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 It is beginning to feel as though each year meets us with a newer version of this show we call our life.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……..

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so finished with this election and all political parties. 

FINISHED WITH THIS ELECTION? 
Or are we????
I wrote the post down below yesterday and placed it on FB. I wrote it out of fear and disgust. Never in my lifetime do I remember a political season centered on such personal controversy combined with the art of the spin. Never can I remember a nation so divided and filled with hate. Where a news generating machine helped to created such broken factions in our society by throwing impartial news reporting out the window in favor of drama and ratings. 
I have always felt negative campaigning does more harm than good, it turns people’s ability to find the heart of the message off. One becomes so mired in the muck of a negative ad they no longer work to hear the message. Combine that with a negative based, personal attack during a rally speech and no one hears your message at all. Quite the contrary to what advisors believe yet the ears shut off and our Neanderthal, club thumping, must hurt something or someone instinct comes out instead. Before long there is no message just hoards of bobbleheads standing behind their candidate chanting brainlessly. We are now past chanting brainlessly, dialogue has evaporated and each side has dug in deep throwing every value and virtue our country has prided itself on out the window. It is painful to watch and leaves one wondering if we can ever trust either political party again. 
Every move our citizens make and every choice our politicians take from this point forward dictates our next election. We ALL, right here, right now are deciding the future of this country. Will we no longer be the country of hope, freedom and free will or do continue down this dreadful path of exclusion, dissection, ignorance and hate. Our country either pulls together or further pushes each other apart. We are no longer a society that can run away towards a new land in hopes of creating a better life. Through an exploding population our world is becoming smaller by the minute and yet the United States is where people from every other country run too when they want- no they need to understand, taste, and feel what true freedom is. 

I do not think this man who has become our President is the role model we need in such a revered office. His mouth and rapid fire bullying of all groups is insulting and pathetic. There is a large difference between opposing someone, disagreeing with a faction or group and flat out reckless bullying. He does not speak for me in the aspect of:

LGBT rights
Racial equality

Treatment of women

Immigration policies

He did speak to me financially, through rhetoric that centered on ending the long downward economic spiral our country has been taking. 

Either way not what I envisioned for our President

I want nothing more than a female president in office and to be told by the news media as a white male I am the reason she is not in office is insulting to say the least. But what’s even more insulting is to have a person of her stature with such a horrible 30 year past of flip flopping on issues, never standing behind her decisions, pandering to both domestic and foreign interests for money and covering up her husbands many infidelities all in the name of power is pathetic. I don’t care about her damn emails, and as much as Benghazi was a complete utter failure on our governments part it takes more than one sole individual to create incompetence on such a grand scale.

Not what I envisioned for our first female president either and the thought of voting for the lessor of two evils is absurd.

But our land has spoken and he will soon be the president, he is now the voice of this country and we (the populous) put him in that seat. My hopes are he actually holds the ability to bring in the best people, to brainstorm, to have quality advisors with the balls to keep him in check (no more midnight Twittering). I pray he has the ability to grow and I pray our country thrives. If you feel your vote wasn’t heard ask yourself? Is that just because your candidate didn’t get into office? Because your vote was heard, it is a recorded statistic. What wasn’t heard was your voice. Your voice is heard through becoming politically involved. Not screaming on a corner, burning cars and picking fights! Not by keeping hard working Americans from getting to the jobs that pay the bills that keep them going. For your vote to be heard the right way people in lower offices need to be campaigned and voted into office thus working their way into a position of influence.  Therfore it is now up to us as a society to become more involved. Whether the vote went your way or not! We should not be rioting, destroying or terrorizing the very places we live work and sleep through useless protests that only further alienate people from your cause. Work on understanding the issues, putting yourself in that position to make a change politically. Peacefully protest if you must! If we no longer have peace and anarchy rules we all have lost. 

There is an old saying in the fire service; if not you then who?
You can complain, throw tantrums and even cry all you want but until you use that God given brain of yours for something other than just tantrucally protesting, Facebook hate mongering and violence, then you have no gripe! If not you than who?!

Stop believing the news media!! 
This is not conspiracy theory shit! Watch Fox then watch CNN then for shits and giggles? Watch BBC. You will quickly see how video clips are shortened to illicit a reaction, news stories are tweaked with an opinion and news reporters are no longer reporters of the news as much as they believe they are Hollywood personalities with serious journalistic integrity who bring ratings! Such horseshit! 

We as a population are being spoon fed this shit and we are eating it up by the bucket!!! Of course (personal opinion) I believe this is from our Real Housewives/Vanderpump Rules/ Americas next top model society. Where treating other human beings with back stabbing shit talking and disrespect for all others has become the norm for our society. 

Anyways. I am running on. I am sorry if some of this is redundant I just felt an overwhelming urge to let my “Betty” readers know or maybe help understand why I will be MIA for a bit. 
Posted November 11 on FB. 

Well this is day 10 and to be honest I can’t play the thankful game any more. 
Betty and I are taking a break from all social media because if I stay on here watching friends and family members tearing each other apart it is going to permanently ruin me. I have watched people I hold great respect for lower themselves to child like tantrums while others are gloating to the point of absurdity. (Let me remind everyone I did not have a horse in this race)

I get it! Our Nation is divided, but I have lived long enough on this earth to know the changes and hypocrisy we now show and share have been a long time coming as part of many much larger issues that covers current adults and ends with the way our children are being raised. 

The hypocrisy is the worst part.

We state that one candidate is evil for not declaring they will accept the results and then we turn around forcing petitions, recalls and riots.

One party states racism is an issue and there is no justice while I witness race on race beatings after this election from that very same parties members. 

It is stated many times by one party our country will thrive under the direction of a political process and we all understand the importance of adhering to that process while I witness time and again as California (along with a few other states) now have an apparent movement started to secede from the union. 

I listened over and over that WE as a nation are a melting pot filled with wonderful human beings. A populous of intelligent free thinkers who are going to make this world a better place. Yet now it seems that is not true. Only one party is filled with intelligent free thinkers who can make a difference as (and this is a factual statement) white, uneducated without a diploma rural voters came out to vote and ruined everything. Apparently if you are white and you don’t have a diploma you are an uneducated idiot. I am what you would call white, I am uneducated (I don’t have a diploma) but I take great offensive to this hypocrisy the most because I am pretty sure the last time I checked I was not such the idiot my vote meant nothing or through my obvious 

(Remember no diploma) illiteracy i just didn’t understand enough of the big words to make an informed decision one way or the other. 

It bothers me how important the electoral college was pre-election but now post election it needs to be abolished! A movement run by the very same free thinkers, cultured and intelligent people who felt it was so important two days ago. 

It scares me how many people voice their political stances on both sides, emphasizing the importance of politics and yet it is obvious by their statements and subsequent retorts a civics class or a political study they have never partaken. For if they had taken the time to immerse themselves in the political process such anger and hate would not be the basis for argument. 

I can no longer sit and witness such contempt for a political subject.

I don’t care what he did, I don’t care what she did, I am saddened that we as a society fell victim too and allowed the reality show style politics their campaign advisors, the media and themselves used as opposed to actually tackling important issues throughout this entire process. Remember people no matter what either of them did we, the American people placed them on that political stage as representatives of us! 

I can no longer watch as the country I love, one men and women have died to uphold freedoms for implodes at the hands of lunacy. The country whose borders people are lining up and dying to cross because it is better here than where they call home, no matter who has been the face of this country. 

Like this person or dislike this person, he is it. I did not vote for Barrack Obama. His agenda did not appeal to me as a person. But he is the President of these United States and I respect him and the office he holds. I can also say with great conviction he has been a wonderful president as in he has always carried himself with class, dignity and charm. A great representation of our nations diversity. 

And please, don’t start with all the “bashing” of all groups that our current elect did during his campaign. Because you are right it was awful. But it is now our job to ensure he understands the importance of personal change and growth. We do that through our political process. 

Our nation needs to come together, work together, it is why we have multiple party’s. We need to actually live up to the promises we spew, not drown ourself in self loathing hypocrisy. 

Our Nation will always be filled by people from every walk of life, from all over the world with differing views, but we can’t let those views divide us through the hateful eyes and evil hearts of others. 

Instead I challenge you to become politically involved. Work for change don’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. Create this country, don’t destroy it. Love you neighbor as yourself for it does not matter the color of their skin or the orientation of their personal lives. We all need love and understanding, we all need acceptance, we all need to feel the sting of loss to help understand the importance of winning graciously and lastly we all know, no matter how many have publicly cried foul or stated they are leaving this is in fact the greatest nation in the world! So act like it!!

And with that I love you all, please don’t hate me for this but for my own personal sanity I am done. The TV is off, my FB and blog are quiet. I can no longer watch as hate continues to spread like wildfire ruining the very thing that makes this country so splendid. It’s diversity. God bless you all, God bless those in pain, God bless those who are struggling and if you don’t believe in God then may peace and wisdom find you so your inner self may rest. Most importantly from my point of view. God bless America.

#trump2016 #Hillary2016
So there it is. Betty is taking a break as her heart just can’t watch as anger, hypocrisy and hate rule both sides destroying the heart of this great land. 

Nana, nana, boo, boo, You hate me and I hate you! Now vote one of us in as President!

I promised I wasn’t going to do it! I swore to heavens and earth above I wouldn’t bite! There was in no way, no how going to be anything spewing forth publicly from this miniscule opinion generating brain. My voice doesn’t matter, my thoughts don’t count, I am but a spec upon this island for no one but time, and sun to erode.

And then we watched the Presidential debates, together, as a family.

Betty has been very quiet, nothing to report on the home front and no great stories to share. But this is too great and it involves family which is what my blog is solely about! Now being an aforementioned on occasion very opinionated individual, there has been thankfully an edge removed by years of experiences and of course age. So before I ramble further into this dissertation let me profess my utmost admiration to those who are so passionate about their political affiliations. So driven, and fueled by a belief system that they would die upon the cross of either blue or red before ever, and I mean ever wavering from the platform for which they stand upon.

I can no longer possess those feelings.

Call it age, temperance, wisdom, having lived 5 generations or personally been a part of 5 elected US Presidents. The thought of voting even today is something not taken for granted, although this year I have slacked and been running a “vote for none of the above” or “vote for me” satirical campaign. It has been purely for fun! Yet voting is one of the most important benefits of living in a free society. The very passion these individuals drive onward with in regards to their personal political affiliation has become the angriest, most overrated and vile show of blinder wearing, eyes covered, ears deafened allegiance I have ever witnessed. If there was ever a time in history when thousands of Americans felt more powerless, as if their vote didn’t count after witnessing through TV, social media and every news or supposed news outlet on the planet this anger, bullying, and condescending political climate thrust upon us every day citizens. It is right now!

Thus we get to the gist of family and why I am expounding away my political angst.

We as a family have watched this circus together as we would for any political process. Doing our very best in explaining to our children how important it is for us to vote in a candidate that best represents us, not the American people, but us! As in their mother and I, as in who my oldest best feels follows his beliefs and how he feels the country should be run. We have tried hard to instill values within our children in regards to hard work equals reward, to always step up and do the right thing, that cheaters never prosper, and as long as you keep honesty in your heart while standing by your convictions you will never fail.

So then how on earth do these two candidates measure up?

One son believes they are both crooked idiots who have no business running this country, the other likes the Donald with no plausible explanation, my daughter isn’t so sure of either but as she put it; between the two I would always vote for the girl and my youngest just looks up funny parodies of both candidates on You tube!

Much like each of the moderators during this debate season it has been a challenge trying to keep not only ourselves but our kids focused on facts and or issues. Never in my life do I remember a series of debates or a presidential run that boiled down to nothing more than supposed political experts arguing over idiotic soundbites, clips, and excerpts of such magnitude! Watching these post-debate bobble heads rattle on with such one sided rhetoric and overwhelming disdain is hard to process as an adult, let alone trying to find some gem of truth or knowledge to help one make an INFORMED (key word) decision or translate any usable information to four children sitting mouth aghast at the verbal carnage they have just witnessed.

One candidate has multiple investigations against them, truths, possible untruths, alleged voter fraud, and supposedly placing in house personnel to incite violence at rallies of their opponent! Of course there is also claims of mishandling money, policies and overseas affairs including military actions. Standing tall this person professes the importance of woman’s rights, protecting women, and highlighting what an example she will set for all women to come while hiding behind a history of allowing then covering up her husband’s multiple infidelities while intimidating those who may oppose her. A candidate with more political experience than many others, a history of also making positive changes not just here in America but around the globe through humanitarian efforts both her and her husband chair. Oh a certain opponent claims Haiti hates this couple but having served in Haiti over two summers I personally know the Haitian people love this family and appreciate all they have provided. She remains someone who by all rights is the single most powerful woman in America and that does not come from portraying oneself as a soft loving Ms. Cleaver type much to the chagrin of several male counterparts! To be a woman of power in today’s tough highly charged political arena I believe one must be much tougher than their male adversaries (which is a sad state of equality), making tough decisions and then standing by them! But it is hard to stand for something by being against something only to stand for it again when the political climate suits you! Another point lost on me during this whole process. It seems we as a society have forgotten it is ok to change one’s mind! It is how we grow as human beings, evolve. But to change it back and forth shows no growth, but weakness to appease a person or group for which you are surrounded. One must also be able to hold their head high and admit when a mistake has or was made, along with answering for any actions or charges if that is what’s owed of that mistake. What message do we send our youth when time and again a political subject continually circumvents the system to their own benefit! Using wealth and power to purchase themselves from a punishment any of us average citizens would be crucified over. You the candidate are by the people, of the people and for the people! So you should answer to the people! Not profess you forgot or just don’t recall!

This candidates responses during each of the debates were well rehearsed, well formulated, with impeccable timing and delivery. They made us feel all warm and fuzzy like a blanket on a cold winter’s night. Protecting. They were so well done, that no one in my house, not even my youngest believed her. Through the eyes of a child I suppose. But when a child listens, looks and proclaims you seem to be lying, you may very well be doing just that, for that declaration comes through the eyes of innocence.

What to do, what to do!

Oh yes, there is the OTHER candidate!

This man, oh lord where to begin? He comes across as a school yard bully, the type that never had anyone punch them right in the nose! Something we as a society have gotten away from with our belief that all violence is bad. I am sorry, but some of the best lessons I ever learned about reading people came in the school yard. Learning when and where to say something and just how far you could push an agenda. This of course came to conclusion at the end of a well-placed fist! Sometimes people just need their reset button tripped! No one has ever tripped his! He says what he wants, when he wants and doesn’t give two shits who is at the receiving end! Although many believe this is what we need in the White House, my personal belief and history says not so. Even the toughest of talking former presidents had tact, he does not. What this man does is not admirable, it’s not awe inspiring, it makes no headway with any one; it is careless, reckless and not Presidential at all. This old saying pops into my head when I think about the power this office holds and what it means to be President of these United States.

Be nice, be nice some more, be as nice as you can be until it is time to no longer be nice. Then make no mistake about your ability to act or incite a change. The smartest person in the room is the one who gets their opponent to thank them for the beating when it is over. Those who stand tall with honor and dignity stand fast.

There is no honor, there is no dignity, and this appears as nothing more than a sideshow playtime for this individual. Another season of a reality show for which he is the star; another episode of the Apprentice! Because in reality that is what he is right now!!! An apprentice to the highest office in our land! He only cares about ratings and tweets! We were all talking about him acting like a child during the debate with such strong retorts as: No you’re a puppet! No you are! You are a puppet! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Why not finish it off with; I know you are but what am I? I’m like oil and you’re like glue, words slip off me and stick to you! ARRRRGGGGGG!!!!

I will say this; this is a business man, not a politician. Both a positive and a curse. He has built something from nothing. I don’t care where he got his loan from to start his business, and even our children were smart enough to understand some of the counter arguments against him fall flat. For as a businessman your loan could be $5000.00 or $5,000000.00 dollars it doesn’t matter, you need to succeed, you must succeed and you are going to take advantage of every loop hole and tax law afforded you to succeed! You are going to outsource to make a profit and there are going to be people you employ who are going to either love you or hate your dam guts! It is the nature of the beast! He has made something from nothing, he has succeeded, you can clamor all you want about bankruptcy, loans, unpaid debt but in the end he has succeeded several times over and I believe our country does need someone like that in a position of power. A person to renegotiate some very bad deals made in the past, someone with the ability to negotiate future upcoming deals or propositions that put our country on the edge both financially and humanitarianly. But for the love of all that is holy, have a plan! Share that plan, all of your plan not just bits and pieces in soundbites or on your web site; and again, much like your counterpart, quit pandering to the middle class! You have no idea what being middle class is like so don’t act like you recognize our strife! Because you both don’t! Please give us something with meat, not just really good quotes, teasing those who refuse to do their homework into believing you are the coming savior! You and you alone are going to ride in on a white unicorn farting skittles rainbows righting all that is wrong! You are not the messiah of financial resurgence within our low income and middle classes; because if you Mr. Candidate truly believe that you are; then Mr. Candidate you haven’t done your homework! The middle class have carried the burden of this country for a very long time and one proposed future president with a few ideas is not going to change that or even make life a little better for us over night as you make it appear!!! We have heard this speech, our parents have heard this speech and none of us are buying it! Explaining to my children while trying my best to read between this candidates lines has been nightmarish to say the least.

So what do we do? No one in my family and that includes those who cannot vote believe either candidate is worthy of this office. Friends and family who are undecided such as ourselves also toss about a resounding vote for the least of two evils.

The problem with that assumption is I can’t bring myself to vote for the lessor! I am trying to teach our children to stand by their convictions, don’t vote for something because you have too! Don’t give up your ethics, or moral beliefs to fill someone else’s needs! Be your own person! Your say matters and if your say is none of the above then so be it! If enough people speak up and scream none of the above then our government needs to listen! Right? A resounding NO means end of story!

Or is it!

You know that pesky little thing us Americans refer to as our Constitution? You know that long, wordy piece of parchment by which our entire country was built upon! Well the U.S. Constitution has something to say about that! As I explained to our children a very, very long time ago there was this group of really old guys who enjoyed wearing wigs (that always gets a chuckle) and besides dressing in funny outfits while donning said wigs they had one thing on their mind. Our country. Our countries ability to evolve over time, grow and become one land run by free thinking men, men with vision, men who understood oppression and the ramifications of leadership built upon power, money and over taxation. These visions involving the ultimate freedom of man empowered them through hard work and an ability to form a constituency that kept those beliefs while moving our country forward.

Hence the 12th amendment.

The 12th Amendment replaced a procedure provided in Article ll, section 1, Clause 3 by which the Electoral College functioned. Problems with the original procedure arose in the elections of 1796 and 1800. The Twelfth Amendment refined this process whereby a President and Vice President are elected by the Electoral College. The Amendment was proposed by Congress on December 9, 1803 and ratified by the requisite three-fourth majority on June 15, 1804 and reads as such;

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

 

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

So yes; Hate both candidates all you like, in the end either The House of Representatives will vote one of them into office for you, or the Vice President with the most votes cast will assume office.

With that being said; explaining to our children the importance of our voting process has just become more of a priority than I envisioned. The Electoral College rules the day. In reality WE the people voted for everyone who currently sits in government positions, WE the people chose who WE believe best represents us from the local county commission to a state senate seat. So WE have no one but ourselves to blame if those individuals have now placed these two amazingly entertaining human beings before us. Our votes really do matter, no matter what anyone tells you, though it is unfortunate the majority have come to believe the smaller offices don’t mean as much in the grand scheme of things, and therefore our President and Vice President are all we should really care about when elections come around.

In the end, three years of multiple people pandering for your support, two individuals chosen to represent the two major parties, three debates between those two to hopefully enlighten us, and three chances for us to take off the party aligned blinders so we may look, listen and hear, I mean actually hear what these two are proposing. Three perfectly good chances to exemplify, show our children the majesty that is the electoral process. Hoping in the end they walk away feeling the importance and honor it is to have an opportunity for casting a vote in this wonderful country or ours. Something so many take for granted, including the political thumping die hard party liners. We are blessed to live in a land filled with human beings from around the world searching for freedom, hope and a chance for a better life much as our great grandfathers did many years ago.

Instead, on this evening, the last evening of debate all we walked away with was nana nana boo boo you hate me and I hate you! Yup, that pathetic. Along with four teenage jaws, wide open on the ground at witnessing another deplorable example of our modern day ratings centered, hatred mongering, no class future filled with dishonesty, lack of trust, and all out discord while proving if you bend the rules hard enough, or say enough nasty things about your opponent you too may one day become President of these United States.

God help us all..

 

 

 

 

 

In the rodeo arena; from my point of view.

I read a story today. (I know shocking right) This story was in regards to ethical behavior, sportsman like conduct and the fine art of propping your competitors up instead of tearing them down in and around an arena. It was a great read focusing on industry and personal growth through teamwork, leadership and mentoring. Although its main reference was rodeo or equestrian sports its message can easily be applied to any discipline.

It also got me to thinking.

Our children learn how to behave early on by emulating us, their parents. As they grow and expand, their brains began telling them to separate from mom and dad, create their own identity and show the world an individualistic side. Yet at the end of the day you, your spouse or significant other have created the very foundation for which they stand upon.

In saying this I have taken note on each one of my children and how completely different they all have become. With differing skill sets, likes and dislikes, mannerism and of course beliefs. Yet underneath it all their mom and I expect them to carry on the very values for which we have instilled. They may shape those values, build upon them, add or subtract certain aspects but at the end of the day there had better be some basics that never wain otherwise I feel we as parents have failed.

Today after reading this story titled: 6 reasons to ignore arena chatter. Found on a FB page named Earn Your Spurs, it also became clear to me that I care about your children as well. I may not know them, but I care about them as only a parent can.

Every rodeo you can find me somewhere around the arena. Whether helping at the stripping chutes, manning a gate, working turn back for the cutting, announcing in the small arena or just being there for our kids and their friends behind the bucking chutes. You will undoubtedly find me with a smile on my face and a kind word of encouragement for your kid, my kid, their kid, hell any kid. I don’t need to know you, I don’t need to personally know your kid, and it is just something I have always done for as long as I can remember. Baseball, swimming, soccer, school events, you name it, I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I used to think I enjoyed working the events because I hate sitting still ( I really do hate sitting still!!!) or because as parents we need to put our time in; events don’t run themselves and it takes a small army to put one of these rodeos on! But I was wrong. I enjoy doing all these things because I believe what these kids are doing is amazing! No matter the sport or dedication, and although for this articles reference my point is centered on rodeo, it makes no difference. To have the guts and heart as a child to participate in these activities we put in front of them, to overcome fear and just participate, well that’s amazing in itself. Yet in this instance from the beginner to the seasoned senior, this sport, this way of life, takes drive, dedication and heart. It is not just you and a ball, or a bat or a pair of pads. It is you and a horse, steer or a bull! A 200-1500 pound animal who at any time can either have the best or worst day possible. It takes dedication away from the arena and the power of a positive attitude to even begin dreaming about winning! It takes an even stronger positive attitude to brush off a loss or mistake and move onto the next event ready to accept any challenge with confidence! But what makes this sport even better is knowing there is a wall of support behind you! That’s right everyone and I mean EVERYONE has your back! Your friends, your parents, and your fellow competitors! These are the people you will rodeo with your whole life, and if you are lucky one day you will meet back here at these hallowed rodeo grounds as parents to foster the next generation of athletes! What an amazing honor!

And that’s what it is for me! It is an honor as a parent to be able to participate in these jobs. To work with other dedicated parents! To be by your or my own child’s side with a positive attitude and some kind words whether they nailed it or messed up big time! It is a privilege to catch their horse, pat them on the back, help them shrug off an awful run and even remind them from time to time that in most cases they need to check themselves before becoming angry with their horse. It is our job as parents to nurture that next generation, teach them that winning at all costs is not fulfilling! Winning comes from hard work and drive, fulfillment comes after giving back and if you are lucky as a competitor you will experience both! If we as adults show this attitude then teach our children correctly, we can stand back and watch with pride as it trickles down or is payed forward.

Having our children give or share knowledge with the new kids on the block is the key to success! Never excluding, but always including them into the imaginary “inner” circle. Showing these scared young new kids they a part of something big! Then sharing their secrets on how to succeed, better themselves, maybe ride their horses a little better, come out of that chute centered and solid, or drop into the pocket quicker and smoother or simply offering to practice on one of their own tie down dummies. Giving back at its best!

When you see this happening, it should be fostered. We are a team. Even though these kids are competing against each other, they should always be propping each other up, cheering each other on and never looking down upon another competitor in our arena. Because in reality if we are all working together, (parents as well) we all win! The goal each and every year is to bring our best to state, then front load the National team with as many of our districts kids as possible! That can only be achieved if we take an as a team attitude right here, right now! Not after the season is over, and we are headed to state and definitely not after state is over, because by then the ability to recognize the importance of supporting one another or our “team” is long lost. If that is the case then we as parents, and our children as competitors will head out into the ring of competition with an “it’s all about me” attitude. It’s hard to compete feeling alone, it’s even harder when you are alone. And for a child, nothing is more devastating than learning the people who supposedly had your back are now tearing you down (parents included) from behind you.

So this year, we should all take a moment to say; good job! Tell a kid they did great, doesn’t matter whose kid it is, let your kids see you propping up others. Re-enforce the amazing benefits of being a team player, a mentor or coach to your children. Remind them they started at the bottom once too and point them towards a new kid to the show. Parents make a point of meeting other parents, new parents and help them along the way. A friendly face and helping hand builds trust. Trust builds confidence and confidence breeds winners.

And the way I see it from my point of view that is what we should all be remembered for.

Not just winning an event, but winning at life….

 

Let’s go, let’s show, let’s rodeo.

Red was loaded down. The old truck held every conceivable piece of equipment one needed for a successful weekend. Saddles, bits, hay, shavings, chairs, clothes, food and one 33 foot long trailer. Three horses tucked neatly together separated by aluminum dividers munched on hay pressed into a bag that hung directly before their faces.

As we pulled out of the driveway the truck sputtered a few times, we even had to shut it off once or twice to reset the computer so she would keep dragging this heavy load. But no one cared. Any other weekend old reds antics would bring a look of nervousness upon our faces, an eye roll or two that this 208,000 mile beast was acting up again. But on this day we carried a bit more weight, and with that weight came a feeling of ease. Like we couldn’t do any wrong. I have to admit, even my feelings about whether we would make it or not waned.

For in the back seat, smiling from ear to ear, nestled between her two smallest children with a bag of needed supplies at her feet was Ms. Jacy!

Ms. Jacy had decided after two years of missing out on rodeo, not being a part of her children’s lives, unable to laugh and have fun in camp at night with all our friends, she was going to this rodeo hell or high water! No cancer, no leukemia, no AML, no bone marrow transplant, no GvHD, no nothing!! And so after carefully packing her bags, loading supplies into the trailer, GO, is exactly what she did!

There were plenty of worries/fears to go around. What if it is too dusty for her lungs to handle? What if she has an issue with her breathing? What if she becomes so fatigued she can’t move? What if she develops an infection from being around the animals??? What if, what if, what if?????

What if she was never able to personally witness the joys of her children participating in the one activity they really love ever again? Yeah, we believe that one thought outweighed all the other “what ifs”.

In reality, Ms. Jacy has been getting stronger. Her lungs still don’t want to fully co-operate, and neither does her body, but she has taken the stance of what doesn’t kill me should make me stronger! With that stance also comes a belief that she can look at life two ways.

  1. Sit in the house all day waiting for things to change, hoping they change, praying they change then regretting having done nothing but wait.
  2. Muscle through the pain, the discomfort and focus on what’s important. Living life, any life no matter what that life holds because in the end you can sit and watch it go by or jump on board and ride the wave!

Now as her husband I cannot lie, she worries me constantly. But if you know my wife then you know there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING anyone can say or do to change her stubborn Cuban mind once it is set!

So with that being said, she came along, which is exactly what we all wanted and it was a fabulous weekend! She was so happy to see her close friends, to watch her children perform, their children perform and to just be a part of life again! It was tough at times, by mid to late afternoon her feet would swell, she would be exhausted, but the kids were great, her friends were fantastic, and she never, not even once felt like a burden to anyone!

At one point during the rodeo we came back to find a poster on the side of our trailer! It was created by all the kids and it told of just how much she was missed and loved. It melted her heart.

Each morning she awoke with a smile, ready to watch rodeo, participate in any way possible, drink coffee, take pictures and catch up with people she hadn’t seen in years. It was the very best therapy anyone could have asked for!

The kids all did great! It was the best first rodeo I can remember in a long time! Oh Jessica struggled with her new horse and at one point actually fell off (of course she laughed at herself), Jake had a great Saturday but a stubborn Sunday and Parker didn’t quite get his steer wrestled, but it was a weekend filled with laughter and plenty of smiles.

Sunday night the traveling circus rolled back onto the ranch. Old red made it without a single hiccup which I found unusual. But as we cleared the front gate and rolled towards the barn, there lay three people, all half asleep, all exhausted from the weekend, all with looks of contentment upon their faces. (Jess rode home with friends) It was a thing of beauty.

Now of course this was short lived for as soon as I parked they all abandoned me to unload everything as if I was somehow their personal servant or barn boy which of course sent me into another stratosphere!!! But I digress…. Deep breath…. Phew…. Ok….

The point being, for a weekend, our family was back together, doing what we love, with momma in the stands cheering them on, sending them momma powers, and good mom mojo while I worked the arena, helped get horses ready and coached them along. It was the way it was supposed to be at that very moment in time. A step closer, as if life was almost back to normal.

It was a perfect weekend.

 

 

 

I met a woman today….

I stood nervously rocking back and forth. I don’t know why I still get nervous after all these years but I do. Just another presentation, a dog and pony show as it were but for some strange reason my brain reverts to when probationary was the status written below my helmets crest. Fear of failure, saying the wrong thing, not adequately relaying information to a public mass who in reality is really happy to have us around. Sure there is the occasional grump or bitter individual who for some reason carries a chip on their shoulder whenever we are around (and this night was no different) but the majority simply want to say hello, or thank you, or in some cases words can’t form and they sheepishly smile while politely waving as they pass.

It was a local schools annual harvest festival within our town. Our fire engine had been assigned to appear as part of an ongoing public education effort. We pulled up, met with organizers and took our place upon the basketball courts right next to our local Police department’s display. Doors opened, cabinets exposed, wrinkles shifted from our shirts, plenty of stickers loaded into the upper right pocket and in mere seconds they came and came and kept coming to our delight..

Over the course of two and half hours we helped children into our engine, showed them all our fire gear while explaining what we do along with a little bit of how we do it. Kids make me smile, they are honest, truthful, hilarious and have no filter. They are perfect human beings, their thought processes still untouched by the cruelty of adult life along with hurtful biases or opinions. There are days I wish I could still witness the world through their wide absorbing eyes. Days I wish I could go back and do a lot of things over again, channeling my inner child to greater achievements as an adult. But I can’t, none of us can and so the fun in my job is being surrounded by these fantastic awestruck little people.

Tonight though something else happened. This “something” has been happening more and more and I am not sure what to make of it. It always catches me off guard and I never know quite how to behave or present myself. Much like an acting student who for some unknown reason develops a serious case of behavior altering stage fright, I freeze under the pressure and become extremely uncomfortable.

In the middle of giving demonstrations a line had developed filled with children (and a few adults) waiting to climb into our Fire Engine. As we happily interacted with the masses by placing one child at a time inside the engine for picture opportunities a woman walked up and gently grasped my arm. She looked me in the eye and asked; Are you Betty? To which I replied; I am?

She then explained she had been battling breast cancer and with it how much she thoroughly enjoyed Betty’s writings.

As has been the usual mode of reaction, my cheeks felt flush, my heart rate doubled and I mumbled something. I don’t remember what I said because after I learn someone actually reads and enjoys my writings in person I suddenly feel like a 12 year old boy who has just professed his admiration to the prettiest girl in class and she’s responded by saying she likes me. Awkward and elated all at the same time!

This sweet lady with the kindest smile told me her husband was amazing, and how much she appreciated him along with all he has done for her during this very trying time in their lives. She asked if she could hug me, I said yes and as she did I felt thankful, warm, full of love and humbled.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, this blog took a life of its own when my wife became ill. It morphed into what I hoped would be nothing more than a journal to reflect upon after we hopefully conquered Leukemia. Then as time progressed it changed into an open forum for all to read hoping other spouses in my shoes would know they are not alone. A gnawing deep inside told me to share through my experiences with other spouses or caregivers. A reminder to others they have the power within them to carry on, pick up pieces and provide a solid foundation for not only their family and loved ones but for the countless other lives they touch along the way. Cancer, Leukemia, and Bone Marrow Transplants are no longer something someone else has, a blank face or nameless person looking sad upon a Facebook post or commercial asking for donations either monetary or life altering. But real people you know or someone you know knows! We can no longer turn our backs believing it is someone else’s problem to deal with because trust me the statistics showing those affected are all too real! This power lies within you to open others eyes, to reach out and comfort those who need your help because you my friend have walked this path and survived! These diseases do not curse just those who are carrying them and trust me their fight is hard enough for them to live with and handle on their own. But the entire process both physically and emotionally beats down hard upon all of us who live, love and care for those stricken. It is at times overwhelming at how much our lives change and the inner pain it can bring.

So to hear another human being while holding your arm explain with the warmest of smiles and softest of hearts exactly how your writings have meant something to them. Well that brings up emotions that are hard to contain.

I am not sure why I fumble my words, or feel uncomfortable. Maybe because I am shocked that anyone takes the time to read my blog at all. Helping people is all I have ever wanted to do, I always wonder just how many people actually take the time to read this spattering of words and I always wonder who? Who has it helped, who really needs to hear from someone right now because they feel as though they no longer can? Who? Who is at the end of their rope or feels like God doesn’t have a plan for them and this is all just a miserable dark place in their lives that will never end! Who? Am I reaching enough people? How do I reach more? If I do reach more am I writing the right material or am I even the right person they should be reading about? I really don’t think you can write the wrong material as long as it’s truthful and from the heart. But, what if I am wrong and someone out there is missing the point or thinking if that guy’s in pain, you know the one writing about always having faith and carrying on is in pain then why should anyone have faith things will be any better? I don’t have an answer to that!

Yet it remains so important to me; sharing that is. It has become so paramount there have been nights I lose sleep out of guilt for not having written in a week. Our loved ones and/or caregivers are so important, they bear so much emotional burden and over time people who were helping, slowly fade away. Its ok, they have lives, we as caregivers were and still are extremely blessed for the time any and all assistance was provided! It is how it’s supposed to be and no one expects anyone to still be constantly rescheduling their lives, away from their families and friends for 2, 3 or even 4 years later. Suddenly though one can understand how it is to become isolated and alone. 24/7 your whole world revolves around a single human being. Try as hard as you might at some point even your kids begin to suffer! Your intentions are great, you do the best you can and strive to keep their lives busy and full but trust me they feel it! They feel the isolation and to some extent a bit of emotional disconnect. Nothing changes though, we are still there, handling every aspect of our stricken loved ones lives? It is a job we take a lot of pride in, for if you love someone there is no greater gift than to care for them when they are down. It is what love is, it is what God would want.

So to the woman I met today.

Thank you, for filling my heart with joy, giving my writings meaning, and allowing me the honor of meeting you. I apologize if my response was awkward, it was not my intention.

You reminded me that one of the greatest gifts we as human beings have is the power to share ourselves openly with others. You gleefully shared your story with me by my having shared my story with you over time on these pages. Our lives crossed paths and I will never forget that.

My heart is full.