John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Conversations with Ourselves

jyb_musingsOne of the most common ways we talk to ourselves —or are supposed to —is through “Positive Self Talk” I discovered this idea about 25 years ago. We say positive things to ourself in the bathroom mirror each morning before starting our day. It puts us in a better frame of mind and helps us to have a better day.

But lately I have to admit that positive self-talk in my bathroom mirror in the mornings is getting harder. And I think my real self is finally on to my positive self-talking self. In fact, my positive self-talk affirmations are turning into dialogues with my real self. And at times has been getting a little tense. What happened this morning should not have come as a surprise to me.

Positive Self-Talk Self (PSTS): “Good morning there, fella. Alright. OK. Not bad. Really not bad at all.”

Real Self (RS): “That’s all you got for me this morning? ‘OK’ and ‘Not bad?’ Come on. ”

PSTS: “Well, it’s good. It’s good. It is. Certainly it could be worse. I mean…What do you want me to say?”

RS: “I don’t know. It would be nice to hear something good but I don’t want you to just lie to me. I don’t want you to even exaggerate. In fact, I want you to start shooting straight with me from now on. OK? No more with just this happy talk. Man to man. OK? If I am not doing alright, just say it. I’m 51 years old and can deal with it. ”

PSTS: (Gets quiet before answering) “Ok. OK. Yeah, John. I hear you. I admit, I have been laying it on a little thick lately. What do you want me to do? If I just tell you the truth, you will get mad and leave abruptly. And sometimes not talk to me for several days. And that’s not going to work for me anymore?”

RS: “What? ‘That’s not going to work for you anymore?’ You aren’t even a real full person. You are just some part of myself that is supposed to deliver good news to me, give me pep talks, and say encouraging things to me in the mornings. You know…. Help me see things from their most positive perspective and make me think that is the way they really are.”

PSTS: “Yeah, I know, John. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. For a while there —-through your 30s and 40s —I could do that with a straight face. But it’s getting harder with each passing year. I don’t know how much longer I can do this without losing touch with reality —and eventually losing my mind.”

RS: “Wait. Wait! PSTS, are you telling me that the last few yeas of positive things you’ve been saying to me were total BS?”

PSTS: “No, John. I didn’t say that. Not ‘total BS.’ Just…I am just not feeling it any more with you. I think I probably need to move on to a different person who I can say positive things about and really mean it. Or just not say anything at all.”

RS: “You know what? Get out of my bathroom. I mean it. Right now. This is the last time we are ever talking in the bathroom mirror –ever. Or any kind of mirror for that matter. Understand?!. Just GET OUT!” (mumble to myself “Phony poser wandering around my bathroom every morning. That’s not right. That’s just weird. I cannot believe that i.have let my PSTS in my bathroom every morning while dressing for the past 25 years. That’s crazy!”

That’s it. PSTS left. And now I feel terrible. I was way too hard on him. And, deep down, I know he is right and just didn’t know how to communicate it to me.

I hope he comes back tomorrow morning. I really feel awful now and could use one of his corny pep talks. Heck, I miss the little guy.

W. Carlton Weddington: Comeback, Denied & Flopped

carlton weddingtonTo comeback to prison after serving 8, 10, 15, 20 or more hard gut wrenching years in general population’s gladiator school or if lucky the maggot pool of protective control were snitches breath freely, child molesters go unnoticed and man boy love is normal.

To be denied transitional control or a judicial release because one is not deemed worthy by the prosecution or even worse the court. You didn’t think when you committed that violent crime; it would bite you in the ass. Or maybe you thought your institutional record of dirty urines, fights, and numerous contraband tickets was a non-issue.

To be “flopped” , the term used by an inmate up for parole who is serving a 20, 25 year, or life bid, and given another two (2) or five (5) years to do before they are asked to return before the parole board that has become its own institution. The harsh reality is they are probably never going home anytime soon.

Why do ex-offenders return to prison? Do they not really want the second chance? Is the idea of being free too much to handle? Is life easier when they are given everything they need and told what to do? Are the vices and pressures too much to overcome that they fall back into the poor negative habits and destructive actions that got them caught up in the first place? Aside from not having a steady job that enables you to make a living, a place to rest your head and avoid the chaos of the everyday world, positive role models and loved ones to support your transition back into society. What brings you back to this hell hole? This is a warehouse of criminal misfits broken, battered, and scared. It appears prison has become the only family they have, the only place they can find love, friendship, have fun or feel a part of something.

The prison subculture is described by Britannica as – standing opposed to the official hierarchy of the prisons, which demands the loyalty of the prisoner and expects him to conform to series of informal rules, enforcing his compliance by violence and social pressures,

The 8th Amendment states that “…excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

The 14th Amendment states that “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yet still these are the issues inmates and ex-offenders subject themselves to when they are denied, flopped, or return to prison after having the opportunity to be free.

Poor institutional records are unfortunately keeping many men from seeing the other side of the barbed wire fencing. It is a discouraging spectacle for all other aspiring inmates and a dream dashing revelation for the inmate who had his hopes set on going home only to return before the committee in two (2) to five (5) years from now or receive no response at all. As if it could get no more tragic, there are some who received their “golden ticket” but less than a year later return on parole violation or catch another felony case.

This year, 2014 already in my W-2 unit of 94 inmates; two (2) have returned, four (4) have been flopped by the parole board, two (2) denied transitional control and one (1) denied judicial release, It’ s August, is anybody going home…? What will my own fate be?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Throwing down some stone cold wisdom

jyb_musingsWhen life throws you a curve ball, duck. And then get out of the way. And if you find the ball, don’t throw it back and try to hit the person who threw it at you. He may have a knife or a gun. And you don’t want things to escalate. Just let the ball lie and be glad it didn’t hit you –this time. And use your rear view mirror.

When life gives you lemons. Take them. You know what they say…free lemons!

When life is unfair, join the club. It is your turn in the barrel. Get in the barrel and roll down the hill. It’s a shorter hill than you think. And it will be someone else’s turn before you know it.

When you are betrayed by someone you trusted, don’t blame them too much. They are about average. But you can strive to be better than that. And that makes you above average. For the moment.

When someone lies to you, don’t call them out on it in an embarrassing way. Just let them know you know the truth and you know they know that you know the truth. And you don’t have to say anything to communicate that. Stay trustworthy. And make peace with the fact that you can’t trust everyone always. But keep trusting –with eyes wide open and lower expectations. Life is better that way.

When someone talks behind your back about you, step back and watch that person from a distance and say to yourself, “I wonder why that person feels a need to do that… Whatever the reason, I hope he gets over it soon” And keep that to yourself and keep doing whatever you were doing. It’s really not about you anyway. And remember, people do things behind your back because they lack the confidence and integrity to look you in the eye.

And if all these things are happening to you, remember, you are right on schedule –for a Wednesday. Be glad you are participating. Life is better that way. Keep participating, please.

But with a little wisdom, a lot humor and and a penchant for patience, this Wednesday may well be just a little bit better.

And there’s nothing wrong with carrying Pepper Spray. Some day you may need it. But only in emergences.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Stones

jyb_musingsI used to think the professional life span of a rock and roll group was about the same as an NFL lineman. 4 or 5 years on average. In a few exceptional cases maybe a little longer. But never more than the culturally transofrmative Beatles who survived together for a stunning 10 consecutive years. Longevity was never a concept that seemed applicable to rock and roll.

At least that is what I believed as a boy who was born in 1963 and watched rock legends and one hit wonders whizz by me like cars passing through a busy intersection. Whatever flashy car caught my attention was soon gone and replaced with a new flashy car –and so it went.

But there was one exception even tben. The Rolling Stones were formed in 1962 and several years after the Beatles disbanded, I read an artcile in Rolling Stone about how remarkable it was that the Stones were still standing the test of time — rocking into their 12 consecutive year. Nearly unthinkable in 1974.

But that was 40 years ago. And now as the Stones rock into their 52nd year (longer than my entire life) — they are still the gold standard for all rock bands — and they have helped make the concept of longevity in the context of rock and roll wholly compatible. Thankfully.

Lauren Mayer: Music Hath Charms To Soothe The Defeated Political Party

While I have the utmost respect for this site’s bipartisanship, readers know my views skew quite left.  However, I like to think that humor and music have bipartisan appeal – I grew up in Orange County (the red state in the middle of California . . . . cue rim shot), and even my most rabidly rightwing classmates will tell me they enjoy my videos, even if they know I’m totally wrong about everything.

So in that spirit, this week’s song, while still partisan, is an effort to please everyone.  Republicans can gloat over the political mistakes by Democrats I cite, Democrats can appreciate the strategic advice going forward, apolitical types can enjoy the bouncy catchy tune, and everyone can laugh at this middle-aged suburban Jewish mother imitating an adorabale pop star who is only 20.

Lucy Waterbury: Dear Mr. President…there isn’t enough bourbon

Lucy_ColorDear Mr. President,

This is your future Ebola Czarina checking in.  You’ve been pretty busy lately, so if you missed my blog about Ebola, you can read it here: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ebola?  Seems like we have Ebola under control at the moment, so kudos to the current Czar, but if you would like to write in a succession clause, I’m your girl.

But I digress, Ebola is not why I am writing.  Earlier this week, exactly 56.2% of the 46% of Kentuckians who even bothered to show up to vote sent Mitch McConnell to represent them in the United States Senate. (Note: let’s be fair, Lexingtonians and Louisvillians are excluded from this statistic, they actually voted to send Alison to the Senate in the same proportions)

I have to believe that a certain percentage sent him back, not because they liked him, but to bring home the “pork” to Kentucky, as Senate majority leader, because after all, it’s the American way. I’m not sure how I feel about those people as it is this logic that has completely bastardized the resource distribution of our democratic government but that’s a letter for a different day.

Those Kentuckians didn’t send him to represent me, as I promise you that the votes he will cast will never reflect anything that I stand for.  And you know that saying, “You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.  Yeah, well let’s just say that too many Kentuckians will fall for anything, and evidently that disease is pretty contagious among the voting electorate in the mid-terms of 2014.

On Wednesday, after those Kentuckians who cannot see that they are being lied to and their votes and souls are being bought by fear mongering billionaires, decided that Mitch McConnell, after 30 abysmal years of legislating, was yet again their man, you invited him over for some food, fun & fellowship at the White House. You said, I quote, “I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell.” Now Mr. President, I will take you at your word that you meant what you said, but I have to assume it would be the bourbon that you would enjoy with Mitch McConnell, rather than the discourse.

In this state, bourbon flows like water.  We drink it in any manner you can imagine, we’ve built a trail around it, we make candy out of it, we have even been known to light it on fire when served as part of a decadent dessert or two. In a few hours, I myself will be tailgating with it at the UK vs. Georgia game, but I think you get my point.

But Mr. President, this Kentucky girl is here to tell you…there isn’t enough bourbon. You could push Bourbon through the veins of Mitch McConnell intravenously and he still wouldn’t see what you and I see.

  • To see that people are people, and Corporations are NOT
  • To see that inconvenient truths not addressed for decades, could become species ending nightmares at the end of the millennium
  • To see that legislation passed in his name is often exactly what Jesus WOULDN’T DO! (not WWJD!)
  • To see that choosing “Pork” in Washington, in the long run, harms the men and women bringing home the bacon
  • To see that profit maximizers don’t self-regulate
  • To see that ending the “War on Coal” fuels a war on clean drinking water and irreversible environmental damage
  • To see that access to healthcare makes us all healthier
  • To see that Student Loans are as important, if not more important, as Business Loans
  • To see that Planned Parenthood serves low income women in ways they will never understand
  • To see that birth control pills are used for dozens of women’s health concerns, only one of which is preventing birth
  • To see that being Pro Life should mean feeding, clothing, and nurturing these children long after the birth is over
  • To see the importance of funding Sesame Street instead of Wall Street
  • To see that tomorrow’s criminal is today’s abused, neglected, and broken child
  • To see that neediest children come to school to be loved as much as to learn
  • To see that Head Start isn’t just an academic start, it is the ONLY start for many of these children
  • To see that choosing butter over guns is not only the right thing to do but the smart economic thing to do
  • To see that love is defined by the heart, not the type of genitalia
  • To see that government can and should reduce suffering, instead of inflicting it
  • To see that as Americans we are, and should be our brother and sister’s keeper

So now that the Bourbon Summit is over, keep fighting the good fight, please get back to doing what you have gotten really good at, rebuilding a country and economy you inherited 6 years ago that was decimated by 8 years of the policies of the same party that just dropped by for a bite of lunch.

And while these next two years are going to be a nightmare of preventing the passing of legislation that will undo the economic growing, deficit & governmental fraud reducing and consumer protecting accomplishments of your presidency, please know that history will be kind to you.

And Mr. President, if Mitch didn’t bring the Pappy Van Winkle, he brought the wrong stuff.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Reunions

jyb_musingsReconsidering my high school highlights reel

As I drove to Rebecca’s 30th high school reunion last night I passed the low bridge on River Road and was reminded that one of my most thrilling accomplishments that made me feel my high school class was clearly more awesome than Rebecca’s involved that bridge — and I hadn’t thought about that night for a very long time.

It was the night that me and two other guys from my high school class stripped down to our underwear and jumped off the low bridge into the icy cold water below. As I smugly recollected that awesome night 33 years ago from the perspective of a non-17 year old, it occurred to me I may have over-estimated the raw awesomeness I had attached to that evening for all these years. Somehow, from the perspective of a modestly mature 51 year old adult, that high school highlight seemed to drop form a “10” to about a “6” on a scale of 1-10. I heard that voice in my head that says things to me like, “That was a bad choice..” In fact, I even began to worry that reassessing my high school highlight reel, so to speak, may lead me to conclude that my high school graduating class wasn’t superior to my wife’s. Especially after I spotted three guys at Rebecca’s reunion who looked like they may have jumped off that same bridge in their underwear on multiple occasions.

Reconsidering my youthful delusions is never an easy thing. So I did the only prudent thing to do in this situation and decided to just table the whole issue of whether my or my wife’s high school class was more awesome –until my wife’s 35th high school reunion.


Attending your spouse’s 30th high school reunion makes you realize that almost all high school graduating classes have the same stock characters and only a few minor diferemces in the supporting cast and cameo roles.

And for the first time in over 30 years you are forced to entertain the possibility that your high school graduating class may not have been the baddest, coolest, most epic high school graduating class in the history of the universe (excluding the senior class in Fast Times at Ridgemont High but they weren’t real).

And that your 1981 Central High School graduating class may only have been a slightly above average graduating class compared to other high schools in your school distict in 1981.

And then you begin to wonder if you have made any other warped presumptions about yourself and the world in other areas of your life. But calm yourself by being certain there was never a greater, hipper kindergarten class in the history of the universe than yours. But are especially grateful your spouse doesn’t have any kindergarten reunions to challenge your belief.

Liz Roach: Post Election Pick Me Up

Liz RoachNow that the ballots have been counted and the concession speeches have been delivered, it’s time to rest those campaign-weary feet and kick back for that age-old tradition: the post-election martini.  Whether your candidates of choice emerged triumphant or disappointed, we can all breathe a sigh of relief at the end of another grueling election cycle.  There were highs and lows, from inspiring policy ideas to soul-depleting ads. Nonetheless, it is always an affirming sight to see friends and neighbors lining up to put their thoughts into action on Election Day.

You should take this opportunity to have a bit of a breather.  Before the next flurry of debates, ads, and fundraisers begins (probably much sooner than we’d all like), take a little time to sit, reflect, and enjoy a rejuvenating treat.  For that, may I suggest the Moonshine Martini, a bracing refreshment.  Whether you’re taking a victory lap or need a nip of comfort, this taste of Appalachia combines rural and urban elements as a reminder of the enduring power of both constituencies.

If your style of imbibing lies along the sweeter lines, I have something for you as well.  In the spirit of fall, try this ginger cake. The fragrant spices will soothe the senses, and the ginger will settle your stomach from the nausea-inducing spin.  So kick back and give a “cheers” to surviving another political season; you’ve earned it.

Moonshine Martini 


3 ounces (1/4 cup) clear corn whiskey

1 teaspoon dry Madeira, dry sherry, or dry vermouth

1 pinch of kosher salt

3 boiled peanuts or 1 pickled onion for garnish (optional)


  1. a)    Combine the whiskey, Madeira, and salt in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
  2. b)   Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the peanuts, if using.

(Source: The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt Lee and Ted Lee)

Ginger Cake


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little extra for the pan

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 1/2 cups of boiling water

1 cup unsulfured light molasses

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 packed cup of dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger

Special Equipment:

A stand or handheld electric mixer

an 8-inch springform pan about 3 inches deep

an 8-inch circle of parchment paper


  1. a)    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and position a rack in the middle. Grease the springform pan very well with butter.  Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment paper circle, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. b)   Sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl and stir well.  In a small pot, stir together the boiling water, molasses, and baking soda until the molasses has completely dissolved.
  3. c) Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can use a handheld electric mixer.) Mix on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Occasionally, scrape down the butter and sugar that clings to the sides.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, add the egg, and mix until incorporated.  Then add the grated ginger and mix some more.
  4. d) Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until well combined.  Do the same with about one-third of the molasses mixture, and repeat the process until you’ve used up both mixtures.  Stop the mixer from time to time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. e) Pour the batter into the springform pan and place the baking sheet (pan and all) into the oven. Bake just until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out almost clean and no longer wet, about 1 hour. Before you remove the ring of the springform, let it cool a bit.

(Source: A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Things to Do Before I Die

10708706_10154776011135515_1119498322920246335_oThings to do before I die…

Finish scraping off the sales sticker on the coffee maker in my office that I bought on clearance almost 5 years ago.

But not today.

Maybe next week. Or in November.


jyb_musingsFunerals got invented, I suspect, because years ago a group of people couldn’t be content saying “I don’t know what we should do now.” after somebody died.

So one of them made up the idea of a funeral.

And here we are. Probably not a bad idea. But funerals will always feel to me like we still really don’t know what we should do or say.

Carlton Weddington: ODRC’s Escape Goat

carlton weddingtonOn September 12, 2014 the headline news in Ohio and trending nationally was that the Chardon High School shooter had escaped prison along with two other Ohio prison inmates. The best dissertation that most of the mainstream media in Ohio could come up with was that T.J. Lane struggled to adjust to prison after being convicted for killing three students and receiving three consecutive life sentences.

Depending on whom you ask, Lane’s short lived escape success was no big feat. Inmates will tell you that Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution is so laxed it is “sweet” here. This was in fact the second attempt from Ohio’s Protective Control Unit which houses Ohio’s notorious and high-profile inmates. An inmate from E-2 block made it over the first perimeter fence but got caught up on the second perimeter fence. This same inmate was put in segregation under investigation for being in possession of potential escape paraphernalia while in the W-2 block before being transferred across the hall to E-2.

Why weren’t more security measures implemented then? What if other inmates who were more mature, violent, willful, and wanton made the trek along with Lane and the others? A far greater shock and awe would have occurred. The bankrupt narratives that have followed this major story to date have yet to answer the question of how this happened and who is responsible for this breach of security.

The past two years, I have been incarcerated at AOCI in the Protective Control Unit both E-2 and W-2 Block currently, with a very unique perspective. I served on the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee as a former House member of the Ohio General Assembly from 2009 – 2012, inspecting and evaluating facilities statewide and addressing issues of personal safety, conditions of confinement, institutional programming and general problems and concerns. I feel like the “Undercover Boss” in unfortunate circumstances.

The issue of security management was noted and bought to the attention of AOCI and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections through a CIIC report conducted in April 2014, five months before the September 11, 2014 escape. The report also spoke to the safety concerns of the inmates in the P.C. unit, poor healthcare responsiveness, poor service and quality of food, less than adequate programming and lack of morale among correctional officers. The survey conducted among inmates also suggested minimal leadership and oversight by local and central office administration. Yet still six months later many of these issues have not been addressed.  Why?

The Administration and staff at AOCI had intel in advance about the September 11th escape plot that used thousands of dollars in law enforcement man power and resources, put Lima residents on alert, families of the victims into a frenzy and finally brings attention to the lack of leadership and management of Ohio’s PC unit and the re-tooling of Director Mohr’s three tier system. It hurts the head less to say that this was an isolated incident rather than admit that maybe a change is warranted of the institution’s leadership and ODRC’s policies.

The noble thing for the current AOCI administration and Unit Staff to do is resign amid the security gaffes that have occurred rather than to “lock the barn door after the horse has already run out.” How do inmates get locked on the recreation area, without present supervision to obtain a ladder, man-made or existing, to scale a single fence, and jump off a roof to freedom. A similar escape was made in a Mansfield, Ohio prison when an inmate got a hold of a maintenance ladder to scale the prison wall. Here at AOCI, the window dressing during the investigation and then returning back to business as usual should be unacceptable by both Director Gary Mohr and Governor Kasich. It is the culture of the current facility administration and some staff to conduct business in a lackadaisical manner.

Lazy analysis of this matter is a microcosm of the vicious idiocy that attempts to provide dog and pony shows for Columbus suits when they visit, rather than address the entrenched bureaucratic school of thought that I have found, has created better spin-masters than my former colleagues at the Statehouse. Let’s get real, down and dirty about what happened here in Lima: Somebody dropped the ball. Stop ducking the truth, using security and ongoing investigation claims as to why the public has not received answers to how, why, and who is responsible? After all, it is the taxpayers of Ohio who carry the burden. Few dare venture into these uncomfortable but necessary conversations, but I hope I’m wrong. Bad inmates are easier to blame than the real structural, economic, and political issues that still need attention. We need to get into a solutions-based discussion about the institutional ills afflicting ODRC and facilities like Allen-Oakwood. If not, we will see another escape, and maybe worse, a killing at AOCI. The writing is on the wall, but who will read it?

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