Category Archives: healing

Opening Windows on the Past

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This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

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My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

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The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

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And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

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In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration

How Mickey Battles the Blues

It should be noted that Mickey does not battle the St. Louis Blues.  That is his favorite hockey team.  And while they have never won the Stanley Cup, they do win a lot and are almost always in the playoffs.  So they help fight depression.  Battling them would not only be counter-productive, but might also result in losing all those big square white middle teeth in that goofy smile.

But battling depression is a constant necessity.  Not only am I subject to diabetic depression and Donald Trump overload, but my entire family is prone to deep and deadly bad blue funks.  It helps to be aware that there are a lot of ways to fight that old swamp of sadness. It doesn’t have to keep claiming the Atreyu’s horse of your soul.  (Yes, I know that Neverending Story metaphors seriously date me to the 80’s and signify that I am indeed old… another reason I have to constantly fight depression.)

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I have some surefire methods for battling depression that apparently the science actually backs up.  It turns out that most of things that Mickey does actually stimulate the brain to produce more dopamine.

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.”  – Psychology Today

So, I guess I am secretly a dopamine addict.  It is a brain chemical you cannot focus or function effectively without.

  1. Being creative in some way fosters the production of dopamine in the old think-organ.  So writing this blog helps.  Doodling excessively helps.  Writing novels, painting pictures, drawing cartoons, and writing really remarkably bad poetry also help, and I do all of those things every week.
  2. Chicken Dancing helps.  Really.  Flapping your arms and wiggling your butt in such a stupidly silly way is aerobic exercise, and the very act of exercising increases not only dopamine but also serotonin and endorphin get a boost.  These are your “natural high” brain drugs.  Have you ever noticed chicken dancers are never really sad while dancing?  The ones crying excessively are either crying from happiness or extremely embarrassed teenagers forced to chicken dance by their goofy old dad.
  3. For more information about chicken dancing and its possible uses for evil, check out this link The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory.  Because laughing about stuff is also a cure for depression.  It tends to even bypass dopamine and take a left turn through serotonin straight into the pleasure centers of the brain.
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  5. Winning streaks also help immensely.  Of course, I can’t always count on the St. Louis Blues to give me winning streaks.  X-Box EA Sports MVP Baseball 2004 set on the rookie difficulty level for the last decade helps with that.  I have won over 300 consecutive games including two World Series sweeps that way.  And Albert Pujols has hit over 1,000 home runs in his Mickian baseball career.
  6. Check lists also help because they are the same thing as winning streaks.  The sense of accomplishment you get from checking off boxes on your To-Do List also boosts dopamine in the same way.  So what if I am listing routine things like walking the dog, picking up socks, and taking out the trash?  A check mark is still a check mark and a check mark by any other name still smells like marker.
  7. And, of course, there is listening to music.  I am seriously addicted to classical music because every emotion from beautiful and awe-inspiring to butt-ugly brutal can be found somewhere in the works of the great composers. And don’t forget, Paul Simon, Don Henly, and Paul McCartney are in that category too.

8. And please, don’t forget food.  Depressed eating can easily make you fat, but there are certain magical chemicals in certain foods that give you certain dopamine-building effects that can turn blue skies to bright sunshine.  The primary chemical is called Tyrosine, and it can be found in a variety of foods like;

– Almonds

– Avocados

– Bananas

– Beef

– Chicken

– Chocolate

– Coffee

– Eggs

– Green Tea

– Milk

– Watermelon

– Yogurt

9.  And finally, thinking skills are critical.  While thinking too much and obsessing can get you into the tiger trap pits of depression, meditation, decompressive mantras and positive thinking can all dig you out and keep you out.

You are probably wondering what kind of nitwit authority I can actually bring to this topic, but I have spent a lot of money on therapy, not all of it for me, and I not only listen to psychiatrists and psychologists, but I remember what they explained to me.  And I have tried enough things to know what works.

So while you are busy chicken dancing to Beethoven while eating a banana, rest assured, Mickey is probably doing something just as embarrassingly ridiculous at the very same time.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, Depression, family, healing, health, humor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Rescuing Rolling Stock

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Welcome to Toonerville’s Mountain Station atop lovely, snowy Church Mountain.  The Snowball Express is just pulling out.

I believe I may have mentioned in recent posts that part of the joy of cleaning the garage after a long illness left it in a nightmare shambles of boxes and old toys and stuff we really need to throw out, is that I found the boxes with the remnants of my old HO model train layout.  Now I am busy rescuing, repairing, and photographing the pieces of Toonerville that I have dug out of the trash piles.

In the picture from Mountain Station, you see the billboard boxcar and the old caboose I managed to pluck out of one of the boxes that heavy stuff had been tossed on top of.

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Smokey Joe, the engine number 99, is pulling the 1890’s Pullman passenger car and mail car that will soon pull into Mountain Station.

The two Pullman train cars that I rescued from the same box as the billboard boxcar are both built from kits back when I was in college and had my train set in the basement at home in Iowa.

You may have noticed the mysterious mansion up the mountainside from the Methodist Church that gives the mountain its name.  No one knows for sure what the two weird, big-nosed men currently living up there are up to, but lately there has been a lot of barking filling the air.  The lights are on in the mansion currently.  Maybe someone brave should go up there and investigate.

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Here’s a better look at the side of the Pullman Passenger car as it zooms past the church.

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The Super Chief is pulling its passenger observation car and its gondola car toward the station also.  Santa Fe’s finest passenger service also goes fast.

I bought the Super Chief engine at a train show in San Antonio in the middle 90’s.  The passenger cars I have had since I was in high school, circa 1974.

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The F-9 diesel freight hauler is pulling a lumber car and the old caboose.

The blue F-9 is the same kind of engine as the Super Chief.  It was originally part of the set my father bought for himself when he retired.  He intended to build a layout in the basement at the farmhouse when he moved back to Iowa.  He finally gave it up, though, and gave it to my sons and me as a gift.  I found it in the box in the garage.  It looks like it probably still runs.  The Union Carbide lumber car was on the back porch in the mess left behind when my father-in-law’s house burned down and he piled the salvaged stuff there.  It was in a box with old salvaged kitchen goods that managed not to burn.  It still needs serious cleaning.  My caboose is missing its back wheels and the trucks the wheels ride on is broken.

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Cruella DeVille’s roadster was spotted near the mysterious old mansion.  It is very possible something bad is going on up there.  

Of all the many things I have to get done before I schlepp off this mortal coil stage right, rescuing my HO rolling stock is probably not the most important, but it is definitely one of the most satisfying.

 

 

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Filed under autobiography, cleaning genii, healing, humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, Trains

Tricks With Lazy Goals in Mind

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As a writer, my goal is to create wisdom and new ideas and stuff that makes a reader feel happy, or sad, or angry, or even slightly insane.  But thinking is hard when your head hurts and your body aches and your sixtieth birthday is just around the corner.  (Yes, this Mickey is nearly 60, but can you believe that that Mickey is going to be 88 on the day after I turn 60?)  Sometimes you just want to say, “Never mind that I wanted to post every single day for the past two years.  Just curl up in a ball and go to sleep.”  But there are ways to get something done even if your mind is full of the Sandman’s leavings and old, rotted dreams.

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You can always get by with posting somebody else’s wisdom… somebody else’s thinking.  You don’t have to work too hard to paste things together.  After all, why else did you have to look at so many cut-and-paste essays over the years in middle school and high school?

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And you can rely on the work you have already done collecting computer files full of colorful crap and stuff you like enough to steal to complete your cut-and-paste scrapbook post.  You don’t have to feel like you erred and are about to have your head cut off by an angry Groo.

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And you know you can get a lot of cheap likes on Facebook with some of the stuff you have available to put in this post.  You have been working at the “Be funny!” thing for a long time, and have gotten almost good enough at it to be funny on the fly.  And when you’ve gotten more than halfway to the goal, you can rest a bit.  Take a nap.  Regenerate the crazy things in your head so you can do this all again another day.

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And if you can have a laugh before you are finished, even if no one else in the world gets the joke… well, at least you will feel a little bit better yourself.

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Filed under battling depression, blog posting, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, healing, humor, illness, self pity, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Toonerville Trickshots

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Today, in view of ill health and brain pain, I will share with you some of the more picture-intensive thinking going on in my sick old artsy-fartsy brain.  Less words equals less headache.

The subject today is Toonerville, the little town that once existed on my HO model train layout, and now lives on my bookshelves and even more-so in my imagination.  I have a file of photos I made of it intending to composite them into backgrounds and details in photo-shopped cartoons.

Notice how one building from different angles can look like many different places.

And details can be cropped out so that a building can be placed over a background in a composite image.

Thus a lighted model becomes Bill Freen’s house in Toonerville.

And I have many of these buildings to experiment with.

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Sometimes this blithering nonsense can actually be quite fun and productive.

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Honestly, I built these things from kits or painted and repainted them decades ago… but they are a part of a place that I still live in.

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Filed under art editing, artwork, collage, feeling sorry for myself, happiness, healing, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Disney World Without Me

 

Yes, wife and daughter are re-visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando while I continue to rot in the heat at home in Texas.  But it is a completely okay thing.  As you can see, they are with recently widowed mother-in-law, wife’s sisters, and various nieces.  It is an all-girl trip.  It is all about family and healing.

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You can also probably tell that they buy into the Filipino-American picture-taking thing where you must document your own face and the faces of your family at every stop or pause or line waiting for the Golden Horseshoe Musical Review in Adventureland.  Oh, and we can’t forget the taking pictures of food before you eat it.

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And you can probably also Sherlock Holmes the identity of the niece in charge of photos and posting them on Instagram.  You will not, however, get their proper names from me.  I try to protect identities in all my public posts.  So when I tell you that this last one is a picture of Pompolina Ipsokookie eating a Mickey Mouse pretzel, you can rest assured that only one of the names in that sentence is not made up.  (Oopsie!  I used Mickey’s real name by accident.  Never mind.)

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I do not regret them having worlds of fun without me.  I am not in good enough health to travel.  I also have to stay at home with the son who is learning to drive and has a job to get to.  And I do get to see the incessant pictures and have a bit of second-hand fun.  It also helps that I am not paying for the trip.  I am being sued by Banko Merricka and don’t have any money.  And they might use a Disney Trip in court to say I have plenty of money and I am just being Scroogie with it.  (And I don’t necessarily mean to insult Scrooge McDuck, so, Disney, you do NOT have to sue me too.)

Anyway, Disney World trips by family members give me something to think about and post about to get my mind off my troubles.  Such things help to take away a bit of the pain of this wonderful life.

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Filed under autobiography, Disney, family, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor

Truthfully…

Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard.  But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.

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  • The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth.  And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
  • Yesterday I battled pirates.  (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.)  They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
  • I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially.  I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
  • I am a pessimist.  And it helps me through life.  I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
  • My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans.  We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
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  • I like to draw nudes.  I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation.  But no bad things happened.  It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist.  Chaperones were a part of every session.
  • In high school I identified as a Republican like my father.  In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter.  I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
  • My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able.  We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
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  • I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now.  I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic.  But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go.  I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD.  I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment.  I believe in savoring it while I have it.
  • I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old.  I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead.  It is liberating to be able to say that.  But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
  • Telling that last truth made me cry.  Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
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  • I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney.  And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked.  There was no internet back then.  That quest helped me learn to draw the human form.  I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways.  And I don’t draw her naked any more.
  • Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true.  Truth is a perception, even an opinion.  And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them.  The human mind works in mysterious ways.  I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
  • (P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence.  They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane.  Their little brains are not complicated enough for that.  But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.

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Filed under commentary, Disney, drawing, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, healing, humor, mental health, nudes, Paffooney, pen and ink paffoonies, pessimism, strange and wonderful ideas about life