Disconnected from the social network

headerimageAt the time it seemed like a good thing to do. Our youngest daughter was attending college in NY at one of the first colleges to have Facebook and told us about it. It took me several years to jump on the bandwagon but I figured “what the heck” it seemed like a good way to connect with current friends and reconnect with old friends, relatives and long lost classmates.

At first I was pretty pleased with it. I did reconnect (to a degree) with all of the above and for a while the site was pretty easy to use and keep up with others. Unfortunately, along the way the shine wore off. There were more and more adds filtered in with the content. I could tell they were tapping into my buying habits and wants as the minute I checked into something in the internet my adds seemed to mimic it.

Over time, I saw less and less content from various friends and more and more adds. It also seemed like friends content popped up randomly at first then later on I would only get those from a chosen few.

I also never saw the purpose of all of the likes and loves because without associated comment I never knew exactly what they thought about what I said, and believe me I never posted unless I felt I had something to say.

I also felt compelled to comment or like anything I saw from a friend unless it was offensive which in retrospect made no sense. I also didn’t, like I heard a lot of people did, base my self worth on how many likes I received.

So sure it was nice to read about and see things that friends were doing but as I said before, if they really aren’t in your life it seemed a bit voyeuristic. I also at times had to wonder if their lives were really that great, their problems really that bad or their children so perfect. It tends to give one an inferiority complex when your life in no way matches up to it.

The one thing however that really turned me off to it was when somewhere along the line, seemingly before and after the election, that it became so negative and mean spirited. I never ditch a friend because we don’t agree on things and I try my best to be open minded but it was really troubling to read posts from friends that were so cutting and downright loathsome that it made me wonder if I ever really knew them at all. Many friendships were lost during that period which would make on wonder if they were ever really friends in the first place. Remember when people tried to work through their problems and disagreements?

The last thing that pushed me over the edge was when FB started to inundate my emails with prompts to see what this person or that person was doing and informed me about how much I had missed since my last visit to the site. It seemed like mind control to me.

So several weeks ago I shut down my site on FB as well as all other social media sites I was on and you know what I don’t miss them at all. My idea of a real relationship is to call someone or get together and as they did in the old days write a letter. Sure there are some folks I miss seeing what they are up to but if we didn’t have much of a relationship before social media then what difference does it make.

I had wondered how many people who I was friends with on FB that had my other contact information would check in on me to see what was going on but sadly only one has done so thus far. It was my cousin who emailed me to see if I was mad with him and unfriended him. After I assured him I didn’t he has since agreed with my decision and shut down his site.

For a long time I thought we were being manipulated by the social networks like Pavlov’s dogs (or was it rats?) and this week when one of the founders of FB came out to say we were I wasn’t a bit surprised.

So sure I’m disconnected from social media but it’s better than being disconnected with reality and life.

Thanks for checking in this week and I hope you have a great holiday season and happy new year.

Aloha, Paul

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Keeping things in perspective

DSCI0025I generally am one who rolls with the punches, and believe me I’ve taken more than a few, but for some reason Hurricane Irma got to me, I mean she really got to me.

About a month before the hurricane I noticed that our huge pin oak that sits in front of the house was cracked down the middle most likely from an earlier storm. I tried to get someone out before the storm to look at it but no one could get there before hand. I was worried that it might fall during the storm so I trimmed as much of the branches off of it that I could reach and then fretted most of the night that my efforts might not be enough.

Fortunately, by the grace of God it didn’t fall and damage either our home or the one next door. We were also fortunate that the flood waters in our neighborhood stopped rising a mere five feet from the front of our home.

A further inspection of our home though showed some roof damage which made me worry that it might need replacement which would force us to eat the astronomical hurricane deductible that homeowners policies in the state carry.

I was relieved to find out that we wouldn’t need to replace the entire roof but only the shingles on the two hips on the back of our home and that our tree could be saved by cutting it way back. At any rate I was still bummed that we would be having to lay out money that we were saving so I could finally get my old car fixed up.

The kicker for me was that in the midst of all of this our air conditioning system finally failed and had to be replaced which left me both numb and feeling sorry for myself. Normally a good surf session helps me to put things back in perspective but before and since the storm we have been living through one nor’easter after another and between the filthy water and blown out conditions sessions have been few and far between.

So after the bad news about the a/c I was really bummed and didn’t really want to do anything. Fortunately Kathy convinced me to get out of the house and drive down to St. Augustine for lunch.

On the way there we drove through South Ponte Vedra and Valano Beach on A1A. The drive was a sad one as we passed home after home that were either damaged or completely destroyed by the hurricane, some of which were now lying on the beach.

Seeing such devastation and remembering seeing on TV the damage in Texas, Puerto Rico and throughout our own state helped me to put things back in perspective. So many people have lost so much and suffered so greatly and I felt bad about getting so despondent over our situation that, while difficult and costly, pales in comparison with the pain, suffering and loss experienced by so many others.

Bottom line, we will weather our own personal storm and hopefully the next time a storm comes our way I will be blessed with enough faith to keep things in perspective. As they say shit happens and often at the most in-opportune times. All we can do is deal with it as best we can and try to keep things in perspective.

Thanks for checking in this week and I hope you survived the storms well.

Aloha, Paul

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You can’t make it if you don’t try

may 10 surf photo 2I work at a surf shop and during the day we show surf video’s. There was one recently where they showed a guy who had lost a leg and who’s hip was badly deformed surfing on his one good knee. When asked about how he felt about surfing that way in large surf he responded by saying, “I was very intimidated out there but you’ll never know what you can or can’t do if you never try and in the end it was fun”.

Those words were both absolutely spot on and hit a chord in me. With all of the tropical storms that have hit our area within the last month we have received some pretty intense swells that offered large, steep and hollow shore breaks. To say it was intimidating to throw my aging body down into those beast would be an understatement. On a few days it seemed as though the success rate of actually making the drop and out onto the shoulder was about 30% for most of us mortals out there.

Certainly I took my share of poundings but somehow I convinced myself to keep going for it. There was this hope that the smaller waves would be easier to navigate but unfortunately it was generally the bigger sets waves that were steep enough to catch. Thus the dilemma. Do I let them pass me by or at least give them a go.

In such situations I have found that you can’t half go for a wave. You have to fully commit and have faith in your ability or either miss the wave or possibly take an even worse beating. As the guy in the video said, you won’t know what you can accomplish unless you try.

This came true for me when one of the biggest waves of the session approached. It was big, steep and I knew I would have to drop in just under the lip and possibly get hammered. I decided to go for it anyway. Somehow I managed to make the drop and cut right just ahead of the crashing lip whereupon I got fully barreled. The speed took me back out onto the shoulder and headed for another barrel. Two barrel rides, at least for me, are a very rare phenomenon and I couldn’t wait to enter it.

As I entered it from the backside it gave every indication that it would hold up so I charged into it frothing at the mouth. Unfortunately, about half way through it collapsed and I got rolled pretty good.

Sure I got my butt handed to me but in no way did it take away from the thrill I experienced during that ride and the feeling afterwards of the accomplishment. Sure my old body hurt for days afterwards but it was battle wounds that I’ll gladly deal with for the sake of a good session.

Bottom line, I never would have had such a great thrill if I had backed away from that wave and in truth, in looking back at my life, it was after taking leaps of faith and going for things that were either scary or difficult that I was able to find the best success or at the very least learn from.

Sure there have been too many times during my life to count where I was not successful in either life, endeavors  or surfing but winning and financial success, I do not believe, are the best measures of a successful life. Instead, I believe it is all about the journey, getting out of our comfort zone, doing our best, enjoying what we do and the process and of trying to make the world and ourselves a better place that should be the measure of ones life.

Thanks for checking in this week and I hope you have been kept safe from the storms and going for it in your own lives.

Aloha, Paul

 

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The Irma Effect

dsci0021Hurricanes are an interesting phenomenon especially to a surfer. On the one hand the thought of one coming in ones direction can create a sense of excitement and on the other a sense of fear and angst. They can send perfect overhead swells your way or beat you down to a pulp if they get too treacherous.

I have surfed my fair share of them with mixed results. In the early 90’s I surfed 10-15′ surf off of cape Hatteras and caught several of the most exhilarating rides of my life but also almost bought the farm on one wicked wipeout.

Since moving to the Jacksonville area in 2005 I have mostly experienced hurricane swells that came from tropical storms that stayed well off of our coast and left the area with solid overhead swells and off shore winds that made the conditions, though at times somewhat terrifying, mostly manageable and very enjoyable.

Years of such luck with hurricanes can leave one somewhat jaded in thinking that is the way it will always be. Unfortunately, as we found with both Mathew and Irma, that’s not the way mother nature works. Sooner or later you are going to get burned.

When I was young and growing up on Long Island, we were hit with some pretty disastrous storms. back in those days I don’t remember any sort of evacuation orders and you pretty much just rode it out and hoped for the best

As we lived on a canal I remember watching the water creep closer and closer to the house and our losing trees but as a kid I don’t remember being overly frightened by them. I suppose as we get older though we tend to become more and more concerned over such things.

For some reason I wasn’t that much concerned about Irma before it hit, to the point that my wife and daughter got on me about not having enough concern. But once it hit it seemed to take me to my knees psychologically. I guess severe and life and death circumstances tend to take something from us even though in some ways they do give us strength.

Our area of Jacksonville has not had an ounce of flooding since we moved here. There are no rivers or streams near us with only small retention ponds in the neighborhood. But Irma was different. We woke up to flooded streets throughout the neighborhood and the water finally stopped rising a mere 5 feet from our front door. Other than that we were pretty lucky in only losing some shingles on our roof , a loss of power for a day and a half and a big oak in the front yard that split but miraculously did not fall down.

So why was a I so unnerved by it all? I’m not sure. Maybe it was because the storm seemed to take forever to get here, the hype created by the media, the fact that it was going to move further away but didn’t or who knows what.

Bottom line, between the devastation caused by Harvey, Mathew, and Irma, I would be happy going without a good tropical swell if it meant people could be safe and not suffer from the effects of them.

One aspect of the aftermath of the storms that was very encouraging was the way people quickly pitched in to help neighbors as well as people the didn’t even know. It was refreshing to get a reprieve from all of the political, religious and ethnic tensions we have seen of late. People were seen helping others that they might not have either liked, agreed with or had a desire to even know before hand.

Our neighborhood is a very diverse one and people get along pretty well but for the most part people tend to keep to themselves. After the storm settled down a bit and everyone went out to check the streets and yards it was like a love fest. People were helping others and it was great.

My hope is that we can all hold onto those feelings of togetherness after the fact and remember that in the end we are all a brotherhood of man and here to lighten each other load and love one another despite our differences. If that is the case then if it takes an Irma or a Harvey to bring us to that end then I suppose it wasn’t a total loss after all.

Thanks for checking in this week and I pray this blog finds you safe and sound and out of harms way.

Aloha,

Paul

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Ancestry. coN

IMG_2764I’m sure you’ve seen the TV ads for ancestry.com where the people talk about how they thought they were one nationality but after having their heritage researched came to find out they were really another one or two altogether.

Watching those adds always made me wonder how so many people seemingly had no clue as to their family’s historical background/nationality. Was it that their family never talked about their history or passed down the family stories or history or were they in fact too ashamed of who they are, what happened or where they were from.

As I have come to find out over time I didn’t have to look further than my own family tree to get a hint of the truth of the matter.

Since as long as can remember my father drilled into we kids the supposed fact that our ancestors on his side came from England. As proof, he showed us a framed document from some heritage research group that not only said we were English but also that we were related to the Earl of Hayden and had noble blood in us.

Also framed was the supposed family crest and family credo of “Herm En Foy” (Firm in Faith).

As sort of the family black sheep, I didn’t inherit much from my parents but as the “man” in the family I was given that framed crest and letter which until recently I hung on the wall of our home.

I say until recently because my older sister recently did a dna analysis and found out we aren’t English at all but instead of Irish descent. It burns me to think of all of the St Patrick’s day celebrations and parties I missed out of because of it. Not that there was any harm in being English but heck, you are what you are.

From what my sister found out, our ancestors were not only Irish but supposedly of a lower class who toiled making buttons which from what she was told was the lowest class of workers way back when.

And the con by our parents didn’t stop there. Once, as children, we were drive out into the Pennsylvania countryside to the town of Birchrunsville and shown what was supposedly the family’s palatial estate where pictures were taken so we could all develop tham and frame a copy to hang on our walls proudly.

We were told that out grandfather who died long before we were born had owned the estate and that he was a prominent Philadelphia attorney. We later found the family never owned the estate and that our grandfather was actually a constable in that city and not an attorney.

These are only a few of the tales we were told not to mention the things we weren’t told about the family that were later discovered.

To me it’s both sad and disturbing that so many families like ours were deprived of knowing their actual heritage and family history due most likely to either embarrassment or shame.

In truth, most, if not all families, have some warts in their family history and in a way that’s only natural and makes for great story telling. As a writer I understand that not too many people want to read a novel where all of the characters have no flaws. The world simply isn’t like that and it certainly doesn’t make for good reading.

It’s also sad that children like me and my sisters were finally left wondering what to believe about our family and it’s history. That fact of the matter is, especially in this day and age with technology, the truth will come out sooner or later so why hide it in the first place.

Bottom line, we are who and what we are with all of our flaws and warts as well as our gifts and blessings and that’s ok and nothing to be ashamed of. So embrace it all and don’t feel the need to be ashamed or embarrassed by who and what you are, where you came from or what dark history lurks down in your family tree and you will most likely be a lot happier.

As for me, You’ll certainly see me wearing the green next St. Patties day.

In the interim have a great week and I hope to see you here again soon.

P.S. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while but I needed to take a break from it and recharge my batteries so to speak.

Thanks.

Aloha, Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Would you still do it?

the-nonconformist-3Last night I once again watched the movie “Stranger Than Fiction”. The movie is really great and one I especially enjoy as a writer.

In the movie, Harold Frick, played by Will Farrell, starts hearing a narrators voice in his head pretty much narrating what he is doing/thinking as she types away on her novel. Unbeknownst to the author, Harold is actually real and what she writes about him is actually playing out in his life.

Finally realizing he isn’t really crazy, Harold tries to find out what is going on and eventually comes to find out he is unwittingly part of the authors novel and that she always kills off her hero/heroine. Harold finally meets up with the author and asks her not to kill him off. Undecided, she hands him a copy of her draft to read. The English professor Harold has sought help from (Dustin Hoffman), after reading her draft of the book convinces Harold he must die as the work is a masterpiece.

Harold eventually accepts his fate and tells the author he is willing to die and that he loves her novel. In the end, the author changes he mind and re-writes her ending even though she knows it lessens the greatness of her work. She does so because she just can not kill someone who is “so noble”.

As an author I have killed off a number of my characters (not the hero). Even though they are fictional, after spending so much time with them they almost become real. As such it is painful to kill them off even the dastardly ones.

But what if they were truly real? Could we kill them off even though we know that doing so makes for a great read and that not doing so could keep us from writing the next greatest American novel?

I know I couldn’t. The truth is, once we get to know someone our feelings about them will often change and generally for the better even if our opinion of the person was very poor before hand.

There was a musical group back in the sixties called Friend and Lover. Their cover song was “Reach out in the Darkness”. My favorite line in the song started out something like, “I knew a man that I did not care for, and then one day this man gave me a call. We sat and talked about things on our mind and now this man he is a friend of mine”.

I find that sentiment to be so true. We can never know enough about someone until we sit down and talk with them. It is so easy to pass judgement on people we don’t really know and to demonize them.

All too often I hear and read people’s remarks to the effect that “I wish that person would die” or “someone ought to kill that person”. Whether serious or not such comments are sad. Sure some people and their actions can definitely infuriate us, but I think what we should do is comment on the actions of the individual that we don’t like rather than demonizing the individual and to want them to die.

Bottom line, I absolutely couldn’t kill a character off if I knew they were real. It’s tough enough even when I know they aren’t.

Thanks for checking in this week, pray for peace and hope we all try to get closer to someone we have either become a stranger to or been too critical of.

Aloha, Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Presence

may 10 surf photo 2I am fortunate to currently be working at a surf shop in Jacksonville Beach, FL. For the enjoyment of our shops customers, we run various surfing videos throughout the day.

I was watching one yesterday when I came to realize the one thing those great surfers in the videos had in common. They all seemed to have a superb sense of presence. Call it locked in,  focused, in the zone or whatever but in the final analysis, besides being extremely gifted athletes who work diligently at their craft, the thing I believe that separates them from the rest of the crowd is their sense of presence.

And its not just great surfers who seem to have this quality but I believe it is so with all great athletes as well as great scientists, painters, actors, world leaders and many others.

It seems as though when they are doing what they do they are totally in the moment and fully focused and invested. All other distractions seem to be blocked and somehow don’t penetrate their consciousness. It’s like see the ball, be the ball, see the wave, be the wave. Because of these attributes, the surfers in the films seem to be in the best spot on the wave and time and again make the hairy drop in’s, make the right decision as to when to cut back or drive down the line and invariably get the best barrels of the day.

Somehow this doesn’t come easily for me. I’m not sure if its due to my having a attention deficit disorder or what but staying in total focus has always been a fleeting thing for me. When I write I can only do so for about an hour or two before I’m either drained or fidgety. The same goes when I’m painting or playing sports. I’ve always tended to be streaky in sports, at one moment totally focused and in the zone and the next minute lost in a cloud.

It’s when I am fully focused though, either when doing sports, art, writing or simply listening to a friend or enjoying a beautiful day or event that I seem to be the happiest.

The shot of me on the wave in the attached picture was one of the times recently where I was totally in the present and focused. There was a small swell in the water that morning with hardly any plus sets to be found. As I stared out to sea I saw this one nice set (well at least bigger than anything else that morning) wave rising on the outside and I didn’t want to miss it.

I paddled over to where it looked like it was going to peak and fortunately ended up in just the right spot. I was able to pop up quickly, snap the board into the curl just ahead of the collapsing lip and gain speed quickly. I pumped the board for more speed and later down the line managed to get covered up then make it back out onto the shoulder.

For that brief time I realized what it felt like to have presence. I was so focused that I didn’t notice the photographer on the beach shooting the sequence or worry about who was watching or if I was going to wipe out.

As I thought about the subject of presence further I realized that we would all do much better if we lived in each moment fully. I’m not just talking about sports but also about time spent with friends and family, in nature, at work and at play or whatever it is that we are doing. All too often we miss the best part of an experience because we are distracted by one thing or another or thinking about the next thing we are going to do.

With all  the cool things the new technology brings with it, it can also be a huge distraction that can take us away from the present and rob us of a potentially treasured moment.

My hope then is that we all create a better sense of presence for ourselves. Although it may not guarantee we make it onto a sports video or make us a world champion, at the same time it might help us to be better and happier individuals.

Thanks for checking in this week and I hope your coming one is a great one.

Aloha, Paul

Special thanks to my friend Eddie Pitts of the 911surfreport.com for the photo

 

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