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When YouTube Thinks You’re Depressed

Man, I’ve got a headache… must be a caffeine-ache since I haven’t had my third cup of coffee today.

So, I think the Internet thinks I’m depressed. Or at least YouTube/Google thinks I’m depressed. Lately, I’ve been getting these advertisements on a daily basis telling me that maybe I need to speak with my doctor about an antidepressant. Here are my thoughts about that:

  1. Get out of here! Algorithms need to stop trying to sell me stuff. Ya think you know me with all your profiling and predicting software, but you don’t know me! Just because I searched for videos of funny, fat baby animals doesn’t mean that I subconsciously desire to regress back to an infantile stage of development so that I can nurse and reclaim the soft, succulent baby pudge fat that I so desperately yearn for.
  2. Why does Google think I’m depressed? Recommendations are based on my search activity, but I honestly can’t think of anything that would trigger these ads. Perhaps it’s because I’m a millennial(ish), and we’re all supposedly depressed. Or maybe it’s because I consume copious amounts of caffeine, and anyone who needs that many stimulants must be depressed.
  3. Speaking of caffeine, this particular ad features a guy at a coffee cart, and all I can think about is “That looks delicious! I’d like some coffee please. How can I be depressed when I’m so stoked for some more of that sweet, sweet nectar of heaven, that roasted, brewed black elixir of my transcendent dreams?”

In all seriousness though, depression is nothing to take lightly. If you’re struggling, then please know that it’s ok, and please, please reach out to someone and get help. There are 24/7 hotlines that you can call, and you can even schedule counseling sessions with a professional online. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and everyone needs a little help sometimes. We were never meant to do this life alone. My opinion: we all need counseling. Everyone can benefit from speaking with a counselor at least once in their life. Or you could be an overachiever like me and live fulltime with/marry a counselor.

Also, does anyone know how to unsubscribe from the GoogleTube?

Let not the world’s deceitful cares the rising plant destroy,
But let it yield a hundredfold the fruits of peace and joy. – John Cawood

Slippery Slope

We took the kids to this natural spring swimming area located in a national park. Overall, it was delightful experience. But there’s a couple of things about these parks that aren’t ideal. Specifically, I’m talking the slick algae and moss growing on all the rocks and steps and ladders. I always feel like I’m gonna slip and bust my head open while trying to get in the water.

But the real kicker is this: the park had installed these railings around the entire swimming area. They looked as if they would function both as safety rails (to prevent people from accidently falling in the water) and as hand rails (to help people safely enter and exit the water).

But if you thought that these rails were for helping people to not slide and tumble while getting in and out of the pool, then you would be so very wrong, and the livid lifeguards perched atop their judgment nests would surely let you know of your transgressions with the blowing of trumpets blasting forth from the clouds and with cups of wrath flooded out onto the earth as fire and brimstone from the grave.

“Stay off the rails!!!”

The shouts of condemnation would pierce into a person’s soul and then some would inevitably fall like lemmings to their demise (actually, the lemmings jumping off cliffs thing is a total myth).

One friendlier lifeguard approached us and said, “Hey guys, you can climb and jump off the rocks all you want, but you’ve got to stay off the rails please.”

And I’m thinking… wait, wait, wait a second here… First of all, there are no signs about staying off the rails. Maybe if there were signs, you wouldn’t have to scare people half to death with your four horses of the apocalypse war cries.

Secondly, maybe there were signs, but I don’t know because I wasn’t paying attention. Who has time to read when you’re too busy trying not to die while algae figure-skating?

But thirdly, seriously? We need to stay away from these securely mounted railings, but those super slippery, goo-covered rocks are fine‽ These rocks are by far the most dangerous thing out here! And what’s the point of all these rails in the first place if not to use them?

Sometimes, life doesn’t quite make sense. Like pineapple on pizza or pickles on peanut butter or hot sauce on mango… it can be difficult to rationalize the sanity of the world. But take heart, and do not lose hope! For to hope is to be human. That we can continue to imagine a better world and believe in a better future is a testament to the divine nature in all of us. At times I start to lose faith in humanity like I’ve lost faith in Sony’s ability to produce good a Spider-Man movie. But then I remember: Hey, chicken and waffles are delicious! What an unexpectedly great idea‽ Perhaps, truly, there is hope after all.

(By the way, if you happen to know why these park rail rules exist, then please don’t bother letting me know why; you can feel free to not email me at MySpace… is that still a thing? Don’t let me know. Not really interested.)

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. – Mahatma Gandhi

Row-Row-Row Your Boat (as retold by Dr. Fin)

Yo, look at me Jack! I’m on top of the world y’all!

Once upon a time…

Some pushy, bossy coxswain ordered me to “Row, row, row your boat! Row it now, but gently down this stream!”

And I was like, “I don’t even have a boat… How am I supposed to row gently and joyfully and peacefully, when you’re barking out orders like I’m training for Brown University’s rowing team? And what stream, you bald mongoose posing as a ship captain?”

I was so confused on so many levels.

And then, merrily,-merrily-merrily, I realized it was all just a dream.

If today you feel life is too demanding—like some inescapably irritating middle-schooler taunting and droning like a broken record-player, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you. I know you are but what am I?”—then simply say, “Row your own dirty boat!” When life gives you lemons… take those lemons and squirt that acidic juice right into life’s corneas, and say “Get out of here! No one asked for these disgusting, sour citrus balls! What’s with this sassy, lost child?

Know your limits. Learn to say no. It’s ok, you don’t have to do everything. Not even Superman can prevent tax season. You can’t throw a life preserver out to someone in the ocean if you’re also out in the water drowning. [Insert other pithy axioms here.]

Also, why would someone row anyways? We’ve got speed boats with engines. Better yet, I’ll just drive across the bridge. No need to risk getting wet. I feel much better now. Sometimes you just need to vent a little bit. What a therapeutic exercise this was!

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life. – Brian Andreas

Words are Weird: Fruit

Can you find the hidden treat?

A frenzied reflection on particular English words with absolutely no regard for history, etymology, or context.

Some health-conscious people recommend eating fruit for dessert to satisfy one’s sweet tooth rather than cake or ice cream. Well, I have news for those people. Fruit is not dessert. And it doesn’t satisfy my voracious sweet tooth.

Sure, fruit can be sweet, and it’s certainly more nutritious than that Twinkie or McFlurry, but let’s not kid ourselves here: it’s not dessert. Being good for you almost defeats the purpose of dessert in my opinion. Dessert is meant to help teach us about the brevity of life—I’m just one fried Oreo away from a heart attack, and that’s what makes life worth living. Life, like dessert, is meant to be savored. I’m not discouraging you from eating fruit. You should do it. Because you know we do need fiber to get rid of all the crap in our lives, both literally and figuratively.

But some fruits are just plain weird. And our names for them are weird. Let’s consider a few select examples.

The new kid on the block says, “Hi, I’m Grapefruit.” Confounded, the kid down the street replies, “No, I’m Grape… and I’m a fruit.” Seriously, who is grapefruit trying to fool? You know it’s not a good sign if you have to put the word fruit in your name. It’s like your overcompensating: “No, seriously, I’m a fruit, I promise! I know I taste like a sour wet rag, but I’m actually really healthy for you. I probably cure cancer or something.” And grape? What part of that nuclear-powered, enlarged, abomination of a citrus fruit communicates grape? Again, this was just grapefruit trying to fool and mislead people into accidently eating it.

Does anyone even like Cantaloupe? It’s like the Smarties of fruit. I have no idea how they stay in business. You know how you know that a fruit is pretty much useless? When a restaurant offers you a complimentary side of fruit salad, and it’s basically 90% cantaloupe. Hey, I wanted mixed fruit; not a bowl of this queasy orange-colored packing foam. The actual fruit rind itself looks hideous. Makes me think of some kind of extra-terrestrial spider egg. Just the worst. Don’t even get me started on that name. It’s gibberish. Sounds like I’m getting a can of antelope meat.

But you know what? Who cares what I think? If you like grapefruit and cantaloupe, then good for you. Don’t let me judge your fruity pebble fancies. Some people even eat fruitcake as if that’s supposed to make any sense. Pretty sure there’s no fruit in there, and it just makes the cake less of a cake. It’s that whole trying-to-convince-people-that-fruit-is-a-dessert thing again. Make dessert great again. But you do you. Be the wild, terrifying frugivore you want to be. Life is short. Make the most of it.

Also, apparently strawberries (no straw?) aren’t really berries (at least in the botanical sense). But watermelons are. Also, also bananas and pineapples don’t grow on trees; they’re more of an herb or grass. And there’s definitely no apple to a pineapple. I should know because I once tried to go bobbing for pineapples… and I’ll just let your imagination fill in the rest of what happened.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day

The Grrreat Tiger Theory

I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming Mister Rogers movie starring Tom Hanks. So. Super. Stoked. That man was and still is a national treasure. God bless Mister Rogers, his soft-spoken, stoic, cerebrally strange puppets and all those sweaters.

If you haven’t kept up with the man’s legacy, then you’re missing out. In our home, we watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Ya can keep your over-produced, premium-subscription, serialized dramas. Give me big-eyed, silly, anthropomorphized animals in wool cardigans anytime.

And look, here’s the thing: Daniel Tiger is a veritable genius. Throughout history, humanity is gifted these truly remarkable people that change the course of society. Leonardo da Vinci… Galileo Galilei… Isaac Newton… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart… Albert Einstein… Daniel Tiger (I apologize for only listing white Western men… and one oversized kitty). It’s like the great man (person) theory that proposes most of history can be understood and explained by the significant impact of highly influential individuals—great people.

Not that I give a tremendous amount of credence to that theory but let me just share some tiger wisdom with you today. Allow me to drop some truth bombs into your brain cavity. Keep in mind that these are all meant to be sung with a little jingle:

“Keep trying, you’ll get better! Try, try, try!”

“It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again!”

“When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath—and count to four. One, two, three, four.”

And of course:

“When you have to go potty STOP, and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!”

There’s a little song solution for every life situation. All throughout the day, my family is singing these little melodies to help us get through the grind and struggles.

So, when you’re facing today’s trials and attempting to navigate the winding labyrinth and corridors of life: take a moment, take a breath, and sing a little ditty. It’s not if these things happen; it’s when. Take a lesson from our furry feline friend Daniel Tiger. Keep trying, never quit. Believe in yourself. Learn to regulate your emotions. Don’t poop in your pants—that one’s especially important. And please, would we, could we all just be neighbors?

“Ugga Mugga. – Daniel Tiger”

Finley Walker

For Whom the Belt Tolls

I hate belts. If you know me, if you really know me, then you know this about me. I only wear belts if it’s absolutely necessary. Why do we do this to ourselves? In the name of fashion? It’s a noose for your hips; a tourniquet on your waist restricting the blood flow to the lower extremities. When I’m forced to wear a belt, I feel like my body has been sentenced to death by prolonged hanging and strangulation.

On that note, I hate buttons and fasteners and zippers too—anything that makes my pants a fixed, stagnant size. I am, after all, still a growing boy. I may be done growing vertically, but I’m certainly still growing horizontally, especially in parenthood, and so, I need some extra growing room. In fact, there are many days when a pair of pants may fit me in the morning but become too small after the spontaneous buffet luncheon. To my wife’s chagrin, I am often secretly not even wearing my trousers buttoned. I just allow the organic tension and traction of my gut to secure the pants to my bum. And when we’re at home… forget about it, all bets are off—belts are off.

This is why I was so excited when elastic waistbands came back into fashion. Elastic hasn’t been in style since I was about five-years-old. But they’re so much better, literally. The only thing that could be better than elastic waistbands is no waistbands. Bring back long tunics and casual cassocks for the common people. Way more practical and efficient.

Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. The force of gravity is constantly trying to pull your pants down, and what do we do? We try to unnaturally fabricate a futile denim infrastructure to rebel against the laws of physics. Let’s just design better clothes. If it were socially acceptable, I would simply cut out a head hole in the middle of my bedsheet and wear that as a kind of minimalist poncho. It’s super economical. Plus, I’d be ready to take a nap anywhere. It’s like a Snuggie, but better.

So, I say, if life’s got you in a stranglehold, if you feel like the breath is being choked out of you by seemingly random and arbitrary circumstances and social norms, then I say, release those bonds! Let every chain be broken. Cast off all that hinders, entangles, and ensnares. Like a Greek athlete of antiquity who competed completely butt-naked, lay aside every weight and encumbrance, and run with endurance the race set before you (Hebrew 12:1)!

Well… Maybe keep some clothes on. I’m not a nudist, just prejudice against the pant patriarchy.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friends’ were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Falling with Style

The first time I went skiing was also my last. It was a youth group ski trip. Cliché, I know. And yes, this is another story of me nearly dying in (West Virginia). I’ve never been very adept at those balance and coordination-type activities. Also, who came up with skiing in the first place? Oh, I know, here’s a great idea: why don’t we lock and strangle our ankles to these impractically large planks and then zoom down these snow-covered deathtrap hills while holding treacherous pointy spears?

I didn’t even own any snow gear, so I had to borrow a hodgepodge of items from several people. My outfit included the brightest-luminescent-yellow-green snow pants you’ve ever seen. I looked like some kind of road hazard sign out on the slopes. People actively avoided me—I assume because they thought I was letting visitors know which parts of the ski slope were closed for maintenance. Do they have slope maintenance? Do janitors mop hilltops?

One of my friends, who was far more experienced in this sadistic sport, graciously took me under his wing. He tried to teach me the ropes. Then he just left me to hang myself with the rope. Clearly, I was a lost cause. I guess they call it the bunny slope because a cluster of bunnies had all gathered around to watch in curiosity and delight at the giant lime puff flailing about in the snow. After practicing my face plants a few hundred times (my nose felt like the forgotten popsicle left in the back of the freezer after last summer’s cookout) we decided it was time for me to try skiing, or belly-sliding, down one of the actual slopes.

We navigated our way onto the lift, and then my friend told me where to descend. He explained that I was getting off on the easy, beginner slope, while he was going to go to a more advanced one. “Here Finley, this is a green circle slope so you should be fine.” I’m sure you can guess where this is going. It wasn’t a green circle. It was a black diamond. I must have gone down the wrong side or something. I don’t know why they put those mountains so close to each other. And I thought going down was supposed to be the easy part.

I quickly realized that this whole skiing thing wasn’t going to work. I wouldn’t survive. So I changed techniques and just allowed myself to roll down the mountainside like a neon cream puff which was discarded into the garbage after melting at the church potluck picnic. I felt the embarrassment of a snow owl turn its bulbous eyes away in shame at the sight as I bounced and thrashed and floundered my way to the bottom.

I was a cold, lonely tumbleweed blowing in the wind.

Later, my friend confessed that he realized his mistake and was genuinely worried about me. He thought I died and was asking everyone if they had seen a guy who looked like an intoxicated Elton John impersonator hanging off a cliff.

Sometimes, life can be unexpectedly challenging. Perhaps you too have found yourself standing on the precipice of a black diamond slope and staring into the belly of the beast. You didn’t choose these circumstances, but here you are, and now you must decide: do I take a leap of faith and venture out into the abyss, or do I plop down on my bum and make snow angels until I die of exposure to the elements?

Choices. All you can do is choose how to respond to life. If you can’t ski down the mountain, then slide. If you can’t slide, then stroll. If you can’t stroll, then roll and tumble. Just keep going. You’ll make it, and you’ll be better for it.

As for me, next time I’m going tubing. Sounds more my speed since I can sit the whole time. I have this life dream of eating a donut while sitting in a rubber donut tube and being pulled around by a snowmobile doing donuts. Dream big.

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.