So you’re an expert? Hmmm?

One of the greatest things about the internet is its ability to connect people and share information. Sharing information creates an ability to learn, understand and grow. It is what helps us better understand ourselves and the plight of those around us.

Today during my usual coffee and cruise (the internet) I stumbled across an article about how I should be raising my child. Notice I said “should be” because apparently I am doing it all wrong! There were a couple interesting pointers from this apparent “expert” to which I chuckled for the sheer naivety. In the end I felt the article to be immature and lacking. Scrolling to the bottom an authors name with picture prominently displayed led me to do a little research.

She is appears to be an early thirties mother of one 5 year old girl. She is also a child psychologist.

Why does this matter to me? Because as I let out a heavy sigh, the sigh reserved for those of us with years of experience under our belts handling multiple children spanning several age groups and personalities. A humorous analogy popped into my head.

Taking serious advice from her on exactly how I should be raising my children is the equivalent of relying on a new probationary fighters experience to get me out of jam during a fire. I know she has countless hours of clinical time, with countless papers studying the human child, but just like a new firefighter has countless hours in the burn room and on the training grounds none of that matters until it is your own out in the real world. That ladies and gentlemen is the game changer.

So yes you may have a few good ideas, you just lack the experience to back it up when things go sideways.

As any well-worn parent will tell you, raising children is NOTHING like they envisioned while pregnant with their first child. The process is not static but continually dynamic and though incredibly rewarding will humble any human being. I hope she does a re-write in twenty years after a few more kids, I think her Democratic approach will sound a bit more like a combination of Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez-faire, and Paternal. For no one way truly encompasses all situations.

Thank you for the morning laugh though… (insert Betty Rubble giggle here)

 

 

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Rodeo

Sun slowly rises from the east, it’s that time of morning when neither dark nor light can decide who has a larger grip on the atmosphere. There is softness in the morning light engulfing all within sight while a single dull ray tries it’s hardest to squeeze through the blinds into my sleeping area. A rattling, squealing noise rambles off in the distance, my groggy head rises from the pillow instantly recognizing it to be a John Deer carefully dragging a plot of dirt that will soon be either a place of speed and scores or a cushion for the unfortunate. It is time to rise.

Coffee brewing brings a smell that always snaps me into the present. My bones hurt and joints crack as I carefully pull my pants from the floor while checking my shirt for damage, or wrinkles that may indicate I slept on it last night. Real estate is a premium inside our 3 horse trailer and it’s not uncommon for clothing, bedding and blankets to become a tangled web easier to let be than untangle. Some days it’s so bad we head out the door wearing whatever comes easiest. When the day is through it really doesn’t matter as most everything we own is covered in a mixture of dust, sweat and animal fluids. It is just the way it is and you wear it with pride.

My son and daughter have risen, our horses need to be fed and so do they prior to today’s activities. Microwavable breakfast sandwiches a cup of coffee/ orange juice, brush your teeth (not necessarily in that order) and its check in time. Afterwards they hook up with friends then start warming up horses. Their day is full, between caring for horses, warming them up, performing, helping in the arena, helping buddies during events then cooling horses off and feeding for the evening they are constantly moving from sun up to sun down. It’s good for them both as hard work, camaraderie and competition help mold them for adulthood.

Stepping outside words of good morning are echoed from our trailer neighbors as well as every parent you come across. Hands are shook, smiles, laughter and stories are the topic of the morning. These are wonderful solid people, many come from ranches and are second or third generation rodeo families. In the distance an announcer is checking his equipment with a repeated; TEST, TEST echoing across the grounds. The grandstands slowly begin filling as family and friends file in to watch the show. It is the very beginning of a weekend that will not disappoint.

A few words from the announcer, the National Anthem then goat tying starts the day with poles running in the big arena. Seniors and juniors vying for opposite space. The sound of two announcers reverberating gives notice to those not surrounding either ring that competition has in fact begun. Nervous parents run back and forth ensuring their kids have all they need while others move about on horseback with all the confidence of seasoned rodeo veterans.

I love the smell of horses and saddles, there is just something about it that leaves me feeling content. When I am around horses, either walking or on horseback my brain quits moving at a hundred miles an hour, my heart rate slows and the world just seems to be, well, at peace. Horses have kept me grounded, given me purpose and I’m always trying my hardest to learn each and every ones personality and quirks. These four legged creatures have kept me sane while missing my wife, both at home and during every rodeo for the last two years. Standing alone, along a fence line watching my daughter tie her goat after jumping from the dizzying height of her little pony there is nothing for me to think about, no stresses, just pride at watching her do something she was terrified to even attempt not that long ago.

As quickly as I am at parental peace with my daughter, my son texts me that it is time. Saddling his rope horse, climbing aboard and heading into the warm up pen we slowly work up from walk, trot to lope. Some good solid stops getting lighter in the mouth each time and he is ready to go. My son is aboard the Steer Wrestling horse trying his best to clear his mind, readying himself for competition against some of his closest friends. In no more than two hours’ time we shift gears and horses warming up the turn back horse and cutting horse. There are many events in rodeo and his events of choice are Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Cutting and Steer Wrestling. My daughter competes in Goat Tying, Poles and Barrels.

When not warming up our horses, I enjoy helping during the cutting with turn back duties and then it’s off to the return chutes where hanging with my friends watching the performance while moving calves and steers keeps us all busy for the remainder of the day. We stand tall and constantly yell, cheer and help these kids feel good no matter their outcome in the arena. For little do they really know just how amazing they are and as parents standing in the same spot every rodeo we have the privilege of witnessing their continued improvement from countless hours of practice throughout the year! It is a great weekend that’s all about them, a payback for their hard work.

Red sky and a setting sun shining through a permanent layer of dirt hovering in the air tells me the day is done. There are scrapes and bruises, kids kick the dirt from their boots and clothes, while chaps and bull ropes are hung with care. The announcers’ booth powers down, arena lights begin to glow and the stands are emptied. Horses are washed and fed, bbq smoke and laughter comes from every camp as war stories are told with glee. A perfect tie-down, the best team roping time of the year, did you see the air under my but when I got bucked off? Laughter and friends after a long day helping knock off the day’s highs and lows, chuckle at knuckle head moves and pat those on the back who lead in their events. Young men and women forging friendships they will have for life over a shared love of friendly competition and the ranching way of life. These kids or small adults wander the grounds in packs like coyotes looking for their next free meal or easy place to crash. They are funny little versions of ourselves who pretend to the best of their abilities to appear grown-up. I love watching them interact with each other, they are truly funny. At the end of the day these are the stories we adults will share with our grandchildren.

Country music blares from every corner of this place as I sit in my chair, boots off, enjoying a beverage, soaking it all in while wondering just how much longer I am going to make it before falling asleep. Before long I have my answer. It is dark, chilly and a fire is blazing for warmth, most everyone has already crashed with the exception of a handful of us. My son heads in to hit the hay letting me know what a great day it’s been, my daughter is out cold in her tent. Once inside he is out cold in two seconds. Turning everything off and checking our horses one last time after bidding a goodnight to our friends I slowly make my way inside, my pants hit the floor and somewhere there is a clean shirt hidden inside my messy bunk. Oh well, stretching carefully across it, before I can completely exhale my lights are out and tomorrow the smell of coffee will start this cycle all over again. What a great life!

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo…

 

More….

Grass glistening under the morning sun I can almost feel a damp chill through the outer liner of my boots. There is so much to do here on the ranch, something I’d taken for granted prior to Leukemia entering our lives. Every day waking to a cup of coffee, a list of projects, horses that need riding and good close friends who share my love for our equestrian lifestyle.

Life was slower, moved more efficiently, our time allotted carefully with separated responsibilities tackled by two active adults. Yes it wasn’t always perfect, there were collisions of schedules and an occasional finger of blame pointed in the others direction for absence of responsibility. We thought; how could life possibly be any busier? Oh how wrong we were.

Today, I have nowhere to be, (a rarity) the list of stacked up chores is overwhelming. None of these written down labor intense segments of self-importance are of any severity in the grand scheme of things. But the sun is out and even sitting here typing now feels like a guilty pleasure for which I should not partake. My wife is asleep. She doesn’t really sleep all that well anymore. Her medications are leaving her on a revolving pattern of slumber that is tiresome to watch. I spend as much time as I can inside the house making sure she is ok. She has so many medications taken daily it blows my mind at her ability to keep track! But she does, and often time after double checking I’ll find she is to the pill in her counts. We have Oxygen tubing running across our bedroom floor as she needs a consistent O2 boost so her saturation levels remain above normal. Feeding her has become difficult as these little pharmaceutical wonders leave her stomach tied into a burning knot most of the time. When she does eat it’s an egg sandwich, just toast or on really brave day’s carrot cake. She is doing well getting up and down the stairs, but prefers and wisely so to have someone with her when she does.

Somedays she stares blankly out the rear window of our little ranch house; to say I wonder what’s on her mind would be a false statement. I know. One doctor telling her to stay inside, another telling her she shouldn’t even be here at the ranch, it is to dangerous, while a third claims the occasional trip across the grounds couldn’t hurt. It’s a conflict of emotion, an experiment in mental strength, a dichotomy filled lifestyle. Does she risk it or watch from the bleachers? Should she enjoy what’s in front of her peering through a “boy in the bubble” perspective or run with abandon into the countryside? There is more, there is always more and when you have stared at four hospital walls for 8 months you pray to the heavens above for more. Once granted you now stare at four household walls and you pray for even more! More time with your children, more time with your husband, more time to be outside with your animals, more, more, more! To many opinions, to many rules, to many drugs, to many trips to the hospital to many restrictions, yet only one life.

Outside the birds are pleased, blue skies above them, food is plentiful below and they sing with glee. Our brood of horses’ knicker and snort at the prospect of roaming green fields. Four dogs have all found places in the sun, soaking up its brilliant heat and not one barn cat remains inside the barn. The air cool and crisp, combined with those warm rays of light makes for a glorious day to be in a right here, right now frame of mind. A solitary moment, to myself, outside with my eyes closed tight selfishly dreaming of the way it used to be, the way it was. A small pebble under a giant blue sky standing here calmly taking it all in, occasionally looking out across our property while absorbing its natural beauty my smile comes on the weight of heavy shoulders as our once normal life has been replaced by these solitary random moments.

I wish there was more…

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The scary stuff…

The scary stuff hides in plain sight, we try our best to ignore it but in reality the scary stuff is what lets us know we are living.

I am terrified of death. It surrounds me with in your face realism, implication and pure dishonesty. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering when it will come, how it will come and have I done all I could to let those I care for know just how much they mean to me? Have I spoken a word in haste leaving someone disappointed or was I able for just a moment to make someone’s day?

Do you close your eyes and feel all the world has to offer or do you clench your teeth frustrated by the very movements within your realm? Do you drift away from the sight, sound or smell of another place thankful for having been there or do you grasp tightly to the past angry at what the future holds in store?

I cannot control the panic within, a feeling there is something more and I am running out of time. That I haven’t lived to my full potential, achieved all my dreams, helped all that could use assistance, or been the best human being I could possibly be. My brain runs out of control and there are moments the thought of trying to stop it long enough to grab any form of tangible information to act on is overwhelming.

So the scary stuff creeps in, like a game, toying with my ability to reconcile myself.

I stare at my wife while she sleeps, scared she won’t be there in the morning. Two years of this nightmare have worn away my ability to be realistic about things at times. Watching all she has gone through and yet she still tries to smile, to have a positive attitude, even when she really doesn’t want to anymore. Being at work is an eternity as my subconscious leads me into a room of dirty tricks. How is she? Why won’t she answer the phone? Has she taken her medications? Are the kids helping her? Is she eating enough? Has she walked today? I know she is ok, she has her phone to call me, and my mother is right next door, able to check in at a moments notice. I know the kids are helping and our close friends/family are doing their best, but the scary stuff keeps pushing my insane fears into the light so I may remain bewildered and lost.

Stressed beyond what I ever felt I could handle, my stomach, head and neck hurt all the time. I have ridiculous nightmares always revolving around the loss of someone near me. Last night it was one of the boys in a vehicle accident. The scary stuff lurking in my brain won’t let me gloss over anything in a dream either, its graphic and designed to always leave me terrified upon waking. The scary stuff knows how to leave me down and out through shock value. I am tired… All the time….

What do I do? How do I control it? It feels at times like a giant weight upon my chest. Somedays I can’t breathe and find myself sobbing for no reason at the very stupidest of things. Like an imaginary scary creature hiding under my bed, only I know it’s there, only I can feel its presence, and only I can battle it when it comes out at night to play. It is my burden to bare.

The scary stuff is what tears at your soul, leaving you scarred, hurt, but alive. We all have scary stuff lurking in our brains, without it we would never understand the value in cherishing every moment on this earth. For the good stuff is even sweeter if you’ve had to deal with the scary stuff life is made of.

I wrote this tonight because many have asked me repeatedly how I have been able to handle everything through this Leukemia/Bone marrow transplant infused portion of our life. Truth be told, many days I don’t! I do my very best to juggle everything while keeping a smile on my face, sharing a joke here and there, trying to keep my children smiling all while letting my wife know she is the very center of my universe. I vent a lot on friends and I believe in having faith! God looks over us all and challenges us daily, it is up to us as too whether or not we accept those challenges. There is always hope, and even though the scary stuff is a reality in my life, my way of never letting it win is by writing about the fear so others who read this know its ok to feel everything I just described. If you take time in recognizing your flaws, sharing your pain and understanding there is always a better day ahead, the scary stuff doesn’t stand a chance. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but faith is there waiting to put the scary stuff we all feel and worry about right back under the bed where it belongs.

 

 

 

The road home and transition.

It is official, as of right now, Jacy is home for good! Tuesday we traveled from Stanford to Kaiser then over to Saratoga and when all was said and done, 14 hours had flown by, the car was loaded with all her belongings from the apartment and I had one very tuckered lady on my hands.

Our schedule currently remains the same. Once or twice a week we will continue making a roughly 2 ½ hour trip into Stanford for her doctor’s appointments. These appointments will ensure we are continuing down the right path, juggling a fine line between steroids and immunosuppresses. Blood draws, counts checked, dietary regimen consistently re-examined and of course there remains those damn pesky lungs that refuse to heal! We still are incredibly careful when it comes to her exposures and because of the high risk being at the ranch, she rarely makes it outside for more than a few minutes to enjoy her homestead surroundings.

Jacy’s body has made no real progress, we are in a serious holding pattern. Being in a holding pattern isn’t so bad, her doctors agree as long as she doesn’t slide backwards it will be counted as a win! Unfortunately not making any real progress is weighing heavy on her mind as she sees all of us hustling around taking care of everything. The go getter inside her is screaming to come out and play! But she can’t, she doesn’t have the strength or energy so rest is the order of the day, every day. She does her best to put in some light exercise to stimulate her atrophied muscles in hopes of getting back to normal sooner than later.  So a holding pattern is where we remain, and regardless of her progress after talking with her doctors we all agreed home is where she should be, in her own bed, watching her children, resting. No mother should have to be away from their children and regardless of her condition, just being able to converse with her kids face to face daily is all the medicine she needs.

My wife is constantly telling me she is sorry. For what?? I tell her she has nothing to apologize for but she doesn’t want to hear it. Jacy cannot believe everything I’m able to get done on my own and only wishes to ease some of this burden. To be honest I am exhausted, all the time, and some days am amazed myself how much this completely disorganized fool accomplishes! From sun up to sun down there isn’t a moment away from work that I am not moving. But there are no serious complaints. My wife is alive and that’s all that really matters to me. Making sure everyone else in my family is happy, healthy and participating in life is what’s important to us both and if that means little sleep and running all over this county daily well that just happens to be a side effect of our current condition. But she has nothing to ever feel sorry for, trust me when she is healthy again I will turn over the reins with a giant smile on my face and love in my heart.

Life is what you make of it. I personally have always believed there will be many times life turns on you, piling more and more on top of what you already believe you can handle and it’s what you do during those times that dictates the life you choose to live. It doesn’t mean you always like what’s happening or are even able to find a positive from the situation. Trust me the black cloud following our name has hung around way too damn long! But you can’t just roll up in a ball and quit either. There is always a plan and just because you cannot see the whole picture right now doesn’t mean you should ever think of giving up! I was taught strength comes from within the struggle.

I see couples on FB having drinks, wine tasting with friends, hiking in the mountains or on grand adventures around the globe and jealously sets in for a bit. It is so easy taking for granted just two short years ago that was us! We were shooting selfies at the bar or in the country somewhere on horseback! Snuggling under the moonlight, walking hand in hand in Haiti or simply enjoying dinner out with family! I long for the day she gets irritated while out on an evening walk because I am moving to slow! When I think about how much I would rather be on horse today, I remind myself that Jacy would much rather be anywhere but stuck in bed, with oxygen plumbed to her face and fluids flowing freely into her arm! Sleeping away large sections of the day, brought down through medication like an animal hit by a tranquilizer gun! I remind myself that my most important job in life is her, never taking it personally when she snaps at me exhausted from a long day of medications, travel and doctors, meanwhile cherishing every second she is able to snuggle and hold me, looking in my eyes the way she does filling my heart with love.

This whole process over these last two years has taken so much from her both physically and mentally and I am so grateful having her by my side once again. There is no doubt this will be an amazingly long road to recovery but it doesn’t matter because she is home, her numbers are holding, we have our family, friends, prayer and hopefully a little luck finally shining through that black cloud, chasing it away.

Its been a long road home, but home is good and family is even better..