To go gentle into that good night.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas

 

This poem has resonated with me since that of a young man. I have had it stuck in my head for months now trying my hardest to determine what it means to me.

It brings about stirred emotions of an unwavering inner strength, tormenting whispers of the unknown, and an inner fight that arises much like a demon awaiting a moment to reign terror upon those who doubt its power. For there are those who will challenge your age, your wisdom and use the word to chip away at all that you are, have accomplished in life, or look to become. They don’t understand this poem speaks to everyone, not just those who proudly wear the wrinkles of time.

And so with that said I write..

The assumed stands before demise.

So expected and anticipated according to annals of time that my brain is washed by hollowed expectation.

Waiting and waiting to crumble so frail. My strength gone from age’s elastration.

But I refuse to go gentle into that good night

I have too much to lose by allowing forked tongues in shaping my destiny

To live, to breathe, to gather life in a bottle and sip upon its soulful nourishment

A man whose wrinkles should bring about empathy while disparaging apathy

I am strong, I am whole, I am man, I shall move forward no matter life’s dreadful weight

A second half of life laden with baggage and yet its burden bears no consequence 

I cry for those entrapped, ones who are youthfully pointed towards, a folly of jokes and insults fall upon this wasteland created through a wrinkle of time. Burdening a man’s soul it does, with stereotypes of ancient freight.

For they too shall bare ages haunting truth and most likely through inner weakness go gently into that good night

Sickle in hand, cloaked from light.

But not I, for quiet has never been my right.

 

It feels as though lately people are dying all around me, I can no longer ignore this truth. I am starting to feel the pressure to survive at all costs. Every time I turn around another child has gone, another mother is ill, another father has crossed over to the other side. Some I learn from phone calls or social media and others because I was there, my hands unable to help. It has brought me to fully understand that I can longer hide behind disbelief, a realization rings solid that yes we all really do have an expiration date.

For years we have known this to be true; but we never think it could possibly happen to us. It can and yes it does. In the blink of an eye, this glorious gift given us from God can be taken away. Our hearts beat loudly, our minds work endlessly and yet it is all for nothing once our bodies have vanished.

Every day driving into town, there is always something that reminds me how much I love life. Our world is very complex and filled with so many wonderful things, I just find it hard to fathom that at some point in time I will no longer be here to enjoy the majesty that continually surrounds me.

I have seen and felt so many things in this short life, more than some less than others. I have cried until there were no tears left to give, laughed until my stomach felt like one giant cramp, put my fist through a solid door and thrown a wrench through a wall in shame and or anger. I have hugged another, held out a welcoming open hand and used those same hands to bring pain upon another’s wrongful deeds.  I have screamed towards the sky, lied to appease emotions, and mumbled quietly at the voices in my head, begging them to leave me alone. I have not only felt my pain, but your pain as well because of a sworn life choice. I have sat befuddled by life’s obstacles, gazing upon an open field wondering, praying, and yearning for answers to so many questions. Some days the answers come, most days they do not, and then there are days I believe obstacles have been placed in my way to keep me from myself.

In my humble opinion.

This life it was not meant to be easy, it was meant to be experienced.

You may not currently like the experience, you may not enjoy the outcome at any moment in time. But know this; this life, it is yours. It is not someone else’s, it belongs to you and you alone. It is up to you in determining how you see life’s obstacles, how you react when life’s ugliness knocks upon your door. Do you stand tall, find the answers and move forward? Do you strive to provide positivity, a ray of light and hope or do you bury your head in the sand ignoring the life around you?

Do you simply become that who goes gentle into that good night?

I have and always will choose to fight.

It’s in my nature, it is who I am..

Who are you?

 

 

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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

 

 

 

It’s time for all of us to start talking about P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

What is written below was born from a single sentence spoken to me one day after what was essentially a rough call. A group of us gathered with a well-known, well liked chaplain within our department to ensure no one either needed or didn’t need to discuss the day’s traumatic events. All was fine, we all spoke a little, shared our feelings the way we always do with a little sadness submerged inside of humor and yet; this one sentence has lingered in my head for months now, and like an aching back that needs to be stretched or an itch that you just can’t reach, I finally felt the overwhelming need to move or scratch, leading to this chaotic rant.

Driving to work at times is more difficult than you may think. I get up in the morning like everyone else does, make coffee and breakfast for my wife so she can take her medications. (My wife is suffering from GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease after a Bone Marrow Transplant) Without missing a beat my tired achy body rousts the rest of our clan from a good nights slumber. One heads out to feed animals, the other two work on breakfast, lunches and packing up homework. After a cup of coffee for myself, getting dressed and brushing teeth, I find myself making sure the entire snack drawer hasn’t been loaded into only one backpack while ensuring the teenage boy has gathered up his crap as well. I meet with the wife one last time, making sure she has taken her medications, she has enough food and supplies to last her until our oldest gets home from work and that she has a charged phone to call me in case of an emergency. Then we all hit the road, them to school and I am off to work.

We live out in the country and it is a ten mile drive to town. Some would say it’s far, I think it is just far enough. Some mornings I may point out the beauty in a sunrise, or a unique cloud formation during a storm coming over the mountain. Other mornings depending on the time of year it may be the Almond trees in blossom, Geese overhead (we live just west of the flyway) or the simple, still, eerie way fog lays upon the ground. But the reality is every turn, every stretch of roadway we travel, it is there; like a kick in the teeth or a punch to the stomach. It is always there reminding me of my life, the hidden lie we all live in regards to life and the fact that everything comes to an end in death.

I became a full-fledged probationary firefighter on June 7th, 1995. When we started we were young, brash and full of ourselves. We heard all the stories from the old timers and we couldn’t wait to step onto an engine. Through diligent hard work we successfully graduated our academy. We didn’t drop out when it got hard, we didn’t cringe or flounder through basic medical training, we thought we knew full well what we were getting into and we were damn proud to be doing it! Much like the majority of our academy class, all I ever wanted to do was help people. I have always known there was something more for me, and I still feel that way today.

When we started in station I followed the senior guys around. Dumb, ignorant with no experience what so ever, I made every effort to learn as much as I could! To listen and emulate those who paved this glorious road before me. I also went straight back to school, obtaining an E.M.T. or Emergency Medical Technician’s certification and started working on learning about the fire engineers job so I better understood what was happening at the other end of my hose line during a fire. I spent hundreds of hours soaking up firefighter skills and responsibilities, hoping to be good enough so one day the senior guys would trust me to carry out important tasks on any emergency scene. It was (the job) and still is, everything I hoped becoming a firefighter would be.

They (the old guys) really do try preparing you for every conceivable situation be it fire, vehicle accident, medical aid, haz-mat, flood, rescue etc… but there is one thing you can never be prepared for, one thing no one really wants to talk about, and that is the constant never ending death. It is not the fires, or the car accidents or even the medicals that wear down your body over time, it is the constant death that wears down your mind and even at times your resolve.

In their defense these seasoned veterans only knew from what had been passed down to them. They try, oh yes they try in their own weird humor filled way. A way we adopted as we got older, supposedly wiser with more runs under our belts. Our chief at the time warned us during our graduation ceremony with one sentence that went something like this; You can never prepare yourself for the things you will see.

How true he was, but as young kids we just laughed! You know that nervous, I am a tough bad ass laugh you usually hear right before the laughing idiot gets their teeth kicked in? Yeah that laugh. We were naïve, dumb and blinded to the realities of our world. Hell! We’d proclaim; we’ve seen death! We have watched enough horror films we knew exactly what death is, (insert chest thumping here) and yet we knew so very little. So shamefully little about death and our both personal and professional responsibility in regards to handling death.

Fast forward 21 years, back to that morning taking kids to school. Every turn on the roadway while talking to my kids a memory reminds me of an accident here, or a death over there. The father of three, ejected and if that wasn’t insult to injury enough the car rolled back over on top of him. The grandfather whose tractor flipped over on him out in that field over there and no one knew until later in the morning because well, grandpa is supposed to be out tractoring. The car that ran the stop sign at this intersection, running off the roadway and striking the culvert thus bursting into flames. Once we cross over the freeway into town, we pass a house where I held a child screaming and crying because no matter what we did, or how hard we tried his mommy died, right there in front of him.  I wonder where that now grown young man is today. That white house over there, we did compressions on a 24 year old drug overdose or two blocks over when the roommate came home to find his best friend had hung himself in the hallway. Drop the kids off at school and I drive by a house where we had the pleasure of searching and dragging the families’ dogs from a house fire. Those dogs were this couple’s world and although some would say they are just dogs, to some people those dogs may as well have been their children. We couldn’t save them, they sobbed on the front lawn as we carried out fire operations. Hey right here at the intersection where I sit at every morning is the site where we did CPR on an elderly man as his wife gently whimpered up against the wall. I can still see him lying there, I can still feel her grief. Those are just a few of the road signs as I call them that I look at every morning on the way into town. There are hundreds more, they are just not on this particular route. Oh well back to meeting with our well respected chaplain.

After every borderline call, or semi disturbing sounding response this one lone sentence, made in jest with no malice inferred what so ever kept nagging away at my inner self. This sentence came from a warm heart, a place of love and respect. And it’s because of this one lone sentence for which I have done nothing about that I feel I must honor its intent and finally respond.

The sentence you ask?

Our chaplain; “Don’t worry about Betty, if something is bothering him he will just write about it and we will read it the next day”

Simple, precise and so true. It is my way, my coping mechanism and beyond those who know me personally and those who follow my blog, a statement of fact. I have so many stories written, never to see the light of day. Locked away on my personal drive for only my eyes to re-read, re-live and suffer through quietly.

So with that being said; this one is for you Jim Wilson. Thank you for always being there for not only our department but our neighboring fire department as well. It is people such as you and your partners that make letting go of the evil demons we hold inside, the ones pulling back our tears, screaming in our heads to keep swallowing the pain just a little easier to handle.

I never realized how badly our job had begun to affect me. I become fairly used to the road signs around town and yes they were beginning to wear me down but it wasn’t until I realized I was terrified of my children going out to play, or my sons learning to drive that I knew I may have a problem. It wasn’t until I began having nightmares, losing sleep, or superimposing my children’s faces on those faces of death swirling around my head that I knew I may have a problem.It wasn’t until I noticed I had a migraine every day for two years and my body hurt all the time that I may have a problem. It wasn’t until I realized I was drinking every single night and even though my wife pointed this fact out to me, I brushed it off as; it’s just beer, it’s hot, we all drink beer, lots of beer, that I began to see I may have a real problem. It wasn’t until I found myself crying at stupid movies, commercials or spacing out, reliving some tragedy in my life be it personal or from the job that I knew I might have a problem. The rain, a wind, a smell, a moment in time surfacing from the unknown can bring about not happiness but disturbing morbid thoughts; yeah thats when I knew I may have a problem. It also wasn’t until my wife was diagnosed with Leukemia and the normally stoic, stiff upper lipped man I had become cried like a baby, uncontrollably, without any knowledge of the severity or options available that I knew I may have a problem.

So I started writing.

And I started talking, to anyone who would listen. I began by reaching out to friends in the business, and a few of my close personal friends. We (the fire service) have spent so many years suppressing these emotions, telling our young firefighters through actions or lack  thereof and not words that it’s NOT ok to feel. We seemingly must be strong all the time for if we fall apart we may become less then what we are and what we are is not heroic, or super hero like, which is what many would have you believe. No what we are is human. Death hurts, losing people hurts, seeing the worst in humanity hurts. Yes we are lucky enough to have those moments that are filled with elation. For four years in a row myself and three others were lucky enough to win the save a life award. The moments are there! But the gruesomeness of what one human can do to another or the after effects of sheer tragedy will always outweigh the good, because you can’t just erase those memories.

I like to tell stories (duh?)

When you see me I am more than happy to tell stories about our job. There is good, and there is just the plain old funny ass, you would never believe it if you hadn’t have lived it stories that go with our job! What good is having a long career if there wasn’t some wonderful memories mixed with humor? But no matter where I go, and as much as I love to share our experiences with anyone who is genuinely interested, there is one question you should never ask any of us. Ever. It is not fair, we know you don’t know why it isn’t fair. But it is not fair to us or the demons we hide deep down inside. So please be understanding and hear me out.

Please don’t ever ask this one question.

WHAT WAS MY WORST CALL EVER?

It happens all the time. We get off work and go home, we take time to assimilate back to a normal existence. Maybe that evening we get dressed up and take our spouses, significant others, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends of friends out for an evening of fun. We have a few drinks, the laughs are rolling, jokes are being told around the table through the sounds of others laughing and having a good time. And then it happens. Usually asked by a newcomer to the group or outsider as one of your inner circle would never cross such dreaded lines.

HEY MAN WHATS THE WORST CALL YOU HAVE EVER BEEN ON?

Or

HEY BRO SERIOUSLY WHAT’S THE MOST GRUESOME THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN?

Followed by; C’mon tell me I can handle it!!

But here is the thing.

You can’t handle it, nor do I want you to handle it! I cannot even begin to tell you the worst things I have seen, or put into adequate words the most gruesome of images. They are forever trapped inside my head, seared into my brain and in what realm of reality do you even for a minute think you can handle what my hands have touched, the scenes my eyes have witnessed, the sounds that no matter the day or time inexplicably reverberate through my head like a sole hiker yelling across the Grand Canyon just to hear themselves over and over again. No these stories are not for you and pray, I mean get down on your knees and pray that you never, ever witness even a fraction of what I have witnessed in 21 years.

Oh I know, I have heard it all and it usually goes something like this; Hey man its cool I have seen the most gruesome movies of all, I watched SAW like ten times! Or my personal favorite; I have seen Faces of Death so it’s all right you can tell me. But see that’s where the problem really mucks it up, for it isn’t even whether or not you could handle hearing stories about the most gruesome thing I witnessed in my career, it’s about the fact that you want to know because in reality the way I see it, that one question you threw out with that little condescending smirk has in my eyes instantaneously become a dick measuring competition!

That’s right I said it’s a damn dick measuring competition! You don’t give a shit about what I have seen or the emotions that went along with that particular call! You don’t give two shits about the fact those calls haunt me and have changed my life forever, changed my family’s lives forever and changed the lives of those involved forever! You don’t give three shits’ about the nightmares, or night sweats, the fact I have held more dead and disfigured human beings in my career to date than any one person should ever need too!! And you know what? There are hundreds of thousands of firefighters out there in larger metropolitan areas and military personnel who have witnessed so many more than I! No what you give a shit about finding is your bravado, filling your ego by sitting there listening to some watered down version because I damn sure am not going to tell you the truth! You know why? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

No sir this is all about you secretly fulfilling some need to walk away afterwards with shrugging eyebrows and rolling eyes like it was no big deal, followed with under the breath monotone grumblings like; shit that ain’t nothing, man what the hell, that didn’t sound bad at all or Heck I could do that stupid job, I don’t why they make a big deal about firefighters anyways!

Don’t think for one minute I don’t know! Don’t think for one minute I haven’t heard you as you walk away, or seen that smug ass look on your face which makes me want to grab you by the throat hoping you can visualize some of what you just heard simply by looking into my eyes, but in the end you can have that look, you can walk away thinking you can do our job better and someday hopefully you come to your senses finding the need to thank someone like me, or a police officer, highway patrol officer, game warden or every single person who has ever served in the military for ensuring every morning you get to wake up with a clear conscience. That right Mr. Dick never have you struggled through a sleepless night while subconsciously transferring all the absolutely disturbing things that can be done to a human onto the faces of your children! You may care for those around you and if you have kids may even be a great dad. But your kids don’t suffer from all of father’s freakish paranoia. Worrying endlessly every moment of the day, seeing nothing but disaster around every corner and not that Chicago Fire television bullshit either! Real disturbing, disgusting and disheartening disaster. Faces of those who haunt you.

You will never walk down a street and smell burning flesh not food as you pass by a BBQ joint, remembering the guy who intentionally wrecked his car into an overpass beam where it caught on fire and he burned to death. You’ve never had to pull a guy like that out with your crew, grimacing as he came apart one piece at a time like overdone chicken. Or cringe when you see the reflection of a burning fireplace in a window wondering if anyone is home because it looks like a room and contents fire just starting. You can drive through your town oblivious to a memory of a kid run over at one intersection or the family of four that died on the edge of a freeway off ramp! Cruising the very same freeway you don’t see the fuel truck that burned or the semi-truck that crossed four lanes killing two and permanently injuring several others. You most likely also don’t see the road sign that cut a car in half taking the life of the driver and you damn sure don’t pass over the spot in lane number two on a daily basis where I picked up a boy’s face, not his head, nor his skull because those were crushed and lying in the number three lane but his fucking face! Discarded like an old Halloween mask on the first of November!

But hey this is a cool game right? Questions are fun!!!

Never, please ever, ask any of us that one simple, self serving question.

Now in defense of these most dreaded of questions for which I am venting I will say this; I love my job, I have been privileged to participate in caring for the people of this special town. It has been my honor to hold a scared mothers hand, to speak gently to a dying grandfather, to hold and care for a woman beaten by the man who supposedly loves her most, to look into the eyes of a sick veteran and tell him not to worry it’s our turn to take care of him . My life has been blessed with assisting new life brought into this world, extricating people from cars that looked as though a bomb went off inside and then staying by a patient’s side until the ambulance takes them away. Working my way through a structure on fire while it gets hotter and hotter, not knowing for sure if we are going to be pulling someone out or finding the fire first then extinguishing it, because sometimes our job requires we do many things at once. My job has so many plusses that expose a person’s true love for another human being, any human being and even when that person is combative or dislikes us for whatever reason the very same love and compassion comes forth.

It all unfortunately comes at a cost. I have learned over time this career has taken away my ability to see life with a rainbows and unicorns attitude and that really sucks because I really like both RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS!!! The innocence of life long gone from our or my ability to cope.

To those who say; well you knew what you were getting into when you joined.

I say this; you are right, to an extent. Words are one thing, a preconceived notion is another but nothing can prepare you for the reality because no matter how prepared you think you are nothing and I mean nothing can prepare you for what you will actually see, touch, taste and hear. And we (the fire service) are just a small segment of those in public service suffering, struggling to make sense of it all. 

When I see an officer, I thank him, when I see a person in uniform no matter the military branch, I thank them. They are hurting, we are all hurting and we do so in silence. It is killing us. Quite literally and that is something to be so, so very ashamed of. We need to be better, not just for ourselves but for those who love us.

For years there was no one to talk too. If you sought help you are labeled weak, if you brood about it, the answer has always been; let’s have some drinks, you’ll feel better. Joking about it is standard fare and humor is a great thing, it really does help. But humor is a mask for the ugliness hidden beneath. At some point in time you must take the mask off. Are you ready for that? To be revealed?

Thanks to the recognition of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in not only our beloved military but our public servants as well, we have very skilled and wonderful people at our disposal, just waiting to help. These people are trained well but most of all they have been there, right where we are now. Unable to process, lacking the skill necessary to cope with both severe stressors and simple everyday life. We need to open the dialogue, to speak up and begin to heal our insides. For if our insides are dying our outsides are already gone.

From a simple sentence, came all of this, Thank you Jim.

If you know someone who needs help, please, say something, do something, they need you and just don’t know how to tell you, to share, to release their inner pain. We hold it all inside so you don’t have to see it. It is time to stop that trend. We can all share some of the burden through talking, love and understanding.

If you feel as though you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) please reach out.

  1. Or Call: 911
  2. The National Suicide prevention line 1-800-273-8255
  3. Go to the nearest Emergency room
  4. Contact your local church
  5. Check with your employer for assistance

It is time we moved out of the shadows and into the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so we say goodbye..

Quietly we slipped into town. It had been a while since I last stepped foot in my hometown of Sonoma California and as we meandered through streets filled with wandering tourists my memory tried hard to visualize this once peaceful quiet place as it was many years ago. This town still holds a certain charm, a quaintness which unfortunately now feels like a false front. Gone are homes actually owned and lived in by people downtown, instead each cute little cottage or early 1900’s home is filled with one type of business or another. Gone is that small town feeling where mom and pop mercantile line the plaza. Instead the city is surrounded by winery getaway bungalows, tasting rooms, restaurants, and high end hotels catering to those with wine adventures on their mind. Oh there are a few small business breweries, diners and stores but for the most part as you drive in it no longer has that small town charm but more of a high dollar Los Gatos feel.

The traffic was horrendous and as we pulled into Duggans for dads memorial service it was evident no one held an ounce of patience for driving across this very congested portion of the city leading to downtown. Standing outside for a moment before walking in to face family and friends I did soak up the Sonoma sun and smiled, remembering how blessed I was to grow up here. Something I have never taken for granted.

Once inside mom and I placed a few pictures around, made sure everything was in its place while beginning to welcome people with open arms. Last night I had decided for me at least this was not going to be a sad event. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that, besides I have learned over time there is no reason for us to cry or be sad. The only reason we cry is for ourselves, our own misery with someone we love being gone forever. Our loved one feels no pain, carries no worry and would only want those of us left behind to smile, remembering the good not the bad.

After many, many hugs, some wonderful conversation, and several well placed jokes we came inside and began the service. Our pastor was fantastic, light, charming and funny he brought a warmth and glow to this occasion that was desperately needed. Family sat in front and when it came time to speak, my mother did her very best to relay how she felt and followed up her recollections with directions for after the service.

Next it was my turn and I have to say, I was pretty nervous. I started with a joke. Dad and I had spoken on several occasions about memorials and funerals. Our running gag was never had either one of us heard a family member walk up to the podium, thank everyone for coming then slam their fist on the table, look the audience in the eye and say: John Doe so and so was a Son of a Bitch!!!! So that’s what I did by sharing that story! Thankfully the room laughed and just like that my nervousness melted away just a little. Pulling a prepared statement from my jacket pocket I cleared my throat, steadied my vocal chords and began to read:

What I learned from watching my father.

Many things can be said about Robert Franceschi

He was a charmer when need be.

A friend for life once you worked past his often times gruff exterior.

A hard worker

He loved 49r football

He was my dad

But it’s not the image he portrayed that matters to me, instead it is what he taught me from witnessing his actions as opposed to his words. For we know as young emotionally charged youth we fight against our parents every chance we get. Yearning for freedom of our own, to make our own decisions without help from our parents so called “words or pearls of wisdom”. No it’s what I witnessed, without words through silence filled deeds and actions that resonates so very deep within my soul.

From watching my father since the moment I can recollect his life lessons rang true, teaching me…

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself – Dad struggled and worked hard every day to support his family and even when things didn’t go his way he never gave up. We were never rich, often times just barely having enough money to get new school clothes was a burden but my dad did what had to be done and if that meant going from a salesman to a barn builder, a store owner to a restaurateur then that’s what he did. Was he scared? You’re damn right he was, but he always tried and it’s because of him that I have never been afraid to try something new, reinvent myself, morphing into a new side job or purpose and I will sell my last belonging to make sure my family always has what they need.

A love of animals- My dad loved animals, he loved horses, dogs, cats, birds and ostriches. Oh he complained like hell about them, especially my mom’s dogs! But when he wasn’t complaining and no one was looking that tough guy wall came down and he would sit with a dog/cat on his lap or a bird on his shoulder. When his last horse passed away he was devastated for as he put it; Goldpiece was the only one who listened to me anyways.. I love my horses, dogs, chickens, pigs and cats. They are part of my family and whenever they hurt, I hurt. It’s because of my father’s spirit for animals that I care about them as much as I do. I couldn’t imagine life without pets and livestock roaming our property. Whether for riding, petting or putting dinner on the table they are a huge part of our lives. And yes whenever that damn SPCA commercial starts and Sara McLaughlin begins singing while sad puppy eyes stare back at you through the tv screen well I am here to say you just may find it raining only behind my glasses.

To sing whenever possible. I know right? No one can picture my father standing tall in front of a crowd singing his heart out. Well he didn’t, but what I learned was no matter how difficult a day’s become when a song comes on the radio that you love don’t be afraid to belt it out! For you see many times I witnessed his day/mood go from bad to good with nothing more than a good country song and some alone time inside the Ford truck recording studio traveling down Hwy 12. The power of song is amazing, you don’t need to know how to sing or even sing well but for those two and a half minutes you are George freaking Strait and no one can take that away from you. I drive my kid’s nuts to this day singing every song that makes me happy as it billows from our cars speakers. When I am through I always have a slight smirk upon my face.

A genuine appreciation for the automobile. Dad loved cars, all kinds, makes and models and that love trickled down to me. From the time I could walk I can remember staring at this truck, crawling around in that car and listening to my dad tell stories about not having much money so one time he painted a car with a roller and brush. When dad purchased a restored 1936 Ford and brought it home it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. With its swoopy fenders, giant bug eye headlights and sparkling chrome grill that car was to me what was right with the world. Soon after a 1941 Mercury arrived and not long after that a 1921 Model T. The two latter cars are in my garage awaiting the day they will travel the roadways again with the same regal status they once held within their time. Nothing made my dad smile more than when he drove one of his old cars.

Nothing in this life is given to you and hard work pays off. Shake a man’s hand when you see him, look him in the eye, your word is more important than anything you possess. If not for watching him work the way he did while trying his best to keep things running at home I never would have learned the patience needed to understand the old adage of “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes you can risk it all by taking loans and building your place into the very best place it can be from day one. Or you can work hard, recycle materials and slowly, without debt build something from nothing, hopefully leaving some form of legacy for your children to inherit. I am working hard to teach my children those very same values.

And lastly but most importantly

Marriage isn’t easy- That’s right, marriage is in no way shape or form easy and if you believe it to be some fairytale story you are sadly mistaken. But what marriage is, is filled with mistakes, sometimes big ones! And with those mistakes also come huge successes, both of which help forge a bond between you and your significant other. Learning the ability to say you’re sorry so another doesn’t emotionally suffer and learn to accept apologies in return, forgiving all wrong doing while never holding a grudge. Giving of yourself wholly to your spouse and your family regardless of time, place or series of events. Remembering that someone you love, loves you back no matter what and with that love comes good times and bad, but it’s how we handle ourselves that create true memories lasting a lifetime. Not posed pictures hanging on a wall staged like a portrait session in the woods, but memories of moments alone, together, surrounded by smells, sounds and sights. From the moment you first met to your final kiss goodbye 55 years later. Marriage isn’t easy but done right, marriage is life fulfilling and holds rewards like no other….

I am sure there is a dozen or so more I could recite, but this is where it ends. I know he looks down upon us all, free from pain, free from his broken down body, free from stress and doubt. I pray his spirit sends a sign to my wife so she feels his comfort, knowing he is alright with her not being here to help celebrate his life. I pray he is surrounded by old friends, family and those he cherished. I pray he feels our love and rests easy knowing we are ok, for sadness knows no place when your job here on earth is done.

We celebrate who he was and the legacy he left behind.

I love you dad…

When it was over I was relieved. Sitting down and listening as my Aunt and Uncle spoke, then watching as our former neighbor stood in front and said something that rang so true of my dad. If I was ever in a fight I would want Bob right behind me. Along with; Bob always did the right thing. That indeed was my dad. To hear it from another adult male figure from my young adolescent life was indeed fulfilling. Dad always did the right thing, no matter the cost and if you ever witnessed my fathers rage then you definitely knew you wanted that man in your corner when the shit hit the fan. Not because his anger was a dangerous thing but because as stated prior, dad always did the right thing. That extended to his ability to control and corral that anger, putting it to good use when the moment arose. Usually leaving a UPS driver or two with a need for an underwear change should they be found guilty of speeding on our road.

At the end of the day we had a very nice lunch at Rossi’s, it was such a pleasure to see so many faces from our past. The ability to reconnect, tell tall tales, have a few laughs while surrounded by so many special family members and friends will keep my heart warm for a long time to come.  Its just to bad that life has engulfed us so, that we may only see each other at weddings or funerals.

Either way thanks to all those who gave up their Saturday to pay tribute to my father. I know he was looking down, smiling and wondering just who in the hell was going to pay for the whole damn thing!

God Bless you all..

Tomorrow the adventures continue as the Franceschi clan loads up and heads to Saratoga to spend the day with their mother…

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Another page….

I was asked to write my father’s obituary to which I declined. I have no answer as to why, other than for some strange reason it just didn’t feel right. Mom of course had no problem picking up the pen as it were then hammering out a short synopsis of my father’s life. After all having been married to the man for 55 years I am sure it came fast and easy.

I haven’t been able to open it.

Mom sent me the obituary in an email. Every day while checking my personal and work emails there it sat, unopened, like an unsolvable Rubik’s cube waiting for me to spin it around in hopes of unlocking its color coding on the very first try. There just hasn’t been any desire to try.

I am proud of my mother, she has handled this all with her feet firmly planted on the ground. Never once has she faltered or wavered in my presence over any decisions since her husband’s passing. She gets out almost every day visiting friends and running errands. She has handled the upcoming memorial with very little assistance from myself and is working on a full reorganization of her life. My mother is living up to the old adage; tough Old Italian woman.

We speak on the phone every day and through conversation she has discussed bits and pieces in regards to her final marital note. It is obvious mom has put time and effort into this little piece that will run in the local paper and yet for a week now, even knowing all she has done I just hadn’t been able to open it, to read it, to absorb what it means to her or anyone who knew my father. I just couldn’t do it, I would scroll past it, move it to another folder only to place it back into the main folder still unread, unopened, as if I was a cold and uncaring person. Scared of what it meant to me.

So with exactly 6 days to go until his memorial service and nothing remotely pressing on my gigantic plate of daily activities, my fingers (on their own accord) scrolled over the email and pressed the little W icon releasing information from the cloud into my server for my eyes to fixate upon and probably wonder why it had been hard for me all along.

And so I read it.

Halfway through my eyes glaze over and instantly I’m transported from my desk inside our fire station to a bench at Prestwood elementary where I sit waiting for lunch. I can smell it, feel it, I have chills upon my skin, my friends from years long gone are buzzing around me, laughing, joking, running playing, I am at ease. The fears of being a small child have enveloped my soul, scared of the bigger kids, jokester to my friends, a storyteller just trying to fit in. My little brain wondering if I will ever understand fractions while hearing my teachers telling us with effort we can achieve anything. Of course all this is happening while I daydream the day away. Yep I find myself staring at a white faced clock with black hands, the second hand slowly moving clockwise eliminating minutes from my daily school experience so I can go home and see what car dads driving home today and hopefully talk him into a game of basketball.

Lights passing overhead as the enormity of the freeway made my eyes larger than pie plates. Dad and I are on a trip to a dealership down south, he works for Kastner Pontiac/GMC and we are trading one car for a truck. I have never been to far from Sonoma in my 8 years and traveling through Sacramento onto 99 south was filled with new sights, sounds and my father singing country music on the radio. (Something I do to this day that drives my kids crazy). It was an all-night trip and I felt like a big kid! It is also where my early love for the GMC/Chevy stepside began. We ate out (something we never did) we sang, laughed and had fun. I slept most of the way home, but for that moment in time I was my dad’s friend, there were no girls (sorry mom) we were hanging out and it was an adventure. Just two men and a really cool truck.

Moving through time we are on a field trip, I cannot remember to where, but I am sitting in a bus full of students and parents. My dad is sits beside me smiling. It was one of the best memories for me as dad rarely made any of my school activities. I remember laughing, joking around and can even still feel the air blowing through the bus as a mixture of the suns golden rays and dust flows through the cabin.

Sitting at a bar while a man serves my sister and I 7up with cherries at Napa Valley Horseman’s Association. Dad was president and he would lead the Monday night monthly meetings. I remember thinking maybe that would be me one day. I can still see the lights of Napa off in the distance from this clubhouse on a hill. Soon we would be off to bed in the camper or later dad’s motorhome. It was the closest thing to camping we ever did and it was always fun sneaking out to watch our parents dance the night away after some of the meetings.

Driving dads Ford 8N tractor helping put fence around our property, mixing cement inside the rotating box scraper/drag that I guess I now own as it sits unused alongside my barn. Hearing him tell me exactly how to do it. Just the right amount of water, too much and it will be soup that takes forever to set, too little and it will crack and crumble never becoming a solid footing for these posts. Hearing him telling me just how far to back the tractor up, getting mad at me for almost smashing his hand with the bucket then forgiving me as I set my third post perfectly. I hear his voice, see him sweating and wonder why I can’t go back in time. I am talking to him but he can’t hear me. He only hears the very young boy on the tractor and not the 49 year old man trying his hardest to speak.

We are riding together, headed to test drive my possible first car. A 1957 Chevy Bel-Air. It was blue with chrome everywhere! The 57 was my favorite car next to the Chevy Stepside and as child I had built several models of this exact vehicle. When we arrived dad was the most charming man you had ever seen. He always knew just how to talk to people when it came to business of any type. They chuckled and laughed, went over the car from front to back. We jump started it as it had been sitting for a while and took it for a ride. It was everything I had ever dreamed of from the time I was 9. My dad was in love with the car, or so it seemed from the twinkle in his eye as we talked about it, how nice it was, how well it ran with a snappy little corvette motor wrapped neatly in chrome under the hood. I’m there all over again, I can even smell the interior. Several thank you’s were exchanged and my father left the owners with the old “we need to think about” line. On the way home I asked when we were going back to retrieve this heavenly piece of Detroit iron, to which he turned and with the same twinkle in his eye responded; we aren’t. The sixteen year old and 49 year old are yelling at him all over again. WHY??? That car is too fast for you, it shouldn’t be your first car. I can still hear him saying it. I was angry as hell, but he knew I would get over it. (I never really did) Dad was right though, as I wrecked my first truck sending it to the scrap yard. I had the pleasure of seeing that car while working at Aunt Josie’s restaurant as its owner would eat there once a week. It had an unmistakable license plate; 5SEVEN. That car lives in my dreams to this day.

Over the years there were times of laughter and great disappointment, times where we tested each other and times we just gave in, never acknowledging we had called a truce. As we grew older the equality of our stubbornness created larger walls between us. We talked once a week, grumbled about each other’s choices and would always part with an, I love you. But one thing is for certain, my father’s laughter, happiness and inexplicable ability to talk with people will always resonate deep within my soul. I have learned from him by witnessing both the success and failure in his life.

Reading the obituary today made it all too real for me. Yes I was there with him in his last moments, and was honored due to my position at work to actually be at his side when the ER doctor called time of death. I was able to hold his hand and cry, wishing he would squeeze back just one more time. I fully comprehend he is and always will be gone from this earth.

I just wish I hadn’t been so stubborn for I will never be able to take back all the times we butted heads or couldn’t come to an agreement on an issue, I’ll never be able to hear him tell me he is or was proud of me, never be able to apologize for the grief I gave him as a teenager. And yes I know I need to take it easy, and realize he had probably forgiven me long ago. I know, I have lived through death many, many times and it is what it is. But even after you put all that aside I think the hardest part for me is now that I have read this permanent record of decease, absorbed its significance, traveled back in time over the last several hours while sadly staring at the wall I come to the hardest part of this whole circle of life bullshit.

I no longer have a dad, and the little kid inside this aging man is crying his eyes out, holding a pillow across his face to muffle the tears wanting nothing more than his daddy to come home and play basketball with him one more time.

Just one more shot dad, it’s not dark yet I swear…….

Unknown

 

 

 

Each day is a gift…

Every day we travel through a world filled with the unknown. Our existence centered on being over here at a certain time, over there later in the day, a meeting with friends, or hustling constantly checking our electronic organizers. Our lives intertwined within the movements of a clock or the expectations of others.

How many times have we sat down at the end of an evening to utter these words; where did the day go? How many days in a row before we recognize the week is over and we mumble the exact same sentiment; where did the week go? The insanity of it can be mind-boggling as we continue placing an emphasis on agendas. Lost is the importance of our life, what it means to us in conjunction with the gift of having another day. Forgetting about finding a moment during each one of those days that resonates, becomes a memory or a topic for conversation. Real conversation too, not a text or Facebook posting.

George Strait has a song that always helps me slow down and remember that each day is a gift.

Just walked down the street to the coffee shop

Had to take a break

I’ve been by her side 18 hours straight

Saw a flower growing in the middle of the sidewalk, pushing up through the concrete

Like it was planted right there for me to see

The flashing lights, the honking horns

All seems to fade away, but in the shadow of the hospital at 5:08

I saw God today..

I’ve been to church, I’ve read the book, I know he’s here but I don’t look, near as often as I should

His fingerprints are everywhere, I just look down and stop and stare,

Open my eyes and then I swear,

I saw God today…..

And so it goes.

With everything happening in our life, it can become easy to be angry. Today I had a wonderful conversation with a friend about all that is happening in my life. I wonder why I am not angry. It is easy to just say you are not angry when you really should be; placing the classic stoic face on this bump in the road instead. But I just can’t find any anger inside to dwell upon. God has given me so much, God has given us, my wife and family so very much. In a life where blame is the first bony finger pointed out of malice. Who would I blame? Who could I blame? Why would I waste the time and energy? It is what it is, even if that “is” sucks!

There is a plan for all of us. Whether you believe in a God, no God, a higher power or some form of spiritual awakening. There is a plan. I have always believed our lives have some purpose, some meaning and it is up to us to find what that meaning is. We can travel through life as I explained above, with blinders on and no recollection of any real purpose or need, never finding or fulfilling moments of remembrance and that is fine, if that is all you want out of life. To bad really, since you only get one shot at it. But for me, I know through hard work, an even temper, leaving my eyes wide open to all possibilities the plan will reveal itself. Being angry at the cards dealt does no one any good. Play those cards instead and believe victory is yours.

So we move forward with a positive attitude. All will be fine, we will rise above and walk away from this emotional roller coaster ride with our heads held high. We will hold hands through old age, cherishing our children, our grandchildren and laugh. Laugh at all the memories, laugh at all the little moments, laugh at beating the odds, beating so much sorrow that can arise from these situations, laugh and thank God for all that we continue to have placed before us..

Today I …

Saw a horse nuzzling a newborn foal

Saw my children laughing at nothing, and everything all at once

Watched as my son rode through a practice really well

Stared at my mare grazing in a pasture of green surrounded by other mares ready to foal just as she is ready to foal. The miracle of birth waiting to arrive.

Rode one of my favorite horses and it brought peace and contentment to a tired soul

Visited with friends celebrating a birthday, laughing, joking and having a really good time

Watched my son’s friend look like he wanted to ride a horse, while being too shy to ask

Talked with my daughter after her game of softball, listening to her tell me about it filled my heart with joy.

Played Legos with my youngest, creating cars to battle an imagery foe.

Hugged my wife, kissed her beautiful bald head and melted as she smiled at me

Feel blessed for everything I have.

Sitting here staring at my computer, looking at the mountain range behind my house I know;

I saw God today.

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Does the sun set on Leukemia?

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“To run and fly, jump towards the sky, to trip and fall where no one see’s at all, to sit and wait a heart truly aches, to smile and cheer dread no longer feared, mired not in contempt an energy much better spent, to enjoy every moment with my wife, now wouldn’t that be a splendid life…”

The sun has risen and set upon 180 days, 4,320 hours, 259,200 minutes, 15,552,000 seconds. Time that for most was nothing more than a passing blip in an otherwise hectic day. Coming events, moments sectored into fragments, blocks, bullet points upon a schedule where children are dropped at school, animals are fed, meetings are kept, practices attended, showers to be had and pillows to be slept upon.

The sun rose and the sun set. Under a bright fall moon one woman gazed upon the stars to ask why? To cry tears of fear, sadness and remorse. A woman pleaded with her God for an answer but was left momentarily in silence. A woman stared into a nights sky, thinking about childhood, college, adulthood and the love for a life lived. Hoping beyond hope all this would be was another bump in the road and she would live to see her adult children stand on a balcony under a full moon and not ask God why, but say thanks for all he has provided.

180 days. A man knelt in an arena and cried. Not for himself for you see he has walked the road of sadness many, many times in his life. But for his wife. This man who lives to ease his families burdens and carry their pain could do nothing to make this next challenge in life any easier. He could not reach inside his wife and yank out the evil that surged within, instead he would need to remain patient. To willingly wait, and know when to speak and when to say silent. To understand he could not fix everything and that was ok. As those 180 days passed by slowly without rest or sleep, he would come to value the meaning of just being there by her side and knowing that was enough. He learned to cradle and quietly without judgment let the water flow upon his chest through sobbing breaths. He would become stronger with each bought, each treatment and the ensuing moral disintegration of spirit. This man, he also prayed to stand hand in hand with his wife while watching their adult children thank the lord for all he has provided.

The sun rises and the sun sets. How many more days remain? An answer none of us know, will know or should know. Life is a gift of love. It started with our parents, two people who at one time loved each other so much we came to fruition. Some parents still love each other that much, others sadly do not, but either way we are here, living breathing examples of a look, a word, a time, a kiss an embrace.  Carrying on a legacy that is ours to write, shape, mold into a future for ourselves and quite possibly through the absolute love of another, our children.

Jacy is alive, Leukemia has not taken her from this earth. 180 days of literal HELL she has survived thus far. We are told she holds the perfect genetic markers for success. In two more weeks another bone marrow draw will provide proof in the proverbial pudding. Two years cancer free and our celebrations will become larger with each passing moment in time.

She worries about damage done, all she has lost both mentally and physically, she worries she may never feel whole again. To those worries I say:

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild her. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic Leukemia survivor. Jacy Franceschi will be that woman. Better than she was before. Better, stronger, faster.” images

Sorry, late 70’s humor..

Two years, a little by little everyday until this all becomes a story of survival, a distant memory, an experience to draw upon during life’s trials and tribulations. Sure it will be difficult, yes it will become frustrating and even embarrassing at times, but in the end, my wife will be whole.  My life will be whole again, and how I long for that day.

Thank you again to all who have supported us, never left our sides as the going continued to get rough.  This is the end, I feel it in my bones. In two weeks celebrations of joy will ring true and none of it could have been done without all of you! You are all my Rock, helping hold me up so I may continue to be hers.  I love you all, you know who you are!

The power of thought and prayer is amazing! God bless you all…

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Betty (James) has entered a new venture to help make ends meet during this trying time. I am proud to say I am now a distributor for Javita Weight Loss Coffee products. Javita Green Tea has kept me running strong through every hospital trip, late night Emergency Room run and long days handling the ranch, kids and sporting activities alone! I can’t say enough about this great product.

So if you are looking to lose a few pounds by simply drinking coffee, or need the mental stimulation and health benefits of pure unrefined green tea. Then please take a moment and explore http://www.buyjavitacoffee.com/javabetty and order some today. You wont be sorry. I promise, plus every purchase made helps keep my wife home a little longer for recovery.

Bless you all,

Betty

DaRk PlAcEs and InSpIrAtIoN

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Darkness creeps upon you from nowhere some days; driving your car, sun shining upon your face, smiling at a favorite song on the radio then darkness comes, slowly creeping, covering your inner warmth, wiping a dumbstruck smile from your face.

Everyday since November 20 2013, the darkness has tried; everyday since that Wednesday morning as I cried, phone by my side, head hung low, horse under my arm wondering what was wrong, darkness has crept slowly across my cranial void. You can shake your head, scream out loud hoping to make it go away, but that’s the game it plays. Feeding off uncertainty, doubt, pity, and weakness of spirit.

Darkness is like mold, damaging, covering, smothering every living breathing moment of happiness that could only flourish under the warmth of love and certainty.

Everyday darkness has tried to take hold, and everyday I have repelled its advances. Darkness knows the roads I have traveled and it lays in wait for my weaknesses to surface. But what darkness doesn’t know is those weaknesses, those damaged feelings from a life lived hard are what keeps me from giving in to its cold, ugly shadow.

Darkness cannot have me, I will not let it ruin who I am, what I stand for, the ethics I live by or emotions worn brightly upon my sleeve. For you see what darkness wants is compliance and I have never been one to comply without a fight.

So everyday darkness has tried and everyday I have searched for inspiration.

Inspiration: Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

Inspiration can be found everywhere, you must only be willing to look. I see inspiration in a flock of birds struggling against the wind, a bee trying its hardest to fly even though its legs ar burdened by twice its body weight in pollen.  I see inspiration in an elderly couple holding hands while slowly, carefully weighing every step as they move across a concrete landscape. Inspiration is all around, from a toddler learning to walk, to a quadriplegic basking under a mid days sun, smiling, eyes closed, at peace with the world during that very moment in time.

When life weighs heavy upon me, and darkness resides, it only takes a moment to chase it away. Closing my eyes, remembering the day I married my wife, our relationship forged together from unimaginable circumstances and a belief system that has only grown, expounded upon over the years. Seeing her smile when all seems lost, her eyes twinkling at the sight of me riding up to her on my horse, or meeting her at the bottom of the stairs for a much-needed date. Watching her beam with pride as another rescue dog is placed into a loving home or witnessing one of her children accomplish a goal that previously seemed unattainable.

Inspiration comes in all forms and it has become a quest for me. For as Cancer continues taking its toll, as cancer tries its hardest to smother the light, cool a souls warmth and darken the twinkle in her eye, some days it becomes harder for me to locate, quantify.

Watching, waiting, fighting, struggling, feeling as though you are in a pool with no sides, weighed down by cancers baggage, a nostril just barely above the waterline. Choking, gasping for air, pondering what would happen if you gave into the fight and let the waters depths have you. I think about how many spouses just like me are trapped, endlessly fighting the darkness and all it represents. From destroying our souls to allowing our brains to ponder an end we are fighting against. Where does their inspiration come from? How many are grappling with an inner evil, unable to recognize even the smallest tidbit of inspiration reigniting their souls?

My wife has inspired me everyday for almost 12 years to be a better man, to become a kinder human being, and to ignite passion in others.

So the darkness will never win! For what once was bright and easy shall brighten our house again! I will always retain a positive outlook on this chapter in our lives and hopefully show our children how to handle family struggles with strength, kindness, and the ability to stay positive by finding inspiration in all that surrounds them.

In the end we will walk out of the hospital hand in hand having traveled this road together, inspired by the other without a hint of dreaded darkness in sight.

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The gift…

Life as of late is holding me down. A weight upon my chest, a hand-held defiantly to my face, paranoia, fear, sadness, exhaustion all playing upon my emotions. Some days are harder than others, most days tolerable, my fortitude is strong, a resolve steadfast, I awake each morning and start all over again.

My wife is worried that my plate is to full, she see’s it written across my face. The new lines forming upon my brow, a redness to my cheeks, a constant itch that travels across my head, face, chest, neck and shoulder when stress becomes intolerable.

Conversations change, today is a “good” day while 12 hours later, no conversation at all, left staring, wondering what I would do if she didn’t come out of the ER alive? Laughter becomes fun, dark humor is everywhere, trying, straining, yearning to pretend this is not happening. A ceiling is my new meditation portal, alone in bed, lying dead straight in the middle, wondering, worrying. Past times would find me reveling in a moment like this, now ashamed to be taking up a portion that is her place.

Why? Why does life go like this for some, yet flows so effortlessly for others? Never was I blessed with any one talent that allowed me the luxury of standing apart from a crowd. My entire life has been marginalized, left in the “average” column.  Average size, average intelligence, average GPA, average looking, average job performance, average minor successes.

Yet for some reason I feel as though God has blessed me with a gift. A gift others would most likely refuse, kick to the curb, drop and run away screaming. I am willing to admit, when bestowed upon me it was not an easy one to accept. But being a man of faith, I knew no matter how hard I fought, in the end it was mine. And so, it has come to pass that with this gift, I have earned a few extra lines upon my face, some unwanted grey hairs, an inability to sleep some nights along with an overall fear of what may lie around the very next corner.

This gift it seems also brought traits I never knew existed within me. Care, compassion, love, patience and understanding. Not just for myself, but for all forms of life. Imagine a gift so powerful it opens your eyes wider than ever before, it ignites your senses to an almost raw irritating state yet you are thankful for the feeling. Imagine being able to stand, while all crumbles around you, seeing an alternative, an answer, a future destination. Imagine knowing when the day is through, no matter what has been thrown emotionally towards you, deep inside you will awaken the next morning to do it all over again! That is what this gift has become and I wish I knew how to share, but I just can’t.

I carry the souls, the faces, the lives of all who have perished before me. Those souls have built me into a stronger man over the years, stronger than I ever was or could have been in my youth. From every response, medical aid, vehicle accident or fire that have gone badly awry; to the losses of those closest around me, ones that I love more than most could imagine. I carry those days, those moments, those instances of life disappearing before us in my head, in my heart, a scar upon my soul. Some moments come with pictures that can never be erased, tales that can never be told, slivers in time trapped for eternity within my dome. Family members never knowing, never seeing, never having to see the imminent demise of those so truly loved. No horrid pictures permanently scarring their psyche, no electrifying screams, no tantric goodbyes. Over 19 years I have done my very best to absorb, deflect, and care about those who have lost someone. Carrying that burden has been my privilege. God allowed me this wonderful gift.

And so now the gift hits home. What better human being to handle this very situation than myself.  I have been trained well, prepared for all contingencies through mentorship and experience.

Yes I am tired, yes my worrisome self is working overtime, standing on high alert, yes my heart stops, skips a beat every time she proclaims not feeling well or becomes clammy and pale.  But my gift churns onward, allowing me an ability to focus on the good things and recognize in the end all will be ok. Teaching me sometimes one needn’t seek all the answers, but instead too know deep down in their heart things will be fine.  My gift tells me there are those in much worse shape than we, and to be thankful for all we have before us. Constantly reminding me how precious life truly is and to awaken every morning with a smile, because you can.

So as my wife worries about me, as my friends ponder over my ability to handle this very situation, as our own parents fret over the unknown, do not worry, like a ball player riding the pine all season long, all I ask is this, put me in coach, give me a chance, this gift could possibly be the one thing I am actually good at! Becoming the Abbott to her Costello, Jerry Lewis to her Dean Martin, the Sigfried to her Roy, and then when my time comes, my moment here on earth is finished,  I will finally be a success and wont have lived an uncaring, callous, self-centered, marginalized, average life…

Now I think its time for some sleep.

Goodnight Jacy I love you and thank God for you everyday… Relax, all will be just fine..

 

 

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Leukemia-Blood

blood

Blood is a bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells.

In vertebrates, it is composed of blood cells suspended in blood plasma. Plasma, which constitutes 55% of blood fluid, is mostly water (92% by volume),[1] and contains dissipated proteins, glucose, mineral ions, hormones, carbon dioxide (plasma being the main medium for excretory product transportation), and blood cells themselves. Albumin is the main protein in plasma, and it functions to regulate the colloidal osmotic pressure of blood. The blood cells are mainly red blood cells (also called RBCs or erythrocytes) and white blood cells, including leukocytes and platelets. The most abundant cells in vertebrate blood are red blood cells. These contain hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein, which facilitates transportation of oxygen by reversibly binding to this respiratory gas and greatly increasing its solubility in blood. In contrast, carbon dioxide is almost entirely transported extracellularly dissolved in plasma as bicarbonate ion.

Vertebrate blood is bright red when its hemoglobin is oxygenated. Some animals, such as crustaceans and mollusks, use hemocyanin to carry oxygen, instead of hemoglobin. Insects and some mollusks use a fluid called hemolymph instead of blood, the difference being that hemolymph is not contained in a closed circulatory system. In most insects, this “blood” does not contain oxygen-carrying molecules such as hemoglobin because their bodies are small enough for their tracheal system to suffice for supplying oxygen.

Jawed vertebrates have an adaptive immune system, based largely on white blood cells. White blood cells help to resist infections and parasites. Platelets are important in the clotting of blood. Arthropods, using hemolymph, have hemocytes as part of their immune system.

Blood is circulated around the body through blood vessels by the pumping action of the heart. In animals with lungs, arterial blood carries oxygen from inhaled air to the tissues of the body, and venous blood carries carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism produced by cells, from the tissues to the lungs to be exhaled.

Medical terms related to blood often begin with hemo- or hemato- (also spelled haemo- and haemato-) from the Greek word αἷμα (haima) for “blood”. In terms of anatomy and histology, blood is considered a specialized form of connective tissue, given its origin in the bones and the presence of potential molecular fibers in the form of fibrinogen.

Wikipedia

I know that was a hell of an introduction to today’s blog, but it was really important for me to reaffirm or institute a knowledge base for you to draw upon as I ramble on about our recent tribulations in regards to chemotherapy and its nasty after effects.

Leaving the hospital after 7 days of chemotherapy, Jacy feels good, not great but good.  Our hopes remain high and we press onward as no other options but to do so exist.  Two days out of the hospital and allergic reaction occurs after receiving a shot of Neupogen.

To the ER we head and a long night of tracing down this problem while treating associated symptoms ensues.

14 hours later we are home.

Jacy continues into the week still feeling well, but weaker by the day. Chemotherapy is working as designed, coursing through her body, and wreaking havoc as cell counts drop lower and lower.  Now here is where things get tricky. You see Jacy understands what it feels like to have an abnormally low cell count having experienced this phenomenon within the safe confines of a hospital. Because of this her doctor has her entrusted to recognize this feeling, make the appropriate phone calls and return to the local infusion center for a much needed blood transfusion, boosting cells back into her dying system.

Jacy instead decides to wait..

Why? Because she has an appointment for a blood draw later that day and she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. (Always the worrier) So we arrive at the designated time. One problem, she has become so cell depleted, I can barely get her out of the car into a hospital wheel chair. Wanting to take her straight to the ER (color is no good, breathing is shallow and she is exhausted from simple movements) I instead (per her request) head to the infusion center, as planned for her appointed blood draw.

Upon turning in our paperwork, a nurse appears from behind closed doors to grab multiple appointment slips from a basket and I quickly take this opportunity stop her, informing her of my wife’s worsening condition. Walking her over we find Jacy in her wheelchair, speaking repetitiously; I don’t feel well, help me I don’t feel well, something’s not right, something’s not right, I don’t feel well. The nurse takes one look at her and it’s off to the races.

Rapidly she is brought inside, her port tapped, blood drawn, and we are treated like gold as it quickly becomes obvious she is in need of more blood. To the ER we go!

In the ER, we are welcomed once again by friendly faces, my fears are calmed, my heart rate drops and we begin another arduous journey of emergency care.  Thinking this will be no big deal, it is after all just a blood transfusion one more in a list covering nine such applications over the last 30 days, I get her settled, talk with the doctor about the plan, watch as they put the standard medications on board for the delivery of blood and make a quick exit to run home ( a mere 7 miles away) and put our children to bed.

No big deal right?-WRONG

The text comes one hour later; Oh God, I am covered from head to toe in hives, my eyes, ears, scalp, everything! I itch so badly! I’ve had an allergic reaction to the transfusion and they are determining what to do!

Are you freaking kidding me! A reaction to the Neupogen (could have killed her) and now a reaction to blood, the one substance she needs most to survive! What the holy hell? Heart racing I head back over to the ER and meet up with my swollen, covered in hives wife!

After a long consult, the addition of a steroid that made her feel as though electricity was being pumped into her private parts (yes the vagina) and a substantial reduction in flow rate, with a large dose of Benadryl, Jacy nods off to sleep receiving the blood she so desperately deserves.

16 hours later, feeling like a million bucks Jacy comes home….

5 days later..

Jacy begins to feel “funny”. Yep it seems as though her body has still not hit rock bottom! Neupogen everyday and her bones are just starting to ache, which is a good sign; it means cells are trying to grow! But she doesn’t feel good, so this time she calls ahead, makes the proper arrangements, we head to the ER with plenty of time before her body hits rock bottom. The hospital can’t order the blood until she is physically on the property. So the sooner we arrive the better.  Walking through the door I am beginning to feel as though we have never left.  This place, this wondrous place of miracles is starting to feel like Groundhog Day to me.

Once checked in we walk to our room, none of the regulars are around so far, but as always the RN’s are amazing.  Jacy is settled into her room, her port is tapped, a very nice conversation between the male RN and me ensues.  It feels like old hat, unfortunately as though we belong here, and sadly a feeling like this will be her way of life forever comes over me. A thought enters my head; how many nurses will we meet in our life from this point forward? Will they all be as wonderful as those blessing us now?

Blood is ordered. The syrupy, red mixture she needs to survive. We are grateful for all those who donate, we feel good about this round, as though we have a handle on this procedure. I am also counting infusions now. After 20 infusions she risks developing an abundance of iron in her blood stream, which would mean she would need to have blood taken out every few weeks for the rest of her life. Yep feeling as though things may get a tad rougher..

Kissing her on the head, it’s all standard fare now, she asks that I leave and spend time with the children, telling me she will call in a few hours after the transfusion.  Once again against my better judgment, I realize the kids do need me and recede to the parking lot to retrieve my truck.

One hour later, I receive this text; having another allergic reaction, Epinephrine and tons of Benadryl, they have stopped the transfusion, my heart is pounding! It’s not good, I am afraid they won’t be able to give me transfusions anymore!

Rushing back to the ER I find my wife, sad, down, beaten. She is terrified because the doctors don’t know what to do. The blood she was receiving is sent off for testing, the Epinephrine is coursing through her system elevating her resting heart rate to 120-140 and she still feels sick.  As time passes she becomes weaker and weaker.  Without blood she dies, with blood and another allergic reaction she risks her lungs shutting down and she dies, it’s a no win situation.

The RN gives her another dose of Benadryl; slowly she drifts off to sleep.  A consult with Oncology in the morning is all we know. Before Jacy fell asleep she proclaimed to be very hungry and as I kiss her forehead to say goodnight, she tells me I am not allowed back into the room unless I bring her food! Food with protein!

Arriving home alone once again, I lay in bed worried for my wife. She is pale, doesn’t feel good, cannot receive the fluids she so desperately needs and it scares me. I sleep on her side of the bed…

The next day I arrive with an egg & cheese muffin sandwich in my hand! She wolfs it down and sips the English tea I also procured.  Sitting on the bed she lays in my arms and cries. She is tired of fighting, feels like giving up and states: I don’t want to do this anymore. This of course does not sit well with me. Holding her I reassure her; this is just a bump in the road all will be ok in a matter of time.  My heart is breaking, I stay strong, showing no emotion, but I am dying inside! Before our pity party can grow the RN enters the room; a plan is in place, slow down the drip (from one hour to four), a new steroid is to be used and all should go swimmingly.

The steroid is introduced, along with a giant bolus of Benadryl.  Jacy once again slips off to sleep. I watch patiently as the blood ever so slowly makes its way into my wife’s chest. Once there, my observation skills increase! Breathing-ok, Color-ok, heart rate-ok, blood pressure-ok, hives-none! All is good.  After a half an hour, the nurse talks me into going home, promising me to call me should anything go wrong. Reluctantly I do so…

18 hours later, 2 pints of blood, some platelets and feeling like a million bucks, she comes home…

Don’t ever take for granted that red fluid coursing through your veins. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and blood is life, without blood you cannot exist. Be thankful if you have never needed blood, even more thankful if you have received blood. If you are healthy, have the time, or the desire to help someone in need. Please go and donate blood. It’s saving my wife’s life, one transfusion at a time, and for that I am eternally grateful….

blood 2