August 30, 2012


What came to mind when you read the post title, Surfing? I think for most people it would be one of a limited number of things: the sport in the water, where waves and sharks are your biggest challenges; couches, where your friends and relatives can end up when they're between residences or relationships; the Web, where anonymity and trolls are among the biggest pitfalls; and the TV, before which people across the land relax to forget their troubles for a while...or learn about new ones.

All are valid, and I'm betting there are a few more that haven't crossed my mind.

For me, however, in the last eight months or so, surfing has meant something else entirely: I've been a Refrigerator Surfer.

Sometime last December, my refrigerator died. Overnight it shut down and by the time I realized what had happened late the next morning, every single perishable thing in it had defrosted or gone bad. It was a mess. Everything had to go and I was faced with the daunting cost of buying a new fridge or calling in a repair person who would likely charge me to tell me it was not worth fixing because of its age. Neither prospect was appealing.

So, me being me, I did nothing. Everything was gone, there was no rush to decide what to do and I really, really didn't feel I could spare the money to replace it. Time went by, a month, two months and it really wasn't all that difficult. Yes, I missed milk and ice cubes -- I really, REALLY missed ice cubes -- but apart from that, it wasn't too bad. I had butter and I had eggs, which really don't need to be as refrigerated as we've been conditioned to believe, and everything else was either shelf stable or I didn't have it.

The biggest challenge, apart from the aforementioned ice cubes, was leftovers. I've changed my eating habits and I very often eat only half a meal when I dine out. With my budget being tight, I wasn't about to start throwing away what could well be a whole other meal for myself! So I started fridge surfing, borrowing space in the fridges of friends and family, for short periods of time. Well, short periods of time except for my brother's fridge, because I decided being family gave me the right to keep things in there just a little bit longer. Have you seen my brother's fridge? Much of the time it looks something like this:

It was just begging for more actual food in it! And who am I to deny a beautiful fridge like that anything? In return, it kept me in ice and cold water every couple of days. A beautiful, symbiotic relationship, as far as I was concerned. I'm anticipating that B2W3 (that's "the Best Brother in the Whole Wide World" for those of you who may be new to my blog) just might have a slightly different take on it, but that's what the comments are for, right?

I digress, however. My groceries, leftovers, treats and I became a traveling exhibit, moving from store/restaurant to one fridge to another as needed for months on end. I've "borrowed" ice from more freezers that you can shake a stick at in that time, too. A lot of people thought I was nuts, to varying degrees, and if I had a dollar for every time I heard, "I could never do that!" or "How on earth do you manage?" I'd probably have had enough to buy that new fridge.

But it worked pretty well for me overall, I have to say. Not only did I not spend money I couldn't spare on a new fridge, I wasn't filling it with food that all too often went bad before I could use it, I didn't have any ice cream in the house to tempt me, and my electricity bill was the lowest it has ever been. In the back of my mind, though, I knew that it was a temporary thing. I just knew that somehow, some way, I was going to get a fridge that wouldn't cost me much, if anything, and this personal experiment would be over.

Today is that day. Tonight I plugged in my brand new, used refrigerator that came to me for absolutely nothing through a friend, Freecycling at its best. It has been sitting in my kitchen for a week, waiting for me to start using it, once I got it all cleaned up. But I wasn't ready quite yet. I found I wasn't eager to jump right back into the regular world of refrigeration and give up my surfing days. I needed a reason, a push, an impetus.

Tonight I came home from an evening out with a leftover box, no desire to go find a fridge for it and not wanting it to go to waste. So I plugged my new friend in, listened to her hum, then filled her with everything I had available to me, which, admittedly, wasn't much.

It's only fair that I present to you, in the finest tradition of my family, my new used fridge, ready for action and the cleanest it will probably ever be from this day forward:

As soon as those bottle are actually chilled, let's have a toast, shall we?

March 31, 2012

Suits Me To A Tea

Tea. Such a short, simple word. But one with such a sense of history, as it has been around far longer than coffee, and has played a memorable role in at least a few important scenes of our past. Boston Tea Party, anyone?

Nowadays, however, tea always seems to take a backseat to coffee, at least here in the U.S. I can only surmise the reason is primarily because of the extra caffeine boost from coffee, in a society that drives itself to the brink in pursuit of money, status and the "perfect" life. Once espresso was introduced to the masses, the quest for buzz only got more intense...and we Americans are nothing if not really good at excelling at overindulgence!

But that's not really what this is about. No, not on this very last day of the month of March, when I'm again squeezing in a post that has been brewing (pun intended, of course) in my head for days.  No, it's about how much I have come to really enjoy and appreciate tea, and the new role it has begun to play in my life.

I'm not a coffee drinker and never have been. I watched almost all of my friends get addicted to it in college and be complete grumpyheads in the morning without it. It took me longer than it should have to realize why so many people complained about "getting going" in the morning and I found myself grateful to have avoided that particular addiction. It smells good when it's being prepared and I'll drink it if I have to, given a lack of choices or a social situation where it's simply called for over demurring, but it has to be all tarted up with enough sugar and cream to make it palatable to me. I'd really prefer a nice cup of tea, all in all.

I've always loved iced tea, but as I've gotten older and coffeehouse culture has exploded, I find myself meeting people more and more for "coffee" and having quality hot tea readily available. I have to admit that the tea market has also benefited from our obsession with coffeehouses because the ones worth their salt are sure to have good tea on hand, too. It's not just a Lipton world out there anymore; if that's what you think about when you think tea, you're really missing out. There's a whole slew of varieties at the ready that make those flimsy bags filled (essentially) with tea dust little more than a bad memory.

Though I find more and more people's kitchens with a whole shelf full of tea in their cupboards, it doesn't seem to have the cachet with most people that gourmet coffee has. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found a group of ladies who enjoy it as much as I do, and celebrate it on a monthly basis!

Through, I stumbled on a local group that was just getting started to meet at least once a month to get together and enjoy all sorts of tea in a social atmosphere. I attended the inaugural meetup and have been loving it ever since. It's just so fun and refreshing to have a couple hours with an ever-changing, ever-expanding group of women who have this one thing in common. We're so different in most all other ways and come from so many different backgrounds, but all of the tea meetups I've attended have just been delightful and a real balm to the soul.

Not that my life is terribly stressful these days, it's not. But it's easy to feel a little alone and out of step when you have an unconventional work schedule and typically work from home. Now there's at least one time a month I can look forward to having a break that provides such a pick-me-up with so little cost or effort. It's so outside my day-to-day and with a completely different set of people, people I've found on my own (why that's important, I don't know, it just seems to me that it is), that it has become a real bright spot for me.

Reading this over as I've gotten to this point, I don't think I'm doing a very good job of conveying what it is about it that made me want to write this in the first place. So let me take one more stab: Finding a group like this to be a part of, a group that is based on something I already love, has given me back a piece of the community I lost when I left Corporate America and the cubicle life I'd come to dislike. And that makes me happy. We all like happy, right?

Two last thoughts: 1. If you are looking for your own bright spot and need something new, I highly recommend checking out There are many, many groups with new ones forming every day all over the country. I can almost guarantee you'll find at least one that speaks to you. 2. I want to end with a picture from one of my favorite t-shirts that my brother got from Woot, even though it's slightly off-target from a gender perspective. It just makes me smile and start singing Sting's "Englishman in New York" every time I see it, so I had to share.

Picture borrowed from Woot. It belongs to them, wholly.

February 29, 2012

Hard To Say

I've only had the opportunity to blog on Leap Day twice before today in my blog's history, and I was surprised to find out that I actually did blog on both those days...mostly because I used to blog a lot more regularly. So doing it today probably makes it the most consistent thing I've ever done here. There's an exception to every rule, isn't there?

I had planned to finally do my post on how I condition my hair following my baking soda cleansing revelation and the subsequent questions in the comments, but it's once again not to be. (If I'm not careful it's going to become the One Ping Only equivalent of Kimmel's No-Time-For-Matt-Damon gag...) Unfortunately, it's not for a particularly happy reason.

This past weekend, my cousin, Michael, died while on vacation in Hawaii. He had been scuba diving and something happened (I don't know what, so I'm not going to speculate or elaborate), and his body was deprived of oxygen too long for him to survive. It was sudden and stunning and so, so saddening. Coming just a year and a half after losing my mom (almost to the day), it is just so hard to comprehend and digest.

Michael was the last person left who had known me all my life. He stepped up and was so there for me and my brother when Mom died; he was never more than a phone call away and he made sure we knew we mattered to him. He wasn't one to talk about that kind of thing, but there was no doubt in my mind that if I needed him in any way, he would be there.

He had a special place in our lives because, when I was 7 or 8, and he was 18 or 19, he moved from New Jersey to California and came to live with my family while he got settled. I remember feeling like I knew what it was to have an older brother for a while. Though we moved back east within a couple years, he had an influence on me during that time. It was from him that I got my love of classic rock, because that's what he listened to and I just absorbed it, and I can never think of Dan Fogelberg without thinking of Michael because he had a t-shirt from one of his concerts that he used to wear all the time. I remember talking to him about how sad it was that Fogelberg had died so young just a few years ago. This is especially hard to remember right now because Michael was a year younger at the time of his death than Fogelberg was.

My mother was especially close to him, as he was her first nephew, and she was really involved in the early years of his life. I think it always meant a lot to him that she provided a place for him to go when he needed a fresh start and she was always in his corner. There was the typical amount of family drama to contend with over the years, but there was an unbreakable bond there that mattered. When we moved back to California, it was a comfort to have him nearby and more a part of our lives again.

He wasn't a perfect guy, by any means -- his smoking drove me bonkers but I was so proud of him when he quit a few years ago and stuck to it -- and he had a weird fondness for gnomes that left me scratching my head, but he was honest, caring, and a good guy, and I thought the world of him.

I'm going to miss you terribly, Michael. You left your mark and you won't be forgotten.

February 14, 2012

The Not-So-Confirmed Bachelor

My brother's last guest post was well-received and, as he's still on a writing kick, I wanted to share another offering from him just in time for Valentine's Day/Single's Awareness Day (whichever works for you). I kind of like this turning-the-writing-over-to-someone-else-and-just-editing-their-work thing! You know, for now.

So, I have something to get off my proverbial chest...

There are some people out there who say as I approach age 40 and find myself never being married, that one of the following is true: A) I probably never will marry, B)I am in the closet, or C) I am afraid to commit to a long-term relationship. Naturally, no one besides me knows the full story, even those I date or have been close to for years. Hell, I don’t know that “A” isn’t true, but deep down I know (I hope!), it is not assured at this point. This is my retort to the skeptics and an affirmation to myself.

I will dismiss “B” and “C” right off since they are very easily explained away and are not really worth much attention.

If someone ever says to my face that they suspect I might be gay, I know exactly what my reaction would be without even having to think about it. “Have you ever met me?” would fly off my lips faster than a particle smashing in CERN’s collider. This is not a denial or any commentary on that lifestyle, it’s just who I am. I love women and have only ever found myself attracted to them. There is little that I actually do or say on a regular basis to make any rational person think I come across as a charade or that I am anything other than a straight up hetero (no pun intended...ok, maybe a little...) If you ever spend time with me you will find I genuinely love the female form and only ever see myself being with a (naturally) female partner. Anyone who seriously postulates such a theory would only make me question their orientation. Deflection isn’t just for shields. I’m just sayin’...

Next then...I’ve often heard, mostly from one person who was emotionally invested in the discussion, that I am afraid to commit. In only one small respect was she right. I am afraid to the wrong person. Sadly, this particular woman was the wrong person for me. I took a long time to discover I didn’t want to marry her, so I could be sure of that decision. I do not want to marry more than once and spending my life with someone I know is wrong, for any reason, is just not how I choose to spend the rest of my days. In traditional terms though, I am not afraid of commitment. Quite the contrary as I spent nearly ten years with this woman. I was always faithful to her and invested all of myself in our relationship. For a lot of that time I had my doubts and I spent heaps of time trying to figure out how to make it work. A significant part of that was dedicated to deducing what was wrong with me that prevented me from walking down the rose petal-lined aisle. I thought maybe she was right for part of the time, but even though I knew I always wanted to be married, ultimately it just was not to her. Suggesting, then, that what I sacrificed and put into the relationship was anything short of commitment is highly insulting and plain wrong.

Ok then on to “A.” This is the most agonizing and depressing possibility for me, honestly. I am also convinced with every passing day that it may very well come true.

One thing I can admit to myself now is that I don’t like how I am outside of a relationship. I will do just about anything to be in one, except settle. I am not entirely sure why I do, but I do believe in getting myself a traditional marriage. Most do not appear to work these days, granted, but it is thing I aspire to someday. It is rather shocking how much I am surrounded by friends in divorce. Some of them are marriages that I never imagined would dissolve but they have, sadly. It is scary, intimidating, and demoralizing when I think of them. I’m pretty sure my parents’ marriage would have ended in divorce if my father had not died shortly after my mother separated from him.

Hollyweird marriages or ones of convenience I can accept failing. However, people I knew for years and never saw a hint of trouble telling me they are getting divorced really rattles me. So then, it would be so easy for me to look at those getting divorced and say, “Whoa, maybe I don’t need to get married.” I would be right; I do not need to be. The difference here is I want to be married. What is strange is even with my dogma, I couldn’t evoke a cogent argument in support of marriage when my best friend challenged me to convince him why he should ever get married.

Notwithstanding all the negative evidence, one fact remains that I don’t question (which for me is quite an achievement): I plan to get married someday. So doubters hit the road. The willingness, the means, and the desire are there. I will admit that there is one thing consciously holding me back; I will not settle for anything but the right woman. I am not a player, completely dysfunctional, or romantically challenged. I am simply highly selective and perhaps too romantic. I hold out hope for “the one.”

I could so easily settle for the next random girl that agrees to a date or conceivably even acquire a foreign bride. I do often feel despondent enough to cave to such actions. In the end though, my principles and better instincts prevail to keep me looking for “the one.” However, it is important to note that I am not just sitting around waiting and hoping for my princess to fall in my lap (literally or figuratively).

Recently, I took it upon myself to look at life differently and work on growing myself after I came to a realization that there were things that I could improve upon in my interpersonal relations. Some extraordinary interactions with friends opened my eyes to the fact that perhaps I had some things to learn before getting myself in a relationship again. Just finding Ms. Right was not the only solution. Mr. Me needed to get in shape and not just with his P90X DVD.

To that end, I am launching to Sean 2.0. Here’s hoping dreams really do come true!

January 30, 2012

Guest Post: Vader Is My Father Too

As promised, today is the day for the first guest poster here at One Ping Only. You may as surprised as I was, when he first asked about doing this, to learn that the author is my brother, Sean. I hope you'll welcome him and support his efforts in the comments.

I was asked an innocent enough question today that neither the person asking it, nor myself, could have known it would elicit the reaction it did in me later in the day. 

A little background context: Recently, started I dabbling in literature exercises. The reason for doing most of them is as cathartic therapy to express and/or release pent-up anxiety or frustrations. Some are just for fun as I decipher some creative manifestations rolling around in this ponderous head of mine. Sometimes the batter that oozes out onto the keyboard resembles a talent.

In this vein of thought, I was asked if I ever considered submitting something I wrote for publication. The answer was a quickly registered “No.” I enjoy writing (my sister would say that I write too much and you may agree by the end of this) and I have for a long time, but I stopped many years ago for a variety of reasons. In fact, creative writing was one of my favorite classes in high school. As I considered this, I wondered why I stopped. Sure, I never had any real interest in pursuing a career in journalism or writing, but I just stopped writing around college. It didn’t help that when I was 17 or 18, I just didn’t see myself in a modern author lifestyle or having any real talent that I could make money from long term. I wanted to become a psychologist because the human cognitive systems and their malfunctions really interested me as I was deciding what to study at college. I was inspired by events in my younger life to learn how to “fix” what was wrong with people’s mental faculties. I later gave that up, but that story is for another time.

The more I thought about it, while driving around some of the most beautiful California countryside the Bay Area has to offer, I remembered why writing as a career was so distasteful to me back then. It still is to some degree even now, if I am honest. The reason is … my father. You may not understand that simple a reason if you don’t know me well. Even if you do, it is neither something that I talk about much nor something I am likely to bring up in most conversations. I am finding lately that I can open up and be more honest about issues with my father though. So I hope you allow me to share more here and continue reading.

I had a very complex relationship with the man that was my father. Lots of people do, so I am not in any way unique in that respect. The reasons why are not unique to me either and really are not worth outlining here. It simply boils down to this: when he died I had no love lost, no tears shed, and I was actually relieved it finally happened. This may sound cold, heartless, and maybe even pathetic. However, you should know that I was very disappointed in and angry with that man. He was very sick and that had a lot to do with why he did everything he did that upset me. He was also killing his heart and liver with alcohol. He had resorted to drinking mouthwash to get his high and this may well have led to his early death at 52.

Yet, he was still my father and I should have been able to look up to him and love him. The problem is he never really found a way to remove himself from the clutches of his mother’s mental illness and family dysfunction. Despite years of therapy, numerous prescription drugs, mental health treatment facilities and friends/family working to help him out, he ended up a lonely corpse that I hated. Those are strong words, but it is the simple truth. His best contribution to my life was serving as an example of what NOT to do.

That being said, the reason I lay it out there is because due to whom he was, to me, I vowed and actively work to avoid doing anything that I associate with him. The list is not really all that long and over the years I have been able to whittle it down so that it doesn’t take over too much of my life. When I come into “contact” with one of these associations though, my immediate and involuntary (self-learned, not naturally instinctual) reaction is to make a 180 away from doing/being that “thing.”

I avoid going anywhere near it, if possible. This is a defense mechanism I use to protect myself because I know most of what troubled him, and not a specific mental illness, could be passed along to me as a learned behavior. It is my belief that in many ways this is what happened to him; learning from his damaged mother. I do not recall exactly when I did it, but I made a very solemn vow to myself that I will NEVER, EVER become my father. I can accept that there are certain similarities, but very key traits I never want to have in my life. I cannot catalog all of them here and I do not think it would help in anyway besides. 

Apparently though, writing anything more than what is necessary for an email or work became lost in my subconscious. What you need to know now is what my father did for a living is forever ingrained in my memory as a writer. A technical writer, before he retired, to be precise. So, when he died that is what I remembered him as being. Therefore going into anything relating to writing was verboten. Now, this wasn’t the only reason, but it was a very high priority one at the time.

OK, so now you have the backstory. You may now be asking yourself, “What was the reaction to your friend’s question?” Well, I became very upset. I even started weeping so much I had to pull over, compose myself a bit, and take some time to figure out why this affected me so much. Why now? I’ve never had that kind of reaction to the conflict with my father’s memory. I usually just got tense and determined to stop.

Yet in this case, I suddenly found my perception of my father conflicting with something I enjoy and want to do more.  In essence, I was afraid beyond words what it meant for my life. Could I be a writer and not associate it with him? What you would need to understand is that while I am not seriously thinking I can become a novelist or anything, I have really been enjoying writing again. Also, I very much want to find a new occupation soon and, at the time I realized the association, I was considering choices involving more writing. Having this awakening about the association with my father and a possible shift in my life, I was now facing down one of my biggest fears and most serious vows to myself.

I now need to learn whether I can overcome that fear, forgive him (another project in the works), and continue to pursue something that other people see as a talent in me. I do not want to limit my options based on what can possibly be seen as some loose association with my father. The important take-away here for me is: I need to open myself to the possibility that I could at least find a new hobby and not have to walk away from something I might be good at AND enjoy just to spite him. If I do pursue writing further though, I will definitely need a really good editor! (Maura agrees, especially since she gave this a good once over.)
Life-altering epiphany and subsequent impending changes to improve my life aside, there is also the atmosphere surrounding my life that is helping me work through this all. 

I need to see talent in me first and doing just that has been another recent realization for me. I apparently fail to be aware there are things in myself that I cannot see that others do. For the introverted and self-aware individual that I believe I am, this is something I fail to comprehend well at all. I believe that I know full well what I am and what I do well. However, recently very good friends have helped me understand I have some blind spots to my abilities and a of lack confidence that I should not maintain.

Final point, it is a very strong trait of mine that I need explore and understand something that is such a fundamental flaw for me to be content. In a way, these revelations all relate back to my current endeavor of learning, growing and being a better all-around person.

Sitting there, you may think that’s just what it means to be an adult. I cannot disagree with you at all. 

It’s about time damn it, isn’t it? :-)

January 29, 2012

Happy New Year From A Forgetful Mo-Fo

I'll be damned. I missed yet another blogoversary here. For whatever reason, in my head I think I started this in February or April and almost every year the date comes and goes without me taking the time to mark the occasion. Bad, baaaaaad blogger!

The 22nd of January marked eight years (eight!) of blogging here. That's longer than some marriages. Yet here I am, still checking in at least once a month and still tipping my cap to those that do it more frequently, even daily. Kind of like some marriages, I assume. ;-)

When I think of all the different home computers, work computers, laptops, phones and tablets that I've written posts on, the mind boggles a bit, not to mention the people who have come and gone in that time -- from my life, that is, not from the planet. I am all too aware how the advent of Twitter and Facebook have changed the blogging world and how people relate to blogs; I will be the first to admit that I read so many fewer blogs now than I did back around the time I started this. But the consistency of having it there matters to me more than I believe I realized until now. Even when I find myself putting off a post until the very last minutes of a month, it's not because I don't actually want to do it, it's because procrastination is in my nature and I'm being true to who I am by blogging My Way, without compromise.

I had toyed with the idea of doing a giveaway to celebrate this year's milestone (before I once again forgot when that milestone actually was), but those have met with mixed success here in the past and they're kind of, well, a little "over" in my book, I guess.

So, what to do?

Have my very first guest blogger, that's what! In all this time, no one has ever offered (or, at least, offered and followed through on providing) a guest post for One Ping Only. Hard to believe, I'm sure, what with all the traffic I generate, but it's true. I kind of thought that, eventually, one of my blogging friends would want to sort of "hide out" here and publish something they didn't want to post on their (more successful) blog but it never happened.

Therefore, tomorrow I will have the first guest poster here for your reading pleasure. I'd be honored if you came back to check it out and I think they'd appreciate it, too.