About gstockton

I am originally from England. When I'm not doing marketing I'm writing and recording my own music, or reading, or blogging or spending time with my family.

Life During COVID-19

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San Diego, March 2020

It’s been a really strange couple of months living through COVID. The days turn the weeks and the weeks all seem similar. Same routine. Get up 4:30, fix a cup of coffee, a bowl of Cheerios, then set the Apple Watch for an outdoor walk. On the weekend there are a few podcasts to catch up on from the week. I’ve been enjoying Robert Rose The Weekly Wrap, a content marketing-focused pod. Robert actually makes The Wrap in a video format, incorporating clips from movies, and there’s usually an interesting guest. The only part that feels a bit forced is when he recites lyrics from a song at the end. It feels a bit corny, but generally a very cool production. On Sunday there’s Mitch Joel “Six Pixels of Separation”, and this can be a bit unpredictable, sometimes there’s a very interesting guest and a good interview, other times it’s a topic or guest I can’t get into.  The New York Times “The Daily” has been releasing short stories called The Sunday Read, and these have been wonderful to listen to. I listened to one narrated by Julia Wheland a month or two ago about a restaurant in New York that was forced to close down. I love listening to Julia tell a story, her voice is gorgeous. 

After I get some exercise I catch up on work, yesterday I was working on a presentation that I will be delivered on Tuesday. It’s about value propositions. It’s a bit of an experiment because I will be presenting on one computer that has been hooked up to send everything over to another computer (Work Laptop) connected to Microsoft Teams. I will also be making a recording of the session because I’m incorporating music and video and using a green screen. Hopefully, there will not be any issues related to echo to mess things up.  Why can’t I simply log into Teams from the Mac laptop?  Well, it’s a long story but something about working for a security-focused company and not being allowed to log on using your personal laptop.  It’s actually a test to see if this approach works because I’d like to start hosting some training sessions using this approach if it works. 

During the pandemic, weekdays have taken on a very familiar routine. Like on the weekends I am usually up early and out for a walk. I limit my movements to my housing track. I was going down to the beach and walking along the pier for a long time, but after the pier closed I got nervous about being around too many people. All you need is one person to sneeze without a mask, in fact, this did happen.  I pulled my teeshirt up over my face while he laughed walking past me. Now I walk around the block a few times. It is exactly three miles and I carry a mask in my pocket. If I see someone coming in my direction, I avoid them, if I can’t avoid them I hook the mask around my ears. I thought we would be all done with this by now, but it’s dragging on, and the reason we are here is obvious. I can only hope for a vaccine that becomes widely available, that most people take, so we can turn the corner on this nightmare. I start work around 7 am, take lunch around noon, head out for a 1 mile walk around the block, then make a cup of tea before heading back to my desk for the afternoon. 

I’m thankful to be able to keep working. but things have not been going well. There’s a chaotic nature to what we are doing that has me feeling off balance and spread very thin. I try to keep my head in the game and keep producing results hoping that we will see light at the end of the tunnel.  Working for a credit bureau, I’m exposed to a lot of data on the health of small business, and coupled with the daily headlines of people getting laid off and businesses going bankrupt, it keeps me in a fairly negative headspace.  At the onset of the pandemic, our CEO held an all employee Webex and said “We will have a recession, it will be deep but relatively short.”  He spoke of our employees in China, and said they had started returning to work after lockdown restrictions had been eased. At the time, this gave me a lot of hope, I thought it would be over in a few short months, but that was back in mid-March, four months ago, and COVID-19 is more widespread than it ever was, mostly because the economy opened back up too soon, and the leadership of our country could not get on the same page with health experts and institute a national plan for flattening the curve. As of this morning, we have over 4.7 million cases with over 157,000 people dead. It’s hard to imagine that something so horrible could happen. I thought 9/11 was the worst thing that could ever happen in the United States, I was wrong. 

Stephani and I keep a calendar on our dining table, we each have our own 1-page print out of the current month. At dinner each night we jot down where we went that day in case we ever become infected and need to be able to help inform others we have been in contact with. My days are mostly empty boxes, the occasional trip to Trader Joes, or over to my Dad’s apartment to swap out his pill tray. I’ve heard Google and Apple are working on ways to track this through mobile phones and those breakthroughs can’t come soon enough. 

To escape, I have been watching “Maine Cabin Masters,” a show about a family business that renovates cabins in beautiful Maine. The scenery is a perfect contrast to what is going on right now. I have imagined life as a photographer and podcaster, living in Maine with Stephani, far away from COVID, fully wired to high-speed internet so we can watch all of our shows, and stay in contact with the outside world. The only thing that worries me about it is wild bears, and they seem quite harmless considering what we are dealing with now. The thought that I could pass someone at the grocery store who has it, who touched the same box of eggs I touched, and that if I get it I could be a goner. I just want it to be over. 

This year before COVID I lost a significant amount of weight, shedding 50 pounds. I was very proud of this accomplishment. But not getting on a scale each week and publishing the number of pounds lost means I have not been as dedicated to keeping the weight off.  Cookies with tea in the afternoon have been my weakness, and while I have been sticking to salads, and walking at least 6 miles each day, I managed to put 10 pounds back on.  So this week I am going to start doing intermittent fasting while avoiding snacks to see if I can knock those 10 pounds off in short order.  I want to feel confident that I am in control of my weight and my health. I looked at a picture from early March. I was in a blue suit going to a charity dinner and I looked fantastic, and I remember feeling so great at that weight. So, I am mentally getting back to it.  Being mentally committed to a goal is half the battle unless you can visualize success there is little point in trying. 

Well, that’s my update for now. Please take care of each other, be safe, wear a mask.

Routine Weekend Saturday

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby featherIt’s been a routine weekend Saturday. Today I got up around 6:30, drank coffee in bed for a while then got dressed for breakfast at Papa-Z’s. It’s a diner on Magnolia and Garfield that has a mostly male clientele. Quite of few of the guys drive their old restored classic cars on the weekend and talk shop.  This morning was particularly busy, and I thought I might not get a seat, but because I was on my own I was able to snag one of the small booths. AirPods in, I listened to Mark Williams, who hosts the LinkedInformed podcast and muses about all things LinkedIn.

It’s been a weird day.  Stephani went to get her facial and I pottered around the house doing odds and ends. I didn’t want to do any work-related stuff but listened to the LinkedInformed Podcast and it included info on an interesting website booleanstrings.com which concentrates on different ways to search on LinkedIn and Google for contacts.  I tinkered with the searches a bit and then read a post about loading contacts into Outlook and then seeing which ones are on LinkedIn. I had never tried that, but when I went into Outlook there were only a handful of contacts, one was a contact record titled “Mum” and it included my mother’s phone number.  The top of the contact record said “Click to Chat” and I became quite sad knowing it would be impossible to have a quick chat with her since she is no longer alive.

Stephani arrived home and I reheated some Indian food for her from Wednesday evening.

Then I went for a drive to Costa Mesa to pick up some holiday gifts.

After that, I had an In&Out burger for lunch and went for a 2-minute walk around Sammy’s Camera. I’ve been spending a lot of money lately. The 4K Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera that I back ordered in May finally shipped at the end of October and the $2000 bill caused my credit card to spike, but I budgeted for it, so I am not concerned.  I am more concerned that I have not spent a lot of time working with it and learned how to use it.  It seems like quite an advanced piece of equipment.  It supposedly has a good autofocus, but I am not finding it very good at focusing unless done manually and I think it looks for human forms to focus on rather than furniture.   My plan for the camera is to replace one of the Canon cameras I have and use it as a primary video camera and of course, start shooting interviews in 4K. I notice that the battery life is poor, but knew this when I bought it, so I invested in a powerful battery pack and cable, which should be here next week.  I’d like to make more videos using nicer cameras. I’d like to make videos for myself, but don’t really know yet what I would talk about.

A few weeks ago I bought a new set of LED lights for my video studio because the cheap softbox lights I had were doing a terrible job on green screen. Upon first use, these new ones weren’t very bright so yesterday I boxed them up and sent them back to B&H Photo.  They were borderline good enough, not very bright as I say, and I thought I should do the return now and buy better ones later on.  What’s the point of this? Well, if you have good lights and a green screen, you spend less time keying out the green background, and I would like to start doing more live video interviews to generate more content, to branch out from videos of the same people. I feel like I am improving as a video producer, but want more content.

I am sad today folks

All of this tinkering with my gear is a big distraction for what’s on my mind, and that is,  missing my Mum, and the tremendous loneliness I feel when it comes to the holidays.  When I was looking at the contacts in Outlook, and in Gmail and LinkedIn, there were names of people I haven’t spoken to in years. People from companies I worked for who I’ve lost contact with.  They say there’s a loneliness epidemic in America, and I believe it. I am so very lonely. There are hundreds of people to talk to, and no-one to talk to.   There are people in the list who I thought were friends who ghosted me this year for unknown reasons.  I am hurt by this, but can’t bring myself to ask them why. I must pretend that we just don’t talk that much and that for whatever reason, it fizzled.   It hurts. I really cared, you know?

I need to shake myself out of this somehow.

Why are so many rock stars killing themselves?

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Chester Bennington
Source: Wikipedia

Today is Saturday. I am sitting here in a Starbucks thinking of something to write about. I have my earphones on with no music playing, and my mood is upbeat, well, as upbeat as it usually is on a Saturday. There’s a lot to look forward to. Scotland next year. Losing more weight, getting to do more interesting work at my job, making new friends.

Last week I said I was going to take up Podcasting. So I was thinking of stories to talk about for the podcast but couldn’t come up with any that stood out this week, other than Chester Bennington the young guy who passed away. This gifted musician had so much to live for, he had 6 children. I imagine they are all very sad about losing their Dad. Why are so many gifted rock stars killing themselves?

They say he was hit hard by the loss of his friend Chris Cornell, who took his own life a few months ago. I also read that he struggled with addiction and depression. Like everyone else, I’m looking for answers. He must have been in a lot of pain to completely forget his children and the things that make life worth living. But then again, when someone is so depressed like that, it doesn’t really matter does it? They want to break free and let go. Robin Williams wanted to break free and let go. Phillip Seymour-Hoffman wanted to break free and let go.

I guess I just think it’s sad that someone with so much talent and so much to live for can throw it all away like that.  I need to keep thinking about what is important in life, I need to appreciate the blue sky, and the smile on my friend’s face, and those little moments that make up a life. Those little jokes. The triumphs, and the joy in living a life that matters.  We all matter to someone else, every one of us.   We should also be there for our friends when they are down or struggling with loneliness.  It can be a cruel beast.


Paul Simon’s “American Tune” mourns a weary nation

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Image by Peggy Simon

In 1973, the mood of the U.S. populous was grim.  The country was weary from a protracted war in Vietnam,  and in 1973 it was coming to an end.  At the same time, Chrysler and a number of other U.S. auto makers closed a number of factories affecting hundreds of thousands of workers.  The U.S. President, Richard Nixon told the  nation he was “Not a crook” while he was being investigated for the cover-up of a politically motivated break-in at the Watergate office tower in Washington D.C,  and the Supreme Court made abortion a constitutional right.

It was a heady time.  So, in 1973 Paul Simon thought about all of this, and wrote the following words:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home


I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

The name of the song is “American Tune“, and it’s a song that has been a part of my life for decades, but today it has a much deeper meaning. This morning, as I sat eating breakfast in the Quiet Cup, I listened again holding back tears as the words fell from Simon’s lips.

Think of America today and listen to this song, and you will hear the heart of a nation breaking. Today we are even more divided politically. So many of our arguments are settled by bullets or courtrooms and not so much with compassion and love.  Our President is under investigation for colluding with the Russians to influence the outcome of the election.   While times are good economically, morally I think we have lost our way.

It’s the poets,  songwriters, and God bless them, the free press who will save this country. We must listen to the truth and listen to our hearts and talk to one another as neighbors and fellow Americans. We must question the authenticity of what we read on social media, and pursue the prosecution of the corrupt.

I don’t know what Paul Simon thinks of what’s going on today in America, but I would imagine he would say something quite similar about the current state of affairs.

This is my favorite verse:

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune


Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right
It’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

You can listen to the song by playing the below video clip.

Remembering Evelyn

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Saturday marked the one year anniversary of my mother Evelyn’s passing. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.  When I wake up in the morning, I can remember her voice and the countless messages she would leave on my answering machine checking in on me. During times when she had no phone, she would drop all of her coins into a phone box located down the hill, it was a phone box I would eventually drive past with my wife when we came over to visit. That’s how she was. She had a heart of gold and would give you her last penny if she loved you.

We saw many sides of Evelyn in her final years. I am choosing to remember her laugh, and those wonderful phone calls where she had such wisdom for me. I’m learning to stand on my own now.

It’s been a difficult year

I’ve fallen off the wagon taking care of my health. For a while there I was doing good, but news of Mum’s death threw me into a spiral of recklessness.  I became very isolated, comforting myself with food. For months I thought about dying in the same manner she died. I thought about death a lot. I thought about the big machine of the medical system and how we can all get pulled into it, but eventually realized Evelyn was in very good hands in her native Ireland, probably much better hands than I would be here in the United States. Work was something I used as a diversion and so I kept busy through 2016 and now well into 2017.

While this was going on Stephani was fighting her own battle, taking care of her ailing Grandmother who late last year fell and injured her leg, losing mobility.  She spent considerable time these past few years visiting Nana, taking care of her, and it has been such an incredible challenge for her.

The sun brings a new opportunity to heal

I wake early every day, prioritizing exercise and immersing myself in a good podcast or audio book. We’ve been ordering Blue Apron dinners and eating healthier.  We are both feeling happier and healthier. Dad and I recently reconnected and it has been nice speaking with him again. I hope to convince my brother that blood is thicker than water.

I’m learning that life isn’t about what you have, it’s who you have in your life, and how you spend your time enjoying it.  I will live the remainder of my days honoring my Mum and living a life she could never have.  She paid a great price to give it to me.



A video snapshot from Santa Monica


Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby featherVideo cameras enable us to tell wonderful stories, and this is a simple story of a day off in Santa Monica.

Walking along the 3rd Street Promenade people watching is one of my favorite things to do on a day off. In my case it was during Christmas break. I took along the Canon DSLR to take some snapshots. Stephani bought me a variable ND filter which I needed to get the hang of in bright sunlight, except, it was mostly gloomy. So I got my DJI OSMO video camera out, and tested out the new Z-Axis attachment, notice how smooth the video clips are. It is practically impossible to take shaky video with this.

In all, I walked around for about 3 hours.  I love Santa Monica.

If you like my videos, you can stay informed when I post new ones by subscribing to my YouTube Channel.

2016 – A year like no other

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby featherIt’s been quite a terrible year. I’m sitting reflecting on the year that just passed drinking coffee, having a think about what 2016 dealt and what 2017 might hold.

A body in decline

Things had not been going well for my Mum these past few years. At the start of the year I noticed that the words in her vocabulary had started to become limited and our interactions by Skype phone had become weekly check-in’s to make sure she was keeping warm, that the care givers were visiting her, and that she was using the electric fire in her bedroom, the appliance we had installed, but that she felt was too costly to run. She had recovered from a nasty chest infection a few years prior that landed her in the emergency room and in recovery for close to a month.  But now her memory was failing her as she tried to remember Stephani’s name and sometimes even mine.  Her greatest challenge in the end was her fight against Cancer and COPD, which would again land her in the hospital, this time from a broken hip. She was trying to switch off or turn on electricity to a power strip next to her television, and toppled over, breaking her hip.

This month I have been remembering what it was like for Mum near the end of her life. Gasping for every breath. Shouting at the nurses. Being sedated. Staring off into space for hours at a time as I sat at her bedside making small talk, repeating questions I knew she had answered an hour or so before. My job was to keep her in good spirits by bringing up the good times. I’d say my Mum had a relatively happy life once she met my Father, but the marriage was not easy. We moved around quite a bit as Dad made the leap from lorry driver to antique dealer to U.S. immigrant, taking us along for the ride of our lives. She developed a dependency on alcohol during my teen years, and this only seemed to amplify her inner sadness and feelings of low self esteem. I remember coming home finding her drunk and crying often.  She had a very sad streak in her personality. But the sad streak was a gift too because she wrote some lovely poetry. I know I inherited this from her.

Self awareness

This year I have spent a lot of time self analyzing my own traits and trying to develop more self awareness. I know that I have the sad streak. I know where it came from, the challenge is managing it and living with it. This month I have been sad a lot.  Some days it has been hard to get out of bed.  Some days it has been hard to smile because it will be the first Christmas I will not be able to Skype Mum and talk about the good old days. I think what’s different compared to three or four years ago, is that I am able to recognize when I am sad and I know that the feeling will pass in time, so I get on with my work and move forward.


This year we lost so many great and talented artists.  David Bowie, Prince, Greg Lake to name a few. David Bowie knew he was dying and decided to look death in the face and laugh, leaving us a beautiful thank you card in his “Blackstar” album.  Prince passed away from complications related to a dependency on opiates, something thousands of fans found hard to accept, and Greg Lake, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer passed way at 69 after a long battle with Cancer. Only recently have I started to appreciate Greg’s music, even wonderful 80’s rock anthems like “Heat of the Moment” which he sang with his band, ASIA, and ELP’s “From the beginning”, which I love to play on the guitar occasionally.   Greg wrote a beautiful Christmas song called “I believe in Father Christmas” and I think this one song will be his swan song, remembered and sung for years to come.

I hope Joe Biden continues to work on President Obama’s Cancer Moon Shot project to cure cancer. It is taking so many victims. But after the election, and seeing the kind of administration we will have near term, my hope for lofty, aspirational ideas like curing cancer are slowly fading with each cabinet appointment.

I hope 2017 is a much better year than this one.  I can’t wait till 2016 is over, so we can move forward as a country, and as individuals in whatever battle we are waging personally.

Good health and happiness to all of my friends in 2017.  Your friendship means more than any of you know.


Remember to Never Forget

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Fifteen years ago today I woke up to the sound of the today show, sitting in bed drinking coffee with my then Fiancé Stephani. I remember watching them break away from their current story to lower Manhattan where a fire was reported at the World Trade Center, and minutes later we saw a second plane fly into the building.  We sat there in utter disbelief at what we were seeing.

All I wanted at that moment was to hug Stephani and keep the frightening World from coming into our home. Every day from that moment on would be a blessing for us. We have our lives, nobody can hurt us, can they? Could they hurt us? Why do they want to hurt us?  We did not understand.

I had lost my job a few months before this, laid off as the tech sector underwent a tumultuous time. Things were bad. I couldn’t find work, I was depressed, and now this. Whatever this is, I wasn’t sure. But I remember staying glued to the television for most of the day hypnotized by the footage of the twin towers burning. Our country was under attack, things would never be the same.

I remember the images of people hanging out of the windows in the building, some were starting to jump out and fall to the ground. I remember thinking what an awful death. The desperation. Those firemen and first responders running into the building not knowing it was about to come down on top of them. All of those families losing their loved ones all at the same time. The magnitude of the attack was incomprehensible.

In the afternoon I had an appointment to meet in Anaheim with a woman I did business with in my prior job. It was an interview to see if we could work together on a contractor basis from what I recall.  I remember getting dressed for the interview and not wanting to go, but forced myself to drive to Anaheim.  When I arrived for the interview, both of us were very preoccupied with the events taking place on on the east coast and decided to reschedule the meeting. I had this overwhelming desire to be at home in my condo watching what was happening.

I’ve never really understood why some people hate America so much. This country has given me a rich life of experiences and opportunities. Why would someone want to destroy that? I still can’t wrap my head around it. I know it had a lot to do with military bases in Saudi Arabia and politics. I just have never been able to understand why they hate us enough to take their own lives and the lives of innocent passengers.

About a month after September 11th Stephani and I got married. It was a wonderful day. Our friend Andy played the bagpipes for us. Andy passed away a few years ago. My Mother couldn’t make it to the wedding, we were so sad she missed it, and now she has gone too. We are all going to be gone some day. We must make the most of our lives, fill them with rich joyous experiences, because we only have so much time here. We should never live in fear because doing so would mean that those who wish to terrorize us have won. I am so lucky to live in a country where I can work and enjoy life.

Fifteen years later I have a better understanding of why the attacks happened. But the World is a sadder place. We are safer sure, but the fighting rages on around the World. On September 11, 2001 we were one country, one people, but I can’t say that today with the bitter political divisions as we head into election season, one candidate running on fear tactics and the other representing the status quo.   I can only hope for better days and peace as we remember those lost. I am sure they would want us to hope for peace.


What I would tell my 25 year old self

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Well it’s April 27th, my Birthday. I’m sitting in the kitchen having a coffee, flipping through Facebook smiling. It’s been a hectic few months at work, and there’s been health trouble for my Mum in Belfast. But other than that, life is great.

When I was 25 I was a very worried guy. I worried about everything. Whether I would be able to pay my bills, if I would find a good job, if I would become famous and if I would ever find love.  It was all one big ball of worry.  When I was in elementary school, one of my   Teachers noted on my report card “Gary is a worrier”.  He must have been in tune with what was bothering me, worry has been at the root of my being ever since I was a child.

As a grown man I can see the error of my ways. Worry will get you nowhere. At 25 I had been in the United States for 8 years. I had just got my green card, and my first “real” job as a van driver for Inacomp.  I was in a band and would write songs in my spare time. Listening to those songs today I cringe, because the worry came out in my writing. I was 25 in a new country with nothing but opportunity before me, yet my mind was preoccupied with worry.

If I could take a trip in time back to my 25 year old self I would look him in the eyes and promise him that life will turn out just fine.  To stop worrying about things. Stop taking everything so seriously. I would tell him to insist on better healthcare for that ear infection and save that hearing in the left ear.

At work I fumbled through life fueled by worry.  I’d tell my 25 year old self about the joy of sitting still, and the joy of taking a walk and looking after one’s self. I’d tell him that rejection will happen, some people will fall out of love with you, but there will be moments of clarity down the road when it will all make sense, and your best friend will be sitting on a park bench right next to you.

It’s a happy birthday indeed. I am a man who is finally becoming self aware. I know where this worry came from, it’s in my DNA, it’s how I was wired. But I am learning to accept it and live a life of purpose, seeking work that challenges me and new friends who understand me.

Face to Face with a Victim of Gun Violence


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Source: Bigpromoter, Pixabay

As we normally do on Sunday afternoon, Stephani and I stopped in to our local grocery store to pick up some food and supplies for the week. As we were checking out I could hear Stephani strike up a conversation with Maureen our checker. I’ve seen Maureen before, a quiet, kind woman. Today she seemed a little sad.

Not hearing everything they were conversing over above the background noise I moved the items from the shopping cart onto the moving conveyor, tossing our canvas bags on top and putting up the next divider for the person behind us.

Maureen was talking about an item the last customer bought. She mentioned “Seal Beach” and on today’s copy of the daily paper, the Orange County Register, the cover featured a courtroom image of Scott Dekraai. Scott was a former tug boat captain who in 2007 gunned down his ex-wife and seven other people at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. Dekraai went to Salon Meritage looking for and targeting his ex-wife Michele Fornier, Maureen’s sister. Today, in addition to scanning cans of peas, pasta, fruit, bread, beer and whatever else Huntington Beach had on the shopping list, Maureen was scanning copies of the Orange County Register featuring the face of her sister’s killer.

I am not sure if she had any alternative to working today, but if I were her boss, I would have gladly given her the day off.

We told her we remembered that awful day as if it was yesterday. It was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived through that experience, losing your sister to a monster like that. Just terrible.

It made me remember that each one of us is fighting our own very personal sadness each and every day. For Maureen, it is trying to get over the loss of her sister, greeting customers with a smile as they wait in line, consumed with their own lives, thumbing their mobile phones, missing out on an opportunity to cheer up perhaps the saddest person in the room, the person right in front of them.