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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

My name is Betty and I have an addiction..

Sitting in the stands watching junior rodeo today I couldn’t help but continually pull my phone from the upper left pocket of my shirt. Now this doesn’t seem like much of a “to do” as it were but as I kept referencing the electronic brain keeper between events it occurred to me I might just have somewhat of a problem. Not a dang it’s not working fast enough or shoot I left the sprinklers on or even an oops my wife texted me I forgot to call her type of a problem. But something much bigger than that! I believe I have an addiction?

Yep an addiction to instant gratification of flowing information spewing forth from this 2×4 inch screen! Every minute I am not moving this “apple” of a device comes out to fill an imagined or ill perceived void within my life! Seriously while I am typing right now my gaze continues to wander over towards this mesmerizing gismo as if it’s going to leave me, run away! You know self-destruct in Mission Impossible grandeur or heaven forbid its screen will just stay black, never to illuminate my life again with such mind bending information like what the hell Ryan Lochte is doing at this very moment or if a cage match has been declared between the two most unfit individuals to ever run a presidential campaign! Better yet I wonder who is posting something awesome on Facebook the “real” reality on the internet! Wait, ok that’s not a bad thing, I really like keeping up with all my friends. Until FB there were lots of people I cared about but lost touch with so the good intent or reason it was created side of FB still keeps a thumbs up from me! But with all of this power to reach out into our world instantaneously at my fingertips (once again I am not saying it is a complete bad thing) I also realized there is a bigger problem than my addiction to reading about Joe from Tennessee’s disgusting racism or Cheryl’s equally disgusting reverse racism or Brock the rapists light sentence (asshole) while along with all the inequalities, injustices and hatred pounding our senses every day making us wonder if we are headed towards anarchy and civil war (which is exactly what every other country hopes for) or if we can pull our heads out of are arses and get things together with love and understanding! Yes people there is a larger problem for me the newly crazed information junkie!!!

You see this open age of rapid fire information has changed my ability to read, absorb and understand! Ok I know that’s not worse than the direction our country is headed but hey, I needed a buildup so cut me some slack!

Yep, information today is fast and spun so well; but with whatever source it comes from who knows if it’s true or not and in reality I don’t think people really care! The way I read through stuff now is more like an Evelyn Wood reading dynamics course (only us older folks will understand that reference) than with retainable substance. If you don’t get me hooked within the first couple of lines well this magic device will find someone or something that will! Hence the ability to feed our minds with miss-information is formed. Don’t think for a second the story writing internet gurus don’t know this! Through careful data collection they have determined sensationalism earns clicks, clicks equal views and views equal a chance for an advertiser to be seen which in turn creates well spent advertising dollars funding the source or writer! The best part is these stories don’t have to be accurate or even good, and judging from the atrocious grammar contained within them it is obvious no one cares. But the damage done is there for all to see! When I read anything now I no longer settle in, gaining traction on whatever the author is describing; no absorbing relevant information or deducing a hypothesis from a well written piece. Nope, my brain begins to rapid fire after the second paragraph, I may stick it out through a couple more paragraphs but you better get to the point and quick or I begin scanning ahead, looking for key words to help me extrapolate what the author is “really” saying because let’s face it there is a hidden agenda in every written internet piece right? I mean that’s what all the commenting, shit stirring trolls who have anything to say about anything on any posting want you to believe while they are throwing emotional grenades in all directions just waiting for the explosion creating more hatred and discontent!

Also don’t get me started on what it has done for my ability to simply relax and enjoy a novel. My brain can no longer sit that long, moving slowly from page to page, waiting for a story to build, characters to develop, a plot to thicken as it were! Nope I might as well read just enough to learn who the characters are and then jump to the back of the book! There novel finished, case closed, I wonder what’s happening in the real world! Great job James Patterson killed your latest work in 42 pages! Don’t really care about the other 326! I Googled a review of the book helping me to plug in the missing clues. Cue me picking up my phone and OH LOOK IT’S A BABY IN A SKUNK COSTUME CRAWLING ON THE FLOOR FREAKING PEOPLE OUT!!!!! AWWWWWWW ISNT THAT CUTE! I MUST SHARE!!! Wait someone has commented it is child abuse, another has commented the child is suffering under the weight of that heavy costume and the parents should be arrested! Oh look a third says its Obamas fault! Yay!!!! Instantaneous gratification of idiot proportion right here at my fingertips!!! Ahhhh the world is right again, just as fucked up as when I put down my phone to try and read this stupid novel! Thank god that 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back is over and I am on to more web surfing! My daily fix is in.

Now this is all happening to me; a 50 year old fairly educated, well-spoken adult who has no problems saying it like it is while being in command of his personal abilities to say yes or no to anything. Time and life experiences have brought me to this point. As an adult yourself I am sure you could probably draw the very same conclusion? Because you’re a smart, witty, thoughtful, educated, filled with life experiences person with the ability to put down that phone, turn off that pad or laptop at any time. Right?

So let me ask you this.

If a phone, pad or laptop with such far reaching potential and the power to change my personal ability to read, disseminate information, come to conclusions, and not just any conclusion but well education conclusions can change the way I learn and retain information, warp my sensibility, and control the extent of my emotions all while allowing me the freedom to say what I want when I want to anyone within the world wide web’s reach without repercussion can do this to me as an adult.

What do you think it is doing to our children?

Put it down, I dare you. Leave it down for the day, two days, a week! I dare you! I double dog dare you!!!

You can’t! Neither can I! We are addicted! Our children are addicted too and it is rewriting the hardwiring program witin their brains! I see it in our youth with emotional outbursts if juniors pad is taken away or it’s nowhere to be found. An inability to work our way through problems of any kind because the answer is on another web page or the YouTube channel! Kids becoming completely disorganized and afraid of trying anything away from their computer devices. I have heard stories of children in their rooms at almost midnight still scanning the internet with eyes either wide open and bloodshot or passed out with an iridescent glow upon their faces.

Teenager’s necks straining downward looking at their phones while walking, riding bikes recklessly, or sitting in their cars. A world of wonder passing them by all why they laugh at an instagramapictuetubeasnapchatamoment. They have no idea where they are when traveling with family because they are focused on their phones and can’t go a minute without texting someone, anyone, about anything. They are continually afraid they are missing some magic social moment, a minute shared between friends while moving blindly through life. Once I heard a story about a child’s phone that was broken and she had no device for a few weeks. According to a friend she was a different child, she was the daughter they had before biting into the apple.

Does any of this sound like addictive personality traits to you?

It is, I recognize it as an adult. I worry about what all of this is doing to our children and I worry what is to become of our country as we continue let the “benefits” of an electronic age rule our very lives.. The dumbing down of a society, the dependence on electronics, an inability to think for ourselves and the desensitizing of our youth. What about us adults? As we become more dependent what is it doing to our abilities to interact with others? We have a shield for our hatred, a hiding place for our sorrows and slowly our abilities to interact with each other are fading too as we sit together but rest alone, everyone focused on our individual portals to the world, ignoring what is right in front of our face. Other human beings.

I am no different, I am not preaching, I am simply stating what appears to me as fact.

My name is Betty and I have an addiction…

 

I can’t…

This morning I sat down, stared at the screen and thought; it has been awhile, I need to write. Hmm? What will I write about today? Maybe something funny, or pertaining to recently turning 50? I certainly do not wish to write anything sad. After reading a few of my last postings, I found my writings to be a tad whiney, or heavy. People certainly must be tired of the same old story.

Then as paragraph after paragraph littered the screen only to be erased by the mighty stroke of a delete button it came to pass I was trying too hard. So I asked myself; Self, why haven’t you written in a while?

And that’s where this posting truly began.

Betty, why haven’t you been writing?

The answer comes from a conversation openly held in the day room of a busy firehouse. Sitting in my recliner listening to others and their crazy busy lives. Camping trips, play dates with friends for themselves and their children. Fantastic vacations or simple evenings at home surrounded by family. Listening to life moving on as it should.

What was my answer?

Because I can’t…

Every time I think about writing lately, I stare at the screen and from the darkest bowels of my inner thinking machine a voice rises above all conscious thought and whispers; you can’t.

Getting up in the morning is a struggle. Oh I received 6-8 hours of sleep, yet the moment I must rise a fight with my inner voice arises. I can’t is all I hear. I may wander over to ensure the kids are up but then against my old daily routine I just climb back into bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend I’m not there because inside I just can’t see myself doing another day. I get over it and most days turn out pretty good after running into some of my favorite parents, co-workers and friends. But it is becoming an increasingly difficult struggle to get past step one of the day.

There is a mile long list of repairs and maintenance around our house. I wrote the list, and continually add to the list, yet I cannot seem to accomplish the list. I may get one or two of the easy things done, but then I panic, feel sick, and want to sit down near Jacy and veg-out. Excuses like needing to pick up the kids in an hour or man I am really tired all come to the forefront. But in the end, I just can’t seem to see myself getting anything done. I am sure it is no different with any other busy father, but for some reason that feeling is more burdensome than ever before.

Ever cry at sappy movies? Apparently the water works now turn on for just about anything! Ok watching the SPCA commercial where Sara McLaughlin is singing while sad eyed, unadoptable, abused animals are trapped at the shelter doesn’t count. You have to be pretty heartless to not squeeze a little water out of those orbital areas of yours after watching puppies cry. I found myself tearing up explaining a reality show the other day where the daughter of the contestant showed up to tell him he won! Kids doing well on Americas got talent, winning a round of American Ninja Warrior, or watching the friend’s episode where Ross and Rachel finally kiss!! Yep they all bring on the rain! WTF???? Hell Tommy Boy was on the other day and I was crying at the passing of Big Tom Callahan!!! I just can’t keep crying at everything it is wearing me out!

My fuse is much shorter and I can’t seem to control it or keep that Irish/Italian temper from rearing its ugly head. Poor Jake has been bearing the brunt lately. Now some of it rightly deserved but in hind sight more than a few times have gone over the line with things said that cannot be taken back. He always smiles at my apologies and says it ok he forgives me but all I can think about is deep inside I am probably hurting him, hurting his ability to grow and handle stressful situations. I am afraid one day I’ll snap over something stupid and he will have had enough. Irreversible damage complete. Then what? Oh well I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the parental complexities of this issue right now because I will start crying again and no one needs to see that here at work.

Everything seems impossible. From completing my monthly budget, paying bills, changing a light bulb or even just being something, anything. It all seems too much right now.

As I am writing this I just realized my heart rate has doubled. I figure it’s my fight or flight response to even mentioning any of this in combination with feelings trapped inside that I can neither recognize nor willingly let out.

I keep using the analogy that I am a bottle filling with sand. Burdensome, gritty, heavy sand. This sand has reached the top and either I am able to upset the bottle, pouring out this heavy, gritty, burdensome property carefully into a container of contentment or it will overflow, and we all know what happens when sand pours upon us against our will. We end up carrying it home, it’s stuck in the crack of our ass and it takes a month of vacuuming to get it out of the car!

Our life has been incredibly hard. It remains that way. Watching my wife suffer daily is taking a toll on me. Of course I have no right to complain in comparison to the toll it is taking on her. It has been a long, long road.

Jacy has had several hospital stays of late. The other day they put a port back in to help with her current treatment which feels like a giant set back. The steroids have doubled the size of her face and left her weaker than normal. The other day while at a friend’s house doing her very best to live life as normal as possible she fell. Yep, a simple walk down a 10 yard path from patio to arena and her legs just quit! She ended up with a bloody, black and blue eye as her sunglasses tore open the fragile flesh under her eye. She feels consistent insult to injury on a daily basis.

My wife has decided to live life, to go to rodeos, make trips to the store, and do her best to become the mom that she was pre-BMT. She doesn’t have the energy or the strength, but she does have the resiliency or ballsy moxie to do exactly what she wants, family or doctors be damned! I admire her on many levels. I do my best to let her accomplish what she wishes within reason, while at the same time worrying if she is doing more harm than good? Once again though, who am I to say? I don’t currently have the body of an elderly woman, no strength, no vision, with pain surging throughout my entire body 24/7. I don’t need to consume 23 meds, three times a day while also partaking in breathing treatments (4 different kinds) wearing oxygen and doing my best to keep myself fed when I either don’t wish to eat at all or only crave crap food of no real substance? I may be her husband, the only person she can truly confide in, the one who promised in sickness and health, till death do us part. Yes that may buy me some vote, but if it was me? If it was me this was all happening too, would I have the strength to make it another day for my kids the way she does every single day? Would I wake up every morning, take my meds, and then do my best to smile while making school lunches even though I really can’t see? Could I sit in a chair for most of the day either passed out from the very same medications or wide awake scanning the internet feeling like shit because I couldn’t go outside with my horses? Could I kiss my kids goodnight with confidence that tomorrow will be a better day like she does? She is angry, she is sad, she is happy, she is resentful, she is hopeful, she still wishes every day for one more day, one more week, one more month, and one more year. Another camping trip or the ability to take a family cruise. She is amazing.

Could I be like her?

I can’t………………………..

 

At the end of the day, whiny or not, dark and gloomy be damned. I decided to write these blog postings journaling my wife so others who may be feeling the same way would know it is ok. It is part of this weird, sometimes unforgiving magical mystery tour we are on and you are not alone. To those currently in treatment. This may be the way your caretaker or spouse is feeling and to know they love you, care about you and will do anything to make your life, your situation easier for you. We will never leave your side, so don’t be afraid to be who you want to be, use what strength you have to enjoy whatever moment you wish to enjoy and know the whole time we will be standing right by your side. Even though right now I feel as though “I can’t” when it comes to many things, I will always believe in the “can” most of us hold deep inside. I also believe that for the most part all people are good caring human beings and no matter the situation we all rise to the occasion.

Ok, I’m done. I can’t write anymore….