On Friday, after work, I went camping. I left for Baraboo directly from my Rockford job shaving a few hours off the total trip.
My day started early. I got up before 4 AM and headed off to the gym. There I met Tom, my co-camper. Tom and I are both helpers by nature, and that morning he reminded me, “Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes.” I replied, “Already packed.”
I drove to Rockford, worked, and then I was off to Beloit to connect with Tom and Charlie. Less than two hours later, and we arrived at our campsite.
We had talked about the possibility of rain. We had decided that if it was raining we would pack up and leave. It was raining and it looked like it was going to continue to rain. Beyond rain, it was cold. What did we do? We decided to stay.
Shortly after arriving I heard an untypable utterance from Tom followed by, “I forgot my hiking shoes. I saw them in the laundry room and I made a mental note to bring them. Then, I forgot them!” Ironic, as he had just reminded me to bring mine that morning.
It turned out that hiking shoe issues abounded. Charlie had his, but they were soaking wet. I had mine, but they were dripping too. My feet were wet and cold, and that was just from walking about the campsite. How in the world would we be able to hike for hours up and down muddy and slippery bluffs? Wet plus cold feet equals one miserable hike.
To hike anywhere Tom had to buy some shoes, and luckily he knew of a great shoe store a few towns over. We piled into his car and off we went. Tom got new shoes, and Charlie and I did too. All waterproof.
We headed off on our muddy and slippery hike. We were cold, we were wet.. but we had happy, dry feet. It was a wonderful hike.
It is always a good idea to plan and prepare, but sometimes a mistake can have its benefits too. In this case the mistake of one made three hiker’s feet dry and happy.
My goal today is to understand that sometimes I can’t control everything. My goal today is to understand that on occasion my lack of control can lead to a better outcome.
I’m finishing up my workweek and getting pumped about a camping adventure. This will be a very different one for me as most/all of my camping as an adult has been family centered.
This weekend I’ll be with friend Tom and his son Charlie. The weather is cool and it looks like it will rain tonight, but those are small deterrents, as far as I’m concerned.
My eventual life goal is to travel a bit as I write and document with my camera.
I have been slowly moving towards that goal. First I reconfigured my professional life to a less stressful one. Then I gave up foods that were making me sick. Then I lost some weight, and then I started down the down the road of being more physically fit. (The above with considerable help).
On the writing front I’m trying to be more honest with my feelings, as I write in ever more public forums.
Now this piece. I need to be able to leave my family for a little bit and understand that they will do just fine. I’m not used to taking care of myself, it is so much easier for me to take care of others (as I have done all of my life).
There are other pieces still to come. I need to become more functional as an extrovert, a pretty tall order for a shy introvert like me.
I don’t have illusions that all of this will lead to the NYT’s best seller list. With that said, I feel compelled to continue this mission. That compulsion drives me forward.
20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-4/20-Standing By
I have had relationship that I thought were significant in my life, but when I was going through difficult times they suddenly were too busy for me. These were not good relationships.
It is easy to spend time with someone during fun and exciting experiences. It is more difficult to spend time with someone who is going through a rough or difficult time. The ability to put someone else first is not a sign of codependency. Rather, it is a sign of empathy and maturity.
I fear that we live in a “what about me” world. A place where everyone is making sure that they get what they need. However, there is great reward in being there for someone who is going through a rough patch. I known that my role is to stand with them, not to fix their problem. Any burden is lightened when it is carried by more than one person.
In a good relationship there are many times where both parties are free from the need of support. In a good relationship giving support is a two way street.
My goal today is to be grateful of the great gift of being able to support those people that I care about. My goal today is to be grateful of the great gift of allowing someone to support me when needed.
20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship- 3/20 Missing!
In a healthy significant relationship you miss the other party when they are not around.
When I care about someone, I enjoy spending time with them. When I am apart from them, I miss them.
In life I can’t always be around the people that I care about. They have things that they need to do, and I have things that I need to do. In fact, I may enjoy a break from a connection from time to time. This is normal.
I know that I’m very connected to someone when I think about them when I’m not around them. If I never have those feelings in a relationship, it is likely that the connection is casual and less significant. These types of relationships are fine, but they require less examination, as they have less bearing on me or my life.
I understand that some people have an intense fear of abandonment, where even a mild threat of losing a relationship creates tremendous angst. That angst can be expressed as extremely needy, demanding or threatening behavior. This type of “missing” is not healthy, and it is not a sign of a healthy relationship.
Likewise, I know that a close or committed relationship is in trouble when one or both parties don’t miss the other person when they are apart. A lack of desire for a connection, or a lack of effort to connect, can indicate serious problems in a significant relationship.
Today my goal is to examine the significant relationships in my life, and to utilize this basic feeling to gain a better understanding of my connection with them.
20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-2/20 Stay Present!
Dr. Mike’s 20 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship-2/20 Be Present!
A good relationship thrives in the here and now.
I can learn from my past mistakes, and I should plan for the future, but I should spend most of my relationship life in the here and now.
If I find myself constantly going back to past hurts, or if I am constantly reminding my relationships about the past sacrifices that I have made, something is wrong, and the correction to that problem needs to start with me. If I am unable to do so, perhaps it is time to move on. The latter suggesting that I’m too inflexible, or that the relationship is too dysfunctional.
Naturally, a knowledge of the past can prevent me from making the same mistake again. Naturally, if I feel hurt, upset, or undervalued by a past event it is OK to voice those feelings. However, if I am frequently living in a past space, all I am doing is grinding salt into an old wound. That salt not only corrodes me, but it also corrodes my relationship.
It is much more important to focus on now. What can I do today to strengthen my relationship? Sometimes that focus needs to be the rediscovery of enjoyable parts of the relationship. Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by exploring new, healthy territories. Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by adopting new behaviors. Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by viewing the positives of my connection, rather than constantly rehashing the negatives. The goal is not to achieve a perfect relationship, but to create a flexible, adaptable and enjoyable one.
A relationship involves two individuals. To strengthen a relationship my alter needs to be doing the same. In a relationship I am not a one man show.
Today my goal is to learn from the past, but live in the present in the relationships of my life.
Dr. Mike’s 20 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship-1/20 Be Silly!
Most humans are obsessed with relationships, and we have many different kinds. I have been thinking about this topic and one early morning I jotted down 20 characteristics that I feel promote a healthy relationship.
I think these points apply to all types of adult personal relationship. Spouses, friends, relatives, and so on. I’m not talking about parent/child relationships or work relationships, although some of these points would apply there too.
I thought I would spend a little time over each point, and I reserve the right to add or subtract points as I fancy. Interested? Let’s get started!
A good relationship should be fun! A good relationship should be silly!
Think about some of the best connections that you have had in your life. Were they always serious? For me, I would say no. I love relationships that allow me to be a little goofy at times.
My goofiness may be different from yours. For me, it may be about finding humor in something that is a bit odd or different. For me, there are times when I want to act like a kid and do silly things. For me, I may want to joke with the other person. In fact, I tend to show affection by kidding.
Life is not supposed to be all doom and gloom. Our personal connections with others should not always be formal and business like. When you explore the light side of any relationship, you also explore your light side. When you explore the lightside of a relationship, you also discover a secret tool that can be used during tense times.
It is easy to get too serious, too self-absorbed, too “What about me?,” in relationships. A little humor can break a deadly moment, and return balance to your connection.
Today my goal is to find the fun in the connections around me. Today my goal is to realize that humor is only funny when both parties think it is. There is a difference between having fun with someone and making fun of someone.
Sunday was a beautiful day. Dry and just cool enough. I took Saturday off from exercise, and I felt that I needed to do something, otherwise I could move into my, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” mode.
My riding circle is limited. My friend Tom had been up all night, on vigil, at his son’s campout. My wife had other plans, and my kids were busy in various way. Those are the people that I ride with, and that is why I rode solo on Sunday.
There is a different atmosphere when you ride mid-day. A less friendly one. On early morning rides I get acknowledged when I greet people. A big smile with a hello almost also gets me some sort of positive response. That was not the case on Sunday afternoon.
I think my acknowledgment rate was under 10%, a sad state of affairs. Most of the people that I passed looked right through me, and some actually looked away from me when I smiled at them. It is odd to think that my cheerful hello could be interpreted in a negative way.
What concerned me most was the looks on many of walkers, runners and cyclists. They had an unpleasant look that went beyond determination or grit. Many had a tortured look about them. Doing what they had to, as if they were taking some bad tasting medicine.
I peddled on, and got caught up in the moment. I entered part of the bike path that I had last been on 25 years earlier. During my last attempt to get fit. During the time that I injured myself. During the time that I gave up on exercise.
After 25 years the path looked familiar, to some degree. I had remembered that there was a little park that you could access from the Prairie Path, and I thought that would be the perfect place to stop and have some water and my squirrel snack… a bag of nuts.
I peddled on and on, but the park was no where to be found. I looked at the odometer on my bike and I realized that if I just went a bit further I could meet, and likely exceed, a 20 mile bike ride. For a moment I was stoked, but then I came to my senses.
I was out to enjoy a bike ride and I was out to get some exercise. These two facts were dependent on each other. Enjoyment + exercise = today’s bike ride.
Going 20 miles meant nothing to me if I didn’t fulfill that equation. I thought back at all of the miserable looking people that I saw on my ride. Frowning, looking sad, some looking outright angry. Were they enjoying their exercise? It certainly didn’t seem so. It appeared like they were trying to reach an artificial goal. Doing what they had to, not liking it and letting the world know. Something that could have been fun had just turned into another miserable job for them.
I was determined to not let that happen to me last Sunday. My artificial goal had become 20 miles or more. My real goal was to get some exercise and enjoy a bike ride. To break the pattern I deliberately decided to ride less than 20 miles. I decided to remove the artificial goal from my agenda and focus on what was really important. I turned around and headed back. I thought my total travels would be about 19 and 1/2 miles. It turned out to be just under 20.
I don’t want to become an individual who looks at everything as work. “I had to call my family today.” “I had to go to a party.” “I had to make dinner and eat it with my family.” “I had to drive my kids to___ and spend time with them.” What a way to NOT live!
Today my goal is to celebrate the fact that I have free time, and to realize that non-work activities are to be enjoyed and celebrated.
I tried to use a projector to show a movie at a friend’s house, and the projector wouldn’t work because the movie (which was purchased) had copyright protection. Frustrating!
I brought a camera to the same place yesterday, and I couldn’t find my little camera pouch with the charger this morning. Frustrating!
I charged a set of earbuds in anticipation of going on a bike ride after church today. When I unplugged the USB cable I discovered that one of the wings that keep the earbuds in your ears was missing, and I couldn’t find it. Frustrating!
Dear Reader, these are trivial things, but they are frustrating none-the-less. Time to pause and think…
It would have been much worse if I couldn’t show the movie at my friend’s son’s birthday, but I was able to figure out how to use a different streaming solution.
It would have been much worse if I had lost my nice camera, instead of its charger. My camera uses USB to charge its battery and I have other USB chargers.
It would have been much worse if I had lost the earbuds. I have another set of bluetooth earbuds and I was able to borrow a pair of “wings” from them.
I don’t like to be frustrated, but sometimes it happens. Today my goal is to realize that frustration is a part of life.
It is also my goal to realize that sometimes frustrations have simple solutions and sometimes they don’t. When I can fix something, I should. When I can’t, I need to accept that fact and move on.
Dear Reader, in part one of this missive I told you a little bit about myself and the discovery of my 1930’s radio. You may be drawn to the conclusion that the discovery of my wooden friend was the nidus for my moving into science. That only would be partially true. I was already making the transition from right brain to left brain, as I was attempting to understand myself and how I fit into the world. In those days I believed that science was the key to everything. The most basic building block of everything, I thought that if I understood science, I could understand everything. I was wrong, but that will need to be explained in a different post.
With that said, my radio did push me forward in that arena; Over time I moved from fixing radios, to building radios, to eventually obtaining an Advanced Class Amateur Radio License.
Dear Reader, something else happened to me that was more important than understanding the significance of capacitance, or the reflective properties of the ionosphere. That life changing event happened when I moved the radio upstairs, attached a length of bell wire to its antenna terminal, and turned it on.
But first, I must digress and confess to you that I was an odd duck growing up in my Chicago blue collar neighborhood. I was big and strong looking, visually perfect for sports. Physically, I was weak and clumsy. I lacked a mentor to teach and improve me, and so I avoided sports at all costs. In addition, I seemed to like things that my peers could care less about. My favorite television show was Mr. Wizard, where Don Herbert did science experiments using household items. I was different. I had difficulty with the awareness that I was different. I had difficulty accepting myself.
Let me get back to my main plot line…
Please remember that times were different in the 1960s. Television consisted of a handful of channels, people made long distance phone calls to herald holidays or deaths, and the most comprehensive information source for a young boy like myself was a 20 year old copy of a discarded encyclopedia.
There was no Internet, smartphones, or YouTube. The household calculator didn’t even exist. It is with that backdrop that you should appreciate the gravity of the discovery of my radio.
In the 1960s most radios had become disposable fodder. Poorly crafted devices that yielded tinny sound and lackluster performance. Designed to receive local signals, and not much more. Their engineering based on price point, rather than on innovation. After all, radio was supposedly dead, television was the new kid on the block.
My radio was built in the 1930s, a time when radio was king. Build to perform, built to last.
My radio had two bands, AM and shortwave. FM radio had been invented by Edwin Armstrong in the 30’s, but it would be decades before it would become popular.
I started to play with my radio as I tried to understand what all of the dials did. In that process I I strayed slightly away from WLS, Chicago’s Top 40 station, and picked up another signal that was weak and undulating That station was WWL. I was listening to a local station from New Orleans, and I was in Chicago!
So started a nightly vigil of acquisition and discovery. Dozens of signals explored. Most from the US, some from Canada, and even a few from Mexico. The 1960s was a time before mass syndication and robo-stations. Plugging into signals all around North America allowed me to plug into local music and local culture. From my old radio I was able to not only visit these places, but I was also able to connect with the local people, some who were very different from the people that I was growing up with.
Then there was that mysterious shortwave band, and its discovery led to fundamental changes in the way I thought about the world, and the way I thought about myself. For those of you who have never heard of this slice of the radio spectrum, allow me to offer this brief tutorial:
The shortwave spectrum lies just above the AM radio band (also called the medium wave band) and just below the FM radio band (also call the VHF band). Radio signals in this part of the spectrum have a unique characteristic in which that can use the earth’s ionosphere like a mirror and bounce off it. Because of this, these radio signals can travel around the world. With the discovery of shortwave I now had access to the world.
This region of electromagnetic spectrum had all sorts of interesting stations. Amateur radio stations, time signal and beacon stations, spy number stations, pirate radio stations (illegal radio) and my favorite, international broadcasting stations.
If a country wanted to have a seat at the international table it likely had a shortwave radio station, and many of those countries had full or partial services in English. The BBC, Radio Moscow, Radio Warsaw, The Voice of Vietnam, Vatican Radio, The Voice of South Africa… and on and on.
From my bungalow in Chicago I could listen to cooking shows, quiz shows, story hours and much more, but my favorite shows were news shows and commentary shows. Here I would hear the same news told on US stations, but with a different slant or perspective. This may sound trivial in the new millennium, but it was earth shattering for a young mind in the 1960s. I started to understand that there was more than one way to think about things. I started to understand that being different wasn’t a bad thing. I started to appreciate that someone could be different in one place, but completely mainstream in another place. The world was full of different. Different became exciting. Different became OK.
Once I accepted myself, I found that I could move forward. Once I accepted myself I could also accept others, even others who were different and out of the mainstream. Radio allowed me to do these things. Radio changed my life.
Less you think that I am some grandiose narcissist, please allow me to say that there were plenty of kids in my blue collar neighborhood that advanced and grew. There were plenty of kids who were more ambitious, smarter and even nerdier than me. The problem was that I had no way of finding them. I was unaware of clubs, there were no meetups, no Google searches and no YouTube channels where I could connect.
As I sit typing on my Macbook, other thoughts cross my mind. My radio was a useless piece of wood and wires when it sat unused in the basement. Yet, it served as a vehicle of profound transformation once it was given a chance. It was there, waiting. Waiting for me to find it.
How many times do we have solutions to problems right in front of us, but we ignore them? How often do we think that something new and shiny will change our lives, only to realize that what we already have is just what we need? How often do we expect someone or something to fulfill us or solve our problems, when we should be accepting or changing ourselves?
We live in a disposable society of quick, but inadequate, fixes. We all have our “basements” filled. Some things need to be thrown out, but other things need to be fixed, cleaned up and listened to. The answers to our personal happiness lies in ourselves, not in an external person or thing. With that said, we can use those connections as tools to move ourselves forward. A forward of acceptance. A forward of growth. A forward of change. … move forward with me, find your radio.
Where I now live people talk about life-changing experiences. A life changed by tragedy. A life changed by a spiritual awakening. A life changed by an experience.
I have had some life changing experiences too. One of the most significant ones was not caused by a European holiday or a meditation class, it was caused by a radio. A radio changed my life.
The house that I grew up in was built in the 1920s. Bungalow in style with two bedrooms downstairs, and an extra two add-ons created in the attic. Perfect for a small family, crowded for the 7 of us who called it home.
Grade school life was spare for me. I slept on the the back porch, played in my school uniform, and had few possessions. I was left with my imagination to come up with adventures and experiences. And that is how I found myself in the basement.
Dark and dank. Forever musty. A receptacle for junk, and other discards that were “too good” to toss, but served no real purpose. A perfect place for a young explorer.
It was in the basement that I found her. Dusty and checkered, but magnificent. Constructed of wood, and in a style showing her advanced age. It was in the basement that I found my radio.
When I spied her I was spellbound. My first thought was, “Does she work?” I did a quick examination. Close up she was pretty beat up. I wasn’t sure how we got her, but she looked like she had not been turned on for decades She had an odd musty smell about her, certainly acquired by her subterranean residence.
I looked inside and was mesmerized by her huge vacuum tubes. Large as lightbulbs, but oddly shaped, some sporting a metallic connector on their crowns. I took a chance and plugged her in. The tubes glowed a soft orange/amber, and static sprang from the speaker. She worked! Well sort of.
Many of her controls were inoperable or frozen, and all that she could give me was her static sound. But she still had some life in her.
Taking some of my dad’s tools I started to disassemble and diagnose her. Using my child’s mind and my non-existent budget, I plotted a course of action. The variable tuning capacitor was clogged with dust. I could clean it. There was some sort of knob that use pressure to connect to the chassis, its rubbery sleeve had long since disintegrated. I could probably fashion a new makeshift sleeve out of a rubber cork. The cording for the tuning mechanism had also dissolved. Dental floss might work, if I could figure out how to rethread it.
The list went on… and on went my project. Trial and error, more error than trial. Step by step. For my young mind, plenty of frustration and a few victories. Did it take me days? Did it take me weeks? I just remember that it took a long time.
Finally, it was time. I reassembled the chassis into the cabinet. I plug her in and turned her on. Her tubes glowed, she sprang to life. I turned the dials and WLS boomed in! But she deserved more than this. She survived for 30 years; she deserved more. A new grill cover using a placemat from the 5 and 10, varnish found in the basement… perfect!
My radio taught me that I could solve problems if I allowed myself to make mistakes. She taught me that problems that seem impossible could be possible, if you approach them a little bit at a time. She taught me that reasonable risks can yield reasonable results. She taught me that time and thinking are bedfellows when it comes to solutions.
Today my goal is to remember that persistence and plodding are just as important as raw intelligence.
Dear reader, my old radio actually taught me something much more valuable and life changing than how to fix her. For that, you will need to stay tuned for part two of this little missive.