Every minute of every second of every day…….

 

I have not written in a while and for that I apologize. Today while thinking about my children, watching the news and looking into the eyes of some of our youth. This came to me. I don’t know what it means, but once I started typing I could not stop.

Every minute of every second of every day, we grow older. Life moves before us at an astonishing rate, faster than our minds are able to fully comprehend. In reality we stand frozen facing the hourglass of life, witnessing what appears as agonizing seconds, thunderous ticking of a tock, movement that seems to stand still as life revolves at a pace that is not to our liking and yet we breathe.

Breathing an absurdity that is our arrogance. For as we breathe we continue to expire and yet no reality of decay meets comprehension. It is within our egotistic nature to face the hands of time and laugh. Laugh through our young mouths as we expire, laugh with our condescending young minds as we inhale, laugh and laugh some more, for we fear not what may lay ahead when youth is our only guide. We fear not what lies ahead when youth is our only means, we fear not what lies ahead for we have never known otherwise.

Every minute of every second of every day we are older, we are wiser, and once age has gripped us tightly we slowly become irrelevant. The youth of this world hears not what we say, they hear not what we have to offer, and they fear not the repercussion of blind foolishness. Though we have learned through experience, though we know from pain, though we still struggle with suffering, we have mentally surrendered to the tick tock, we stand brave faced into the hands of time ignoring what we could never have known and yet we are to be considered by youthful brigades as obsolete.

Breathing in we struggle with ignorance of youth along with an hypocrisy that is born of our own. For through inspiration knowledge falls away, sloughing from the skin of an aged arm, what little remains unused, thrown to the wind by the deafness of youth. Exhalation of life reveals that our future is of our own making; its remnants left from advice unheard throughout our journey of youth. Elders ignored, a blind eye turned to the very history we were scorned for not abiding.

The world, our future, our children’s future can never be realized until the hand of youth joins with the strength of age. Youthful creativity meeting elderly knowledge, young love and passion mixed with aged temperance, wide-eyed exuberance with sometimes narrow but skilled guidance. One melded with another, not two separate living beings fighting for space and time to no real conclusion.

Every minute of every second of every day we grow older, and unless we understand a world will always turn, a day will turn to-night and then to-day again and soon what came from nothing will return to nothing. There will never be a unified progression.

We all leave this world with only what we chose to share.

I choose to share love, wisdom, peace and tolerance for all. Some days are harder than others, the fight for tolerance on all levels is tough, but I have been guided by many great people who imparted wisdom that remains heard though they are gone. Hopefully my children or the youth, will understand, listen and realize that one day they too will be older, they must share, understand and guide others.

For every minute of every second of every day will soon be over.

What else do I have to leave behind, what else do we all have to leave behind but love?

 

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Lip Foliage

kid stacheIt started out strangely enough as an act of laziness.  It had been 4 days since my last encounter with a razor, the face had become stubbly and rough.  There was no ill-intent, no malice aligned discord, no social stance of support or injustice to be had. Instead it became nothing more than a middle-aged man deciding he just didn’t want to shave anymore.  Besides, it could never happen anyways, my entire life at one point or another had been spent trying to grow one! Secretly hoping and praying as a lad that one hair would turn into two, two to four and four to a five-o’clock shadow!

So with the skill of a veteran barber from the old neighborhood I shaved it all…..except what lay conspicuously over my upper lip.

Maybe this time will be different I thought! Maybe it will grow and look really cool? Yeah…. Cool like Clint Eastwood or no wait; super cool like Rollie Fingers, Tom Selleck, or maybe even Wyatt Earp!! Oh yeah I could see it now, laying there across the upper regions of my mouth, big, bold, so tough it carries its own zip code! That’s it, I must try! But WAIT!! Do I quaff this soon to be surely beast with the stylish subtleties of a Ron Burgandy or stretch her out sly and snakey with a hint of country charm like Sam Elliot? So many choices, such inner excitement at the mere prospects laying before me!

Over the next few weeks every morning I rose from bed, walked into the bathroom and carefully started cultivating my follicular garden of manliness! I am not sure if I could really witness its progression or wanting it to finally happen so badly was allowing my vision to become superhuman! Zeroing in on one hair after another choosing them for a specific length, size and girth! But there I stood, staring, combing, wondering, if this would be the day? Oh don’t get me wrong, I had tried many times in the past, only to feel like a freak show! A clump of hair here, a spike or tuft there, some of it red with Irish rage and other portions brown with a Caucasian curse.

Inevitably they all met the same fate, to spikey, to scattered, to ragged; all of their untimely ends were met at the hands of Gillette.

Then one day I woke up, made my way into the bathroom as I had done so many times before, partook in the very same ritual as any other day, but this time I could see it without the light on!! Yep that’s right, a natural wonder in the making, right there, just under the confines of my inhalation portholes, perched upon the ledge of a saliva sanctuary, running down both sides of the devils curl lay what I had been dreaming of since puberty!

My very own mustache!!!

And not just any mustache mind you, a super MANLY mustache, the kind of mustache that makes women quiver and men perish from envy! (not really it just sounded good) Best part? It was mine!! A fine cross between Sam Elliot (Ok if Sams was a little smaller and well not quite as thin) and Officer Dangle from Reno 911 (but only in color, not the whole looks like Ned Flanders thing)! Yes sir this thing, much like an unattended garden was owning my face!!! It felt great! It felt AWESOME! Like; like I should ride a horse with a cowboy hat on (oh wait I already do that) or maybe throw on a “cut’ grab my Harley and ride!! (Hmm I kind of do that too) Gosh I really feel like I am not getting anywhere here? Maybe, it’s cool enough I can finally be in a band? Yep that’s it, new cool handlebar mustache obviously means I should be in a band! Right! There are lots of cool singers with big burley manly mustaches like this one! Let’s see, I know there are at least a couple? Think…. Think….

I got it! Freddie Mercury Yeah that’s it!!! He got tons of looks with his mustache! It made him cool! Didn’t it? Ok he was kind of wafey looking, and a little pale. Hmm. How about Frank Zappa? No, no maybe not so much, he was kinda weird too. Or Hey that Biker dude (Glenn Hughes) from the Village People! Yeah that’s still kind of cool isn’t it? Isnt it?? Man maybe not so much….

I know!! I can look like a FIREMAN!! FUCK!!!!!! I have got that one nailed and I didn’t even need a mustache!!!

Huh? What the HELL was I thinking?

After all those years of trying, having a mustache just wasn’t that great. The dog growls at you, the kids think you look weird, everyone greets you with “hey what’s that on your face?” Which is usually followed with the obligatory; Ah yeah man it looks, ah it looks g r e a t? And last but not least the wife stops kissing you. Something about having a brillo pad rubbed across her lips while a porcupine simultaneously wrestles with her cheeks! I don’t know the kisses felt the same to me.

So in the end my great mustache went the way of all my other feeble attempts, landing one grainy strand at a time in the bottom of a bathroom sink, taking all hopes of testosterone filled adventures and adoration from those around me with it.

All I am left with for reflection is a quote by the great scholarly mind of one Mr. Peter Griffin; with great Mustache comes great responsibility.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Sadly I just wasn’t up to the task…..

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When did I become the “old guy”

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Silence interrupted by deafening sounds created within a brain refusing to disengage from endless chatter bleeding forth through a radio stationed not far from where my head lays motionless. A county never sleeps, fire departments responding here, rushing there, fellow brothers and sisters not even being afforded the very moment my stupid brain will not allow me to enjoy. Head filled with echo’s of each and every call they’re responding too, returning from or currently enveloped. Where is my family? Are they home yet? Which district boundary are they traveling through? Or have they nestled peacefully into bed? Whose family is wondering the very same thing without the same general knowledge my ears are so privy too at this very moment? It is my curse, my sleepless, frustrating, torturous curse.

Then it happens, as it has thousands of times during my 19 years of service, the warble tones scream, letting everyone know to cease radio traffic for another 911 call is being dispatched, you wait and wonder? Will it be our tones? Is it our turn? And then our tones ring, forceful and true, setting off a chain of events that could only be described as a technological ballet. A printer springs to life, chattering away, printing the story of our impending response; a light shines brightly inside each and every room of this glorified 6 car garage/hotel, awakening us, blinding us from darkness in conjunction with a horrifying bell whose sound is remnant of electricity coursing through your veins. Doors open, computer screens spring to life and it all crescendos with us, moving from the dead to the undead or in my case no man’s land, the neutral zone, or as some would say; a grey area of lifelessness. Yes we all begin to move, from those who actually are blessed with an ability to sleep at the drop of a hat to station zombies such as myself. We move, swagger, stagger, stumble and charge forth like an attack straight from “the living dead”.

Meet at the map board, wipe the sleep from your eyes, then identify a map page, cross street, address number, a house, business, parking lot, freeway, intersection, country residence. How do I get there, which way is fastest, what type of call is this? Is it a medical aid, structure fire, vegetation fire, vehicle accident, mutual aid, automatic aid, haz-mat, or a public assist? Is this another call we will see in our dreams for years to come, will we return home feeling accomplished as our training has once again paid forth with huge dividends or will we laugh at some absurdity only humanity or the human spirit can bring during a ride home?

Through the final door, at the rig, is everyone here, what gear are we donning, is everyone seated, are seatbelts in place, have I unplugged the shore lines, opened the bay doors, started the engine so Cap (the captain) can get on the radio? So many boxes to check off a list wedged inside my head.

Making a right turn onto the main thoroughfare, I grab a glimpse of the two seated directly behind Cap and I. They look like kids. It’s hard for me to believe this time has passed, I am no longer the fresh-faced lad; heart racing before each call, nervous to ask questions, pie eyed wondering what will await us upon arrival. They look so young, so damn young and yet even though I joke about my age on a regular basis (I am only 48), in reality I am not that old; I do not feel old in any way shape or form. Yet here we are inside this Engine, I seated in the engineers position and one of my closest friends now my boss seated to my right wearing the “red hat” or Captains helmet. WE are no longer the long-term future of this department, the up and comers buried in classes, spending thousands of hours and dollars obtaining every certification we can load into a leather binder for future uses. WE instead are now this department’s core, the steady, the constant, dare I say it? (Swallowing hard) The old guys…

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My graduating academy class 1995

In what feels like a millisecond I went from riding backwards to driving, from taking classes to teaching classes, from becoming an Engineer to an Acting Captain. Some days I am considered middle ground between Cap and crew other days I am the Captain with those around me looking for direction and advice. Are you kidding me? When did all this happen? What myriad of events led to someone handing me a red hat and saying today this crew is yours? What person ever thought of placing me behind the wheel of a 44,000 pound rig, then running it code three (lights and sirens) through the busy streets of town unabated? It is lunacy I tell you, pure lunacy!

I talk with college kids, fire academy kids, our new kids, probationary, first year and second year firefighters too. They all look so fresh-faced, innocent, not damaged by what is to come. They all retain the very same attitude we had, the same attitude those who came before us had, and the same attitude all that will ever pass through these hallowed halls after us will have. One of ignorant bravery, one of unabashed cockiness, an attitude that says I am here to help, to learn and nothing will ever hurt me. How little do they know, for no matter how much you inspire, mold, guide or lead “it” (that attitude) will be with them until one defining moment in time forces them into change.

It is the same for us “old guys” we see it in each other’s eyes, feel it through our words, and absorb it through a hug, a hand shake, a nod, a bad joke, a look. It comes with time on the job, experiences that for some may seem the same but in reality each and every experience in this line of work is dependent on the job. Each wrinkle upon our faces has been earned, each grey hair grown from the memory of something we’d rather forget. Eyes once steeled, are now softer, kinder a tad more gentle. We can’t talk about some portions of the job with anyone else but our peers. They are the only ones who understand and where a young one will sit and listen to tales with dreams of someday having stories of their own, us old guys hope they do create stories of their own, yet secretly hope in the same breath some of those stories never come true.

The young guys are loud and brash, quick to jump on a topic, any topic and beat it up with theory, formulas and standard operating procedures. Watching them from a distance I can only chuckle as they work out their problems and only through the rationale of an old guy are shown an easier, faster, less labor intensive way of completing the very same job. The young ones, smash and break things to reach their goal, the old ones walk gently, using a “try before they pry” philosophy. The young ones talk loudly, while drilling each other for knowledge, the old ones walk softly and speak only when needed. The young ones let everyone know when they are promoted things will change. The old ones let anyone who asks know; when they retire things will most certainly change.

The fire service is a young man’s game there is no doubt, but you need the wisdom of the old guys to not kill yourself participating in such a wonderful career. Creating memories of your own is important, good bad or otherwise but developing a bond with these people, this second family, well that’s what lasts a lifetime. I love these guys, would do anything for them, passing on that aspect of the fire service is every bit as important as how we do the job.

I don’t know where I am going with all this, it just seemed odd to me as another night passed, another round of service calls were answered and as I looked into the baby-faced gleaming eyes of those young firefighters surrounding me. That I in fact had transitioned from a young guy to one of the very guys we looked up to 20 years ago and now these kids are now looking up to me. WTF!

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I hope, no I pray I can do a good job filling those boots.

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48- How did that happen..

James Franceschi (AKA- Betty)

Born August 19, 1966

Chosen Profession (note I said “chosen”) Firefighter

Dream profession Writer

Betty is now 48 years old.

That is right 48 years walking this spherical hunk of rock, dirt, sand and water! 45 of them I didn’t even know I was a Betty! Pretty strange huh?

30 of them spent learning and trying to understand the world. 18 of them raising children, doing my best to be a father with no guidebook to help. 19 of them as a firefighter dealing with the very worst of someone’s day on a regular basis. 10 of them spent behind the wheel of a semi truck crossing the highways of these western United States. 8 of them (because that’s the farthest back I can remember my brain acting this way) praying to be able to shut my brain off with no real success…

So what’s a guy to do now that he is 48?

I have decided to make a list of things to accomplish before I am 50 years old. The half century mark, gateway towards my “golden” years, the beginning to a silver lining covering my head and beard, doorstep to AARP, Social Security, and the old folks home.  Thank goodness for Dentu-grip, Efferdent, Ben-Gay and the Clapper! Bring forward the oatmeal cause Wilford Brimley said so, find me a no slip tub and time to obtain a reverse mortgage right after purchasing my Life Alert so when I have fallen some one can get me up! Anyone have the number for a Lark distributor because according to my co-workers I will be in need of one very soon.

Anyways I am a list maker. If it is not written down it was never said, implied, intended or goal driven to completion. Therefore a list of awe-inspiring, door stopping, jaw dropping exploits shall ensue. (ok not really but here’s the list anyways)

  1. Jump from a perfectly good airplane. Been a motto my whole life, why would anyone wish to do such a thing. Well time to conquer my fear of dying and just do it.
  2. Climb to the top of Half Dome. I made it all the way to the base, started up and had to come back down because we were sliding so badly on the granite, my ten-year old son was terrified, so I gently coaxed him back to the bottom where we patiently waited for the remainder of the group. I must stand at the top and survey all before me.
  3. Score a 72 on a cutting horse. Unless you have ridden a cutting horse or are a fan of cutting horses, you will not understand just how important this really is to me.
  4. Finally quit putting everything aside for everybody else and purchase a jeep. I have wanted one for well over ten years and every time I get close we find something else we need, or something breaks, or I need to use the truck replacement fund plus money set aside for this all terrain, topless wonder to repair, replace or re-use something else. I quit riding motorcycles, sold my bass boat and it is has become a personal quest I must complete for me. Its selfish, but I don’t care, after all I am almost 50.
  5. Run the Tough Mudder with my son. My wife and I competed in one and completed it, Cody was to young and I made a promise we would do one together. I need to not let that promise go by the wayside and follow through.
  6. Write a book. I have several avenues to work on, I just need to quit making excuses as to why I can’t, and start focusing on how I can.
  7. Go hiking more. It’s not a big one, but our country is beautiful and it just can not be seen from the windshield of your car.
  8. Ride my mountain bike more.  Now I know this also isn’t a big one, but according to statistics, my ability to do so shall dissolve within three to five years. (hence the need for a Lark)
  9. Zip line over a forest canopy. Once again fear of things out of my control.
  10. Lose thirty pounds! I am overweight again and it seriously is affecting me both physically and mentally. If only I could just put down the fork at dessert time!

Bonus listing: Learn to forgive myself. Not sure the next 50 years will be any fun until I figure out how to do that one little thing.

So there is ten things for me to work on.  I am sure other goals will be set and a few of those will be destroyed, but they are written down and if history has anything to do with it, when ever I write something down, nine times out of ten I complete them.

What kind of lists have you written, are there any goals you aspire to complete?

Wish me luck only 728 days to go….

 

Thank you….

 

Today my heart is a tad heavy as I process two individuals that meant something to separate portions of my life. To help explain I am going to do something I don’t normally do; jump on the media bandwagon for one.  Then I will tell a tale of overwhelming gratefulness towards the other.

#1

Yesterday as we all know by now (if you were unaware I apologize for breaking it to you this way) Mr. Robin Williams ended his constant struggle with depression, taking his own life inside his home near San Francisco California.

Now for some this may mean nothing and judging by the overwhelming reaction through social media it is devastating to say the least for most.

I was first introduced to Robin Williams as a teenager of 13. His character introduced through Happy Days, then his own show Mork and Mindy was brilliant.  I could not wait to watch him, to sit with my family as we all of laughed to his crazy antics. He made Thursday nights one of the most popular nights in our house and the ability to watch his show a driving force in completing homework, chores or what ever else my mother could use as leverage.

Something most people don’t know is Robin Williams made me want to become a stand up comedian. I would practice jokes in the bathroom, jokes to our horses, jokes to a tree if I could.  For those who remember, he was the reason I practiced impressions of people or cartoons or who ever I felt I could impersonate. I laid in bed dreaming of standing on stage, being crazy and giving people the gift of laughter. In groups of friends he is the sole reason I learned to tell a good tale, just to make you laugh. Alas, I am not that funny, it wasnt my calling, fear plagued me from performing and I would only cautiously do impersonations if I knew you and felt comfortable enough to do so.

Fast forward 7 years.

I was lucky enough to meet mister Williams at the Sonoma Mission Inn one evening over a dinner being hosted by some notable people.  He was kind, friendly and as always genuinely funny.  Working there I met plenty of celebrities and most were arrogant, full of themselves and came across as though they were special.  Not Mr. Williams. In one evening over a few hours Mr. Williams showed he was an everyday guy with an incredible gift. To make people laugh.

Today

Yesterday when I heard the news it hit me in the stomach, like losing a war hero, an astronaut, someone we ALL have come to idolize in one way or another. Yes he wasnt a personal friend or family member, but for some reason he feels like one.  Like a long-lost relative you knew about, heard about but never saw.  I have him to thank for bringing me out of my shell as a child, something I am sure he has done for countless individuals.  So many people (myself included) wish we could be that crazy, wish we could make people laugh with such power, such animation, such free-spirited will! I know I do.

The world has lost a wonderful, innovative, amazingly funny human being. There is no one person of his caliber to follow in those shoes. For that I am sad…. For that the country shall mourn.  May the heavens glow under this mans light.

#2

His name: Roger “Deets” Winslow

Many of you have never heard of Roger “Deets” Winslow or Deets as we all knew him.  I found out last night the Napa county sheriffs office was searching for his body at the bottom of Lake Berryessa following some type of boating accident.

Now I could give you all the very same stories that most who knew him are expounding at this very moment, (awesome dad, super great coach, best of friends, etc..) but I wont. The reason I am struggling with the news of what appears to be his passing is quite simple.

I never was able to say thank you..

Once again through life spinning at a hundred miles an hour, turning in multiple directions, and never making it a priority. Quite simply I never was able to say thank you.  High school was struggle for me as I have explained on numerous occasions.  There were three individuals that saved me. Two saved me my sophomore year, and one saved me my junior year. What did they save me from? Myself.

Kurt Hornaday (rest in peace buddy) and Deets Winslow.

These two men saw a kid who wasnt doing well, couldn’t stand up for himself, had a mouth the size of texas, and took him (me) under their wings.  They both introduced me to wrestling, they both took the time to become friends with a underclassmen, and they both helped guide me through my junior year; while letting me continue to write checks with my mouth that couldn’t be cashed, then teaching me (through friendship) how to right those wrongs.

The third person was Deets dad-Mr. Roger Winslow.  I joined the wrestling team my junior year because of Kurt and Deets, Roger was the coach. I know he wanted to boot me from the team, I was weak, not fast, had no real comprehension when it came to drills, but he kept me, pushed me, and made me believe I could be better than I was every single practice.  I only won a single JV match that entire year, but coach Winslow made me feel as though I had won the championship.  He still resonates within me to this day and his coaching abilities/skills are why I became a coach and why the kids I have coached have had such a great time.

Deets and Kurt were friends, they were mentors, they were honest wonderful side by side buddies that would do anything for you at the drop of a hat.  My senior year I struggled without their presence.  Dont get me wrong I was surrounded by awesome people, spectacular friends who put up with me besides myself, but without that straight and honest advice whenever I felt I was straying or doing wrong, that year emotionally and physically (I hurt my knee pretty bad, the first few weeks of wrestling practice and just never came back) I was lost.

I never was able to thank Deets, I don’t think he even knew the impact he and Kurt had on my young messy life.  I was never able to thank Kurt either and found out about his passing through a dear friend.  I once again have procrastinated way to long…

Rest in peace my friend.  May your family find some comfort through the lives you touched..

So there it is, I apologize for it being a bit messy, with a few run on sentences and goofy content. The main point is this; Dont procrastinate, tell those who are important to you, that helped you get to where you are; Thank you.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they do it because they were raised right, held empathy in their hearts and cared about passing those feelings on to others.

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Does the sun set on Leukemia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, late 70’s humor..

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

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

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

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

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

Bless you all,

Betty

Keep Calm, its only been five months..

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(I apologize for not having written in a while, and though this isn’t the best, it hopefully will at least allow you all to know where I am at mentally)

Over the last 5 months plenty of time has passed for me to ponder the ramifications associated with cancer.

Endless days and even longer nights leaving me sleepless, cold, worried, angry, happy, sad, confused, and exhausted.  Staring outwards into a twinkling nights sky, or straight down at my feet, lost, strained, asking God why.  Ramifications indeed..

I have held a little boy who doesn’t understand why his mom needs to be gone all the time.  One day at home then vanished into thin air, only to reappear 7-14 days later looking gaunt, pale and exhausted.  This recurring abnormality in domestic motherhood  just doesn’t compute in a 9 year olds brain.  He needs his dad alright but there is nothing like the hug his mom can bestow upon him and the smile that shines on his face afterwards.

I have driven to games, practices, and rodeos alone. Elicited the help of many wonderful caring friends who dropped what they were doing without so much as a whimper to ensure my family was cared for in my absence. Helped (not well, but hey who said I was smart) with homework, read books and had books read to me, washed laundry, cleaned dishes, scrubbed floors, toilets, windows and walls. Watered flowers, cared for dogs, horses, goats and chickens.  Folded laundry until 2 in the morning to ensure everyone had the right clothes for school, baseball, softball, hunting, etc…. And yes in a very strange bedraggled way I have cherished every minute.

Don’t get me wrong I performed all of those tasks prior to Jacy becoming sick as well, but they were shared tasks, and as with all relationships, some portions were performed by a certain partner because that partner excelled in one area over the other. Laundry has always been kind of my thing,(especially the folding portion) where as homework has always been Jacy’s (college grad/teacher and all).

Cancer has brought my children closer to me, helped me understand a little more of who they are as people.  From seeing them handle this situation with their mother, to the inspiring abilities shown by the ones who have stepped up their games around the house during this time.  Their interaction with the hoards of caring people stopping by our house or cornering them in a park, they have all made me proud. It has been a very hard, long frustrating road, but that road has also been filled with love, understanding, caring and commitment.

Cancer also filled my heart with fear.  For every great moment I shared with our children, there was fear that Jacy would never see those moments.  Fear our children would become used to their mom not being around, fear that she would not win this fight and the children would be left devastated, emotionless voids.  Never remembering their childhood has one filled with great adventures, laughter, family and fun, but of the time their mother contracted Leukemia and perished. No child should watch their mother die. My fear is entrenched in losing faith. Something I have always had, a security which has kept me strong my entire life.  Fear I will lose that feeling of always “knowing” what to do, how to behave, which direction to travel. Its faith which has kept me solid in those beliefs, it is my faith in God which has laid a foundation for me to build upon. Yet what if my faith eludes me? What then? More fear.

Up days and down days, days filled with forgetfulness, days filled with unexplainable irritability, days filled with an abundance of love, and days filled with dizziness, nausea and sleep.  These are the emotional stages Jacy travels through.  Highest of highs and lowest of lows.  It’s a hard ride for me at times and it’s always an even harder ride for her. Yet each day is one day closer to the treatments being over, her body trying to heal itself and our lives returning to some form of normalcy.

She came home from her last treatment on Sunday.  It was a day of joy. Only two more weeks of blood transfusions and testing, cumulating into a bone marrow draw somewhere during the third or fourth week.  Many days ahead filled with more fears, watching her body decline time after time until her blood cells, both white and red begin producing normally on their own.  Then waiting..

Fingers crossed, all goes well and Jacy will be able to finally claim to be cancer free! Over the next couple of years she will do her best to lead a relaxed, non stressed lifestyle and we will continue to pray Leukemia never returns.

5 months, five long and lonely months.  I miss my friend, my spouse, the woman I love.  To have her home and whole will indeed be a blessing.  For five months I have slept alone many nights and like the true idiot I am, I never once slept in the middle of the bed! Always on my little 6 inch wide portion, leaving her side (which is 3/4’s the mattress) undisturbed. Out of habit or respect, I do not know, but wow, what an idiot! I really blew an opportunity to really stretch out and sleep like a king! It’s no wonder I never got any sleep! Oh well I digress….

A light is truly at the end of the tunnel, we can see it. Keep a prayer for us please, prayer is a powerful thing and I believe it helps keep my faith alive and her healing powers strong.

More to come, God bless you all…

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A day in the Face of Leukemia.

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10 pm. Finally there is peace and quiet. I am alone with my thoughts. (not great company at times) I am…..exhausted. The children are all nestled in for the night, leaving me alone to rest, think, plan, and prepare.  Ok also to drink a nice cold beer…

These children, these genetic markers, fruit of my loins, incredible individuals who are searching, striving to understand what exactly is happening to their mom, taking my every moment with inquisitive thinking, questioning, testing my very patience. It is easy to forget they are not at a level to fully comprehend exactly what is going on with their mother. As each day unfolds and my fervor reaches pitch, they are unwitting victims to my own personal demise. A tossed bit of clothing here, an untended animal there, a room in disarray, teeth forgotten and hair occasionally not washed during the cleansing process. All lead me to instant eruption at times.

As my mind continually works at an ever rapidly processing pace, my inner ability to control or grasp a solid foundation of patience seems to crumble. It is not as though these little cherubs have truly faltered in any way, but more as though their little mistakes are magnified by worrisome frustration on my part.

A day in the life of the husband supporting a cancer patient.

Every morning I awake exhausted! My back aches beyond belief although I am beginning to feel this is some form of sympathy pain helping me relate to suffering my wife may be feeling. Breakfast is some delicious Javita coffee and a small bowl of oatmeal. Thankfully most mornings, the horses are already fed. Two of our “borders” in particular have become my barn angels. (Lisa and Olivia) Saving me from this chore as lately I just can’t seem to function with any repetitive, normalcy as the sun arises. After staggering around like a lost puppy looking for its master, I can usually get dressed before our children awaken wanting, no needing my utmost attention. During this time my mind is already checking off a multitude of things that may or may not need accomplishing before I abandon ship, heading off to be with my wife in the hospital.

After a short morning briefing the kids have their chore lists lined out, some laundry is done, dishes, washed, bathrooms cleaned, dogs taken care of and out the door I go to work a few horses that need to be on a daily routine. After completing this chore, its back into the house, showered, clean clothes, check in on the kids progress with their chores, hugs all around, a list of objectives to the oldest who is now watching siblings until my return and then off to Vallejo to be with my wife.

Easy enough, yes?

Walking through the door of room 5020 after saying hello to many nurses who know me by name, I lay eyes upon her, and begin feeling guilty. I still cannot understand why this is happening to her. This beautiful, vibrant, glowing woman, who by all accounts has never done a horrible thing to any ONE person in her entire life. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why isn’t it me? Why hasn’t this awful disease happened to me? It would make more sense, I havent always been the nicest of people, I didn’t always care about others, their needs, their troubles, or problems. In my youth I was a very self-centered individual, who didn’t always treat people with the respect they deserved. But then I suppose life isn’t about who deserves what, as we see on a daily basis in the news, but for myself it just doesn’t make sense why this woman, this person who saved me from myself, this angel who puts everyone and everything ahead of herself, why it has to be her.

She is happy to see me! Like a prisoner is happy to see a loved one during their monthly visit. Trapped in a 15×20 room, with crappy food and lines pumping chemicals into you from all directions, one could understand the importance of familiar human contact. She proclaims her affection and declares how much she misses me, it makes my heart sink, yet fills me with joy at the same time. Sinking because I feel her lonely pain; surrounded by many but alone none the less. Yet to have someone who needs you, who loves you so much that after all this time together can honestly say they have missed you. Well it is powerful.  I watch couples these days fight over the stupidest things. Complaining in front of everyone, tearing down their marriage on a stage for all to see and it makes me sad. These people don’t realize the gift given by proclaiming their love for one another or what blessings are right in front of them,  focussing instead on the possibility that some grass may greener on the other side. Marriage is work, it takes hard work at times, but there is an old saying; you reap what you sow. I try daily to plant and fertilize my marriage and I believe it shows. It shows when I walk in the room and my wife beams at me with that million dollar smile. It shows when she grabs my hand, squeezing tightly and says; don’t leave me. It shows when she tells me she cant wait to be home so she can feel the security that comes with sleeping alongside her husband. It shows when I leave and all the way to the car I feel like part of me has been left inside that fifth floor room.

Jacy has cancer. I know she is winning this battle, but every time I say it, every time I write about it, it chokes me up. Jacy has cancer. My throat tightens. Jacy has cancer. My stomach feels sick. Jacy has cancer. My eyes become moist. Jacy has cancer. A dark cloud overhead looms like a storm waiting to throw lightening my direction. Jacy has cancer. I thank God the children don’t fully understand and only feel as though mommy is just on vacation in the hospital. Jacy has cancer, Jacy will always have cancer, Jacy has cancer.

Coming home, I am met by the many blessings of being surrounded by those who care. Nice notes, cards, letters of hope and understanding, dinners dropped at our door, the barn taken care of again and a multitude of additional support. But just as Jacy wishes nothing more than to escape her sterile cell, pulling needles from her veins to resume a normal life, I wish for her to be home, covered by the safety of these four walls, never having to travel this journey ever again.

Tomorrow she does comes home. The first few days are going to be rough as sickness, fatigue and living immunocompromised will be scary. But she will be home. In three more weeks she gets to do it all over again, returning to hospital, becoming reattached to chemicals that will save her life. Its a small price to pay to beat this evil demon, but then that’s easy for me to say as I am not the one fighting to survive. Or maybe its easy for me to say because it’s the only way I know how to deal. Placing things in categories and checking off  lists, one box at a time. The main thing is she is coming home.

So as I reach the end of another long day, I just want to say; Thank you to everyone, all of you, the kind words, the hugs that mean so much ( I love hugs, it’s the dad in me) , the smiles and great conversation. This is a fight, a fight we are going to win, no one fights alone and all of you have proven that to be true. Jacy is definitely not fighting alone because of all of you and standing by her side as her husband has been my absolute privilege.

Thank you for allowing me to make that happen..

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Leukemia’s house of horrors!

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Phase two of AML treatment. The beginning of ongoing chemotherapy or Consolidation Therapy (CT) as it is known.

So what does that mean? Quite simply it means that Jacy’s immune system has bounced back to epic proportions. But because the original treatment was a bombardment of all aspects of AML she was exposed to many different drugs that all had different jobs.  Thier goal was to kill everything, both good and bad! The nuclear bomb of cancer treatment! The primary drugs classes for this procedure fell upon Alkylating Agents and Antimetabolites.

Alkylating Agents: 

Alkylating agents directly damage DNA to prevent the cancer cell from reproducing. As a class of drugs, these agents are not phase-specific; in other words, they work in all phases of the cell cycle. Alkylating agents are used to treat many different cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, multiple myeloma, and sarcoma, as well as cancers of the lung, breast, and ovary.

Because these drugs damage DNA, they can cause long-term damage to the bone marrow. In rare cases, this can eventually lead to acute leukemia. The risk of leukemia from alkylating agents is “dose-dependent,” meaning that the risk is small with lower doses, but goes up as the total amount of the drug used gets higher. The risk of leukemia after getting alkylating agents is highest about 5 to 10 years after treatment.

Antimetabolites:

Antimetabolites are a class of drugs that interfere with DNA and RNA growth by substituting for the normal building blocks of RNA and DNA. These agents damage cells during the S phase. They are commonly used to treat leukemias, cancers of the breast, ovary, and the intestinal tract, as well as other types of cancer.

So as you can see these are some pretty harsh buggers and can make a person very sick while performing their duties. The problem is even though they kill everything and Jacy’s counts have rebounded with astounding veracity there still could be stragglers. Evil doers hiding, lining her sacred DNA, waiting to join up forming an alliance, then pouncing on her fresh new unsuspecting immune system!.

Because of these sneaky little bastards we are in Consolidation Therapy. So what is Consolidation therapy(CT) ? Well I am glad you asked, Consolidation therapy is:

Treatment that is given after cancer has disappeared following the initial therapy. Consolidation therapy (CT) is used to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. It may include radiation therapy, a stem cell transplant, or treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Also called intensification therapy and postremission therapy.

So as you can see Consolidation therapy (CT) is very important. It is the clean up crew of cancer treatment. The crew that cleans up the stadium after a ball game. The squad that ensures a scene is all clear after a major crime. The Firemen that perform salvage and overhaul after a fire. The-oh well you get the point.

Jacy’s CT consists of Cytarabine. Now one may think WHOOO HOOO, only one drug instead of 4 or 5! But let me tell you this one is just as evil as the rest. You see when taking Cytarabine you must first be medicated with pain and anti-nausea medications! Because if you aren’t, hello toilet! Watch me steer the porcelain bus! Pray to the Sloan valve gods! Kiss the tile floor!  To make matters even worse some patients will develop a fever, body rashes, red eyes, and of course exhaustion.

During treatment your doctor will test your blood on a regular basis. Not just to see if Cytarabine is wiping out any stragglers but checking your kidney and liver functions ensuring it’s not killing more than it should.

But hey whats a little vomit, itchy skin, red eyes, exhaustion  and possible kidney damage when it means you will live! Right! Am I right?images-19

Luckily enough Jacy only had a few of the symptoms and is doing remarkably well! She is going to beat cancer, we are witnessing it first hand. She is going to become stronger and live a long and happy life.

So how do they administer the CT treatment? I am so glad you have inquired!

It is done through a port placed just under your skin. Since she has to under go three-week long treatments over the next three months in the hospital, instead of placing a Picc-line (acronym for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) into her arm every time she comes into the hospital an out-patient surgical procedure is performed to place a small port (PowerPort) just under the skin for easy access to a vein for administering drugs. (see picture)port.illustration220px-Portkatheter_Röntgen

On Monday we arrived at the hospital at 7am for admission. Jacy’s surgery was scheduled for 11:30 and by 1:00 she was wandering back out into the lobby. Procedure finished, right side of her chest numb, black and blue and swollen. She was supposed to start chemotherapy at 3pm but by 5pm we still had no room available as the hospital was full.

Around 7:30pm a room finally opened up, we got settled and lucky for us two of Jacy’s favorite nurses where on and had been assigned to her for the evening. Watching her start the pain medications and anti-nausea drugs, we knew it was going to be a long night.  Jacy felt I should go home to be with our children, and like a good husband I did as I was told; but only because I knew she was in great hands. Kissing her good night, looking into her gleaming eyes, little did I know the hell she would go through not more than three hours later.

0800- Jacy calls me gravely voiced and sounding weak; asking if she was ok; she says no. You see the PowerPort site was so swollen and inflamed no one could make contact with the palpation points to locate the insertion site. They grabbed it manipulated it, poked at it trying to insert the PowerLoc infusion device and nothing. Now imagine 12 hours earlier someone cut open your chest in two different places, inserted a device through one opening just under the skin then fed a line down into a vein at the other insertion point, then sewed it all up and sent you on your way. Now pain meds have now worn off, it hurts like hell and people are grabbing it, pulling on it, doing everything they can to stick a needle inside of this bruised swollen section of skin! Not maliciously mind you but trying their very hardest to perform this manuever quickly because underneath this swollen, inflamed area and little plastic device lays a 146 pound woman screaming and crying in pain! Proclaiming to all that will listen this pain is worse than childbirth! (that is saying something)

Both of Jacy’s nurses were crying too as they both love my wife and the thought of her hurting was crushing them inside. One nurse refused a doctors suggestion of going straight into another vein to start the procedure because she knew Cytarabine had a high probability of collapsing the vein at insertion point. They were wonderful advocates for my wife. After four failed attempts over a few hour period, additional pain medications and a lot of prayers, one of the nurses asked Jacy if she thought she could bear one more attempt. Through gritted teeth, screams of pain and sobbing tears from all involved they got it first stick. Chemotherapy started.

The nurses all met with management to implement some changes in regards to the insertion of the PowerPort device. The Powerport device is usually inserted a few days prior to the patient receiving treatment. This allows the insertion site to recover, swelling to diminish and a healing process to develop a good strong foothold before someone pokes it with a needle. Through the dissipation of swelling the palpation points are also easier to locate. It came about that all patients with same day insertion will have the adjoining PowerLoc insertion device put into place. No more torture sessions for patients to start Chemotherapy.

Today Jacy is doing much better. First round is going very well and she feels like a prisoner trapped in a room. At least this time she wont be trapped there for 21 days.  She comes home on Saturday night or Sunday morning. She will be confined to her room until her white cell counts rise to normal levels. She will be extremely immunocompromised. She will be extremely nauseous, she will inevitably become a tad bit cranky, but she will also be one step closer to beating this disease. One step closer to returning to a normal life, one step closer to seeing her students and one step closer to placing this chapter of her life in the books.

She will have kicked cancers ass.

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Random thoughts on life and Leukemia

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Last night while gazing upon the stars at 1 am after our 5th medical response in a row my brain began reflecting upon life, its crazy highs and sock you in the gut lows. In a matter of 40 minutes myself and our crew had lent assistance to a wide generational swath of our local society.

From devastating self-destruction both mentally and through chemical intervention to an actual emergency need in conjunction with a health care system abused by those neither willing nor able to understand its legal ramifications, the resources lost, nor the world that actually doesn’t revolve around them personally. A true sampling of consensus within a short period of time.

Becoming judgmental is an easy undertaking, fighting the urge to prejudge individuals upon first encounter is hard. Being a fireman the communities trust is put in our hands to always do the right thing. See people for who they are not what they have become. We are allowed glimpses of people’s lives that would otherwise go unnoticed. That is a large responsibility. Some days it weighs heavier than others on my heart, as my eyes witness these revolving cross sections of our society I go home upset or unhappy with what I have seen. Thus the judgmental aspect forms and memories that cannot be erased etch themselves into my psyche permanently  like a scar for all to see, left for me to pick at from time to time for no other reason than because it exists.

Staring into the nights sky, pondering what it all means, fogging up my brain. Reliving experiences from my life, candid moments, snap shots and like a Grisham novel this story is all sewn together with a fabric of revelation. Every moment finding a place as to why. Why it happened, when it happened and that it happened to me. There is a meaning and the meaning determines not just who I am but WHAT I am or have become. The people in my life I hurt, loved, helped, shared experiences with and what I learned from each and every individual who has crossed my path, set eyes upon my craggy face.

Shaking my head as if my brain was an etch a sketch hoping to erase an unfinished drawing, I can’t lose this feeling that all is not enough.  There is more life to be lived,  we are trapped in a stereotype of how life should be lived and for the most part succeed out of learned habit. But what if there was more? We have one life to live, we are not guaranteed any days here on this earth, trust me I have held the hands of many who were cheated, watching those last moments fade away in their eyes, lives unfulfilled, potential disappeared, erased forever.

Yet the world still turns, it feels no repercussion from human losses. Sun rise, sun set, society still moves, people still awaken, babies are born, buildings erected, mountains moved and society trudges on. Eventually who you are or were, is destined to become a faint memory or forgotten. It is life and life goes on.

I live a life of fear. Fear that I will never be good enough, fear that my children may perish before me, to be forgotten before they had a chance to become something, anything that leaves a mark no matter how small upon this world.  Fear that my wife may lose this battle with Leukemia at some point, leaving sadness and despair to rage within our family. Fear that I will perish before I find what this longing is deep within my heart that whispers; no screams at me there is something more. A mark, a substantial mark that I am supposed to leave upon this earth. Complete narcissistic view I know, yet it lingers deep within my soul. Maybe I am already leaving that mark and just don’t see my hand to spite my face? Fear that she (my wife) will know the pain of losing me, carrying an ache, sorrow and agony with her for the rest of her days.  Fear.

So I stare up at the stars and I wonder why? Why do I feel this way? Why cant I be happy with the here and now. Why I worry about how much time I have left or lack there of? I wonder how I can be better, a better father, husband and friend, a better co-worker, I wonder why?

Remember those days when you felt as though you had the world by the balls? There was nothing to stand in your way, no mountain you couldn’t climb, no one was going to say no to you! Do you remember? I do.

If you don’t understand the feeling I am referring too, just look at your child. Not your self-absorbed teen ager; your child. 1-9 years of age. Before society, television and friends ruin their ability to think on their own, be creative beyond our walled off perceptions. Give a child an adult sized problem, one requiring and answer and you will see imagination, inspiration, out of the box thinking and a confidence just waiting to be tapped. But as they grow older that ability goes away through structure, through habits neither right or wrong learned from observing ones elders. That feeling you had as a kid of being able to daydream all your problems away. To look deep into a problem and come up with the craziest most unorthodox suggestion known to man. To be confident.

That is the way I feel about Leukemia in my life. I don’t have Leukemia, but when my wife suffers, I suffer, when she hears news both good or bad, my emotions grow raw with glee or anger. I refuse to hear the word no. There has to be a yes to this struggle. I refuse to believe that my wife wont beat this disease. I refuse to listen to statistics and the medical dribble that often accompanies those numbers. And to date she is winning, we can see the finish line and victory looks great!

I feel as though my wife has the world by the balls! That she has another opportunity, showing the world she is unbreakable. That feeling has inspired me, left me in awe of her positive attitude, her out of the box thinking. She unknowingly has allowed me to reconnect with my inner child. There are no problems that cannot be tackled without imagination. She has left me finding the positive, loving all who surround me, laughing just a little bit harder, saying thank you a whole lot more and remembering that life is a gift to be cherished. I kiss her on the head every night while she sleeps, the smell of her skin soothing my soul. She has and is all I will ever need.

And so I am left staring at the stars, at one in the morning, wondering if there is or could there ever be, more………

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