Words Words Everywhere

Words are a funny thing. They can be used to inspire people, condemn people, ridicule and hurt, uplift and encourage. The same words in the same sentence in the same context can be taken in several different ways. Around and around it goes, but the interpretation can be so different causing confusion and drama where none was intended.

The meaning of the words lie in each person. Their experience, their baggage, their background, their environment, all seem to play a part in the outcome.

Angst, arises and in the end where are we? The thoughts and intentions make or break friendships and families.

The phrase “this is a drama free zone” comes to mind, but at the end of the day, we’re human. Drama free is not possible, unless of course you have no emotions or you hermit yourself away.

Words alone in a vacuum are nearly impossible to interpret. That may be why texts go sideways. There is no inflection, no tone and while it sounds good in your head as you’re typing it, the recipient is not in your head. Insert emoicon here — sometimes that is not enough.

Some people get lost in words by over thinking them, they run from them in a never ending stream of activity, they avoid them in an alcoholic haze.

It’s hard to get away from the bombardment of words, with news and faux social media news on a 24/7 spin cycle, how do you know which words have meaning, which ones are true? It’s enough to crush a person to dust.

I grew up in that miraculous generation of having no online presence to standalone computers to laptops to mobile phones carrying the Internet everywhere. Words are always there and never ending and on a loop to convince you of this or that to the point where societies world wide are de-evolving.

Which words do you want to hear? Which words do you choose to believe in? Is there a difference?

There are a lot of things going on in our world today. I come from a military mindset where the word meant something because of the actions which supported the words and this has made all the difference.

Words in of themselves are meaningless without the backup of action. When actions and words are not in sync, believe the action — it’s always the truth.

So if words mean nothing without action why are we killing each other? Why is there angst between friends and family? It’s not the words, it’s the mismatch of action with the words.

It is the actions of a few holding the world in a hostage word game.

We all deal with it differently, but I find it easier to turn it off, to walk away. To pick and choose which words to hear, understand, and believe. I try to be careful to make my words and actions match.

I make my living by listening to my clients, by writing out what we hear and the expectations of what we hear. I am careful to select the right words from a filter (with a couple exceptions) so that people understand me. I’m not always successful in saying what I mean or hearing what is said to me, but I try and I keep trying until I’m clear on what I heard and what I say and making sure all parties involved are on the same page.

I am a writer by trade so I find it utterly fascinating to construct sentences and change the word order and watch the meaning change. It’s a wonderful craft of watching meaning and images come to life on the blank page; if the world was just like that there would be no conflict.

Unfortunately, the writer in me is a skeptic after all this time. Words cannot stand alone in a vacuum, it has — it must take on it’s meaning from current or past actions. It is the actions that give life and meaning to the words. After all, isn’t that how all the great American novels are born?

I Wasn’t

I wasn’t going to write about it. I wasn’t going to speak about it — not to my friends, not to my co-workers, not to social media, not on my blog.

I wasn’t filled with hope or fear or unity. I wasn’t feeling anything.

I wasn’t going to listen anymore.

I wasn’t going to contribute to the noise.

It’s all the same, every channel, every news source. Why did it happen? Who knows. At the end of the day no one will know except the one. Only the one will ever know and maybe even then — maybe even the one didn’t know why.

So why am I writing about it? Why did I change my mind? Because of 1 news feed item.

As I scrolled through my news feed at the end of my day to decompress, barely registering the hate, the hope, the praise, and the blame, 1 post was different. It caught my attention and I found myself reading the entire lengthy article.

This post didn’t talk about blame or hate or taking something from anyone. It talked very simply about the awful long journey of one grandmother to be with family in Orlando. To attend the funeral of a grandson.

We are Orlando

She was escorted through the airport to a waiting aircraft and then escorted by aircrew to her seat. The flight attendants waited on her and gathered words of condolences from every single passenger on the plane. What started out as a simple kind gesture turned into volumes of paper that was presented to the grandmother upon landing.

I fly a lot and anytime a whole plane stops and waits for one person or a small group of people to leave first is amazing to watch. But this time, this time everyone left before the grandmother and everyone stopped to talk to her, hug her, share her grief and pain, and in the end honor her and by extension her grandson. No one was in a hurry.

This story was the only one (that I remember) where I learned about the grandson, his name, what he did and what he wanted to become. It was a story focused on a victim, a victim’s family, and the people that stopped to help the family.

It was focused on what we should never ever have to focus on — the victim.

Let’s, if we must focus on anything, focus on the 49 plus souls and their families.

It wasn’t about the one — it’s about the 49 plus surviving friends and family.

Let’s focus on supporting the 49 plus — let’s focus on not what was lost, but on who they are and should have been.

Let’s focus on the side effects of hope and strength and the 49+.

Reflections

The last few months have been interesting. There was a time where I craved to have too much to do. Now,looking at my calendar for the next couple of months, I realized that I have brought that to be. I have more commitments, personal and work, than I have time.

I don’t believe in the adage, be careful what you wish for. I am a big believer that you bring into your life what you want and need, but if you’re not paying attention then what you bring into your life can be off kilter or down right bad. You plateau, you stagnate, you run into one obstacle after another.

A few years ago, more than I care to admit to, I gradually stopped paying attention. I went numb and let life push me wherever it wanted to. I didn’t focus on my internal well being, desires, or goals. Superficially, I did. Consciously, I thought the correct things, did the right things, be who society and work and life expected of me.

A couple years back, I made some radical changes in my life. I took stock of my personal and professional life and it dawned on me that I was not anywhere near where I had planned to be at this point in my life.

My life is completely different from 2 years ago — heck, it’s completely different than it was even 1 year ago.

ReflectionsJersey | Writing Rants

Reflections

What changed? Me, I started paying attention again.

As I sit on my patio in the cool sunset of the evening and reflect where I was, what I have been through, where I am, and where I want to go, I realize that the major starting point to this current place is me.

My life starting evolving the moment I realized that I was content.For me content is no happy. It’s an excuse not to challenge myself to grow.

I started to meditate again. I grew calm and still and thought about all those plans I made in grade school, in high school, in the Air Force. I read books and theories and wondered where I had gone wrong. Why did I zig when clearly I should have zagged?

To me, the path was muddled because I stopped thinking, stopped dreaming, stopped mediating, stopped …

As I take a look around me, where I am, what I’m doing, it is coming together. The pieces of the puzzle are there, some are fitting together. There’s still a couple holes there, but overall the picture is getting built and becoming clear.

All I had to do was actively think about it, meditate about it, and let the universe find the scattered pieces and bring them to my table.

Octopus Throwing Etiquette

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Octopus Lobbing * *(but were afraid to ask)

Sports fans are a suspicious lot; from playoff beards, to periods of celibacy, to items of clothing that can’t be washed (ever), there are traditions and unwritten rules in every sport and for every team. One of the most mysterious (and according to SOME, the most disgusting), is use of the lucky octopus by (my beloved) the NHL Detroit Red Wings. (It bears noting, that, for my part, I am neither from Michigan nor have I ever lived there. I chose my fandom as a child in the early 80s, when there was no local team with which to gift my loyalty. However, my hockey cred is sound. The first time I kicked my mother in utero was at a Houston Arrows game in 1974, while the Great Gordie Howe was on the ice. She swore I’d be a goalie. And I thought she loved me.)

If you have seen a Detroit hockey game, you may or may not have spotted, flying high over the crowd, a lone octopus. Having been launched by a furtive fan, the cephalopod arcs over the glass to fall slimy on the ice. “Why the hell did they do that,” you may ask. The legend goes thusly…

Al Sobotka Octopus Throwing Cleanup

Octopus Pickup – Photo by Rick Osentoski – USA Today

The Legend

Back in the early days of the NHL, there were far fewer teams. In the 1951-52 season, for example, there were only 6: Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and of course the aforementioned Detroit Red Wings. These teams are referred to as “The Original 6”. Today, they are the venerable legacy teams, Detroit, alone has faithfully appeared at the playoffs for the last 25 consecutive seasons. During the grindhouse days of the early NHL, when helmets were for pansies and pads were non-existent unless you were a goalie, these teams were the only show in town. The standard season consisted of a mere 70 games, compared to today’s 82 per team. The playoff season hosted 2 best of 7 series, today there are 12 matchups before the final. And therein lies the legend.

Theoretically, in that spring of 1952, it would only take the Red Wings 8 games to win the coveted Cup of Lord Stanley. Two brothers, Detroit fishmongers Pete and Jerry Cusimano thought, “8 games, 8 legs…OCTOPUS!” On April 15, 1952, Game 1 of the playoffs, they flung the first octopus onto the ice at The Old Red Barn. The angels sang and the Red Wings went on to sweep the Leafs in 4, then do the same to the Canadiens. They didn’t just win The Cup, they were totally undefeated. Goalie Terry Sawchuck shut out every home game. The Wings scored 24 goals in that playoff series, compared to the Leafs and Canadiens combined total of 5. It was a slaughter. A beautiful, bloody, victorious slaughter, which lives on in our octopus flinging tradition.

For the sake of comparison, I will include at this point, some other traditions of flung goods at hockey games. The most heartwarming of these occurs on the occasion of a rookie player’s first hat trick. In a show of unflinching pride and solidarity, fans of both sides, cheering, remove their hats and litter the ice with their head gear. Returning to the gross, during the 2002-03 season, Nashville Predators fans began lobbing catfish onto the ice as a direct, albeit pathetic, response to the sainted octopus. The San Jose Sharks throw…sharks. (How creative of them.) For the 2006 playoffs, at the suggestion of a radio host, Edmonton Oilers fans flung Alberta Beef steaks, resulting in arrests at away games. In Jacksonville, the Jaguars fans throw rats. Fortunately, they have graduated to rubber versions.

It doesn’t happen every game, and it can happen at home in Detroit or on the road, but especially during playoffs, the air can be thick with flying octopi. In one game in 1995, there were a total of 36 sacrifices, one being the largest thrown to date, weighing in at 38lbs. Al is the moniker of the giant purple octopus, the Red Wings’ unofficial mascot. During playoffs, 2 of the beasts, inflatable versions, of course) hang in the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena, symbolizing the 16 wins now necessary for the attainment of The Grail of Hockey.

Octopus Throwing

There is a whole etiquette to a properly thrown octopus.

  1. It is advisable to get a very fresh specimen, as decomposition can be problematic.
  2. Lightly sauté the ‘pus in lemon juice and garlic. This helps with the smell and the texture, affording the flinger a better grip.
  3. If you want the octo to “sit pretty” when he reaches his destination, stuff a lemon or lime into his head cavity.
  4. It is VERY important to AT LEAST double bag the octopus in ziplock. This will keep the lingering scent of octopus juice to a minimum, as you are now faced with where to hide the thing.
  5. That’s right, hide it. If security at the arena gets wind of your little flying friend, they won’t let you in. Time was, the team even faced fines for stoppage of game when the rare flying octopus took to the air. So hide that sucker in the depths of your parka, they’ll find it under your hat.

Once seated, chose your moment of chucking with care. And, please, do NOT make the rookie mistake of twirling it by the tentacles. Those things break off and you don’t want to hit the child behind you in the face with a slightly sautéed octopus. Or maybe you do. Regardless, heave that sucker high, achieving maximum altitude to make it over the glass but be aware of your range and trajectory. If you hit an official, leave the area immediately.

If you are at a home game in Detroit, you will then see Al Sobotka, the head ice manager retrieve the ‘pus. He used to do scoop it up in a snow shovel, but apparently he’s decided that shovels are for amateurs and now he just picks up the slimy thing and swings it around his head and he trots off the ice like a conquering hero. Back in 2008, the NHL tried to squash his enthusiasm with a $10,000 fine. They failed. Al remains defiant, like all good Red Wings fans.

GO WINGS!

Flexibility

It takes practice and it takes patience, but flexibility is one key to a less stressful life.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit yet another Texas state park (actually 4 state parks in 2 days, but that’s another post). This is not about the park we tried to visit, but rather a plan that went sad.

Yes, I said sad.

We drove almost 2 hours to the Stephen F. Austin State Park only to be informed upon check in that we could only walk about 1.5 miles (round trip in 3 different sections amounting to no more than .8 miles each) worth of the trails. While this is not traumatic on the surface, it did throw a wrench into our plans for the day.

I was prepped for a 6 mile hike: water, lunch, snacks, more water, and the ever important New Hiking Shoes. I was ready to visit nature, watch pileated woodpeckers, cache, and picnic in the cool spring wind.

What I found instead, was fodder for 2 posts. This one and another one regarding the state parks we would visit that day. Because my friend and I are pretty laid back, we will admit openly we were frustrated and disappointed in our plans going awry, but we did make the most of a sad situation.

I call it sad because time and again in Austin State Park we saw signs that the trail was closed. We nicknamed the sign, Sad Sign:

Sad Sign

Sad Sign courtesy of Regina Herry

Along the way, bombarded by gnats and flying insects who had absolutely no respect for the OFF bath I took, we stopped to watch the little ants that could moving leaves 4 times bigger than them, a baby turtle who was trying to cross the trail, and only 1 (yes 1) pileated Woodpecker. I would include a picture, but alas, we could not get him on camera. So here’s Yertle Jr. the Turtle:

Yertle Jr photo by Regina Herry

Yertle Jr photo by Regina Herry

After the extremely short visit to Austin State Park, we headed back towards Austin and stopped at Buescher State Park, followed by Bastrop State park. There’s a road between the two connecting them. Rumor has it I may actually be biking that winding roller coaster of a road in a couple weeks.

Buescher only had 1 trail opened due to the fires last year. It was hard to see all the burned trees, but as we traveled from one burned park to another, there was new growth coming in. Mother Earth is doing her darndest to fix herself. It was sad, but beautiful to see.

Bastrop had all trails opened with a warning to watch out for fallen trees. Unfortunately, time was not on our side and we only got to walk about a mile in this park (just long enough for me to find the cache I needed) before we had to head back to Austin.

We could have given up after park one, heck, we could have thrown in the towel when she highlighted what little we could hike, but we didn’t. Because of our flexibility we can brag about visiting 3 state parks in one day, the fact that somehow between the 3 parks we managed to walk 5.5 miles, we saw the most awesome animals, the death and rebirth of parks after floods and fires, and best yet…we laughed and had a great time.

Spending time outdoors with friends is the best thing on the planet.

For me, I got to go hiking with another group of friends the next day (hence, 4 state parks in 2 days) in Pedernales Falls (which I wrote about previously). It was a longer hike than anticipated, 8 miles total, but having fun, and spotting some rare things in the park, and visiting springs made for a very enjoyable weekend. I love the falls and the rain a few days before made this a spectacular spot. The rushing clear water was soothing and the sun made me feel better on all levels.

When all else fails, go with the flow and enjoy the moment.