Decorating the mind…

A dear friend of mine shared a tweet that got me thinking. I’m sharing the tweet as I’ve tracked down the original author and followed him and his friend he mentions. It’s, to me at least, a very powerful way to look at two of the arts.

For myself, as I have trouble drawing stick figures, and my musical talents were left behind in high school band, I thought, how does this apply to me?

The answer became clear quickly. Writing is how we decorate the mind. Writers take a complex idea, and distill it down into words that, when ingested, fill a room within your mind, even if only for a little while.

Some of these keep these rooms throughout our life and they form a part of who we are. Perhaps they help us deal with a difficult or painful situation. Maybe they form a basis for how we react to something in our lives, or how we perceive justice or what we consider our moral right.

Writers entertain us, inform us, and, if we let them, teach us something. These lessons may be about our world, or just their world. But either way, they can leave this room within us, decorated with their words. With the emotions and images they co hire within us. These rooms are just as powerful as a master’s painting, or a composer’s magnum opus.

So if you’re a writer like me, don’t give up on your creations. Someone out there is waiting for you to decorate a room in their mind, whether they know it now or not.

Stress (Commentary and Poetic verse)

Stress. Funny how that word conjures up images of anxiety ridden individuals breaking down. Some lash out violently, raging against the ethereal force, or actual forces bringing out the stressful condition. Others lose all will and lie broken upon their beds. Others thrive on it, drink it in like nectar from some unmerciful god. Regardless of how you feel about Stress, it is certainly a topic often discussed the world over.

My day job as a logistical wizard at a fuel hauling company (aka Dispatcher for those that don’t get my joke), can alternate from stressful to almost boring to the point of tears. When equipment breaks down, drivers come up with attitudes about the smallest of things, or customers with unreasonable demands because they simply do not understand how to order fuel for a station they probably shouldn’t own in the first place; things can get tense. The blood starts to course faster in your veins as adrenaline pumps into the stream. Nerves start firing faster in your brain, snap decisions come to you as you solve the problems of the day.

Once the momentary crisis is over however, there is a noticeable drop in energy levels as everything slows down. This let down can lead to feelings of relief, or feelings of self doubt. “Did I make the right call? That seemed to go very smoothly, maybe I should double check my math.” This can lead to a spiraling back up. Those are the moments when you have to take a breath and trust in your knowledge and skills. Sometimes the jolt of adrenaline brought on by stress will last for hours, leading to a state of extreme mental tiredness at the end of the day. Those are the days I want to just go home, kiss my wife, hug my son, and crack open something with alcohol to drink before going to sleep.

A simple five letter word
Silly as three are the same
Chaos bringer to our world
Losing to it brings such shame

It can make you stronger
It can make you weak
Stress enough to make you weep
Or grit your teeth and push longer

Keep your chin above the rising tide
Let it roll from your shoulders son
You can beat i if you don’t hide
You will look back and say “I won!”

The year was 1995…

The year was 1995 and I was just entering my teenage years. Boyz II Men and Ace of Base were cleaning up at the American Music Awards, both albums I had on cassette. In fact, the Boyz II Men cassettes might be in my basement in storage. Amazing the silly things we hold onto from our childhood. Baseball had a nasty strike and the nation cried when Christopher Reeve was paralyzed.

That summer I turned 13. My best friend and I spent alot of time at his parent’s farm. Playing video games and chasing cattle. That year I shared a birthday with the release of Batman Forever, a movie that I watched more than once since then. Growing up in South Carolina we were all horrified by Susan Smith murdering her children. As a father now, while I may be disappointed or frustrated at times, I could never fathom harming my child in any way. There has to be a special place of torment in the afterlife for those who harm or kill children like she did.

That fall, Carolina rejoiced as we saw the beginning of our own National Football Team, the Carolina Panthers. I had grown up a Redskins fan thanks to my grandparents being from the Maryland/DC area. For the first time we could say we were rooting for the “home team”. They lost their first game in overtime. I was very disappointed.

That fall saw the publishing of the Unabomber’s manifesto by major newspapers. We also witnessed the Jury deliberation of the OJ Simpson trial. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” becomes a joke used repeatedly across the comedy world, as well as in my little part of the world. While he was later found not guilty, there were no riots in the streets like in recent years with Ferguson and elsewhere. No one seemed to think “taking to the streets” would bring any other sort of justice for a white woman killed by a black male. How anyone thought doing the same when a black male was killed by a white male, is beyond my understanding.

On a lighter note, my home team Carolina Panthers did get their first victory against the NY Jets in October, while I tried to master the French Horn in my 8th grade band. I did manage to take a chair at Regionals so that was something. They also began looking for volunteers for a special advanced college prep program to be started in my school district. While it would mean starting high school without most of my friends (as it was being held at a different school in the district), I was excited for this opportunity. Between my parents moving our family twice during my senior year, I did not complete the International Baccalaureatte, or IB program. I often wonder how different my life might have been if my high school years had not been filled with so much upheaval. I know I would not want to change the course my life has taken as it has brought me to a very happy place. It is still food for thought, and perhaps a short story or something in the future. We shall see.

As the year draws to a close, there were a couple significant events. Toy Story  was the first full length animated film using computer imagery. Something done many times since to mainly Disney and Pixar’s success. Revolutionary changes in computer graphics have shaped the movie special effects industry and given us much to enjoy in the years since. There was also the official end of Desert Storm. While too young to have been involved in any military action, I did have family that participated. Thankfully they all made it home safe. Later in the 2000s, when we returned to the middle east, my little brother would serve two tours of duty in the same regions. I am grateful that he made it home safe as well. I am thankful for all of our military personnel that have served (My grandfather was a marine in WW2 as well), those currently serving, and encourage any who are considering it to go for it. Although I would later begin the process of enlisting in the Air Force as a translator (German was my language in High School), other events would take that route off the map of my life.

The year was 1995, and while probably not the most dramatic year of my life, it was still memorable.

Logistical Improbabilities – “What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor”

Logistical Improbabilities, or What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor

Ok, so I am a dispatcher for a fuel company so I deal with gas stations, fuel Coops and Bulk plants. I also have the unfortunate task of keeping tabs on the oil and gas futures markets.  This means I field a lot of, “What is the market doing today?” phone calls. We have a saying, “You live by the price, you die by the price.” It is mind boggling to me how someone who owns a gas station can run themselves out of fuel. I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but it only takes once or twice that a station is out of gas when I try to fill up that I am not coming back. I don’t care how good the coffee or donuts are. Having no fuel at a gas station is like a grocery store with no food. It just makes no sense.

I think, before you can be licensed to own/operate a gas station; that you should have to take a logistics course, with a heavy emphasis on truck routes and map reading. There seems to always be those people who have no idea what it takes to safely deliver them fuel, especially in inclement weather. If your location is 45 miles from the loading facility, you can reasonably expect an hour of transit with a big truck. This is especially true if you are not on a major highway. To expect a load after a market swing (Typically 6pm) to be delivered by 7pm, is just plain crazy talk. We aren’t driving DeLoreans with flux capacitors here. It is essentially 80,000 pounds of flammable liquid cruising down the highway with a bunch of little 4 wheelers who think they own the road. The lack of respect passenger vehicles give to big trucks is a whole other post however so I won’t delve into that much here. Just understand that to operate one of those trucks safely requires a lot of training, attention to detail, and a sharp mind in order to account for all the motoring public around you.

Another pet peeve revolves around the unloading area at gas stations. Whether you own the place or just shopping there, be aware of the giant manhole covers in the lot. Do not park on them and then wander off into the sunset. Though unlikely, a driver just trying to do his/her job may arrive and need to get the truck over there in order to safely drop some fuel. If you see a truck delivering at a gas station, be aware that a person is there just trying to do their job. Don’t run over the caution cones or through the delivery area just because it is more convenient for you. Yelling at the driver to hurry up does no good. Typically the equipment can only dispense the fuel so quickly; similar to the pump you just used only pumps so fast. When it comes to driving through the area with the giant manhole covers, just remember, it is only a thin ring of metal/concrete holding that cover up. If it cracks/breaks and you drive over it, expect some damage to your vehicle. I, and most anyone else, would also laugh at you.

Typically, the driver has no control over how fuel performs in the winter time. This is especially true for all you diesel drivers. Diesel, more than gas, will gel at low temperatures. Get low enough, and you are not going anywhere. As a station owner/fuel orderer, it is on you to make sure that you are either supplying additive, or purchasing winterized DSL. If you fail to do both, and end up with vehicles broke down in your lot (yes it can happen that quickly), then good luck to you. As a consumer, make sure before you push that button or swipe that card, that you are getting what you should for your vehicle. If you do not, expect some internal damage to your vehicle’s fuel/engine system. I, and most anyone else, will also laugh at you. Educate yourself about what your vehicle and fuel needs are and shop appropriately.

It is recommended to not wait till you are out of something before you call your vendor for a delivery. What would happen if you called your soda delivery company at the last minute and said, Oh, I am out of X Brand cola, I need a delivery now. More than likely they will do their best to assist you, but you could be out for a while because they are typically working into the future on their orders and now have to backtrack and push someone else off (who ordered before you) in order to remedy your emergency. Vendors are not like a pizza place, it isn’t a 30 minutes or it is free situation.  We will make a good faith effort to adjust to your lack of planning, but ultimately the responsibility for your station is yours.

If you own/operate a gas station, talk to your vendors. (Calmly and rationally please, we typically do not respond well to threats, insults, or general asshattery.) You might be surprised what you can learn from us when it comes to making things easier for you to do business.  This goes whether it is your fuel, soda, beer, or candy. We know our business, and the better communication there is; the smoother things will go.

Oh, and BUY A MAP, or take one from the shelf, and learn where your products come from so you can understand the time involved in bringing you the items necessary for your business.

Life – (Feeling Philosophical)

Life is funny sometimes. There was a time when I never would have considered fatherhood for myself, given the poor example I had in my own biological father. Today though, sitting on the floor in the living room helping my son with fractions and multiplication/division problems, I couldn’t have been happier. Using plastic Easter eggs to demonstrate how many times a number fits into another number was so much fun. When I could see it click in his brain that he could use his multiplication tables he has been practicing to work the division problems in reverse, I was so proud. I can’t believe I once considered never putting myself in a position to experience fatherhood. Sure, it can be stressful at times, and I certainly struggle with having higher expectations for my son than is sometimes fair for a child his age, but he took up residence in my heart the moment I met him.  Life’s stresses can cause frustrations abound, however it is those little miracles of fatherhood that make the work worth it. I found an old poem about “Life” in my archives that I thought I would share.



In Life
We are merely ships on a sea
This Life
Causes us joy and causes us pain
We Live
By our choices in this life

In Life
We strive to be all we want to be
This Life
Has much to lose and much to gain
We Live
With our joy, pain, bounty, strife

Life sometimes throws us many curves
Like the steady driver who suddenly swerves
We cannot know the strength of our nerves
Till we snap…