same pale color as his stone-like skin. He looks like a plump, almost naked, Native-American chief, with just a simple cloth to hide his “man parts” and an ornate (Mayan or Incan) stone fan for a crown. The entire figure is “garnished” with leafy plants, like the stone seats. The stone giant waves his big hands (as if offering a gift) and mutters what sound like kind words to tiny figures in odd robes who come to speak with him, worshippers (or ants he could easily squash with one of his hands if he turned angry).

I recover remotely from the shock of the sight and shift my eyes to a grassy slope to my right, beyond the rows of stone seats. There are a few more robed figures walking aimlessly around the lawn. They look like extras from an episode of Stargate SG-1. Their robes are heavy, gray-ish shades layered and topped with a wrap that chokes the head. The neck wrap is adorned with oblong gemstones which resemble the giant’s skin, littered with black lines like marble.

I decide this is all too weird and that I have to get away before something bad happens. But, as I turn to flee, I detect one of the robbed figures about to grab me, as I grab what I think is a hood to cover my shivering neck and head. He says, “Sir? You’re ruining your stones.” [Or, something like that. Maybe “You’re misaligning your stones.”] He stops me, and I glance at his face from the corner of one cautious eye, wary he might try to hypnotize or drug me (and I may have to defend myself). He looks and sounds like the Asian guy who took over Mr. Hooper’s store on Sesame Street, slightly shorter than me, stout, balding black hair on a round moon-like face, another Buddha with small ears and some hair. And, I can tell his skin is powdered white, like the giant (like those brainwashed servants of a higher power on Stargate SG-1). He proceeds to adjust my clothing, and I quickly realize I am wearing the same robes…with the white stones along my collarbone.

Now, even more unsettled, I break away from the guy and calmly but hastily start storming toward what appears to be a tall wall of hedges with no view of what’s beyond and two robed men standing guard with spears. I see a narrow exit space and decide that’s where I am headed. ‘Time to get out of this nightmare before I’m brainwashed.

[But, that’s as far as I get before the dream breaks.]

[Again, I want more resolution. I look at the clock and see I’ve only been asleep for about 4-5 hours. Try again.]

Part 3

I find myself sitting on some sort of low wheeled cart, rolling down a wooden corridor in some sort of tavern/restaurant/inn. There are two rather spacious and open rooms on the right which are dark and unoccupied. On the left, I pass one room which contains a group of people gathered around a table. Each person is wearing some sort of odd costume. One, a man, looks like a character from the 1980s He-Man cartoons, with a distinctly familiar chest plate bearing a glowing “E” laying on its back (with the points pointing up)…Exodus? Another, a woman, has either green or purple hair in a tangled mess, like a bad wig, and looks like a bounty hunter or assassin as she raises a long boot and stomps on the seat of a wooden chair, as if to say she’s “top dog” in the joint. [I think she’s wearing a cowgirl hat?] There seems to be a competition brewing among the lot; they may be engaged in some sort of card game. [A pirate-infested poker scene, perhaps.]

I roll past this scene and see the next room is much more quiet and would be empty if there wasn’t one older man reading a book by a floor lamp. I don’t get a good look at this other room before my eyes shift to the right, noticing daylight streaming through a window at the back of a young woman sitting by a cash register. I can only make out a hint of her face and hair. The rest is a delicate silhouette and a posture which suggests disinterest in…everything. I assume she will mumble something unkind to me and continue distracting herself with a cellphone.

I become more aware of the cart that rolls me down the aisle. It’s a sort of childish metal wagon covered in pillows and blankets, the sort I would have sat in as a kid, with my mother pulling the black metal handle. I decide I don’t want to hear the young woman grumble and pretend to fall asleep in the wagon. Closing my eyes, I lay back and roll forward until I hear the strange, faint sounds of voices mixing.

The young woman and a female friend are now standing in front of the wagon, leaning over me and talking about me as if concerned for my health. They say something about the crusting of my eyes. One reaches up to thumb my eyelids. I like the sound of their voices and picture how pretty they must be; one has chin-length black hair cupping her face, and the other has, probably, shoulder-length black hair pinned back with one of those spring-loaded hair clamps. Trying not to startle them by suddenly “waking” and spoiling my “act,” I carefully reach up with one hand and touch the palm of the woman examining my eyes, as if I am moving in my sleep. I can feel the softness of and the lines in her skin. She gasps. [It’s a supernatural miracle; the sleeping stranger is interacting with her, bonding with her. He likes her. And, she cares for him (with blushing cheeks).]

Suddenly, there is an odd shift in atmosphere, and the next voice I hear does not come from a young Asian woman. It’s a deeper, slightly hoarse voice, the voice of an older woman who is carrying some…er, weight and is definitely not delicate. The other new woman, to my right, says something about me which is a blur…but she sounds oddly intrigued, possibly excited.

I crack my acting eyes open to see I’ve moved into a sort of department store. I’m sitting in front of two older women in ragged but silky clothing; they resemble two schoolteachers or secretaries I might have seen in a movie from the 1980s. The one on the left has frazzled brown hair pinned back in a crappy mess. I see her prominent nose (and frown a bit) and generous cracked lips but not her eyes. Her blouse is dark and flowery. The woman on the right has lighter hair, possibly strawberry blonde, and large round eyeglasses; she faintly resembles Jane Fonda’s character from the movie Nine to Five. Her blouse is a solid, dark golden color, similar to the metal that frames her eyes.

As the two women go on talking and examining me, I realize I’m still touching the hand of the woman on the left…who was supposed to be a delicate Asian beauty with short dark hair and a kind voice. The skin in my hand is like soft leather; I can feel every line.

One of the women says, “His hands are so small. That could be a problem.”

Inclined to direct their attention to my size-twelve feet (and say there is no problem with this guy…ha!), I try to think of a way to change the subject without breaking my act, without waking and spoiling the scene. I try to lift my right foot. Somehow, my raised hand shifts away from the hand I was holding and presses against what feels like a clothed breast (as the woman on the left decides to stand up or shift positions in some other way), and I can tell the woman is well endowed. [‘No problem there. But, why isn’t she alarmed when I cup her breast?! Does she *want* me to grab her?] I feel her hot breath on my face. [Is she studying my scalp?]

I continue to hold the hot sack of flesh until a masculine voice rattles my bones. [No. The woman did not turn into a man.] Someone else has entered the scene, a couple of other people, including a stout older man who seems to be related to one of the women…her father? He sits across from me, in a big recliner, next to an elderly woman. There is discussion about how I might “be the one.”

Then another man appears to my left, brooding and firing agitated steam from his nostrils, possibly an acquaintance or love interest of the women examining me. He sounds like an actor I know…Martin something…Mull? I can tell he’s wearing round glasses and has a brush-like mustache. The man interacts with the women and continues to throw glances at me, as if he’s a doctor assessing my condition. He says he’s going to get something to revive me.

The women help me to my feet. I enhance my act by letting myself go limp and relying upon them to hold me up. We move a short distance across the salesfloor, passing the man in the chair. Then, suddenly, we stop. Someone else has appeared to my left.

I crack my eyes open to see my own father looking as he typically does when he comes to take me away from any meeting with people outside the family. [I’m an adult child being picked up by his father.] Any pleasure that might have come from this scene suddenly drains away. It’s over. Strike the set. A lame ending to this play. No one needs to revive me. I see the coat in his hands. It’s time to leave and go…home?

[And, I wake.]


Help Me Shed the Curse of My Family


If someone has a recipe for breaking the hex on my family, I’m all ears…er, eyes…because the not-so-lemony-series of unfortunate events is getting nuts.

I’m not sure when it started, the persistent, echoing discontent, the ebb and flow of uneasy silent treatment and loud clashing. But, before I made a horrible high-school decision, I was content doing things with family, even if we didn’t exactly agree on anything, even if I had to be a quiet little good boy in the backseat, going along for the ride more often than I was ever able to make any decisions. [That was so long ago, now.]

I just know it was after high school when things really started to go south with my family. Feuds that last for almost a decade. The clashes my parents used to have (during high school, which forced me to turn up the radio or TV to block them out as best as I could) escalated to sufficient evidence for just about anyone to assume divorce was inevitable…IF my parents ever let their ugly sides show outside the privacy of their own home…which they never seem to do. [Anyone who meets my parents seems hypnotized by their looks and charms and assumes they are quite fortunate…or that is just how they talk, trying to sound nice when they think something else. So…everyone lies the same way?]

But, what’s really getting to me, right now, is how holidays are ruined by (at least) one family member doing something really stupid. I mean…most of my family can’t go through a holiday (season) without irking me with something. But, there seems to be just one person, no one in particular, just a randomly chosen “imp,” who decides to start something which is not holiday-friendly, inappropriate and unsettling.

Am I wrong to get upset? I certainly don’t want to blow a fuse. But, this “imp” does what they do…and I react…and then the whole family is upset with me (and I’m upset with them). It’s as if some little monster just has to spoil the party and leave me disturbed as if they just doused me with urine or feces.

It’s not coincidence. And, it certainly seems more ominous when you consider other incidents that occur…like household windows snapping, cracking as if exposed to intense heat and cold. Oh, it’s just lousy luck…bad weather. No it’s not! Those windows were recently replaced, professionally installed with the assurance this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. They boast weather-resistent window installation. This isn’t the first time those windows have snapped. There is a presence!


If you have any ancient family rituals or potions you want to share, I’m listening.


A Beef with Parents Who Give Their Newborn Girls Masculine Names


Let me start by saying I do not wish to cause anyone emotional distress (or “offend”) with my thoughts on this matter. You may have a masculine name and either be at peace with it or have your own personal conflict. I don’t want to add to your troubles. [So, if it’s a touchy subject, you have the right to not dive further into my rant.]


What’s the deal with parents giving male names to some of the most beautiful women of this world? And, not just one; they give the beautiful girl a first and second male name. WHYYYY?


Musician Taylor Swift, for starters. Taylor?…like the former U.S. President? ‘Not exactly a befitting name for someone so beautiful and graceful. So, I prefer to call her Tay, which has a certain elegance, like May, Fay, Emily or Amy.

Actress Conor Marie Leslie is also quite gorgeous, an exceptional dark-haired beauty. [I only know of her from tiny tips toward her name in association with personal interests; I cannot even recall what made me look her up online. Was it something about DC Comics? Teen Titans? And, I am astounded to see so many pictures for someone I otherwise wouldn’t know…but certainly someone I’d like to know better.] And, while the latter two names are adequate, the first is questionable, to say the least. Conor? That almost sounds like Conan. I suppose you can call her Connie. [I will.] But, why not just name her Connie, then? Or, Constance (like the lovely Constance Wu)?

Actress/Dancer Robia Brett Lamorte (aka Robia Scott), who first swept me off my feet as Jenny Calendar in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series…is positively stunning and charming…and has TWO masculine-sounding names. Well, technically, just the middle one. The first has been modified from Robert. Robin, as a possible alternative, could go either way, it seems. Robia is certainly feminine but still a bit odd.

Legal correspondant Chanley Painter…is another exceptionally beautiful woman. I’m not even sure how to classify her first name. It sounds like a family name…like Carolyn Chanley…er, Channing. [Some of you might be saying, “Who?”** I only know of her after stumbling across her stunning face when Johnny Depp’s latest trial was being televised in some fashion. And, not long later, I felt prompted to look her up online.]

**This might be another factor. Other than Taylor Swift, the women above are not “household names.” They are not as famous as–say–Deborah Messing, Shania Twain, Whitney Houston or Amy Adams. And, I wonder if it’s not because of their names. Could these names cause such beautiful women to withdraw from the spotlight?…or not get as much credit/attention as women with more elegant/commonly-feminine names? From my awareness/experience, women with unusual/not-very-feminine names tend to take on voice-actor jobs; you’ll find them voicing cartoon characters more often than appearing in front of a camera. And, tragically, some of the prettiest faces and voices don’t live as long as they could (have).

Now, sure, not every pretty face has to be a celebrity and/or have a career in which they are on display. Even the above women could be perfectly content without cameras in their faces and without a page on that IMDB website. But, now that they’ve made themselves “known,” I cannot help being aware of this detail.

I’d just like to understand and warn parents who are quick to name their children…..

If there is any chance your child could turn out as beautiful as any of the above women, why, oh why, in this world, would you dare to give her a name that–in my opinion–does not adequately encompass the beauty she is?

Don’t let your male-dominated roots drive you to make such a crucial decision. You may want a son, but you were given a goddess. Respect her. [Obviously, this is no use to anyone who has already named their goddess and the beauties given the masculine names…unless you legally change names? But, perhaps, parents who have yet to have or name a child could take note for future life-giving.]

If you are reading this and own one of the above names, I apologize if my words rub you the wrong way. You may have made peace with the names you were given. I do my best to respect you as you are. I just feel you deserve better.

[However, if I dared to think of better names, I would risk altering the fabric of reality and warp what nature has provided. Names come with personalities, like genes. How could I be sure the name I pick would improve who you are other than how I address you? But, given enough time and the right circumstances, *we* could probably find more suiting names.]

[It’s no wonder why I struggle to name characters in stories I attempt to write. I want my characters to be as memorable and iconic as some who have already achieved that fame. But, I also want them to be favorable in my own heart, which may not be easy to explain.]

[And, to all you who may object with a “non-binary” perspective, I say get over your trending selves and let me have my opinion. It’s not just about having a gender-suitable name; it’s about having a name that befits the beauty placed in this world. It’s something I just feel in my gut. There are some who have fine names; I can look at them and say the name suits them. There are others who I will encounter and wonder…how did they ever get THAT name?]


Sorry, Non-Binary People; You Are Not Special


That’s right. You might want to be called “they” and separate yourself from every other person who has coped with their sexual identity, whether they’ve had to hide in a closet, endured bullies most of their lives or had no trouble rising to the top of society because they were blessed with that potent human gene called influence. You, non-binary claimers, are not special.

And, you cannot be without gender and non-binary…because I am non-binary. I am a non-binary heterosexual man who definitely is a hair, face and breast man with not much interest in waistlines or butts, a strong slant on the height of potential partners and a slight foot fetish that comes from working in a department store’s shoe department.

How can I be non-binary AND all of the above you say?

Let me break it down for ya.

Binary code is ones and zeroes. So, if anyone is non-binary, that must mean you don’t want to be a zero and cannot feel sufficiently top of whatever class you choose to attend. You are not number one, the best, in your chosen field.

That about sums up myself. I don’t want to be a zero, even if some people tell me I am one. I’ve wanted to be number one for a long time. But, after a few decades of failing to achieve that status, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s okay to be number two…or four…or seventy-seven.

So, I am non-binary. Just not *that* non-binary (the one that is supposed to mean I’m neither male or female).

And, I guess, that makes most if not all humans non-binary.

If you think of yourself as a zero, you’re such a tool that you’d rather be a brick in the wall than an individual who should be respected for your unique composition, even if you might fit into various categories like nerd, jock, tea fetcher, mistress, jon, jerk, moron, etc.

If you *think* you’re number one, shut up. Your ego is glaring. [I know…because I once had some of that ego, after accepting too many compliments about my intellect.]

And, if you *are* top of your kind, craft or profession, whatever that may be, aren’t you lucky to possess such influence.

In all infuriating honesty and my personal opinion, this whole non-binary thing is just another “woke” moment and TikTok trend; it’s an ice-bucket challenge someone started to show they have sway. I know the feeling…I just have yet to have that amount of sway. I do not have thousands of followers. I cannot lead a Nazi army to WW3. My mitochondria–or however you spell that–are not that abundant. [But, I am sure my boys can still swim. I just keep them out of the public pool.]

Ten years from now, there will surely be another trendy way to identify oneself which will draw another crowd and infuriate anyone outside the submission line. And, I’ll be there (unless my time here, in this mixed-up, not-quite-right world, is done) with a different amount of hair, ready to groan, again.

Tell me. If you’re not ANY gender, how do propose to ever mate? I suppose, if you were homosexual, you’d have to adopt or use an “artificial” method. Is that how it works for you? If you’re a non-binary…uh…”they” with a snake between your legs…you adopt? And, if you have a clam between your legs, you get a turkey baster stuck up your crack and filled with man jelly?

Wait. A non-binary person accepting man-jelly into their non-gender outlet…which would technically be a female organ, if the rest of the world has any say…and doesn’t see the gender stamp on any of that?

Or, do non-binary folks expect to die sterile and alone? Are you so withdrawn from the–I know it sucks because it’s uncomfortable and too often mean–modern world that you’d prefer to die in a box, alienated from the rest of the world?…unless, by some global movement, everyone turns non-binary, the way vegans wish the world would stop eating cows and other animals?

If you need a ray of hope in this hot mess I’ve just slung at you, perhaps, you are the future. Perhaps, in some distant future, when humankind has given up on marriage and sex–ha–they will convert to non-binary beings and asexually reproduce…in a lab or some transporter incident which turns some into fly-people or crab-people.

I tried.

Happy holidays, whatever you are.



Response to When All the Signs Say It’s Over… Ask Carolyn (Hax)


Ask Carolyn (Hax) column originally titled “When all the signs say it’s over, why even snoop for proof?”

There are two letters to this column. The first is given an unfairly hasty response and prods me to add my own thoughts. The second receives an exceptional response; I cannot complain and–shocker–compliment Carolyn’s philosophy (in this instance).

This particular “Anonymous” is one half of a touchy relationship in which an STD and infidelity may be kept a secret (by the other half). The half in doubt wants to check the other half’s phone to confirm their suspicion…at the risk of triggering the other half’s dangerous temper and committing an unforgivable crime of violating privacy. Without this confirmation, the doubting half feels they are risking their life with someone they have yet to fully trust (or who has given sufficient reason to break that trust).

Carolyn cuts the chase to a fairly simple one-sided decision: leave the relationship, now. The doubt and concern for triggering a dangerous temper is enough to bail and put this person behind you.

I have a similar plan in mind but not one so final.


Anonymous (lover who dreads STDs, tempers and infidelity), if you take Carolyn’s advice, you give in to your suspicion without confirmation and could spoil an otherwise valuable relationship. If you continue to react that way, you’ll likely cut more and more people out of your life based solely on a glimmer of doubt.

Let me ask–though I know I won’t likely see or hear the answer–do you genuinely love this person with a temper? Is that temper equally scary and strangely attractive because it gives that person passion, a drive to stand up and take command when needed? If you can answer yes to the second question, you have sufficient reason to stick with this hot head and work this out.

You know crossing the line will get you into trouble. You surely have also heard the expression about two wrongs not making a right. But, not crossing the line will not get the answer(s) you seek…UNLESS you open a door instead of shutting one. Or, open one while appearing to shut another.

So, here’s my alternative solution to your doubt/safety crisis. Honesty. Be honest with your partner. And, if you feel you’ve already tried that, lay down an ultimatum before you walk away.

Say, “I no longer feel safe in this relationship. And, since I cannot get the answers I need without upsetting you, I guess I have to leave.”

Now, you may sound like you are out the door, but you don’t have to go so quickly. And, you’re not crossing the line to get what you need for reassurance; you’re putting a little piece of cheese out to lure a rat. Wait for the response. If that response is…

A) Silence, be prepared to pack up and move on with life, as painful as that may be. This wasn’t the love you wanted. [And, yet, there is a chance that silence might dissolve into a humbling confession…so leave room for that.]

B) The unpleasant truth you expected, you have confirmation without committing a “crime.” Pack your things and your feelings and go.

C) A willingness–even if it comes with a hostile outburst–to let you look at the phone in question, there’s your chance to do the deed without inappropriate secrecy/violation. You’ve opened a door.

Yes, this is a bit of a touchy situation with no comforting way out of it. But, you don’t have to *assume* the worst, even if you think your gut instinct is alerting you to the truth. In such tense, emotionally-charged matters, it’s easy to let little dark influencers steer you wrong. It’s the same sort of temptation that drives some to infidelity. And, the fear of being open and honest is the stuff that keeps those little monsters active; it’s their food.


I will just say a little something else about the second letter and response.

Finding Willpower, I am right there, with you, in a way. I may be in different physical (and maybe mental) shape, but I too know what people are saying is right (for all humans…which is a bit inaccurate…because each of us is a bit different) and cannot exactly get my brain to follow all of those recommendations. I know I COULD do a number of things to improve my health. But, I have no idea if those suggestions will work for me…especially, as Carolyn says, if I don’t find pleasure in them. If we are not happy making adjustments, those adjustments are just adding to our discomfort and likely to encourage actions that undo our healthy ambitions.

Carolyn gives a great suggestion about working (out) with friends…yet I wonder if you, like me, don’t lack in that regard. Perhaps a lack of adequate emotional support has led to your present situation. Some people are emotional eaters; others starve themselves or eat all the wrong foods when distressed. That’s as bad as sitting on a couch all day.

Doing what makes us happy certainly has its benefits…as long as we are wise enough to know not everything that makes us content/happy is healthy. Can we still be happy but cut back on (the portions of) sugar, fat, etc., without sacrificing taste?

One little detail that might have slipped Carolyn’s awareness…

You say “drink less.” Does that mean you might be indulging in alcoholic beverages (a tad much)? If so, you’re not hydrating your body; you’re dehydrating it…even though so many cultural people like to think wine and beer are fountains of youth from the gods. We all need to drink (liquids); and you surely hear those who push drinking more water. So, it’s not about drinking less…as much as it is about *what* you drink.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why someone “drinks too much.” Either it’s in your family’s DNA, it’s natural…and probably unhealthy, or it’s due to a lack of something elsewhere in your life, it’s your solution to unhappiness, your “fix.” Just as simple–though no more easy to achieve–is the solution. Find an alternative way to elate and comfort yourself. Find a healthier substitute. You might start by trying to trick your mind into accepting something like fruit juice as good as wine, taking out the alcohol and side effects (unless your particular makeup doesn’t respond well to certain fruit juices).

For many, especially those who are either serious extroverts or prodded to socialize by those extroverts, social drinking is a conditioned response that needs to be curbed/broken. I wish I had a clear-cut path to freedom, but I don’t. And, if I did, it probably wouldn’t sit well with everyone; it might sound like a health nut trying to tell you all fats, sugars and salts are bad. [And, that would be a lie; there are good fats, sugars and salts. Diet foods are a cruel joke; that’s the truth.]

Also, how you eat your food plays a big part. If you eat in a rush or while sitting or standing uncomfortably, you hinder digestion and can cause a number of other ailments. We need to digest in peace and comfort. So, be sure to mind where and how you enjoy your meals and snacks.

You could try giving yourself a carrot on a stick. Promise yourself a treat after getting some exercise. You can have a bowl of ice cream after you go out for a spring/summer hike. You could take a snack with you as a friend on your hike/walk and then find a quiet, relaxing place to enjoy that snack without upsetting your stomach. Now, you’re feeding your mind and body and getting exercise.

There is also the possibility that whatever you think your healthy body should be isn’t what nature intended.

[I still say Jennifer Hudson was just fine when she was “fat” and sounded better when she sang; I think she might have been pressured to look at herself negatively and fracture her self-esteem while obtaining a slimmer figure, which might appear healthier but may yet be unhappy. Why is Oprah Winfrey considered the iconic yo-yo dieter? Because she isn’t happy doing what others tell her is healthy; her attempts to stay trim are backfiring. And, personally, I think her seduction into celebrity status has turned her into a marketing tool, which isn’t allowing her to think clearly. She will sell you a diet plan but not give enough evidence to show she truly believes in it.]

You might be conditioned or pressured to change your ways when your current state is exactly what genetics gave you. And, if you fight that too hard, you could just as easily go over a cliff and die unhappily. So, be sure to check your family history and evaluate what is a comfortable level of adjustment for you. It just might help you take those “baby steps” toward improvement versus leaping into a fat-sucking operation.

[I guess I said more than a little something. Oh well. I still am surprisingly pleased with Carolyn’s response. But, have these ideas/suggestions, as well. And, good luck to a healthy makeover.]