What Momma says, goes

“Check this out.  Wait, the cell phone connection’s really bad in here.  I’ll walk to the front of the building and get the rest of her message.

“Okay, here it is.  I had texted Mom to ask her if she has any plans for Thanksgiving.  This is what she said:

‘No, I do not have any plans for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the New Year.  You children are grown up and it’s time you acted like it.  My father and I are old and tired and soon we’re going to be gone.  You need to start making the decision about what we’re going to do and what we’re going to eat for the holidays.'”

“There’s only one response for that one.  ‘Yes, Mom.'”

“Yes, Momma.  Yes, Momma.  That is so funny.  That’s just like her.”

“And it’s like you, too.”


“‘I’ve taught you all the dance moves.  You know all the dance moves.  It’s time you need to dance them without me telling you how to dance the moves.'”

“Haha…but it’s true, isn’t it?  That’s me!  If only I didn’t have so much on my plate right now — moving to my new flat, packing the crate for my boyfriend’s return to France, getting ready for St. Louis, DJing…I can’t believe he’s going to be gone next week!  I think I’m going to cry.”

“Can you hold it together?”

“I have to.  I have to work.  My life is my job.  I don’t take a break.”

“We can come over and help you ‘fluff your nest.'”

“No, no.  I’m good.  Now you guys need to practice what I just taught you.  Full weight on one foot, the other leg straight, toes pointed to the floor and just pivot your upper body, keeping your weight on the same foot as your lower body follows around half a turn.  I’m so glad I came tonight.  You guys are like a rock for me.  Thanks!”

“You’re welcome.”

“I’ll see you in St. Louis!”

When rocket propulsion and engineering program management met

Sometimes, the awkward, bullied grade-school nerd in me shows himself, his tiny, insignificant self-image forgetting that he’s a full-fledged grownup male who has traveled the world and negotiated multimillion-dollar deals.

As I’m oft reminded, a simple “thank you” for a compliment means more than a humorous attempt to act modest.

The awkwardness has declined with time and maturity but appeared this weekend.

So, too, saying thank you as a compliment is not easy for me in realtime, despite my frequent use of gratitude in this blog.

I can’t go back in time but I can record here my thanks for the hard work that Jenn put into not only the hours of practice she provided for our dance routine, but also the great effort she put into a costume for our performance.

It’s been rare to find such a good friend in someone like Jenn, who’s willing to play grownup pretend (or cosplay, in today’s parlance) for a public show, purely for the sake of fun exercise.

I appreciate her husband’s and my wife’s patience during the past couple of months.

Here’s our video, posted for posterity and eternity on the Internet, turned rightside-up, with titles and credits to identify us when we’re old and gray (and a little forgetful — “You mean that used to be you, Great Uncle Rick/Great Aunt Jenn?” “That’s what they tell me.”):

Lindy Hop fun!

Here’s hoping that we can find the time and energy to put another routine together.

Windbreak Shadow

They stood hand-in-hand, the same height, facing each other.

Her shoulders were broad, her hips turned to one side like a pitcher winding up, her grip strong.

He held her hand firmly but let his arm stay loose.  “I promise I won’t drop you.”

She smiled.  “Uh-huh.”

“But I might drop you.”

“Uh-huh.”  Her smile widened.  “You know, you oughta take a look around the room.”

His back to the rest of the dance floor, Lee cocked his head over his shoulder, nodding.  “Yeah?”

“Can’t you see I’m the biggest woman in this room?  You do know my brother played college football, don’t you?”

He shook his head.  “Where is he now?”

“He’s a retired police officer.  When he interviewed to become a DEA agent, they asked him how come he was so tough.  He told ’em he had me as a sister, who could beat him up.  I put stitches in his face.”

Lee nodded.  “I don’t promise I won’t drop you.  I might just try to drop you on purpose.”

“Yeah, you do that.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Or you can try.”

The dance instructor called out in his French accent.  “Five, six, seven, eight.  Sugar push…now the contra move…stop on three!”

Lee held his partner out from him.  “I could drop you right now.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might trip you, make it look like an accident.”

“A tango move that went wrong?”

“I promise I’ll pick you up.  Or pretend I will.”

“Oh, don’t do that.  A friend would leave me on the floor…”

“I’ll definitely do that.”

“…and laugh.”

“I’ll make sure I’ll drop you, point, laugh and walk away.”

“Ooh.  You’re good.”

“What are friends for?”

The instructor called out again.  “Okay, dance leaders, rotate counter-clockwise.  We only have so many followers so we’ll rotate twice as faster so they can share themselves weef us.”

Lee looked at his partner.  “See you later.”

She laughed.  “You wish.”  She squeezed his hand harder.  “No.  I mean you’re a really good leader.”


Group dance lessons are like speed dating.  You partner up quickly as you rotate leaders or followers, establishing a relationship which is always instantly based on first impressions.  However, should you speed date often, you may find yourself with the same partner again, having broken the ice or pointing the way to the icebreaker, ready to experiment a little more with or without the first impression the second time around.

Some fun is worth waiting for.

A windbreak between corn fields takes years to reach the right height but never so tall as to completely block out the sunlight or a heavy thunderstorm.

Our sets of states of energy may build up defenses but sometimes the cocoons around our personality are melted by the simplest of smiles.

Or, as they say, there’s a time and place for everything, patience has its virtue, and laughter is the best medicine.

Lee promised himself he’d let her slip the next time, catching her unawares in his arms, seeing if he could avoid the stitches her brother couldn’t.

We all love a good challenge!

I ask myself…

…as I look forward to a week of personal technology-based project developments and dance practice, I ask myself, “If my happiness is dependent on my financial relationships with other people, what happens when my financial well runs dry?”

Translation: how many friends have I bought with money?  I can’t think of a single person who has called me up just to get together for pure fun.  Am I deluding myself into missing those who HAVE tried to contact me?  Yes, now that I think about it, there are a few friends, maybe one or two, who have called me once in the past year to get together for lunch.

I asked for the life of a hermit who has assertiveness problems in the presence of other people, afraid to ask people for help because I’ll then feel obligated to help them in their time of need when I’m not that helpful of a person, and I got it!

Guess that’s why I see nursing homes and assisted living facilities as fraudulent places to steal your money, huh?

Looking at my personality traits in the funhouse mirror is enlightening, downright depressing today…all because I didn’t have the nerve to ask a stranger to dance last night!

Time to stop beating myself up and, if I can, motivate my wife to eat lunch with me so we can practice dancing this afternoon.


My wife and I sat down and looked at our finances this afternoon.  I have done what I’ve always wanted to do — I put the desire for dancing above my need for hearing aids — I’d rather be deaf and move my body to the sound of music than be a cyborg with enhanced auditory functionality.

Again, the happiness of overcoming physical fears is almost impossible to describe, like I changed bodies last week and am a new man.

Time for this new old man to get off of his cloud and sleep!

Working on posture

After watching the self-filmed video of myself Lindy hopping with my shadow at the dance studio this afternoon, I SEE what I look like – a slouch!

I know why Joe, Jenn and Abi have been telling me, “Stand up straight!”

Time for fixing my bent-over back.

I’m just glad I’ve 26 pounds since the first of the year.  I want to get down to 215 pounds by the 21st of September.  I’m at 218 now, well within range.  Maybe I should make 200 a stretch goal and 205/210 intermediate targets?

Can this blog have any influence on reality?  What if I said that I’m envious of men who have humbly joined in matrimony with their Church of God wives who dress modestly?  Would I see more of them shopping at Walmart the next couple of days or, as I’ve commented before, writing about it draws my attention to subcultures that aren’t part of my daily life?

I’ve been told I’m a role model for others whether I want to be or not because I let my light shine, in good [mental/physical] weather or bad, in my words, images, videos and links to your wonderful lives/stories.  The role I play in your lives is whatever you want it to be — I thank you for your consideration of any influence I may give you because the seven-plus billion people on this planet influence me in so many different directions I have no way to count.

The little boy and the postsecondary school party guy inside me can’t believe they co-exist in this middle-aged guy who’s miraculously still alive and discovering what life is all about in this vast universe.

For those reasons, I’m practicing how to stand up straight and overcome the pain in between my shoulder blades that runs up through my shoulders and neck.

For you and you alone (the cats don’t care), I’m willing to overcome slouching.

The divorce diet

Bai looked at her figure in the mirror.

Little more than a size four, close to a size six.

Watching herself and her partner on video from a recent dance competition had shown her that she was not the skinny ballerina figure she used to be.

Time’ll do that to you.

That, and alcohol to a diabetic’s disposition.

She breathed.  She needed water, part of her purification cleansing diet, much like the nutritional input to which she resorted during her divorce.

Her so-called divorce diet.

She wanted to go back to per post-divorce size two, or a size one in clothing store labeled terms.

More importantly, she wanted to be a great dance partner again, spinning on point effortlessly, turning faster than anyone else on the floor, the perfect follower for the perfect leader.

She was no engineer but she understood inertia better than most scientists — it doesn’t take a formula to show you that you don’t move at the same speed as you did in 1998, or even 2008, when you went from a complete stop to 120 BPM in a second, not two.

With her new job as a night club DJ, she could cue up four or five songs and dance with the club patrons as part of her exercise regime.

As a dancing instructor, she just wasn’t burning calories as fast as she’d like.

Soon, she’d be showing off her slimmer figure at Swing Fling in Washington, D.C.

After that, who knew?  Maybe River City Swing in Jacksonville, Meet Me in St. Louis Swing Dance Championships or Boogie by the Bay in San Francisco.

She had goals, not all of them dance.  Sure, she’d like to travel overseas for dance competitions, buy a sewing machine and turn all of her students into top competitors, but there was more.

Much more.

Lose a boyfriend, gain a girlfriend who was her best friend, then her boyfriend’s former girlfriend.

She had options.  Choices.  Her secret to life was her happiness and youthful exuberance.

Her life was often tiring but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She returned to the mirror and practiced a new move.

She had been taught by the best and expected nothing less from herself.

Practice, practice, practice!

Note to self

Do I have it in me to give myself freely, free of fear of rejection, free of resorting to stereotyping, and permit myself to dance with others, let alone my wife, letting go of inhibitions without resorting to the intake of substances to remove barriers that protect my internal nervousness and general fear of the world at large ingrained in me during my formative years?

Sometimes, my fear is so great I relish the thought of eating a slug of lead rather than look in the nearly-fearless faces of live human beings.

The anonymity of an Internet connection is very safe, that’s for sure.

The final diagnosis

My father’s posthumous medical journey comes to an end, with a final diagnosis of “chronic sensory motor polyneuropathy with both axonal and demyelinating features,” as detailed below.

Thanks to the VA for processing the medical claim forms.  Unfortunately for my mother, the claim was denied because Dad’s medical condition was not directly military service-connected.

Copy of Richard-Hill-VA-determination-letter-2013-April-24-1 Copy of Richard-Hill-VA-determination-letter-2013-April-24-2 Copy of Richard-Hill-VA-determination-letter-2013-April-24-3