I can’t

I hate the phrase “I can’t”! Really, it should be stricken from use in all societies! Think about it, I CAN’T! It really, truly means “I won’t”. It means you made up your mind there is no possible way to participate, take part in, or just do what you have been asked.

Children use this phrase the most. After careful examination of the issue or task at hand most usually find out they “can”. In our house nothing drives me crazy more than a child that says “I can’t”. Nothing drives me even crazier than a parent that says; its ok honey I understand. Which empowers the child to fail on a consistent basis because it is now a learned habit!

What if our entire civilization centered on that phrase? What if all we knew was failure? What if every time something needed to be done, we all stood up at once and said “I can’t”?

Every society is filled with individuals that continue to rise to the challenge. People who know nothing but success. We worship them, we sit back in our Lazy-Boys, turn to our spouses and usually spout some useless dribble like; I could have done that or if I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth I would have succeeded also. But what is the real issue here? The real issue is that you have resigned yourself to living the life of “I can’t”.

Now I suppose there is the argument between “I can’t” and ” I won’t”. There are many of you out there that admittedly “wont” act when called upon. “Wont” try something new. “Wont” go that extra mile out of fear. But I argue this, “Wont” is not the same as “Cant”. People who claim they “wont” attempt something usually know their limitations. Most individuals I have run into through my 17 years of working side by side with type “A” personalities will use the “wont” not as an excuse, but because at some point in there lives “I can” allowed them the opportunity to try. They wont, because they know just how far they can push themselves; this comes from experience, having tried different measures of success numerous times in the past.

I know there are a thousand excuses for “I can’t”. A thousand hypotheticals; If someone asked you to jump off a cliff wouldn’t you say “I can’t”? My answer would be; no I would say “I wont” jump off the cliff because I know it would be detrimental to my health. Having learned the meaning off pain from falling out of a tree house as a child.

So don’t bore me with that crap.

I speak from experience. I used to be the guy who sat back and said; I could do that, without any follow through. Then one day, a long time ago I decided to become a firefighter. Everyone I knew told me it would never happen. I was uneducated, to old (they only hire 18-22 year olds you know), fat and out of shape. I heard all the excuses. Just about the time I was ready to spout an “I can’t”, I woke up and told myself “I can”. I can do anything I put my mind too. I can succeed at what ever is put before me. There is no failure when you have tried and given it 100% effort. Win lose or draw you could, you did, you learned, you survived and by not caving into “I can’t” ideology. You succeeded.

So my question is this, what kind of world would we live in if there was no such phrase as “I can’t”? If we all lived by the rule of “I can try” at least once.

Once……..

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Betty’s Words of Wisdom

Compassion! Take a moment to recognize you are not the only person having a hard day. There is always someone having a worse day than you. Have compassion. Carry on that is all…

Who taught you to drive??

RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT, RANT ALERT

Oh yeah ladies and gentlemen its time for Betty to bust out the pain! Lay down the smack! Bring up the blazingly obvious that all of you notice, bitch and complain about to yourselves but never to anyone else!

Drivers Licence Mayhem

As far as I know if you own a driver’s licence in the great United States of America then it means you passed a test allowing you to hold said licence.  Correct?????  It means that when you decided it was time to obtain these valued credentials you studied, went to drivers education classes, partook in valuable drive time on both freeways and surface streets with a certified instructor? Right????  Last but not least, like the rest of us valid card holding members of the united front of commuters you sweated buckets while a DMV representative sat alongside you, with a clip board in hand, guiding you through a designated course, determining if you had the ability/talent allowing you behind the wheel of your current 3400 pound bucket of rust! Didnt you??

Yet with all that being clearly stated why on earth do you lack the ability to safely merge onto the freeway?  At what point and time in all those hours of behind the wheel training did anyone ever show you how to pull all the way down the on ramp at elementary school zone speeds to then stop, look over your shoulder and pray for an opening you can squeeze into from 0-75 mph? With your Prius! It’s not going to happen! Unless you own a Lamborghini Gallardo and are a very talented driver you are not going to make this move without serious consequences!

Of course it must run in the family because this morning I met your cousin Captain Oblivious!  You know Captain Oblivious don’t you?  Yeah, he’s the one that comes down the on ramp at freeway speed and never looks over his shoulder!  Stereo up loud, hands at the ten and two position, head faced straight forward!  Tractor Trailer? He don’t care! Giant 4×4? Better get out-of-the-way! He coming down that ramp like a skateboard to hell and there’s nothing you can do about it! He figures you will move out of fear!  Apparently he missed the chapter about safely “merging”!  Under the definition of “merge” it must read Merge: to ram large object into small or non-existent space without repercussion. The rest of us missed that chapter of the book but not you Captain Oblivious! Not you!

Of course my rant wouldn’t be complete without a visit from out other traffic family member!  Flat floored Fred!  You see Fred enjoys driving really fast! Fred runs the stops signs with the skill and grace of even the best California stop artist! Fred can’t help himself as he moves between lanes like a skilled race car driver.  Drafting off a Lincoln, cutting the front of a Ford and pushing his way into position at the next stop light all so he gets the jump on you the moment it turns green! But Flat floored Fred has a serious flaw. Dont put him in the fast lane on the freeway!  We have all seen him at his best! He darts down the on ramp at full throttle, smoke billowing from his 1993 Cutlass Supreme! He is coming fast, faster, faster than BAM! Across three lanes like Steve freaking McQueen! That car settles into the fast lane looking strong and stealthy until suddenly the anchor falls out of the trunk! Now Flat floored Fred shows his true side, its 55mph.  Yep he’ll break every intown speed limit all damn day long but get him on the freeway and suddenly we are driving Ms. Daisy!  Heres a hint for Flat floored Fred.  If everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is passing you from all three of the right hand lanes.  Get out of the fast lane!!! You are just frustrating everyone! They all want to kill you!  That is defintley not the “your number one” sign they’re flashing you!!!!

And what the heck is up with roundabouts?  These little freaks of roadway nature are nothing more than an excuse for most people to see how fast thier cars can go while drifting!  No kidding! They may work in Europe to ease traffic congestion but here in the states they are just an invitation for the Red Bull Drifting series to have try outs! They are perfect! How many times can I go around this thing sideways, smoking the tires and blocking all others from entering into the circle of trust?  You know whats an even better idea? Place the round abouts right next to high schools!  Yep thats the ticket! Then the teenagers can all pretend to be Tanner Foust! Its pure genious!

Man I feel better! Its true purging is good for the soul!

Now piss off all of you before large 4×4 guy with dents in his truck loses his temper and shows you the bumper of the Betty mobile!

Versatile Blogger Award

I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

You really like me………

I have been nominated for the Personal Blogger Award by Vanessa Chapman http://vanessa-chapman.com 

This is an award bloggers award to each other as a way of showing appreciation for the blogs they enjoy. I am humbled and honored.

(I plagiarized the rules from Vanessa as I feel there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.)

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post. Easy-Done

2. Share 7 things about yourself. Ok hope I don’t scare anyone, but easy-done.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers. Fail! Only could nominate 13! 😦

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. Will let them know as soon as I’ve posted this

Seven things about myself;

  1. I am 45 years old and I can’t wait for retirement. When I refer to retirement it is not in the sense of me walking away from a career, gold watch in hand to sit on some god forsaken island, smoking pot until I die.  On the contrary, I cant wait to start the second half of my life.  To re-invent myself and live life twice.  I have had a stellar first half, the second half can only get better.
  2. I can walk into a burning building, rescue people from a crushed or damaged vehicle, repel off a 5 story building with confidence and walk under a ladder without fear of superstitious reprisal.  But I cannot, and I mean no way, no how can I stand being in the proximity of a spider.  Those eight legged little freaks get me every time.  You want to hear a full-grown 200 pound man jump and scream like a 6th grade school girl then toss a black widow my direction.
  3. My ability to tell the dimensions of something from sight are frustratingly astounding.  Spatial relations are my thing and I am borderline “rainman” about it.  Have a picture to hang, I can tell you one side is off 1/2 inch any direction just by looking at it.  Just had your new bookshelves installed, I am the guy who within 20 seconds of being in the room knows exactly where the carpenter “cheated” or “shorted” you on material.  It makes me crazy and it makes my friends crazy as well.
  4. Scary movies are stupid and a waste of time.  I laugh through them which annoys everyone.  I can tell exactly what is going to happen when it is going to happen. 
  5. 1950’s pin-up girls are awesome.  You can have your skinny, anorexic, vegan, boney butt tooth picks.  I like my women with natural curves, and clothing that leaves something to the imagination. 
  6. When I was 10/11 while walking up my long driveway (we lived in the country) a car pulled up with a creepy guy in it who asked me if I wanted a ride.  Then told me to get in the damn car. He had one hand on the wheel and one in his trousers.  Thank god I had enough sense to run.  I still have nightmares about that guy even at 45. 
  7. I am terrified I will fail as a father.  I put up a good front, but deep down inside I always feel as though failure is right around the corner.  It’s why I write this blog.  It allows me to laugh, vent, and share my experiences.  I can look back on it when I am feeling low and remind myself of all the good I have done with my children.  I know they will laugh looking back on all this as adults.

15 bloggers to pass this award along too.

Soshi-Tech- http://soshitech.com

More valuable information in one blog than should legally be allowed in the states of California and Utah.  Everyone else is OK!

A Detailed House- http://adetailedhouse.com

I love houses and the fine art of decorating them in some of the finest trim.  If you are a closet design geek such as myself who also thinks you can take on any project, than this is the blog for you. The photography is very well done also.

Raising a Realist- http://raisingarealist.com

Scott is a mild-mannered high school English teacher. This blog is his attempt to capture all of his daughters moments.  As a parent of four, I can relate with his tag line. “126 kids but only one will wipe my but when I am old”

Mayahood- http://mayahoodblog.com

Adventure seeker, world traveler turned mother.  She has a mixture of her views on motherhood along with guest posts.  It is an entertaining blog.

Bucket List Publications- http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com

This one is near and dear to me as it is a blog that completely follows the premiss of getting out there and doing all those things you keep putting off.  They even pick some of your bucket list suggestions and through donations make it happen for you.  It’s quite the premise and I enjoy reading it immensely

A Confederacy of Spinsters- http://confederacyofspinsters.com

This is one of my favorites!  Three women from Texas, each one taking a turn writing about life trials and tribulations all under pseudo names.  Grace, Mae and Kate.  Its is always witty, relevant and fun!  I look forward to new postings they way one waits at the window for a long-awaited package from UPS. 

Musings of a stay at home Jewish Father- http://stayathometatte.wordpress.com

Another blog dedicated to a male role model at home raising his child.  Its funny and real with great pictures as he chronicles the day-to-day life of a stay at home dad.

In My Opinion- http://diane-ownes.com

Diane is on a quest to ask a different, relevant question everyday for a year. Interesting concept and I find the answers entertaining.

Debut Dad- http://debutdad.wordpress.com

Brenden is a first time dad who lives in Australia.  He blogs about juggling the changes in his life with the birth of their first-born child. Good luck Brenden and keep em coming. 

Vanessa Chapman- http://vanessa-chapman.com

Vanessa nominated my blog,  and although she is already nominated I enjoy her blog and look forward to every new edition she puts forth.  From superstition to the purchase of a new pair of boots.  She is funny and I find her blog to be a good way to blow a little time at work! Ha!

365 trinkets- http://365trinkets.wordpress.com

This blog is a reminder of how much crap we accumulate as adults.  His mission? To get rid of 365 trinkets he has stored as treasured keepsakes over a 25 year period.  The blog revolves around taking pictures of each one (for memories sake) then getting rid of said item. 

maggiemaeijustsaythis- http://maggiemaeijustsaythis.wordpress.com

A blog dedicated to writing poetry and personal trials and tribulations.  I enjoy the freedom with which she expresses herself.

Take a shower- http://takeashower.wordpress.com

A blog about Eloise and the raising of her five children.  She writes about the past and present, reflecting on the moments in time with the raising of her five children.

I am sorry to say I only have 13 to nominate for this award.  I fail!  But the thirteen I have chosen I follow with great intent.  I enjoy many other blogs but they are new to my collection and I havent gotten the chance to know them well enough yet for a nomination. 

Vanessa you were right, I also anguished over my choices.

Humilities heavy hand…

He sat there, head hung down, dejected, feeling a mixture of sadness and anger. A year had passed since he took up this new endeavor, four months had passed since his last attempt. He and his partner strolled slowly from the arena of play trying their hardest not to make eye contact with anyone who had noticed what had just happened. Through the gate was all he could think about, lets just make it through the gate. He passed another contender on the way out and gave her the obligatory “good luck”. He meant it, his partner made eye contact with hers and they both made a feeble acknowledgment. He wanted to stay and watch as she had also just recently taken up this endeavor. Her partner was definitely ready but you could see the nervousness in her eyes. Yet he couldn’t bear to watch, he just needed to get outside and take in some fresh air, they both needed too.

As he cleared the opening to the coliseum they both took a long deep breath. Nothing had gone as planned. They both knew it, and no words need be spoken. It was hard on them both for they practiced day after day, working hard honing their skills. His partner was coming along quite nicely, yet he had only shimmering moments of light. His play was good, but to get in sync with his younger partner meant he needed to be better. Running, sprinting, cutting back and forth, they both were getting into incredible shape. His partner had gone from a small scrappy fighter to a muscle-bound machine of might and will. He as well expended a tremendous amount of effort in the arena of play. Grunting, sweating, working hard, eventually shrinking down from a bloated toad to a balanced quicker moving adversary.

Together the two of them had days where either was discouraged and upset with the other. Yet they continued to work as a team time after time. Some days his partner would be so angry with his obvious lack of performance, things would become physical. This over zealous attitude earned neither one of them any tangible successes. Yet the next day they would be back at it, working hard, knowing they had it in them to be the very best. He secretly admired his younger partner, for her skills were lightning fast and aggressive. He always felt bad when he left her hanging with no rebound or solid attempt to repair the damage he had done. He was glad she stayed by his side though, always willing to make things better on the next go around.

Two weeks to go and they both were feeling some synchronicity! They were excited and felt accomplishment was right around the corner. They trained harder than before and after each practice he had great words of encouragement for his partner. They were both happy. They could see the light. One week to go, practices were steadily improving, successes were becoming more frequent. Two days to go a battle plan was set, confidence was on the rise, everyone could feel a solid run was in their future.

The day finally arrived, both rose early and ate big healthy breakfasts. Equipment was cleaned and loaded for an on time departure. Arriving at the coliseum brought a sense of calm to one, excitement to the other. The calm one walked in to check on registration, scout out the facility and the competition, while the excited one stayed behind hoping to reign in all that energy she held inside. The day went along smoothly, contenders were doing quite well and the two of them could feel their time was near. They donned their equipment and both strolled into the practice area ready for a solid warm up. She was doing everything right. Her roll outs were solid, her cut backs crisp, her slides on point she was ready! Her nervousness had ceased, her head was held high and confidence was at a premium.

Funny thing about confidence, sometimes it can turn into nervousness. He had all the confidence in the world, he showed a good face, but as with the times before, he just couldn’t turn off his brain. And that is the death of any good athlete. Its one thing to know how to play the game, to know how and why you move here or there on the field of battle. To be able to stay calm and collected when things go sideways, and in this sport that is the main direction of choice. But if you can’t turn off your brain and just trust your instincts you will fail. If you can’t turn of your brain and trust in your partner you will never succeed. Thusly your partner will never trust you, leaving you both with nothing but failure. This is what he had done to sabotage the team again. All the work, all those practices, all the trust he had gained in his partner. All the trust his partner had gained in him. All gone the moment they crossed that line and the two of them made that first “almost perfect” cut right in the center of the arena. You would have thought making a great first cut would have calmed him down, left him at ease, allowed him to relax, but instead he felt none of that, why? because he couldn’t turn off his brain and just let things happen. Too bad, too bad for them both…

And so he sat there, head hung down, dejected, feeling a mixture of sadness and anger…

I wrote this about Cassie and I. We both compete in the well-known sporting event of “Cutting” . My partner (Cassie) is a gorgeous 4-year-old quarter horse who I adore. She is athletic, fast and incredibly kind. She is also very forgiving. She has been trained very well, she loves her “job” and I know in my heart one day we will win a lot of events. She deserves too for all she has put with on my behalf.

I wrote this in a nondescript fashion because I feel it relates to all disciplines. If you are not dedicated and willing to accept your failures you will never succeed. Sometimes those failure are laughable, sometimes they are painful, sometimes they are embarrassing. But whats important is you learn from them each and every time. For no one is perfect at anything the very first time they try something. My wife put it best when she said; Honey the very first time as a fireman you walked into a structure fire, did you perform every task perfectly? Of course the answer was no. How many fires did it take before you started to fully understand what was happening, improving your outcome of success? I replied MANY. She looked at me a stated quietly; same thing…….

My son also rides in this sport, and is the reason I wrote this little synopsis of yesterdays events. You see sometimes in life we learn from the ones we teach. Even if that “one” is eleven years old. I wrote it on my sons behalf as a reminder to myself that with hard work comes great reward and sometimes even when everything feels like its going right it all falls apart and failure is imminent. Usually at no ones fault but your own. We learn from failure, we learn from embarrassment and most of all when we are done spewing these little virtues to our children, we learn from them as well. For as I left the arena yesterday, upset and dejected my eleven year old son walked right up to us both and said; Its Ok dad, you guys will get’ em next time. I thought your cuts were great! Then with a big smile on his face he told me he loved me and gave Cassie a kiss on the forehead.

My eyes watered up a little at the thought he had actually been listening to my little gems of wisdom. My heart filled with pride knowing he felt comfortable enough in our relationship as father and son to expound my own words upon me. As he walked away with me in tow to watch the rest of the competitors I couldn’t help but think to myself.

I think he just “Eddie Haskell’ed” me. Little bugger! He outscored me today and I know he is going to remind me of this fact over and over again!

Oh well, he deserves too. Plus there is always next months show……

One of my better quotes; I think it fits in this case.

I would rather work with five guys who have tried and failed miserably at something one time in their life, than one guy who has succeeded at everything.

Betty…..

Its more than a shirt..

This started as a story I wrote for my son.  I felt he needed to understand the importance of staying true to yourself.  That people spend their whole lives wasting time on phony images.  I also felt if he understood who I had become, he would understand we have all been in that awkward position at some point in our lives.  Sometimes the things we try to live up to only bring failure.  Sometimes, remarkably they bring success, but in the end I wanted him to know he will become a wonderful person by using all the tools he has been given by his mother and I.  How he uses them will help him to define who he is and who he wants to become…

So here it is…..

 IT’S MORE THAN A SHIRT

It started when I was in high school. I came from a small rural community and at my high school wrestling, football and basketball were the followed sports of choice. I had friends that were on the wrestling team and during the school week they always wore their wrestling shirts or Letterman jackets.  I would marvel at the way people treated them when we were out in public getting something to eat or just hanging out.  (Joe citizen) So you’re on the wrestling team Huh? How’s the season going? (Followed up with) You boys need something to eat? And; don’t let us down at the next match ok! The questions and admiration from adults never ended.  I used to think; if I could wear a team shirt or Letterman Jacket, people would respect me as well.. 

I went to all the wrestling matches and during one of those matches a friend of mine who wrestled varsity, asked me to hold his Letterman jacket.  I ended up putting it on and instantly I could feel other kids and parents alike staring at me as I walked by! It was strange, like I had been instantly transformed into someone special.  I could hear them talking in my head too.  Saying things like; oh that poor boy must be injured, or look at all the markings on that jacket that kid must be some kind of athlete.  As I strolled around the high school gym I also noticed something else.  It didn’t feel right, it felt fake, a sham, this wasn’t my jacket, I hadn’t earned the right to wear it, and I was a complete fraud.  The feeling I had that day stuck with me as I went into adult hood. I always remembered the feeling of shame whenever I had an opportunities to portray myself as something I wasn’t to gain acceptance and admiration. 

There’s more to this than wearing the shirt. 

As I became an adult, I applied and was accepted to a firefighter academy. After several long weeks of intense training, I had the opportunity to become a firefighter upon completion of the class. I succeeded and so started my probationary period with the department. One of the proudest moments of my life was finally being able to discard my red fire academy t- shirt for an official fire department t- shirt.  I wore the navy blue t-shirt around with confidence and pride.  I always felt when people looked at me they were thinking to themselves; “there goes a fireman “with a smile upon their faces.  I had finally arrived. I was now wearing the equivalent of that Letterman jacket from so many years ago.  The only difference was this fire department t-shirt was mine, I had earned it!  All the long academy hours, training at night and in the rain, I had earned it! It was mine to wear when I wanted, where I wanted and everyone was going to see me as someone special! Just look at the large, block letters printed on the back “FIRE DEPARTMENT”.  I mean that alone must mean I’m someone special!  

The truth; I was still a fraud, still a poser, still a fake.  You see it’s not the t-shirt or Letterman jacket you wear that makes you special. It’s what you do with the responsibility bestowed upon you the minute you wear that t-shirt.  The Letterman jacket from so many years ago was earned with dedication, honor, integrity and sheer will.  Matches were won and matches were lost, my friend had numerous injuries along with a few broken bones.  There were skirmishes that went outside the ring and friendships inside the ring that were forged for life.  He honored the sport by always giving one hundred percent and never letting himself come before his team.  The reason people admired him and the others were because they knew or at least hoped they were upholding the honors and traditions of the great wrestlers who walked the matt before them.  They did…

The fire service is no different.  I thought I was on top of the world the day I donned a fresh new navy blue t-shirt emblazoned with our departments name upon the back.   I felt I had arrived to a place of instant respect.   Like so many other young misled lads and lasses I was wrong.  You see my journey had only just begun. For the only thing I had truly earned that day was the right to purchase my uniform shirt.  I was very quickly going to learn that being a fireman was much more than wearing a cool navy blue t-shirt.

Oh sure I had passed the academy, yes I had been assigned a shift, I now had a Captain an Engineer and a firefighter to work for and alongside.  What I didn’t have, what I didn’t realize after all those years of watching others and thinking “I could do that”, was experience.  I needed to put in the time. Time to prove that I really deserved to wear a department t-shirt, time to honor those that came before me with actions not words, time to show my crew and the department that I could give one hundred percent of myself and always put the team first.  I needed to place my co-workers and my community first, ensuring that I would perform flawlessly each and every time an alarm went off.  Earning my stripes meant, staying calm during emergencies and thinking clearly, it meant not getting angry as a citizen is yelling at you for taking too long to arrive on scene of their emergency.  Keeping a straight face as a drunk driver tells you why he parked his car in the living room of someone else’s residence. Telling a patient its ok they vomited on you for the third time, then afterwards calmly letting them know it happens to you all the time.  It means holding a little kid and comforting them while CPR is being performed on mommy.  Telling that child it’s going to be ok, even though you know mommy is never coming home again. Picking up a homeless man and letting him know that you appreciate the warning he gave you in regards to him contracting AIDS. Knowing the law states he isn’t required to tell you a thing as he is bleeding all over you. Carefully picking up body parts off the freeway at 2 in the morning or unlocking a car on a 104 degree day with an infant in the backseat.  It means coming to work even though you don’t feel good or you hurt because you know someone today is going to hurt much worse than you do now. Spending holidays and birthdays, family occasions and children’s sporting events away from your family. Sometimes 48 hours turns into 96 hours and there is nothing you can do about it.  During the summer or “wildland’ season you may end up spending weeks in other parts of the state as part of the Office of Emergency Services response matrix. Its knowing and I mean knowing, that at any moment in time it could all be over!  That we dont live forever and this job at times seems to take additional seconds away from that clock.

After 17 years there are things I have done and seen that are too unbelievable to even mention.  Events more gruesome than any person should have to endure. Pictures lodged in your mind that sometimes rear their ugly head for no good reason at all. Yet there they are and before long you have transposed other people’s tragedies upon your own families’ day to day operations! I have had the misfortune of burying former colleagues, friends and family members.  I have tried my hardest to pay homage to those that have come before me and instill the simple qualities of honor, dedication, and respect into the “new ones” that arrive every couple of years. 

You can always spot the “new ones” too. I see them; they are in every city, in every firehouse, in every town across our nation.  They have “the look” it gives them away every time.  They stand tall and proud, their shirts are shiny and blue, they walk with a certain step that right away identifies them as a “young firefighter”, they’ll try telling you stories even though you haven’t asked.   They end up walking away frustrated with you if you seem indifferent.  They want your respect, they are yearning for your respect, and the problem is they have to work for that respect. They have a long way to go and many experiences to endure.  Obtaining knowledge from actual hands on work in conjunction with countless hours of training, before they even get a hint that there’s more to being a firefighter than wearing the t-shirt.

When that happens, when they have reached the tipping point of knowledge and experience, something else happens.  They calm down, their shirts aren’t quite so neatly pressed, they talk a little quieter, and they brag a little less, they understand the people they serve are not just faceless images erased with time.  It’s then and only then they obtain a different demeanor.  One of confidence mixed with a hint of exhaustion and humility.  When they go home they will stare at their duty shirt as they put it in the wash with pride.  And they will spend the rest of their careers trying to keep the “new ones” on track by passing down all the same lessons and wisdom they were exposed too.  Then and only then the shirt wont define them and it won’t seem so important after all. 

I still wear an occasional retired job shirt from time to time when I am off duty.  Usually they have been relegated to “work shirt” status because they are too destroyed to be used on duty.  But for the most part it’s only around my property.  I hardly ever wear one into town.  It’s not because I am embarrassed or ashamed of what I do, I love being a firefighter! Being a firefighter to this day is still hands down the greatest job in the world!  I don’t wear them because I have finally earned the respect I was looking for, the funny thing is, the respect I was looking for didn’t come from co-workers or the citizens in our town. It didn’t come from family members who are always interested in my job when I see them, or even the wonderful and not so wonderful people I have helped over the years. 

The respect came from me. I have respect for myself and for that there is no t-shirt.  

Why?

 

Why?

A question that we ask on a daily basis. Why? A question that children ask, usually to learn, absorb knowledge and at times to drive us crazy.  Why? A quest that can become repetitive in answering. Example: Can I have a brownie dad? No. Why? Because it’s not good for you. Why? because it has sugar in it. Why? because its made with sugar. Why? Because th…. oh hell you get the point!

The thing about this adverb is it sticks in your brain and you can’t let it go! You as an adult constantly ask why without saying “why”.  Thats how we operate! Education and years of experience have taught us how to formulate a question to receive the maximum answer. Yet as children we only know one way to obtain information, that is to ask “why”? But what is bothering me, the reason I am into this little diatribe is that I also think as adults we may be to smart for our own good.

As adults, life has us running on empty constantly, we run to work to meet the expectations of our superiors.  We run to school dropping off and retrieving our children. We run back to the park or gymnasium for our children’s sports leagues.  Then there is the store, the dry cleaner, the gas station and so on. But that’s OK we are smart intelligent human beings, we can multi-task , operating on many levels. We need our information quickly, we don’t have time to mess around. Just look at all the parents at the soccer game paying not attention to their little Beckhams’s! No they are entrenched into the information first, life leash that is the modern-day cell phone! Life is short and getting shorter all the time! Just ask any frazzled parent, they will tell you! One of the first comments out of most parents partaking in small talk is; I can’t believe its: insert month here already. or Holy cow little Johnny is getting huge! The last time I saw him he was just a little guy! Where does the time go? A sure sign life is traveling fast and passing us by.   So at the end of the day, after answering the “educated” why questions multiple times over, we as adults have no more patience in regards to our own children. Especially to the myriad of “why” questions rolling around in their little brains.

Think about it, how many times in the afternoon while trying to focus on making dinner, providing lunches for the next day, getting the laundry going and having a glass of wine for your own personal sanity have you become frustrated with your childs constant “why” questioning? Inevitably at some point you are going to lose composure and bark at them: because I told you so!  My personal favorite by the way.  And WWHHYYY are you barking at them? Because you have forgotten about the inner workings of a child’s mind. Your brain is still entrenched in a please the boss, I am dealing with only frustrating, idiotic adults mentality.  You have forgotten how to turn that off and bring your thought process down to your child level of understanding.  A level of understanding that requires the use of the word “why”  when asking a question.

We as parents (myself heavily included) need to remember that every time a child asks “why” it is not to get under our skin. (Although I am sure there are a few of you who will disagree with me on that one. Just remember that child is not the norm, that child is possessed by Satan.) It’s because that’s the only way children know how to ask the question. They want a really good answer too. Because I said so; is not a qualified answer. Yet time and again we treat these questions as frustrating and annoying.  We as adults are doing damage to our kids by squelching the ability to ask why? Asking why is one of the fundamentals of being a human being. If we continue to suppress the urge to ask why as a child, the child will never understand how to ask why in a well formulated, information gathering fashion as an adult. That same adult will certainly never understand how to process any answer given.  It is all in our hands people! Our children’s futures are in our hands and we as impatient, self-absorbed adults are doing our best to destroy it by not allowing our children to ask the simple question of “why”? We are also destroying their futures by not taking the time to get down upon their level and answer the “why” question with an age appropriate knowledge provoking answer! Something they are so desperately seeking!

Anyways, that is my irrelevant thought for the day. A rant based probably on my own guilt as a short-tempered worn out father of four. Now go out today and do something positive for your kids!  Why?

Because I said so…..

 

Running out of time

 

In June of 2011 after successfully completing the length of a marathon while walking in support of cancer awareness at the Relay for Life event held in our town.  I decided that I was going to get back to exercising everyday! I felt I needed to lose some weight (ok my doctor told me too but it always sounds better if it was my idea) and getting back into shape just might help my job performance as well.  I was already participating in a half ass workout at our firehouse but I felt it was time to kick it up a notch and take full advantage of all our department had to offer! 

I decided that I would start by running everyday, If I was going to lose weight, that was the first logical step! At 205 pounds I was lugging around an extra 25 pounds according to my B.M.I. chart.  Now running is an art as any of you out there who run on a regular basis already know!  If you just plunk along you are not really working in an aerobic state and you are destined to achieve shin splints! If sprint right off  the bat like superman you are destined to become injured and receive shin splints.  But if you start out slowly, walking for five minutes then working into a nice smooth rhythm while allowing your body to sink into the natural upright running position. Well you are destined to get shin splints! I guess what I am trying to say here, or the moral of this story might be, inevitably when you are 44 and havent run in ten years you are going to get bloody shin splints!!!

So off to the famous unnamed footwear store I go.  All my problems will be solved by actually knocking the cob webs off my thrifty little purse,spending more than $29.99 at COSTCO for sale item shoes! Oh and spend I did! The sales associate was good! Telling me all about the dynamics of my feet and how the proper support will solve all my shin splint miseries, I will be running marathons in no time! She went on for 15 minutes about the benefits of the shoes I was purchasing, but in my mind I was already running the Boston Marathon, leading the Bay to Breakers! Wind in my hair, sweat pouring through my Nike sponsored running clothes! Women and children cheering at the mere spectacle of a man my age bolting past 20 somethings struggling on the sidewalks! Oh yes I was going to fly! 

I went home, placed Thunder and Lightning (yeah I named my shoes) on my feet and instantly felt the electricity flowing through them all the way into my calves! These shoes had super powers, I just knew it! I went from an average everyday Joe to “super runner” just by donning these illustrious over priced, glitzy, shimmering blue, sweat wicking, pieces of running superiority! I trembled thinking about taking that very first step! Will they bolt me to speeds unheard of, or will they be gentle and allow me to break them in slowly! The anticipation had me sweating nervously just thinking about what was about to happen.  I kept telling myself: the salesperson said these shoes were custom fitted just for me!  No one has a pair just like them, and I will reap the benefits from my understanding of running technology! Oh I so bought it, hook line and sinker!

I walked in them for 5 minutes to warm up, allowing the wonder shoes to break in a little! My oldest who runs cross-country came out and looked me up one side and down the other, letting out a “Humph” when he saw the “chosen ones” upon my feet! I asked him if he liked them? (like he really needed to answer, I know jealousy when I see it) and wondered if he would like to join me in my little excursion! He mumbled something about the shoes being Ok then finished with a chuckle and: you know they wont make you run any faster. What does he know? I asked him if he wanted to join me but he said he didn’t want too. I’m thinking he didn’t want to be in the shadow of Thunder and Lightnings greatness! In reality he didn’t want to leave me behind within the first mile!

We made it to the road and Thunder and Lightning were plenty warm and ready to go! I leaned into them a little we started to pick up speed.  The first mile is always the hardest! Everything hurts, you start complaining in your head, then before you know it you are arguing with yourself over whether or not you should just quit! You start saying things like “I’m getting to old for this shit” and “whose dumbass idea was this anyways”! You start telling yourself its ok to be a quitter, no one will know, heck when you get home just splash some water on yourself and everyone will praise you for your effort! Then just about the time it all is about to come apart, the endorphins are released into your system! Oh yeah, so good! No more pain, breathing is easier, you feel stoned, (not that I know what that is, just a guess) higher than a kite. Nothing is going to stop you now, oh no! You are running faster and stronger! Your knees are coming up higher and your strides are increasing.  You are a runner sir! A bonafide runner! Thats right these shoes were worth every penny! No longer will I bargain shop for running shoes, oh no! My feet are on cloud nine and my brain is floating freely as I take in each deep refreshing cold breath. The countryside is flying by, the views are breathtaking! I feel as though I am Forrest Gump, I will not stop until I hit an ocean, then I will turn around and keep running until I hit the next ocean!  Go Thunder and Lightning go!

We make the loop around my house and I am soaked in sweat.  I feel like a true athlete, a runner of the highest caliber.  My legs are throbbing, my knees are shaky, and my heart is beating so hard my eyeballs are wiggling! It’s the best feeling ever! I walk around to cool down taking part in all the proper stretches. I am sure I have just run 10 miles, I mean come on, who runs like I just did, no ordinary man I can tell you that! I pull my I-phone from my pocket to turn off Pandora and check my jogging app for distance and time.  As I am waiting for it to load I exuberantly hum a rendition of Eye of the Tiger. The screen loads and my time/distance is revealed.

2.5 miles. What! that can’t be right! I know I ran more than 2.5 miles! Stupid program, who can trust military satellite technology anyways! Not me that’s for sure! Disgusted with the obvious blatant lie my I-phone has just delivered to me. I turn to walk back to the house, dejected by my effort, disappointed in my expectations of the wonder twins Thunder and Lightning. Thats when it hits me. Oh it hits me hard, nearly taking my feet right out from under me.

You see, it doesnt matter what shoes you wear.  It doesn’t matter what clothes you are in, it doesn’t matter how many miles you have run.  The only thing that matters after you have given it your all in an effort to turn back the hands of time and not declare yourself a overwieght 44-year-old man is; What the Hell I am going to do with these damn shin splints!!  OOOOWWWWWWWW!!

I could barely walk for three days after that run.  Today I run 4-5 miles a day at work and 4 miles at home on my days off.  Thunder and Lightning are doing just fine. They are not the superheros I made them out to be. But in the end they have become my heroes. My feet are thankful for their existence and my shins don’t hurt as much anymore.

If life was like Law & Order

Every night my wife and I , shower away the day, brush our teeth, I go downstairs and lock up the house, she checks in on the kids then we shut the door turn out the lights, climb into bed, turn to each other and (get your mind out of the gutter) ask who has the remote? Yep, you see neither one of can sleep until we have watched a full episode of Law and Order. Thank goodness for our DVR, we have at least 10 episodes recorded for any sleeping emergency! My night just isn’t complete until I hear one of Dennis Farina’s smug little quips! Or Jerry Orbachs opening one liners as Det. Lenny Briscoe;

Sample: Mike (discussing infidelity as a motive for murder): Don’t wives always know?
Lennie: Mine did.
Mike: Yours didn’t hire a hit man.
Lennie: Not yet.

That is TV gold man!!! So as I am watching this little gem of a show it dawns on me, why can’t life be like Law & Order? You know everything tidied up in a neat little 40 minute (minus commercials) segment.

Opening scene; Dad comes down the stairs to find the kids fighting over who murdered/broke dads favorite coffee mug. After asking several questions and examining the crime scene it is determined that someone was obviously using the cup for ill intended purposes. (used to hold milk instead of coffee). Several people of interest at this point but no one is copping to the murder. As dad directs his partner (mom) to bag it for evidence, mom asks what are you going to do now that the mug is broken and dad quips back; well It appears there’s no crying over spilt milk! (Thanks Lennie)

Next scene; two of the kids are around the dining room table (interrogation room) with their heads down. The other two are upstairs with mom, they have already been identified as witnesses thus excluding them as suspects. Of course the two seated at table with dad don’t know this yet! Dad is circling the table trying to draw out a confession. Trick questioning, lies to deceive the suspects! I saw you two I know it was you two, I just don’t know which one for certain! Slapping his hands down on the table, focusing one suspect in particular he is heard proclaiming; there were plenty of other cups to be used yet you chose that one why, why did you choose that particular cup? I think you had a score to settle, angry that old dad wouldn’t let you have chocolate milk before bed last night you decided to get even didn’t you, (louder shout) DIDNT YOU! Oh yeah one of you better start talking cause we only make deals with the first bird to sing and I guarantee you those other two are singing like canaries right now!! The frightened look on the kids faces show they are about to crack when mom busts in the door and asks; are you done now? What do you mean am I done now, they are about to talk! Mom has now changed roles from detective to counselor! She proclaims to be working in the best interest of her clients and tells me since I have no conclusive evidence that she will be taking her clients now! What! As she exits the room she reminds me to follow the evidence trail correctly and the answers will become obvious!

I find myself back at the scene of the crime, looking for anything that will help my case, when the call comes in that one of my suspects has been beaten! I rush back to the back of the house to find the two recently released suspects sitting on the back porch crying while there counselor reprimands them for their improper behavior. I can see one of them is about to break. I lean forward and proclaim quietly to the aggressor in the situation; I know it was you, it’s just a matter of time.

That night after dinner, they are cleaning the table when I am dropped a note inside my napkin. It indicates that the mug was broken accidentally and my main suspect is ready to talk, but not here, away from his counsel. As I walk out back to get some wood for the stove, I turn around to find one child has followed me, he is upset and ready to cry. I place my around him and tell him to let it out, purge his guilt, I am ready for his statement.

He recounts the morning going along smoothly until he decided he wanted to drink a cup of coffee just like dad! So he climbed up on the counter, retrieved my special mug out of the cabinet, poured himself a glass of milk and as he was sipping, it slipped from his hand shattering on the ground. He then breaks down from the guilt and starts crying. I comfort him and tell him thank you for telling the truth! He asks: what happens now? I tell him because he came forward and told the truth I am sure by pleading guilty in front of the family court the judge will be lenient. He looks in disbelief and asks; How much time will I get? I let him know he is looking at 1-3 for the crime he committed. He squeals 1-3! Are you kidding me it was just a glass! It wasnt just a glass son, it was my special mug and we had to go through all of this to find out the truth. You also broke the rules by climbing on the counters to retrieve the mug that adds a little time to your sentence. I then remind him to count his blessings had he not come forward, and through discovery we had found him guilty he would have received the maximum of 5-10 days of restriction! I then remind him to be thankful milk wasnt the only thing he spilled, he spilled his guts, which in the end saved him. (corny ending one liner) He sighs, slumps his shoulders, I put my arm around him and he walks off to bed. Case closed, day done.

See! If life was like Law & Order it would be great! Everyday a new plot, everyday life tidied up in a neat little sell it the public on TV format! Yeah that’s the ticket! I wonder if you could make life-like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”? Oh wait, that IS supposed to be real life isn’t it?

God help us all!!!!!

I woke up alone

I awoke this morning to an empty bed.  It was cold, I had unknowingly acquired all the pillows and I was unsure of my location.  After flopping around a bit searching for the edge of the bed with my feet, ( a scientific method of measurement) I came to the conclusion I was not at work, but definitely at home.  I rolled to my back clearing just enough sleep induced cobwebs to recognize that if I was home, where was my wife?  Thats right, there is an additional tenant signed to this queen bed lease.  It was not designed to be a rest haven for one, no no no, this warm slab of downy goodness was built specifically for two! 

I smelled coffee!

Why has she awoken so early on this rarest of rare days?  A day not filled with school, or the rush and hustle of work? No, this is a cherished weekend morning ritual, a space of time so few and far between with our hectic schedules that even the powers of Krypton could never tear it away.  A morning for us to stay in bed together, sans children!  A morning the kids get themselves up, feed themselves cereal and then watch an hour or two of useless television before going to church!  A morning where talking and snuggling are not interrupted by the baggage of a long day needing to be unpacked before bedtime!  My goodness how has this happened!  Have we gone so far in our marriage that these little things mean nothing, they hold no cherished place in our hearts?  Have we fallen into such a rut that all forms of individualism separating us from our children has perished?  This is blasphemy!  blasphemy I say!

Well too heck with her!  To heck with her I say!  Leave me alone in bed will she! You better believe I wont be friendly when she gives me a cup of that “oh so delicious” coffee she makes! It probably wont taste good anyways, and I will force myself not to like it! I’m not even going to smile! No sir!  I’m thinking it’s going to be a little hard to swallow such warm tasty goodness upon the heels of such marital disrespect!  Hard I tell you! 

I am distraught and as the sting of loneliness slowly clears my head.  I seem to recal a small child coming in at “oh midnight thirty” to say he had a bad dream.  The covers were pulled back, a heavy sigh was released and a small little boy with cuddly green blanket was fast asleep, squished between his mom and dad.  Was that it? Was that the reason she left the bed?  Or maybe I was snoring?  I do have a tendency to snore now and again. Although she has never complained about it, even going so far as to say “its kind of rhythmic”.  I am no fool.  I know she says such things as to not hurt my feelings over the fact she can’t sleep next to a buzzsaw at full throttle.  Maybe it was our giant dog that woke her up?  He does have a tendency to sound like bigfoot walking across the floor downstairs. When he wants to go outside he lets out a sound similar to that of a wookie!  Once your hear that noise at 3 in the morning, combined with clumping feet across the floor, it can get your heart rate up causing a serious adrenaline rush!  Sleep usually doesn’t follow after that little encounter for quite some time.   But even then, she would never give up our weekend morning together would she?  I am so confused and have chosen to quit theorizing about my selfish predicament.  Maybe it is what it is, and I should just face the fact, between the kids, my snoring and the giant beast of a dog, maybe, just maybe there is a perfectly good explanation for this series of events.

I go downstairs

She greets me with a smile, I am not swayed.  She is on the couch under some blankets (looks inviting) watching the morning show.  In my best cool and collected voice I mutter a soft; so what happened to you last night? She proceeds to explain that once our little one came to bed, night mare and all, she couldn’t sleep all squished up between us.  The wood stove had the house way to warm upstairs so she thought she would just leave him there so he would feel safe with his dad and head downstairs where it was cooler.  She motioned for me to come sit next to her.  I still wasnt completely swayed so I sat a little bit aways from her on the couch.  My son brought me a cup of hot fresh coffee.  I buckled a little more and moved in closer.  I let her know that I had in fact put our little guy back to bed only 10 minutes after she had disappeared from our room.  In fact it was all coming back to me now.  I had gotten up to go to the bathroom and when I returned she was gone.  I placed the little one back in his bed, thinking she was downstairs getting something to drink, I went right back to sleep.  She let out a grumble of discontent, followed with a: you mean I could have slept in our bed all night instead of freezing down here? Yep….

I am now feeling like a fool as I take in the dark roast that fills my coffee cup.  Apparently I am the one to blame all along, for I should have recognized what was happening and brought her back upstairs to me. Then I remember something even more important!  It isn’t our weekend morning to stay in bed together after all!  We had been jipped once again, for I had to be somewhere. Karma had dealt me an ugly hand for I was the one that had to be up and out the door this morning!  I had to be at work.  Yep all the commiserating, all that whining to myself, all the selfishness, all the second guessing and in reality I am the one to ruin what could have been a perfect morning between two people who love each other.  Hmmmm. 

Well at least the little one got a good nights sleep.  I hope when he is older he appreciates all we have sacrificed to ensure he feels safety, protection and love from his parents.  I guess in the long run that is worth a few sacrificed mornings.  Besides his mother and I will have plenty of mornings to spend together once we are old, ugly and have run out of things to say to each other right?  Right? 

Just kidding……