October 28, 2010

“A Change Will Do You Good”

I remember the first time as if it were yesterday. I was sitting at my desk in Grand Junction, CO. It was sometime in 1984 and I'd been with ITT Financial Services for a little over a year, working as a consumer loan officer. I was hired straight out of college in January, 1983, spending 10 months as a manager trainee in Great Falls, MT. before being promoted to my first manager position in Craig, CO. By 1984, the economy had gotten really bad on the " western slope " , as it's known in Colorado, due to the collapse of oil production and the after-effects of the nation-wide recession. By then, ITT had closed the Craig office, transferred all the accounts, including me, to the Grand Junction office, the epicenter of the oil shale economy that had been nearly destroyed. As manager, I was in charge of the 2nd largest location in the entire state of CO., with only Englewood, CO. being larger. My office's loan delinquency was nearly 20%, charge-offs were approaching 10%, our loan customers were being laid off left and right, unemployment had run out for some, and my patience was wearing thin. Needless to say, I was stressed to the max.

My regional manager from Minnesota was making her rounds around the state during that time and was in my office that particular day, and boy was it " one of those days. " My staff and I had been busy all morning making collection calls, people we talked with were mad at us, I was pissed because of it, and so was my regional manager. That's when she sat right across my desk and " lit up. " I remember asking her, "What is it about those things that make you smoke them?" I'll never forget what she said, "They help me relax." BAM. I said, "Give me that, I want to see for myself!" The rest, as they say, is history.

As I sit here typing today, over 26 years later after that day, I remember what my sisters said when they found out I smoked. They couldn't believe it, after all, I was the one who used to snatch those butts out of their mouths when one of them lit up and instantly crushing it. And here I was guilty of the very thing I so despised at one time! I mean seriously, here was a guy who was very athletic in high school, playing football and basketball and, had I not tore up my knee my senior year, would have gone on to play Division II football for Northern Arizona University since they'd offered me a scholarship.

For years, I never gave this nasty habit a second thought. In fact, it's become literally a part of my life, an extension of my daily activities. It's really quite sad when I think about it. But now, nearly 2 ½ years after giving up alcohol completely, and I mean complete, not even a drop, I'm about to make a similar decision with cigarettes. Frankly, this decision is long overdue.

At this point, you may be wondering. Why now? Why haven't I done this before? Everyone knows it's bad for your health, why have you taken so long? Frankly, I've never given it really serious thought until just the past few months. Oh sure, when I moved to SoCal this past March, I had every intention of quitting, knowing (or at least deluding myself into thinking) that a change of scenery and environment would be a huge plus. In fact, shortly after I arrived here in March I did make an attempt at quitting, even getting a prescription for Chantix, the latest and greatest cure for this nasty habit. Alas, Chantix didn't "take", in fact I hate that stuff, the side effects are a drag (no pun intended!) And perhaps I just wasn't mentally prepared for that drastic of a change, especially since I'd already made a HUGE one in coming here to begin with!

The obvious reason of course, is for my own good. I'd rather die from natural causes than something self-inflicted like booze or cigs. There are other reasons, but one stands out the most. To preserve and perpetuate the beautiful relationship I've developed over the past few months with the woman I love. Allow me to emphasize this though, irrespective of where this relationship is headed, I know that this is something I have to do for my health, first and foremost.

So, after reflecting on a course of action and after visiting with the counselor yesterday, the one I met this past July, I'm going to take the same "steps" with this addiction as I did with alcohol. One day at a time. Like alcohol, it comes down to a choice. Unlike that addiction though, where I put myself in a corner in which the only way out to freedom was abstinence, the goal here is somewhat different. In this case, abstinence means more than just freedom. This one, I'm attacking more than just because I HAVE to, though obviously that wasn't the only reason, my life was at stake, too. It's because I WANT to. Either way, "change" of any kind, especially big ones we make in our lives like the one I'm facing, comes with no guarantees. I have to keep in mind always that although my goal is set, expecting it to happen without fail is a recipe for disappointment. Still, I remain steadfast, strong, and positive. And for you readers, those who know me well, when I set my mind on something, I go all in and I play for keeps. Nothing in life worth striving for, including our health, our families, and the people we love the most, deserve any less.



October 24, 2010

Inspiring Others…The Wright Brothers

I know a lot has been said about my writing. And not only how I write, but also what I write about. Starting well over a year ago, people from all walks of life began telling me, "Gus, what you write about is inspiring. But it's more than that. It's the WAY you write about it. You write like many of us feel but we can't express it in written form the way you do. And what you have to say does inspire people, more than you probably know."

Recently, I was talking with an old childhood friend of mine from back home in Kansas, a woman I grew up with and went to school with starting when we were in kindergarten. She works at the local Farm Service Agency in the town where I grew up in Tribune. I'd called there since I still have some farming interests back home and we got to talking about our lives. I was asking her about her health since she had told me this past August that she'd been having some issues. At one point she said, "I see on Facebook you might be coming out with a book some day." I told her it was something I was thinking of but wasn't sure, still not knowing where Ramblings was taking me. I remember her distinctly saying, "If it inspires ONE person, then it would be successful." I think that nails it on the head.

If you think about people in this world who inspire others, most of the time we think of people who are famous. People who get on television for instance. I remember over a year ago, well before the thought of starting this blog came to mind, I was talking with one of my sisters one day as we were travelling to visit family in Tribune. We were talking of my journey over the years in terms of dealing with my disease now that I was on the mend and I mentioned to her about all the people I had encountered over the years, but especially since the middle of 2008, and how many people had been telling me that I had a way of inspiring them with my story, both with the written word and in speaking. I went on to say many had been suggesting I write a book and I was thinking about it. I'll never forget the look on her face and what she said. She sort of glanced at me funny with this look of skepticism and said, "Well, it's not like what you have gone through hasn't been done before or like no one else has already written about it."

While I understood that what she said wasn't meant to diminish my feelings and I respected her opinion, I remember my reaction internally. And though I did my best not to show it to her, it made me feel I was unworthy. More importantly, those words laid a small seed of doubt in my heart and mind. Later, I dismissed those feelings. Here's why.

If everyone who ever had an inspiration that came to mind, something they felt very passionate about, something that others told them couldn't be done, and then didn't follow through with it because someone told them so, where would our world be? Did the Wright brothers give up on flying just because people scoffed at the idea of man actually flying? An extreme example, yes. But really, stop and think about it. Much of what I write about is heart and spirit. About not giving up and not giving in. Staying positive in the face of defeat. Here's another example and this one may be even more extreme, comparatively speaking, to my situation. Was Jesus accepted at first? Didn't everyone question him? I mean come on, who could believe all that he came up with? Of course, we know what happened with his life, don't we?

Please don't misunderstand; I'm neither comparing myself to the Wright brothers and certainly not to Jesus. The point I'm trying to make is that ANY OF US are capable of truly great and inspiring things. The reason why we don't or, more importantly, choose NOT TO, is because of what others tell us we CAN'T do, and also what our minds tell us we CAN'T do.

Those of you who read this and who know me, also know my story, especially over the past few years. I came close to death, not once, but twice. Worse, it came because of choices I made, not ones others made for me. But, for whatever reason, God spared me. Once that fog lifted and I could see clearly, I haven't taken a look back since. No one can tell me I can't do something because I've proven, with God's help, that I CAN. And the same thing goes for anyone else! Just because someone says, "Ah, don't kid yourself. You can't do that. Someone else has already done it, anyway." That's hogwash.

So, I'm plowing forward and moving ahead. My advice to anyone else with something they are passionate about, especially something that is socially redeemable or inspiring to others, is to do the same. Like my friend said, "If you inspire ONE person, it will be worth it." Isn't ONE person enough? You have to start somewhere, right? After all, we were all born of the same cloth so to speak. NONE of us were born famous. The only reason why we do great things with our lives is because we don't accept defeat. We never say NEVER. The Wright brothers didn't, why should you?


October 21, 2010

A Tribute to “Mom”

Everyone loves their Mom and think their mother is the best Mom in the world. Of course, that isn't true. MY MOM was the best Mom in the world! Seriously, this tribute to my Mom comes over 38 years after her death due to a tragic farm vehicle accident when I was only 13. Unlike the tribute I wrote about my Dad, who turned 80 earlier this year, my memories of my Mom aren't nearly as extensive. But, in that short amount of time while she was with us here on Earth, she made her presence felt and her memory still lingers in the hearts of not only myself and my family, but also many who knew her. Even today, nearly FOUR decades after her death, people who knew her in the little town of Tribune, Kansas for her entire life, still speak highly of her in so many ways. My older sisters can probably share more memories than I since I was still quite young when God took her to Heaven to dwell forever.

The main thing I remember about my Mom was her indomitable spirit, strength, and resolve. Her life was ENTIRELY about character and heart. Nothing would compromise truth when it came to her, whether it was with my shenanigans as a young boy or with her friends and acquaintances. And if you crossed that line, she wasn't shy about letting you know. She was also a taskmaster, and ran a "tight ship" in our farm house where I grew up, all 8 of us; Mom, Dad, Stephanie, Lissa, Casey, WenDee, myself, & Mona. I remember one routine in particular. The dishes after supper. She would assign one child to clear the table, one to wash, one to rinse, one to wipe-dry the dishes, and one to put them away. The reason there were only FIVE assignments is because I think she finally gave up trying to enlist child #6, my little sis Mona in the routine, mostly because for some reason, Mona just HAD to "go to the bathroom" to do her business when this nightly ritual began. Ironically enough, Mona's timing was always magically impeccable. She would be done with her "bathroom business" juuuust as the last dish was put away! I think Mom was just amusing her, she wouldn't have let the rest of us get away with that, especially the older ones.

The rest of the time, we all knew what our jobs were around the house, having those assignments drilled into us until I'm certain we could have done them in our sleep! There was one job I was particularly proud of being assigned to. Taking out the trash. It gave me the opportunity as the only boy to explore outside and see what kind of mischief I could get into. In other words, goof off. One time though, taking out the trash turned into quite a disaster. On our farm, we always burned the trash in these large 50 gallon drums with one end cut out. Sometimes, especially when the wind blew or if the trash was wet, getting it to burn in the proper manner a pyromaniac like me preferred presented a problem. Not so when one has easy access to dry and dead "tumbleweeds." Those babies can burn! Trouble was on this particular day, the tumbleweeds decided to take flight out of the trash barrel after ignition. Next thing I know, the shed where Dad housed his hogs was ablaze, Mom was chasing me around the farm with a pitchfork threatening me with my life, and it seemed like every fire truck in Western Kansas was on our little farm. Gratefully, the firemen got the fire put out before any real damage was done but I sure thought my goose was cooked. I'm happy to say I survived this episode. I even went to bed REAL early that night before Dad got home from his day's work so I wouldn't have to face him, though I do remember him popping his head into my room that night. Instead of yelling at me all's he said was, "Well, I guess you learned your lesson, huh? Night son." Boy, talk about a sigh of relief!!

Mom didn't back down to anyone when it came to positions she felt strongly about. Though she wasn't an "educated" woman in terms of schooling, having gotten married when she was only a junior in high school, my Dad says she's still about the only person, let alone a woman, who could go toe-to-toe and hold her own in a debate with a local farmer and cattleman. He had the good fortune of a lot of formal education and many years later became my first boss at the bank in Tribune in 1985. I admire that trait in her as much as any, since I'm known for engaging in a debate myself! She especially enjoyed having friends over while I was in school and I remember many times getting off the bus when I came home after school to find her "holding court" at the kitchen table. Things would get especially animated when her good friend "Imy" Kuttler was visiting. Those were times when the wine was flowing quite liberally and you couldn't get a word in edge-wise or cut the air from all the cigarette smoke floating in the air.

I've depicted a person who would appear to the reader as one who was strong-willed, opinionated, a disciplinarian, maybe even a little harsh at times. Mom was all that but so much more. She was incredibly loving, full of heart, tender, and thoughtful. Christmas was always a joyful time in our home and Mom would go to great lengths, in spite of our meager existence and lack of money, to make it the best possible experience for her children. I'll always treasure those moments. She loved tending to her garden, flowers, and raising a lot of our own food. She would spend days canning food for the winter. Of course, the garden was another of those assignments for us kids, each of us had the responsibility for taking care of certain foods. I always enjoyed the spring when I got my favorite assignment, planting sweet corn!

The final thing I'd like to share about my Mom may seem innocuous to some but it really resonates in my soul for some reason and that's "Mimi", one of the dozens of cats we had while I was growing up, not to mention our dogs, especially the three I remember best, "King" the Australian shepherd, "Queenie" the collie, and "Princess", a dog found in a farm field by my Grandfather Rowe and one everyone was convinced was half-coyote, simply by the way she looked and the way she ran after rabbits. But it was Mimi that, for whatever reason, found a special place in Mom's heart. One thing you should know is Mom NEVER allowed pets in the house and I mean NEVER. But Mimi was different.

I remember the moment well early one morning. I woke from the second floor of our old farmhouse to the smell of bacon wafting up the stairs. I crept down slowly and was the first one in the kitchen where Mom stood over the gas stove in her nightrobe, preparing breakfast for all of her children before school. I remember this moment because in the large front pocket of her nightrobe was Mimi. The smell of bacon was pungent in the air. She reached to her left where she had placed some freshly-cooked bacon to cool, picked it up, and slowly brought it near her front pocket. Mimi's little head appeared, her little nose sniffed, she grabbed it gently with her mouth, and disappeared again into Mom's pocket.

That was Mom, a woman ENTIRELY about HEART and CHARACTER.

Lois Irene Rowe
Born: October 23, 1932
Died: July 11, 1972

October 19, 2010

Phil Collins - Father To Son

"Sweet Pea" turned 18 this past weekend and the "Big Guy" turns 16 in a little over 2 weeks. The plan was to see him before then in person but, God had other ideas. So be it. The love is there...always has been, always will be. Look over your shoulder Jess David Rowe, I will be there. Father to Son.

October 17, 2010

Judgment, Compassion, & Common Sense

Recently, a 14-year old girl made headline news in northern San Diego County when she claimed she was abducted in broad daylight by three men, shoved into their car, raped, and then returned to the very area where she was abducted. She returned home to her parents, told them the story, and they called the police. She gave a detailed description of the men and the manhunt was on. This incident happened within 3 miles where I live, at the high school where I drop my 17-year old niece off every day. My sister, like nearly every other parent in the area, was extremely upset and of course, she cautioned her daughter on how to avoid something like this happening to her. What happened next stunned everyone; the police, the community, the media, everyone. Within 24 hours, the girl recanted her story, saying the whole incident was a hoax. The truth was she had met a man online and on the day when she was supposedly abducted by the three phantom rapists; she skipped school to meet the man she met online, so they could engage in consensual sex.

What happened THEN is what brings out my passion about this topic. Everyone it seemed, including local law enforcement, families, students, and even the captain of the local police department cried FOUL! This girl should PAY for this lie! How could she have cost us so much time and money on our law enforcement agency to search for three men who never even EXISTED?! How could she have caused so much concern to other parents and students for her childish and self-serving behavior?! The following article that appeared in the local newspaper illustrates my point:

ENCINITAS: Authorities say girl fabricated Encinitas abduction and rape

You will see that not ONCE was any thought or consideration given to this girl's emotional state. To hell with WHY she did it or WHAT fallout would befall her for this story, the only thing people could think of was someone should PAY, in this case, this young teenager.

Now, before I elaborate, allow me to state that there is no doubt what she did is wrong. Period. But, the real question is, HOW can we help her? Think about it. Our society has become so accustomed that when a human being wrongs another, even when it involved a hoax such as this, then there should be JUDGMENT. Someone needs to pay, spend time in jail, and make restitution for the greater good of society. Why is that? Why have we become a people who favor JUDGMENT over COMPASSION?

I don't have easy answers to those questions and truthfully, that's not really the point of this topic. The reason I bring this particular incident into focus is because of my own personal experience with the fallout of my actions when it comes to transgressions against society. While I'm hesitant to bring my experience into this discussion since it would appear to the reader as self-serving or seeking sympathy, it serves as a means to drive home my point.

In the fall of 2008, after I left Elkhart for Liberal, KS., where I was required to seek further treatment and rehabilitation, I began searching for a new career. One that immediately came to mind was teaching. At that time, both my-self and my children were interested in reuniting in Tribune where they were born and where I had lived for many years. The thought occurred to me; why not teach math or something? After all, I was good with numbers and it would be a way to make my amends, as it were, to not only my children by being with them again, but also to some of the people whom I had harmed with my actions. What I discovered in researching the Kansas statutes and the law gave me pause. In spite of the fact that my "crime" was of a non-personal nature, that being driving under the influence, and because I was a 3-time offender, Kansas law prohibited me from obtaining even a substitute teaching position for something as insignificant as 5th grade math for FIVE years. Keep in mind this teaching position would have been in the town where I was born and raised, in a school with a total enrollment in grades K-12 of less than 250, and the smallest populated county in the state. In other words, everyone knew me! However, the way the law is written, I was treated no differently than someone who had committed a personal crime such as rape, murder, incest, aggravated assault, etc. I was stunned at what appeared to me to be an injustice. Whatever happened to COMMON SENSE I thought? I mean seriously, how could anyone with an ounce of common sense think I would have been a danger to teaching 5th graders math?

I could go on and on with that experience, as well as others I've had over the past 2 ½ years, with respect to my past actions and what limits society has imposed upon me because of those actions, but I'd like to take you back to that 14-year old girl. If you've read this far and read the article in the link above, perhaps you're getting my point. As I told my niece, "Don't you think this girl is already suffering enough emotionally and is in obvious need of counseling?" "Isn't facing her classmates such as your-self and explaining her actions punishment enough?" She didn't answer. Why? Probably because she has been exposed to the same thought process the vast share of society has; "Someone should PAY, there should be JUDGMENT, get the attorneys involved, take them to court, lock them up and throw away the key, get them off the road and out of our sight, they're a menace to society." Granted, I might be embellishing a bit with that latter part of that last sentence but perhaps I've made my point.

We as a people have lost focus on what's important. NO ONE's perfect and people will make mistakes like this girl did and like I did. But, what we need to ask ourselves is when do we have the right to judge and when do we have the obligation to show compassion for our fellow man? Certainly, there is a place for judgment. No one thinks someone who commits rape, murder, or incest should be shown much compassion. Still, those who do commit those crimes were once as innocent as you and I. We all came into this world that way. As innocent human beings, right? Where it gets tough is deciding on when we should seek pure judgment and being compassionate. There's a fine line between the two and it's definitely a delicate balance. Even the most-seasoned counselor will tell you it is very difficult to predict human behavior with any accuracy.

So, it comes down to a choice. Should we JUDGE another harshly or do we show COMPASSION first and give them the benefit of the doubt? Every case is different. My thought is this. If we always look for the GOOD in people, rather than always assuming the BAD, by doing so, we automatically instill that positive thought pattern in our behaviors with one another. People will then act accordingly and choose wisely with respect to their own actions. In turn, they will tend to overlook the bad, knowing that they themselves have their own faults. For these reasons, as well as the fact that this teenager girl's actions is a cry for help, I would definitely lean toward COMPASSION, and I pray she receives adequate counseling and a resolution to her emotional needs. In fact, I nearly always look for the good in others though, I must admit, I still tend to judge from time to time. After all, I'm human. Which would you rather be known as? Someone who is compassionate or someone who is judgmental? Easy answer, huh? But easier said than done as well. That paradox will exist as long as mankind exists. The trick is being introspective and critical of ourselves to recognize when we've crossed that line. As the bible says, "judge not, lest ye be judged."



October 16, 2010

An Ode to “Sweet Pea”

Christy Lynn Rowe. Born October 16th, 1992. The day little "Roo" came to…

When you became ONE, I said God, this girl is "FUN!"...

Then along came TWO, and I was helping tie your SHOE…

By the age of THREE, your nick became forever known to me as "SWEET PEA"…

At the age of FOUR, you loved to play on the "FLOOR" but were always waiting for me at the "DOOR"…

I began to realize when you reached FIVE, you made me feel so "ALIVE!"…

Along came SIX and by now, you loved to be part of the kitchen "MIX"…

When you reached SEVEN, I said to God, Thank you for this gift from "HEAVEN!"…

By the time you reached EIGHT, it was apparent you didn't like to be "LATE"…

At NINE, I sang to you the song She's So "FINE!"…

Then came TEN, a fearless age and when adventure beckoned, you said "I'M IN!"…

By ELEVEN, no longer as little when you were seven, but still my little slice of "HEAVEN"…

When you reached TWELVE, becoming more independent now, there was no way anyone would put you on a "SHELF"…

THIRTEEN, your first teen year and though times became a little rough, you always stayed "TOUGH"…

Then along came FOURTEEN, and though we weren't as close as we would have liked, we were forever linked for "LIFE"…

By the age of FIFTEEN, you had your own plans for yourself, the first moment I began to realize it wasn't about "MYSELF"…

Ah, then the magical age! Sweet SIXTEEN! Your own car, lots of friends, and exploring the wonder of boys and "LOVE"…

Then last year, at SEVENTEEN, we were at a crossroads you and I, something neither of us ever dreamed of but you remained strong because of your "LOVE"…

Now today, you've reached the age of EIGHTEEN, the age of complete independence, the age every child dreams of when they can go their own way, seek their own destiny, explore new ways of life, and make their mark on the world. You're a woman now and though poetry may seem silly to you little "Roo", to me, you will ALWAYS be my little "SWEET PEA!"

Yours lovingly now and forever,


October 10, 2010

Greetings friends. Over the past two years, I have had experiences nothing short of life-changing. Its quite a story, in many ways. I have developed a new life, a new way of living, made many new friendships, and as a result of those friendships, I have been told countless number of times from many people that some of what I speak and write about have been a source of inspiration for them. I've even been told I should write some sort of book, though that has never been something I could see myself doing. The funny thing is, I never intended to be an inspiration to anyone. It just happened. Then again as I look back, many things "just happened" during this time, most of them good in my life. And as I reflect on all those good things that have happened I have asked myself these questions. Why? Why me? Why me of all people? The one who has made so many mistakes in his life? And every time I search for answers there is always one thing that was a common denominator in every answer. Whether I had anything to do with these good things, or if it was just blind luck, the work of God, or whatever you choose to describe it, it still comes back to just one thing that I can't seem to get out of the equation. That's where this story begins and ends and what I've just written is just the start.

October 1, 2010

The Internet, Cell Phones, iPods, Computers, & Facebook – Part II

This is a re-post of a topic I wrote about this past April and was prompted by an event yesterday. Last night, I left work shortly before 9 p.m. and was almost home when suddenly I realized I'd left my cell phone at work. If something like this has ever happened to you then you know what I felt like next. Naked. And frankly, kind of panicky. It's not like there's pay phones on every corner in today's world like there used to be so I could call the office and see if anyone was still there. What did I do? Turned around and went back. Of course, everyone had left. When I got home, it hit me. I, like so many others, are so used to the comforts of today's technological wonders that we feel literally lost without them. So, here's how I see it.

After I was released from the "Holliday Inn" in Elkhart, KS. two years ago, one of the very first things I did was to find my way to a computer. Being without any kind of "connection" with the outside world, other than what silly TV programs were being played by some of my fellow "mates" and the 15 minute window I had once a week where I was allowed "visitation", meaning a phone call or personal visit, was HUGE for me, especially since being around computers every day for over two decades was an integral part of my life. Before I tell you about that, allow me to digress. The "Holliday Inn", (please note the TWO L's, not one) was what we "convicts" referred to our living facility. Reason being, the sheriff's ACTUAL name was Justin D. Holliday. I'm not kidding. He became affectionately known to us as "Doc Holliday", since D was his middle initial! I coined that one for everyone and we laughed about his name and his "Inn" quite a bit. When your freedom is entirely stripped away, save for the 15 minutes I mentioned earlier for a whole week at a time, humor becomes a part of your sanity program. Jail does strange and bizarre things to human beings and their minds I might add, something I'll go into later...

Rambling on then, after I got out I got my first taste of the "net" again. I was STUNNED at what new information and tools were available after having ZERO connection for 5 1/2 months. I think back now and it astounds me what one can do on a computer in today's world. Not only that, cell phones! Good grief, I never dreamed of the options out there and quickly got hooked on a Blackberry from AllTel with a 24 hour data plan. Talk about a kid in the candy store, I even learned how to "text" for the first time. That may sound funny to you but trust me, I was in a whole new world, and not just "upstairs in my head", not having a drop of alcohol to drink in nearly six months, which, by the way, I can honestly say now was the longest I had been without alcohol to that point in my life but what I'm guessing was nearly 20 years.

And so began my connection with Facebook. Ahhhh, good 'ol Facebook. Building my own profile, posting my first "profile pic", my first status update, yada yada yada. You know what I mean, right? Remember your first "stab" at it? And now today, or should I say up until yesterday, I'm known as the "Facebook King" among some of my friends; Mr. Youtube for songs, "notes" for lessons I learned, pictures out the wazzoo, and on and on.

But, you know what? I've discovered something recently, which I'm sure you all have already. We are ADDICTED to being "connected" in some way; computers, "cells", iPods, laptops, smart phones, "butt dialing", Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Youtube, etc. Shit, it never ends!! And I've missed out a bunch with that list I'm sure!
There's not a day goes by, not ONE, when I don't listen to "slacker.com" every night on my Blackberry, a free site for any kind of music one could possibly want for anyone with a "BB", or "Crackberry" as many call it, since it's so damn addictive!

The point in this whole diatribe about being "connected" in some way is this....I was sitting in the Dallas, TX. airport this past December waiting on my flight and was doing one of my favorite things in a place such as that, "people-watching!" For those who've never been to the Dallas airport, it's one of those "international" hubs where you see everything. Every nationality, language, dress style, you name it, it had it. But always constant is the omnipresent and obligatory latest gadget, doesn't matter who or where you're from. Seems EVERYONE walking around or sitting down was either ON the phone, texting, listening to tunes on their iPods, "surfing" the "net", doing business on a computer, and even video conferencing for cripe's sake! So, as I was sitting there "doing my thing", I noticed a distinguished older man next to me, probably oh, 65-ish, nicely-dressed, and happily typing away on his "lapper." Across from him I quickly came to discover, sitting 6 or seven feet away, was his wife; very sophisticated-looking, nicely dressed, and looking all proper. Hell, the two of them could have been from Kansas for all I knew but they looked like freakin' royalty.

Me being me, that is to say, the NEW me; the one who talks in the elevator while everyone else is standing there like statues looking at the lights blink from one floor to the next, as if they had anything better to do than TALK for crying out loud; the one who is famous for "talking" with those "self-checkout" ladies at grocery stores (try that some time, it's hilarious! when the self-checkout lady says in her sexy computer voice, "thank you for shopping with us", say out loud, in fact LOUD with a big-ass smile on your face, "You're Welcome!", look back at the people waiting behind you. They're all like.."Whoa....is that dude stoned or what!?"); and so finally (there I go again) I says to the lady across from me in my most pleasant voice possible; " What the hell did we ever do before all this connected "stuff" we have with us? TALK?"

And so off we went, we started TALKING. My whole point to this long-ass story is this. There's a "disconnect" with being "connected." People have lost touch with reality these days. No one TALKS to anyone any more. You know, sit across from each other and TALK; no cells, no 'puters, no TV, no music, no nothing!

You know what I say? Get your ass off that chair you're sitting in right now listening to me "ramble, gush, and spew" all over the place, turn off your damn computer, turn off your "cell", turn off your TV's, your music, your WHATEVER, go to your neighbor next door, knock on it, and say "Hi! My name is (fill in the blank), I live next door, and was just wanting to know if you'd just like to TALK, seeing how's we're all neighbors and all." What do you think will happen? I'll tell you what'll happen, one of two things; the door will slam in your face or, if you're a lucky man like me, they'll "invite you in" to their world and you might, just might, find out you have something in common, and maybe even find a "friend", not one of those so-called 200 or so "friends" you have on Facebook. Get my drift? Do you see what I mean?

So, I'll end it with this as an example of what I mean. Today, while on break at paralegal school, I was "on my cell" checking messages as usual while sitting outside enjoying the sun all by my little lonesome. Dorothy sat down with me shortly thereafter, and she sits two tables in front of me in all my daily classes. She wants to become a paralegal as I do and today is the first day she and I TALKED in the five weeks of classes together. Guess who Dorothy is? Dorothy is from Buffalo, New York originally and moved here only a month or so ago like I. BUT, she knows all about Kansas. In fact, she is a huge Buffalo Bills fan, and one of her favorite football players from when she lived there? Steve Tasker, 1993 Pro Bowl MVP, born and bred Kansas boy, from Leoti, Kansas, 22 MILES from where I was born and raised. Yep, the same Steve Tasker I once saw on a basketball floor when he was a 7th grader, ( I was a hot-shot freshman basketball player myself!) all 4 feet nothing of him, running circles around everyone else like a darn waterbug.

Next time you're in that elevator staring at those damn blinking lights, say "Hi" to the person next to you. You never know who you might meet because it truly is a small world out there.....