Letters

Can you remember when people wrote letters and notes to each other? Last night I dreamed that I had finished a wood working project that was a special letter writing desk. My intent would place it in my sleeping room in a secretive corner. Why in a secretive place? So I could express myself without distractions from Lovely, phones, and messy desk stuff. This of course is all fantasy, because it would only be a couple of days before my pristine letter writing desk will also become littered with messy desk stuff, Lovely would find my hideout, and the smartphone would locate me.

One of my to do projects is to burn a stack of letters that I wrote to my first wife while we were courting. Amazingly, she saved them all, and I like a doofus have saved them as though they were something sacred and holy. The problem I have with disposing them is that they are sacred and holy and represent a life that I wish still existed. The words on those pages were from my heart written in ink with a fountain pen (before the infamous BIC changed the writing world). They expressed emotions and feelings that I couldn’t verbalize for too many reasons which have stunted my public speaking ability for years.

I noted with great pleasure that early English noblemen and women used letter writing to communicate to friends. This became obvious to me during my viewing of Downton Abbey a serialized story about a English nobleman and his family who reside in a massive fifty room house on a property exceeding most National Parks. It was common for the family members to write notes and letters which they sent to friends by way of a servant, thus getting feedback on their return. This was the eighteenth century version of texting and email. Alas, I said e-mail, a technology of the past which has been out dated by texting. I read somewhere that three percent of e-mails are read. However, eighty percent of texts are read within three minutes of their arrival. When I served as president of the Frankfort Lions Club I had lousy response to emails. When I heard of the response time for a text, I signed up for a texting service and started a new trend within the club. I digress.

In this dream I sit at my letter writing desk daily for a set time, and write letters to my grand children imparting my wisdom, and regaling them with tales about their parents growing up. The instrument in my hand is a Mont Blanc fountain pen, although in the interest of time I will defer to a ball point which I find writes much smoother. The troublesome problem I have with the fountain pen is that it dries up, and I am forced to disassemble it to clear it’s plumbing before it is usable. Even so, the modern pen is much more efficient than the eighteenth century quill. It just occurred to me that the quill didn’t require blowing out, all it took to get started writing was to dip the point into the ink.

A huge problem that I have discovered is that modern children are not always able to read script. The age of printers and word processors have moved the teaching world away from penmanship and into the world of type. My grandson, a graduate engineer often drops me a note which I have trouble deciphering. It seems he is printing so fast that the letters often become illegible. In my day we had trouble reading one another’s hand writing and today we have trouble reading one’s printing. So we solve the problem by using the very legible keyboard with digital output usually in the form of a digital format like text messaging, e-mail, and very rarely the postal service.

What I see happening here is that my fountain pen is being relegated to a place in a museum having been replaced by the highly impersonal digital means of communication. Nevertheless, I still feel that a hand written note is special. It imparts the feeling that the sender is giving of himself by spending the time to manually write. He is sending you a sample of his personality and skill, but most importantly he is expressing himself to you.

Amaze your loved ones, write them notes in your best script.

Influencers & Monetization

Too many times I wonder how it is that people can make money using social media. Maybe because it is my age that puts me at a disadvantage, but I really am interested in how it works. Whenever I find something like a book, or a video that will explain the simple dynamics of using Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc I devour it.

I just finished reading a book titled “City of Like” by author Jenny Mollen. Jenny has crafted a fictional story which involves the life of of a simple New York mom who wants to raise her kids and have a job too. I won’t get into the plot any further because I would be a spoiler. In this story the characters are very different people who live for building their audience on social media. All that matters to them is getting “liked, friended, subscribed to, or followed.” The numbers become the game. The more followers one has the better the chances are the content producer will be monetized. Monetized, now thats an interesting word which has risen from obscurity in the business world to one of everyday usage by the masses of social media users. It means that that the content being presented by someone of Facebook derives revenue from the content. Companies like Youtube (Google) have learned that profit can be had by using the content of the masses. It doesn’t matter what the content is but rather depends on how many viewers see the work. It is not much different than selling newspapers.

The social media companies get all of the content free from their users. It costs very little to store the content digitally, and their computers can track viewership easily. Then it becomes a matter of deciding how to make money, and how to reward content producers for their creative efforts.

I had not heard the term “influencer” used before reading this book. An influencer is one who builds an audience of tens of thousands of viewers and pitches products and services to this audience. The influencer is rewarded with free samples of the products they pitch. Some of them are in such demand that they hire agents to agents to negotiate for them. That is when the big money begins to flow.

Recently, I watched a Youtube video of a young man in his twenties explain the mathematics of building audience for the purpose of achieving monetization. He went through the process from the ground up and explained how a blogger, vlogger, etc. will have to produce several posts daily in order to succeed. I get people clicking to follow my blog and when someone does I get an email notification. I then visit the persons blog to see what he/she is about. Most times the follower is someone who sells a product on his blog. One reason I check them out is to decide if they are genuine or in business. If they are real bloggers and are just interested in writing stories I will befriend them and continue a dialog. Some of my best friends are people I have never met in person, but with whom I communicate almost daily.

Nevertheless, with inflation eating away at my fixed income I am becoming more interested in a developing a new income stream to help me along. I have resolved that I can do it, but will wind up giving up the freedom of retirement by making my blog into a job. The formula for success requires producing several content posts daily, reading, commenting, and following hundreds of other bloggers daily. It makes sense to me now as to why so many bloggers have people on their payroll who submit content daily.

At this point in life, I feel that my sciatic nerve will allow me only a couple of hours a day to sit at a computer before my toes begin to tingle, my right hip is on fire, and the nerve between the head and shoulder is screaming for help.

257 Years of Wisdom

Last Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of driving through some heavy rain for one hundred miles from Frankfort, Illinois to Covert Michigan. The low hanging dark grey clouds and the pouring rain combined with some heavy traffic slowed down the trip. Lovely and I were attending my family reunion. It doesn’t happen every year, but my older brother decided he may not be here next year to organize another, so he invited everyone to his place in Michigan for a good old fashioned Hungarian bacon fry. He is guaranteed a crowd if only his five kids come with their kids, and grandkids. It gets bigger if our sister and her three boys come with their clans, and even bigger if I come with my three kids and their families. We didn’t have perfect attendance, but there was enough of a mix from all three families to make it a great visit. The rain stopped about ten miles from our destination, but the grey sky lingered.

The bacon fry is a family tradition founded by my parents when we were still little. Although it is not recommended by the American Heart Association, we do. It begins with a square of bacon preferably taken from a hog’s jowl. The bacon is skewered onto a long stick and held over a very hot wood fire. Naturally, the grease begins to drip from the bacon into the flames. Sitting on the ground next to the fryer-person is a plate of freshly sliced old world rye bread covered with diced onions and tomatoes. When the bacon is running, the fryer swings the rod off the fire and holds it over the bread to capture the drippings. The fryer, this year was not my brother, but his Irish son-in-law Kevin. Brother Bill told him that since he’s been in the family for twenty-five years he was now qualified to spin the bacon.

When the plate full of bread is soaked in hot bacon grease, a fresh one is placed before the fryer while one of the girls walks the finished plate around offering scrumptious greasy bread to the guests. It takes a while to make enough of the recipe to satisfy everyone’s palate. For those who consider the greasy bread just an appetizer there is also grilled, bratwurst, hot dogs, and a cooker full of Szekely Goulash (Shepard’s Stew slow cooked with cubed pork in sauerkraut, garlic, Bell peppers, and onions), along with number of salads. For me the afternoon turned into a non-stop eating fest.

We spent the time dodging occasional droplets of rain and catching up on the families. Most of my brother’s family came the day before and set up tents to sleep in. The children played lawn games while the adults mostly gabbed away.

The drive home was a pleasure since the rain had stopped, and since the following day was Labor Day, the Sunday night traffic was extremely light. By the time we pulled into our drive there was no evidence of rain at all, and the sun was beginning to burst through the clouds in rays of light just in time for sunset.

Time Flies

It seems like just a few minutes ago I woke up. Yet here it is almost noon, and I am just getting to my desk to write something. Time is important to me, and at this age I relish every moment the Lord grants me. It is my opinion that when time “flies” everything is going well, and my happiness index is high. It is when time slows to a “crawl’ that I believe something is seriously wrong.

An example of what I mean when I say time is at a “crawl” is when I am in severe pain as when I had a kidney stone traversing my plumbing last year. It seemed like eternity to get to where it was headed, and I thank God it was a small stone which kept moving. Had it stopped along the way time would have stopped for me, and my happiness index would have dropped to zero. As it was my happiness was almost non-existent. I guess that is what Einstein meant when he postulated his theory that time is relative.

The planet earth is a mere 4.6 billion years old, and the universe is calculated to be 13.7 billion years. When we look at an average life span of man on earth of 78 years we are but a tiny drop in the bucket.

Take an average human who is 78 years old and divide by 4,600,000,000 years then multiply by 100 equals 0.00001695 percent of the total time we exist. I don’t think we can measure things that small using normal devices. Given such a short life span we have to really put our lives into high gear to amount to anything. I guess that might be why it bothers me when I lose a morning to mundane activities instead of amazing, exciting, meaningful actions. What is more surprising is that even with all of the time I waste, that I can count my accomplishments with pride. What scares me is that the time I have ahead of me is far shorter than that which I have lived. It tells me to get off my ass and accomplish something before the last grain of sand passes through the orifice of life’s hour glass. It tells me to take those baby steps, and to take them very fast.

Good Grief?

After experiencing grief for nineteen years it is my conclusion that there is nothing good about it. My lovely, beautiful, caring, adoring wife Barbara died on this day nineteen years ago. I write this at three hours past the time she expired in 2003. Over the last few years this day has not crossed my mind as sharply as it has this year. All I know is that suddenly, like the piercing pain that shot down my back last week I am laden with depression. This phenomenon is not new to me. For years after she died I would fall into depression at the beginning of July and be miserable for the next two months. The first day of July, 2003 is when she went into the hospital with peritonitis, and never returned. The memory of her last days has faded over the years except, this year it is as sharp and clear as it has ever been.

My writing frequency has diminished over the last two months, and I am now beginning to believe that it is because of my depression. Usually, once I realize why I’m not able to think of anything to write about I attribute it to depression. One way I can dig myself out of the hole is to express my feelings to the ether of the internet. Once they are out of my mind my soul is once again free to soar.

A friend who writes the Just Cruising blog is currently going through a similar change. The writer is taking time off to rethink why he has a blog in the first place. I too have to remember why I began this journey. I know for fact that my original goal was to promote the benefits of positive thinking. I have strayed from that path and instead immersed myself in the idiocy of trying to persuade people to my conservative ideas. That was fun for a while but after achieving failure, I switched to just plain story telling; find a subject and tell the story about how that topic came into my life. I must have run out of topics because that no longer amuses me. So now, I find myself writing about myself and my depression triggered by grief.

In the days after Barb died, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being maximum unbearable pain, my grief was at a hundred. Slowly, ever so slowly over the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years it softened to where I would place it at about a four. Then 2022 hit me right square between the eyes and I am back to ten. I thank God it is no longer at one hundred.

One way I coped with grief was to remarry. I found a beautiful lady who was also a widow. She totally understood my emotions as she experienced them also. We were happy for fifteen years together. Our shared grief was mild, but still present. Unfortunately, after ten years she contracted a disease that caused her to forget who I was. We were faithful lovers and friends to the end.

Grief didn’t hit me as hard the second time, but it was certainly there. I think the first round hardened my soul to resist the emotion. Now that I think about it, my current depression began around late June, which is when she died three years ago. Add that to the first grief beginning in July and I wonder why I am having trouble? I am experiencing a super nova of grief. Maybe it is because of the way the planets are aligned and the moon is circling.

At this point of my tome of over 600 words I realize that I am embarking on the very first session of blogging therapy which no doubt will begin digging me out of the trench in which I landed. That my friends is why I probably have been doing this for so many years, it is a form of therapy for me.