One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Posts Tagged ‘Commentary

Documentary: THE SOCIAL DILEMMA and Social Media

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Social media has been the focus of criticism in recent years. Following our review of Social Warming, we’re presenting a recent documentary about the hazards of social media. Although making its premiere on Netflix, The Social Dilemma is now available for viewing on YouTube. Catch the embed below.

(If you see only code, you can find it via direct YouTube link. It’s also a must-watch, especially for social media professionals).

As always, you’re welcome to join the conversation on our Facebook page or contact us via email.

And thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

September 16, 2021 at 8:14 am

Surviving the Metra Lollapalooza COVID Express

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Lollapalooza officially ends today, and I am personally grateful for a variety of reasons. After all, I was around when Lollapalooza started as a touring show that was merely corporate-sponsored pandering led by a spoiled, entitled musician whose then-latest hit served as a paean to shoplifting. However, coming home from a friend’s showing at the Fulton Street Collective meant taking the Metra Rock Island line home…and dealing with a throng of young Lollapalooza attendees who were…

Well, I live tweeted it, and here’s a timeline for your reading pleasure. And yes, you can offer thoughts and prayers as I express what happened without sounding ageist or entitled.

Saturday, 9:15 pm – I arrive at the Metra LaSalle Street station. The waiting area is filled with mostly adults. It’s quiet, and the 10:00 pm train appears to be on time. Sitting down, I relax and look forward to a relatively peaceful ride home.

Saturday, 9:30 pm – Heading outside, I enjoy the cooler air of a summer evening in Chicago. Nothing seems to be going wrong except for a possible delay in the train’s arrival.

Saturday, 9:40 pm – The first of the Lollapalooza crowd begins showing up, and soon they’re dominating the platform. As you can see by the photos above, none of them are wearing masks. Within fifteen minutes, I decide to double-mask for my own safety.

Saturday, 10:04 pmAs two trains finally arrive, Metra employees encourage a single line to check passes before boarding the train. Lollapalooza attendees force their way through, ignoring directions and waving cell phones in people’s faces. As I board the car, I sit in one of the front most seats.

Four minutes later, I perform a rough headcount: the car contains approximately 30 people, only six (including myself) are over 35. Only four people (including myself) are wearing masks. As public transportation, Metra falls under the federal mask mandate.

Saturday, 10:11 pm – I’m reminded of the irony of attending Raks Inferno on Friday night: the troupe (and home venue Newport Theater) held a limited capacity, vax-only show that turned away two people. Afterwards, on the way home, a throng of Lollapalooza-based motorcyclists defied traffic laws and performed wheelies only seen in high-end action movies. (And which never end well)

I say this because I tweeted that Mayor Lightfoot should have canceled Lollapalooza. After all, reentry should have been more cautious, and businesses should not take precedence over public health…but I digress.

(Yes, my Tweeting takes on a slightly sarcastic tone, but it was my way of documenting what was happening, as well as allowing myself some self-soothing. But I felt it worth discussing in light of current COVID-19 trends in Chicago and the state of Illinois)

Saturday, 10:16 pmTwo Metra employees enter our car and announce that if anyone is getting off at a stop in Beverly (my home neighborhood since I became Mom’s caregiver), we need to move “two cars up”. Ten of us rise and walk through two cars. We ask if it’s the Beverly car…and we’re told it’s the next car up.

Barnard Park, Chicago
Barnard Park – Photo by Gordon Dymowski

We moved through five Metra cars (almost the entire length of the train) in order for the doors to open for us to get off. Although the number of people in each car dwindled, many of them were from Lollapalooza and did not wear masks. None of the Lollapalooza crowd looked sober, and one drunkenly told me I was “fired” and offered a fist bump. I refused. We eventually made it to the front car, and sitting down, simply waited for my stop.

Saturday, 10:29 pmAs the Metra train began its end run towards home, I felt concerned about that evening’s sleep and ruminated on my past. In my past career in social services, I’ve worked in a variety of rough situations (including a St. Louis-area office in the basement of an infamous housing development). I never felt as uncomfortable (or threatened with illness) as I did on that train ride.

Saturday, 10:37 pmAs my train gets closer to my home station, I realize that I smell something a bit…odd, and look at the seats in front of me. Three young women are talking, and one of them is vaping. (I am unsure if this is allowed on Metra trains, but say nothing).

At the stop before mine, two of the women depart the train. The last one – the woman who was vaping – looks at me and says blankly, “I’m lonely.” I keep silent and get up as we approach my stop.

Saturday 11:00 pmAfter successfully disembarking from the train and arriving home, I chose to update Twitter with a note of gratitude. The next morning, I managed to provide a follow-up Tweet. All was relatively well.

Although this essay may seem rather over-the-top, there have been genuine concerns about Lollapalooza becoming a superspreader event like a recent festival in the Netherlands. With COVID rates increasing in the city, the Mayor’s press for further vaccinations is a smart move…but holding Lollapalooza was ill-advised. Metra shares part of the responsibility for not rigorously enforcing the rules…

But holding Lollapalooza in the first place was a bad move. In not canceling the show, Mayor Lightfoot demonstrated a greater concern for corporate and business interests than the welfare of the city. She’s scheduled to provide a COVID update on Monday at 10:00 am at City Hall. Don’t be surprised if the evades questions about why she let Lollapalooza go on.

The answer’s obvious.

If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Written by gordondym

August 1, 2021 at 8:48 pm

Caregivers & Health Care: A Complicated Relationship

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As a caregiver for my mother, I frequently interact with our health care system. Having received a liver transplant ten years ago via Medicaid and Medicare, my mother has also experienced other health consequences including kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic heart disease. Last Friday, my mother went in for an angiogram on her liver (to determine flow) while I struggled with a skin infection on my arm. Although my mother and I belong to different health provider networks, navigating the health care system for caregivers and the people they care for provides the basis of a love/hate relationship.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

My mother had scheduled the procedure for 12:45 pm on a Friday, with our arrival time at 11:15 am. (Thankfully, I had called my doctor for an appointment about my skin infection the previous week, but was sent to Immediate Care due to a lack of appointments) A notification text the day before had indicated the time moved up to 2:45 pm, but my mother had clarified the time since we were depending on medical transportation. So we were both surprised when that Friday, at 5:30 am, we received a call from the transportation provider asking if we could be ready for a 7:00 am pickup. From that point,

  • We arrive at the hospital with nothing in their records about Mom’s appointment. After being bounced through various departments, we learn where we’re supposed to head, and we’re allowed in.
  • After arriving at the appropriate department. , we wait for Mom to be prepped. To kill the boredom, I sign up for text notifications about Mom’s procedure. While waiting, I call my primary care physician for follow-up; luckily, I’m able to schedule an appointment in between job search efforts and watching YouTube.
  • Once Mom is formally prepared, I grab lunch and sit in the family lounge. My time is spent writing, doing some job searching, and catching up on social media.
  • After making my way into the family lounge, I wait for another two hours when I am notified by an attendant that Mom is heading into her procedure. During this time…
  • I receive a call from Mom’s transportation provider; after I apologize for the delay, the driver informs me that his manager does not want his drivers out after 5 pm, necessitating a last-ditch effort (Spoiler: hospital staff ensured that we had transportation home), and
  • I discover that it was #NationalCaregiversDay on Twitter, and a tweet declared that “Caregivers are the health care system” and that caregivers “rock” at negotiating health care services.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

And that’s part of the problem: too many people advocating for caregivers do not understand the totality of negotiating the health care system. (Watch the above video from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver for details). Rather than focus on advocating for systemic changes, these advocates tend to focus on more superficial issues. Many caregivers dealing with the complexities of the health care system on top of their caregiving duties have a greater risk for compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. There’s a lack of acknowledgment about the burden and toll of caregiving on the individual, substituting self-help platitudes for more adaptive caring strategies and fostering connection and community.

But the greatest challenge in negotiating health care is engaging in self-care as a caregiver. Many caregivers are more likely to sacrifice their own health when caring for an elderly relative, and some caregivers experience health issues as a result. (Mental health issues for caregivers, especially male caregivers, are also critical). Caregivers are rarely reminded that self-care is not an indulgence, but a discipline. Negotiating a complicated system only adds to a caregiver’s stress; working to “game the system” makes it harder for caregivers and their relatives.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Final note: I was fortunate to learn that my skin infection was easily treatable with antibiotics.  However, getting to that point involved negotiating a tricky, often contradictory system that lacks empathy for patients and their loved ones. With the recent focus on public health issues around the coronavirus, it would be tempting to take a less even-handed tone about health care. However, caregivers – like many other people – have a complicated relationship with health care because of bureaucracy, costs, and lack of access to services.

And it shouldn’t be – health care is not an indulgence, it’s a right.

Please join the conversation via our Facebook page or leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 27, 2020 at 9:17 am

Caregiving, Self-Care, and Staying Connected

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One of the most brutal effects of this past winter has been its effect on my caregiving and my own self-care…and nearly cost me my sense of connection with others.

It may sound obvious, but one of the critical issues facing adult caregivers is the balance of caring for a family member and maintaining their own health. (In my case, my mother is my primary responsibility which started with a foot infection, and is now followed by her daily struggle with type 2 diabetes, chronic heart disease, and other related maladies). Between personal illness (I’m getting better – I promise!) and the struggles of maintaining a job search and other creative endeavors, my energy level has been low. Not low enough for depression, but low enough where I never felt I was getting enough “done”. Even efforts to drive a passive income, such as my writing Patreon, were being left in the dust…not out of apathy or laziness, but with limited emotional and physical resources.

(Thankfully, I have been engaging in some self-care behaviors to work through many of my issues. However, one of those behaviors – writing on a basis – was limited to journaling. That’s part of the reason why this blog has been a bit dry.)

small-biz-saturday-25Winter and caregiving also took a toll on my social life, as well…and that proved nearly fatal to my self-esteem. Being physically limited (after all, who wants to head out in thirty below wind chill weather) resulted in my attitude shifting towards negativity. Think of it less as “fear of missing out” and more towards believing that, at best, I was a minor player in my friends’ lives. Like many others, I was spiraling towards caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue, assuming that my life (as I knew it) was over, that my options were limited, and that quite honestly, I could easily fade out of my friends’ lives without being missed. Yes, I would be mourned if I passed on, but not acknowledged if they merely passed me by.

Luckily, there was a gradual progression in several aspects of my life that made caregiving and self-care easier and boosted my confidence. My networking efforts towards freelance consulting and full-time marketing work have progressed slowly yet evenly. (Revising my resume after a recruiter informed me that I needed to “beef up (my) resume before (she) could even consider working with (me)” was key…especially since I learned I didn’t have enough “bullet points”). Smaller victories like seeing a recent short story published by Airship 27 Productions and a Doctor Who panel approved by C2E2 helped boost my self-confidence). As my health improved, my capacity for self-care increased as I was spending more time tending to my physical health and establishing healthy boundaries.

(Spending less time on social media and more time on face-to-face interaction when I could help).

TARDIS at Pumping StationBut two events this past week helped place my self-care as a caregiver and my personal connections into sharp contrast. The first was a surprise birthday party thrown for me at a recent Chicago Doctor Who Meetup – with my schedule being crowded over the next month, a volunteer chose to throw it sooner rather than later. The other, sadder event was the sudden passing of a friend and colleague who I knew through the Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction. She wasn’t much older than I am, and her passing hit me hard. (I’m working on a tribute to be coming soon). But both events reminded me of something that, as a caregiver, I take for granted;

I have people in my life. I matter to them. I may not always experience it directly, but I have to work at connectedness in order to stay connected.

All of this reminded me of last year’s post around social media and friendships, and so next week – my birthday week – I’m going to be heading out and engaging friends and others when I can. Tuesday night will see me running the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup out of LaCatrina Cafe in Pilsen. Wednesday – my birthday proper – I have no plans, but I’m staying open. Thursday night will see me reading at Open Books. Friday night will be my “unofficial” birthday party as I will be attending Raks Geek, and Saturday afternoon (if I’m able) I hope to catch Chicago Nerd Social Club’s Almost Pi Day at Open Books.

As a caregiver, I can easily avoid self-care and maintaining connections. After all, it is always easier to focus on the negative aspects, listening to the voice that says “Caregiving is all I can do at this point – no one will hire me, I have no other activities, and my life is over”.  But part of my role as caregiver is precisely self-care, allowing me to nurture my own emotional and physical well-being enough to carry out those roles. Part of my caregiving role also includes allowing my friends to be supportive…even if it’s just knowing that they’re concerned and want the best for me.

This year, the best birthday present I’ve received….Ok, it’s a copy of Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker. But personal growth, healthier self-care behaviors and the importance of staying connected? Definitely great gifts as well.

If you have comments or questions, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you wish to contact me directly, please feel free to use this email contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 28, 2019 at 11:21 am

On Thanksgiving and Gratitude in 2018

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Every year, writers, pundits, and bloggers post something about the importance of Thanksgiving and gratitude. I’m not immune, especially since I wrote a guest post for last year’s 30 Days of Gratitude. But this past year, a year which put the “dump” into “dumpster fire”, was especially challenging for those (like me) to try to find gratitude.

After all, I’ve recently been working through difficult issues around caregiver burnout (although I’m finding recovery during National Family Caregiver Month). Although I’ve managed to find some freelance gigs and consulting work, they have not been consistent or steady. Finding a balance between freelance searching and caregiving is always a challenge…and embracing change in difficult times is easier said than done.

However, there are three things that I am especially grateful for on this day before Thanksgiving.

  • I Have Been Connecting – And Reconnecting – With Friends and Contacts: This year began with finally seeing a musician friend perform live. I’ve reconnected with another over dinner and a shared love of cooking. I have also reconnected reconnecting with professional contacts, leading to work (in some cases) and potential opportunities (some of which have come to pass; others are still in process). Thanks to new contacts, I have been able to post more frequently on this blog and have seen a rise in unique visitors. Although I don’t see my friends as frequently as I would like, I am grateful for the opportunity to connect outside of social media.
  • I Have Seen My Writing Career Expand – I’m not just talking about my first public reading or seeing more of my fiction being published; I have also started a Patreon page for my writing and blogging. I was also fortunate enough to have an eight-page comic story published in the Always Punch Nazis story, and chuckled when it received coverage by Breitbart. (That coverage, ironically, drove the project’s Kickstarter numbers upward, so thanks, Breitbart! And no, I won’t link there – there’s a reason Google exists, you know). And I’m especially proud of the C2E2 and Windy City Pulp & Paper panels I moderated earlier this year.
  • I Have Made Healthier Decisions – Self-care when being a caregiver is always a challenge…but I’ve made some positive decisions. Taking up home cooking has not only allowed me to eat healthier (and continue my weight loss) but also provide content for my Instagram account. I left my volunteer duties as charity director for a convention because I needed the time, and quite honestly, the working atmosphere was becoming more hostile. Recently, I turned down a full-time job offer because…well, even though the job market is so tight that I was offered a position after two phone calls within the same week, there were plenty of red flags. I thought it better for my sanity – and my career – to consider a healthier, less stressful alternative.

I know what I’ve written sounds trite, and maybe I’m being a little too unrealistic, but there’s one belief that’s kept me going throughout the year. It’s simple, and maybe cliche, but it’s kept me from moving into a dark, cynical place…and why it’s making

Right now, everyone is feeling under siege. For some, it’s part of their experience that is only getting worse in the current political climate; for those like me, it’s an unfamiliar experience. My choice in attitude can be one of corrosive despair or hostility…or it can focus on our common humanity. Although I don’t believe there can ever be “common ground” with the opposition (they’re just out to hurt “the other”, and I don’t think writing a story for Always Punch Nazis helps my case), I believe that setting boundaries, focusing on my own behavior and attitudes, and treating people with a modicum of respect helps make my own experience easier.

We’re all tired. We’re all frustrated. Despite the outcome of the recent election, there’s a further fight ahead of all of us. That fight to recognize the common humanity in all of us – and to change some of the very systems that deny that humanity – still has a way to go.

But I’m grateful to still be here, to still keep moving forward…and that this Thanksgiving, I can acknowledge and appreciate that fact.

Is there anything that you are particularly grateful for this Thanksgiving? Please leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading…and Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by gordondym

November 21, 2018 at 10:41 am

How Do You Get Scott Adams To Block You On Twitter?

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Yesterday, I learned the answer to the question, “How do you get Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, to block you on Twitter?”

It wasn’t an answer I was actively seeking but resulted from Scott Adams explaining the proper use of “pour” and “pore” when discussing documents. (This was in reaction to the President’s recent Tweet). I simply made the observation that Scott Adams had not been relevant since the 1990s. I held back from adding “especially since Office Space did it much better).

Now, I probably should have thought better of trolling Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. After all, he believes that Donald Trump was a “Wizard” of persuasion. He claimed that men were inclined to rape women, and once pretended to be his own fan in an online forum. Last week, Scott Adams told Forbes that he believed that “goals are for losers.” So I probably should have been careful to engage him in an intellectual debate, rather than trolling him – after all, civility is paramount in our national conversation. Scott Adams deserved that much.

After deleting the Tweet that started this ruckus, Scott Adams declared that I was “conflating my ignorance with his relevance” and blocked me. Almost on cue, a wide variety of individuals defended Scott Adams’ honor by impugning my character. Of course, many of these individuals would be likely to complain about the lack of “civility” in social media. Their comments included

• Being called “made of soy” by a woman;
• Having “more neck than chin”
• Several slams about me not being “relevant”;
• Criticism of my writing style thanks to a Google search; and
• Being “butthurt” over getting “rekt by the Dilbert guy”

(I’ve chosen, after some consultation, to redact their names and Twitter accounts, but not their photos. Several of them have either generic Twitter icons or misleading photos. Plus, they don’t deserve total anonymity – I stand behind my Twitter avatar; they can stand or fall behind theirs. )

Now, it would have been easy for me to defend myself, to discuss caring for my mother, or even delivering a torrent of counter-insults…but it wouldn’t be civil. So I blocked them.

Civility in any conversation – whether personal or through social media – means that there is a certain level of accountability. Accountability suggests an understanding of the “rules” of conduct, and many on the right believe that they are beyond those rules. Confronted by an angry majority about the decline in our society, it is much easier for that vocal minority to assault or harass their opposition. They hide behind the First Amendment not realizing that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from controversy or freedom of consequence. I took my hit for stating what I believe; they deserve the same respect (or in this case, “contempt”).

(And this has happened before – after writing a post criticizing a PR firm’s selling Twitter followers as a “false tactic”, they created a series of Twitter bots and flooded my stream with Tweets. In addition, actress Kelly Marie Tran and Christopher McQuarrie have been driven off of social media due to organized harassment. Because many Star Wars and Scott Adams fans are touchy when it comes to what they enjoy. And they’ll do anything they can to push you off of “their” channel.)

Unfortunately, Scott Adams of Dilbert is engaging in behavior reminiscent of Roseanne Barr a few weeks ago: make an outrageous statement, refuse to take responsibility, and double down. Although I could have been a bit more clever, I won’t apologize for my behavior. Twitter is a public forum. Scott Adams behaved inappropriately towards a user. His tasteful follow-up to blocking me: posting a cartoon and suggesting that I was claiming to have “owned him”

(Considering our country’s history as well as an alleged incident involving a student and a gay teacher at my old high school, I don’t think that I have any right to use the word “own” in that context. Plus, like Scott Adams, I am a white male. I know better. I would never stoop to suggesting that this blog post is Tweeted directly to him with the hashtag #betterbutthurtthanbrownshirt…but then again, what do I know? I didn’t create Dilbert).

But the story ends with two Facebook conversations – not this blog’s Facebook page, mind you, conversations with friends. Conversations that provided a sorely needed sense of perspective and humor.

One was a long-time colleague who asked, “LOL, who is Scott Adams?” After gently “mansplaining” Scott Adams’ career as the creator of Dilbert, her response was, “I stopped reading Dilbert years ago – is he still around?”

But the second conversation was with a friend who, without prompting, answered the question I posed at the beginning of this post.

“How do you get Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, to block you on Twitter? Be a decent human.”

(Please feel free to comment below or via Facebook, and note that comments are moderated)

Written by gordondym

July 5, 2018 at 1:49 pm

The Myth of “Crushing It” In the Gig Economy

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One of the many challenges of balancing freelancing and caretaking while working in the “gig economy” is that gaining a new client can be slightly disruptive. I should know – in the past few weeks, I’ve taken on another short-term project. As a freelance copywriter/marketing consultant, I often find myself “in the hustle” when it comes to looking for jobs, yet criticized by some peers for not “crushing it.”

For those who may not be aware, “crushing it” seems to be derived from the title of a book by Gary Vaynerchuk. After reading one of Vaynerchuk’s other books, I gave Crushing It a glance…but after thirty pages fought off the temptation to write soliciting a job as Gary’s ghostwriter. I also realized that Vaynerchuk has promoted a very toxic – and limited – idea about success – namely, that being successful as an “entrepreneur” doesn’t just mean gaining a heads-up, but total mastery of a situation.  It means denying any and all other parts of your life in single-minded pursuit of a sole idea. In short, it’s not just “living the dream” but also making sure that nobody else can compete.

It’s an attitude that I have seen when out networking and meeting professional peers. When the subject of caretaking and work comes up, I always mention that my time is limited (after all, self-care is an important part of any caretaking regimen). Of course, many people understand and are willing to help…but for a select few, their faces take on a very select look. That look starts with disbelief and scorn – after all, I can’t win if I don’t play the game, right – but then takes on a sad, almost desperate look of disbelief.

 Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

The reason for the look? They realize a truth that I (and many others) had learned: the idea of “crushing it’ in the gig economy is a myth. A myth that, when under the influence, can be particularly harmful and self-destructive.

Last year, The New Yorker published a commentary about how the “gig economy” has an adverse effect on its workers.  This attitude is similar to career coaches who advise that “looking for a job is a full-time job”. From my own experience, balancing family needs with seeking work in the gig economy is an ever-present challenge. With only a limited amount of available time, setting aside time for self-care and relaxation can be especially challenging. (Please note that my experience is limited and that many others face more dire situations). And unfortunately, many are seeing freelancing in the gig economy as “aspirational”.

It’s not. For many of us, it’s practical. Very few can afford to simply “not work” (even caretakers like myself), so finding steady, consistent work is critical to our survival. Yet in recent months, I am finding that more people – and organizations – see the gig economy as a condition to aspire towards rather than a work situation that requires some acclimation. In one of my volunteer positions, when I expressed concern about seeing this attitude, I was informed that yes, they saw freelancing as “aspirational”. They also emphasized that they were more interested in overall growth than nurturing existing groups.

(Without identifying the organization, I will say this: for a group that claims to advocate for the rights of 30378605441_efbe153edd_mfreelancers and other workers in the gig economy, my experience in communicating with them has been frustrating. As I informed my contact, I would not tolerate such conduct from a client. Although things have improved slightly…I’m still on the fence. And enough “vaguebooking” via the blog).

Ironically, I blog about (and work in) a field that encourages entrepreneurship and seeking out new opportunities…but I’m also finding that I’m appreciating a sense of balance in my life. I know my value and the skills that I bring to clients, but I also know that many others don’t face the challenges I experience on a regular basis (And a larger group faces multiple challenges on a variety of fronts). Recent experiences with friends and colleagues have me reevaluating my life and relationships. Although I have had to put some of my life goals on hold for awhile, I also realize is the reason why I made one decision last year that had a great impact:

I have limited time with my remaining parent. That is more important to me than any egotistical drive towards mastery…and the only thing that I will be “crushing” is the idea that having priorities and self-care are negative ideas.

Thanks for reading – if you would like to make comments, please feel free to do so below or via our Facebook page. If you wish to contact me privately, you can do so via this email page.