The basement and those never satisfied juvenile eating machines!

What the hell? What the holy freaking hell??? I mean I get it, kind of, they eat; they eat a lot! But I mean I never figured it would be like this!!!!

We as a family talk about how hard times come and go and right now our budget is squeezed a tad, we talk about the importance of shopping carefully, utilizing sale items, never being brand loyal and understanding the list dad has when he shops is because I have taken the time to figure out exactly what we need, when we need it so as to fall within those budgetary restraints! We talk about overeating along with understanding there are 3 meal times a day so you wont die from starvation if your little tummy pangs an hour before dinner! Apparently after all the long, loving, conversations held with temperance while speaking using the silky smooth stylings of Mr. Rogers some fucking remedial training is in order! 

I went into the underground cavern better known as our basement to watch television while partaking in my nightly ritual of laundry washing, drying and folding. (Apparently I am still a maid) As I began retrieving small piles of lovingly folded clothes from the day before off the floor (no one ever knows how they got from the table to the floor) while swearing like an angry Irishman, my Clint Eastwood, squinted fuming Dirty Harry gaze leveled down upon our pantry. Now this is no ordinary pantry mind you! This section of shelving is more than capable of holding a months’ worth of supplies to feed these two legged heathens and yet there is sits, almost empty..

I built cabinet doors, complete with locks to keep them out! They broke these crafted masterpieces, lost the keys and our honest little children swear they don’t know how any of that could have happened. I stored food in a manner that left bait food out front while everything else was hidden on the edges and in the rear. The bait food has been the last to be consumed while a small tornado seems to have traveled across all shelves leaving pasta and cans of soup on their side much like the remnants of a trailer park after such a storm. The middle shelves once glistening with ample product lay barren as the desert, nothing to show but dust and torn paper!

I stood straight up to make a play for our beloved angels, hitting my head on a rafter which further fueled the already raging fire consuming my being! Turning to march up the stairs I take a quick body check as to not add insult to injury upon my already throbbing noggin by clocking it again on the very same rafter!!! Carefully negotiating the piles of laundry strewn upon the basement floor I am headed up to rip some ass! Some apparently over eating fat asses need a stern talking too, because by now it has become abundantly clear their mother and I have laid no tantalizing tongue upon any of the delectable delights stored inside the sub cavernous residential pit! As I reach the stairs a little voice yells at me; look in the fridge! What??? Look in the fridge? There is no way our brooding hoard of teenage hormones has in any way decimated the fridge as well, I tell myself! My right foot hits the first stair and then my left foot makes the turn! My body has taken over, I am not sure if it is out of anger, curiosity or the little voice in my head has taken control. But quickly I am in a 180 headed straight towards the downstairs fridge! The ice cold box, filled with beer, sparkling waters, left overs, milk, sometimes candy and fresh fruit! Yes this will be fine, I begin consoling myself that 3 days ago when I filled both fridges and the pantry with five hundred dollars’ worth of supplies from our local grocery store and produce market it was going to last at least a week! A whole week, long enough for me to have retained half a paycheck, and there would be plenty for mother and I to feast upon when needed!

Opening the door my eyes cast upon a field of clear plastic shelving, like gazing through a frozen lake and yet instead of witnessing trout moving back and forth all I see is one lone grape, an empty plate of some foreign substance and beer, lots of beer. I mean thank GOD they aren’t swilling my only true inebriating pleasure, there may be at least one ray of heaven shining from within this glacial wasteland.

My anger intensifies!!!! I am headed upstairs again TO RIP SOME ASS!!!! Between the disrespect shown for the hard work in the laundry department and now this! Oh yeah, daddy is coming unglued, unhinged, the devil is shooting fire from my eyes!!!! I turn, slamming the fridge door, I’m angry, and to quote the HULK; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!!!!

Taking another step toward the stairs I promptly clock myself on the second rafter in our dungeon of delight!! There is a very small tunnel to which I staring, sounds coming from iPad are that of my new favorite show Bosch, yet to me they sound like eagles crying overhead! I’m sweating, hot and nauseous. The tunnel grows vastly smaller and I find the overwhelming need to hold my breath and bear down hard as to not lose consciousness. The world right now is NOT my oyster.

Coming around I find I am firmly planted on the staircase. It takes me a second to remember where I am at and why I am in the basement. Shaking it off while slowly getting to my feet I stare at the lovingly folded laundry which has somehow made it to the floor and begin picking it up while quietly cussing about our lazy children who don’t appreciate everything there father does for them. As I stand up my eyes throw a Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry glare upon the empty cabinets that are our pantry and find myself in disbelief after stocking them not more than three days ago. I stand up as rage enters my being and scream what the bloody hell!!!!

I hate the basement…..

P.S. I came to realize after about ten minutes, there was a reason I knocked myself silly. The first time was Gods way of getting me to relax, take a hint. I didn’t listen. The second time was Gods way of saying, sit down and shut up!

I heard him loud and clear. Although our children can be frustrating, infuriating at times, and more than their mother and I can handle. We both know we have wonderful kids, we know they are going to become amazing adults, and I guess that means if they eat us out of house and home every now and again. Well so be it. No one ever said parenting is easy…

 

 

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Climbing life’s mountain. 

Woke up this morning and strolled around our property despite the 30+ mph winds. There is so much that needs to be done, it sometimes feels incredibly overwhelming. Taking care of this place, our children and my wife weighs heavy on me all the time. Yet this morning is different. Yes the amount of work gave a bit of panic, but then I looked across the way and spotted our dirty ole horse trailers, still hooked to their respective trucks, I paused, I smilied and I felt really great.

You see all to often we look at our lives as a continual shit pile (mountain) we need to climb. (Myself very much included) What we don’t see or fail to recognize are the smaller climbs we need to make first before we reach the top. We as humans naturally tend to complain which then becomes a habit so we complain about everything. Before long complaining is as normal as putting on our pants (which is a complaint because damn they make me look fat) and it remains the norm. It’s then that we struggle to make a change as we have decided enough is enough. (Myself also included in this category) I don’t understand why we become this way, or why it seems there are some who always see the positive. I guess it just is the human way. 

Today I didn’t feel that way. Because today part of me realized we have been traversing those smaller climbs all along. Sometimes those smaller climbs just take so darn long you lose sight of the mountain. 

All I could think about while staring at our parked traveling circus was our kids and a wife who against her own advice packed up her best clothes, a supply of all her medications, her portable oxygen machine in case of emergency, threw on a wig to hide her once again balding head, then set out with a beautiful, giant smile on her face and a super positive attitude for an entire weekend of rodeoing! She had such a great time surrounded by her friends-our friends. She was able to finally witness in person her youngest son throw a steer, her daughter run barrels and poles and her middle son bulldog. She was no longer alone at home stuck in bed unable to move, waiting for me to send a video. She will undoubtedly pay for it today, as her body I am sure will protest but the price of admission was well worth it. 

The oldest son is in college and doesn’t partake in our traveling side show. He has a life of his own, training hunting dogs, fishing, hunting and counting down the days until he can test then become employed with either an out of state troopers or in state CHP position. We are blessed to have him around to keep an eye on things while we travel. He of all of us has steadily chipped away at the mountain before him with tenacity and will power. 

Our middle son has had a rough year on the rodeo trail and although he doesn’t see it this way, I think it is good for him. He has always been in the hunt. Always fighting for first position. This year not so much. His skills are there, his attitude when he nods his head once backed into the box is solid. He helps every bulldogger who crosses that line into the arena. And although he doesn’t feel like he has anything to show for all his hard work and positive attitude I think quite the contrary. 

God is teaching him patience and humility.

His time will come. He needs to remember we are climbing that mountain in small segments. This is one of them. His mother and I are very proud of him, we only want the best for him. And although he thinks at times we are to hard on him, or we don’t understand,​​ I know one day he will look back and thank the lord for all that was provided.

I smile at the thought of our daughter and how far she has come. Once terrified of going fast on a horse she is slowly gaining ground on her fears. She loves nothing more than being at the rodeo with her giant second family. Each rodeo she performed a little better and that is all anyone can ask for. Right when we thought it was all over for her this year the good lord through a good friend blessed us with the best horse possible for her to improve her skills. Our daughter has grit, and when she wants something she gets after it. Her mother and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the off season. 

My smile broadens at the thought of our youngest yesterday. A boy who once screamed and cried: NO RODEO, I HATE RODEO. Running around receiving high fives from all who watched him drop a steer in roughly 4 seconds! 

Parker rode horses every day, then during a  jr. rodeo season he was bucked off three times with three trips to the hospital. After the third trip he said no more. It took over a year to get him riding again, this was his mountain to climb. He cried every time and after riding a few of our horses, my horse Tank became the only one he would almost willingly climb aboard. Then unexpectedly Tank died. His mountain to climb just got bigger. 

Three quarters of the way through the rodeo season the lad still hadn’t tossed a steer in competition. He was feeling discouraged. Then last month he not only tossed one, but two!!! After a great Bulldogging seminar and some more practice his timing was coming together. We started talking about the possibility that if he could throw both steers at next months (this last weekend) rodeo he may just barley qualify for state. He became excited, and the light and love for something he has accomplished both on his own and with the help of his brother began to grow. 

Yesterday that’s exactly what he did! By throwing that one steer he qualified for state. To say he is excited is an understatement! He cannot wait for another opportunity to throw steers! He looks up to his older brothers, the oldest for fishing and the one for Bulldogging. To follow in their footsteps makes his chest swell with pride. Knowing that in two years he will need to bulldog from a horse, he is looking forward to riding again. 

His mountain just got a little smaller. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is we ALL have mountains to climb in our life. From our grandparents to our children. Complaining about them is fine, it lets us express our frustrations, deal with our emotions and relieve the pressure associated with realizing there are problems. But in the end, if we do nothing about anything other than complain all the time we miss the beauty of watching those who have figured out just how to chip away at that mountain of troubles one hill at a time, we miss out on the shared elation as one day those troubles are gone and a beautiful view from the summit can be seen. 

Just a thought from a windy morning walk. 

Driving Ms. Daisy

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

There was nothing.

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

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

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

(Deep Breath)

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

Think I’ll Tweet about it.

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

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

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

To dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would we be without dreams?

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

~George Bernard Shaw~

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

~C.S. Lewis~

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

~James Dean~

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

~Oscar Wilde~

And my personal favorite

A man is not old until regrets take place of dreams

~John Barrymore~

And with John Barrymore’s quote I say this.

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

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

Wins and losses = PTSD

fire 6

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE ARE LOSING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betty….

If you sense someone is in trouble:

Call 911

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

Contact the 10-33 foundation for more information

www.1033foundation.org

Betty’s AKA:

Fire Engineer James Franceschi

22 years of service to the citizens of Dixon California

 

 

 

So this is 50…

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”

                                                                                                                                ~Muhammad Ali~

 

I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!

And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.

Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..

 

Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.

I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.

Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????

We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.

I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.

When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.

The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.

Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle  from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.

Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.

I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.

Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.

I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.

So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.

[JF1]

Pushing back from the table for I might be full.

Our daily lives at times seem to flow like an oceans tide. Highs then lows, troubled waters an incoming squall or the serenity of a calm sea. I feel as though we are such a part of this earth, so intertwined and yet it’s not what many would have us believe. All things remain cyclical yet no observation as to the cause or need? Blinders have been affixed and our noses lay heavy towards the ground out of fear or repetitive motion. This mundane normalcy deemed appropriate as we refuse to raise our eyebrows casting glares into alternate directions for no other reason than to ask why? A society spoon fed by the very corporate dollar so many rage against. There is no trustworthy source any longer, no sense of community bringing bright ideas and alternative messages to an open forum where mockery and ridicule are not to be tolerated. We are a society of mongers. It is no wonder so many hearts are filled with anger and hate. It is why those who are not filled with anger and hate only feel fear, sadness, bewilderment and confusion. Our modern day is frustrating to say the least. Just an observation.

Trying my hardest to find positives around me, my head hurts. My head is feeling as though it is filled with sand and ready to burst at the seams. When I feel this way, knowing myself as I do while understanding my body, I know I am emotionally full. Neck pain, back pain, the inability to tackle large projects or even affect them in some small way. These are signs I may be a bit troubled.

My blog is suffering. There has been many stories as of late, yet I have been making excuses not to write. It’s as though I am procrastinating for some unforeseen life test that I have not studied for and time is desperately running out. You remember school don’t you? Mid-terms, tons of material to study for and you begin to feel as though you just can’t? So you put it off one day, then another and soon one day becomes two, two becomes four and four becomes a week, a week becomes two then bam, you staring down the barrel of having done nothing and you have 48 hours to get all that work/studying finished!

The book is kicking my ass! No kidding, it is seriously killing me!! Every writer feels as though there is this romanticism associated with the act of writing. (cue dreamy music) Holed up in some small cute cabin in the woods alone with nothing but a Hermes 3000 and a couple reams of paper to keep you company. There is a light rain and endless wildlife roams at will around your cabin. Scotch, scotch, scotchety, scotch! There is plenty of scotch, a few steaks for grilling; a warm fire leaves nothing but your imagination draining through clunky metal keys as you pour your souls into the world’s next greatest novel! A book written from the heart, full of love for all to read and draw conclusions while filling your desire to reach just one person! Then if you are really lucky you end up on the talk show circuit telling all who will listen just what an amazing experience it was to find yourself, in that little cabin while sharing your pain and exploring your mental boundaries! Oh yeah, also while consuming copious amounts of scotch!

In reality, you write when you can. At work, the desk at home, at three in the morning when you can’t sleep, or you just tell your laptop to GFI with a super number one symbol shown using solely the middle finger as you walk by.

Right now I have over two years of writings, some from the blog, others never published. There is back stories needing to be filled and fillers needed where some writings have failed to draw a conclusion. Then while writing new material or correcting older stuff you realize you haven’t even begun to touch the depth of pain pulsing deep inside. Oh you think you have done a fine job of explaining where you are on the pain scale but in reality it’s more like a large, gross scab. Each and every time you begin to write about a certain painful moment you are really just picking at it! The scab that is. The problem becomes the more you pick at this scab, the more you wish to keep picking at this scab no matter that it hurts! Then you find you long to pick at the damn scab, almost crave picking at this fucking scab and before you know it the scab has started to bleed and each drop of blood is another level of pain for you to experience! Once you have bled enough you find the need to analyze the blood, categorize the emotions and before you know it, you are writing about it and another scab is there for the picking!!! Oh bloody Hell!!!!

Reading through my journal, correcting grammar while restructuring sentences has forced me to relive every emotionally charged experience over and over again. Some evenings I can only make it through one or two before I find myself feeling blue. Feeling the pain as though it is happening right then, right now. My heart aches for my wife and all she has endured and continues to endure. It is not fair and many times I wish it was me and not her. But it is not, so the best I can do is honor her by writing this story the right way and pray that when it’s finished a story is told that adequately reflects the message I am trying to convey. During many of my postings a follower asked if I thought I would survive reliving the experience while writing this book. I can say with all honesty that I will. It will be painful, it will most likely change me as a person forever, and if I do it right I pray it will change the lives of others, but it will leave a mark, a toll and once the scab is healed, leave a scar.

Work.

My whole career I have been really good at doing my job and much like taking my uniform off to go home; putting it away when I am done. There has been some rough calls as of late. Vehicle accidents, a few fires and a few fatalities. The beauty of our job is the thousands of hours of hands on training and preparing all pays off, then we are able to quietly slip away into the background. Notoriety is not what a true public servant wishes for in my eyes. This job we do is so much more than a job, it is who we become and it fulfills a need we harbor to help other human beings without fanfare. So for the better part of 22 years that’s what I have quietly done. But the last loss of life call I participated in was much more. It was a young life, it was a good call (as far as work goes)! Everything went right! From on scene time, to assistance, to hand off, the patient was treated and cared for exceptionally! Hell upon arrival at the hospital there were signs we had in fact succeeded! It all sounds great right? Do your job well then go home? You quietly pat yourself and your co-workers on the back for as a team we either do well or fail and this one was in the win column. Right? Ah no wrong! Sadly the patient ultimately perished.

Where things have become harder is in today’s age you can no longer erase the calls, and move on keeping some form of sanity. Why? Because we have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s not that we don’t want to know the outcome or for that matter want you to know what we did or how we did it, for we do, but instead of a verbal update from your medical director or battalion chief complete with an after action assessment we now get all of that plus the social media report! Our world is becoming so small and because it’s shrinking rapidly we see patients or victims plastered across any number of social media sites and with it comes the arm chair quarterbacking that so often follows a senseless tragedy. Those thoughtless comments, or ignorant compilations of medical strategies or tactics that should have been used, or weren’t used at all! These of course are usually coming from people with little to no knowledge of emergency services or the stressful split second decision making that often times accompanies a fast paced life or death situation. No, other than watching an episode of Blue Bloods, Greys Anatomy or Chicago Fire the majority of these people spout off from the relative safety of their computer screens with little or no thought other than self-absorption as to what their statements say to all of those involved! The consistent proverbial stirring of the pot, pointing of the finger, trying to find someone else to blame at all costs is taxing!! It shouldn’t bother me, it really shouldn’t, I mean I am grown man who loves his job and can empathize with overwhelming grief and sorrow. Usually a few of the main precursors to spouting ignorance before cooler heads prevail! But once the faces become a repetitive fixture, shown over and over again, complete with background stories, testaments from loved ones and of course the aforementioned written rage well it becomes hard to not take it all personally. To transpose that person as one of your own loved ones and then carry the guilt.

We do our best, we try very hard for the citizens we serve and we carry the faces of each and every one we have ever lost while trying to do this job. Sometimes it just sucks and there is nothing you can do about it. It is the job.

So you can see there is a lot on Bettys mind, I may be a bit full right now, but not to worry! Anyone who knows Betty, knows Betty loves to eat!

Hopefully my next ramble will be filled with a little more humor.

I think we all need some laughs!

Maybe I’ll go fishing?

 

 

It’s TIME!!!!!!

Saturday morning has come and gone. Quietly I made breakfast for everyone, fed Ms. Jacy, ensured each child had done their required morning chores before anyone noticed we had all slept in a little too long. I met with one of our horse borders/friends I hadn’t seen in a while and put another load of laundry on rotation while the washer/dryer spun out their last few moments.

But something is nagging me.

Lately I have taken to working on the ranch from six to noon, dropping into a two hour nap after lunch then taking care of odds and ends in the house until bedtime. This routine has developed for a few reasons.

  1. It has become too hot for working past noon around here. The days of old where I could go and go and go for hours on end through 100-106 degree’s are long gone. To many years of riding around in air conditioned cars and sitting behind a computer doing reports in an air conditioned office have done away with any tolerance once held for the almighty heat.
  2. Taking care of myself has always been on the back burner. Taking care of Jacy then the kids is always first and foremost! Between softball, rodeo, Jacy, doctors’ appointments and the ranch (thankfully I have awesome help in that regards) anything to do with me is nonexistent.

Once rodeo and softball finished I finally found some fresh air, a breather if you will; time to do what needs to be done around here and that led to my newly installed schedule which as of late has been working great!

Almost too great!

You see after a week of my newly created schedule, things around here are getting done! I am able to plan for the next month or so projects to be completed. I am not exhausted from going all day trying to get something finished in record time. Taking instead the stance of “a little bit each day leads to a lot in the future”. It is as though,,,,,,,,, wait for it,,,,,,,,,, my life is normalizing….

I know right?? A normal day, with a normal schedule, with a normal outcome! Who would have thought? Today is my last day off and tomorrow I will be back for a 48 hour shift. I chose to sleep in today after,,,,, wait for it,,,,,, a date with my wife last night!!!! WHAT??????

So today I took it easy and I feel fairly rested. Tomorrow for the first time in a long, long, really long time I will not be dragging my ass into work completely exhausted!!! It has been so long since I have felt this way that I actually feel guilty. As though something must be wrong with me!

But with sleep, rest and a normal working schedule there comes another small dilemma.

My brain is working again. Yep running as though it’s an engine with high octane fuel coursing through its pistons! Lots of horse power to spare and nowhere to use it! I cannot turn it off! Ideas for writing just flowing through my head! So far this morning my fingers are cramping from typing! I finished a few other stories written for myself or some publication in the future and then you see I have this idea for an e-book!

Yep, it’s been racking my brain this whole book thing, and I need some help. I have flirted with writing a book in the past, had several very kind people insist I should give writing a book a try and even started a few outlines. Many ideas and formats have crossed my mind and I have enough material for several books on Haiti, Mission trips, Leukemia and of course raising children. But none of it flows and like a never slowing carousel; where exactly do I jump on without getting hurt? Or do I just dare fate and take a leap of faith? (hmm think I just answered my own question) Now whether this emotional wall comes from my two year hiatus of exhaustion or just my inability to turn off my ADD long enough to form a correct thought or not has yet to be (oohhh butterfly)….

ribbon

I’m back, where were we..

Oh yes, so I need some help from all of you. You see I can’t do this alone as much as I would like too. So I am going to start bouncing ideas off the mighty brains of all three of my readers (sarcasm)! I am not saying I will use your ideas, or even like them, but I will appreciate them and use some of them and that folks is what brain storming is all about. Collective minds working for a greater good.

You are probably asking yourself why? Why am I doing this and what will my topic be? What is the overall purpose? What do I have to offer Betty? And why isn’t Betty running for President?

The last one we will talk about in 2018 when I start campaigning.

So let me give you some information to help get us started.

  1. The book will be about surviving as the spouse of a Leukemia patient
  2. Do I write it as a “how too” or a rough guide? Dry and simple, listing resources and web-sites for those who need a place to reach out?
  3. Instead of writing it as a “how too” should I expand upon my blog, telling the whole story as more of a living biography? Hoping the reader grabs a message of faith?
  4. Should it just remain what it is, a representation of my blog, leading more people to read our story, find hope while reaching out for help and answers. Or should I elaborate on each entry a little more while basically keeping it the same?
  5. Am I just crazy and none of this really matters?

If you are a follower of my writings then you know all I have ever wanted to do was help people. It is why I changed careers in my early/mid twenties when I could have easily made a nice living driving/owning my own semi-truck to becoming a firefighter. I felt the overwhelming need to help people then and I feel it now. I have made no secret that I feel there is more, not only for me but for each human being on this planet. We need to work harder on helping each other as opposed to today’s current climate. Of course that is for a longer deeper discussion at another time.

I feel sharing our (Jacy and I) experiences would be beneficial to others. But especially from my point of view, that of a caregiver, husband, spouse. I know there are thousands of spouses/significant others/parents/siblings out there feeling lost, waking up each morning wondering if today is the day they emotionally quit swimming thus allowing the proverbial water to cover their noses.

I am here to say “drowning” is not an option. They have the strength in them, more than what they know or understand, and that one person who needs them most see’s them as a pillar of strength. That strength is there, they just don’t know it. I think, I can help.

So give me some answers. Let me know what you think?

Oh yes there is a number 6 to my request.

  1. Please, I hate to pander but if you like my blog, “like” it on Facebook then go to the blog, sign up for the emails and hit “like” there as well. Also share it with as many people as possible. The more likes it receives on WordPress the more followers I have which leads to more exposure in the WordPress reader. I love talking with the spouses who have reached out to me during this time and I hope to meet many more.

Thank you to everyone who answers my rally cry, comes up with ideas or simply decides to reach out! More to come, I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

Michael J Fox ruined my life…

for love or money

Being a child of the eighties was something that well, only us children of the eighties fully understand. It was a time of freedom, rebellion, exploration, awesome music from all genre’s, cocaine and money. Lots of money. Ok lots of cocaine too but that’s neither here nor there! We as a nation oozed money, it poured from our skin like Don Johnson sexy sweat! Our country was thriving on a robust bond market, a sizzling hot Wall Street, real estate, and oil, black gold, Texas tea. Our parents (or so history would have you believe) were reaping the benefits of an administration that fostered free trade along with the opening of borders and capitalism. Dancing in the street led us all to be a bit Footloose.

A country had emerged from two decades of war, drought, protest, reform, political unrest and of course who could forget the gas crisis? Line after line of cars waiting, hoping there was still gas left when their turn arrived at the pump.

Our youth of the sixties fought racism, fought for woman’s equality and against war, people of the 60/70’s cared more about social reform than capitalism believing higher education created unequal social classes, while caring for one another through shared progress brought much higher rewards. Citizens struggled with the after effects of Vietnam and in doing so turned their backs on soldiers who were struggling mentally when they came back ashore. A recession in the 70’s showed us higher interest rates, and economic instability with most Americans struggling to earn enough money to survive. Our country was tired, emotionally spent having put forth so much effort in finding balance, only to be rewarded with a lying president (Nixon) who stepped down, cover-ups, just plain dirty politics and a new administration (Carter) that did nothing to create or foster stability.

I remember these times well. Worrying about how much money was left at the end of the week and where it should be utilized. Do we buy more gas that we can’t get or food for the table? My parents arguing about money and finances, over interest rates and fees, they were always working just to survive.

When things began to turn around in the eighties it became clear Americans were looking to become more self-involved as opposed to socially invested. Americans were looking for relief in any way shape or form. That relief appeared in the form of fantasy. But like many Americans Fantasy has a way of mimicking reality.

New television formatting arrived and with it shows like Dallas, and Dynasty were on top of the Nielsen ratings chart. Fading away was American staples like All in the Family, Chico and the man or the Jefferson’s; these shows broke new ground showcasing America’s struggle with diversity and acceptance. These shows handily worked at creating a better vison for America through entertainment. The eighties arrived and popular television shows turned self-centered, focusing on money, wealth, fast cars, lavish homes and expensive clothes. Changing the face of what America perceived as being American. Intertwined in this new gluttonous direction was a story line focused on the philandering practices of each cast member, showcasing a need for greed in both monetary and the flesh. We were a country desiring an escape. So many years of war, hate, death, struggle and need. The eighties came and took that from us each and every night corralled in either 30 or 60 minute segments.

As a child I too felt the pain. We never spent a lot on food, clothes or shoes. Food purchased was just enough to feed us in hopes dad had a good week on the road. (He was a salesman during this time) The change in the way I perceived how life should be lived came with a little family television show called Family Ties. It had everything I described above, as its two main characters were children of the 60’s now raising a family in an 80’s world. Struggling with a former social conscience while enveloping themselves in an emerging capitalistic society.

Their son Alex Keaton was an upstart young Republican, fighting against his parents democratic values, learning along the way that when you merge the two an amicable resolve can always be found. It peaked my interest as I identified with young Alex. A lad who didn’t have much but wanted more despite his parents trying to create a well-rounded giving child. It became my first taste of a capitalism fantasy.

That fantasy grew as most movies around this time also focused on the imaginary cash flow that Hollywood felt every American was living with during the Reagan era. Every high school film focused on kids coming from households either struggle or affluence. Either way you and your friends would end up driving BMW’s, Ferrari’s, Jeep Grand Cherokee’s and Porches. It was Weird Science but girls were at the ready and no one seemed to ever wonder where the money came from unless it was Risky Business. We all knew what pot held that cash! Of course if things didn’t work out the way you had planned there was always a Breakfast Club nearby to reignite friendships and ease your disturbed young mind. Or you could just have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The world would stop, just for you because you were young, smarter than your parents and that combination always led to success.

But during this time as we emerged from high school wondering what awaited our young eager minds, we were not met with BMW’s or Ferrari’s, rich girls or money. I was met with three jobs, working hard just so I could find my Bright Lights Big City. It was hard and tiring, leaving me many times sleeping on the side of the road in my work truck, or in my own car at the back of my dad’s restaurant.

Why? Why did I work so hard? Because I had a dream. A dream to one day be successful, own a BMW, live in a giant mansion and become the Secret of my Success. Michael J Fox had shown me that it was as easy as being a part of a family that always did the right thing, having a dream, sneaking into a large company, assuming another’s identity while dating the boss’s wife or girlfriend then once inside the inner circle just woo many wealthy investors with you childlike wit and charm! Bam! Money and success are all yours!! On top of that if you have to choose For Love or Money you can’t lose! Education be damned! Our ambition will win out every time!!! It was the eighties remember!!! Michael showed me time and again through different directorial visions that is how it’s done!

Unfortunately my brain believed all this could be true and as I worked hard providing ideas while trying to prove that I was willing to go that extra mile, work 14-16 hours a day looking for just a snippet of financial excess. Something happened. The truth, I was nothing more than an employee. You see the movies and television told me hard work paid off, long days, endless hours helped you get noticed and ultimately afforded you a seat at the head table. But 90% of the time it does no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, you are valued, I never felt as though in some small way I wasn’t valued at the jobs for which I worked the hardest. But unlike what Michaels movies had taught me, there was no monetary reward at the end of a hard day. That to this day is held for the exceptional family member, investor or capitalist. Not the hard working outsider. Of course maybe I just didn’t work hard enough, or my ability to recognize opportunity wasn’t sharp. Either way I walked away with only the satisfaction of doing a good job. I only wish I hadn’t been brain washed to believe there was more. For that Michael J Fox you crushed me.

Today, I have an enlightened social conscience, a family that makes the Huxtables look lame and I am trying my hardest to instill a solid work ethic combined with education so when my four children hit the world after college they have an ability to choose between a capitalist lifestyle or a socially conscience one. Hey maybe I’ll have one of those children that can do both, you know that ultra-rare animal, the one that leaves you in awe whenever you gaze upon its presence; the philanthropist? One can only hope.

So as I creep up on my 50th year, struggling at times to make ends meet, still keeping just a slim hope that Michaels words, ideas and strategies might just pay off. I think; Fuck it!

In the end I could never stay mad at you Michael J Fox! I guess you really didn’t ruin my life and your movies allowed me to dream big. I try to share dreaming big with my children because of you and truth be told you are still one of the funniest actors I have ever seen. Hopefully my children can figure it all out. Succeed where I have failed. Heck someone has to take care of me when I get old, and they are not allowed to warehouse me in a convalescent home! I will not be put in an institutional Cocoon but prefer instead to be On Golden Pond.

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