God, could I get a little help? Please……

I have a confession to make.

I think I am mourning the loss of my wife.

Over the last couple of weeks, the two of us have held some very emotional and poignant conversations in regards to her health, my mental health and our families future.

She is by far the strongest woman I know. Her courage and tenacity is second to none. This shit sandwich she’s been handed and forced to eat time and again would leave most average humans gagging while pleading for the feeding to stop. Yet she bites down, grits her teeth and trudges through every mouthful!

I try to remind myself that God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The other day during a conversation with her doctor she told him she’d had enough! It was time to either get busy living or get busy dying!

Think about that statement! A mashing of words spoken with the seriousness of an appellate court judge! No bullshit, no grins or giggles, no carefully chosen not wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings words! This is a line in the sand and no one had better fucking cross it! For the first time in a long time I didn’t laugh, find a joke or even smile a nervous smile. She was making a stand and if you truly know my wife then you know never to cross her when she makes a stand!

And I think once again: God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The last couple of days have been harder then normal. My irregular heartbeat is back, (which always leaves me panicking) my stomach is on fire and the head is pounding pretty hard. These are all secondary reactions to an emotional outpouring trapped deep within this sack of skin. I don’t know how to adequately express what I’m feeling or even describe it’s magnitude which tears my innards apart! Three long years I have been holding it together! Three long years I worry about tommorow and what it may bring! Three long years have been the worst juggling act I could ever have performed, always feeling like I am one hand movement from dropping all the balls.

Three long years and I continue to think: God will not give us anything we cant handle.

In that time I have gained 25 pounds, developed sleep apnea which leaves my chest and head hurting every morning and I have cried more times than I care to remember! Seriously cried like a baby! I’ve cried in the truck, the barn, while working a horse, after waking up from a nightmare to find she isn’t there only to quickly realize she’s at her dads for treatment! I have cried while blogging, in my dorm at work, after a call with a cancer patient, while reading a book and even while taking a shower.

To be honest I cry at everything nowadays! Like some stupid, weak, lovelorn teenager!! Show me a stupid animal video! Hell here comes the waterworks! A love story movie. Tears! Wedding videos! You guessed it more water!! And you know what makes it even worse?

I am angry as hell, looking for someone to blame and yet I continually tell myself; God will not give us anything we cannot handle!

That anger leads me to yell at our kids way more than I should, I yell at drivers on the road and sometimes I daydream someone will cut me off so we can fight! Senselessly hoping not to win, but instead to feel the stinging pain of loss. I know it’s wrong and because I know it’s wrong I work really hard at tempering my emotions!! But this long term tempering is wearing me the fuck out!! All political rants get deleted from my FB feed so I don’t get angry. If an argument starts I do my best to walk out of the room or tune it out by acting dead or stupid, much like a fainting goat! I have figured out how to curb all this anger when cornered by using a tried and true method of striking first with wicked biting sarcasm! But sometimes that bites me in ass when I take it to far and then hurt someone else’s feelings! I can’t win! Developing these weird coping mechanisms are only piling more worry and angst on top of an already over loaded emotional mountain! Yet I keep doing it because going through this joint struggle over the last three years I have found there are more important thing for me to focus on in life! Like waking up, or breathing!

And there I am wondering if God is really giving me what I can handle or if it’s all a big fucking lie!

Today really brought it home for me and it hit me harder than before. A friend posted a picture of my beautiful wife from five years ago and through all my inspirational quotes, kind words and such I realized why I am in this strange place mourning for the loss of my wife. Not that she is gone in the traditional sense of the term, because she obviously isn’t, but for who she used to be! That woman, that confident, beautiful woman who could teach 30 kids in classroom, come home and ride horses with me and the kids, whip up a dinner from absolutely nothing, then toss her hair into a pony tail, throw on some clean clothes and let me strut her sexy ass out on the town!

I hate what the drugs have done to her, I hate what this disease has done to her, I hate that everyday she wakes up and no longer recognizes the person looking back in the mirror and sobs. She’s had me cover all the mirrors in the house so she doesn’t have to look at herself and that makes me mad at God. I hate that she shakes so bad she can’t hold simple items and there is nothing I can do help! I hate that she struggles to get up, walk or climb stairs! She was once a toned, hard fitness instructor and now is a frail version of her former self! I hate that I feel like I am failing her, and I can’t do a thing to make any of this any easier in any way! I hate that she doesn’t know how beautiful I still think she is or how she continually stresses over some imaginary thing that should drive us apart!

I hate, I’m angry so I hate some more and I think again; God will not give us anything we can’t handle.

The realization that I am also mourning the loss of OUR life together weighs like an anvil around ones neck. I go to parent meetings alone, doctor appointments alone, after school activities alone and rodeo with the kids alone. She is miserable because she can’t be there for her children and it is a horrible heavy guilt for her and I am torn up because I can’t imagine how that must feel as a mother. Now, I don’t mind being alone, it’s good to be alone every now and again, just not all the time. Thankfully I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful, caring families anyone could ever ask for and they treat my family as if we were part of their families! Rodeo families are hands down the best in the whole world!!! I seriously look forward to seeing these people every month! But at the end of the day, when everyone goes there separate ways, I sit alone, in the trailer, pondering what life would be like, if Jacy had never gotten sick. All of the fun she is missing out on and how guilty I feel when I forget for a moment and start to have fun myself.
Then I’m mad it’s not me. Jacy is something special. I am not. She has done almost everything right her entire life. I have not, in fact I spent most of my early life doing just the opposite. She is kind to everyone, I can be a bit of an asshole. So why? Why has God burdened her with this punishment and left me alone? Why is God putting this upon our family, our children, our friends and relatives? Is it truly because God thinks we can handle it? What kind of bullshit is that? Does that mean people who hold no struggles are weak in Gods eyes so they get a free pass?? That makes no damn sense!

I always say we need to have faith. Believe in our faith. I believe in God. I believe there is a reason all this is happening. I believe we are being tested. I believe there is a plan and I hope God reveals it soon for as of now I can no longer see the Forrest for the trees.

The fact is pride is what leads us to believe we can conquer all without help or faith. It is how this simple statement I have repeated and lamented over continues to come forth.

“God will not give us anything we cannot handle.”

In reality it reads: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The way I read this is as such: God WILL give us all more than we can handle. He will challenge us, challenge our ability to retain faith and he will forgive us our temptations.

I believe my faith is strained right now. I believe we (my wife especially) have been given way more than we can handle. I believe the temptation to just quit is great.

So…..

God, could you give us just a little help? Please….

I’m not sure how much more of what you are giving us we can all take.

(Fuck I’m crying again)

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Driving Ms. Daisy

Today a woman honked at me as she passed by my right hand side to enter the freeway! While doing so she gave me the old high handed Italian salute with the meanest deadlocked eye stare I had seen in quite some time! Now quickly being one to find fault with myself first I rapidly recollected the previous 2-3 minutes she had in fact been latched to my six and whether or not there was any way I had in fact wronged this poor desolate soul. I mean had I finally reached the dreaded old guy status while driving? I am not even eligible for my AARP card yet so the thought of a gray haired man swerving back and forth while traveling at 15 MPH under the speed limit with a Morgan Freeman grin upon my face just didn’t seem to fit the profile for this lead foot driver! I continued to ponder the ramifications of some unjust action cast upon her poor misunderstood self in regards to me having done something egregious?

There was nothing.

In fact the only fault I could find was my ability to stay ever so slightly under the posted speed limit while traveling extra cautiously due to several containers of fuel teetering precariously in the bed of my truck. This of course was due to the absence of ratchet straps (I forgot them) to secure these containers. I also had stopped for a full three seconds at the stop sign (gasp) prior to heading up the overcrossing for which she held no intentions of tapping her brakes judging by the way she moved as though I was towing her through the intersection.

So after carefully deducing the situation it meant apparently she was truly upset because I was in fact fully impeding her day.

How thoughtless of me! How irresponsible was I? I mean shit, I guess the first clue for myself that something was amiss should have been when her Acura symbol was trying to hump the RAM on my tailgate? Not many in such tiny disposable automobiles would ever dare challenge the mighty RAM for fear of self-destruction at the braking foot of an otherwise in desperate need of anger management male driver! Yet here I was doing my best to find Zen, stay centered while breathing carefully and calmly as to not inflame the continuous chest pain I live with on a daily basis. No I instead held strong, ignoring her pushy, NASCAR style bullying undertone! A selfish, grotesque abuse of automobile etiquette I was hoping would not ruin what had been an otherwise superb morning! I tried to think maybe she was having a medical emergency or family disaster which led to her rudeness behind the wheel, or maybe she was going to lose her job because she is late all the time and today was the last straw? Yeah, that could be it, after all it was not my fault she couldn’t get her ass out of bed on time, or maybe ran late because her kids moved like snails (probably also selfish little heathens)! OOOORRRRrrrr it’s simply because she is a hot headed ass who doesn’t like not getting her way on a minute by minute basis so in turn she makes everyone else’s day shit to appease her selfish needs??!!! Yep pretty sure that’s hitting the proverbial nail on the fucking head judging by the California wave I received as she passed on by! Heading onto the freeway where I am positive her negative attitude and poor driving skills probably molested and ruined many others mornings before she exited her 3000lb anger machine to become a two legged devil raining a shit parade upon all who fell beneath her shadow! So, far be it from me to let this one little act of indiscretion on her part ruin my morning, my perfect, once every two or three months, NO KIDS FIGHTING, OUT THE DOOR ON TIME, CHEERFUL GOODBYES AT SCHOOL DROP OFF GOD DAMN FUCKING SUPER AWESOME MORNING!!!! IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!!!! NOT UP IN HERE!! N O T  U P  I N  H E R E!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Deep Breath)

In hindsight I am sure it’s all Trumps fault…..

Think I’ll Tweet about it.

I dreamed a dream about a dream until I realized I had been dreaming all along.

As a child I would lay awake at night gazing upon a ceiling of white, not knowing what darkness or light of a new day may bring. Excitement, happiness, sadness, confusion or worry were commonplace in those silent moments before slumber. This single moment of nightly reflection was a time I dreaded for I neither knew nor had the ability to process each and every thought or feeling rapidly infiltrating my developing brain. So I did my best to create an alternate reality (you know the dreaming before you actually dream) about the future and what it may hold. This was done with a gentle rocking back forth as if I was a baby clutched within my mother’s arms.

Eventually I would contort until finding I was flat on my back. My eyes cast toward the sky, head laid upon a pillow for which I would trust with my slumber until well into adulthood. Then and only then after dreaming about dreams would I drift off to sleep and eventually dream. It’s funny how things can become so very important when we are children and yet nominal as we grow older. That pillow was a lifeline to some nominal form of sanity. It was a trusted object for which I looked forward to after a long day. A moment of pure bliss as my head met its tattered misshapen form. It smelled good, it formed to my head just right and it meant that hopefully after a little blank moment or enlightened thought process the best was yet to come.

To dream

What is it to dream? We dream with eyes wide open about our futures and what they may hold. We dream about what we want to become as we grow older or where we wish to be within a certain designated time frame. We dream about that perfect human match, a soul mate who mirrors our better selves forming a solid foundation for which life and dreams can be achieved. We also dream as we sleep. The subconscious collecting data from deep within our cerebral cortex, correlating it into a one night only performance. Hyper-infusing our confidences and fears into a woven tale of wonderment, confusion or terror.

As a child I recall dreams were abundant. They would come and go, filled with mystery and wonder. Our subconscious mind working overtime filling our thoughts with the impossible, the amazing and at times the downright frightening! But as a child, I can remember the importance of dreams. How some mornings they left me mesmerized or flat out invigorated! I can remember getting dressed before school thinking today anything is possible! All from a dream that boosted my confidence or left me wondering whether or not it was in fact a dream.

During those very early years it was mostly dreams of playing baseball, swimming, learning to ride a bike, or flying! Flying like a superhero, swooping long and low over rooftops with the speed of lightening. My dreams always had a happy undertone that I was popular, or famous and life was licking my fingertips waiting for me to grab onto it and hold it tight!

Into the age of teen wonderment, nightly I would drift off with rock music playing in the background much to my parent’s dismay. My dreams consisted of cars, high school and girls. Real cars would fill my head, not the plastic ones rolling around our streets today! A 1957 Chevy or a 1966 Chevelle! Yes hardened steel and abundant horsepower!!! My 1964 Chevy truck became my world and before sleep I would dream about having the money to one day fix it up so that it would shine, making the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.

During this time I was particularly fond of writing (shocker huh?) and would pencil my dreams in the morning upon waking. I dreamed of being a writer one day, I also dreamed of being a cowboy, or a movie actor. This of course led to desk bound daydreaming where in class my thoughts would wander off and I would be dreaming about the day I would have enough courage to leave home to chase those exciting dreams. An actor, on stage or in the movies I didn’t care! Imagining myself in a full scale western movie, riding, shooting and doing my own stunts! Sometimes I would dream about being a doctor, going to school for a really long time just to prove to my parents that even though school was incredibly hard for me I was in fact smart after all.. It was certified Walter Mitty syndrome!

I never did have the guts to leave, head out on my own. Terrified of the unknown and worried about rejection along with where I would sleep or eat, those dreams became nothing more than lost hopes. I regret those decisions to this day.

Early adulthood and my dreams began to wane. Sleep becomes more of a necessity as life treats you a little harder and exhaustion gives way to reality. The reality being there is no longer time for dreaming about any future while lying in bed. Work became my outlet and I ran at times to the beat of two or three jobs at once. My cherished pillow, the one I longed for at the end of the day no longer mattered as resting my head anywhere warm and dry was more important than comfort or security. Life has picked up speed and there no longer remains time for my silly dreams.

Marriage and not long after children come, days are filled with responsibilities beyond comprehension. My thoughts range from love and pride with this life we are building as a team to worry and fear for what the future holds for us both and this family we have created. Today’s moments are about these people who are now the backbone/foundation of your life. Your dreams for the future are no longer your own but those of a collective whose agreeance is mandatory. These moments of life you will cherish forever, they will create a better and stronger you, you will achieve more than you imagined but those achievements may not be part of what you initially dreamed life would become. You will smile at how quickly life expands, grows and evolves with the continued addition of all who come into your life. I believe these years are the years which leave you with a smile upon your face when your time has come to an end on this earth. You are now following a path and new hopes and dreams will emerge, but you must not forget who YOU are and begin to allow those day dreams to come back. You need to listen to your heart and follow the right path. You long for the nights when deep sleep brings about happy dreams about life, love and family.

There for to quit dreaming is to quit living and hopefully your dreams continue on through the latter portions of your adult years. For me, life and my dreams are much different. I now dream for the thought processes of a child, returning to the innocence of adolescence with all its narrow minded wonder. My head hurts every day, my body is so tired, it’s as though I have drug a truck uphill for miles. When I lay my head down at night I no longer have a single trusted pillow, hell any pillow that is thicker than a postage stamp will do. I can no longer stare upon the ceiling to dream about any kind of future and what it may hold for sleep apnea has its evil grip upon my body. When sleep does come it is at the hands of my wife’s oxygen machine running, the sound of dogs barking, a television squawking hoping to ease my wife’s nervous mind and sheer exhaustion overtaking me while I struggle to breathe through the mask of a CPAP machine.

To dream a lovely dream would in fact be a delightful dream.

Many times I fear sleep depending on the day, the stress level over Jacy’s health or what may have transpired during a shift at work. These dreams do come and with them sometimes death, tragedy, harm and images to disturbing to mention. Often times awaking in panic or fear, drenched in sweat while ripping CPAP mask from my face! This will lead to walking the halls until I can calm down. Many times I awaken feeling as though I am having a full blown heart attack complete with chest pain, sweat and difficulty breathing! It is scary, and tiresome at the same time. Most nights I can no longer fall asleep until I know all my children are safe at home, in their beds. Sleep comes with a price as my worries surpasses any expectations of deep slumber. Listening to Jacy’s labored breathing, coughing and doing my best to stay out of her way as she tosses and turns for fear of waking her from a much needed rest. When I do get the chance to fall into a drop dead slumber my dreams lead to a land I wish not to visit and these places only lead to eventually being awake. Once there I daydream about a life once lived, a love inspired by the continual thought of a new day where my wife is healthy, happy and free from all this torment.

I wonder why life can’t be like the movies. A story with all its problems neatly wrapped up in 90 minutes. Where a young boy can dream while gazing at an arcade machine about being BIG and it happens. Or a girl dreams about running her own clothing company and she does. Or a rat believes it can be a chef in Paris and voila! He is..

What would we be without dreams?

You see things and you say why? But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”

~George Bernard Shaw~

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~C.S. Lewis~

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

~James Dean~

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

~Oscar Wilde~

And my personal favorite

A man is not old until regrets take place of dreams

~John Barrymore~

And with John Barrymore’s quote I say this.

You are born with the ability to dream and with the very same skill set you shall perish. What you do with it in between falls squarely upon you.

Whether asleep or awake, dream, dream big and never let anyone detour you from those dreams.

7 Habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

 

parker-rodeo

 

I read an article today on being a grateful athlete in todays world.

The article was called; 7 Habits of a grateful athlete. It was authored by Brian Smith and can be found at www.athletesinaction.org

As I read through this article I found it refreshingly mirrored some of the very qualities we have been teaching our children. I then sat back and pondered what the 7 habits of a grateful rodeo kid would be? Using my own beliefs and the beliefs of many of my fellow rodeo parents, I came up with my own spin on the topic. My list holds a few similarities but also a few sport specific beliefs that many parents such as myself and my wife uphold on a daily basis.

Before we start though lets have a refresher for those who are unfamiliar with Rodeo and its concept.

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

~Wikipedia~

My wife and I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next everything including horses at the drop of a hat without any consideration the equipment they have is fine and the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to a child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome of a run! A simple reminder that this moment you are in was the luckiest, best thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how poorly you may have done, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But take your time, wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

The son teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful.

With that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, it all takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance they get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here rodeoing with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking up is hard to do.

It is the hardest thing, saying goodbye. You prepare, practice, dive deep into the bowels of empathy but it never ends up coming out right. Tension and fear, cold sweat and a rapid heartrate all bring about more anxiety as the moment comes to fruition.

Divorce is a bitch, but sometimes things, no people change and with it their thoughts and opinions. I know that sounds absurd in today’s current climate of he said, she said, so it must be set in stone for eternity, but really people do change and with change thought processes. My thought process has definitely turned a corner. As I have aged so has my ability to recognize other options, opinions, accepting a differing point of view and not being ashamed for changing my mind on numerous topics I would have previously chosen to die upon the cross for.

I am not sure exactly the moment it happened, the moment I fell out of love with her. I am sure it happened gradually over time, the both of us going about our days without any recognition other than a need. Me needing her, her needing attention. Yet we kept on day after day with little more than a passing moment where things were actually working in sync, otherwise nothing but needs never being met were the norm.

It is sad when things digress to nothing more than need. A relationship is a two way street, and this street was constantly bumpy, broken and hurt. Over time it became more about what I could give with no reciprocal return. I gave and gave and gave and more than once I became stranded. Whenever I tried to fix things everything just seemed to get worse.

My father taught me a relationship like this takes serious maintenance and elbow grease to keep running, and that’s exactly what I gave it from my point of view and yet it was all in vain. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much love I showed her, no matter how many times I went out of my way to purchase whatever she needed, things would run smoothly for a bit an then this relationship would inevitably be left high and dry on the side of the road. Feelings hurt, tempers high and ugly words no one should ever hear spoken aloud.

We had some good times, no we had some GREAT times together. Camping, fishing, boating, trips to the coast. Many memories I will share and hold dearly for the rest of my life. All I need to do is close my eyes and there she is, ready to go, beautiful as always. She just had a way about her, especially in red.

But that’s all behind us now.

After 29 years of loyalty we have parted ways. It was tough, I hated every moment of it, yet my tears have dried, as I know it really is the best for us both.

Last week I said goodbye to Ford Motor Company and purchased a RAM 3500 Cummins Diesel as the main ranch truck. Not sure I can afford her yet but she is shiny, silver and to be quite honest this relationship seems to be off to a great start! I know we are in the early everything is coming up rose’s portion of this relationship, but WOW! I am….

Wait, what did you think I was talking about????

ram-3500

 

2017 a story not yet written.

The easy way out is to sit and complain, feel sorry for yourself or constantly wonder why? I have never liked the phrase “It is what it is” and yet for some strange reason it seems to be flowing from my mouth more than ever lately. As though my repertoire of emotion driven responses has taken a thoughtless vacation. In reality I have allowed myself to quit, therefore to find conversation worth having has lost its drive, its zest, leaving no creative or emotional yield.

Our family has started the year out with continuing troubles. It is beginning to feel as though each year meets us with a newer version of this show we call our life. A downcast tragedy written and directed by who?

Our lives are a journey, we are never guaranteed safe passage through it all and though it would be easy to complain or blame God (trust me I have done my fair share of why me? And what the fuck!!) In the end it is up to me not God to make a difference. To cry towards the sky with a shaken fist screaming at a creator or heavenly being leaves only the foolish exhausted and hoarse. God (depending on what you believe) may have created you, but you and you alone need to be able to hear the voice when it calls to you. To open your eyes and your heart, to remove the blinders and stigmas that come with the drudgery of day to day living before you can make an appropriate decision or change with your life.

The reality of it all is we (my family) are nothing special in the grand scheme of things. We (my family) and our troubles are but a spec amongst the hundreds of thousands living with troubles/struggles of their own. What makes our struggles any different from those struggling around us? What I do believe is how we handle our situation in particular may lead to another feeling hope while they wallow in the despair of their own personal pool of troubles. Sharing, compassion, and the ability to constantly learn, change and grow is what makes us unique as human beings.

I often find myself thankful for the social media platforms we all enjoy. I believe it helps us all to find, create, share and understand much more than we ever could prior to living within our own social boxes or narrow geographical boundaries.

On one hand I believe much of our perceived troubles come from looking at others who consistently post online what appears to be a perfect life. If we don’t feel our lives are up to snuff we tend to live through others and that can lead to feelings of resentment or envy that we may not have the ability to recognize. And yet we also see others who are struggling with every aspect of life so we tend to either selfishly feel a little better about ourselves, or we become distraught with those troubles igniting our inner compassionate drive thus feeling an overwhelming need to help. Another amazing human trait that could easily be lost within the alternate reality world surrounding us. Although social media often times comes across to me as the biggest reality show on the planet (and I hate reality shows for there is nothing “real” about them) it is a mind boggling creation to say the least.

Where Social media becomes a place of hope from the heavens is during days like today. One blurb, a sentence or quip and Social media becomes what it was initially intended, a place of connection for everyone you care about to come together. Words of encouragement flow like rivers to the sea. When someone is in trouble, within seconds there is another there to help. When a message needs to be heard by the masses this electronic medium becomes the town crier! It has become a community without terra firma.

 

So thanks to this wonderful world of connectivity, 2017 has not started out as bad as one would think. We are here, we are all alive! Encouragement and love flow freely through texts, blurbs, snaps, postings, phone calls and the shared written word. I say take whatever life has thrown at you and find a way! There is always a way. No person should ever feel the world or deck is stacked against them solely. It is your life, you and you alone make the decisions on how you are going to handle the curveballs life can and will throw your way. I may not like what is happening right now, I may feel frustration over how our life is going and what is happening within the confines of my little niche in the world, it may pain me to see the woman I love and our children suffering through what is essentially a not fair situation. But there is always something to be learned, a message to be shared, a heart to be touched, a moment of never ending love to be cast upon those involved.

We will get through it all, journey be damned.

Jacy is still at Stanford and will be there for an as yet undetermined period of time. She has a pretty bad case of pneumonia along with Rhinovirus (a cold). Now a cold is not so bad except Jacy has an extremely compromised immune system which can lead to very serious complications if she becomes infected.

For a few months now, Jacy’s heartrate and ability to breathe have become a huge concern for us. She can’t make it from the bed to the bathroom without a heart rate of 160, and her oxygen saturation levels dropping into the high 70’s, low 80’s even with oxygen on at 4 liters per minute. She ends up winded and exhausted by simply moving 20 feet. It has left her demoralized and feeling defeated.

The other morning as Jacy was having trouble controlling her heartrate and breathing, and the world became rapidly smaller she felt as though she was going to die. It was painful and it was scary. There was no feeling of bliss or relaxation coming over her and in that moment as the lights were growing dim she realized this was not the way she wanted to go. She was choosing for herself, fighting for her right to pick where and when!

Yesterday in the hospital still sad that she missed out on Parkers birthday she vowed to fight even harder. This thing, this GvHD will not win! There is way too much at stake and no one is going to tell her how it is going to be!

So today she sleeps, today I quit whining about how tired I feel, today we relish in the endless love shown us by friends and family through phone calls, texts and the almighty social media! Today we look forward to what tomorrow has to bring.

Tomorrow isn’t written yet and what we do with it determines how this story goes….

 

 

 

 

Jacy Update; One year later.

She walked down the hallway to a thunderous applause. Smiles, cheers, and hugs were the benchmark set for the morning. As always she made it (strolling down the hallway) look effortless and few would know she was doing her very best to simply stay upright. She had made it, she had survived when many felt she wouldn’t. She outwitted, outlasted and outplayed what was initially supposed to be at the very most a 4 month stay. It was almost 8 months instead. She had become a survivor.

That lone walk one year ago down a Stanford hallway, headed towards an exit was five minutes of pure bliss.

Fast forward one year.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my wife walking unassisted through the hallways of Stanford Medical Center to an awaiting car. She came home on that day and sobbed uncontrollably upon crossing through our gate onto the ranch. Her eyes cast upon land she felt she would never see again. It was a miracle and my faith had grown stronger.

Over the last year;

We have been to the Emergency room more times than I can count and it hasn’t gotten any easier. Even though no matter what hospital or emergency room someone remembers Jacy and we are always treated like family. But each time her body dictates we head that direction it feels like a giant step backwards and of course the inevitable panic attack associated with walking through those doors ensues! Fear solidly grips her mind as the thought of never coming back out is always present.

She goes to Stanford every two weeks for three to four days of treatment for her GvHD. It is a struggle, it rips at the fabric that is our family and we are very blessed to have continued help through immediate family and friends. We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy journey but wow, what a journey it has become!

I have become well versed on all medications associated with GvHD (Graft versus Host Disease) their indications and contraindications and with this knowledge my professional skills have been sharpened; specifically in the arena of assisting, acknowledging, and caring for any patient who has or has had Leukemia or cancer.

Our faith has been tested. We are constantly wondering what the bigger picture is here, what the “big” plan is supposed to hold and if we will ever receive a clue as to what is the answer. We wait patiently, trying our very best to understand, crying together, praying together, wondering about what the future holds-together. We feel robbed, she feels robbed of a life that once was so active and brisk. We both feel admiration and jealously as we watch other families, couples and dear friends moving on with their lives, posting pictures of holiday weekends, trips to Disneyland, camping and nighttime outings. It brings about feelings of remorse over time wasted, projects never tackled, feelings never shared, opportunities missed. All while a clock tic-tocs away in our heads.

It is a lot of weight to carry, not knowing if you are going to live or die. Knowing inside you can still feel the strong powerful woman you once were trying her best to roar like a lioness while recognizing those memories are waning, fading away, replaced by memories of milestones like the time you walked unassisted from your bed to the bathroom without collapsing or were able to get dressed with no oxygen on in just under 15 minutes. You are struggling to make the most of every day while only having enough energy to be cognoscente for 5 hours or less. Sleep is the only thing you know. You quit staring out the window because you can no longer have what’s outside. Fear gripping you constantly as anxiety rips through your soul. The only cure is more medication and a television filled with trash TV to keep your brain occupied 24/7. It becomes the new normal.

It is a lot of weight to carry not knowing if my wife is going to live or die. I have worked hard at caring for her over this last year. I have always thought of myself as kind of a half ass husband, but I can say without a doubt, I have done my very best to care for this woman I love. Making sure she has what she needs when she needs it, being there to hold her when she cries, assist her when she walks, make sure her medications are on time and she has food to eat before she takes her pills. I have grown to let her do things even though I don’t think she is ready for it. It gives her drive and purpose and if she can’t complete whatever she is trying to do, I am right there, a step away to encourage her when it is all over. I miss date nights with her, laughing our asses off at a little hole in the wall we would frequent in Winters, drinking wine and beer. Her staring into my eyes our faces inches apart and that smile! Oh that lovely beautiful smile!

But what I have instead is a better understanding of what marriage truly is. We all say the words; in sickness and in health, till death do us part. But how many truly understand the meaning? Marriage is a journey. And much like any journey it begins in the comfort of a room, with hopes, dreams and well intentioned plans. You both start out on the journey together, with fanfare, family and friends all wishing you well and it all seems smooth in the beginning; but when the journey strays off course, life becomes hard, bitter, with at times both of you not following the same plan you begin to define your relationship, and as storms come and go you rebuild, alter course and travel onward. A solid bond between two people and a solid relationship will flourish and grow with continued love and understanding thereby creating a foundation of stone.

I feel our relationship has done nothing but grow, leaving that foundation of stone for our children to stand upon and hopefully flourish. So although it has been a difficult year, good has come from this giant hill we are climbing together.

I haven’t been writing a lot about Jacy lately because we are living in our new normal. But as we move into the New Year approximately two hours from now I thought we would start the year off with an update.

Jacy has been feeling very sick, she is exhausted all the time, and can barely get out of bed. She has oxygen on 24/7 as without it her saturations levels fall dangerously low. Our family just returned from three days at the coast with family. Jacy was able to get out one day for four hours. She sat on the beach and enjoyed the ocean air surrounded by her sisters. It was an amazing moment for her and our family! Once back at the house she slept (not by choice) pretty much the rest of the time.

We are waiting to hear from her doctors as to what our next step should be.

She is scared as she doesn’t feel right, which of course is a different “right” from whatever “right” really has become for someone as sick as she is on a daily basis. She just seems to stay weak instead of getting stronger and that isn’t good. She has asked that as we head into the New Year, if people could please take a moment and send some prayers her way she would appreciate it. As we have seen over this three year journey a little prayer power goes a long way.

As the year comes to a close, I want to personally say Thank You to each and every one of you who have assisted my family in any way. Without the love and support we have received this journey would have been unimaginable.

Thank you all, Happy New Year and may all of you be blessed with an outstanding 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

Wins and losses = PTSD

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It is by the numbers they say, we live our lives in columns of wins and losses. Every day we, the human beings walking this gigantic greenhouse we call earth walk out the door and in the blink of an eye easily break down our existence to nothing more than wins and losses.

From the time we can understand the gibberish coming from our parent’s lips we are told to pick our battles, get along with others, speak only when spoken too, judge not lest ye be judged, and we can be anything we choose to become yet be prepared for the struggle that may lay ahead.

Every one of those tidbits of wisdom revolve around wins and losses.

It further convolutes our mental wellbeing as we grow older. For we no longer look to our parents for sage advice. These challenges be it work, relationships, sports, after hours activities, projects and dreams of our own that must be chased can all be boiled down to wins and losses! We take them on; lumps to the head, body and mind be dammed! We are adults now and can handle our own business.

We hear it all the time! WINNNING!!! Or man you are such a loser. An assumption made upon a moment, movement or emotional situation resulting in an action, deed or punishment.

Therefore our societal needs dictate we win! Nothing brings fame, fortune, happiness or simple satisfaction more than winning! When we are younger and we win at a team sport, that moment of exhilaration is breath taking, amazing, a real high produced by natural endorphins leaving us exhausted upon its retreat from our system.

But when we lose if we are truly driven individuals we strive harder for success, fighting, clawing, learning, adapting, becoming one who grows and develops into that winner or winning individual again. Why? Because we crave that sensation, we lust for that endorphin rush, we yearn to be someone or something special, not just in our own eyes or the eyes of the ones we love but in everyone’s eyes!

So no matter what we chose to do in life, thanks to the imprinting our parents and society have placed upon us (and this not a bad thing mind you, just stay with me) we are left with wins and losses, our whole life can be simplified into easily accessible columns of wins and losses.

It is what makes us as human beings strive for the very best. It is what I believe keeps us getting up every day and moving forward, no matter how difficult life can and does become.

I read a story the other day about a fire captain in southern California who took it upon himself while out driving to stop his vehicle upon a highway overpass, place the vehicle in park, walk to the security fence, scale that fence and jump to the freeway below. He met his untimely end at the front of a semi-truck. It should never have happened.

Last year according to the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA 132 firefighters took their own lives in this great nation. One Hundred and Thirty Two firefighters woke up one morning and could no longer bear the thought of waking up another day.

We as a firefighting family are not doing a good enough job.

Those 132 human beings who sacrificed their lives for their community on a daily basis were let down by us their firefighting family. 132 lives taken, more than by injury or illness last year. Gone forever.

WE ARE LOSING

Firefighters take the wins and losses columns we are engrained with from childhood and we amplify them, placing them under a magnifying glass within our heads. Those win and loss columns mean more to us than our sports rec league basketball team, or our children’s baseball team. Winning at a football fantasy league or winning by finishing the build on your deck. Everything in life fits into these columns of success or failure and when it comes to our chosen profession they mean so much more because lives are attached within each column.

The way I see it we are failing to recognize that although we will never feel as though it is ok to lose, we do lose and we need to talk about it. We need to talk about those losses and how they affect us emotionally when we pull off the uniform. We need to quit treating these losses as if they are the elephant in the room everyone sees but no one wishes to speak about.

Imagine everyday going to work, trying hard and though you have minor wins here and there the losses over time begin to pile up. In the beginning of your career its ok, you rebound well and pretend to not keep track. But after several years those losses begin to wear you down and after a while you can no longer pretend they don’t exist. You stop waking up each morning thinking like a winner! You begin to dread that first cup of coffee where before you would grab it on the way out the door thinking today is the day for another win!

The wins are there, don’t get me wrong, but soon stopping the spread of fire through a structure quickly or rescuing a family from an overturned vehicle doesn’t equate to the loss of life you have been party too. You feel remorse for not having done the job better, or quicker because in the end people are still injured and some things just can’t be unseen! The feeling of success slowly becomes fewer and father between.

Someone once told me that each incident truly bothering me is like a rock, and I am coping by placing those rocks in an emotional back pack. The problem is no one has taught me how to unload the back pack, so I walk around with more weight than I can bear on a daily basis and someday it will be so heavy the thought of just giving up, no longer wishing to carry this backpack will enter my mind.

We wear the wins on the outside, we carry the losses in our backpack. We are no longer well balanced and what we carry around is just our work, let alone what we load onto ourselves from our personal home life. Like a rat in an unwinnable maze we become emotionally trapped.

The faces from our past begins haunting us, showing up at incidents, during our family time, holidays and worst of all in our sleep, our dreams. We transfer guilt and blame, death and loss onto those we love and we hate ourselves for every minute our psyche allows participation in this pointless mental interaction.

This Christmas when you are with family and friends look around, is there a firefighter, police officer or emergency medical worker with you? Talk with them, show them love, let them know how very grateful you are to have them in your life. They may not be reeling from stagnation within the wins and losses column, their back pack may not be full, but if they have been doing any of these glorious jobs for any amount of time they might not yet recognize its ramifications. They only need an ear, an ability to tell a story, and be allowed to feel everything is ok.

If one of these people you know shows any signs of depression, withdrawal or strange behavior, don’t be afraid to lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them and find the assistance they need. Be that pillar of strength they are looking for.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know this; on this Christmas Eve 2016 it is all I can think about. That somewhere out there a person such as myself is wondering if another is ok. If they need help, and is there anything that can be done to help them. We can’t keep losing, we can’t keep feeling as though we are losing and we can no longer turn a blind eye to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the emergency services field.

1 firefighter lost is one to many, 132 is simply unacceptable! I don’t have the numbers for Police or Emergency Services (ER rooms, Ambulances) but we are one large family. Let’s work hard to make 2017 the breakout year for PTSD acceptance. Build programs so our own can reach out to help our own who are struggling.

No firefighter should feel as though the only option they have is to scale a fence and jump. Leaving behind everything they ever loved, everything that fell into the win column on a daily basis.

Be thankful for what you have, for who you love and for who loves you in return. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year..

Betty….

If you sense someone is in trouble:

Call 911

The National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

Contact the 10-33 foundation for more information

www.1033foundation.org

Betty’s AKA:

Fire Engineer James Franceschi

22 years of service to the citizens of Dixon California

 

 

 

He wasn’t just a horse…

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When we received the phone call my wife sat me down and prepared me for the next statement. No it wasn’t anything drastic, we had been looking for a cutting horse for some time hoping to start Jake in that direction.

But with myself having grown up around horses and on a working horse farm she knew the words coming out of her mouth were instantly going to be met with resistance.

“I think we found a horse for Jake, I am going with our friend to look at him”

Me: Cool you found a nice gelding for Jake to ride?

Her: Um, no he’s a stud.

Cue: opinionated, I know more than you, obnoxious, are you freaking crazy look.

I ranted for a minute or two about the dangers of a stud in conjunction with no child should be on, near or around a stud let alone further learn, hone or develop their cutting skills aboard a stud! WE DON’T NEED IT, DON’T WANT IT, AINT HAVING ANY OF IT!!

Lil War Peppy- A.K.A Tank arrived at our doorstep the next day, out of shape, with long incorrect feet and a studly bellow which let everyone know on our ranch that although he didn’t exactly look the part, he was the new master of this domain.

I shook my head.

Tank was born April 6 1992 on Village Creek Ranch in Burleson Texas. He was born a direct son to the great world champion Stud Peppy San Badger who was introduced into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Yes he had royalty in his veins and soon enough we would see it shine through.

He traveled around a bit after his four year old year, moving to Wynnewood Oklahoma, the Compass R Ranch in Campbell Texas and through a sheer stroke of luck after a series of unfortunate events our little Blue Sky Ranch right here in Winters Ca.

We knew the minute this out of shape, screwy footed horse stood in front of a cow inside an open arena we had in fact made the right choice. 

The very moment he unloaded out of the trailer and I was finally able to be face to face with this majestic diamond in the rough I knew my wife was right, and I needed to just shut the hell up.

I heard about these fabled stallions, the ones that don’t act like idiots all the time that actually listen, even when surrounded by mares yet I didn’t believe. Every stud horse I had encountered my entire life had always been an idiot. Oh some were sweet as pie as long as they were isolated or surrounded by very docile geldings. But never had I seen a stud who was gentler and sweeter than any gelding could ever be.

Tank took some conditioning and gentle, corrective foot care to get him back in line. He had a horrible split in his right front hoof that took almost two years to completely repair. He was a little stand offish at first and after a few weeks of me establishing some solid ground rules he slowly came to realize this was indeed his home and no one was going to pen him up or harm him in any way.

My son Jake, took to him right away, and he to Jake. The horse was a bit rusty and he favored his right side but with some solid schooling from Wes Johnson Cutting Horses and a bunch of lessons with junior aboard the two became quite a team. They rode almost every day and it wasn’t long before Tank was following Jake along like a puppy. And right there is where I saw it. I saw the look, in his eye, his neck, his relaxed demeanor and his ability to adapt to whatever Jake asked of him. Tank knew when Jake wasn’t doing it right and I can’t tell you how many times I watched that horse scoop the kid up during a run! Jake was out of position so tank would lose the advantage and place himself out of position to scoop the kid back up hoping not to lose him while getting back to work.

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Whenever Jake was around Tank would lower his head and listen intently, it was a thing of beauty. Occasionally he would remember he was a stud, but with a little correction he would fall right back into the fold and remember his place.

Now not everything was always daisies and roses, there would be times when Jake would cross up signals or Tank just simply hadn’t been warmed up enough and he would say screw you guys and get a bit broncy. One time in particular I think Jake was about 12, during a practice Tank just flat had enough of the crossed up signals bullshit and after several attempts to save the kid told him to get off! As a father in my opinion it was the greatest moment of that kid’s life! He rode that bronc all the way across the arena, with two old guys (me and Wes) screaming ride er cowboy!!!!! They made it to the furthest wall when Jake did the unthinkable. He reached out mid buck and grabbed for the fence line. One of the deadliest mistakes any cowboy can make. Grabbing the fence mid buck is a one way ticket to some missing teeth, a broken rib or face and even death. You always ride it out and if you start losing it, look for a spot out in the open where you can hit the ground and roll away without harm. Never wedge yourself between a fence and a firing set of 1400 pound hooves.

Luckily for Jake Tank bucked off the opposite direction. Jake sat for a moment stunned at what just happened. Looked at us both, started to snivel a bit and then said; DID YOU SEE THAT??? I RODE HIM!!!

We all laughed and with a little coaxing, a minute or two of schooling by Wes and Jake got right back on and finished his set. It was a defining moment for them both.

The two of them went on to win a few things and finally came up reserve grand champions in our cutting club before we figured out just why no matter what we did this horse favored his right side.

He had a bum shoulder. We will never know if he injured it as young colt or even as a young stud. He spent ten years on one ranch with little on record to show for it. But no matter the limitation that horse would always give you his best try. It was just who he was, and if he couldn’t do it he still tried.

Over the years Jake moved on to younger, more agile and skilled horses and Tank became mine. I rode him three to four times a week, keeping him in shape and would cut on him to sharpen my skills. He was solid and slow and not always correct which allowed me to focus on my riding ability instead of the horses ability to cut. As long as I always remembered to go easy on that right side, we would be just fine. I got what I needed and he always strutted out of the arena feeling accomplished.

Eventually he became my turnback horse. It was the one job he truly loved. He always knew when we were headed out to the practice ring or off to a show. He would get excited and call for me as soon as the trailer backed up to the barn. He didn’t care for corner work, but that’s because I think he wanted to cut the cows, but he loved turning back, more specifically the left side of the arena. He could push off that left front much better on the jump so he knew his place inside the fence line.

Over the last three years of his life, he taught several kids how to ride, made several more happy to have a horse to ride, was used for senior pictures and was the go to horse for our youngest Parker. Tank and I also participated in a Sutters Fort reenactment where we rode in together as mail call for the settlers. He loved doing it and would get super excited as we rode around the park surrounding Sutters Fort in downtown Sacramento. As we passed people in the park they would smile and wave and he would calm down just so they could pet him. Once away from the pedestrians his head would come up, his ears would go forward and his tail would rise. He would strut, like a king, like the boss, like a stud. Once we passed through the forts front gates, it all went away, and it was show time.

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He loved those little kids which was the strangest thing to me. When little kids came around he would put his head all the way down to their level and wait. He loved nothing more than their little hands petting his face, stroking his neck and scratching his ears. He wouldn’t move so much as a single muscle. Just stand there like a statue, ears moving back and forth, lips being licked and eyes soft and gentle, not a tense bone in his body. I had somebody tell me once that Tank looked as though if he could have laid on his back like a puppy he would have just so the kids could scratch his belly.

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Tank became my best friend.

The hours we spent talking, going for rides, helping teach kids, riding alongside others and simply being a team I could not count. He was the first place I would go when walking into our barn. The first one to get rode while others sat saddled and tied to the barn or inside the arena. He stayed with me all day as my mount for when I was helping others. We have gathered cattle, doctored cattle, branded, rode the trails, gone sorting, cutting and worked the alleyways of events. But most all of he listened and gave me consistency when I needed it most. The last three years with Jacy being sick have been hell. He has always been my favorite confidant, that non judgemental set of ears that carried me and allowed me an hour or two of normalcy during our very abnormal times. 

No matter what I needed to do, where I needed to do it, be it rain or shine, this wonderful, kind, amazing animal was there for me. I truly loved him.

Tank passed away on Saturday the 17th 2016.

I got the phone call from one of our borders that he didn’t look right. He was breathing hard and not acting his normal self. She had seen him roll in his stall and he just didn’t act right after that. She sent me a video of him breathing hard and although it was hard to see I had a bad feeling.

Our barn manager showed up minutes later, calling me to say it was colic and she was starting treatment. I pulled off the freeway and we both started mass calling Vet’s to get someone there as soon as possible. By the time I arrived I knew it wasn’t good. His demeanor was poor, he was breathing very heavy and soaked in sweat. When I walked up and took him from one of the girls, he sighed heavy and just leaned into me. I stroked his mane, kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

My heart was breaking.

Tank passed away later that afternoon.

I have lost quite few animals in my life. Some were closer than others, but losing this horse was hands down the toughest one to date. What this horse (the one I didn’t want) brought to our family was a piece of fabric that wove us all together. He was the best horse I have ever owned. I can say unequivocally that I loved him with all my heart and as he slipped away with his head near my lap, me stroking his mane, while he stayed relaxed because he trusted me, I could no longer hold back my emotions. 

If you know horses, if you love horses than you know just how powerful that moment was, when a stud horse not only trusts you, but trusts you all the way to the very end. He would have done anything I asked of him and the thought of this ranch without him was and still is overwhelming to say the least.

Some will say just get over it, there are a million great horses out there, and yes I will turn the corner from sadness to fondness for all he brought us the minute he crossed through those gates. But for right now, at this very point in time, well, I haven’t even been in the barn. His stall empty, no bellow or happy snort as I walk inside to greet me and no big 1400 pound hug. It just hurts my heart way too much.

Tank is laid to rest overlooking the ranch from under the old oak tree. Right next to him is the founder of our ranch and Cooper’s good dog rescue. Cooper himself. There were two dogs Tank let follow him around. One was Cooper the other is Jack.

I hope his spirit is running wild and free with Cooper right by his side hoping we will see each other again. 

I just wish I could ride him one more time, we have so much to talk about……..

tank-1

 

It’s time for all of us to start talking about P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

What is written below was born from a single sentence spoken to me one day after what was essentially a rough call. A group of us gathered with a well-known, well liked chaplain within our department to ensure no one either needed or didn’t need to discuss the day’s traumatic events. All was fine, we all spoke a little, shared our feelings the way we always do with a little sadness submerged inside of humor and yet; this one sentence has lingered in my head for months now, and like an aching back that needs to be stretched or an itch that you just can’t reach, I finally felt the overwhelming need to move or scratch, leading to this chaotic rant.

Driving to work at times is more difficult than you may think. I get up in the morning like everyone else does, make coffee and breakfast for my wife so she can take her medications. (My wife is suffering from GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease after a Bone Marrow Transplant) Without missing a beat my tired achy body rousts the rest of our clan from a good nights slumber. One heads out to feed animals, the other two work on breakfast, lunches and packing up homework. After a cup of coffee for myself, getting dressed and brushing teeth, I find myself making sure the entire snack drawer hasn’t been loaded into only one backpack while ensuring the teenage boy has gathered up his crap as well. I meet with the wife one last time, making sure she has taken her medications, she has enough food and supplies to last her until our oldest gets home from work and that she has a charged phone to call me in case of an emergency. Then we all hit the road, them to school and I am off to work.

We live out in the country and it is a ten mile drive to town. Some would say it’s far, I think it is just far enough. Some mornings I may point out the beauty in a sunrise, or a unique cloud formation during a storm coming over the mountain. Other mornings depending on the time of year it may be the Almond trees in blossom, Geese overhead (we live just west of the flyway) or the simple, still, eerie way fog lays upon the ground. But the reality is every turn, every stretch of roadway we travel, it is there; like a kick in the teeth or a punch to the stomach. It is always there reminding me of my life, the hidden lie we all live in regards to life and the fact that everything comes to an end in death.

I became a full-fledged probationary firefighter on June 7th, 1995. When we started we were young, brash and full of ourselves. We heard all the stories from the old timers and we couldn’t wait to step onto an engine. Through diligent hard work we successfully graduated our academy. We didn’t drop out when it got hard, we didn’t cringe or flounder through basic medical training, we thought we knew full well what we were getting into and we were damn proud to be doing it! Much like the majority of our academy class, all I ever wanted to do was help people. I have always known there was something more for me, and I still feel that way today.

When we started in station I followed the senior guys around. Dumb, ignorant with no experience what so ever, I made every effort to learn as much as I could! To listen and emulate those who paved this glorious road before me. I also went straight back to school, obtaining an E.M.T. or Emergency Medical Technician’s certification and started working on learning about the fire engineers job so I better understood what was happening at the other end of my hose line during a fire. I spent hundreds of hours soaking up firefighter skills and responsibilities, hoping to be good enough so one day the senior guys would trust me to carry out important tasks on any emergency scene. It was (the job) and still is, everything I hoped becoming a firefighter would be.

They (the old guys) really do try preparing you for every conceivable situation be it fire, vehicle accident, medical aid, haz-mat, flood, rescue etc… but there is one thing you can never be prepared for, one thing no one really wants to talk about, and that is the constant never ending death. It is not the fires, or the car accidents or even the medicals that wear down your body over time, it is the constant death that wears down your mind and even at times your resolve.

In their defense these seasoned veterans only knew from what had been passed down to them. They try, oh yes they try in their own weird humor filled way. A way we adopted as we got older, supposedly wiser with more runs under our belts. Our chief at the time warned us during our graduation ceremony with one sentence that went something like this; You can never prepare yourself for the things you will see.

How true he was, but as young kids we just laughed! You know that nervous, I am a tough bad ass laugh you usually hear right before the laughing idiot gets their teeth kicked in? Yeah that laugh. We were naïve, dumb and blinded to the realities of our world. Hell! We’d proclaim; we’ve seen death! We have watched enough horror films we knew exactly what death is, (insert chest thumping here) and yet we knew so very little. So shamefully little about death and our both personal and professional responsibility in regards to handling death.

Fast forward 21 years, back to that morning taking kids to school. Every turn on the roadway while talking to my kids a memory reminds me of an accident here, or a death over there. The father of three, ejected and if that wasn’t insult to injury enough the car rolled back over on top of him. The grandfather whose tractor flipped over on him out in that field over there and no one knew until later in the morning because well, grandpa is supposed to be out tractoring. The car that ran the stop sign at this intersection, running off the roadway and striking the culvert thus bursting into flames. Once we cross over the freeway into town, we pass a house where I held a child screaming and crying because no matter what we did, or how hard we tried his mommy died, right there in front of him.  I wonder where that now grown young man is today. That white house over there, we did compressions on a 24 year old drug overdose or two blocks over when the roommate came home to find his best friend had hung himself in the hallway. Drop the kids off at school and I drive by a house where we had the pleasure of searching and dragging the families’ dogs from a house fire. Those dogs were this couple’s world and although some would say they are just dogs, to some people those dogs may as well have been their children. We couldn’t save them, they sobbed on the front lawn as we carried out fire operations. Hey right here at the intersection where I sit at every morning is the site where we did CPR on an elderly man as his wife gently whimpered up against the wall. I can still see him lying there, I can still feel her grief. Those are just a few of the road signs as I call them that I look at every morning on the way into town. There are hundreds more, they are just not on this particular route. Oh well back to meeting with our well respected chaplain.

After every borderline call, or semi disturbing sounding response this one lone sentence, made in jest with no malice inferred what so ever kept nagging away at my inner self. This sentence came from a warm heart, a place of love and respect. And it’s because of this one lone sentence for which I have done nothing about that I feel I must honor its intent and finally respond.

The sentence you ask?

Our chaplain; “Don’t worry about Betty, if something is bothering him he will just write about it and we will read it the next day”

Simple, precise and so true. It is my way, my coping mechanism and beyond those who know me personally and those who follow my blog, a statement of fact. I have so many stories written, never to see the light of day. Locked away on my personal drive for only my eyes to re-read, re-live and suffer through quietly.

So with that being said; this one is for you Jim Wilson. Thank you for always being there for not only our department but our neighboring fire department as well. It is people such as you and your partners that make letting go of the evil demons we hold inside, the ones pulling back our tears, screaming in our heads to keep swallowing the pain just a little easier to handle.

I never realized how badly our job had begun to affect me. I become fairly used to the road signs around town and yes they were beginning to wear me down but it wasn’t until I realized I was terrified of my children going out to play, or my sons learning to drive that I knew I may have a problem. It wasn’t until I began having nightmares, losing sleep, or superimposing my children’s faces on those faces of death swirling around my head that I knew I may have a problem.It wasn’t until I noticed I had a migraine every day for two years and my body hurt all the time that I may have a problem. It wasn’t until I realized I was drinking every single night and even though my wife pointed this fact out to me, I brushed it off as; it’s just beer, it’s hot, we all drink beer, lots of beer, that I began to see I may have a real problem. It wasn’t until I found myself crying at stupid movies, commercials or spacing out, reliving some tragedy in my life be it personal or from the job that I knew I might have a problem. The rain, a wind, a smell, a moment in time surfacing from the unknown can bring about not happiness but disturbing morbid thoughts; yeah thats when I knew I may have a problem. It also wasn’t until my wife was diagnosed with Leukemia and the normally stoic, stiff upper lipped man I had become cried like a baby, uncontrollably, without any knowledge of the severity or options available that I knew I may have a problem.

So I started writing.

And I started talking, to anyone who would listen. I began by reaching out to friends in the business, and a few of my close personal friends. We (the fire service) have spent so many years suppressing these emotions, telling our young firefighters through actions or lack  thereof and not words that it’s NOT ok to feel. We seemingly must be strong all the time for if we fall apart we may become less then what we are and what we are is not heroic, or super hero like, which is what many would have you believe. No what we are is human. Death hurts, losing people hurts, seeing the worst in humanity hurts. Yes we are lucky enough to have those moments that are filled with elation. For four years in a row myself and three others were lucky enough to win the save a life award. The moments are there! But the gruesomeness of what one human can do to another or the after effects of sheer tragedy will always outweigh the good, because you can’t just erase those memories.

I like to tell stories (duh?)

When you see me I am more than happy to tell stories about our job. There is good, and there is just the plain old funny ass, you would never believe it if you hadn’t have lived it stories that go with our job! What good is having a long career if there wasn’t some wonderful memories mixed with humor? But no matter where I go, and as much as I love to share our experiences with anyone who is genuinely interested, there is one question you should never ask any of us. Ever. It is not fair, we know you don’t know why it isn’t fair. But it is not fair to us or the demons we hide deep down inside. So please be understanding and hear me out.

Please don’t ever ask this one question.

WHAT WAS MY WORST CALL EVER?

It happens all the time. We get off work and go home, we take time to assimilate back to a normal existence. Maybe that evening we get dressed up and take our spouses, significant others, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends of friends out for an evening of fun. We have a few drinks, the laughs are rolling, jokes are being told around the table through the sounds of others laughing and having a good time. And then it happens. Usually asked by a newcomer to the group or outsider as one of your inner circle would never cross such dreaded lines.

HEY MAN WHATS THE WORST CALL YOU HAVE EVER BEEN ON?

Or

HEY BRO SERIOUSLY WHAT’S THE MOST GRUESOME THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN?

Followed by; C’mon tell me I can handle it!!

But here is the thing.

You can’t handle it, nor do I want you to handle it! I cannot even begin to tell you the worst things I have seen, or put into adequate words the most gruesome of images. They are forever trapped inside my head, seared into my brain and in what realm of reality do you even for a minute think you can handle what my hands have touched, the scenes my eyes have witnessed, the sounds that no matter the day or time inexplicably reverberate through my head like a sole hiker yelling across the Grand Canyon just to hear themselves over and over again. No these stories are not for you and pray, I mean get down on your knees and pray that you never, ever witness even a fraction of what I have witnessed in 21 years.

Oh I know, I have heard it all and it usually goes something like this; Hey man its cool I have seen the most gruesome movies of all, I watched SAW like ten times! Or my personal favorite; I have seen Faces of Death so it’s all right you can tell me. But see that’s where the problem really mucks it up, for it isn’t even whether or not you could handle hearing stories about the most gruesome thing I witnessed in my career, it’s about the fact that you want to know because in reality the way I see it, that one question you threw out with that little condescending smirk has in my eyes instantaneously become a dick measuring competition!

That’s right I said it’s a damn dick measuring competition! You don’t give a shit about what I have seen or the emotions that went along with that particular call! You don’t give two shits about the fact those calls haunt me and have changed my life forever, changed my family’s lives forever and changed the lives of those involved forever! You don’t give three shits’ about the nightmares, or night sweats, the fact I have held more dead and disfigured human beings in my career to date than any one person should ever need too!! And you know what? There are hundreds of thousands of firefighters out there in larger metropolitan areas and military personnel who have witnessed so many more than I! No what you give a shit about finding is your bravado, filling your ego by sitting there listening to some watered down version because I damn sure am not going to tell you the truth! You know why? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

No sir this is all about you secretly fulfilling some need to walk away afterwards with shrugging eyebrows and rolling eyes like it was no big deal, followed with under the breath monotone grumblings like; shit that ain’t nothing, man what the hell, that didn’t sound bad at all or Heck I could do that stupid job, I don’t why they make a big deal about firefighters anyways!

Don’t think for one minute I don’t know! Don’t think for one minute I haven’t heard you as you walk away, or seen that smug ass look on your face which makes me want to grab you by the throat hoping you can visualize some of what you just heard simply by looking into my eyes, but in the end you can have that look, you can walk away thinking you can do our job better and someday hopefully you come to your senses finding the need to thank someone like me, or a police officer, highway patrol officer, game warden or every single person who has ever served in the military for ensuring every morning you get to wake up with a clear conscience. That right Mr. Dick never have you struggled through a sleepless night while subconsciously transferring all the absolutely disturbing things that can be done to a human onto the faces of your children! You may care for those around you and if you have kids may even be a great dad. But your kids don’t suffer from all of father’s freakish paranoia. Worrying endlessly every moment of the day, seeing nothing but disaster around every corner and not that Chicago Fire television bullshit either! Real disturbing, disgusting and disheartening disaster. Faces of those who haunt you.

You will never walk down a street and smell burning flesh not food as you pass by a BBQ joint, remembering the guy who intentionally wrecked his car into an overpass beam where it caught on fire and he burned to death. You’ve never had to pull a guy like that out with your crew, grimacing as he came apart one piece at a time like overdone chicken. Or cringe when you see the reflection of a burning fireplace in a window wondering if anyone is home because it looks like a room and contents fire just starting. You can drive through your town oblivious to a memory of a kid run over at one intersection or the family of four that died on the edge of a freeway off ramp! Cruising the very same freeway you don’t see the fuel truck that burned or the semi-truck that crossed four lanes killing two and permanently injuring several others. You most likely also don’t see the road sign that cut a car in half taking the life of the driver and you damn sure don’t pass over the spot in lane number two on a daily basis where I picked up a boy’s face, not his head, nor his skull because those were crushed and lying in the number three lane but his fucking face! Discarded like an old Halloween mask on the first of November!

But hey this is a cool game right? Questions are fun!!!

Never, please ever, ask any of us that one simple, self serving question.

Now in defense of these most dreaded of questions for which I am venting I will say this; I love my job, I have been privileged to participate in caring for the people of this special town. It has been my honor to hold a scared mothers hand, to speak gently to a dying grandfather, to hold and care for a woman beaten by the man who supposedly loves her most, to look into the eyes of a sick veteran and tell him not to worry it’s our turn to take care of him . My life has been blessed with assisting new life brought into this world, extricating people from cars that looked as though a bomb went off inside and then staying by a patient’s side until the ambulance takes them away. Working my way through a structure on fire while it gets hotter and hotter, not knowing for sure if we are going to be pulling someone out or finding the fire first then extinguishing it, because sometimes our job requires we do many things at once. My job has so many plusses that expose a person’s true love for another human being, any human being and even when that person is combative or dislikes us for whatever reason the very same love and compassion comes forth.

It all unfortunately comes at a cost. I have learned over time this career has taken away my ability to see life with a rainbows and unicorns attitude and that really sucks because I really like both RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS!!! The innocence of life long gone from our or my ability to cope.

To those who say; well you knew what you were getting into when you joined.

I say this; you are right, to an extent. Words are one thing, a preconceived notion is another but nothing can prepare you for the reality because no matter how prepared you think you are nothing and I mean nothing can prepare you for what you will actually see, touch, taste and hear. And we (the fire service) are just a small segment of those in public service suffering, struggling to make sense of it all. 

When I see an officer, I thank him, when I see a person in uniform no matter the military branch, I thank them. They are hurting, we are all hurting and we do so in silence. It is killing us. Quite literally and that is something to be so, so very ashamed of. We need to be better, not just for ourselves but for those who love us.

For years there was no one to talk too. If you sought help you are labeled weak, if you brood about it, the answer has always been; let’s have some drinks, you’ll feel better. Joking about it is standard fare and humor is a great thing, it really does help. But humor is a mask for the ugliness hidden beneath. At some point in time you must take the mask off. Are you ready for that? To be revealed?

Thanks to the recognition of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in not only our beloved military but our public servants as well, we have very skilled and wonderful people at our disposal, just waiting to help. These people are trained well but most of all they have been there, right where we are now. Unable to process, lacking the skill necessary to cope with both severe stressors and simple everyday life. We need to open the dialogue, to speak up and begin to heal our insides. For if our insides are dying our outsides are already gone.

From a simple sentence, came all of this, Thank you Jim.

If you know someone who needs help, please, say something, do something, they need you and just don’t know how to tell you, to share, to release their inner pain. We hold it all inside so you don’t have to see it. It is time to stop that trend. We can all share some of the burden through talking, love and understanding.

If you feel as though you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) please reach out.

  1. Or Call: 911
  2. The National Suicide prevention line 1-800-273-8255
  3. Go to the nearest Emergency room
  4. Contact your local church
  5. Check with your employer for assistance

It is time we moved out of the shadows and into the light.