What might have been, pt.1

I film newspapers for preservation on microfilm at my job. I’m currently working on a project from Missouri which includes various titles (newspapers) from pretty much every county in the state. Most of them small town or rural areas. The batch I’m working on is all recent dates. I have to move quickly, but one catches headlines and photos while filming.

There were a lot of high school sports, band events, concerts and such in many titles and issues, especially one I worked on yesterday. It made me start thinking about my own high school years and even earlier childhood.

I thought about how different my life could have been if I had been good at, or even interested in sports. I was popular for the first couple years in grade school, but when the other boys started joining Farm Team (baseball, if you don’t have that where you’re from) and playing kickball at recess, I stayed away. I think it was my anxiety that made me not want to give them a try. Or, maybe it was because my dad never played ball with my brother or me. I feel like I’m kind of whining now, but it’s true, I guess.

Also, no encouragement from either parent. to join in athletic endeavors or try different things. As mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t even learn to swim. That left me out of a lot of time that could have been spent with other kids in the summer. I remember feeling so lonely in the sunny days of August after a couple months of limited contact with others. I did see my best friend about every day, but somehow, it wasn’t enough.

I can remember my fifth grade teacher trying to get me to join wrestling. He must have seen that it would do me good, and as a short but scrappy kid, it probably would have been good. He pleaded with me over and over to join, but I didn’t even think about it. I just thought that was for other boys. I was no good at that sort of thing.  I can only imagine how different my life might have been if I had joined in all the “normal” activities.

So, that left me with academics and arts.

I was an excellent student and played clarinet in concert, jazz and marching band. I had perfect pitch, but lacked dexterity. I could never seem to get the fast parts down. In retrospect, I don’t know why I stayed in band the whole time, except that I made some really good friends and a lot of acquaintances that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. That was very important for a shy, anxious, depressed, fatigued misfit.

Still, I wish I had stayed in photography club my junior year instead of joining jazz band at the band director’s suggestion. I’m pretty good at photography and had gotten a nice 35mm camera over the summer with my McD’s money. Developing (pardon the pun) that skill would have been far more valuable.

I could’ve used some guidance, but I didn’t get that from home  or school. But then, I really didn’t share my thoughts or decision-making with anyone. Actually, I didn’t really think about things. I just stumbled along doing what I thought was expected of me and looking for acceptance.


I’m going to wrap this up tomorrow. Trust me, it’s going somewhere, somewhere good. I’m happy with how things are going now.

Til next time.

Mister Ritchey changes to The Muddlers

Just a belated notice that I changed the name of my blog to The Muddlers. I didn’t feel like Mister Ritchey was catchy or descriptive enough. The Muddlers would be all of us just trying to muddle our way through life, doing the best we can.

So, if it’s not too late, don’t unfollow me because you didn’t recognize the name.

The tyranny of time

I once had to do an essay on time for a writing contest when I was in school.  While I was a good writer, it was not a strong subject for me and I bombed.  Ironically, I erased a good deal of what I had written and rewrote with little time left that was allotted to complete the essay.  I wrote until the last minute ticked away mercilessly, and then I was out of, that’s right, time.

Now I’m 45 and doing much better at a lot of things time related, like punctuality.  I used to be a good ten minutes late everywhere, more than that for social engagements.  I always felt harried and nervous.  There were other reasons for that too, but running behind definitely doesn’t help.  That’s not to say I’m never late, but I know how to avoid it.  I’ve developed a greater sense of urgency which kicks in before it’s too late to have any chance of getting ready and getting there on time.  So that’s being on time,  better.

Then there’s time management.  Let’s look at the everyday first.  There’s work. No choice how long you’re there.  And some people drive a good ways to their jobs.  I don’t.  I don’t know how people can drive an hour and a half or more each way, 5 days a week.  That’s crazy to me.  It’s too big a time investment.  I don’t want my life to be about work. I want time to put into things I want to do for personal enrichment, enjoyment, and to secure my future.  That last one refers to writing.  Of course, I seem to find all kinds of things to stall before writing, even housework.  It has to be done, but it can wait.

We measure time in hours and minutes through the daily grind, while months and years seem to slip by.  A couple of my new friends from church are older than me.  One just turned sixty and the other will be in the fall.  I commented to both of them how people always lament getting older even though they may seem young to someone else.  They both quickly responded that age is just a number.  As they are both active and don’t look or act their age, I think I should look at it that way too.  The thing is, I always focus on how much I thought I would have accomplished by a given age, and then I feel the passage of time like a weight.  I think, I’m forty-five and still haven’t completed anything significant with my writing.  I haven’t had a real meaningful relationship.  I haven’t traveled, haven’t done this, haven’t experienced that.  See the pattern?

I do try to look at things positively, to see what I have done.  It’s challenging for me because I’ve always been very hard on myself, but I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve grown as a person tremendously.  I conquered shyness, I’m more confident.  I went through health and career challenges.  I usually see the glass half full when it comes to other people or external situations, so I shall try to do that for myself.

I never got my bachelor’s degree becomes, I have an associate’s degree which I did while working and was the first in my family to get any kind of degree beyond high school.  I’m not a writer becomes, I’m in a much better job than any previous and have a regular schedule so I can plan my writing time. Forty-five goes from, too old to start on things I wish I’d done already to, a good age to take off running.  I’ve got so much more life experience now for writing material.  Robert Frost comes to mind as one of many whose careers started in their forties.

I guess the important thing is that you take the next step whenever you come to it, whether you come to it at the time you had planned or expected, or not.  If the way is blocked you make a new path.  Detours can delay us, but make us stronger and wiser on the other side.   Impatience just makes the extra time wasted.  And the last thing anyone should do in this fleeting life is waste time.

Whatever step you need, or want to take next in your life,  take it as soon as you can, even if it’s just a little baby step.  Maybe that’s all it’s possible to do right now, but the action will affirm your intent and grow into resolution.

I almost feel bad for giving this post the title I gave it, but it’s how I’ve felt many times over the years.  Of course, you can’t halt the march of time, or even slow it.  You can watch the torrent go by from the shore, making you dizzy, or you can jump in and swim with the current.

Seize the day! Seize the moment!

A common (dis)interest

I was doing some gardening the other day and found myself piling up vines of morning glory I was pulling out.  I love morning glory, but they completely took over the last couple years.  I let them go last year because it felt sacrilegious to pull them like common weeds.  This year I had no reservations.  All those seeds from last years crops became tenacious tendrils that snaked their way through every flower bed, bush and even sidewalk cracks.  It was way too much of a good thing.

As I stood over a three foot wide, foot high pile of entwined cast offs, I couldn’t help thinking how strange it seemed to be treating a beloved flower like weeds.  It’s because they had become common.  They were no longer special.

We tend to ignore the common things around us.  It’s natural to be more enthralled with the exotic than the mundane.  In the spring, the robins are everywhere, and while they’re welcome as a sign of warmer weather on the way, we don’t really pay much attention.  I’d much rather see the bold colors of a cardinal in a forsythia bush.

We do it to each other too.  The good looking are popular and often get further in life while the average (common) folks are overlooked.

Aside from looks, we see people everyday whom we ignore.  We have our friends, our circles of influence.  Who cares about strangers, right?  How many of your neighbors’ names do you know? What do you know about people you work with that you aren’t in direct contact with throughout the day, or even those you talk to a lot? I worked where I am now for over a year before learning that two other guys there shared my love of big band music .

Who knows what interesting people surround you? There are whole worlds to discover in your daily life.  You’ve got to poke your head up and look around once in a while.  Put down the phone, turn off the TV, get off the computer or tablet (after you’ve read my post) and go explore!  Take an interest in the common.


P.S.  They’re still really pretty.

The difficulty of progress

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. I started a new job a little over a month ago. It’s more professional in nature than I’ve ever had before, which I like. It’s also temporary to permanent, based on performance. I’ve always been one at the top of the class, exceeding expectations, and impressing those I work with and for.

This time, I’m struggling. The job is doing QA (Quality Assurance) for digital scans done of materials from the Library of Congress for the purpose of preservation and digitization for ease of access as well as the preservation aspect. I like the work and it’s important to society.

The problem has been keeping up the pace. You have to meet a daily goal, or quota. I’m struggling with that while still maintaining accuracy. I felt the training left something to be desired, as I was told different things by those above me. Now, I’m dealing with a slow computer and not being sure if it’s normal slow-down or excessive.

I’ve dealt with a very negative, critical, and well, bitch of a team coordinator. She tells me she wants me to ask questions, but when I do tells me I should already know that, or she just acts impatient like I’m bothering her. Thank God the person below her, the team leader/trainer is much more patient, helpful and generally nice.

It would have helped if I knew software such as Photoshop better before I started. But I’ve always been a quick study. I guess it’s just that there’s a lot to absorb when you’re new.

I also am dealing with a very different schedule, having worked all evening and weekend shifts and going to starting at 6:30am. I’m pretty well adjusted to that now, but still feel sleepy at work sometimes. There have been several times when I was fighting to stay awake while sitting at my computer.

I can’t help wondering, was temp to permanent always the norm, or is that a modern institution to allow companies to use people for short term goals and then leave them hanging? Well, I don’t intend to find out. I must, and can, and will get to where I need to be in the coming weeks. I’m very tenacious, intelligent, and possess a brave spirit. I will prevail.

It’s been humbling to be in this position. Having always learned things quickly and easily, I’ve learned to appreciate the struggles of others who don’t absorb things so fast. I can appreciate the hard work they do to get ahead.

I’ll keep you posted.

Angela’s Ashes, a reaction

Here’s something I wrote several years ago after watching Angela’s Ashes, a film based on the autobiographical book by Frank McCourt.  It was before 2008, before the Great Recession.  I think it applies to many more people now.

First, the excerpt that inspired me, spoken by a school teacher who sees the inequality to which the boys in his class are subject.

“It’s a disgrace that boys like McCourt, Clark and Kennedy have to hew wood and draw water in this so-called free and independent Ireland that keeps a class system foisted on us by the English.  Well, it disgusts me.  We throw our talented children under the dung heap.  If this is the end of school for you, you must get out of this country, boys, and go to America.”


So, where do we go? Where is today’s “Land of Opportunity”?  Where is hope? Perhaps the persistence and propagation of social ills and lack of great men and women of leadership is due to the lost resources of the bright minds, ingenuities and energies of a new generation, squandered by forces that care only of economics and power, and overwhelmed by a rotting corpse we call “old money”, the establishment, the status quo.

Worse yet is the new “consumption” [old word for tuberculosis] , apathy, that erodes not physical health, but compassion, intellect, and any sense of unity as the collective consciousness of a nation lapses into a coma, leaving reality to blow at random like a cold foreboding wind that aches the bones and opens the eyes of those few it touches.

And as their raspy throats cough up their warning cries, their stories fade to silence as the cold wind snakes along the grayest lowlands, never felt by those with sunshades on and fences built around their hilltop estates.