Driving Ms. Daisy

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

There was nothing.

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

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

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

(Deep Breath)

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

Think I’ll Tweet about it.

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Breaking up is hard to do.

It is the hardest thing, saying goodbye. You prepare, practice, dive deep into the bowels of empathy but it never ends up coming out right. Tension and fear, cold sweat and a rapid heartrate all bring about more anxiety as the moment comes to fruition.

Divorce is a bitch, but sometimes things, no people change and with it their thoughts and opinions. I know that sounds absurd in today’s current climate of he said, she said, so it must be set in stone for eternity, but really people do change and with change thought processes. My thought process has definitely turned a corner. As I have aged so has my ability to recognize other options, opinions, accepting a differing point of view and not being ashamed for changing my mind on numerous topics I would have previously chosen to die upon the cross for.

I am not sure exactly the moment it happened, the moment I fell out of love with her. I am sure it happened gradually over time, the both of us going about our days without any recognition other than a need. Me needing her, her needing attention. Yet we kept on day after day with little more than a passing moment where things were actually working in sync, otherwise nothing but needs never being met were the norm.

It is sad when things digress to nothing more than need. A relationship is a two way street, and this street was constantly bumpy, broken and hurt. Over time it became more about what I could give with no reciprocal return. I gave and gave and gave and more than once I became stranded. Whenever I tried to fix things everything just seemed to get worse.

My father taught me a relationship like this takes serious maintenance and elbow grease to keep running, and that’s exactly what I gave it from my point of view and yet it was all in vain. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much love I showed her, no matter how many times I went out of my way to purchase whatever she needed, things would run smoothly for a bit an then this relationship would inevitably be left high and dry on the side of the road. Feelings hurt, tempers high and ugly words no one should ever hear spoken aloud.

We had some good times, no we had some GREAT times together. Camping, fishing, boating, trips to the coast. Many memories I will share and hold dearly for the rest of my life. All I need to do is close my eyes and there she is, ready to go, beautiful as always. She just had a way about her, especially in red.

But that’s all behind us now.

After 29 years of loyalty we have parted ways. It was tough, I hated every moment of it, yet my tears have dried, as I know it really is the best for us both.

Last week I said goodbye to Ford Motor Company and purchased a RAM 3500 Cummins Diesel as the main ranch truck. Not sure I can afford her yet but she is shiny, silver and to be quite honest this relationship seems to be off to a great start! I know we are in the early everything is coming up rose’s portion of this relationship, but WOW! I am….

Wait, what did you think I was talking about????

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What????

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Never in my life have I seen anything like this and trust me I have seen some crazy ass shit! Last night I came home from the hospital, distraught, worn out, fearing for my family, my wife and myself, for you see the thought of losing the very center of our lives, my wife, their mom was overwhelming to say the least.

So I put out the call!

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I believe in faith! Now faith is a funny thing, there are those who believe it ties directly to the bible, some believe it is a feeling or an attitude, while others believe it is a positive energy randomly floating throughout the universe! Either way my beliefs are not what matters here, what does matter is as long as I can remember having faith in something is what’s kept me alive and running. Without faith in myself, in God (yes I am one of those) and in the ability to keep an inner positive attitude no matter the situation without disturbing anyone else’s emotional process, I could not have survived these 49 years. Faith has proved me right more times than not and when faith let me down there was always something to be learned from that experience.

Prayer warriors

Wow! There is definitely something about prayer warriors that is mind blowing! Everyone I could ever imagine along with their friends and friends I don’t even know, joined the prayer warrior cause! Last night and this morning I was completely blown away by the amount of people saying prayers for my wife! Even the Atheists in my group were hoping for positive energy to encompass my wife’s being! To say I was humbled by it all is an understatement! I personally believe in the power of prayer, there is something to be said about a mass of people converging their beliefs and energy into one combined focus to accomplish a positive result.

It worked!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it freaking worked!!!!! We went from end of days through the doctors own words to; hey there is a possibility you might make it out of this mess! That is huge!!! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!! A huge thank you to every one of you who prayed, focused, thought or said a kind word while moving through their day. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, she is my world and to see how many people are in her corner is astounding!!!

So here is the gist of things!

Today her doctor came in to report the test results from yesterday’s exploratory investigation and it looks as if the bleeding has slowed down in her gastrointestinal tract. (YAY!) Her lungs continue to be an issue but they are not as concerned as it appears treatable. So after hearing the day before that her body needed to wake up and start working or else! We’ll that’s just what it did! The doctor then went on to talk about another patient who had similar issues to Jacy’s and after a year in the hospital walked out a free man! This man now runs marathons and lives a fairly normal life. Yes he is still plagued with GvHd issues but he is healthy, home and living life to the fullest!! Doc also explained that even though Jacy’s road is going to be rocky (paraphrasing) she has a shot at making it out of the damn hospital! Woo hoo! THAT IS ALL WE HAVE EVER ASKED FOR!!!!!

So to all you prayer warriors again I humbly say thank you!

I don’t care what you believe, there is definitely power in prayer, and positive thought! We owe it all to you guys! Everyone came together, praying as hard as they could and it worked! This morning I opened FB (Facebook) and was blown away by how many people took time to remember why they either liked or loved my wife! People were sharing positive memories of her and I must say, seeing some of you change your profile pictures to a memory or personal experience with my wife was so incredibly touching! Looking up from the screen it was raining, but only behind my glasses! I swear when this is all over I am throwing a huge BBQ, inviting everyone and I plan on kissing or hugging every person who has ever thought a kind thought or prayed for my wife! I spent last night dreading the worst and today I feel positive energy abounds!!! Jacy also feels as though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, she is still scared of the unknown but there is hope and hope feels pretty darn good!

Keep them prayers coming people! Let’s harness all that positive energy and prove once and for all it just isn’t this woman’s time! She has plenty to do here still on earth and a husband who will stand right beside her!

Once again! Thank you all! I love you, Ill pray for you, and hopefully one day soon I will pay it forward!

Love is something special

Yesterday I sat with my wife on her hospital bed. Leaning into me we listened to others talking in the room and I staring longingly at her once again realized I am a very lucky man.

It is very easy to fall in love. The world is filled with interesting, beautiful people who intrigue and excite our lust for closeness. Each person’s definition of love is different, thereby allowing varying levels of intimacy amongst those parties involved. There is love acquired over time, love by design, and love at first sight. There are people who know a particular person is the one for them right away and while pining away for their affection develop love through mutual interests. It takes a special person to not only peak those interests but keep them thriving. A person who is willing to walk side by side supporting and surviving every possible situation one could develop or live through over time. For you see, love is not for the faint of heart or quitters.

There she sits. Yesterday while staring at her it came to me that I missed her more than I let on at times. Everyone at the hospital gets to hear her laughter, see her smile and relish in her constant silliness. All the things I took for granted or at times bothered me because of my own selfish moodiness I now longed to have back in my life on a daily basis. I was actually jealous of their ability to bathe in her good Karma.

Today someone sent me a picture of an actress on a current show (I won’t give the pleasure of repeating its name because this show is sheer poppycock) and stated she looked just like my wife! I dismissed it and then after coming back to this picture three, four or five times it dawned on me they were right! Just like that my selfishness missed her hair, her eyebrows, her eye lashes, and her round face with make-up, wearing a slinky dress on date night or goofy overalls on the way to school! I miss the way she smells, her choice of lotions always leaving her skin smooth and soft. I miss her holding me tight while dancing, whispering in my ear “I love you”. I looked at the picture of this actress over and over and I yearned for the wife who at one time didn’t have Leukemia.

I am a very lucky man

Most people felt that way at one time in their relationships but having grown used to their partners they no longer feel a longing deep inside for their significant other. Time, life, work, children and school have robbed them of time they should have spent with each other, instead creating a divide and conquer relationship which ultimately leads to a divided relationship.

I long for her to come home. I hate leaving the hospital, I want to stay there all the time. To hear her laugh between coughing and vomiting. To watch her smile even though the news she has been told sucks. To hold her hand even when she feels as though she is a thousand degrees. To walk with her down the hallways even though she must have help from a nursing assistant. To sit and eat lunch like two old people with no teeth! She with soup and me complaining there isn’t enough candy in the drawer.

In the past we too were a divide and conquer relationship! I divided to conquer and she wanted us to handle things together. She never gave up on me even though there were many times she could have, many times I may have needed to talk her into one more chance, she calmly continued loving me. Stubborn and tough she never ever gave up, she always knew that even though I was going to fight, kick and scream, I would come out the other side, wiser, gentler and more giving.

That is why it’s my time to be there for her! I know she is kicking and screaming on the inside! So I keep her going, telling her it’s going to be all right while showing her how to remain calm, think things through and understand there is a better tomorrow for her waiting. When this is over and she comes home she will have known I never gave up on her, I calmly helped her to understand it is ok to feel sad, ok to feel frustrated and ok to want this all to end as long as you vent it all out and then restart towards the finish line. She is fighting hard, but she is not fighting alone. She is not superwoman, she did not become the fighter she is today without losing a few rounds in life. She will come home knowing I love her with all my heart and soul, and I am thankful for all she has given me.

Our lives will never be the same. Leukemia has made sure of that. But what our life will be has yet to be written. An open page awaits us and as much as I long for the wife of days gone by, I cannot wait to see what life has in store for us as a team, a couple, as friends who are lucky enough to be married to one another.

Like I said; it is easy to fall in love, staying in love is something very special indeed.

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It was a very good day..

mom and parkerStrolling into the quad my daughter, son and I all turn the corner to see Jacy taking a breather from walking during physical therapy. Standing quietly we wait a second as to not startle anyone. Jacys mom see’s us and starts squealing with joy. Mom is happy. Out of breath, mask covering her face you can see smile lines around her eyes as they struggle to fixate on two small silhouettes. Our children each take turns hugging her then wander over to the rolling chest of body isolation gear to begin the arduous struggle associated with a 10 and 11 year old trying to don these items. After a few minutes and what appears to be a 3 ½ foot high stellar version of Tommy Boy’s Fat guy in a little coat, my son puts both hands in the air with medical gloves on and says; doctor? Yep it’s going to be one of those visits.

Once inside Ms. Jacy’s room she claps her hands with joy as her children lay a little more love on their long lost momma. Questions about school, life, sports, rodeo, the ranch all flow freely as a mother needs to know exactly how her children are faring without her. Yes I have kept her abreast of every activity, function and behavioral (both good and bad) condition associated with these two monkeys. But it means so much more hearing it directly from their mouths. She is beaming.

Jacy lets the children know how happy she is they are there, gives them a simple version of her current condition and apologizes for the fact she cannot see them very well. Her eyes are back on the blurry side which makes for a lot of squinting while searching for each person’s location through vocals. Both children ask a few more questions followed by laughter and silly kid actions, afterwards things begin to settle down. Good thing as there isn’t much room for horseplay.

Now I remember being a kid and a hospital room was the last place I would ever want to be! Parents telling you not to touch anything, to quit making so much noise, to stop touching each other and above all else quit fidgeting in those chairs! Today would be no different as most of those words came out of our collective mouths at one point or another. Yet they smiled, acted as though a behavioral modification had just occurred while finding a new way to fidget or make sounds.

A suggestion was made for a trek outside and with her nurses blessing we loaded up then traveled to the fountain. The fountain is a wonderful meeting place. Water flowing, plenty of shade and ducks traveling around unmolested as if they owned the joint. We almost didn’t make it there as while pushing Jacy through the lobby doors in her wheelchair the I.V. stand became ensnared in carpet almost crashing to the ground! Fast hands by both Jacy’s mom and a nice lady who happened to come through the door at that exact moment saved the day! Jacy was a little frazzled after that interaction but a few deep breaths and her anxiety quickly waned. After all when you are this close to the outside as a prisoner you don’t let one little bump in the road keep you from freedom.

The kids ran around, the adults chatted away, at one point her mom went to get her a paper mask so we could hear her better as she spoke. Parker would come by just to get a hug and say hello, then run off to play with his sister. We had 30 minutes and we were going to make the very best of it.

Back in the room Jacys mom said goodbye, spreading more love on the munchkins’ and a big old hug for me. Once her mom left we all settled in, found a movie and silence fell across the hospital room. An hour and half went by, not a word was uttered, and we just sat there, like old times, at home, watching a movie together as a family. It wasn’t the most perfect of settings, it wasn’t the best TV or the highest quality sound system. But we were all together, it was perfect.

It is always hard to leave. When I am here alone it pains me to walk out the door, but when the kids are here it is doubly as hard to say goodbye. They are all good sports about it, their mom no matter how hard she tries to look positive always has a little sadness showing around the eyes. I cannot imagine how she feels, what is going through her mind, how her heart must break every time they close the door behind them. One week to three weeks, that’s how long it is between visits from her children. She gets me two or three times a week then her step-mom, mom, sisters and father fill in the remaining gaps. A virtual revolving door of family making sure Jacy is never alone. But your children, they hold a special place in your heart and they definitely hold a special strength when it comes to the healing process.

By the time we got home they had been asleep in the car for quite a while. When we walked out the door of Jacy’s room she too was fast asleep within moments of our departure. Looks like everyone got all the love they needed. Squeezed, kissed and hands held to exhaustion.

It was a very good day indeed.

Hi ho, Hi ho, its off to work I go…..

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It felt strange pulling into the parking lot and I have no idea why. I have stopped by a hundred times over the last few months, yet walking into the building it was as if a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Moving effortlessly down the hallway with the lightness in my step of Danny Kaye (only us old timers will understand that reference). I opened the door to our day room and was instantly greeted with the boisterous banter of a warm firehouse. The back and forth one liners that are often associated with this type of setting are what in-house legends are made of. My smile broadened.

Individually guys would walk up to say welcome back, I greeted them with: hey I am the new guy James, nice to meet you, division sent me down so anyone know where I can put my stuff? A couple good chuckles were had, I grabbed a hot cup of jo and sat in a very familiar chair. I was home again, with people who have supported me as only family could. Sighing a very heavy sigh, at that very moment all felt right with the world.

Friday was my first day back in the firehouse and I was shocked at how much I missed it, all of it! The chores, the calls and of course the guys! Two months are a long time to be away from work, let alone people you consider your second family. But here I was, knocking the dust from my helmet, going through my turnouts and checking all my gear. I was smiling, actually smiling and feeling the warmth that came with that smile. Gone for a few moments was all the worries associated with my life, it felt great.

That feeling was short-lived as before we started our day I gathered everyone around to give them an update on Jacys condition and where we were in regards to treatment. It was an awkward silent time. I understood. What do you say when a co-worker/friend gives you that much information? They all feel my pain and understand it is very difficult for me to adequately express those feelings while meeting everyone else’s emotional needs. But one thing is always a constant when it comes to this family, each one has my back, as I would have theirs in a similar situation.

We ran calls, did chores and by mid-day ended up downtown for the annual Downtown Business Association Halloween hand-out! How fun! Handing out candy to hordes of kids all dressed up in their Halloween costumes! Meeting people, talking with kids, joking around and generally having a good, old-fashioned normal day, as if nothing else was happening in my life.

That night was hard. I didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning in my now unfamiliar bed. When I did sleep I awoke confused, disoriented and afraid. Worried that something bad was about to happen, scared that my kids needed me, panicking over an inability to just drop things and leave in case the phone did ring.

The second day was fine and the second night not much better. My worrying seemed to be getting stronger, I consoled myself that there were only 6 or so hours left and that my children can make it without me. I have raised them to take of themselves and I know Cody will do a great job! Hell in the 1800’s dad would leave the 8-year-old in charge of the 6-year-old for a week! It all turned out ok most of the time, right?

When I got home the next morning my overall feeling was of relief. I had made it through a 48 hour shift without losing my mind. I had proved to myself it could be done, that letting go of some of my worries must happen. My heart was filled with joy over the reunion of my crew and the interesting calls we had run during our rotation. It felt good to have my mind and body back in a normal groove.

I spoke with Jacy this evening. Her prognosis is still the same as things haven’t changed much. She still smiles and see’s the positive outcome although we have started talking more about the “what if’s” with her doctor. I don’t like “what if’s”. They weigh heavy on my soul, leaving me nervous and gun-shy. Once the lights go down late at night after I say a prayer or two the “what if’s” start gnawing away at my insides. Eating at me, taunting me into believing they are real, testing my faith. It’s like they are a broken/scratched record playing over and over again in my head. Certain nights they bring me to tears as I drift off to sleep. I awake several hours later in a cold sweat, face and pillow soaked as they play out their dirty little mind games while I dream. I don’t particularly care for being the unwilling participant in these dreams so I struggle to stay awake staring at the ceiling and wondering why?

Faith is a tricky bitch. You must hear any and all negatives to fully understand and reinforce any positives. To have faith is to attest unconditionally that through faith only one outcome can become a reality. In turn you must suffer through many negative thoughts processes to achieve faith. You must sort them into categories, holding onto only those entrenched in reality. Once they are in a neat little folder wedged inside your mind you can proceed to judgement though careful, faith driven evaluation of any situation. The tricky part is understanding the importance of negatives while never allowing them to overtake your positivity based upon faith. Some nights that is harder than others.

Tonight as I write, the empty sound of my house is deafening. The dull drone of silence beats loudly in my ears. It is time to go to bed and I tire of my best friend not being there when I turn off the lights. Like a small child clutching their blanket or bear to keep away evil spirits at night; how I wish my wife was here so that just one night I could clutch her while sleeping peacefully, be protected instead of the protector, guarded from evil dreams continually questioning my faith. Only then could I awaken the next morning to find this was nothing more than a really long, extremely bad nightmare.

But that is not to be so I toss and turn some more, constantly fighting faithless thoughts in the dark while counting down the minutes until I can hold her again.

I love you honey, please come home soon….

When a mullet is more than a mullet.

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It came from my mouth like venom through a snakes bite. Over and over again I struck, not just during one opportunity but through countless encounters. My victim continually wandering into my lair, setting himself up for attack, never backing away but every now and again wincing just a little. It was cruel and at first unintentional, but intentions can change with the wind, leaving the recipient wondering what the hell. Soon every attack had intention and meaning, usually in front of others as if it made me a better person for calling out my victims perceived flaws. It didn’t. My strikes were evil, demeaning and showed that I was nothing more than a full-grown bully. Others would join in and like a pack of hungry dogs we feasted upon our victim’s distress. Gnawing, tearing away at his very fabric, and never once thinking about the consequences or where it may leave him emotionally. All in the name of the past, our perception and what we felt was humorous.

Last night, awake, staring at the ceiling, my mind raced over the last few months and how hard it’s been for me to keep mentally strong. Focusing directly on each child’s needs, where I may have succeeded and where I have failed. Wondering about the future and what it holds for this family I continue trying to plan the next step. Our children will need their father to be overly understanding as emotions are high. My game needs to be spot on as to not let them get away with things they shouldn’t all while easing up just a bit allowing them to feel whatever emotions they feel in regards to their mothers absence.

My daughter and 15-year-old son have presented the largest challenge.

Parker knows who he is and is very comfortable with himself. He tells you how he feels and makes no bones about you overreacting to any portion of his mental/physical/educational progress. His mind in some areas is a bit regressed while in others he is wise beyond his little 10 year old years. Lately though school has been a significant challenge for him. Myself, the school and a dear friend who has been assisting him at home have all come up with a solid game plan to keep him in play. We want him to rodeo badly as we think it will be a good distraction and it is after all what we do as a family. He wants nothing to do with rodeo and fights us at every corner. Frustrating to say the least.

Jessica my 11 year old daughter is coming into her own. Straight A student who always strives to please. She is currently expressing herself by being defiant, to everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! She has a problem controlling her weight, it is a giant burden for her that she takes very seriously. Since mom has gone back into the hospital and been gone for these four months I recently found she is sneaking food at night again. A sort of coping mechanism for her emotional status. She hides the food out of fear. Fear that she will get in trouble for eating after hours. There was a time when this was a huge issue in our family and we even went as far as building caged doors for our pantry to keep not just her but all our little vultures from eating us out of house and home. She is struggling hard, not just with the eating, but back talking, arguing, and picking fights like a drunken sailor with only hours left on shore leave! Somedays she marches around with her fists all balled up and you just know, like a back alley brawl it’s about to go DOWN!

Our rodeo cowboy Jake has also been “bucking” (see how I did that?) the system as well! He hits everyday toes turned out, hand locked tight ready to turn out and hit it hard. More times than not he hits the dirt hard, but the boy saddles up and just keeps trying. Jake too has been working at finding his place amongst all of this family drama. He carries a lot of responsibility when it comes to the ranch and he is such a large man sized boy I often forget he is just that; a boy. He struggles with his grades, constantly. He is also struggling to make the right decisions when it comes to friends and after school extra-curricular activities. We have all been there and I think it’s why we want better for our children. I have made no secret about my past, about my high school experience. I chose the easier way out and I need them to learn from those mistakes. Taking the easy way out put me close to ten years behind in life. Unfortunatley like his father he has this need to experience things, to learn the hard way, and it scares the shit out of me. We have been butting heads very hard over the last few weeks to a point I feel like we were going nowhere. Lately besides grades, his behavior and his decisions when presented with an opportunity to run astray with his friends have not been good. I have also been riding him pretty hard about his new, old school hairstyle. Emotionally he looks like a beat dog.

So here is where I am going with this whole thing.

Today as we are preparing for a family visit with Ms. Jacy my gander hit the fridge. There upon it is 20 or so pictures of our family from over the last two years. Do you know what I saw? Our kids, our happy well adjusted, personable children. Smiles on their faces, hugging their bald mom, laughing with each other, holding up trophy buckles, works of art, hugging the dogs, yes the dogs are family too! Our children that I spent all night worrying about how I was doing as a father all looked ok. Each one showed their own style! Their own version of who they are at the very moment a shutter froze them in time. I saw four individuals, four young people choosing their own paths regardless of anyone else’s wishes and doing it with confidence. It was an amazing moment filling my heart with joy! But you know what stuck out the most? Jakes mullet.

Jakes mullet stuck out like a white flag waving from the trenches! Telling me it was time for me to wave that flag, surrender and ask forgiveness. For you see each one of our kids has something I constantly pick at, like a good parent should! You know, a slight course adjustment or suggestion to help them understand they aren’t fitting into a classification, a social mold if you will. A couple of things dawned on me in that very moment. One, why should our children fit into any classification? Are we not supposed to allow them a certain freedom to find out who they really are? If that means some heartbreak now and again then so be it! It will teach them how to handle themselves in tough emotionally charged situations. And two, no matter the other out of the norm issues I had in fact been particularly hard on Jake and for what? A chosen hairstyle?

When Parker said no to rodeo, claimed art as his thing and took to ditching a ball cap in favor of a flat brimmed drivers cap making him appear very artsy in deed, did I scoff at the notion? Hell no! In fact it is 100 percent ok that he hates rodeo, horses and all that goes with it. That is his choice. He has tried it, given it a good go and ended up in the hospital a few times! Trust me his thought process may change at some point and if it doesn’t so be it! That’s who he is, we love him for it and by the way the kid is very creative! His art shows a caring heart, personality and great love for all things.

When Jessica started stealing food from downstairs to hide in her bedroom. Eating at all times of the night even though we spent countless hours chastising her for such behavior did I freak out? Well YES I freaked out! I freaked the hell out! Worried my daughter’s weight issues would expand, she would be uncomfortable with herself and have huge body issues as the result of bullying! But somewhere along the line I realized the problem was not all her, part of the blame was us, more importantly me. So I pulled her aside and let her know it was ok to eat. If she felt hungry, just eat, take what you want and eat it. My only rule? Let me know you are going to eat so I can approve it or find you an alternative. She looked shocked as though the words coming from my mouth were some form of cruel joke! But nothing shocked her more than when I told her as long she is comfortable with herself, as long as she can look in the mirror and love herself for who she is, then who cares what anyone else thinks. My job is to educate you, help you make the right choices and hope you come away a strong and confident woman. If that strong and confident woman is what society deems as overweight or out of the norm then tough shit! I told her I loved her and gave her a hug. She left with a huge smile.

One thing I have repeatedly told all my children is find who you are, embrace it, make the most of it, discovery is how you find yourself so that when you are an adult you can be happy with the person you have become and you will never shrug off reinventing yourself. Yet here I was tearing apart those very values by continually ridiculing, mocking, terrorizing and just plain bullying my son over a stupid haircut! Now let’s be frank, the mullet is hands down in my opinion the dumbest looking haircut around, conjuring up images of Billy Ray Cyrus in two sizes to small faded jeans jumping around like an idiot! But that’s just it, it is my “achy breaky” image of what that haircut means to me. To him it represents several of his rodeo heroes, men he looks up too, that he wishes to emulate! I am sorry that just isn’t a bad thing and if it is what defines him as a person right here, right now, then so be it! This is how he takes those words of advice and runs with them, learning, crafting and molding the person he wishes to become! Somewhere I lost that, somewhere I felt it was ok to tear him down over and over again. On the fridge there was a card with a picture of him with both long and short hair. You know what? He is the same kid! The kid I love for who he is, not what his damn hair looks like. Today I sent him this text.

“Hey, just wanted to tell you something that’s on my mind. I know things have been rough lately between us, I hope you are learning from each encounter as I am learning from them as a father. I believe you are trying your hardest in school so don’t let yourself down. Continue to strive to always be a little better for yourself, not for me. I realized today I need to lay off you about that damn mullet. I have spent my whole adult/fatherly life preaching to you kids to be your own person and yet I contradict myself by giving you crap! If that hairstyle defines you right now then so be it! I apologize for all the grief I have given you. I am proud of you for being comfortable with who you are and that is one of the most important things for any young man to achieve. Keep up the good work, have a fantastic day, I love you…”

He replied by saying thanks dad, it’s just a rodeo thing and I don’t care about the mullet grief. I am working hard on my grades and I love you too.

Maybe it was just me.

So bring back the mullet son, business in the front, party in the rear! Either way, a mullet, a few well-placed photographs, and a sleepless night all combined so I could learn when fatherhood crosses the line into parental bullying, ending with the discovery that your child, hell your children are really doing just fine…

I think I may have just gone crazy?

im back 2

They say the struggle is half the battle. The lord will present you with nothing you cannot handle. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. It is better to try and fail than to have never tried at all. To live a life without challenges is to have never lived. (Yes I was paraphrasing)

Personally I have always felt; to remain positive, even when not showing it outwardly is to shine light upon your darkest of moments. When I am down I always remember that and it helps me to realign my thought process. I am not sure who said it, if it’s a combination of a few philosophies or one day I just made it up. But it is my go too.

Today Monday 19th 2015. I am officially tired of everything. Nothing, not even my go too is working. I am sure this is a passing feeling as I have never been one to wallow in my own despair. But today I just can’t seem to get a grasp on things.

I am going to complain, something I hate, but please allow me this moment. I need to get it out, I always do better writing than talking so if you’ll forgive me this (deep breath) here goes.

I didn’t sleep last night-AGAIN! My head hurt so bad I wanted to scream and whenever I did fall asleep it was filled with horrible nightmares centered on my family and wife. My brain won’t shut off! It is going a hundred miles an hour, all the time! I lay there constantly wondering if I am doing a good enough job or if I am failing my children? If so how do I inspire them, motivate them, move them without becoming frustrated! Last night after a long weekend with two of my kids turning into complete shits, I lost it with one of them. I was two steps away from becoming my father which is a condition I fight with daily. I don’t want that for them, it just shows them the easy way out is to yell, become intimidating and that is not how I wish to raise them. I needed to walk away into the darkness of our ranch and in the same fashion as how I work a horse, ponder just what I AM DOING WRONG first before pointing the finger completely in their direction.

My life has been centered on this family and my job for 19 years. What many people don’t realize is when you are accepted into the fire service, the fire service becomes your family as well. So I carry a huge amount of guilt for being gone from work as long as I have as though I have let them down as well. Some mornings I will stop by after dropping off kids just to sit and have a cup of coffee with the crew. It is not that I have nothing to do, just the opposite it puts me hours behind an already crazy ass schedule, but it allows me one whole minute of normalcy with my other family. Even if nothing is said at all. I am very grateful for the time off allowed thanks to my second family, but I do miss them.

What am I going to do if Jacy can never work again? I know that sounds selfish as hell but hear me out! Since we moved here I have worked very hard to build this place, to not owe anyone anything, putting every spare penny into new barns, doing the work myself, not taking a single loan but waiting patiently and in some cases building things with scraps and spares from other peoples lost projects. It is why we both drive 200,000 mile paid for cars, have a 15 year old horse trailer, still live with broken flooring in the house, a 30 year old kitchen and a hole in the ceiling. We have always lived on a thin line, trying to provide our children with a life most never dream of living. The life she always wanted for her children, the life I lived to some extent as a child. We knew it was going to be a struggle but took the challenge head on and a challenge it has been. Pay cuts, overtime loss, and raising costs of living, the very same struggles many of you face on daily basis! We are not special or any different than anyone else! Since Leukemia has taken over our lives my whole process has been reorganizing, selling things we don’t need, working for any extras needed around the ranch and slimming us down to a livable amount. I have put away every spare penny possible to cover her being out for an extended period of time. But what if? Do I have what it takes to keep reinventing ourselves? I always feel like I am never going to measure up. As though I am missing that one thing that others have to make themselves successful financially. We are making it without her income, but what if? I just can’t seem to shake the “what if’s” no matter how hard I try!!!! Is that normal? Am I just overreacting, should I just trust it will all be ok, and if so I just wish God would show me the way! Maybe he already has and I just can’t see it through a clouded mind that won’t shut off! I swear it’s as though my brains on crack! I really don’t care if my wife ever works again, I just want her to come home! To have a home to come home too! I just want to take care of her and see her with her children! To see her laughing and smiling surrounded by the animals she loves! I don’t care about me, my point was, hell I don’t even know what my point was anymore. Now that I have written it all out it seems arrogant, selfish and pitiful.

Speaking of her coming home. That proposed moment just keeps getting farther away! Every time she gets a possible date something else happens! I don’t know how she does it! She keeps a smile on her face and says; well what ya gonna do? She is right of course and we usually have a good laugh, but my nerves are raw. I am scared for everything she is going through, scared every time I walk through the doors, scared at every turn there is going to be more bad news, scared our lives without her for long periods of time will continue to be the norm, scared she will one day not smile anymore and feel as though there is nothing more she can do. Listen the prognosis is still good. There will be an outpatient date for her, but the hill just feels as though it is getting larger and harder to climb when it comes to her having any resemblance of a normal life. I know the retort is instantly; well at least she will have a life! But this is my one moment of bitching so let me have it! I want her home, I want her to never have to worry about her health ever again! I just desperately miss our life!

God! I just re-read this and it sounds self-centered and contrite all in one! Shit am I going crazy?

Today Jacy is going into the O.R. for a procedure to hopefully find and resolve her bleeding bladder issue. I am praying for the simplest of outcomes. The other options for controlling this issue are not what we want for our girl. Please pray for her today, that she gets the right answers, that everything goes smoothly, that she keeps a smile on her face and soon we hear she is smiling all the way home.

Thank you all for letting me vent. Tell me I am crazy, tell me I am ok, just tell me something for today I awoke feeling as though I was going to explode! I erased nothing in this rant, changed nothing even though I hate most of what I wrote, but I needed to write it and since I am unable to speak about it out loud, you have all just become my councilors. I am sorry for that, but good job on obtaining your degree.

12 Angry Men…

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The summons stared me in the face like an angry, arms crossed child. Neither of us wanting to give in to the others wants and needs yet both knowing there was only going to be one winner. A summons for jury duty, reissued as a continuance had already been granted. Myself not really wanting to be there, instead only thinking of the re-arrangements to our already taxed schedule. But as 0630 rolled around and we stared at each other with contempt, I blinked first, the jury summons won thus off to The Halls of Justice we went. (Cant type it without hearing the justice league cartoon)

Standing in line with other prospective jurors it was blatantly obvious no one wanted to be positioned in front of this building. I meandered slowly towards the door, belt in one hand, anything metal in the other, doing my best to not look annoyed as I proceeded through a metal detector. Once inside I quickly found a seat and the waiting began.

Several times instructions were read. Our summons clearly states all blanks on the reverse side should be completed prior to arrival on your assigned date. Apparently only 10% of us understood the instructions or even bothered to read this nasty little note. Finally a representative arrived and began reading from a list of names. There were to be three groups. One group assigned to courtroom 207, the other assigned to 208 and the third group was to stand by as alternates. No one wants to be in the alternate group as there is no timetable assigned. Either you are released right away or kept all day long as jury selection trudges forward.

So a little known secret. I love jury duty! Seriously, I think jury duty rocks! I have been on a jury and was picked to be the foreman! It took four days total and was very interesting. You really have no solid foundation for how our justice system works until you have been on a jury! But under my current circumstances it was not appealing at all. But I was there and would perform my civic duty regardless.

As a young gal stood at a podium reading names for group one and two, I secretly wished they’d call my name. I know I needed to be at Stanford, and as confusing as it is, I also knew I wanted to be on a jury, it’s kind of like the two biggest kids on the playground picking teams! You pray you are not one of the last two kids left with two captain’s arguing over which one of you sucks less! So I sat, listening to an alphabetic order, praying F would be for me! Well I ended up in group three. Bummer, the dreaded unknown!

Then something happened, they readjusted their numbers and just like that! I was headed to courtroom 208! Five minutes later they excused all alternate jurors! DAMNIT!!! I could not win! So I resigned myself to a possibility of four or five day’s jury duty. Sitting in the courtroom trying my hardest to listen to our judge I couldn’t focus! I kept thinking about my wife, laying there wondering when I would arrive. Then it was the kids, how will I get them where they need to be all week-long? But the final straw was when I realized I had no idea what the judge was saying! I had been sitting in the courtroom for 45 minutes and the only thing I remembered was raising my right hand to be sworn in! Also I had become overly stressed out over my phone being completely shut down! One of the rules of the courtroom! What if Jacy needed to reach me, or her mom or dad? There was no way I was going to be able to survive this and still care about the defendant’s right to a fair trial!

The judge asked at 1145 for all jurors who felt they had a valid hardship in conjunction with fulfilling their obligation to serve to please form a line outside. She also asked anyone who felt they would have an issue with serving to please raise their hand. 30 people raised hands, all grumbling as they did so. I did not. No way was I going to be a slacker! Good men and women have died for our freedoms and with those freedoms come the responsibility to fulfill our obligations. We Americans have one of the best judicial systems in the world. It may be flawed but it beats the hell out of being thrown in jail to rot with no rights at all! So this guy wasn’t going to be one of those guys! That’s right! Damn proud to be an American!!

11:45- The line is long. I am third from last.

Oh shut up! I hear y’all now grumbling about all that patriotic shit I just spewed! The long and the short of it? There was no way I was even close to being able to pay attention. As conflicting as it was for once it was about me, my needs, and the needs of my family. I was sorry for the defendant, but I didn’t put him there and my wife needed me! End of story!

Walking up to the podium, lump in my throat, I really did feel guilty. The judge was really awesome, from the beginning she was funny, with great dialogue! She reminded me of Judge Harry from the TV sitcom Night court!

I placed both hands on the podium looked up at her as she said hello. I shook my head (I think she could tell I was bothered by what I was about to do) and said: I feel guilty standing here right now.

Judge: I have that effect on people!

Everyone chuckled

Judge: What is your name for the record?

Me: James Franceschi

Judge: Go ahead Mr. Franceschi

Me: I didn’t raise my hand earlier and for that I am sorry but you see my wife, well my wife had a bone marrow transplant in July. This date today was my rescheduled summons, a date I picked because she was supposed to be home by now. She is not. She has had every ailment possible and continues to struggle through setbacks at Stanford hospital. Therefor I don’t believe I would be a good pick for this jury as my mind is obviously elsewhere.

Judge: family is the most important thing and should come first.

Me: Thank you, and please understand I am who you would want on a jury. Every time I am called I look forward to being picked and the last time I was here I was not only picked but the other jurors picked me to be the jury foreman as well! I had an amazing experience serving as a juror.

Judge: Thank you for your service Mr. Franceschi and let’s just say this ones on me! Your service here is complete and thank you again. The court wishes the best to you and your wife.

Me: Thank you judge

As I walked from the podium I heard the judge say thank you again and that she wished others could have heard my testimony. Slightly embarrassed, I quietly said thank you again and after a moment with the bailiff I was on my way. I hope one day I am called again and it is in her courtroom so I can be a part of her machine. I am sure anyone who serves under this judge comes away with a smile.

Two hours later I was with my wife. When I am with her my blood pressure drops, my head stops hurting a little, my heart beats a little slower, my smile grows a little larger.

I busted Jacy out of her room for a stroll to the fountain. We found a shaded seat as she cannot be in the sun and even with a mask on her face I saw her smile through her eyes. The warm breeze upon her skin, the sound of water crashing down and a duck or two chatting away in the distance. It was amazing just being by her side, knowing it is, was and always will be where I am supposed to be.

After we had all the sun and fun we could stand, I rolled her back inside where she proceeded to walk not one, but two laps around the quad. This girl wants to go home and bad! Of course this left her exhausted and within a few minutes she was fast asleep holding my hand.

Two hours later the day was gone and I needed to say goodbye. I hate saying goodbye. I still hate walking out the door. But I do so knowing she is being taken care of by some of the best human beings I have had the privilege to meet. I love her and so do they. It shows every time I arrive and am greeted with a smile.

This week she is starting another experimental drug to help control her bleeding bladder. Please continue to pray for rapid healing as prolonged exposure to this drug can leave irreversible damage. But it is our only rational option. I say this because the other two options, the way I understand them would leave her either on dialysis for the rest of her life or incontinent.

A day that started out with possibly twelve angry men ended with one happy wife and one humbled husband who is always glad to have another opportunity to simply hold my wife’s hand..

jacys hand

The fight..

She smiles whenever I walk through the door. Warm and happy, clapping her hands together with joy. As men and women we secretly hope our spouses are this happy to see us all the time, youth and a certain naivety lead us to these false hopes. We (husband and wife) eventually learn life will continually get in the way of how our relationships are portrayed within our imaginations. We have also learned over time that children, work, sports, school, social gatherings and general daily survival slowly tear down the very fabric our relationships were built upon when it was just the two of us.

Juuussst the two of us, we can make it if we tryyyyyy, just the two of us. You and I…

Sorry couldn’t help myself but C’MON!! You heard it too when I wrote it!!! Don’t shake your head no! You know it and I know it, you  heard it! Anyways….

Then Leukemia happens. It scares us to death! Just the sound of it. Leukemia. Yep it carries as much weight if not more than simply saying Cancer. Now we throw in remission, survival and cancer free. Re-lapse, Bone Marrow transplant, GvHD, success and failure statistics and well the emotional roller coaster of life and death drive you closer together. You begin to realize all the times you took each other for granted while expecting your relationship to never change or evolve. But it had changed. It had changed a lot. Of course nothing like you see on television, where there were secrets and you no longer spoke to each other. You know? Soap opera like stuff. No you both had settled into your roles as partners in this game of life. One handling the children’s education and transportation, the other handling finances, overtime work and building a future out of our property. The both of you sharing house and ranch duties, parenting, cooking, cleaning, laundry while you both try your hardest to equally dole out duties and discipline to our four ever needy children. Yes life can truly get in the way erasing the simpler times when you waited all day to see each other, then dreaded the moment you had to leave.

Every day I am home I cannot wait until I see her again. We don’t head out on a romantic date, no carriage rides, fancy dinners or moments alone in the park. Two people sitting sometimes quietly while the other sleeps, holding hands waiting for the next nurse to come in, ruining that moment of normalcy. I have said before I believe holding hands is the simplest form of compassion. These days it feels as though the nurse has walked in to interrupt us doing something we shouldn’t be, like teenagers hiding out in the barn. Yet we are simply holding hands, it is all we have.

6-7-8 hours within those four walls disappear in flash! I hate leaving! I hate leaving my girl behind! Walking out to the car I have learned to transform my emotions, change my demeanor, and count my blessings. For the easy road would be to remain angry at someone, anyone for what has happened to my wife. The once vibrant, larger than life woman has melted away to around 115-120 pounds depending on her water weight that day. Where toned tan legs once powered her successfully through a mini triathlon, two long bones remain, not one muscle in sight. Where long, gorgeous, curly hair rained down over her shoulders, a bald head remains. Her gleaming eyes and gorgeous face trying to peer out from under swelling and drug induced exhaustion. An athletic, active woman who rode horses and ran the perimeter of our property now worries about getting out of bed and walking a little farther down the hall every day. But I turn that all off as the building disappears behind my shoulders to focus on the positives.

She has beaten the odds so far and is still alive.

Jacy still has fight, lots of fight! Which is why she continues beating the odds! This woman, this beast wants to participate in double PT every day no matter how exhausted! Some days it doesn’t happen but she still tries! She continually defies nurses’ orders by getting up on her own to use the bathroom even though it is against protocol. Sitting in her chair for hours, sometimes all day as opposed to just staying in bed, waiting for things to change. Eating even though she has no desire to eat, drinking plenty of water and nutrition drinks which taste yucky. Using large rubber workout bands when she does stay in bed, hoping any little extra helps her to get home that much faster! Yep she is still fighting, like the angry Cuban stuck inside her, she is fighting and fighting hard!

So instead of moping on the way out the door, worrying about whether or not she will make it, I think about what and whom for which this daily battle rages. She fights first and foremost for her children, there is no doubt! Then she fights for her family and friends. She wants desperately to be there for all of your life changing events as a daughter, niece, aunt, mom and friend. It is what drives her forward when she begins feeling low.

Lastly she fights for herself, for you see she knows if there is no her, there is no me, and if there is no me, there is no her. Our love for each other has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. So she smiles when I come through the door, happy and giddy just to see me for a little while.

I sit down quietly, kiss her through all my hospital garb, and hold her hand. We smile, laugh, and talk. The hospital melts away for a few moments and I no longer see the woman waging war, but the soft, gentle, warm spirit I married 14 years ago.

We are winning……..

jacy stanford