Michael Harris

There is No Spoon…

I’m one of those ‘hipsters’ that remembers the world without the internet. I just saw today that Michael Harris has written a book about my generation, and I plan to run right out and buy it. Here’s why:

Every day I wake up and have the same routine for the last few months. I slide out of bed and retrieve the coffee that my wife has so graciously made for me, take a few sips of piping hot nirvana, reach for my iPad, and flip it open. My first moments as I rub the sleep out of my eyes are to catch up on what I might have missed during my 6-8 hours ‘offline’. This routine has been nagging me a lot lately.

Several times I have been pretty fed up with the ego-driven world of social media, and how it makes me (and others) behave. Don’t take this as a personal attack. I just cringe when I think about the motivations behind most of the content we share online. Some of it is really cute, some of it really funny, some of it astonishing feats, and then there’s the stuff that just plain pisses us off.  All of it keeps coming, recycled over and over, and our identities are tied to likes and shares.

I Quit (sort of)!

At one point I boldly announced that I was quitting Facebook because of how invasive, even dangerous, all of this sharing was. I realized that the pictures I was posting were geo-tagged by my phone and that someone with a simple browser plug-in could see the GPS location of my child’s bedroom. Although Facebook no longer exists on my phone (Amen! you no longer see selfies and pictures of my take-out!), within a month I was sipping java and checking my notification alerts on my iPad; posting, sharing and liking once again. It’s addictive. You realize after a while that it’s a sad attempt at celebrity. Some are actually really successful at it, but most of us are on a treadmill to nowhere.

“When you wake up, you have this gift of a blank brain. You could fill it with anything. But for most of us, we have this kind of panic. Instead of wondering what should I do, we wonder what did I miss. Its almost like our unconsciousness is a kind of failure and we can’t believe we’ve been offline for eight hours” —Michael Harris

Facebook Messenger

Along comes the Facebook Messenger App, which was always just part of ‘The Facebook’, but now it is being separated as its own App for your phone. I never really used it on my phone, or in my browser much. I had plenty of Apps for SMS. But the news about how invasive the App is should alarm you. It even has access to using your phones camera. For days leading up to the release the furor over how terribly invasive this Messenger was going to be was all the rage. People were incensed. And then they downloaded it 500 million times on the first day. Wow.

The Messenger App issue, which only affects me indirectly since I no longer run Facebook’s tech on my phone anyway, was causing me to really take a closer look, once again, at the issue and whether I want to participate.

You Are Being Data Mined

We complain a lot about Facebook and our technology being invasive, but you need to remember one thing; You are not the customer. The free services, even the paid ones, are using your daily behaviors to sell you to the real customers; Your likes, shares, pokes, messages, what you talk about, what you say on your webcam, what tab you opened in your browser (and the URL you typed), what you buy, are you married, do you have kids, how much money you make, your race, religion, party affiliation, etc. And you are handing it to them openly.

Don’t be mad about it. This is the way the world works now. Marketing and Advertising love you so much more than they did when they spent millions on a Super Bowl ad and they had to wait for a response. Now they can target you with diamond tip precision!

I don’t think that anyone that is connected to the digital world can avoid it. I just don’t like how blatant the data mining is on Facebook, or how it affects my (our) behavior.

So, after this little rant I am going to go share this on Facebook and announce my intentions. After that I will go through the process of collecting my Facebook data so that I can archive it, then give my friends and family 2 weeks notice of my intention to cleanse myself. I will continue to use Twitter and LinkedIn, mostly because they are used for professional reasons and for some reason are a very different animal than Facebook.

Bottom line; I don’t need Facebook to feel worthy. Cheers!



Never Gone

I am 26 years old. My mother has brought my grandmother out from Colorado to live with her in an effort to cure her stomach cancer. My mother beat her diagnosis of breast cancer into remission using home remedies, belief in them, and sheer will. It was obvious that she felt that she could best serve her Mother by keeping her in our home, close to her and her grandchildren. The doctors had given her only a few months to live after they removed an enormous tumor. My Mother’s faith in herself and God was my Grandma Mary’s last hope.

Peter, Mom, Mary, Dad

Grandpa Pete, Rose Marie (Mom), Grandma Mary, Michael (Dad)

At first my Grandmother was happy to be with us, but as her pain increased, and my Mother’s remedies and our love proved to be no match for the cancer attacking her, she just wanted to go back home to Colorado. It broke our hearts to hear her beg to let her go. She just wanted to go back to the home that she had made with her beloved Peter in the small coal mining town of Trinidad. It made sense to me then why she wanted to go. She was suffering and didn’t want us to watch her slowly erode. More importantly, the comfort of being in her home with it’s familiar surroundings, and the ghosts of those others that she was soon to join in death, was her last wish. This wish proved to be the thing that haunted my Mother most after my Grandmother passed away. She always wondered if she had done the wrong thing by keeping her in California.

I remember the night she died. She was laying in bed and had been unresponsive for 2 days, not eating or drinking. Just short, quick breaths marked the fact that she was still with us. I tried to give her a sip of water because her lips looked so dry, and she began choking and coughing. I felt like I had nearly drowned her and just kept saying I was sorry, over and over again. I laid there next to her frail body for an hour before going to bed. Several hours later my Mother woke me to tell me she had passed away. I walked into the room to see her, crawled in next to her again and just lay there, crying and saying goodbye.

I’m 38 years old. I get a call from Dad that Mom is in the hospital. She was experiencing acute pain in her abdomen, but they didn’t know what the cause was. They wanted to keep her overnight for observation. I raced to the hospital to see her.


Mom and Dad as Newlyweds with Mary

Mother was there, smiling at me through eyes that looked a bit frightened. She told me not to worry, they think she just pulled a muscle. Still, the circumstances and symptoms had the doctors baffled and they wanted to keep her as a precaution. I stayed a while until she got me to promise to go home to help Pop make some dinner.

My father was always a craftsman in the kitchen, able to pull random objects and create a culinary experience that was always a joy. Delicious, as my wife would always say, but not necessarily healthy. Too much cream and butter. I remember enjoying the meal, helping clean up with my wife, calling my mother at the hospital to check in, and then we started heading home with our young son.

About a mile from our house I started to feel sick. So sick that I made my Wife stop the car. I leapt out onto the shoulder and projectile vomited several times. Linda was alarmed and we all wondered when the rest of us would fall ill from some kind of food poisoning. At home I declined rapidly, and a high fever set in. Still, Linda and Aidan felt fine. I lay there in bed, shivering. We discussed what I had eaten over the last 24 hours, but it was clear that I hadn’t had anything other than what my entire family had eaten. The illness was a mystery. For about an hour I went through a routine of jumping out of bed, staggering to the bathroom and ejecting fluids in some fashion from my body, all the while wracked with shakes and fever.

The next day I was still sick with a high fever. My Mother was feeling better and was going to be released from the hospital. Linda had made plans to visit friends in Sacramento weeks in advance of this day and was ready to cancel the trip. I insisted that I could take care of myself and not to worry about me. Somehow, I got her to leave with Aidan, leaving me alone in the house.

I woke again several hours later, still shivering. I am not sure why, but I felt compelled to leave, to go to my childhood home. I rolled out of bed, dressed, found my keys and drove away.

I got to my parents house in the mountains, which was always a beautiful place to be. Redwoods and pines, the gardens, the clean air. All of it familiar and inviting. I found where they kept the key hidden and let myself in. I remember drinking a glass of water and heading to the back bedroom where my Grandmother passed away. I looked down at the bed where she died, “Gram. I’m really sick. If you’re here, I need your help.”

I slid under the covers and fell asleep.

sunsetHours later I woke. The house was dark and still. I was soaked in sweat. The fever had broken and, although weak, I was already feeling better. I was able to find my way to the kitchen and make myself some dry toast, let myself out the way I came and started for home.

A few weeks later Linda and I are sitting with good friends, talking about all of the things you talk about with friends that you haven’t seen in a year. Somehow our conversation triggers Linda’s memory of what happened to me that night; My mothers hospitalization, the vomiting, the fever.

Natalie listened to the story, and said, “You had a lowlife attach to you.”

“What’s a lowlife?”, I asked.

Natalie is a Reiki healer. She got quiet for a moment. She began to tell me that sometimes spirits that are lost or malicious, hang around in places like hospitals. They sometimes attach themselves to the ‘bright light’ some people create around them. That one had attached to me. A very bad one.

I scoffed and told her that it was just food poisoning.

She slowly closed her eyes, and they started to flutter. As a tear trickled down her cheek, she described what she saw that night. She described my grandmother being there, helping me fight the lowlife. She mentioned an American Indian Chief, watching over me. The funny thing was, I hadn’t told her about how I drove to my Parents home, or that I had asked my Grandmother for help. I told her then about how I had felt compelled to go there, and she looked at me like she understood. Still, I asked about the Indian. Who was he?

We finally decided that it must have been an ancestor. Generations ago on my Fathers side of the family, I knew that we had some Cherokee blood.

About a week later, I was back at my Parents house for one of our Sunday dinners. I got up and walked to that back bedroom. I wasn’t sure If I really believed the things that Natalie had said. Mostly I like to believe that they are true, that some part of those that pass from our lives into death are still with us. That the purpose of life, love and our everlasting souls a greater mystery than we can imagine.

I stood there in the room alone. I told my Grandmother out loud, “Thank you”

As I turned to leave the room, on the wall over the bed, was a woodcut my Uncle Norman had given my father many years before he passed away. Woodcuts were a hobby that they both enjoyed.

I stared at my Uncle Normans woodcut. It was a profile of an American Indian Chief in full headdress.

Musings of a Stay at Home Dad

Yesterday was my birthday. My wife arrived home from work to her two boys, both of which have birthdays in the same month. But this was ‘my day’, so they asked what I wanted and I picked a local restaurant that I love and we headed over there for the evening. And being in Sliema that required all of 5 minutes of walking.

January is always an interesting month for me. Conversations about the New Year, being another year older, and reflections on the year that just went by always crop up. So here we sat, having our annual discussion.

At first I thought, “I didn’t do a thing.”

Mikey likes it!

Anyone see the remote?

Since January of last year, I have been “Mr. Mom”. Linda goes off to work, I stay at home. During Aidan’s school year I help get him out the door, watch Linda follow soon after to catch her ride to work, then I am home alone until they start to return. Summer’s are not all that different because we find activities and camps for Aidan. And Serena is still back in the U.S. with her mom from my first marriage, finishing up High School.

So if I die tomorrow, what goes on my tombstone?

Here lies Trent McNair

“Mr. Mom”

Made a MEAN Mac and Cheese

Human beings are creatures driven by Ego. Women desire equality, but need to play nice to get there, men desire dominance, but need to be more tolerant of the new rules. Acceptance of these desires by the opposite gender is an unspoken law, like gravity.  Let’s call it the ‘Law of Tolerance’.

So most of us quietly obey this new law until a certain point in our lives. Usually at around 30-35 women who are clambering up the career ladder go a little slack jawed on their way to work one day when they realize “I WANT TO HAVE A BABY. NOW.” Men tend to get more and more pissed and emasculated as they watch women excel at the jobs that they think they should have.

All the while I sit on the sidelines observing this phenomena unfold. It’s mildly amusing, really. I say mildly because sometimes it seems like the unspoken Law of Tolerance has created a generation of boys that don’t really have great male role models and just stay little boys into their adulthood (which is extremely dangerous), and women that are pissed off at their behavior (inflaming the situation further).

Why was I even talking about this? Oh, yeah. Because usually when I am introducing myself to new people around the island, I get a queer reaction when I don’t ramble off a job title that spans several words. What they are expecting to hear from a well spoken man of my age is:

“I’m the Senior Director of Worldwide Applications Development at Acme Corporation”

Instead they get:

“I’m a multimedia consultant and stay-at-home Dad”

Sometimes, when I know that they are really going to be shocked and because I enjoy registering their reactions , I just leave out the multimedia consultant and stick with ‘Stay-at-home Dad’. I’ve been smirked at, chuckled at, even called “Boy Toy” and “Kept Man”. Mind you, it was usually the women that would react this way. Men seem to sense something in me that could be life-threatening and seem to just numbly stand there.

But it really doesn’t matter what they think. We are all doing battle with our Ego, the Law of Tolerance, and life’s daily struggles. In general, we are all in the same boat. Rather than take it personally, it’s just easier to allow everyone their opinions.  My personal struggle is no more important than yours, even though we as human beings are so focused on self that we have a hard time seeing anything other than, well, self. So sometimes I am tempted to respond to the questions of “What do you do?” with “Don’t worry about it. I’m nowhere near as important as you think you are”

So that’s my new motto for a New Year: “I’m nowhere near as important as you think you are”.

So this year is going to be amazing. I really look forward to the challenges and opportunities that will be coming my way.  I look forward to whatever may come, and I embrace my nowhere-near-important role as a husband and father like a warrior.

Trent McNair is a stay-at-home Dad. Last year he didn’t own and operate an organic nursery, write an award-winning children’s book about nutrition, gardening and the environment, or assist in the creation of a community garden. He also didn’t build and maintain several websites or do any outstanding humanitarian work. He did, however, support his wife, cooked nearly every meal, helped his son with his homework and afterschool activities, and started to write the novel he has been babbling about for years.