Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the category “Personal”

“Just Joking”

“Just joking” is something we now hear repeatedly from the White House. Trump tells cops to beat up suspects, and the explanation is “just joking”. Ed Butowsky pressures news outlets to run the fake story about Seth Rich saying “The President wants it run” and now says he was “just joking.”

“Just joking” is the excuse given by abusers who know there is no way to cover up what they did and shifting the blame to YOU for being upset. I mean, don’t you have a sense of humor? Don’t you understand a joke?  Are you that clueless that you take it seriously?

“Just joking” is a red flag that lets you know that the person you are dealing with is dangerous and WILL attempt to hurt you.



When I went to sleep last night, the group home was more active than usual.  One client was complaining about being uncomfortable when going to the bathroom, another was arguing with his roommate (accusing him of taking a watch the client didn’t come into the facility with and must have owned a long time ago) and the awake staff kept leaving the room to the laundry room open (it’s right next to the living room where I sleep, so thanks for the washing machine and dryer noise).

The first section of the dream was that I had missed my bus home.  I took the opportunity to go for a hike and walked around a series of barren hills.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, and didn’t think about what time the final bus would come until I realized I had been walking until dark.  I went back to the nearest road, caught the bus and instead of going home, I went to the retail job I had had at Shinder’s when I first moved to MN. 

I knew I had left the job a LONG time ago, but had agreed to come back for a shift here and there and I’d agreed to work Christmas Eve because it would be quiet.  I got there, and the place wasn’t open.  There were boxes of rare comics they wanted me to process to pass the time, and opened the store.  As it got close to closing time, told the few people there we’d be closing in 5 minutes, started closing things down and a line formed at the register.  Then, things went nuts.

The people in the store came up to the register, had things that weren’t priced, wanted to trade in things from other stores, asked me to buy baseball cards, attempted to grab money from the register and the line kept growing.  My co-worker went home when the store was supposed to close without letting me know, and more and more people kept coming in.

They weren’t waiting in a line, either, but just surrounding the area and butting in front of each other.  I get all weird even thinking about it…and it seemed to go on forever.  After what seemed like at least an hour, people from the home office showed up to yell at me.  They accused me of erasing the special hours off of the windows, of shutting own the registers and pocketing the cash and on and on, and the people kept coming.  Eventually, I was able to break away from the crowd, and I just kept thinking I would miss Christmas.

Oddly, in the dream I didn’t quit.  I did as soon as I woke up, though, actually muttering “screw that job.”  Upon waking up, I actually felt more tired than when I went to bed because of how crazy it all was.  What does it all mean?

“It doesn’t mean anything, Anna. It’s only a dream. Sometimes a banana is just a banana, Anna.” John Belushi as Sigmund Freud

Oh, and the overnight staff started complaining about the clients before I even put my glasses on in the morning….



What kind of year it has been

One year ago, I accepted a full-time job after temping for almost three years. Before that I worked awake overnights at the group home for over two years.  The 2008 crash eliminated my job, and I had to work part-time jobs from then until when I decided to take overnights.

In the last year, I have:

  • Recorded over 150 hours of podcast audio
  • Started two new podcasts (Bad Advice and Series in Review)
  • Written a novel and edited three for turning into podcasts
  • Gotten a LOT of dental work. Benefits are keen
  • Built up a savings account that has 2 months of salary saved
  • Brought listenership of Kray Z Comics and Stories up a little over 40%
  • Interviewed some amazing people
  • Got a new nickname (The Cleaner, just like Kenny Omega!)
  • Started learning a foreign language
  • Got moved into a kind of supervisory position
  • Put on about 10 pounds (now working to take it and another 30 on top of that off)
  • Seen my foster daughter get engaged
  • Watched my son find a new place to live and enjoy his job
  • Retired from doing conventions due to it being too….people-y
  • Stepped down as the Best Dressed Man In Comics
  • Missed an overseas friend who is doing incredible things
  • Been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and gotten medication that helps with the cascading panic attacks that plagued me through August and September of last year
  • Read a lot of comics and novels
  • Not slept enough

What a difference a year makes!

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to like my statuses, react and engage in conversations, listened to the podcasts ( Be there, aloha), dealt with me when I am a pain in the ass, Checked in when I ask “Are we good” or just clicked on “request friend” here on Facestab.

A LOT of stuff is coming in the next year from Solitaire Rose Productions, and while I always see myself as having a pretty boring life, when you stack it all up, it’s kind of cool.

Much love to friends old and new, and remember: “No matter where you go, there you are.” – B. Banzai



More on emotional checkbooks

Long post warning, but it’s about anxiety in detail, so if you’re interested in my experiences….

I have written in the past about the Emotional Checkbook. I don’t know how standard an idea it is, but I like it.  We have an emotional bank account with the people in our lives, as well as one overall.  What that means is that we have a certain about of emotional cost we can take as well as emotional deposits we can accept.  Some people have built up a lot in that account, some not so much and there is a general overall account.

For example:  A new GF/BF doesn’t have a lot built up in the account.  There’s the initial deposit (attraction) and things they do that show you they care such as how they treat you, romantic gestures, how well they listen and interact, etc…  However, as the account hasn’t built up very much, it’s pretty easy for someone to make too many withdrawals.  A withdrawal is when you have to spend emotional capital such as when they do someone insensitive, when they lean on you for support, when they ask for favors, etc…  When someone is making more withdrawals than deposits, we begin to feel used, that the other person doesn’t care about us and eventually, if the account bounces too many checks, we’ll close it out by dumping that person.

I believe that we have these accounts for EVERY relationship in our lives.  Even with inanimate things:  I get terrible service at this store, and while they have lower prices, I just don’t feel it’s worth putting up with the bad things.  My job pays well, but they treat me poorly, what I do doesn’t matter and I am not connect to my co-workers.  Over time, every day is an emotional withdrawal and I only get “deposits” when I get paid or when they give free food.

Even in long term friendships, there’s that checking account.  I once has a long-term friendship where eventually, the other person never asked how I was doing and never offered any sort of emotional support.  It got to the point where I would time our conversations, and if she hadn’t asked anything about me after a half hour, I would end the conversation politely.  By that point, checks were bouncing and I closed out the account.  In another case, we had an issue that the other person refused to deal with maturely, and every conversation was either telling me how terrible I was or asking to borrow money.  I had to close that account as well.

Currently, I am dealing with a few issues, but I have thought about how I am feeling and why, even though I feel alone, I don’t want to deal with people and spend a lot of time convincing myself to maintain the close friendships I have.  Part of it is how anxiety works.  “If you people don’t like me, then screw you all!” is the irrational way the issue messes with your head.


In both of my jobs, I am giving to other people.  My full-time job is about helping people understand and resolve issues with their benefits, and if you don’t think people get stressed out when there is an issue with their medical benefits, you’re kind of sheltered.  For the past three months, it’s been far busier than projections and we are asking people to verify their dependents, so if they don’t have proper documents, their spouses or children could lose medical coverage.  That takes a lot out of you, emotionally.

THEN, at the group home job, I’m there a lot, the clients are very dependent on you for things, they can do things that get you upset and you have to keep being patient and kind (even when they are being jerks) and even when it’s calm and you’re doing everyday interactions, it’s another withdrawal.

So, add that together and I now understand why I feel so tired, anxious, and stressed.  My emotional checkbook is bouncing checks all over the place, so the slightest thing can make me feel like things aren’t going to go well.  A slow response from someone makes me think I have done something to make them hate me (which has actually happened before) and I mentally write them off.  What might be good natured ball-busting comes off to me as anger toward me. I know people laugh at the whole “trigger” thing, but the one thing I have learned isn’t just to feel an emotion, but to understand what is causing it before I act on it.  Maybe that’s why people say I always seem calm.

Or, I’ve lived in Minnesota so long, I’ve learned never to outwardly show emotions. 

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope that people are making desposits in your emotional checkbook constantly!



You know it don’t come easy

I have said over and over in my little essays that my goal is to “Love everybody and make ‘em feel good about themselves.” Michael Des Barres, who I knew little about until I started listening to him on his Underground Garage radio show, states that he is “Your Humbler Servant” which was something I adopted to put words to how I see my life.  I didn’t come to this easily, and for a portion of my life I was embittered, cynical, and felt that I had been given the fuzzy end of the lollypop.


I made the change in my thinking, and I am NOT one of those people who believes “the secret” or that positive thoughts bring you positive results. In fact, the world around me hasn’t changed.  I’ve still had to struggle, deal with financial and emotional upheaval, had people in my life who did me wrong and the like.  None of that changed, and the people who say “thinking positively will always make you rich!” are scam artists just as big as the Nigerian Prince who used to e-mail you about helping him get his money transferred to another bank.

The world didn’t change. I still have been laid off 4 times since 1999 when I made the mental change.  I have had a dear friendship dissolve in a painful way.  I have had five relationships with women I loved end.  I have suffered huge financial setbacks, increased anxiety, family tragedies and the like.  What changed was how I saw it.

With people, I assumed positive intent and gave forgiveness, knowing that they did what they thought was a good idea at the time. With employment, I made sure to keep myself learning and got away from thinking that my job is who I am, and instead see it as how I help others.  With family, I realize that things will be good at times and not good at others.  With my own mental health, I realize that I can do what I can to take care of myself and to get help when I need it, same as I would for an infection or a chronic condition.

I wake up every day knowing that my internal weather determines how I see the external circumstances. That everyone is a person with hopes, dreams, fears, desires and needs and while what they do may affect me, it’s all in how I react to that.

I have also seen people whose lives are defined by who and what they hate, and the more I se4e it, the more I realize it’s not my job to oppose them, but to avoid them and not let their anger change how you live your life. I fail at this, and tend to take criticism much more easily than praise, but I’m trying to do better.

I want to live in a world where everyone gets what they want. Even my enemies.  It ain’t easy, but since we’re all we’ve got, we have to help each other.

Much love to friends old and new and I hope that you learn to live a life defined by forgiveness and hope rather than anger and fear. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.


Perfect Moments

I am amazingly sentimental, and when it comes to anniversaries, I tend to obsess. I realized this week that 30 years ago I finished college, moved to Minnesota and started my jobs at a juvenile justice group home that doesn’t exist anymore and a comic shop that doesn’t exist anymore.

I am going to record a podcast about that shift soon (and it’s along the lines of the song “That’s how I got to Memphis” if The Newsroom gave you a deep, abiding love of that one). But one thing I remember was a day when I was all done with college, had finished up my college jobs (they were for students only) and was sharing a house with a woman I was in love with.

It was a cool early summer morning, the radio was playing, and we had had a light breakfast, and we just sitting around, reading and enjoying each other’s company. I stopped what I was doing and said, “We need to treasure this.  All is right in our lives, things are peaceful and relaxed.  This is a perfect moment.  Soon, we’ll have to worry about jobs and money and other things, but for now, everything is where it should be.”  I was right.  In the years since, those “perfect moments” have been few and far between, but they are to be treasured:

-Watching Batman Returns with my son at the drive in as a Thunderstorm slowly moved toward us

-A warm evening on the patio at Uncommon Ground where I was reading, a couple of people were working out a new song on a guitar, and people walked by on their way to their Friday night activities

-Reading the New York Times with Gene Colan before a comic convention stared for the day and talking movies

-Shooting pool with a woman I loved the day she moved in with me

–Nights on my deck, reading comics with a cold beverage as the sun went down

-Watching the X-Files cuddled together on a couch and talking about the future during the commercials.

-A road trip with music playing and singing along to the music.

-A long conversation with a future friend at a coffee house

-Having a conversation while wandering the streets of St Paul through twilight

-Sitting on the banks of the river in Stillwater after going through antique stores

-Driving a drunk woman home as she muttered on and on about how much she loved me

-Taking my son to his first showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show

-The glorious, amazing all night multi-theater horror movie fest on Halloween

Moments where all is right with the world are fleeting, special and should be treasured.

Much love to friends old and new, and what are some of YOUR perfect moments?


On hypocrisy

I have been thinking about hypocrisy today.

It’s been a huge thing in the news lately, it’s something we use to beat down those we disagree with, and a LOT of what I was taught in behavioral psychology was about cognitive dissonance, the backflips the mind goes through when we hold two opposing ideas. One of the worst things you can call someone is a hypocrite, and I know people who gleefully point out the hypocrisy of people they don’t like just to watch them squirm.

But. What if we think about it in a different way?  What if, as part of loving everyone, we assume positive intent about people and their hypocrisy is a case of them just not living up to the ideal version of themselves they want to be?

We all have failings. We don’t follow through 100% on every promise.  We don’t fulfill every request from the people in our lives.  We all see ourselves as the hero of our stories, but sometimes we’re the fool, sometimes we’re the bystander and sometimes (hopefully rarely) we’re the antagonist in someone’s personal story.

Instead of instantly jumping to the attach when someone’s words don’t match up with their actions, think to yourself about things YOU say about yourself that you are trying to live up to. I see myself as a kind person, but I’ll bet you don’t have to look too far to find someone who sees me as opportunistic or manipulative.  I know a person who holds her friends to incredibly high moral standards, but has had affairs during different periods in her marriage.

Hell, I once had a friend who was a living embodiment of this, and I learned early on that the only way I could stay friends with them was to realize that they had a highly inflated version of themselves that they could never live up to. I accepted them and forgave them when they would speak with massive hypocrisy.

I always see the ones I love as their best selves, even if they don’t.

We can attack and tear them down, or, we can give them what we would want if we fall short of our internal standards. Understanding.  I often say I don’t have goals and resolutions, because they invite failure, and it is the same with these things.  If we flip it from being mad at someone’s hypocrisy to understanding it’s a case of them not living up to their ideal of themselves, it’s easier to forgive and understand.

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope you are able to forgive those who don’t live up to their perfect version of themselves.




Morning drive

Normally, my drive in to work in uneventful. Since they have shifted my start time to 8:30, I avoid the freeways, as they increase my drive time by up to 45 minutes.  Still, it’s rush hour so there is a lot of traffic.  The first leg of my drive is along a lake with a lot of wooded area around the road, so you get to see squirrels and other animals, and sometimes, the squirrels dart across the road ahead of you.

This morning, as I was driving in, a squirrel ran out in front of me and was across my lane of traffic, and then stopped and started to run back. It made its change at a point where I was unable to slow down enough to keep from hitting it.

I know. It’s just a squirrel.  But it hit me and I started to think about the different metaphors that can be gleaned from what happened, the fragility of life, and how I was listening to the news, getting concerned about everything going on politically but in many ways, none of that matters as the world keeps on moving along.

A few miles later, a busy intersection as blocked because there had been a car accident. A minivan had its entire front end destroyed, with smoke billowing from the raw, visible metal, a sedan had a side crushed, and another car had its front end smashed beyond repair.  While cars were driving around the accident to get to work on time, on the median, there was a woman, sitting, head in her hand, sobbing with someone sitting next to her with an arm around her shoulder.

As I was waiting my turn to go around them, a police car showed up. The officer was talking to the woman who was sitting in the median as I went around, and I did my best not to gawk at what is probably one of the worst mornings in that woman’s life.  All three vehicles were totaled and with the officer reacting the way he did, I was reasonably sure no one was killed or seriously injured.

In both cases, a decision was made that turned out to be a bad one. In the squirrel’s case, it was to change direction in the face of danger and it was fatal.  For the drivers of those vehicles, I would speculated that someone made a decision and didn’t correct from things changing around them (an unseen vehicle, slowing down to let someone turn who might not have the right of way).  It makes me think about how our choices are all based on what we know in that moment, but the information or calculations we make can be flawed.

This is a week of unpleasant memories for me. Some are public, some I have only shared with close friends, but being a sentimentalist, I tend to think about them overmuch when the calendar bring them up again.

Some, I chose to do something. Some, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Some, I was merely reacting to what someone else wanted.  All of them changed things and brought me here, to this time, and this place with this knowledge.  I wish all of them would have turned out differently, but for all of the memories and heartbreak, I have to embrace them for the knowledge I gained.

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope that when decision time comes, you are able to make the wise choice based on where you are, what is going on around you and what is best for everyone involved.


I told ME not to be so stupid, you moron

I have no problem saying I am a moron when it comes to some things. I am well aware of my limitations, abilities and when I can and cannot learn.  In 2011, I realized that I am a complete moron when it comes to close relationships, that I make poor choices, and tapped out.  Every interaction since then has proven this was the wisest thing I have ever done.


Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Yesterday it came up that one of my friends said that I am pretty much the same on-line as I am in person. I asked a couple more people I know, because I have been “on line” since my first e-mail account in 1985, and it’s something that has always knocked around in my head.

When I first started up a webpage in 1999, I created an exaggerated version of myself as the “writer” on the webpage. I’d been doing the Weekly News Update news parody for a few years, and had created the persona of a hard drinking cynic who despised humanity that was how I was at the time turned up to 25.  It was odd in that people who dealt with me in person did searches for me and then would bring it up.

Try to explain to your son’s friend’s mom that the piece you wrote mocking “mission statements” where you say your drinking is more important to you than you job or family is a joke without feeling like an asshole. I dare you.

But when it came to person stuff like in e-mail, chat and the like, I tried to do a good job of presenting myself “as is”. Too many times, people puff themselves up, make themselves seem more important than they are, or just flat out lie, even when it is in personal conversations.  I’m not talking in the whole “dating website” thing where people lie about their age, their job, their physical activity, etc… I mean when you just chat with someone.

People try to put their best self forward, even if the shoes doesn’t quite fit any more.

I do the opposite, I think. In my podcast with Joe, Kray Z Comics and Stories, I turn myself up to 11, mock myself (The Solitaire Rose Compound type of joke), but I don’t make up stuff about myself, or make myself into more than I am.  Hell, if anything I downplay myself because it’s about the content, not making myself famous.

On Facebook, I try to be funny, sometimes thoughtful and always honest. Probably too honest.  I discuss my emotional swings, generalized anxiety disorder, feeling alone in a world with 7 billion humans, how I work too much, what I get excited about, and how I am a contradictory mix of hope and dread.

Am I the same person on line? As others have said, I’m much more gregarious and open on line.  When I meet people, I tend to wait until I feel safe before opening up because I’m guarded.  One person messaged me that I am a LOT quieter in person which I agree with.

The Boy said: You’re a snarky asshole for justice.  I decided to lay down the snarkiness and cynicism in 1999, but I guess I have a LOT to work on with that.

A local comics creator said that I was a bit intimidating, which I have heard from time to time, which amazes me, as I see myself as a doofus. I used to be told that when I worked in Juvenile Justice as well, so I need to work on being more approachable.

But I try to be on line who I am in person. Hopefully, I succeed, and those of you whom I messaged and asked to fill me in on it, I really wish you would.  As I try to do better in my quest to Love Everybody and Make ‘em Feel Good About themselves, I am really looking for honest feedback.  Last year messed with my head in more ways that I knew at the time and any feedback is good feedback.

Much love to those who know me and haven’t run away screaming and I hope you feel secure enough to be yourself, because you are accepted and you are enough.


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