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]

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A “Betty”Fathers day thought.

Its Father’s day.

Yesterday while saying our goodbyes as we prepared to leave Bishop California after a week at the California High School Rodeo Finals, a friend slapped me on the back and said; well at least we will all be home for father’s day!

I chuckled and made some smart ass quip about spending the day cleaning the trailer, tack, horses and clothing. Yup father’s day at its finest! Grumble, grumble…..

This morning after rousting my crew awake, driving one to craziness as he drug his very tired butt outside to feed, I decided maybe Father’s day was indeed a perfect day to be revered. But not in the way most would think.

Father’s day has always been a day for others to appreciate their dads. The men who shaped and modeled, be it through exemplary parenting, a fumbled menagerie of discourse or simply a reflection of horrific role modeling that brought you, now an adult, into the parental place you are today; good bad or otherwise.

One problem for me on this day of days.

My dad isn’t here anymore.

My father passed away on December 31st 2015. This is my first father’s day without him. Something I am realizing this morning I took for granted. He is not here for me to call in the morning, take to lunch or dinner in the afternoon, hand a card to and hug. His frail shaky body no longer walks the driveways between our houses, his voice no longer bellowing larger than life yelling “slow down” towards speeding cars lost on our dirt road. No lecturing my boys on speeding around the property aboard a quad, dirt bike, tractor or horse. No laughter at Jakes antics or pride while watching Cody triumph at just about everything he does. No glee watching Parker or a simple, sly faced smile while seeing Jessica ride in the arena. No dad for me to bounce ideas about a horse from, just silence, a vacancy, an emptiness and I cannot help but stare at the spot in the driveway where he passed.

Yesterday to make emotional matters worse my wife’s uncle passed away from a tumor in his brain. We all knew it was coming yet as I am sure you all know that doesn’t make it any easier. I understand it really shouldn’t matter but not making it an additional 24 hours, his children are now spending father’s day without their dad. It seems like a silly thought but it is one of the man things I found myself thinking about first thing this morning. How about instead I worry about the simple fact a good man is gone and the day has nothing to do with it? Maybe it struck me weird because I, an outsider thought Brian was an amazingly intelligent man, one of the kindest I have ever had the honor of knowing and to not be here for his family to revere just hit me weird. I always looked forward to seeing him at family functions because the conversation was always intriguing. He had done so many things few of us ever dream of doing. But most of all he was an explorer. To me that is what living life is about. We as human beings never truly explore beyond our little circle or comfort zone. I am speaking of not just what is beyond the horizon but within ourselves as well? Always talking a good game there are very few who actually follow through. Brian was one of those people who actually followed through. His presence within our family will be greatly missed and my heart aches for Jacy’s dad, Brian’s brother. Blair has lost his mom and now his brother all within a relatively short time. The void must be huge, the struggle within very tough.

I wish I could say I cannot imagine what his family is going through but I can and I am sure today, a holiday dedicated to fathers will feel empty at best.

This week for me was spent surrounded by kids, families and friends. Rodeo is an amazing collection of hard working people all trying their very best to survive while providing for their children. Family is always at the heart of this sport and it has always drawn me to it since I was a kid. Stands filled with cheering parents. Animals treated with love, better than many people treat themselves all working just as hard to perform. Kids not just competing against other kids but helping their competitors as well! It doesn’t matter what district you are from in this state it is not uncommon for kids from those competing districts to be helping others. They come here as competitors/rivals but leave here friends. District one rider needs a horse because theirs is hurt, no problem as District 8 lets them borrow one. District 5 needs a saddle? District three to the rescue! Don’t even get me started about the rough stock! It doesn’t matter what district you are from everyone is on deck supporting, helping and ensuring that not one competitor isn’t taken care of before they nod their head, signaling to open the gate! There are roughly 300 kids, the best in their events from across the state with parents who should be proud of not only what their kids have accomplished but what they as parents have accomplished as well.

So today on Father’s day since my father is no longer here to say thank you. I am going to go a different direction. Inspired by a week surrounded by children and family, a week filled with victory and loss, a week ending with my own family’s tragic sorrow.

I am going to say this;

Thank you to all the fathers who inspire children across this great nation, those who stand tall choking back tears during successes and failures of not only their own kids but others as well and doing so proudly while lighting the way for others to see. Every father who knows exactly when to say the right thing at the most inopportune time, creating those perfect building blocks for a child to use as a foundation for future success. Thank you to all the dads who understand the importance of putting their own dreams aside so children and again not just their own may flourish. Those dads who know being a father isn’t just about raising your own kid but holding a positive influence over every child who crosses your path. The world can only evolve if we love each other equally, help each other selflessly and not just focus on what is ours.

To the dads who become fathers to those who don’t have one any more. Who remember the importance a parental figure plays in a child’s life. Especially a child who is alone. To all the dads who were a father to me when mine wasn’t around. The ones who ripped my ass when I needed it without fear of reprisal from my own dad. My dad believed it took a village and if I was caught doing something wrong then by all means let me have it!! It is the same way I parent today and if someone doesn’t like it they can take it up with me in private. I am a very good listener.

Today is also important as I reflect on not just how special I believe my own children to be but all the kids I have had the privilege of parenting in some small way or another. I think of all of you all the time. I am thankful for this crazy social media thingy called Facebook because I can see your smiling faces, watch you all continue to grow as adults, friends, family members and even parents of your own. You all make me so proud (and you know who you are) my door is always open, there will always be a seat at my dinner table for you and an ear to listen if you ever need any help.

I think about my own kids on this day. How lucky I am to have four very different individuals living under this old farm house roof. They all drive me crazy at times, and leave me exhausted but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To Cody, Jake, Jessica and Parker; Thanks for being my kids, allowing me to be your dad. Thank you for filling my life with memories, joys, laughter, and experiences that could never be replaced. But most of all on this Father’s day, a day where I cannot hug my dad and say thank you. Thank you for filling my life with love. I love you all so very much!!

I’m going to close out today with a simple request from all of you.

There are some who are hurting today because their father is no longer around. Reach out to them and let them know you care. There are those who you as a father or male figure have had an influence upon in your life. Drop them a note to say hello. There are some children out there who may need you as an extra fatherly figure in their life to help them along the way. Reach out to them. There are many who maybe don’t need you in a parental manner, but as a strong male figure they can trust. Step forward and make it happen. We all lead busy lives, and excuses are easy to come by, but I ask the simple question; if not you then who?

But most of all be thankful God helped create those children you have, who love you more than anything in this world. Remain the very best father you can be, you are going to screw up, make gigantic mistakes trust me! I am the KING of mistakes!!!! Just own them, apologize when needed, stand tall and do the very best job you can do.

The rewards are amazing.

Oh and Happy Father’s Day……

 

 

 

 

Can you hear me now?

In my twenties I never thought much about life and what it held for me. Every day the sun rose I tried my hardest to earn the respect of those around me. At that age you just want to be heard. Your ideas, thoughts, designs, you just want to be equal with those around you. To show the world that you are not just another dumb kid. Of course not helping matters much my looks were far younger than my age, therefor anything that came from my mouth was treated with kid gloves, quite literally.

Some life changes came and into my thirties a family was started, a career blossoming and again I yearned to be heard. The problem? I was the older guy as most in my profession started young and had already promoted to mid-level or even officer ranks. During that time I learned about fatherhood, gained some maturity and just when things started looking my way I also learned a lot about death. It was a challenging time and still no one was listening.

Welcoming my forties, our family grew, my inner child faded away as motorcycles, boats and fishing tournaments slid to the wayside for coaching baseball, and raising/riding horses. Trips to Haiti for humanitarian reason filled our summers, helping us grow as human beings and rodeo soon dominated our lives. For once in a really long time things felt as though they would look up, our family, especially myself could or would find contentment in life. Then came Leukemia, cancer, and a Bone Marrow Transplant. A very sick wife was struggling hard, fighting for survival and once again I found myself yearning to be heard.

This time it was different.

You see before, I longed to be taken seriously for whatever I may have learned along the way. Wishing those who I surrounded myself with would just listen, understand that maybe just once I actually did know something and could be thought of as equal or even a peer to someone new.

Over time I stopped yearning to be heard but instead chose to listen. Listening is one of the most important traits we can learn as a human being. Listening allows you the opportunity to feel empathy, compassion and love. Three of the best human characteristics we could possibly have or share with others. So I listened, and listened some more and I learned to love by not saying a thing. To empathize with those around me and show great compassion to those less fortunate than I. Listening gave me an opportunity to engage my brain instead of my mouth. Insecurity feeds a rapid fire mouth while silence often times shows great strength.

Now as I am but a few months away from my fifties I am yearning to be heard again.

My wife is struggling with all that has happened to her. She has been a pillar of strength for so many including myself. There is not a day or moment within the day I do not think about her. Alone, in her chair, or upstairs in bed, wondering, asking God why this happened to her. She has survived so much and yet she feels as though she has lost just as much as she gained. A woman who thrived in our barn, was an angel to so many children within a classroom setting and my best friend is still patiently waiting for things to get better. We are one year since chemo and one month away from her transplant. We are three weeks away from when she left the house for what was supposed to be at its worst no more than four months. It was eight months instead of struggling to survive. She is trying her hardest, but most days leave her incredibly exhausted and unable to move. She may have two good days and four really rough days. Her body is fighting her at every turn. She looks up and smiles at me but we’ve been together for 15 years and I can always tell when there is something hiding behind that smile. Some things she just can’t say, but my heart knows what they are because I have listened. 

So to my wife I hope you can hear me because this is what I have to say.

I love you.

I have loved you since they very moment we kissed. It was a confusing time, a scary moment but an inner sense told me it was supposed to be.

There is something about your personality that is mesmerizing. Like staring into an oasis after a long hot journey across the sand. You are that safe comfortable place so needed after such long travels.

You haven’t changed; your caring shines from the inside of your soul. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t instantly feel comfortable around you.

You are the devil when you are angry. But if you weren’t my strong personality would roll right over you and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

I could never imagine a day without you. Just like chocolate

We have four super fantastic pain in the ass children who love you! They are frustrating and amazing all at the same time. They also have no idea just how serious ALL of this has been and because of that they can be a bit selfish at times. But remember, they love you. They show it every day by not doing their chores, arguing with you about homework and treating you like its days of old where you would pick up after them.

I am scared to death but refuse to show it to you. You have enough to deal with emotionally other than dealing with my fears. This whole thing is so unnerving and yet watching you fight so hard, how could I ever tell you I am scared as well.

Quit worrying about what GvHD has done to your outside appearance. I know its difficult, and I understand you miss your old body but; I love you, the person who is you, it doesn’t matter to me what you think you look like because when I look into your eyes and the smile lines under those eyes relax for just a moment, you are there, whole, kind, caring, soft, understanding and as beautiful as always. I only see you..

I don’t know what the future holds for us, for you. I will not pretend I have the answers anymore. This whole thing sucks, it is painful, emotional and at times beyond comprehension. But I do know this; There is no one on this earth that I would rather be with. I am thankful every day that you chose me for a spouse. Yes it is hard taking care of everything without my partner in crime but I got it. I am doing the best that I can and the only reason I am doing so well is because of my love for you and my faith that God is watching and has a plan.

So please my dear wife ease your worried mind, have faith, look into my eyes and know I will always be by your side, helping you any way I can; Loving you and cherishing every moment we are together. Lean on me all you need, and rest when ever you want.

For every day is a glorious gift from God.

. .

 

The Journey

Thursday we made our bi-weekly or so, journey to Stanford. These required visits are needed so doctors may track Jacy’s constant state of GvHD.  Whether it be dealing with a pulmonary function test, her intestinal tract, eyeballs, skin or simply drawing blood to determine antibody needs we always arrive nervous, expecting the worst but hoping for the best as in serious signs of improvement. These appointments can range from down and dirty, leaving us with more time on the road than actually inside any facilities, to eternally trapped on campus with no place to retreat between sessions! Moving from one appointment to another with sometimes more than an hour or two in between visits. We laugh at each other for it has become the only alone time we ever receive and of course nothing is more romantic than swooning surrounded by similarly sick people or holding hands beneath the deep shadow cast from a set of IV pumps inside a sterile chamber. On this particular day Jacy was meeting with her primary Doctor which is always a treat. She loves seeing Dr. Muffly and always comes away feeling as though she just spent time with a friend. But first a 4 hour IV infusion of antibodies to boost her multi layered, still very confused immune system. After that a little round of pulmonary function testing and then it’s back on the road to hash it out with every Bay Area commuter trying their best to get home in under 3 hours. Of course the first hour is fun for me as I play a time honored game started with my son Parker that centers on the Toyota Prius. Much like the road game slug bug only the Prius takes its place. We also play the car spotting game, Tesla, Ferrari, Audi, and Porsche. It is fun driving through a community where the majority of vehicles on the road are green or simply cost more than my house. Ahhhh to have that kind of disposable cash….. We pulled into Stanford’s Cancer center turn around at 10:30 am after a leisurely 3 hour traffic jammed ride when my wife suggested I find something to do other than sit by her side for 4 hours during her infusion. Now normally I would have balked at this absurd suggestion as I have always believed a husbands place is by his wife’s side, no matter what! But today she was right, I needed some Betty time. Time to reflect and be alone. Time for just me with no one needing me for anything. Trapped in the center of Silicon Valley with no excuses to hide behind, that is just what I chose to do and with a kiss, a hearty good luck and I’ll see you in a while, this guy headed out alone.

Where to go, where to go????

I thought about going to the Tesla store but I knew then I would want one and since that type of purchase is nowhere in our future I turned the old faithful 200,000 mile wagon left instead of right. Of course this also eliminated the Ferrari store, the Audi store and who couldn’t pretend car shop without sitting inside a Porsche 911 4S! To dream ah to dream.. First retreat I chose to patron was a little restaurant I have passed a hundred times. A quaint little place nestled in the hills above Palo Alto. A place I have yearned for my world to stop just long enough so I may cross its gastric threshold, yet there never seems to be enough time. Today would be different. When I pulled into the parking lot the first thing to hit me was a smell of ancient redwoods filling my nostrils. Walking up to this small, shake covered hut, heavenly aromas wafted across the open plane. Stepping onto a huge well seated porch I quickly took my place silently amongst some of my favorite people in the whole world. Bikers

That’s right Bikers, masters of the motorized two wheel sleds. Throttle squeezing, leather wearing, Carbon fiber covered, alloy loving, helmet adorning, race pipe thundering, high rev, revving BIKERS! Eating my breakfast a Cheshire cat smile glistened as I listened to each story about the mornings ride, or a previous ride or a tale about someone else’s unbelievably adventurous ride. Tech talk at table two involving power commanders and horsepower. New heads for table fives Harley and a freshly painted fairing to boot! I could almost feel a bike running underneath me! It was good to be back amongst these folks. Gazing across the landscape I recalled many of my bikes from days past. A simple street cruiser, bench seat KZ500, my very first Harley! I could still sense the raw power and throaty noise coming from one of my customs while aching for the sheer arm stretching torque produced by my ZX12R which had quite a few modifications. Each motorcycle reserving a special place in my heart, leaving me smiling, content and hoping I’ll know that feeling again. Yeah, someday day, I’ll be back. After settling up with the waitress I drove down the road a ways to a state park where walking off breakfast sounded like a good idea. Parking the car, walking to the trail head I chose a direction and headed out across this large open field. Working my way along the hillside there arose a bench in the distance. Reaching that bench I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the plaque inlaid upon its top plank. It was quite simply labeled “Bobs Bench”. Taking a seat the view was amazing. I thought to myself somehow dad knows I’m here, sitting on a bench with his name and wondering how he is doing. In return I knew he was looking down upon me, letting me know he’s watching over Jacy. He loved her so, they bantered back and forth and in reality the old man lived for her calling him out for his shortcomings.

Strolling farther down the path it felt as though the weight of my world had left for a bit, a beautiful fern laden path, some ancient trees, and even a few Mountain Lion tracks made this the perfect hike. I lost track of time and before you know it I had traveled 4 miles. It was glorious! Now I will say this, when deciding upon an impromptu adventure, ensure you retain alternate apparel somewhere in your vehicle for just such an occasion, for as I discovered the hard way; Vans are not for hiking! Just saying!

Back at the car I made it three miles down the road when Jacy called to say she was almost finished. Perfect timing. Picking her up some lunch then circling back into the Stanford Cancer Centers turnaround she climbed inside already a bit exhausted. We headed over to the main hospital where we arrived very early for her last appointment, a pulmonary function test. Luckily we didn’t have to wait very long and before we knew it back on the road we were, heading for home.

I thanked my wife for the wonderful morning, and I told her all about the day’s events. She told me about her appointments but before long she was drifting off to sleep. We weren’t 30 minutes into traffic when Jacy’s head nodded its final nod, resting gently towards the door, looking completely tuckered out.

These trips are hard on her and so is the process of recovery. She tires of being exhausted all the time and doesn’t understand why she just isn’t healing or regaining any of her former strength and vitality. Jacy is very thankful to have survived, to have fought as incredibly hard as she did, but the longing to just be normal, to ride horses, to help her kids, to be a teacher again surrounded by children who aren’t hers, but in reality are very much her children has become overwhelming for her at times. It is hard as her husband to see her in pain, to see her struggle, to see her longing for the past. As a man I am a fixer by nature and I can’t fix this, I can’t make it better, I can’t take it from her and make it my own.

The best I can do is support her, listen when she needs an ear, stay quiet when she screams at the ceiling, give advice when she asks for it and when my wife says to go do something on my own. In this case a journey within the monthly journey.  Do it, enjoy it, and thank her for it afterwards for without her coaxing me to do so, I wouldn’t. I would stay right by her side, making sure she is ok and telling her just how special she is to me.

I cant wait until the both of us can sit on Bobs Bench.

bobs bench

 

M is for Mom….

Mother’s day was founded in 1908. Its reverence came to fruition after Anna Jarvis held a memorial celebration in honor of her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton West Virginia. Anna had begun campaigning for the holiday a year after her mother a well-known peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War died. Ann also created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues within the community. Anna wanted to honor her mother along with honoring every mother out there for as she stated they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

In 1908 The US Congress rejected a Mother’s Day proposal joking they would also need to honor a “Mother in Laws Day”! Yet through persistence and a need to recognize the extraordinary efforts by Anna’s mother Ann, by 1911 all US States began to observe Mother’s Day as an official holiday.

No matter its origins, Mother’s Day is upon us once again. A holiday that in my opinion has become less about its true intentions and more about commercialization, much like Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s day for me is not about just saying Happy Mother’s day to my mom. Although due to my extremely hectic life that is about all my poor mom gets as of late. A woman who deserves only the utmost of respect for all the dread I put her through. It is about taking a moment to recognize not only all mom has done for you, but all she has not done for you as well. It is the things mom hasn’t done for you that have built and developed your character into what it is today. Yes she does so much to ease your life’s miniscule burdens simply by being your mother. But it is the hard choices you make on your own, the times she isn’t there as a crutch to lean on, but is a phone call away to listen, leaving you to your own devices without interfering that make all the difference in the world. It is about allowing you to become you with nothing more than a look or facial expression that needs no words. There isn’t a mom alive that cannot change a young man’s course with nothing more than an MMMMMHHHMMMM or what were you thinking tone in her voice, all while allowing you to believe you made the correction in course all on your own. Our moms are the planet for which we orbit. Without them we would be lost.

Mother’s day for me is also about everyone else’s mom as well.

You see I wouldn’t be the man I am today without a hoard of surrogate mothers grabbing me by the ear, sitting me down to chew my ass, or giving me a hug when I needed it most. The moms who fed us after school without so much as a complaint, helped us with our homework because we were together as friends! A group of scraggly hoodlums helping each other out and that made these moms smile. It was the mom’s that approved of me dating their daughters and believe it or not it was also the mom’s that did not approve of me dating their daughters that made a huge difference in my life.

Swim team moms, wrestling moms, 4-H moms (those were the toughest), FFA moms, and any mom who thought if even for a moment I was worth it are permanently lodged in my heart. From laughing at my jokes, treating me as one of their own, fixing up my scrapes, not telling my parents the whole truth when I was complete jackass or telling me to get the hell out complete with a motherly ass chewing! These women, mothers of my friends who knew it was up to them to not only ensure their own kids turned out ok, but their children’s friends did as well. They showed us love and compassion, making sure we knew they would always be there for us if and when we needed.

Each one of these women made a huge impact on my life whether they knew it or not. They are the sole reason I try my hardest to make a positive impact on every single young person I meet, or that crosses through our threshold at the ranch!

To not only my mom, but ALL moms who have taken the time to love and care for more than just their own children.

Happy Mother’s Day

Without all of you there really would be none of us….

Lets talk about????

Today while driving our children to their various locations of education, we crested a stretch of roadway that always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy if I hit it at just the right time. You know sun placement across the tree tops, smell of damp dew in the air, that sort of thing. In the morning my brain is at its most active as this time in the car allows me to correlate the days activities into a hopefully well thought our prioritized list.

Driving through this little moment of Zen, I looked over at my teenage son and remember when my father used to tell me how a morning’s dawn was one of the most peaceful serene moments in a day. It bothered him that I usually slept right through it, missing the earth’s transformation from dark to light. I wondered if one day he would be in the same situation thinking the very same thing, wishing he had listened to me way back when?

And there it was. That moment when one thought creates a burst in the mental dam! Will he have heard anything during his adolescent tenure while fighting against his need to challenge the bull? All Teenage boys go through this period, some sooner, some later, but at some point their testosterone tells them it is time to challenge the bull. It is where they learn to take a beating (metaphorically), get up, learn, and try again. It is a period of time that molds them into the men they will become, learning to follow rules because it is the right thing to do. It is also when they fight an overwhelming need for acceptance from not only their parents but friends and love interests, or prospective love interests and this is where personally and socially things can begin to become, well, convoluted.

Let’s talk about sex.

Now both my sons and I have had “THE TALK”, and we have held this little sexual information conference on many occasions. I have felt it overly important as my parents and I never really covered the bases besides the obligatory: don’t have sex, it leads to kids and you will be in a lot of trouble.

We have discussed everything (if you are uncomfortable please leave now) from their own penises, to female body parts, how they function and what purpose each intricate portion serves. They were “grossed out” in the beginning for having such conversations with their father, but it has gotten easier over time.

The gist after all from my perspective is a little saying I have shared on numerous occasions with any teenager that will listen to this old man.

Boys are boys, girls are girls and you are all just friends until you get into college. It is impossible for you to commit to someone else until you discover just who the hell you are. Then and only then can you decide whether or not you are able to share yourself with someone else.

This is wisdom not handed down to me but learned the hard way as my entire youth and young adult life was spent chasing someone else’s dreams in hopes of finding out who I was. As a 49 year old man I still have not chased my dreams, I know who I am now, (and I kind of like myself) but have no ability to discover myself further due to many responsibilities that rest upon my shoulders. I have been blessed with wonderful friends, children and an equally excellent partner in life. But to have learned much more about myself at a younger age would have been worth its weight in gold.

What worries me as we continue into town on this serene morning is even though my focus was off when it came to myself, I did have a great youth, meeting new friends and dating some super awesome young women. But that’s just it, we dated. There were phone calls, in front of parents, and nervousness when it came to even talking to some of these girls. I was always terrified to ask a girl out. If there was a girl I liked it took me weeks sometimes to get the nerve up to do it! The funny thing is they always knew it was coming, boys just act stupid when they really like someone. It was the way it was. I heard lots of no’s. And even though it crushed me at times, there were some yes’s as well. It was fun, exhilarating and exhausting at times. We learned whether or not we actually liked each other or if we should just remain friends. In one case a girl I had liked for a really long time actually said yes, we went out on one date and everything that could go wrong did! When the night was over we tried to kiss and we realized instantaneously it felt like a brother and sister trying to smooch! YUCK!!! We had been friends for so long we had become family! It was an important lesson learned and taught me so much about myself and how my relationships affected people in ways I wasn’t even recognizing.

This is what’s eating at me! Our children today don’t need to do that anymore. Somewhere over the last thirty years we have gone from nervous dating to sexting! The theme is hooking up not going out! Our children are partaking in a very dangerous game of emotional instability centered on sex, photography, and one night hook ups all done through their phones! There is no more nervousness in making an impression! No more terror about what you should wear, how you should look, will she like me for who I am, will we have a good time and will she still like me when she gets home. Nope! Kids today are playing a very deadly game, combining image and self-worth, which can only lead to disaster! This really worries me! No, let me re-phrase, it scares the hell out of me! They are no longer asking for dates, but naked pictures! Texted or Snap-Chatted from their bathrooms, bedrooms and cars! That’s right mom and dad, while you are out working, doing laundry or watching Dancing with Stars downstairs your little angel has her or his pocket computer squirreled away popping high resolution photo’s for all to see. There is no worry about how it will affect someone or the damage caused if any of these pictures leak. And let me just say from what I am hearing the girls are as aggressive, as the boys!

None of them have a clue what they are doing or the implications associated and trust me, if you are reading this thinking; not my little angel or slugger! You are dead wrong. It has become a game for our children and they don’t understand the ramifications one bit.

Now we all know the mental end of it. Girl sends picture to boyfriend, boyfriend shares with all his friends because well, he is a teenage boy and that’s a half-naked girl! (Not an excuse, just the facts) Girl finds out about picture sharing and is devastated (rightfully so), feels as though she cannot look anyone in the face at school because she doesn’t know who has or hasn’t seen her naked. This scenario goes any direction you place it too. Boy/boy, girl/girl, boy/girl, girl/boy, it does not matter! It is damaging and cruel leaving psychological scars upon its victims that take years to repair. A few children have even committed suicide from suffering through their inner torment. These kids feel they doing something harmless but do not have the mental faculties to see the long term effects of their actions.

But let’s look at the legal aspect. Same scenario as above only now mom and dad are aware and have decided taking action is the appropriate response.

Police are notified, School is notified, an investigation ensues.

Our children are placed in handcuffs and hauled to jail for questioning. Why? It is the trafficking of child pornography. It doesn’t matter that said child wanted to send this naked picture, the child is underage. It does definitely matter the moment said child shared picture with friends, that is the very second they became a trafficker of child pornography. Remember all parties are underage.

The minimum sentence for trafficking is dependent upon your particular region but from what I could find doing a little old fashioned research it carries a minimum of 15 years!! 15 years in jail because two kids sent nudies to each other then, shared them with the world! Of these sentences vary upon severity and incidents. But the outcome is the same. Someone is getting arrested, someone may go to jail, many may have their lives ruined forever and someone may have to register as a sex offender.

So who do we blame? Because this is America and someone needs to be blamed for this heinous act continually perpetrated amongst our youth!

OURSELVES….

Didn’t see that coming did you?

We as adults are being outwitted and outplayed, not just by our children but society as a whole. It is our responsibility to keep up with technology and yet much as our parents did, we have taken a stance of ignorance. Touting such phrases as; it’s too complicated, if I need it worked on I’ll give it to my kid, they understand it much better than I do, why does it have to have so many features, it needs to be simpler. Funny thing about those blurbs are they come from recalling my parent’s excuses when it came to working this hot new little item called a VCR. Funny how it fits into today’s issues with computers and technology as a whole.

The problem is by taking that stance we are essentially giving the keys to the inmates so they may run the asylum. Our society as a whole has turned to electronics as a babysitter, a pacifier, a walking teacher loaded with information used under the guise of homework and learning. But the dark underbelly lurking inside is too much temptation for our young minds to handle. We have decided to accept its positives turning a blind eye to the negatives believing we have raised our children to know better. To be strong enough not to try and locate the end of the internet along with all of its little side roads and travels.

I began researching this issue after wondering just what exactly was on my teenage son’s phone. After searching through its contents we found some questionable apps and began wondering just what they may hide and why anything needed to be hidden at all. A long discussion was had about the power he held by owning his phone and using the technology appropriately. It also shined a light on our ability to monitor just what he was using his phone for and why. We spoke to him in detail about what is going on with others across the nation and how serious some of the offenses can become.

Today, he turns his phone in nightly. Yes now and again we slip up on that and don’t catch it and he feels a certain victory as is he has gotten away with something, but in the end he loses it for a few days and as he puts it; his social life is dead! Re-affirming my earlier comments about how sad it is our children no longer know how to date or socialize face to face for that matter.

The password cannot be changed. If it is he loses the phone again for a specified period of time. If it happens twice the phone is gone permanently.

When I ask for it, no matter where or when, he must turn it in without question. If he tells me to wait a minute while he erases texts, the phone is gone for a specified period of time. Second offense the phone is gone permanently. He is reminded to text as if a parent were reading it, for, as I often do, they just might be. Am I so naïve to believe he will never text inappropriate things? No, he has just gotten better at deleting them before I get ahold of his phone.

If he so much as thinks about touting that it is in fact his phone, I remind him it is not his phone, it is my phone, under my name, my contract and until he is 18 it is my job as a parent to ensure his growth as a human being, his safety from doing expectantly stupid things and until that time comes that he is an adult with all its super fun responsibilities. Tough shit.

I hate the goddamn phone but in today’s world it has become somewhat of a necessity. So we as parents who choose to arm our children with these boxes of mystery must become incredibly proactive. We must be on the watch out constantly because as soon as we learn one aspect of this electronic wonder there are numerous other factors working against us. The largest perpetrators working to defeat our parental policing?

Apps.

No matter what we do, or how we do it there are numerous app’s working to thwart our actions. Checking your kid’s iPhone and find it clear of all wrong doing? Look again. For there are numerous applications to help hide what junior doesn’t want you to see. These apps are the anti-parent. They share information then make it disappear! They capture screen images from the very transparent app for you to keep in a secret locked folder that only you have access! If that wasn’t enough to have a locked folder there is even an app to hide the app!!!!!

Here are a few app’s to keep an eye out for!

Calculator applications. There are a ton of these but here are a few of the more popular ones.

Best Secret Folder

Secret Photo& Video

Calculator hide

HiCalculator- Private Album

Private Photo

Fake Calculator

 

Individual app’s with unique app pictures that lead you to believe they are something other than what they are which is a locked secret folder.

Settings lock

Secret Piano Icon

Keep Safe photo vault

Don’t touch this

HiFolder

Vault

Hidden Secret Files

Photo Umbrella

FileMaster

iDiscrete

HIDE

Picture safe

Private photo

Album lock

My Media

 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a fun little app, there is no doubt. Many parents I know use it exactly the way it was intended, for amusement. The issue is still the same, if there is a way to abuse something, we as human beings will determine what that is and exploit it! Thus the issue with our children. Naked pictures, under the guise of anonymity that can be captured, saved and shared. Scary.

Yik Yak

Another social site that offers discreet chatting with locals in your area. Unfortunately from what I have witnessed many times it is sexually explicit and self-deprecating. There are comments made in reference to teens that are demeaning and hurtful. Another opportunity for those who remain unethical to berate others from behind a hidden wall.

Of course there are the standard sites that everyone visits such as Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Tumblr etc.. Some would say these sites allow our children to be more social to a broader section of society and to some extent that is true. They still need our daily supervision as it is easy for them to post or repost an item they might find harmless but in reality could be detrimental to someone else or themselves. As I remind our children on a regular basis, once it’s (whatever you post) out there on the internet there is not taking it back. It is there forever, for all to see. It becomes your electronic legacy.

So as I drop the kids off and ask them to have a nice day, I smile and wink. They tell me they love me and run off to school. The high schooler who is sans-phone for not turning it in at night again grumpily gets out of the car, reminds me what time to get him and then slowly gives me a sly smile and says; see ya!

He walks away and I wonder, besides all the other advice I hope he remembers will he appreciate this struggle we went through together? Will he be thankful we diverted him at every chance he had to derail?

I don’t know, but I do know this, no computer or application can give you the feeling I had the first time a girls said yes to going out with me. Nothing can replace that first time holding hands or the very first kiss. Nothing replaces a nervous heartbeat, the smell of perfume or watching the sunset together with her head on your shoulder. And nothing feels like the world does when the sun comes up in that certain place on the road that gets me every time firing my brain into overdrive allowing me to feel alive.

Hopefully one day my children will understand that without looking it up on their phone.

4/14/16 addendum

Tonight after reading my blog, my teenage son came into the dining room and sat down. Calmly and with the maturity of an adult, he asked if I would please stop writing about him on my blog. He felt I portrayed him in a somewhat negative light and he didn’t want people to think badly of him. I have never been more proud of the way he handled himself and the conversation that ensued.

So let me add this, it has never been my intention to show any of my children in a negative light.  Only to share with other parents that we all are in the same boat! I am saddened that I have hurt his feelings. He is an amazingly funny, warm and generous young man. I am overwhelmingly proud of who and what he is becoming as he spreads his wings and there are numerous others who care for him as if he were their own.  My use of him came naturally as he is the only teenage reference to date in my household. His offenses are minor in nature even though at times they bring forward major topics of discussion.  I will honor his request and cease to use him as a basis for my writings because I love him and respect his wishes.

~Betty~

 

 

 

Parents; What are we doing?

What are we doing?

Seriously, I ask myself this on a regular basis. What the hell are we doing as parents to our children? What the hell are we doing with our society as a whole?

As always the challenges of raising children can become, well, overwhelming at times. Also as usual it leaves me perplexed, wondering what the heck I am doing wrong as a parent. These challenges and issues leave me reflecting as a whole on the job ALL of us parents are doing to create better versions of ourselves thus turning them loose on society for the world to prosper from or eat alive like an unwanted cub.

What is society doing about our youth? As I look around at the youth of today I see a huge entitlement issue that stems more from society empowering them irresponsibly than from parents being given a chance to empower them appropriately at home. Now before you get your knickers in a bunch let me explain.

In my day (cue walking uphill in the snow barefoot both directions to and from school) rules were fairly straight forward with little flexibility. Either you followed said rules established by mom/dad/teacher/parent next door or you suffered the wrath of an angry parent complete with serious consequences.

These rules from my past were simple and easy to follow too.

Family always comes first

Don’t lie

Keep your word

Do what’s asked of you

Never hide anything from your parents

Be respectful of others, especially your elders

Education comes before all else

Always be thinking and putting your future first

 

Mon-Fri we got up early, fed animals, grabbed lunch and sprinted to the bus-stop. You never missed the bus because there was a gas crisis back then and moms 4 mpg, 400 cubic inch rumbling monster station wagon only had enough fuel for the bare necessities. Like grocery shopping, swim practice and possibly one 4-H meeting. So miss the bus and a serious ass chewing complete with a whooping if it happened more than once was in order.

Once home from school, homework came first, no if ands or but’s! Then off to work with your fair project, horse or horses, then change and away to swim practice you went. If you had siblings you all were in swim team. There was no way one kid was swimming, one playing baseball, one in basketball or tennis, at least not in my house anyways. Once home, you set the table for dinner, cleaned your room and then if everything was done you had free time to watch TV with your family or as in my case work on something of your own. My preference was models, drawing or my truck.

Weekends consisted of you getting your ass out of bed at 6-7 am, feeding animals, eating breakfast then after doing in house cleaning chores your sorry butt was locked out of the house until dark. Oh and trust me you had better not be late for dinner or you went hungry. No one worried about your whereabouts, no one used find my iphone to check on your location, you knew the rules. You had better be where you say you are or the next weekend you spend the entire weekend locked in your room! Of course we were always down in the sloughs, skipping rocks, hunting or fishing.

So as I said, life was simple, with a simple set of rules. I also broke every one of those rules trying to figure out just who I was and where I fit into the grand scheme of things. Looking back now, although it seemed at times these simple sets of rules enforced strongly and vigorously by my parents were impossible to follow, they made me who I am today. A very strong willed person with an ever stronger sense of right/wrong and not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. It also means that if you are a friend of mine I will give you the shirt off my back and drop what I am doing when I am doing it to come help you. Family both paternal and external always comes first.

So how come with such a strong sense of how I wish to parent and see my children grow does it seem so much harder than during my day? Why are the rules constantly bending, flexing and why do our children walk around with such a sense of entitlement? As if we are here to serve them? What is the major game changer?

I know I am not alone in wondering WTH!! At the rodeo us parents gather like a monthly A.A. meeting to stand around a campfire and proclaim;

Hi my name is Betty and I have been a suffering parent for 19 years.

Group: Hi Betty! (Sniffling/quiet sobbing in the background)

Betty: it’s been two weeks since my kid did something asinine, disrespectful or possibly illegal. I am praying to make it a month so I can receive my first parental challenge coin!

Group: Yay! (Applause) You got this Betty!

I am firm believer in sharing every trial and tribulation our children go through, our parents didn’t have these types of support, those issues were never discussed, parenting was kept behind closed doors, yet with all of today’s insane influences it seems to me that just like the fire service, sharing can and will save lives! We are far from perfect, we all make mistakes and there is a certain bit of comfort that comes from others understanding your personal struggle while sharing theirs and opening all of our eyes, sometimes in disbelief at what is going on around us! Then it is not just you handing a single child, but a massive force of parents all looking out for each other’s children at once, with the same mind set and goal. To help them get out alive.

We are struggling. It is not easy. Now please understand, I know it wasn’t easy for our parents either. Lord knows my parents from age 13-18 at some point most likely thought about disowning me or dropping me off at a bus stop in the next town over. But in my day when mom and dad had enough of our bullshit they didn’t have the outside influences circumventing any parenting strategy that our children are struggling with today. In my day my whole life revolved around the ranch and earning money to purchase my first truck. Why, because then when I had enough of my parents, I simply drove to a friends house and let their parents, parent me. Many times they got tired of my shit and sent me packing, right back home where my responsibilities were reaffirmed and my sense of self put right back on track.

So I ask what influences are different today.

This is where society comes into play. We learned from our friends growing up. We laughed, told stories, told lies, had fun, and basically bonded over the unknown out in this massive world. The curiosity of what awaited us outside of our little hometown bubble was enticing to say the least. Our social network was school, or the 7-11 after school. It was sports, rodeo, after school study groups, it was interacting with people face to face, learning what is acceptable and what is not though trial and error.

Today society plays a major role in how our children are forming into adults. They are consumed by television shows with too much gore at an incredibly young age. As a 20+ year fireman I can attest to the fact unlike our day when death was shown as a simple act or assumed, todays look at death is incredibly realistic, sometimes overly so thus taking away our children’s sensitivity and even empathy. They are bombarded from an early age with shows centered around smart ass little shits talking to their parents as if they were morons with a Television family laughing it off as a sound track roars in the background. Our children no longer know what it’s like to wait for something. I had a pen pal when I was 10-11 and the anticipation of receiving a letter back taught me patience and left my mind using its imagination as to my friend’s reaction at a letter received. Today’s children text, and want a response right now! Lightning fast repartee and if you don’t return with equal speediness there must be something wrong, that friend must be angry or talking shit about them! Oh the horror!!!

These young men and women have television shows like Jackass and The Real Housewives, teaching their young unformed brains that doing incredibly moronic, hurtful activities will make you famous! Yes self-deprecation while hurting yourself surely shows what a man you are becoming! Don’t worry about the irreversible damage you can do to yourself, hey laugh’s come first! Consistently talking smack about your supposed best friend while never confronting her until it’s time for a ratings jump is the way to go! But there is no ratings jump in the real world, just impressionable young women who are not equipped to handle the mental trauma that comes from acting like a self-absorbed, back stabbing idiot. What happened to empowering our young women in a way that teaches respect?

Their young eyes are wide open, absorbing everything they see and there is plenty! Why? Because we as parents have allowed all of them to have a little electronic box that fits neatly into their pocket under the guise of; you need this (iphone, android, LG, etc) phone so we can get ahold of you. Perfectly marketed by the telecommunication industry through use of ease and the mystical boogie man that may grab our children out from underneath us! In our day everyone’s parent looked out for everyone kid! If you missed behave they could and would let you have it with full support of your parents, and you better not lip off or cry foul because then it meant you were disrespectful to your elders. Teachers also had full reign over your ass! You got out of line, out the door with you, if your grades were falling then as parents you asked what you could do to help. No one blamed the teacher, not like today! Two professions I would never want to be in today’s hateful atmosphere; a police officer or a teacher. Both have the responsibility of keeping our world in order through rules and education and both are shown no respect what so ever. So very sad to say the least! It is unwarranted empowerment of those who don’t deserve it when in reality we should all carry the utmost respect for what each profession brings to the social table. I also remember not that long ago children had a set-time we had better check in with mom and dad for if we didn’t we received an ass whooping! Oh wait that’s right children of today cannot get an ass whooping, that is infringing upon their rights. Heaven forbid little Johnny learn there are consequences to his actions then serious consequences for repeat offenses, instead building up little Johnnies self worth while empowering his entitlement issues is much more important, for he is human being with the same rights as an educated, respected, adult who understands the importance of consequences. Yet I digress.

Not only do our children have the ability to research information right here, right now. But it is anything and everything!!! I remember when we needed to look stuff up in an encyclopedia! You know the paper version of Google! But when I say everything, I MEAN EVERYTHING!!!!! If you think for one moment your adolescent boy has not hit his browser to scan a little porn? Man you are in need of being put on restriction! These kids have unlimited internet access, music availability, snap-chat (the devils app), a camera for taking those wonderful selfies, (sometimes doing things they shouldn’t be) hidden folders to keep all those ethically questionable stuff from their parents because well let’s face it, in their eyes we are old and dumb. They text during class, snap chat between class, after school, on weekend, at 1 in the morning, hell they even do it while in the bathroom!

iphone

It is out of control and do you know why it is out of control?

Because they are right. We are dumb. We talk a great game, but much like technology, evolving and changing faster than we can shell out the money for the newest gadget to make our lives easier; the game has passed us by. They know it, they ALL know it! It is becoming Lord of the flies.

Our parenting skills come from a simpler time explained earlier in this piece. We learned from our parents who didn’t have to fight the technology age. Television consisted of 3-6 channels at our house depending on signal strength. If we wished to talk with someone we did it on the phone, in front of everyone in the house. No place to hide, no sexting, and no illicit picture of our privates sent during conversation. Family was the strongest bond and you took care of your siblings. You never spoke ill of your parents on an open public forum like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You ate together and solved family problems together. It made us who we are and that’s what is scaring the hell out of me.

This future generation we created is learning, and when they are adults their parenting skills are going to come from what they learned as children, which means every single outside influence they have today will play a part in their skill set combined with our “old fashioned” ways.

Society is accepting these mind sets as the norm. Society is creating machinery, social applications and industry at an alarming rate that removes hard work, interpersonal skills and responsibility from our intellectual make up. Autonomous cars, online classes, faceless chat groups, we are taking away skill sets, teachers and responsibility from our humanity. Soon with the invention of fully thinking, active conscience computers will they find us fat, lazy humans obsolete the way we have found machinery and former technological wonders obsolete over time? Can you say Skynet?

We are rewarding bad behavior, anger and laziness. Hundreds of thousands of children will become adults with no real common sense believing they are in fact superior to elders, creating a huge gap between a tried and true knowledge base for learning and themselves. Believing if they want to learn or obtain knowledge it’s just a Youtube click away. I am truly terrified for our future.

Listen I am just as guilty as the next guy. Growing up without much as child, I strive to allow my children access to all the latest greatest technology. I bend on occasion when I really shouldn’t in regards to rules and parenting. My children are not disrespectful to me, but I wonder what is at the end of those finger tips while they are texting away as they wander into the barn. I wonder what ill-conceived plan is being hatched as that little electronic contraption is humming away when they are supposed to be doing chores or working their horses. I wonder if anyone’s feeling are being hurt because of internet bullying behind screen shot anonymity. I constantly think to myself; what are we doing and can we stop it?

Then about the time my brain feels as though it will explode I wander off wishing it was the mid 70’s, it was five o’clock, I knew exactly where my kids where, and what they were doing. Because then I’d be on the back porch with a nice glass of whiskey and a Paul Mall calling it a day.

Two more weeks till my parental challenge coin. Wish me luck..

whiskey

photos from CBSnews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you’re an expert? Hmmm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Rodeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo…

 

More….

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

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

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

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

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

I wish there was more…

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