Only five….

 

The room is empty his bed made up. An eerie silence has befallen a house filled with chaos.   Although there are six, one would think an absence would go unnoticed.  That five would be alright?  An empty chair at the table would bring no discernible question. Joy would come from one less to make lunch for, one less to ensure readiness for school, one less to pat on the head say I love you and kiss goodbye as that one passed through the door. One less….. Yes…

One would be wrong.

He brings a smile to my face everyday. I feel he brings smiles to many faces during the day.  He has the same troubles most lads have at eleven.  Staying focused in school, interjecting during adult conversations at the most inappropriate of times, picking fights with his little brother, while idolizing his older one.  He is wicked smart yet chooses to only do what is required when the subject matter doesn’t suit his liking.  But what child doesn’t behave that way? He loves all animals, big and small, and will cry at the drop of a hat upon learning af a harmed creature.  Horses have become his passion as he yearns for every moment he can ride in the ring.  He is big and strong, quiet, and funny, boisterous and obnoxious, yet humble when the moment requires.  I have not met a soul who thinks anything but the highest regards for this young lad.

He is gone on a field trip, away from home since yesterday.  I know not of his specific where about, I cannot speak with him as he has no cell phone.  It is silly when you think about it really. But I never understood how badly I need his presence in my life.  I have become as dependant on him as he remains dependant on me.  I love all my children and feel the same sickening heartbreak when one is not around.  My worry radar is on overload, my sense of protective parenting is on the highest of alerts. I feel as though I am electrified with no way to shut down the power.

How did our parents do it, I wonder?  How did they get through this feeling, like that of a lost appendage?  A hand, gone, a finger missing, my nose cut off to spite my face? It’s all there, holding me hostage until he arrives home safely.  I dislike this feeling immensely!  It doesn’t get easier with the next child as I have just realized.  I really thought it would, yet its only more complex.  How will I behave when I am down to the littlest member of our family.  Will I need a straitjacket for a specified period of time? Xanex and whiskey to dull the pain?  I am not sure, but I know this, I feel as though I just heard another grey hair pop from my skull!

I love you Jake! You are a reminder to me of why I became a parent.  I never felt it was my right to have children, I have always known it as a privilege.  You, your two brothers and one sister, remind me of that everyday.  I challenge myself everyday to do my very best to guide you all to adulthood.  I pray everyday that what ever challenges you face you know to trust that your parents will be there for you.  I pray everyday that these little spots of freedom you encounter during the course of your childhood only strengthen your resolve to return home once you have ventured out into the real world as adults.  For no matter what the reason, no matter what the need the door to your home will always be open for you to return.

Now hurry up and get home so I can hug you!

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Who taught you to drive??

RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT

Oh yeah ladies and gentlemen its time for Betty to bust out the pain! Lay down the smack! Bring up the blazingly obvious that all of you notice, bitch and complain about to yourselves but never to anyone else!

Drivers Licence Mayhem

As far as I know if you own a driver’s licence in the great United States of America then it means you passed a test allowing you to hold said licence.  Correct?????  It means that when you decided it was time to obtain these valued credentials you studied, went to drivers education classes, partook in valuable drive time on both freeways and surface streets with a certified instructor? Right????  Last but not least, like the rest of us valid card holding members of the united front of commuters you sweated buckets while a DMV representative sat alongside you, with a clip board in hand, guiding you through a designated course, determining if you had the ability/talent allowing you behind the wheel of your current 3400 pound bucket of rust! Didnt you??

Yet with all that being clearly stated why on earth do you lack the ability to safely merge onto the freeway?  At what point and time in all those hours of behind the wheel training did anyone ever show you how to pull all the way down the on ramp at elementary school zone speeds to then stop, look over your shoulder and pray for an opening you can squeeze into from 0-75 mph? With your Prius! It’s not going to happen! Unless you own a Lamborghini Gallardo and are a very talented driver you are not going to make this move without serious consequences!

Of course it must run in the family because this morning I met your cousin Captain Oblivious!  You know Captain Oblivious don’t you?  Yeah, he’s the one that comes down the on ramp at freeway speed and never looks over his shoulder!  Stereo up loud, hands at the ten and two position, head faced straight forward!  Tractor Trailer? He don’t care! Giant 4×4? Better get out-of-the-way! He coming down that ramp like a skateboard to hell and there’s nothing you can do about it! He figures you will move out of fear!  Apparently he missed the chapter about safely “merging”!  Under the definition of “merge” it must read Merge: to ram large object into small or non-existent space without repercussion. The rest of us missed that chapter of the book but not you Captain Oblivious! Not you!

Of course my rant wouldn’t be complete without a visit from out other traffic family member!  Flat floored Fred!  You see Fred enjoys driving really fast! Fred runs the stops signs with the skill and grace of even the best California stop artist! Fred can’t help himself as he moves between lanes like a skilled race car driver.  Drafting off a Lincoln, cutting the front of a Ford and pushing his way into position at the next stop light all so he gets the jump on you the moment it turns green! But Flat floored Fred has a serious flaw. Dont put him in the fast lane on the freeway!  We have all seen him at his best! He darts down the on ramp at full throttle, smoke billowing from his 1993 Cutlass Supreme! He is coming fast, faster, faster than BAM! Across three lanes like Steve freaking McQueen! That car settles into the fast lane looking strong and stealthy until suddenly the anchor falls out of the trunk! Now Flat floored Fred shows his true side, its 55mph.  Yep he’ll break every intown speed limit all damn day long but get him on the freeway and suddenly we are driving Ms. Daisy!  Heres a hint for Flat floored Fred.  If everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is passing you from all three of the right hand lanes.  Get out of the fast lane!!! You are just frustrating everyone! They all want to kill you!  That is defintley not the “your number one” sign they’re flashing you!!!!

And what the heck is up with roundabouts?  These little freaks of roadway nature are nothing more than an excuse for most people to see how fast thier cars can go while drifting!  No kidding! They may work in Europe to ease traffic congestion but here in the states they are just an invitation for the Red Bull Drifting series to have try outs! They are perfect! How many times can I go around this thing sideways, smoking the tires and blocking all others from entering into the circle of trust?  You know whats an even better idea? Place the round abouts right next to high schools!  Yep thats the ticket! Then the teenagers can all pretend to be Tanner Foust! Its pure genious!

Man I feel better! Its true purging is good for the soul!

Now piss off all of you before large 4×4 guy with dents in his truck loses his temper and shows you the bumper of the Betty mobile!

I love a Western…

Saloon doors open as the wind drives a tumbleweed through the barren streets of a lonely little high plains town. Inside a half-witted piano player takes note of the mid-sized stranger strolling slowly through the doors, across the threshold.  Quiet falls upon the gallery of scraggly, dirty, motley looking inhabitants renting temporary refuge inside this dank place of excess.  A bartender moves slowly as to not give away his left hands position upon a firmly mounted sawed off double barrel beneath the bar. The stranger moves forward entering the center of the room, eyes steeled upon a table of well dressed men and low brow women.  Money on the table and enough whiskey to purchase a round for the bar three times over are strewn about.  With every step the stranger takes, the farther away life’s crustaceans scurry.  Before long the stranger is standing alone, jaw locked tight, hands laying limply by his side, a gentlemen dressed in what would be most mens Sunday best sits before him.  Without turning around the well dressed man continues to play poker to an unwilling table.  The entire population of the bar have worked their way into optimal viewing positions, some cowering, some standing tall, but all waiting to see who makes the first move.  The well dressed man stands to face the stranger, slowly he turns narrow eyes peer from under the brim of his hat, instantly showing equal disdain for the presence before him.  The stranger speaks…..

Oh man I love westerns! They have filled my head with fantasy for over 40 years! Most of my heroes were cowboys! John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood and James Garner. They were real men! Stood for what they believed in no matter the cost. If you weren’t with them you were against them and that meant one of two things; you ended up dead or you duked it out, then shared a whiskey after the brawl. 

As a child we had four channels to choose from, today we have over 800! I miss the old days, as a kid it forced you to watch what was on, you didn’t have any other choice!  If it weren’t for those four channels I am sure I would have missed out on some great televison series! These are a few of the wonderful shows I watched on many a rainy day; Bonanza, Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, Davey Crockett, F-troop, The Lone Ranger, and Gene Autry. 

Dont even get me started on the fantastic western movies I have seen over the years!  I compiled a small list of westerns that meant something to me, that moved me and continue to garner my attention to this very day. These are not just average westerns, no, no, these are westerns that force me to stop what I am doing, drop everything cold just so I may sit down too watch! 

Old Movies

The Kentuckian, The man who shot Liberty Valence, The Fastest Gun Alive, The Big Country, Rio Bravo, The Alamo, Mclintock, A fistful of dollars, The Cheyenne Social Club, The Sheepherder, Cahill U.S. Marshall, High Plains Drifter, Support your local Gunfighter, Rooster Cogburn, The Shootist and Big Jake.

Newer Era

The Man From Snowy River, A River Runs Through it, Lonesome Dove, Blazing Saddles, Silverado, Quigly Down Under, Hildago, Unforgiven, Tombstone, Appaloosa, Wyatt Earp, and 3:10 to Yuma.

There are numerous westerns spread over many generations, I can honestly say I have sat through most genres; Epic Westerns, Spaghetti westerns, and B movie westerns. Although I may not have liked them all, I certainly enjoyed most of them. 

My all time favorite would have to be Silverado. I have seen it more times than I can honestly count.  The shootout at the end is one of my favorites.  Second runner-up is Tombstone. When Kurt Russell tells Ike Clanton; “tell all the other curs the law is coming, you tell em I’m coming, and Hells coming with me you hear! Hells coming with me! “ is one of the best lines ever in a western.  Big Jake and Mclintock would be tied for third with Appaloosa bringing up a solid fourth.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence would finish us off in fifth. 

High Plains drifter, Hidalgo and A river runs through it for honorable mention.

So now that I have completely lost your attention let me explain where I am headed with my school girl/boy crush upon the western genre. These were and still are my heroes!  As an adult when ever a great western comes along I feel as though I am a 9-year-old boy lying on the living room floor gazing upon the open plains dreaming of one day becoming a real bona-fide cowboy!  A man among men, a moral and righteous man with ethics beyond refute! They make me feel alive, reminding myself that no matter how hard life has become, no matter what problems we may encounter, I can disappear into a safe place for just a little while.  My brain can shut off and escape all the modern-day trappings that envelope us.  These characters are bigger than life! I want to be them if only for a little while. 

So what I am wondering is; if I can feel this way after 45 years, what genre will my kids still idolize as adults?  Movies today are centered around gruesome murders, Horrific villains, vampires, zombies, disgusting hate crimes, and social injustice.  Comedies are centered around drugs, ignorance, more social injustice, racism, and disrespect for parents and any unsuspecting figure of authority. Who are the movie stars you would consider safe to set an example for your kids?  Which ones will your children remember as adults for the parts they portrayed?  What actors will still have a viable meaning full career after thirty years, where our children will someday preach the gospel about his/her acting ability?  Or is it completely different now and I am just missing the point?  Are we as a society so plugged into electronic devices, revolving around our friends lives along with news from around the world; there is no longer a need? With so many fantasy world options (video games, Facebook, twitter) have our kids lost the ability to think for themselves? To fantasize about healthy alternatives to the lives they are living?  It all seems mystifying to me.  Am I alone in this? Am I blowing this way out of proportion?  Am I stuck with the Hunger Games and Harry Potter becoming the standard by which they disappear from reality? Or is it because I can’t let go of my dream, inadvertently putting a moratorium on theirs? I just don’t have an answer but I am definitely worried. 

Oh well, for now I am riding off into the sunset, Henry Rifle strapped to my saddle and six-shooter by my side, its time to be moving on……. 

Oh and if you are wondering how my little story from above ended, that’s the beauty of writing, use your imagination.  You tell me….. 

 

Parent date night

Forget candlelight and romance! Throw away the preconceived notion of dancing until dawn. A night at the opera in the city followed by a moonlight stroll along the shoreline, ridiculous! You see, I have found the ultimate date night for parents! An evening filled with laughter, food, shopping and a stroll along the parkway!  Oh yes its true!  Wine, it’s there, gourmet fare, got it! Supplies to cover any unexpected emergency? Yep, right inside the door! Movies? Ah yes! Dessert? Only as much as you can eat!!! Valet parking? Sadly no. So there isn’t everything you’d ever want for a date night but it’s still pretty fantastic!

If you are a parent or married couple with kids this is the place for you!

COSTCO

Yep that’s right ladies and gentlemen, my wife and I have been clamoring to go on a date quite some time.  Between Softball, swimming, horses, fair animals and 4-H it seems our calendar is full 99% of the time!  So tonight after a long day of breaking apart domestic disputes between our four lovely (sarcasm) children! My wife mumbles an exasperated “I have to go to COSTCO”.  We are never going to be alone ever again are we?  This is usally where the sobbing begins….

Hold that thought honey!

Enter the infamous COSTCO! Entertainment mega, all in one, grocery, everything household and then some superstore to the masses.  I use the word entertainment in describing COSTCO, because once you look around it’s quite obvious you arent in Kansas anymore. (Unless of course you are at a COSTCO in Kansas then it’s a moot point)

So being rather quick at deducing problems I arrived at a summation; the only way we’re going to achieve some alone time would be to abandon the little heathens (aaahhhhemmm our sweet children) at home to fend for themselves while we stroll the isle ways of the local COSTCO hand in hand. All together now…  AAAAHHHHHHH!

So I locked up the weapons, hid the duct tape and padlocked the knife drawer. Left the 15-year-old in charge with more than ample directions to insure his success.  Told said 15-year-old not to play XBox ( hard request to make with a straight face) the whole time, but focus instead on his little brother who is starving for big brothers attention.  Turned to the middle two, pointed a short stumpy finger at them with a reminder that nothing should be damaged or misplaced upon our arrival home. I received a tweedle dee and tweedle dumb nod of acknowledgment.  Then without haste I swept the misses off her feet and into the car with hopes of clearing the driveway before one of them felt the need to ruin the moment with an unfounded emergency!

My wife and I laughed as we cruised down the road with no kids in the car, stereo up loud pumping some 80′ Van Halen, sunroof open we’re pushing 75mph, whoop whoop! We continued to laugh the way I imagine D.B. Cooper chuckled after stealing $200,000.00 dollars and possibly committing the perfect crime! It was ours all ours!  Two, maybe three hours without interuption! Oh sure we would be surrounded by other families, No doubt we would hear children crying and screaming, fighting and whining! But they weren’t ours!!! T-H-E-Y-W-E-R-E-N-T-O-U-R-S! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

We arrived at COSTCO immediately finding a parking spot right up front. (good sign so far) grabbed a cart and off we strolled through checkpoint Charlie.  I flashed my “executive” members card which instantly lets the fine young security lad know that, well, I m kind of a big deal! He acknowledges my glossy black plastic ticket to paradise with a sly wink and nod! Without haste the privileged are ushered inside! Let the carnage begin!  Its only once you are inside the magnitude of this building truly takes your breath away.  It lays before us like a blank canvas of consumerism! Waiting for us to fill it with colors and vision.  Each item placed into our cart is an expression of our lives.  A snapshot of likes and dislikes.  We are a tapestry smeared with food, wine and bathroom supplies!

Our evening is proceeding well, I feel a second date may arise from this encounter.  We are chatting like we’ve known each other most of our lives! (oh wait we have) We also find ourselves blindly strolling down each and every isle.  We have no need for a 50lb bag of kitty litter, but it’s reassuring to know if we did need some it was there! The international fare is delicious! There are free food tasting stations spread throughout the store allowing you to sample a little bit of everything from around the world on sale this week.  Brilliant!!  Halfway through the store I stopped the cart, took my wifes hand, slowly leaned forward-looking her dead in the eye, I proclaimed ever so softly: do you hear that my love? She chuckeld, snuggled up real close to me, then placed her other hand over my heart. While pressing up against my chest, she whispered I do.  I hear it so loudly it hurts.  Silence.

Somewhere between 20lb tubs of peanut butter and 54 packs of 4 ply toilet paper, in a Sunday packed COSTCO, two people held each other in silence. Neither one of us could hear the hundreds of people talking.  No kids screaming at us, no little children needing something every two or three minutes.  No teenagers fighting over the remote control eventually ending up wrestling where inevitably someone gets hurt.  No back talking, sniveling, whining, complaining or crying and that’s just from us!

Nope a romance was rekindled today, a date was made and kept.  We didn’t need all those fancy date night stereotypes to make it happen.  Some may refer to me as a cheap bastard, or possibly a loser husband for not blocking out the time, creating a proper night away.  I say pishaw! I took a bad situation and improvised! By the end of the day my wife professed her undying affection and I still ended up footing the bill for $350.00 dollars!  (approximate cost of dinner and the opera for two) The only difference is instead of one night at the opera with dinner afterwards; the Ipod is charged up and we’re all going to eat for weeks!

Whose the loser now!!!

A Revelation

Today I spent the better part of the afternoon looking forward to settling in to write something humorous.  Feeling the need for a little laughter in my life opened my eyes to numerous opportunities as I traveled about.  Many ideas floated around in my dome, so funny were some, I was seen standing alone laughing out loud like a crazy person on the subway. Not a bad thing really, I think it’s a benefit to keep people off guard sometimes.

It felt as though my brain was on fire! Smile across my face, grinning from ear to ear, I could hardly keep my enthusiasm to blog under wraps. It seemed an eternity before the keys of my computer were clacking beneath my finger tips!  Writing keeps me sane and this was my moment of pure laughter ridden sanity, waiting to unfold!  I sat down at my desk with a hot cup of tea, cracked my knuckles and gazed upon my carelessly scribbled notes of hysterics.  Then something occurred to me, hitting my brain like a ton of bricks! I was rocked to the core, my eyes darted across the desk top searching for my calendar, hoping praying I was wrong.  It just couldn’t be, nope, no way!  I really didn’t need this right now!  Pure selfishness on my part really..  But I knew it was true, I could sense it, I could feel it, the pit of my stomach hurt and I began to feel nauseous.  It doesn’t matter how many years go by, its always there to remind me, to haunt me, to let me know how quickly life can change.  Everything changes in the blink of an eye and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

Back in time we go:

March 22 2001

A day like any other, right? What I didn’t know was this would be the last day I would ever have a normal conversation with my wife again.  It was the last time we went about our business like all married couples will.  Off to work, off to daycare for the boys, off to school for me.  Dinner with the family, small talk before bed, studying for me, snuggling with the baby for her. It was another average some might even say boring day.  Something I took for granted all to often. Something I think we all take for granted “all to often”.

March 23 2001

I awoke early and headed off to school, I kissed my wife on the cheek and told her I loved her.  She mumbled good luck on your test and I love you, it was the last time I would ever hear her voice.  It was the last interaction with recognition that would ever transpire between the two of us. Little did I know what test she really was referring too. It was and has been the hardest test of my life.

She had the day off and was going on a trip to the park with our oldest, the newborn and some friends.  I was in class preparing to take an exam when I received the call.  A friend of ours, with her at the park called me, panicked, nervously explaining that my wife was on the ground complaining of severe chest pain.  “She just wants to go home” was exclaimed; our friend didn’t think that was right. Little did she know how right she was!  I remained calm performing a quick assessment over the phone, quickly advising her to hang up with me and call 911!  If she didn’t do it I was going too!  I had the day off work for class, so it was my Engine Company that arrived on scene.  My guys took care of her, my guys accompanied her to the hospital, my guys made the call, reporting everything they knew directly to me. My guys were suffering too.

And so started a 19 day odyssey of emotion, heart-break, self discovery, unity, hope, and finally complete destruction of what I thought was my life.  Kimberly Nadine perished on April 10 2001 after a hard-fought battle against a failing heart.  That very moment started a journey that woke me up sending me on my way.  It was the test of my life and I am still living that test to this day.

A promise made, a promise kept…..

I promised Kim I would never forget those 19 days, I also promised I would never forget the ten years we spent together, using them as a lesson learned in how not to be a husband.  I was selfish, self-centered, egotistical and a generally a poor excuse for a spouse.  Looking back I often wonder why she chose me. She tried her best to smooth the rough edges, but before finishing the job she was gone. This left me looking into the eyes of our children, seeing her and wondering why. So I’ve made a point to never forget, every year it comes, on this day I keep my promise.  To hold that in perspective one must remember, It’s hard to take a scar and never let it heal.  To pick at the wounds of those lost until they bleed.  But I continue to do this, as a reminder of what it takes to be a better person.  The person I felt she always wanted me to become.  I kept a detailed journal over the 19 days at Stanford hospital.  On this day every year I take a moment to myself, pick up the journal I kept, let it fall open and read an entry from what ever page appears.  In 11 years the same page has never revealed itself twice.  I read it, I remember, I go through sadness, anger, and eventually peace.  It’s difficult to do, it leaves a lump in my throat, and sometimes depending on the page, it leaves me weeping.  Not for the fact she perished, not for the fact she is not here to see her children, but for the unknown.  I will never know what she felt, or how she suffered.  But I carry a fair idea due to my medical knowledge. I will never know if she gave up because I told her it was ok to go, letting her know I understood if she wanted to quit fighting.  She fought really hard through two failed operations, the odds were stacked against her.  I knew it, the doctors knew it, no one wanted to verbally say it! After I whispered it was ok, and told her I loved her I stepped out of the room to gather myself and bring her mom in to see her.  It never happened, ten minutes later she went into cardiac arrest and died.  I will never know if she heard those words I wanted so badly to take back.  I will never know if she heard me say I love you one last time. Those images can never be erased from my head, images of her dead lifeless body lying there so peaceful at rest.  Cold…….

So that brings me to today.

My cheerfulness depleted, my humor erased.  I walked to my dorm and pulled out the books that hide my journal.  In goes the good air, out goes the bad.  Head pounding, weight of a rough week on my shoulders, eyes already misting, I hold the book ever so gently as to not influence the fall of pages.  It opens…  Here is the page it fell upon.

It’s not the greatest, I wrote it 11 years ago, tired, exhausted and emotionally spent.

April 22, 2001

Its been 12 days since you’ve gone.  I am lonely and tired.  Caring for both boys by myself is exhausting.  I never realized how much I took your hard work for granted.  I promise to never do that in a relationship again.  Someday I think I will publish this journal, not just for the boys, but for all men in America.  My eyes have been opened and I feel that many as I was are walking around blind.

I want every man in America to learn these lessons now and not the hard way as I have! It’s too painful, and though many will have to learn them the hard way maybe, just maybe if one listens it will make a difference.

Men in America need to understand what true love is:

True love is not sex

True love is holding hands, not because you have to, but because you want too.

True love is knowing when to look deep in her eyes and tell her its going to be OK.

A true loving marriage does not consist of coming home to find your laundry done, your meal cooked and a warm bed to sleep in, that’s called having a maid.

True love is finding a free minute during the day to remind her you love her, and not just with words, but with actions, for they speak volumes.

True love is telling her you love her every morning, you never know when it will be your last.

True love is watching the mother of your children beam with pride at the sight of your children.

True love is never, ever going to bed angry.

True love is sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee listening.  Even though you have some place else you should be and something you want to say, just listen.

True love is letting her sleep while you take care of the kids. Not just once in a while, but on a regular basis.  They are your children too.

True love is standing back and marveling at how much one person can accomplish in your absence.  Then letting the other know how much you appreciate the effort by performing the exact same way in her absence.

True love is never losing interest, marriage isn’t easy but if you can just call her once or twice a day to listen,talk, and remind her how much you love her, your relationship will flourish.

It’s a wonderful life.

I am remarried with two more children for a total of four, as most of you know who follow my blog.  When I read my journal entry today I was fully expecting my annual tear fest to start storming and yet I realized something halfway through the page.  I have accomplished all of these snippets.  Every single one of them!  I kept my promise!  I kept it, I kept my word and I have a relationship that I never take for granted.  I am blessed, I am whole, my family is one.

In life we are often faced with difficult insurmountable obstacles that are placed in our paths of growth and exploration.  But overcome them we will, with perseverance, and will power.  Remembering who we are, where we come from and trusting in where we are going.  I never in my life thought at 34 I would be widowed with two kids.  It was a hard and bumpy ride, I pray I am never in that position again. It would have been a shame had I not learned from the experience.  But I came away from it stronger and wiser than before, able to give and receive love without question.  To trust and believe that lives can be rebuilt, relationships forged.  To get up off the floor dust myself off and start all over again. Death is never easy for anyone under any circumstances.  Some lessons are learned the hard way. It’s just the way it is…..

Remember life is a gift for you to cherish.  Dont waste it.  For all you know tomorrow is your last day.  How do you want to be remembered?

Music to my ears..

;

It flows through my body like that of water down a granite pathway. Softly soothing, calming, taking away the stress of a long day. Highs and lows all covered in majestic fashion. Reverberation intentional to some, mere irresponsibility to others. Eyes closed, brain throbs, my ears are alive. Sight comes from every direction in the self-imposed darkness. I feel emotions stir, heart rate quickens, my smile expands, the crescendo brings about an orgasmic finish, leaving me discarded, alone, left to the demise of a musicians plunder.

Classical music stirs my soul. Its harmonies leave me bewildered, astounded, in awe of any human being who can create such beauty from an instrument. Strings, woods, brass, it’s all an amazing compilation, sometimes more than the brain can process. Now take 50-100 individuals all poised, ready at the call. At the swing of a conductor’s baton the heavens open so even god can rest away the weary.

As I sit typing away, staring blankly at my computer screen there is Pandora’s classical channel playing in the background. And I laugh, not a hearty laugh mind you, but more of a chuckle or child like giggle. You see I believe some things are inevitable. There are paths we choose and paths that are chosen for us, but all the while, secretly our subconscious has another path for us to venture. It’s a pathway that intersects around and through the first two as we travel through life.

When I was younger, I wanted to play an instrument, it was amazing watching people play so effortlessly. I felt deep down inside, I could also play if given the chance. Yet, it wasnt deemed cool. I struggled, was picked on for my trumpet case, and eventually put it down never to lay my eyes upon it again. Sad really. It was my true instrument of choice. I wanted nothing more than to be able to throw down a little jazz, then roll into a classical compilation with the school band. Yet as I said, I walked away, discouraged, defeated and tired of the bullying.

Later on I tried my hand at guitar. Everyone loves guitar don’t they? Come on, who didn’t drool over the left-handed riffs of Jimi Hendrix? Scream at the torturous slaughter of any guitar in the hands of Angus Young? Sit in absolute awe (if you have ever seen him live you know exactly what I mean by AWE) of Eric Clapton? It was THE instrument to play if you wanted to be cool. The only instrument to have in your hands if you wanted to impress girls! The guitar had the IT factor! I knew it and so did every boy my age who ever laid eyes upon Eddie Van Halen as youg girls threw their bras and underwear on stage during Van Halen concerts! (thank you MTV)Yet it wasnt to be. I could never get my fingers to work right, the chords were always wrong, I could not stay between frets to save my life! I was again discouraged, even with hours of tutoring defeat was inevitable. I succumbed to its nasty taste.

I swore I would never ever listen to classical music! It brought about visions of elderly men driving Cadillacs, smoking cigars, talking about their golf games. Living in Florida. My grandparents listened to it everywhere we went, it was the signature music of the geriatric set! (yes my grandparents drove a Cadillac). As I grew older, my hair was long, my musical tastes publicly were quite predictable. AC/DC. The Who, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Van Haagar, The Police, Eddie Money, Tom Petty, Y&T, Night Ranger, Journey, RUSH to name a few. But secretly, unbeknownst to my fellow long hair rockers I listened to classical. I feared being caught and hid my choices well. Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Braham’s, they were all there, hidden in my “cassette” case.

The Compact Cassette, also called audio cassette, cassette tape, cassette, or simply tape, is a magnetic tape sound recording format.

Just in case there are a few young ones reading who have no idea what a music cassette is..

Yep they were stuffed in Hank Williams Jr., Conway Twitty, Alabama, and Tammy Wynette cases. Why? Because none of my friends listened to country so any examination of my two sided case would lead you automatically to the “Rock” side. No chance of discovery. I would listen to these tapes on the way home late at night or after school. Anytime I knew there was very little chance of discovery by one of my pals. It would have been instant death to be marked a classical nerd. Sometimes while driving at night I would fantasize I was behind the wheel of a BMW cruising home after the opera with my high society girlfriend. Money is no object! posh, posh, snob, snob, can’t you tell I drive a BMW and listen to classical music! The music of the highly intelligent and wealthy!

So once again here I sit, no money, no BMW, no wealthy socialite girlfriend, no multi million dollar home on the hill overlooking all you little people. But do you know what I have? Classical music. It costs me nothing yet brings me so many rewards.

Yes I am older and I no longer fear reprisal from any individual when it comes to my choices in life. I am sure I fit into the old guy status that most young people associate with classical music. But there is one little difference, in my household all my children play instruments. The oldest, previously voted male student athlete of the year, has played in the school band since 5th grade. Now a sophomore in high school he plays in two sports and the marching band. The middle child plays in school concerts and is looking forward to Junior high so he may join band, wrestling and Cross country. The youngest boy sits at the piano like some idiot savant playing what ever comes to his mind then translated through his fingers. strangely everything he plays sounds like a rehearsed piece. My wife and I sit in awe some days as he plays for 15 minutes non stop.

Classical music, all forms of music now stream from my home.

So it seems our paths have intersected. Generations past and present have worked hard to make a change. It’s ok to be what you want to be, play the instrument you want to play, listen to the music you choose to hear.

That my friends is music to my ears…

Coming to terms.

I apologize if todays posting is a bit of a ramble……

People die every day what are you gonna do about it?

I have held this quote very close to my chest. In my line of work we see people in the worst situations perish on a regular basis. I dare say I have seen more people die than I have friends living. It is a hard thing to witness, it doesn’t get easier with time, your mind just chooses to find alternate ways to deal with images left behind. I have always chosen humor. Humor when in the right context can take the edge off any situation. Even when that situation is beyond our control.

Humor, yep that’s what works every time… except for today. My dad has been falling down a lot lately, and though that might not seem a big deal, when you are 75 with diabetes, a pace maker and multiple stints a fall can quickly become a very scary event. He has been withering away for many years, as he once stood 6 feet tall at a robust 250-300 pounds. He now tips the scales a 165 with a towering height of 5’8. Osteoporosis along with a multitude of medications keeping him alive have definitely taken their toll on my fathers well-being. It seems the falls were all indicative of a larger problem, as it couldn’t be any other way.

Sit down I can take it

Doctors report is in, it seems dads kidneys are failing (he has 50% function) and his cardiologist wants to replace the stents surrounding his heart. What does all this mean for him? He has some very tough decisions to make in regards to his health and future care. What does it mean for me? What does it mean for my kids? What does it mean for our friends?

It means eventually I will witness one more person perish from this earth. My dad. I have always realized a day will come when one or both of my parents will pass away, but it never seems like a real date. It’s that unknown, the boogie man in the closet, the sunset on the horizon you can never get too. But it’s there, its life’s dirty little secret. It may not happen for a year, it may not happen for 5 years, but when kidneys start down the road of failure its only a matter of time.

I am scared. I feel like a little boy whose emotions are raw. I am alone in a dark room without my blankie. I worry for my children, witnessing their first real experience with death. How will we handle it as a family? Making a negative seem positive sounds like a daunting task. What impression will this leave in their minds as I grow older? How do I reassure them I am not going anywhere for a while? Then I wonder what are they really going to remember of their grandfather?

My father is a tough man to be around sometimes. Stoic and silent about his personal affairs, we have never really seen eye to eye on anything. He can be loud and brooding when irritated. He yells first, apologizes later. You are always in the wrong until he determines you to be in the right. Even to this day it’s hard to find conversation we can share. I love you has never flowed freely from his lips yet somehow I know he does.

But for all his rough and jagged edges he is the reason I have a sense of humor. When the man was in his prime he could charm the parka from freezing Eskimos and sell sand to land owners in the Sahara desert. He was funny, people loved him, he was always in charge and the first to help when ever it was needed. He wanted you to like him but was never offended if he wasnt your cup of tea. When we strolled into his clubhouse he was “Norm” from Cheers. I marveled at how many people really enjoyed being around him. I have tried my hardest to emulate those qualities as an adult.

He worried day and night about my future and what would become of a half witt such as myself. What I took for anger and frustration was his way of saying I care. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that house as a teenager, yet my wife and I helped my parents put a house on our property. Life has come full circle. When something like this comes about we always end up wishing we could go back in time. Its ridiculous really, but if I could go back for just five minutes I would be 8 years old and we would play one more game of basketball. Standing in the dirt on a warm summers night, playing a good old fashioned game of HORSE. Nothing beat those nights throwing the ball at the basketball hoop attached to the telephone pole alongside our house. Why? Because I really just want to see him laugh while he snooker’s me with his famous “hook” shot.

So what is my point? Where am I going with all this doom and gloom? Why am I rambling about events I have no control over? Its like this, sometimes the horizon isn’t the horizon anymore. It’s an actual place that you can reach, a destination once thought unobtainable now stares you in the face. No matter what you tell yourself, no matter how you go about your day, no matter what carnage you leave behind by your actions, and regardless of how deep you place your head in the sand.

People die everyday, what are you going to do about it means something. It means there is absolutely nothing you can do, so make the most of every moment, good bad or otherwise. Because someday that person will be someone you thought could never die. Then what are going to do? Huh?

When you find out please let me know. Ok?

I love you dad…

A Country Boy Can Survive

 

 

My life is filled with a plethora of interesting topics, filling my wordy coffers and yet tonight as I stare endlessly at my computer screens flickering abyss I find only one thing to expend my energy upon.

A Country Boy Can Survive.

Thats right the 1982 smash hit from legendary singer/songwriter Hank Williams jr. A Country Boy Can Survive was our friday night, lets party and do it right anthem.  Not only did it hold some form of misguided meaning for each and every one of us, but it was one of the few songs ever played that guaranteed all of us would instantaneously drop what ever we were doing and break into chorus.  Country’s version of Grease! We sang at the top of our lungs, the louder the better!  If a bottle of Jack Daniels didnt emerge before the second chorus, one of us had to go into town, obtain said bottle and reemerge with shot glasses for all as we crooned over the melodious ballad all over again. We were out of tune, some would even say tone-deaf, we were drunk and life was good!

I believe that song is as relevent today as it was 30 years ago. Take a moment to peruse this little gem of a story put to music.

The preacher man says it’s the end of time
And the Mississippi River she’s a goin’ dry
The interest is up and the Stock Markets down
And you only get mugged
If you go down town

Seriously, all preacher men have been saying we are near the end of days and as far as the Mississippi River goes, the environmentalists have been crying about that ever since Mark Twain wrote about her in 1883! Dont even get me started on the foolish travesty that continues to make up our money hungry stock market. Occupy Wall Street no way! You gonna get mugged!

I live back in the woods, you see
A woman and the kids, and the dogs and me
I got a shotgun rifle and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I think about how wonderful it would be to “live back in the woods you see”, especially with the “woman and the kids and the dogs and me”. I do own “a shotgun, a rifle and a four-wheel drive”.  Just not sure if that is all the pre-requisite needed for a country boy to survive.

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke too
Ain’t too many things these ole boys can’t do
We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Crap I need to know how to plow a field all day long? Thank goodness I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn.  Now I am not sure but the last time I checked growing your own smoke could get you 4-months to 6 years! And well we wont even begin to discuss the legal ramification of moonshining! Can you say TAXMAN?

Because you can’t starve us out
And you can’t make us run
Cuz we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

I have never seen a starving hillbilly, and the big ones don’t need to run, they would just as soon shoot your city slickin butt than chase you down! My boys know how to say grace and Ma’am is really just a nicer way of saying Bitch isn’t it?  Well rumor has it anyways…

We came from the West Virginia coal mines
And the Rocky Mountains and the and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Now for some unknown reason the verse below always had us on our toes hollering like a bunch of starving alley cats!

I had a good friend in New York City
He never called me by my name, just hillbilly
My grandpa taught me how to live off the land
And his taught him to be a businessman
He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights
And I’d send him some homemade wine

But he was killed by a man with a switch blade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
Id love to spit some Beechnut in that dudes eyes
And shoot him with my old 45
Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Yeah! Thats what I am talking about! No damn cops needed there, just shoot the man right after he starts squealing about all the Beechnut spit you just splattered into his eyes! WHOOOOOOO! Thats country boy, that’s what it’s all about right? After those two verses the song just kind of wanders on, anyways we were always to busy high fiving each other to even notice that ole Hank threw in a little shout out to California!

Cause you can’t starve us out and you can’t make us run
Cuz we’re them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

So true, once you been raised on shotgun it really is hard to give a damn about anything!

We’re from North California and south Alabam
And little towns all around this land
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

So there it is, A Country Boy Can Survive, undoubtedly one the most recognizable country, get drunk, kick the crap out of someone, American redneck songs! So why tonight of all nights am I so infatuated with reliving my youths past digressions?  What can I possibly see in a 30-year-old song that I never considered before tonight?  How could I have possibly allowed myself to lower the learning curve of all my readers with this hillbilly drivel?

Well its like this.

Tonight as I stared endlessly into my computer screens flickering abyss, I heard a noise coming from across the hall.  It was loud, grainy, crackling and off-key, yet I recognized this noise right away.  You see inside this noise, confined in its purity was the vocal etchings of an eleven year old boy.  This eleven year old boy had finished his homework, cleaned up his dishes and traveled upstairs with only one thing upon his mind.  To shower.  Apparently when one steps into the shower, one believes they are in fact Hank Williams Jr.  With all the passion a country kid can muster while buck naked in the shower, my eleven year old son busted out A Country Boy Can Survive.  It was off-key, he sounded like a wounded rabbit, and judging from the rapid footstep I heard from behind the door he was dancing to it as well. Yet he sung it from the heart and he knew every single word.  For a brief moment, by himself he was a star.  And for his dad, eavesdropping in on the impromptu concert.  He was my hero.  Another generation will be swinging from the Grand Ole Opry chandelier! Lord have patience..

5 things I despise

5 things I despise

Recently (10 minutes ago) I decided it was time to purge a little anger.  A little societal frustration.  I usually do this through a singular rant but today I have chosen to drop 5 mini rants upon your superior minds.  I am hoping to not be alone in these little idiosyncrasy’s as I have always felt discussion is good for the soul or at least the conscience.

So with my head held high, my britches pulled tight and my jaw squarely locked into place here they are…..

5. People who cut in line because they believe they are more important than you.

While waiting patiently for the car in front of me to finish fueling there always seems to be some A-Hole circling the islands like a shark waiting for the right time to strike.  Without regards for his own personal safety, or the feelings of the twenty other vehicles waiting in line. This moron inevitably will come in from the opposite direction and try to force his way in as the last patron is leaving.  This never works as my truck is rather large and intimidating.  I am always scowled at or given a gesture of the highest moral ranking upon exit of my vehicle.  To which I respond the same as I would one of my children.  Have some manners and wait your turn, you are no better than anyone else.

4. The California stop.

It called a STOP SIGN!!!!! Stop means stop! It doesn’t mean think about it, it’s not a suggestion for you to ponder while chatting it up on your cell phone as you go barreling through the intersection!  Dont you dare throw your hands up in disgust as I come to a full and complete stop either.  I will just drive slower to the next intersection, in fact I will continue to slow down and more closely follow all the rules of the road just to frustrate you.  Why do I do this? Because its like this you lackadaisical idiot, in the end if you don’t “STOP” someone will end up injured or killed! And statistics show it wont be you.  

3. Parents who make excuses for their childs obvious poor behavior!

Yes its ok for little Timmy to express himself, but when that involves your 8-year-old telling my 7-year-old to F@#k Off! We have a serious problem on our hands!  If you don’t have the crumpets to reprimand your child I do!  If my child were to speak that way I would hope you would reprimand him quickly and decisively! If that doesn’t sit well with you than politely remove yourself and your child from my inner circle of friends and acquaintances.  I feel as though we as a society have forgotten in the end it takes a village to raise a child. 

2.   Upselling

I am a tightwad! I didn’t used to be, but my glorious wife over the last ten years has shown me the light.  Because I am a tightwad, making a large purchase is a homework driven, educational process that leads down many paths in regards to my purchase.  My point being, when I walk through your door to make a purchase I already know what I want and exactly how much I am going to pay.  Dont play me for a fool, don’t shove useless purchase contracts in front of me and make sure you listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth!  If I tell you I don’t want the 5 year service plan then STOP.  If I make mention the added receiver for only $29.99 is something I am not interested in STOP!  I am blunt, I will let you know everything I need up front, so please just STOP. Because if you dont my next STOP is your competitor.

1.   The little twirp at the grocery store that wishes to “help” me out with my groceries!

Hey junior, look at me, no really look at me! I am a 45-year-old, 188 pound man standing 5’9 who can currently run an 8 minute mile and curl 75 pound dumbbells! I am reasonably sure that I can carry my two little bags of groceries in one hand and your scrawny, “Wheres Waldo” beanie wearing ass in the other! I know you are just doing your job, but somebody needs to train you a little better in the area of qualifying customers.  Someday when you have become my age I hope you will demand the same respect. 

So there it is! A little bolder than in times past, if I have offended anyone I do apologize.   But the way I see it the word unspoken is obviously the word most misunderstood. 

Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my 5.  Also let me know what your 5 things are that you despise.  Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are serious but in the end they are what makes us who we are, and that is very interesting. 

Versatile Blogger Award

I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

You really like me………

I have been nominated for the Personal Blogger Award by Vanessa Chapman http://vanessa-chapman.com 

This is an award bloggers award to each other as a way of showing appreciation for the blogs they enjoy. I am humbled and honored.

(I plagiarized the rules from Vanessa as I feel there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.)

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post. Easy-Done

2. Share 7 things about yourself. Ok hope I don’t scare anyone, but easy-done.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers. Fail! Only could nominate 13! 😦

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. Will let them know as soon as I’ve posted this

Seven things about myself;

  1. I am 45 years old and I can’t wait for retirement. When I refer to retirement it is not in the sense of me walking away from a career, gold watch in hand to sit on some god forsaken island, smoking pot until I die.  On the contrary, I cant wait to start the second half of my life.  To re-invent myself and live life twice.  I have had a stellar first half, the second half can only get better.
  2. I can walk into a burning building, rescue people from a crushed or damaged vehicle, repel off a 5 story building with confidence and walk under a ladder without fear of superstitious reprisal.  But I cannot, and I mean no way, no how can I stand being in the proximity of a spider.  Those eight legged little freaks get me every time.  You want to hear a full-grown 200 pound man jump and scream like a 6th grade school girl then toss a black widow my direction.
  3. My ability to tell the dimensions of something from sight are frustratingly astounding.  Spatial relations are my thing and I am borderline “rainman” about it.  Have a picture to hang, I can tell you one side is off 1/2 inch any direction just by looking at it.  Just had your new bookshelves installed, I am the guy who within 20 seconds of being in the room knows exactly where the carpenter “cheated” or “shorted” you on material.  It makes me crazy and it makes my friends crazy as well.
  4. Scary movies are stupid and a waste of time.  I laugh through them which annoys everyone.  I can tell exactly what is going to happen when it is going to happen. 
  5. 1950’s pin-up girls are awesome.  You can have your skinny, anorexic, vegan, boney butt tooth picks.  I like my women with natural curves, and clothing that leaves something to the imagination. 
  6. When I was 10/11 while walking up my long driveway (we lived in the country) a car pulled up with a creepy guy in it who asked me if I wanted a ride.  Then told me to get in the damn car. He had one hand on the wheel and one in his trousers.  Thank god I had enough sense to run.  I still have nightmares about that guy even at 45. 
  7. I am terrified I will fail as a father.  I put up a good front, but deep down inside I always feel as though failure is right around the corner.  It’s why I write this blog.  It allows me to laugh, vent, and share my experiences.  I can look back on it when I am feeling low and remind myself of all the good I have done with my children.  I know they will laugh looking back on all this as adults.

15 bloggers to pass this award along too.

Soshi-Tech- http://soshitech.com

More valuable information in one blog than should legally be allowed in the states of California and Utah.  Everyone else is OK!

A Detailed House- http://adetailedhouse.com

I love houses and the fine art of decorating them in some of the finest trim.  If you are a closet design geek such as myself who also thinks you can take on any project, than this is the blog for you. The photography is very well done also.

Raising a Realist- http://raisingarealist.com

Scott is a mild-mannered high school English teacher. This blog is his attempt to capture all of his daughters moments.  As a parent of four, I can relate with his tag line. “126 kids but only one will wipe my but when I am old”

Mayahood- http://mayahoodblog.com

Adventure seeker, world traveler turned mother.  She has a mixture of her views on motherhood along with guest posts.  It is an entertaining blog.

Bucket List Publications- http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com

This one is near and dear to me as it is a blog that completely follows the premiss of getting out there and doing all those things you keep putting off.  They even pick some of your bucket list suggestions and through donations make it happen for you.  It’s quite the premise and I enjoy reading it immensely

A Confederacy of Spinsters- http://confederacyofspinsters.com

This is one of my favorites!  Three women from Texas, each one taking a turn writing about life trials and tribulations all under pseudo names.  Grace, Mae and Kate.  Its is always witty, relevant and fun!  I look forward to new postings they way one waits at the window for a long-awaited package from UPS. 

Musings of a stay at home Jewish Father- http://stayathometatte.wordpress.com

Another blog dedicated to a male role model at home raising his child.  Its funny and real with great pictures as he chronicles the day-to-day life of a stay at home dad.

In My Opinion- http://diane-ownes.com

Diane is on a quest to ask a different, relevant question everyday for a year. Interesting concept and I find the answers entertaining.

Debut Dad- http://debutdad.wordpress.com

Brenden is a first time dad who lives in Australia.  He blogs about juggling the changes in his life with the birth of their first-born child. Good luck Brenden and keep em coming. 

Vanessa Chapman- http://vanessa-chapman.com

Vanessa nominated my blog,  and although she is already nominated I enjoy her blog and look forward to every new edition she puts forth.  From superstition to the purchase of a new pair of boots.  She is funny and I find her blog to be a good way to blow a little time at work! Ha!

365 trinkets- http://365trinkets.wordpress.com

This blog is a reminder of how much crap we accumulate as adults.  His mission? To get rid of 365 trinkets he has stored as treasured keepsakes over a 25 year period.  The blog revolves around taking pictures of each one (for memories sake) then getting rid of said item. 

maggiemaeijustsaythis- http://maggiemaeijustsaythis.wordpress.com

A blog dedicated to writing poetry and personal trials and tribulations.  I enjoy the freedom with which she expresses herself.

Take a shower- http://takeashower.wordpress.com

A blog about Eloise and the raising of her five children.  She writes about the past and present, reflecting on the moments in time with the raising of her five children.

I am sorry to say I only have 13 to nominate for this award.  I fail!  But the thirteen I have chosen I follow with great intent.  I enjoy many other blogs but they are new to my collection and I havent gotten the chance to know them well enough yet for a nomination. 

Vanessa you were right, I also anguished over my choices.