Death of a Friend — Carol Turner (1945-2018)

Cecil caught rubbing his head on top of Carol's
          A good friend of mine died last year on the 10th of September.  Her name was Carol Turner and she was fortunate enough to survive 2.5 years after her first brain cancer surgery.  Although I was her neighbor for seven years, Carol liked Cecilmy catmuch more than she liked me (which is not hard to understand, he's a better person than I am).  Cecil was always ebullient when he showed affection for her.  There was no doubt, in anyone's mind, that Cecil liked Carol more than he liked anyone.  When he was around Carol, his behavior was analogous with that of a child who prefers their grandparent over their parent.     

          Over the years, Carol and I (and Cecil) spent hundreds of hoursmostly in the warm weather monthssitting and talking in the courtyard of our apartment complex.  We talked about many obscure things as well as nothing important, mostly we three were just keeping each other company.

          A few people loved Carol and sought out her company.  Most people, however, were irritated by her too-happy, naivete, and seemed to attempt to avoid her constant overly-chipper attitude.  There were two reasons for this:  The first was because Carol was obsessively driven to inject a ray of sunshine into every person she talked to, every day, whenever she crossed their path, no matter what.  Always.  Incessantly.  On top of this, she unfortunately was severely afflicted with an aversion to ending conversations (on the phone or in person).  It didn't matter if you were interacting with her for the first time in weeks, or if you had just finished talking with her for an hour, she had to share, and repeat herself, and chat, and keep talking.   

          The second reason was because almost all Asperger Syndrome traits were evident in Carol's behavior:  She was victim to an excessive hoarding impulse (was ashamed of it, but refused offers to assist with it).  She suffered from a sensitivity to light, odors, and touch.  She had a monotone vocal tone, which was mostly only noticeable when she raised her voice to catch someones attention (usually someone attempting to avoid her).  She had an aversion to eye contact.  She displayed a difficulty in reading the emotions of others as well as communicating her emotions non-verbally (instead, she would explain her feelings: "I'm so excited" or "I am so happy for you").       
          This was not something many people knew how to handle.  But, because I possess at least half of the Asperger's traits, I understood why she acted the way she did, and wasn't put-off by her discomfiting behavior.  I would usually steer her repetitious brain-loop dialogue towards new thoughts.  I handled her failure to end conversations by telling her, early in our friendship, that every mutual-goodbye was final.  Once said, I hung up/walked away (no matter if she continued to talk or hollered at my back).

          The down-side of Carol's naivete and her inability to read body language was that she was a horrible judge of character and remained loyal to some terribly toxic people (who she erroneously referred to as 'friends').  A few of them used her all the way to her death.  She would talk about some "really great person" (no matter if it was someone she knew for decades or a new neighbor she only talked to once) and, eventually, I would learn (more often than not) about a large number of terrible things this person had done to her or to other people she knew.

          The death of my friend was not unexpected, nor was it a surprise when it occurred, but the shadow of that friendship continues to remind me that it's gone.  Although I no longer feel sadness, I do occasionally still miss Carol—especially when out-walking with Cecil if he yowls on her porch while staring at her door (now occupied by a new tenant) his confusion then reminds me of our loss.                      

Values, Socioeconomic Positions, Gravel for 2020 President

          If you have a personal set of values, and were asked to briefly outline a few you consider the most important, what would you say?

          I have some core values.  They are character traits that I've attempted to adhere to.
  • Treat everyone alike—from strangers I've never met to neighbors and family members.
  • My moral and ethical standards are governed by my own conscience.  I want to be a good person in my own eyes, therefore, I always attempt to behave with an awareness of the probable outcome, to ultimately avoid thinking of myself as a hypocrite.    
  • Avoid negative people, as well as those who are (actively and passively) emotionally draining.
  • Be aware that there are millions of people who are smarter than I'll ever be—listen when others speak; evaluate new ideas using critical thinking skills; be courageous enough to change my mind when I identify a more logical/rational idea.
  • Admit when I'm wrong and apologize for my past mistakes in judgement.
          If you are a US citizen who is politically aware enough to support a political platform, and were asked to briefly outline a few socioeconomic positions you consider the most important, what would you say?

          Until today, I would have referred to the list of issues of the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign.  If asked to pick those I consider the most important, I would have listed:
  • Economic Inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Political Reform
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Free Undergraduate Tuition
          But, now, I have to refer to the list of issues of the Mike Gravel 2020 Presidential Campaign.  These
are much more.  Much more of everything.  Everything that Bernie Sanders espouses but with complex, definitive, and in many cases, clearly-thought-out details.  A few which I consider best of the best:
  • National Ranked Choice Voting & The Wyoming Rule
  • Dept of Defense = War Dept and the Dept of Peace (with 50% cut in funding)
  • Bring every US troop home
  • American National Fund
  • Break Up Big Businesses
  • Public Banking For All
          Do you think Mike Gavel should become president in not the question.  Anyone who asks that question isn't paying attention/has not read the first paragraph of this essay.  There are going to be at least two dozen people running in the Democratic Primary next year.  Their issues are what are important.  Deciding (defining) what your personal values are, and encouraging others to decide what theirs are, is what is most important.  We shouldn't care about what a candidate looks like, or what school they attended, or how many languages they can speak, or how old they are, or what sex they are...all that is unimportant.

          If you can't read and have to have your information read (spoon fed) to you, here is Mike Figueredo explaining in a video, why you should donate to Mike Gavel 2020.

A Simple Exercise in Rational Thinking

          Do you understand what it is to think rationally?  By that, I'm not asking if you know the definition of rational thought; I'm asking you to describe the feeling, the emotional impact, of your mind's effect on your body when you examine a series of facts and, consequently, draw a logical conclusion—the result of which is a novel idea (for your brain). 

          When you mentally examine something complex, which you've not considered before (but others, obviously, have) do you have a 'eureka moment'?  Or, do you just store this new-to-you information and mentally move on?  Is there a last-puzzle-piece-falling-into-place feeling of pleasure-adrenaline?  Do you get an inner smile?

          Let me give you an example.  Each of the following numbered statements are factually true. 
  1.      You had no control over when, or where, you were born.
  2.      Your parents had no control over when/where they were born.
  3.      No mammal controls when/where it's born.  Life on earth can be dated to three billion years ago. 
  4.      Our planet is about four billion years old.  It is about a million times smaller than the sun. 
  5.      The sun is about five billion years old.  It is one star in a galaxy of at least a hundred billion others. 
  6.      Our galaxy is about 14 billion years old.  It is one galaxy in an observable universe of trillions.
  7.      The observable universe is only about 100 million years older than our galaxy.   Because of the speed of light, the farthest point of light we can see is about 46 billion light-years away; the light from everything further away hasn't had time to reach us yet.
          The only rational conclusion to be made:  The universe is infinite.  It goes on in all directions—forever; filled with an infinite number of galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, and life which had no control over when or where in the vast infinity of space and time they were were formed (were born).

          I came to this conclusion because our location in the universe is completely arbitrary.  Humans did not choose to make earth their home, no more than the earth chose it's placement around the sun, or the sun chose it's placement in the milky way, or the milky way chose its placement in existence.

          Right this moment, as you're reading these words, if you raise your left hand and point, a zillion-and-a-half light years away in that exact direction is another intelligent person.  Xhe is exponentially smarter than you and I (because life can be dated to seven billion years ago on xer planet).  None-the-less, xhe did not control when/where xhe was born.  Right now, xhe is also contemplating xer observable universe (which is also 46 billion light-years away from xer arbitrary location in the entire universe).  You and Tgja (that's what xer name sounds like to human ears) are alive at exactly the same moment in time, in the infinite existence of space, but our two observable universe's will never overlap.  Our two planets have never, and will never, share one single point of light in each of our respective night skies.

          Oh, and one final answer to that question you had from the last paragraph:  it's because xer entire species put hubris behind them, and stopped thinking about themselves as the center of all existence, when they stopped believing in anything they could not prove with mathematics (which was over 27 thousand years ago).  That was the time when Tgja's species began treating those who claimed to know something which couldn't be rationally proven, using simple logic, as mentally damaged individuals.  Back then, they'd kindly offer those lesser individuals a kind facial grimace (xhe would call it a smile, we—if we could see it—would never refer to it as such) before they reported the defective individual (whom they referred to as 'idiot') for re-education.

When You Ponder Why You're Who You Are, What Happens?

          Thinking about thinking — it's not just reserved for philosophers, poets, and songwriters.

          When reminiscing about the first time you swam in the ocean, or rode a horse, or got lost, your brain begins the recollection because of a sensory 'anchor point' specific to those past thoughts.  It may have been a mental snapshot (waves on a sandy beach), a specific smell (coconut sunscreen oil), an unusual sound (distant seagull cries), or maybe even a uniquely memorable sensation of touch (bare feet on hot sand) or taste (saltwater on the lips).  Your mind does this autonomously, and routinely, because the event was accompanied by a sufficiently strong enough emotion — at the time — for your brain to release chemicals into your bloodstream.

          Pleasurable events are 'attached' (associated with) different chemicals than those associated with, and caused by, negative events.  It's important to note that our consciousness's default mode is to prioritize negative brain chemicals (and those associated events) as more relevant and valuable (easier to recall) than positive chemicals/events (easier to forget).

          The reason negative memories have priority is because our survival is our mind's most important task.  The adage: 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' exemplifies this — no matter how much enjoyment your brain stored during the hundreds of joyful hours you've spent in the ocean, the few minutes you struggled and almost drowned, when you got swept out to sea by a riptide, is considered an immensely more important memory by your conscious mind.

          Similarly, your brain accompanies a different mix of chemicals with a story you were told (or read) about a stranger's or a fictional character's visit to a beach; just as it does when your mind creates a memorable dream about going to a beach.

          "I remember my first trip to the beach when I was five.  It was at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  A huge grey wood stairway-walkway led us across the dunes, and I ran from where it ended all the way to the surf-line, because the sand burned my feet."

          That's not an accurate recollection of those events.  Not really.

          What actually happened is the five-year-old came home from Cape Cod and told people what happened at the beach that day, which 'locked in' a few memorable moments (among which included:  building a sand castle with a plastic yellow pail and blue trowel, floating briefly in the shallows without assistance, and collecting shells — no mention of hot sand).  Over the next few weeks/months that five-year-old learned information about that day at the beach from the perspective of family members (both parents constantly recounted to themselves, and others, about how hot the sand was).  Years later, the five-year-old/now teenager has lost the memories of sand-digging and shell-collecting (because those events were no longer intentionally recalled by the conscious mind and, subsequently, deemed unimportant) but the memory of running across the sand was reinforced, and sufficiently re-remembered, to make it a strong enough memory that the five-year-old/now adult owns a pair of beach shoes.

          Our brains can also construct completely new ideas by imagining the answers to questions (posed by ourselves or others).

          Take this as a question:  What is the difference between fictional conjecture and theoretical science or philosophy?

          Try this as an answer:  Currently (as of March 2019) there is no consensus, among all the minds engaged in studying astronomy and astrophysics, as to what causes the forces currently referred to as dark matter and dark energy.

          The two terms are placeholders.  It is widely agreed that these two placeholder-terms are required to explain the events we see in the observable universe.  Specifically, that there must be much more matter than we can visibly account for (our galaxy's would fly apart if all the visible solar systems were the only things providing gravity) and there must be some unknown force causing every galaxy to move away from each other at an increasing rate (it is increasing too fast to be caused by gravity).

          What if prior to the inflation of the universe (foolishly mislabeled big bang) there was not nothing?  What if every atom had been crushed into a singularity by the combined mass of the something that is currently called dark matter?  And, that dark matter exerted dark energy in the same manner as real matter exerts gravity?  Do not confuse anti-matter in this hypothesis (that's another thing all together).  When universe-inflation began about 15 billion years ago, the dark matter fractured and has been coalescing within all the matter ever since.  This dark matter lost it's energy (in a radiation-like manner) so it can no longer re-coalesce (every molecule of dark matter lost it's gravity-component).  Different from how a single atom of hydrogen has a minuscule amount of gravity (which means real matter possesses a component which always provides it with an attractive-force, currently theorized to be one of the quantum particles) — in the case of dark matter it all lost its attractive force (dark energy) at once.  Dark energy (now radiating free of the matter it once was attached to) can't act on matter.  But, it can act on gravity.  So, large amounts of gravity (galaxy-sized amounts of gravity) are being acted on by the dark energy.

          Is this fictional conjecture?  Is this theoretical physics?  Is this philosophy? 

Joining the Military? And, Why David Pakman Needs a Better Producer!

       Considering enlisting in a branch of the US military?

       I recommend asking the opinion of someone who:
  •        you respect the opinion of
  •        knows your individual capabilities and weaknesses
  •        will provide you with more than four minutes of their time
  •        possesses a modicum of first-hand knowledge about the topic
       If you respect the opinions of the host of The David Pakman Show, and you have an economics questionor a question about politicscall his show.  Leave a voicemail.  But (as this clip woefully demonstrates) neither Mr Pakman, nor his producer, has done any research on why someone might decide to enlist in the military.  Instead, they chose to answer this caller with a list of "off the cuff" opinions filled with ridiculous stereotypes.  This tone-deaf answer shows Mr Pakman to be guilty of the hubris he so readily ascribes to others who foolishly assume they must know enough about every topic to easily answer questions with no preparation.

       Then, this segment was reviewed by a producer who subsequently also failed to consider there would be millions of future viewersranging from those considering a job or career in the military, to those currently in the military, to those who are military retirees (of which I am one)who might do what this show consistently prompts everyone to do: fact check.     

       Mr Pakman provides a rambling, sophomoric, list as to why people consider joining the military:
  • See the world
  • Work for your country
  • Fill a need ("scratch an itch")
  • Be around guns
  • Desire infrastructure and/or discipline
       I assume Mr Pakman meant 'structure' not 'infrastructure', before he insipidly closed the segment with a statement that people should consider if the military is "the best path" for them. 

       Slow clap.  You should be ashamed Mr Pakman.  Your flippant attitude appears, to me, to be no more than a ineffectual veneer, attempting to hide your obvious disdain for all the people who chose, or will choose to join the military.  If this is what you think, be a big enough person to say so!  Don't hide behind your weak statements of, "...the US needs a volunteer military...don't have a draft...guess there must be some sane reason to join...".

       You areobviouslyout of touch with all the members of your audience who choose a job in the military because they needed a job.  Not many years after I joined, there was a TV ad which proclaimed, "Join the Army.  It's not just a job, it's an adventure!"...that was just marketing; it was just a job.

       If you want to learn some real reasons why people enlist in the military, keep reading.  
       During my military careerwhich covered the decades of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000sI heard one answer exponentially more than all others; most (especially those 18-23 years old) enlisted in the US military because they:
  • had never been employed non-seasonally, full-time
  • were encouraged (or had no choice to) quickly: graduate, get a job, and find a place of their own
  • would only qualify for entry-level/minimum-wage jobs (in 2018 that is $15K year)
  • knew the approximate cost of basic needs (food, clothing, housing, insurance and transportation)   
  • witnessed their peers, and others in their community, failing to pay for those basic needs on that income
  • listened to their military recruiter who promised:
      • Three free meals a day in the mess hall
      • Free uniforms
      • Free bunk in the barracks / rack on the ship / cot on deployment
      • Free medical care, free non-elective dental, free basic optical care
      • Free military transportation
      • Starting pay of a E1 is approximately $20K year (in 2018, after training)
       $1,400 a month (after taxes) is a large amount of money in someone's pocket, when all their basic needs have already been provided for.  And, just like their recruiter told them, they were now training forand receiving on-the-job experience ina job specialty of their choosing (with hope the training and experience would transfer to an equivalent non-minimum wage, non-entry-level job when they left the military).

       There are hundreds of jobs that need to be performed in the military because almost every job available in the civilian world has a military counterpart.  If there's no military counterpart, that job is now 100% contracted, or performed by DoD civilian employees. 

       Many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and (yes—even some) marines only see their assigned individual weapon (civilian term: gun) during marksmanship training and on operational deployments (civilian term: fighting in a war, becoming a member of a peace-keeping force, etc).  

       During my first years as a soldier, I did not hear anyone say they joined to: "see the world," nor to "work with guns," nor were they looking to bring "structure in their previously undisciplined lives".

       To be fair to Mr Pakman, later in my career, I had occasion to converse with members of the US Special Forces, Army Rangers, and Navy Seals and some expressed a desire to "go hunting," and used many other more colorful words to describe killing human beings.  Soclearlysome people do choose a military life because of the weapons and their ability to use them.  Also (to continue my fairness to Mr Pakman) I was told, by two different sailors, they joined the Navy primarily because they "looked forward to visiting all the different ports on shore leave."  Which is similar enough to "see the world" to warrant a mention.

       But there are many more reasons why people enlist in the military.  Here are just a few:
  • One infantry soldier told me he was ordered by a judge to show him enlistment papers within two weeks, or serve 364 days in the county jail (Yes, that's still a thing).
  • After the begin of every news-worthy military conflict, many say they "signed up to serve their country."  Not just after 9/11.   
  • Dozens of people (the second largest reason) said they joined to either take advantage of the College Education Bonus, or to utilize the College Loan Repayment Program. 
       And here are a few reasons some individuals may NOT be comfortable enlisting in the military:
  • Mandatory exercise/maintenance of body weight:  If you do not like to exercise and/or are already over the military's body-mass standard, you will either "get with the program" or be quickly administratively discharged.  Overweight military members are not tolerated.
  • Recreational drug usage:  It is illegal to use any non-prescription drugs at any time (even on vacation; even in states where cannabis is legal).  Failure to pass random drug tests results in fines, administrative punishments, and other-than-honorable discharges.
  • Respect:  it is always mandatory and drilled-in from day one of basic training.  It doesn't stop being required.  Ever.  Never stop respecting everyone else.  Have a problem with other races?  Other sexes?  Other religions?  The military has no tolerance for any bias, statements, or outward displays of hatred.  And, the quickest way to be administratively discharged for "unable to adapt" is to show a racist tattoo, fly a hate-flag, or utter words which might be labeled hate-speech. 
  • Long Hours:  The military is not 9-5 with weekends off (although there are times when it looks that way).  The military pays an annual salary because they OWN you every minute of every day for all the years on your legally-enforceable, multi-year, job contract.  Never make vacation plans with non-refundable tickets.  Never expect that you will work "regular hours".  Never be surprised by a schedule change.   
  • Small cog in a big machine:  the military constantly needs a very large number of low-ranking individuals to continually replace people who leave after their enlistment contract is finished, or depart after they get kicked out (see above for a few reasons that can happen).  They need a very small number of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) to stay in the military (re-enlist) and supervise those lower ranks.  Promotions go to only those who shine the brightest and prove they want it the most.  Although it's reasonably easy to enlist and go to basic training and then get to advanced training, it's not guaranteed you'll graduate, and it's a challenge (for many) to be awarded an Honorable Discharge.  
  • Not like any civilian job:  The military does not comply with EEO guidelines; they do not recruit physically or mentally handicapped individuals. (Those who receive debilitating injuries are medically retired.)  They also do not pay overtime.  And, although they may order a "mandatory extension" of your enlistment contract (during "manpower-critical" times) they rarely allow the opposite to happen; an individual (once their initial training is complete) can not voluntarily terminate their enlistment contract.  Decide to leave anyway?  They'll charge you with AWOL, or desertion, which equals fines, administrative discipline, and possibly an other-than-honorable discharge.  (Do I need to mention that a Bad Conduct Discharge will get you treated like a pariah by every future employer?)

Stained Glass Shadowboxes

Why the Thin Blue Line Flag is Anti-Black Lives Matter

          Last weekend, as we drove thru the countryside of my state, my wife pointed to a pickup truck flying two large flags and asked if I knew what the black and white one represented.  Although I'd never seen an "American flag" with: black bars instead of red, a black field behind the stars instead of blue, and a horizontal blue bar thru the middle I was able to make a reasonably informed guess (because the other flag in the back of the pickup was a confederate battle flag).

            There are a few variations of banners with these blue lines.  Even though they range from those with solid black backgrounds,  or combined with the stars and bars, or the union jack (as well as with the aforementioned stars and stripes), I've discovered one strong common denominator:  all appear to have been created in the last five years after 2013 when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement began.

          For many decades, the descriptor: 'thin blue line' has been used as a simile.  By referring to the police force as the "front line" of law enforcement, the phrase successfully brings to mind a line of blue-uniformed officers fighting valiantly to separate and protect law abiding citizens from criminals.  I joined the Military Police in 1985, but it wasn't until 1990 with the film The Thin Blue Line that I learned this term was a label for police.

          If someone wants to show police solidarity and also wants to display their support in the form of a banner (on the back of their Ford F150as an example) they should consider a emblem from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).  This organization is over a century old, advocates for the safety of law enforcement officers, and the FOP logo contains no words intended to usurp the message of another group.   

          The number of flags, banners, and signs which bring universal scorn to those who display them publicly is growing.  Included in this list are the signs of the "Church" from Westboro, Kansas; the flag of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (the Nazi Swastika); and some variants of the US Confederate Battle Flag (Confederate Southern Cross).  Specious claims of "pride in one's heritage" are no longer palatable by the masses.  Since there are still many who want to publicly display their hatred for others, the white supremacists have recently adopted the thin blue line flag, which provides a superficially plausible explanation (claiming to support the police) while actually displaying their hate-filled message (which is that black lives don't matter to them).

  •      The Thin Blue Line Flag is equivalent to the Blue Lives Matter banner.
  •      "Blue Lives Matter" has one purpose: opposing the "Black Lives Matter" message.
  •      "Black Lives Matter" opposes violence and racism against people of color by the police.       
Thus:  Displaying a Thin Blue Line flag means you support violence and racism against people of color by the police.
    is the same as

Art from the eye of the Artist

I have always loved women without makeup. Vanity is terrible. This woman is amazing in every way. I love her.

I Cecil You, Too

          I have never celebrated the fake holiday in mid-February.  It's a scam holiday which business's use to sell cards, flowers, candy, and all that foolish shit.  I give gifts of love when the time is right, not when someone else says I'm supposed to.

          Anyway—what the fuck is this thing we all have labelled with the word: LOVE?  I know what mix of emotions I feel/have felt for those I've loved and do love (not a very large list) but it's amazingly hard to explain how certain fluctuations in my brain's chemicals affect my heart/brain/gut/libido, and even harder to understand/compare when others explain their "feelings of love".  We just assume everyone must be feeling the same way we feel when we use the same words they use.

          "See that color?  That is what I have labelled: Red."
          "Oh, that's red?  Ok, I'll begin to refer to everything which is colored that way: red.  Umm, what about when I feel all these crazy feelings at the same time?  I need a label, so that when I am feeling all these feelings I do not need to explain each of them every time."
          "That is labelled:  Love."
          "What about all those same feelings, except one:  I don't want to be physically intimate?"
          "Still labelled: Love.  You could add the word Platonic, but that'll require an explanation because that word has different interpretations."
          "What about when I feel all those feelings for my pet?"

          "When I say, I love my cat (Cecil) I think I must be misusing the word.  Instead, I should use a word that compounds the meanings of the words: pride, enjoyment, happiness and admiration."

          I'm proud of Cecil's training and I enjoy his 'loving' attention.  He never makes me angry (Mostly because he can't communicate with words, has no malice, and enjoys my company) and I admire him for his actions, looks, demeanor, and thoughtfulness (is he being thoughtful?  I'm probably just anthropomorphising his behavior).  Maybe I should consider his name, Cecil, to be my label for what I feel about him.  When I say, "Such a good Cecil"  I really mean that I'm currently feeling a combination of pride/enjoyment/happiness/admiration.

          When I receive an "I love you," I—almost never—use the phrase: "I love you too". 

          Because it's wrong to treat an I love you, as if it requires a mandatory reply.  It is not supposed to be interpreted as if it were the question: Do you love me?  Also, it should not become a replacement phrase for goodbye.  When people do that, they cause their incessant I love you's to lose their value.  Eventually, it becomes a throw-away line.  If said all the time, what do they say when they really want someone to know they have caused a rush of complicated emotions which are identified (when felt all at the same time) as the feeling of love?  

Recap:  "I Love You"—all three words—are reserved for when the emotion of love is actually being felt.  I do not want my I love you to cause an immediate response of I love you too.  I prefer either no reply or a response like: "those words make me feel good," or "Thank you," or "I like it when you tell me that," or "those words make me happy," or "when you say that, I get warm inside".  It is better that the person you love smiles and says nothing, and some time in the future, if they tell me they are currently feeling the emotion they call love—for me—I know they're feeling love at that moment and I can decide to reply with my present feelings, or not to reply.  I appreciate their statement of love when they are feeling it and then I consider what I did to make them feel that way.  This is my normal.

          When she was young, I tried to encourage my daughter, Denise, to understand and to communicate her feelings of love.  It was a long and complicated issue.  I found communicating my thoughts to her and her mother, on expressing love, very difficult.  I felt there was a lack of love in our family, and wanted us to tell each other that we loved each other more often (it worked occasionally).  I also wanted us to communicate our love by kissing (which never caught on).  The compromise I got from my daughter was cheek-bumps.  I failed at explaining to her that bumping cheeks was how people communicated respect to either: an old and feeble relative; someone who was contagious; or (in France) because that was their custom.

          Denise now says I love you to each of her children many times a day.  Each of her kids reply with a I love you too.  I see and hear their devotion and their respect.  With them, it does not seem to be a "worn out phrase" or a "throw away line".  In fact, when a child is upset (and, intentionally, does not reply to their mother's I love you) they—routinely—apologize (later) and remind her that they love her.

          I am now an old relative with whom respectful cheek bumps may be apropos.  And, now, I am adjusting to her normal.  Now, I reply to her I love you with an I love you, too.

Landmines, Deal Breakers and Brass Rings

This essay is intended to help you with future “new” relationships.  I hope this information is considered valuable enough that you decide to teach your children to apply this to their future adult relationships.

Before beginning a new intimate relationship with someone, I have picked an appropriate time to have what I refer to as my, “Landmines, Deal Breakers, and Brass Rings Conversation”.

“Landmines” are things you know about yourself.  They can be any value, character trait, habit, and/or fetish, which you are aware other people may not like.  Landmines are not obvious (and sometimes we intentionally hide them).   Tattoos are a good example; some people dislike all tattoos and others just dislike certain types of body art.  A large number of clearly-visible tattoos might not be considered a Landmine (unless the racist ones are all hidden), however, someone with a few concealed tattoos should consider them a Landmine. 

Although identifying and sharing each others Landmines are crucial to a healthy relationship, the most important aspect of discussing Landmines is that it starts “The Conversation” on a positive note.  Each person shares something they are either embarrassed about themselves, or their past, or which the other person might find off-putting.  To decide if something is or is not a Landmine, I ask myself, “If I don’t share this, and—instead—they discover it in the distant future, could I be accused of being intentionally deceitful or lying by omission?”
Examples of Landmines:
  • Incarcerations 
  • Addictions
  • Diseases
  • Non-standard employment
  • Non-standard housing
  • Pet issues or allergies
  • Children given for adoption
  • Previous long-term relationships
  • Dangerous or risky behaviors 
               “Deal Breakers” are things you absolutely will not tolerate in another person.  Many non-smokers consider smoking or vaping (of any substance) to be a Deal Breaker.   At this point in “The Conversation,” each person takes turns explaining to the other the types of behavior(s) which—if discovered in the future—would cause them to terminate the relationship.  For example:  if someone quit smoking a while ago (and didn’t consider it important enough to be a Landmine) and then the other person told them that smoking was a Deal Breaker, it’s now a subject which needs further discussion.

Normally, people identify things they consider Deal Breakers based on their past.  If a previous significant other was a habitual liar, they may no longer put up with the smallest amount of dishonesty and—therefore—might consider some “white lies” to be Deal Breakers; along the same lines, if a previous significant other constantly acted jealous for no reason, they may now consider any hint of jealous behavior to be a Deal Breaker.

Examples of Deal Breakers:
  • Pregnancy
  • Watching sports on TV
  • Share love of pets
  • Must not Hunt or fish 
  • Share same Religion
  •  Have the same Personal Politics
  • Watch Pornography
               “Brass Rings” bring “The conversation” to a close on a positive note.  Each person explains at least one thing they would ultimately love to receive from the relationship, or from their partner.     This is the point where each person is expected to bare their deepest desire.  Selfishness is a must when explaining one’s Brass Ring(s).  It does not work if—after making it all the way through the Landmines and the Deal Breakers—someone claims their Brass Ring is just the happiness of the other.  

Examples of Brass Rings:
  • Clitoral orgasms
  • Enjoyment of specific sexual acts
  • Destination vacation
  • Financial security
  • Platonic love
  • Children