I am an avid user of social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all social media platforms that I utilize for various reasons. For instance, I use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends around the world. It is also a way to help me promote my blog, which is why I use Twitter and Instagram. A little self promotion never hurts, or so I thought until today.
Instagram is a form of social media of which I am becoming increasingly wary. It is very difficult to distinguish between people who are genuine and those who are simply out to scam others. To illustrate my point let me relate an incident that happened this morning on Instagram. I often have people that request to follow me. After looking at their profile I usually accept their request. However, I think I will be more selective from this point forward.
This morning I accepted a “follow” request from a “young lady” whose profile looked “normal” to me. Just as soon as I accepted “her” request, “she” started sending me direct messages through the site. This is despite the fact that I have a statement on my profile which says, “I do not accept DM’s,” as these are usually from people wanting to sell me something. The messages I received this morning were about applying for government grants. I work for the federal government, so I knew what this “young lady” was trying to sell me on was a scam.
I asked “her” to stop texting me as “I do not accept direct messages on Instagram.” This person persisted so I let them know I’d be blocking them. This is when I was threatened. The individual that was messaging me stated, “If you block me, there is a doctor here that will bring harm to you!” I then said “that is fine” and proceeded to block this person. I’m not sure how I should feel about all of this. At first I was a little amused.
However, throughout the day I began to evaluate my use of social media. I do have a “love/hate” relationship with all of it. Seeing the bickering that goes on between people on Facebook just frustrates me. Getting messages from scammers on Instagram just annoys me.
I think it is time to cut back on my usage of both. No longer will I let these sites cast their spell upon me. Once baseball season gets underway again I’ll be back to posting my commentary on various happenings with my beloved Chicago Cubs. Until then, I think I’ll just maintain a low profile. That way the “witch doctor” will have a harder time finding me.
If you are anything like me you might be asking yourself, “where have the last three months of my life gone?” Did we enter a time warp? It seems like just yesterday it was March, and today it is June. I think one thing that has seemed to speed up time is that we have lost a lot of the things that generally mark the months of the year for us. For instance, the whole world seemed to come to a halt on March 13, 2020, which was my birthday. Likewise, the professional baseball season has yet to get underway.
This is the time of year where teams either begin to go on a hot streak, or they begin to cool down after a lightning fast start in April and May. I miss turning on the radio and hearing the sounds of a Cubs game coming through the speakers. Baseball is a way to make sense of the world for me. Without it, every day just seems like a repeat of the previous one. I think it is that way with many things in life. We have our rituals and routines that help us structure our lives.
I must admit, it has been difficult to find new ways to bring a sense of order to life. I rarely have been behind the wheel of a car since I started to work from home in late March. In fact, I have not purchased a tank of gas for my car since February. The low fuel light is bound to come on one of these days, but who knows when. It has become sort of a game to me now. Likewise, I’ve not really worn a real pair of pants for at least two months. That might not be so much of a fun game when I do have to put on a pair of dress pants again.
I did visit my office this past Wednesday, but I felt very disconnected to the place while I was there. At this point, I think I’d rather just keep working from home. Why drive to work when you can be just as productive at home, if not more so? Plus, it cuts my commute time down from 9 minutes to around 2 minutes.
Not having attended church since March feels odd as well. Amanda and I do stream our weekly service through Facebook, but it just isn’t the same as meeting together in person. However, it is nice to stay in my pajamas and watch from the couch. Nonetheless, I do feel that I need the structure of actually physically going to church. Again, let’s just hope the pants fit once it is time to head back in person!
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you probably have noticed that I am a Beatles fan. I’ve enjoyed their music for quite some time. My favorite Beatle was John Lennon. I have always appreciated his wit, and I can relate to his cynicism. These two things combined made his songwriting something that speak me on a very personal level.
I often have a very cynical view of the world. I believe that things will turn out all right in the end. However, sometimes I just need to convince myself of that fact. In order to deal with a world that can seem like a rather dark place at times, I try to use wit and humor to lighten the mood. Sometimes all that you can do when life throws your a curveball is laugh. I feel as if I have had my fair share of curveballs.
One thing that I have had trouble dealing with recently is a sense of isolation. This is something that most, if not all, can relate to as we look forward to the world once again hanging out its “Welcome-Come On In!” sign. I just want to go to a public place without wearing a mask. However, I must say the Chicago Cubs mask that Amanda made for me is pretty cool, but I digress.
With warmer temperatures and sunshine here now, it is even more difficult to “social distance.” I want to be in the bleachers at Wrigley Field with a hot dog in one hand, and a cold drink in another. I want to hear the sound of the pipe organ between innings. Most of all, I just want to be able to travel again to the places that I love.
This week I have been perusing my “Facebook Memories” quite a bit. I’ve been able to look back on trips I have taken together with family and friends. Nearly a year ago Amanda and I were in Washington D.C. enjoying Memorial Day weekend. Eight years ago we were in New York City visiting the Statue of Liberty. Finally, my brother Shannon and I were in Alaska twenty years ago this month. May apparently has been a great month to travel. I long to have more adventures and to make more memories.
Until then I will remain a “Nowhere Man.” The opening lines to this John Lennon penned Beatles tune sum things up for me perfectly for now:
He’s a real nowhere man Sitting in his nowhere land Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
One trivial, but nevertheless disappointing thing about the “social distancing” that has become a part of everyday life across the world, is that the start of the baseball season has been delayed. To me baseball is something that takes me back to simpler times. Days when I was a boy and summers were spent outdoors nearly from sunrise to sunset.
It also brings back memories of my dad. He would often stop by the store on his way home from work and buy me a few packs of baseball cards. The best part was opening those packs to see what kinds of treasures they contained. Plus, there was always that rock hard stick of gum that tasted like cardboard! I still have all of those cards packed away safely in a big, plastic tub in our basement. There are a few cards that are worth something, I am sure, but I’ll probably never sell my collection. It holds precious memories. I’ll hopefully be able to pass it down to someone else some day.
It always brightens my day to hear baseball return to the radio after a long, cold winter. It is a reminder that spring will soon be here. Days will start to get longer, and the temperatures will begin to rise. This year there has been no baseball. There hasn’t been that reassurance that spring is on its way. However, I know that it is.
In a few short months, baseball will be back in full swing. The Chicago Cubs will be back on the radio, and I will tune in to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer describe the play-by-play from Wrigley Field. This season will be more special as I will be able to introduce Baby Boy to the magical game. In fact, just today, Amanda, who is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, graciously presented Baby Boy with his first Cubs hat.
Perhaps by midseason it will fit him. Likewise, we might just have to bring those baseball cards up out of the basement and I can tell him about the greats of the game when I was a boy, such as Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Ken Griffey Jr., Ricky Henderson, and Greg Maddux.
Baseball is a sport that still captures my imagination, especially when I hear it on the radio. There is nothing better when your team is down by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and your favorite hitter comes to the plate. There is one man on first, the count is full, and you hear the crack of the bat and the announcers erupt when the ball lands in the center field bleachers. This drama is what makes the game so magical. With one swing of the bat, the game can change in an instant.
Stay safe as we all wait patiently for this global pandemic to pass. Spring is on its way. Baseball will be back and all will be right with the world once again. Let’s go Cubs!
Baby Boy is a month old today. He is growing and becoming more aware of his surroundings every day. He is still ours and it is fun to see him grow out of clothes that fit him just a few weeks ago. Clothes he was once “swimming in” fit him just perfectly now. He is such a long, little boy. He uses those long legs to his advantage during a diaper change.
It is still difficult to imagine that one day he may be taken from us. This realization becomes harder to accept with each passing day. Amanda and I are his parents. We feed him, we clothe him, and we love him like he is our own.
Baby Boy and I have some good weekend “chats” as he lays on my chest in the morning. Of course, I am the one doing all of the talking. He just coos, grunts, and puckers his lips as he listens. I hope we can continue these “chats” for quite some time, as they help me relieve stresses of the week. Baby Boy is a good listener.
In those quiet moments of the morning he and I sometimes listen to music. He will be a Beatles fan some day, he just doesn’t know it yet. I think I’ll wait to introduce him to other favorites of mine later. Listening to Jimi Hendrix in the morning may not be as calming as the acoustic renderings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Hopefully, Baby Boy is still here once baseball begins. There would be nothing better than introducing him to a game that I love. While I am not holding out much hope for the Cubs this coming season, it is always a joy to see Wrigley Field on the television. It would be a thrill to be able to take him to his first game there. The sights, sounds, and smells would have us both enthralled.
Amanda and I still have no idea how long Baby Boy will be with us. It could be a few days, a month, a year, or even longer. In the month that he has been, he has already left his fingerprints on our hearts. Our hope is that he is ours for a long time to come, but we know that may not be the case. In the meantime, he is ours to love, to teach, and to guide. God give us the strength to do all of those things.
For today’s post I am hoping to get a little interactive with those of you who read my blog. When I was younger I was a fan of the the television show Late Night with David Letterman. You never knew just exactly what you were going to see, especially when Bill Murray was a guest, or when David would go out and interview random people on the streets of New York City.
One of the nightly segments that he would do was called the “Top Ten” list. These lists would usually be centered on some absurd topic such as “The Top 10 Ways the Country Would be Different if Britney Spears Were President,” or “The Top Ten Things Mick Jagger Learned After 50 Years of Rock and Roll.” These lists, as you can imagine, would be filled with all kinds of bizarre things.
Today I thought I’d create my own “Top Ten” list, but instead of making it something inane like those that appeared on the Letterman show, I thought I’d get a little more serious. So, here is the “Top Ten Things I’d Like to do Before I Die.” I guess you could call this my bucket list:
10 – Travel to all of the world’s 7 continents
9 – See the Grand Canyon
8 – Be the host of my own podcast
7 – See the Northern Lights
6 – Be able to sit right behind home plate at Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game
5 – See David Gilmour in concert and then go backstage to meet him
4 – Visit some of the places my ancestors came from in Italy, England, and Germany
3 – See Mt. Everest
2 – Become a published author
1 – Become a father
Leave me a comment and let me know what your own list would look like.
In celebration of the of the Major League Baseball season getting underway this week the following is a story that I shared on Facebook a few years ago after one of the best days of my life:
So, let me tell you my story. It all began at 2:30 a.m. on Friday, November 4, 2016. I was awake this early in anticipation of the day before me. My brother Cory, my niece Clair, and I would be setting off at 4:30 a.m. to be a part of the Cubs World Series victory parade and rally in Grant Park. We decided to leave this early so that we could catch one of the earliest trains into the city, as we knew that there would be millions of people attending the rally.
We arrived in Elburn, Illinois at a little after 6 a.m. and promptly caught the train that would take us into downtown Chicago. On the way we sat in nervous anticipation of the sights and sounds we would encounter as we made our way to the rally. We arrived in Chicago a little after 7 and we hopped off the train. Almost as soon as we left the train, there was singing and people waving banners. It was going to be a party!
On excursions such as these I usually take a wheelchair, as it makes getting around so much easier for me. So, I in my wheelchair, and my brother and niece on foot, set out for Grant Park, which is nearly a mile from the train station.
On our way, we saw thousands of others headed in the same direction. The streets were a flurry of activity, as vendors were selling t-shirts, beads, and flags. Street musicians were there providing a soundtrack to the city that was oozing with World Series euphoria. Was this really happening, or had the last two weeks just all been a dream? The Chicago Cubs, my team, our team, had finally done it. They had become champions, and we were going to celebrate!
We slowly made our way towards Lake Michigan. We then walked past the lions that guard the entrance to Chicago’s Art Institute. They were standing there proudly with their Cubs helmets on greeting the masses as they strolled passed. As we got closer to Grant Park, the crowds really began to thicken, for we all had to pass through a security checkpoint before gaining access to the park. We inched along with the thousands of others that had gathered until we finally reached the entrance to the park.
Hundreds of thousands of people were lined up along the parade route, while hundreds of thousands more began to find their places for the rally inside the park. Cory, Clair, and I made our way down a rather steep, and muddy hill into the park. This was kind of fun in a wheelchair. I don’t know how Cory was able to keep ahold of me and the chair. We eventually made it down the hill, with the help of a fellow Cubs fan. Some people are still very kind, a lesson that I was to be reminded of yet again a short time later.
We staked out our spot, which was nowhere near the stage, but close enough to a video board, that we’d be able to catch all of the events of the rally there. Cory and Clair then went to get some food from one of the many food trucks lining the streets outside the park. The smells in the air were amazing! As I was sitting waiting for their return I made some small talk with a police officer, who was standing inside the security fence that lined the interior of the park. We chatted for a bit and then I was approached by a very kind looking gentlemen, who was very busy, yet took time to speak to me.
This gentleman asked how long I had been a Cubs fan and how long I had been at the rally. He then asked me who was at the rally with me. I explained that I was with my brother and my niece. He asked where they were at, and I replied that they were getting some food. He asked if they would be returning soon, and I said yes. That is when I knew that this man had something in store for us. Something that would be like Christmas, my birthday, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.
I quickly sent Cory a text letting him know that he had better return quickly, as our day was going to be getting better than we had ever expected. Cory and Clair returned in a matter of minutes, upon which the kind gentleman opened a gate and led us down a long aisle that led directly to the front of the park. On the way he checked to make sure that I was not embarrassed by being wheeled along in front of thousands of others who were not being afforded the same treatment. He did all of this for me purely out of the kindness of his heart. Cory, Clair, and I were now approximately 30 feet from the stage. The stage that our Cubbies would be speaking from in just a matter of hours! We thanked the man for allowing us access to this part of the park, and he went about his tasks making sure that everything was ready for the rally to begin.
I assume by observing him that this man was the director of the event, as he went about making sure that others were doing their assigned tasks. I wish I knew how to thank him, as he gave us all an experience that we will never forget. In the few hours that we spent at the rally I had to keep asking myself why would someone do this for us? We did not deserve this this type of treatment. We were just there to watch the rally and soak it all in as best we could. The simple answer, there are still humble and kind people in the world. I fall short of this every day. This man taught me a lesson by giving me an incredible gift. It may not seem like much to others but I spent the day just appreciating being with family, enjoying the beautiful, blue sky, and getting to experience something that is truly once in a lifetime. I was a part of history today, a beautiful, blue humbling history. GO CUBS!
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” – Thomas Merton
The “Summer of Ryan” began innocently enough. It was 2004 and I was employed as a teacher’s aide at a small, private school near my home in Illinois. Working at a school meant that I had summers off to do whatever I wanted. When school let out in May, I decided I was going to spend the summer focusing on things that made me happy. I declared that it was going to be the “Summer of Ryan,” which is an idea that I borrowed from Seinfeld. If you have never seen this television show there is a character by the name of George Constanza, who is quite self-centered. In one particular episode of the show, George declares that he is going to have a “Summer of George.” So, being rather self-centered myself, I thought I’d take a page from George’s book and indulge myself in the pleasures of a carefree summer. To this end, I bought tickets to several Cubs games and enjoyed traveling back and forth to Chicago.
I must have gone to at least a dozen games that summer. It was a thrill to be at Wrigley Field, taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells of this historic ballpark. I had the pleasure of watching some of the greats of the game, such as Greg Maddux, play that summer. I also enjoyed listening to the vendors hawk their wares throughout the stands. It was a chorus of “HOT DOGS, HOT DOGS, I HAVE HOT DOGS HERE,” along with “COLD BEER, COLD BEER, WHO WANTS A COLD BEER?!” Of course, there was the ever-present organ music between innings as well. Finally, there were all kinds of great smells in the air, from cotton candy to warm, soft pretzels. It was truly a feast for the senses.
If only I had known that my “Summer of Ryan” would turn into my winter of discontent. If only I would have remembered the proverb that “pride goeth before a fall.” For you see, my arrogance in thinking that it was all about me led to a disastrous fall. One that would take years from which to recover.
See “The Winter of My Discontent – Part 1” for the next part of the story.