A Little Christmas message..

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year.Lights, trees, church, love, family and all the wonders that come with celebration.

Over the last five years we have struggled to make it the very best Christmas we can. Some years we did a stellar and I mean a flat out,old college try, jaw dropping successful experiment in making things work bringing love and joy into an otherwise really shitty situation! Then other times we just muddled through taking selfies and tons of family pics simply to prove we did our very best.

In the long run or the end game as it were, this did turn into a blessing as we have some sense of just how much we all loved Jacy and our family through this hell we were living. Don’t get me wrong, we knew just how much we loved everyone, and know it to this day. I genuinely love every one of our families to no end! But trying, even when you don’t want to and it feels just wrong is 100% the right thing to do.

 So here we are, December 5, 2018, 47 days since my sweet Jacy left us to be with God.

Guess what?

I don’t want too.

Yup, that’s right, my favorite holiday and I simply don’t want too. I am trying my hardest to find the joy in this moment. I made it through Thanksgiving which is by far not one of my favorite holidays, but I just don’t feel it.

Parker got out the fake tree last night. We always put up a fake tree right away in the room where the wood stove is in so you can see it when you come downstairs in the morning. He drug out all the ornaments and put up the lights. I was proud of him for taking the lead and I told him so. I chose to put my feelings aside and help him, because as his father, regardless of my personal feelings I need to set an example and I know that for the same reason I don’t want it, he really does.

While we dug around in the closet for the “cheap” ornaments that go on the fake tree. I knocked a shelf and a hat box fell onto my head. It burst open and inside was every single love letter I had ever written my wife.I had no idea she had kept them all. I knew of several hat boxes and their contents, but this one I hadn’t seen. I stood jaw open as I picked them up carefully and started to read them to myself.

By the end of it, an hour had gone by, I was balling again as my heart poured out to my wife within the confines of those pages. One of them had her lipstick on the bottom as though she had kissed it after reading it.

What she never knew was I kept every letter she ever wrote tome. My favorite being a single page left under her pillow for me to find (she knew I would because I make the bed every morning) after she left for Haiti on her first trip. I read them all, the cards too. I saved the one from Haiti for the end.

I cried some more.

Now this is where you think I probably went into a very deep and dark rabbit hole. Oh I am sad, so very sad but not for what you think.

You see I believe she was there and knocked that box on top of me. I believe she needed me to see it, to feel it and to put her letters and mine together to better help me understand that although I am alone now, this love was never as one sided as it feels without her here. I believe she was telling me in her own way to not be sad for what’s lost but cry tears of joy for what we had together. I know this because that is exactly what she wanted.

I cannot believe a guy like me was able to have a woman like her. She was my best friend in the whole world. How lucky was I to not only be married to an amazing human being, a kind giving soul, but someone who was not only the absolute love of my life brought together by God, but my very best friend as well! What we shared, I only wish everyone could feel that, to hold that, to grasp it tight and realize that you are indeed the lucky one!

I put them all away. I cried for a very long time because I do miss her so, so much! I do feel as though I still can’t do this without her but I know I will, it is just who I am and I know it’s one of the many reasons she loved and believed in me. I just need to believe in myself and that will come with time.

I am going to do my best to make Christmas happy, or as happy as it can be for our family. I will carry forward our love, it will suck Christmas morning as there was no mom happier than her watching her children tear apart gifts and laugh together.

I will try. I promise.

Jacy if you have anything else hidden that you need me to find, could you please wait until after the first of the year? I am pretty dehydrated from crying so damn much..

Thanks, I love you…

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Choices

You know the funny thing about being a living breathing human being?

You and you alone have a choice. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not you have a choice in everything you do, say, the way you react or don’t react to life.

Choice is powerful, we have the freedom of choice and how we wield that choice. I am thankful for that because it means as a human being I am allowed to choose which direction I go in any situation, including the precarious emotional moments I am currently living.

Right now, I have chosen sadness as my course. You heard me right, I have chosen to allow sadness into my life. To not meet the male dominated pre-requisite that we all understand to be a norm but is instead a gigantic falsehood of life; and that is to swallow it down, hiding from the sting of losing quite possibly the one person on this earth who will ever love me for who I am, who I was and who she always thought I could become. That statement alone as its read, and I recall all the times she looked me in the eyes, told me she loved me or was proud of who I had become, creates a surge of sadness that forms deep in my chest and moves like a wave towards my outer being. Who will do that? Who will be proud of me? Who will I champion for in the future, who has my back and loves me unconditionally? Who? And don’t say my children because;

1-that’s a given and

2-that is not what I am referencing here. It’s about the relationship built between you and your spouse..

My son texted me the other day, he wanted to know what I was doing, how I was feeling and our texting conversation ended with; I am feeling down. When prompted as to what was happening he replied; I just need to talk to mom. I replied: is there anything I can do? His response: No I just want to talk to mom about shit….. (in his vernacular “shit” means life)

Yeah; let that sit for a moment. Pardon my bluntness but you’re an asshole if that doesn’t tear you up inside just a little. Anyone who was close to their mom and has lost that person knows exactly how my son is feeling. Sad, alone, the boy inside of him simply needed his mommy. To hear her voice, to laugh together at stupid stuff, to hear I love you son at the end of the conversation. Fuck you Leukemia, fuck you GvHD, I hate you all to hell!

But even though those moments come and go, and even though each day that void widens I choose to keep going, to move forward, and to act in a manner that is respectful to both myself and my family. To set an example for our children. Our lives still need to be lived, there is so much out there to accomplish when it comes to our lives and the lives of others. We still have a choice.

Jacy has none of those choices. She didn’t choose this as her destiny. She can no longer choose an alternate outcome or make decisions based upon her feelings. She can no longer do anything from the confines of the handmade box sitting behind me on the table with her picture hovering over the top.

On the flip side though, Jacy did choose as a living, breathing human being exactly how she would exit this earth. She made it very clear what her expectations where and how we as the ones she loved and cherished most would handle that task. She did not want to go, even though her faith was strong, she wasn’t ready, she screamed she wasn’t ready, she felt as though there was so much left for her to do! In the end she was mad at God for stripping her of her family, something she had always wanted, but knew it was time and was welcoming the thought of heaven.

I am trying my hardest to honor her requests, and I will continue to do so until my very last breath. Why? Because I loved her unconditionally the same way she loved me. Because I made a promise to her 17 years ago, 5 years ago and two months ago! I always keep my promises. She was the center of my universe and even though she is gone I will cherish every single moment we spent together in memory over all those years.

I have no doubt as time rolls forward, our lives will change, priorities will change, and the look of our family will change. But her name, her memory and what she hoped for will not change as I will carry that forward with her in my heart and right by my side in spirit. It was and is my choice.

So what exactly is my point?

When the time comes and darkness hits your family, who are you going to become?  There is no reason to face it alone, because you don’t have too. As I have stated many times over the last five years, I started sharing our story because I didn’t want other spouses, partners or family members to feel alone. Like it was them against the world. I really wanted them to have a voice, a place to speak out, to read, understand and reach forward to someone such as myself who was open and accepting while painfully walking that walk.

Now our journey has ended and I am beginning a new journey forward, as one instead of two. It is scary as hell, I am worried for the future of this family, and the one person who understood me is no longer here to help guide me. But I am not alone.

You don’t ever need to be alone either! You know why?

Because you have a choice.

A letter from Betty

Hello everyone,

It has been no secret that I am struggling. I know it’s only been a month (in 3 days), or holy cow it’s been a month already since Jacy passed away? I guess it depends on your point of view. There has been more support for our family than one person deserves and I am very thankful for all the love.

The truth is, I was ready to quit writing after the last posting.

I stared at my pen name- Betty

I no longer wanted it.

Jacy called me Betty all the time. When I got to laughing and right before I hit full blown snorting, to my wife, my laugh sounded like Betty Rubble. It is a name I have worn with great pride.

I still don’t hear it, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is she thought that, and that is love, small and insignificant, but love none the less. I felt like as she died, it should die with her.

Quite a few people in our tight reign never have understood my need to write publicly. To express my feelings for the world to see. The reality is the only people seeing it are those who know us or have heard about us through friends.  I started this blog I think in 2011. I started it as a way to communicate my perspective on being a father. A single father most of the time, as my wife was a single parent most of the time as well. You see between her teaching and me being a firefighter not only with lots of time off but gone during the summer a lot because of overtime or strike team assignments, I felt the fathers perspective was important on raising children semi-alone. Of course we were never really alone, there were more times we were all together as a family than not, and what an amazing family my wife and I have been blessed to create.

As I am writing this it dawns on me that she is going to miss so much, and that is tearing me apart.

Little did I know it (the blog) would morph into something completely different a short 2 years later, thus The Face of Leukemia was born. This is where I am struggling. My need to write publicly came about because I felt after looking around on the web post diagnosis there was nothing, and I mean nothing for the spouse of a Leukemia patient!! There was the obligatory stories on how to support your ill spouse, but nothing in regards to what you really will face emotionally and long term if things go that direction. It drove me nuts!

Also let me preface with something if you will. The man I am today is nothing like the man I was before my wife got her hands on me. She worked very hard on this human being, I have never refuted that for an instant! They say:  behind every good man stands an amazing woman.

I say; standing alongside every good person stands a very patient, devoted spouse.

That is because both of you should complement the other. She complimented me every single day by striving to make me the very best human being I could possibly be and she never once quit me. Make no mistake, I never made it easy for her, but she persevered. I love her so much, and miss her horribly. Not having her here when I need help is terrifying.

I digress

So finding nothing for Leukemia spouses, I hoped, no I prayed that if I wrote about how I was feeling, the struggles we both were facing, the highs and the lows, the triumphs and unfortunately the failures, someone, anyone would see it and not feel alone. Jacy supported me in this because after reading a few, then following every single one I wrote she knew in her heart it would help others and really all my wife ever wanted out of life was to help others, each and every day. We had a few that were too much for her to read and near the end she asked if I would stop writing about her all together. It was because as she read my postings she knew her time was becoming short. It was scary and hard to imagine. She had always been such a fighter and coming to terms with what would be the ultimate loss was more than she could bear. I honored that promise.

I feel as though my job is done. I feel dismayed over what lays ahead, and I swear to you, if you are reading this, I have never meant to make anyone cry. I hear that a lot and it weighs heavy on my soul. One of the things my wife loved and hated about me is that I have absolutely no filter. I say what I feel. She loved it because during our entire marriage she always knew where I stood on just about everything. She hated it at times because in the beginning I didn’t know how to temper it, or turn it off for it may create an inappropriate moment. But as with everything she did, she worked hard and rounded my sharp edges. Yet I still feel awful when I know my words or feelings have hurt another through my writings and I think that is the public portion others don’t or will never understand. Because to get to that point you need to put it all on the table and to do so takes away any privacy in just about any matter. I made our struggles very public. So with that, the question which has been hanging on me is; do I keep on? Is there a reason too? Would she want me too?

Do I stop being Betty because the only person who knew me, I mean truly knew me as Betty, called me Betty and professed her endless love to Betty is gone?

Do I carry on with Betty as a remembrance or tribute to my amazing wife?

Do I just keep crying every time I hear her voice in my head telling Betty to come over and give her a kiss because she is proud of me?

Do I keep writing hoping I still have something to say that will help another?

What the fuck do I do?

Seriously where is she to tell me what the fuck to do!!!!

This morning I awoke from a dream. It was such a great dream! She and I were together, walking hand in hand, the kids were small and running around through a forest. She was telling me all about her day at the Montessori school and how the kids emotionally filled her gas tank and how she loved each and every one of them as her own. In the middle of the conversation she looked at me, held my face and told me just how much she loved me and how she appreciated that writing about her was helping so many others. I was confused because I didn’t know (in the dream) what she was talking about.

When I awoke at 5:30 this morning, as though someone had hit me in the face. I laid there and cried a little because the dream was so real and she wasn’t there next to me. Then I began remembering the dream, and feeling sorry for myself until I came to that portion in the woods. The recollection was powerful and strong. She was talking to me, not at me, or with me, but to me, Betty her husband.

I listened.

So Betty is going to stay around for a while if you’ll have me? I’ll probably be writing about how much I miss her, figuring out who I am and trying to unlock the mystery of how we move forward from here without quite possibly the best person I have ever known in my life by my side. I really do hope that if this blog still reaches just one, then I suppose my job is done.

Also for those wondering I have set a deadline for a finished product on “the book” for the end of December. Figure maybe that’s a sign for a good new year. Lord knows this cursed family needs a least one. And again in the New Year we will begin the process of starting a Jacy’s Army foundation. Starting with scholarships and we’ll see where it goes from there, but I absolutely refuse to let the random acts of kindness my wife performed every single day, disappear form this earth.

Know my fellow AML. Leukemia, BMT friends you are not alone, these are real emotions, real feelings, and although in the end it didn’t turn out the way any of us had hoped, it can still turn out well for you and others just like yourself.

If you enjoy reading this blog, then take what you can, make it your own, and pass forward the love. Because really isn’t that why we are here on this earth? To help others?

God bless you all,

Jacy’s Betty……..

The sounds of silence and where do I go from here?

Sitting at her desk this morning trying my hardest to focus on the 6 millionth start to a book I have already written, something comes to mind. It is lonely. So very lonely and it’s not a lonely that can be filled by friends or family, a phone call or a letter, facetime or actual conversation with well simply anyone.

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

You never realize how noisy your marriage is until it’s over. All the little things like you hustling trying to get kids out the door, her making lunches or singing in the kitchen to a song on Pandora using made up words because well it is the morning and she knows it bugs the crap out everyone so they move a little faster while she smiles with glee. It is hearing her use the damn coffee pot you hate because you own a Keurig and she simply likes the cheapness associated with a standard coffee pot. Her humming I love you as you walk out the door reminding her you’ll be home in an hour. She says she knows but you never know what can happen and she just wants you to know how much you mean to her.

It really is all the little things. The little things that make up the white noise of a relationship.

I woke up this morning and my dog had climbed onto the bed. He was asleep with his back up against mine and in the haziness of first awaking for a second, one split second I thought it was all a bad dream. 5 years a bad dream! It wasn’t, I was still alone, Jacy is still dead. In reality we hadn’t slept together for almost a year. She needed to be downstairs and with her being up all hours of the night depending on where she was with her meds and her constant need for sound (something she had before she got sick only more intense as time went on) the only way I could achieve even a few hours of sleep a night was to retire upstairs. I regret that decision now. I guess in a way it was preparing me for the future. None the less I have fully determined I hate sleeping alone. Oh well, guess I will have to get over it.

The white noise is everywhere.

I will never come home to the joyous sounds of her playing the piano again. She was never taught how, she played the flute, but her understanding of music made it easy for her to adapt to just about any instrument she picked up. I hate looking at that fucking piano.

Walking through the door in the afternoon to smell and hear all about some god awful concoctions she was creating. Foods or flavors that should never and mean ever be associated with each other, but there wasn’t anything left in the fridge so out to the garden she went and viola we have dinner! The funny thing is with only a few minor exceptions, even her craziest of Top Chef mismatched masterpieces all tasted great! I really am missing that right now on a cool fall morning.

The sounds of her painting or creating leather work. She was blind, but would sit at this very desk and create pieces of art out of whatever she touched. I made her a board from scratch to adjust and hold her leather while she stamped it or painted it slowly with one eye squinted shut and the other double focused on her work. The board is sitting here, never to be used again. I hate that fucking board.

Listening to her ask about the kids days when they got home, remind them of chores, reprimand them when they were jerks to her or smother them in love when they apologized. This whole thing has been so hard on the kids and I know they feel sad about each and every time they brushed her off as she was bedridden still trying her best to run the household. She loved them all so much and that love came out every day. The sounds of love bouncing from these walls, it has certain ring, a specific note when it comes from a mother’s perspective. It is quiet now; that sucks hard.

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

I know, everyone keeps telling me she can hear me, her love is all around us, it is in our children and the home we made. I know I simply need to talk with her, or I guess to her because she really can’t talk back. I stare endlessly into this room I created, I hear the oxygen machine still running or the lack of it, I am not sure. I wish I was still bleach mopping the floor while she incessantly apologized for all I needed to do to take care of her. That always bugged me, I would snap at her and say to knock it off! I would tell her I loved more than anything on this earth and there is no place I would rather be! I would kiss her on the forehead, then make her lunch, sit in the chair at the end of her bed and stare at her. Worried this day was coming.

In reality there was some other place I would rather have been.

Back in Alaska on the cruise with her! In Mexico, on the beach with her! In the mountains, hiking with her! In our own backyard riding horses with her!

I would have gone anywhere or done anything with her! Even if I didn’t want to. She just had a way of always convincing me to go and really, if you knew my wife or spent any time with her you just knew what ever her exploits were it was going to be one hell of a good time!

Besides that woman could convince a police officer to rob a bank, a hooker into becoming a nun, or the wealthiest person in the world into giving away every last dime. It just is who she was. I seriously am going to miss that I think the most.

So yeah, the silence is killing me, crushing me, it is hard to breathe most days. I am trying so very hard and it really is so nice how strong everyone believes that I am, but I don’t feel strong, I feel, I feel, I think I feel cursed. I feel as though there is some kind of vendetta against me. I feel like a permanent black cloud. I feel like loneliness is my calling. I hate being alone.

Jacy would tell me that God has a plan for us all and this was his plan. I remember her telling me through tears not more than 6 weeks ago that she wasn’t ready! She wasn’t ready to leave this earth, that she felt there was still so much work to do, so many kids to help!!! I held her while she cried and promised her if her time did come I would carry that work on for her.

I have always been a man of my word.

I am starting a scholarship fund in Jacy’s name for high school kids here in Dixon. It will benefit Ag kids because that is what she believed. We were able to secure a little over $700 on Saturday at her memorial by selling left over tri-tip. So we are up and running.

I am also looking into starting a foundation using Jacys Army as the name. It will hopefully grow and secure enough funding to become perpetual. The objective will be to assist families that do not have the assistance or support we were lucky enough to have while going through Leukemia treatment. This one was my idea and something my wife backed 100% as we talked discussed in detail the lack of assistance for families less fortunate as ourselves as we went through the process.

I also promised her I would continue on, that I would be ok, alone. I lied to her a lot on that one. Starting with day trips, new places and taking lots of pictures of my alone adventures. But I never wanted her to worry about me more than she already did, so I kept doing it even though I wanted nothing more than to be by her side. Ultimately it created a man who was quiet and walked a lot with his head down. She called them rest breaks or time away from caring for her. It was time needed there is no argument there, I put on a super brave face and sold it like a used car salesman, but it is coming back to haunt me now as I long for all those moments I missed with my wife. I hate myself for not being there, for distancing myself from family. But it is what it is I guess, no changing it now.

So instead of rambling on like an A-hole; I guess what all of this is leading to is this;

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

Make every moment count. Even the little ones. Life is short, it can be taken away at a moment’s notice. I am blessed because we knew it would eventually come. But there are so many that walk out the door in the morning never to return again. Is that how you want to leave it?

Never stay mad at your spouse, no matter what. You have the ability to talk just about anything out and come to a resolution. I promise! I could make that woman spit hot lead, and she could make me flip a truck at times, yet we always forgave each other in our own ways. And yes, sometimes you need to recognize that not all forgiveness comes with an apology. Anyone who has been married long enough who reads this knows exactly what I am talking about.

Remember daily why you love them. Why you married them or are with them. Never forget that, they are special to you for a reason. Honor that reason and cherish it.

Never go to bed mad. Seriously it sounds dumb but it’s true. Every day truly is a new day! We are only given so many of those days so don’t waste them! Besides the snoring is enough on its own, so don’t find something else.

Enjoy every single little thing, from burnt meals, dirty clothes, dishes not done, to bad singing and even watching shows you cannot stand. The thing is you’re spending time together and that’s what’s important. You can never get that lost time back.

When the going gets tough, don’t even think for a moment about running away. If that’s what you’re thinking then in my humble opinion you never truly loved each other. Sorry but as my wife would say; the truth can be painful but in the end, it is still the truth.

Love is amazing, it makes us do crazy things. But the reality is love isn’t all the glorious movie tag lines or clichés we’ve grown up with or are led to believe. No my friends, love is all the messy and yes sometimes painful stuff in the middle. The rest is just the icing on loves cake.

Thanks for letting me vent all this out. I actually feel a little better. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings or made you cry. It was never my intention.

You can never forget you!

Today I went fishing.

There are three things in this world that I love participating in more than anything else.

  1. Riding/working horses
  2. Fishing
  3. Riding a motorcycle (any motorcycle)

Peaceful water cracking against the hull, birds of every variety flying overhead, some even landing near our boat. Seals breaking the surface to say hello and cattle off in the distance grazing quietly. Sitting silently with two lines in the water my eyes dart back and forth between the fish finder as I monitor the water temperature and the picturesque surroundings on what had to be one of the most perfect mild temperature, no wind kind of days. The only thing that would have made it even better? A bigger boat so I could duck inside and take a nap! Ha!!! Old guy perfection right there baby!!!

So why is this so important and why would you the reader care?

The other day while speaking to someone the topic arose as it usually does in regards to personal, family oriented, doctor/cancer related struggles that life had become unmanageable. We all have struggles in our lives, some more serious than others and even that severity can be tempered through one’s own personal perception.

We commiserated over many of the same issues in regards to holding things together when all seems lost or hopelessness abounds and as I switched from a willing partner in the gripe arena to sound listener I could not help but forward some very sage advice after asking if any advice offered would be received. (I mean I DO have a little experience in this arena) Thankfully the answer was yes.

I reminded this person that as life is crashing around and people are no longer meeting your expectations you may need a break. As the hill gets harder to climb and you find yourself crying more than laughing your brain is saying enough. When the only thing you care about is the immediate and everything else can just go to hell it is time for an intervention. So what must this person do to quench the fires as it were? You must remember exactly who you are, don’t ever forget WHO YOU ARE! It is time for you to do something for you!

Take time to find that one thing (or three) that reminds you that you are you! I guarantee that stress combined with an overachiever mentality and over time you will forget who you are! Overwhelmed by the many tasks that lay before you on a daily basis you eventually end up putting little old tired you in the closet while hiding behind this public persona superhero cape! It really beats you up no matter what, but if you’re the type that’s not a quitter in any way, shape or form the weight upon you is enormous! So do what you have to do, but find that thing that makes you, you!

You were somebody before you got married! You were hopefully somebody you even liked and enjoyed hanging out with before life came crashing down! I know in the beginning you are going to feel guilty, but tough shit!!! In time that guilt fades, you begin to balance back out and when the world is spinning out of control you have the fortitude to handle it!

For me it was an accidental stop at a local eatery in town for breakfast on one of those “spinning out of control” days. I felt guilty walking through the door, I felt guilty spending money on myself for breakfast, I felt guilty because I needed to leave for Stanford, and after I sat down, alone, I felt guilty that my wife wasn’t with me, and that I was eating out without her!

But you know what else happened?

I felt better after the first cup of coffee that I didn’t have to make. The waitress was kind and could see I needed to be alone. I turned off my phone and watched the news in the bar next to my booth. I ordered what I wanted (yeah cholesterol be damned) and ate it slowly, with a smile. It was 40 minutes out of what turned into a nightmarishly insane day and it was worth all 2,400 seconds. I walked out, sat in my car and realized I had forgotten who I was.

After that day I made a point to remember to ride a horse, go fishing with or without kids, and ride a motorcycle.

You see without knowing who I was, how on earth could I be anything to anyone else? I could try, but instead of success I was merely adding more to an overflowing plate. If I spend time at any one of those three things, from a few hours to a day or two, there is nothing I cannot handle when I come back. I know who I am, my feet are firmly on the ground and I have said; its ok to give myself a timeout now let’s tackle the world.

So today a fishing trip turned into a recollection which turned into a blog post which turned into me being able to put my head down tonight, get a good night’s sleep so that tomorrow I can wake up, smile, put my feet on the floor and tell the world it’s ok, you can throw what you want at me again.

I’m ready.

On a side note, you don’t have to be struggling mentally, physically or living through some personal hell to remember to take care of yourself. Life is hard, and for some reason we make it harder for ourselves by forgetting the only person who can help us navigate our very short time on this earth.

That person is you! Make the change, then when the hard times do come you are miles ahead of where I was in November of 2013 when our world came crashing down.

~Betty~

Climbing life’s mountain. 

Woke up this morning and strolled around our property despite the 30+ mph winds. There is so much that needs to be done, it sometimes feels incredibly overwhelming. Taking care of this place, our children and my wife weighs heavy on me all the time. Yet this morning is different. Yes the amount of work gave a bit of panic, but then I looked across the way and spotted our dirty ole horse trailers, still hooked to their respective trucks, I paused, I smilied and I felt really great.

You see all to often we look at our lives as a continual shit pile (mountain) we need to climb. (Myself very much included) What we don’t see or fail to recognize are the smaller climbs we need to make first before we reach the top. We as humans naturally tend to complain which then becomes a habit so we complain about everything. Before long complaining is as normal as putting on our pants (which is a complaint because damn they make me look fat) and it remains the norm. It’s then that we struggle to make a change as we have decided enough is enough. (Myself also included in this category) I don’t understand why we become this way, or why it seems there are some who always see the positive. I guess it just is the human way. 

Today I didn’t feel that way. Because today part of me realized we have been traversing those smaller climbs all along. Sometimes those smaller climbs just take so darn long you lose sight of the mountain. 

All I could think about while staring at our parked traveling circus was our kids and a wife who against her own advice packed up her best clothes, a supply of all her medications, her portable oxygen machine in case of emergency, threw on a wig to hide her once again balding head, then set out with a beautiful, giant smile on her face and a super positive attitude for an entire weekend of rodeoing! She had such a great time surrounded by her friends-our friends. She was able to finally witness in person her youngest son throw a steer, her daughter run barrels and poles and her middle son bulldog. She was no longer alone at home stuck in bed unable to move, waiting for me to send a video. She will undoubtedly pay for it today, as her body I am sure will protest but the price of admission was well worth it. 

The oldest son is in college and doesn’t partake in our traveling side show. He has a life of his own, training hunting dogs, fishing, hunting and counting down the days until he can test then become employed with either an out of state troopers or in state CHP position. We are blessed to have him around to keep an eye on things while we travel. He of all of us has steadily chipped away at the mountain before him with tenacity and will power. 

Our middle son has had a rough year on the rodeo trail and although he doesn’t see it this way, I think it is good for him. He has always been in the hunt. Always fighting for first position. This year not so much. His skills are there, his attitude when he nods his head once backed into the box is solid. He helps every bulldogger who crosses that line into the arena. And although he doesn’t feel like he has anything to show for all his hard work and positive attitude I think quite the contrary. 

God is teaching him patience and humility.

His time will come. He needs to remember we are climbing that mountain in small segments. This is one of them. His mother and I are very proud of him, we only want the best for him. And although he thinks at times we are to hard on him, or we don’t understand,​​ I know one day he will look back and thank the lord for all that was provided.

I smile at the thought of our daughter and how far she has come. Once terrified of going fast on a horse she is slowly gaining ground on her fears. She loves nothing more than being at the rodeo with her giant second family. Each rodeo she performed a little better and that is all anyone can ask for. Right when we thought it was all over for her this year the good lord through a good friend blessed us with the best horse possible for her to improve her skills. Our daughter has grit, and when she wants something she gets after it. Her mother and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the off season. 

My smile broadens at the thought of our youngest yesterday. A boy who once screamed and cried: NO RODEO, I HATE RODEO. Running around receiving high fives from all who watched him drop a steer in roughly 4 seconds! 

Parker rode horses every day, then during a  jr. rodeo season he was bucked off three times with three trips to the hospital. After the third trip he said no more. It took over a year to get him riding again, this was his mountain to climb. He cried every time and after riding a few of our horses, my horse Tank became the only one he would almost willingly climb aboard. Then unexpectedly Tank died. His mountain to climb just got bigger. 

Three quarters of the way through the rodeo season the lad still hadn’t tossed a steer in competition. He was feeling discouraged. Then last month he not only tossed one, but two!!! After a great Bulldogging seminar and some more practice his timing was coming together. We started talking about the possibility that if he could throw both steers at next months (this last weekend) rodeo he may just barley qualify for state. He became excited, and the light and love for something he has accomplished both on his own and with the help of his brother began to grow. 

Yesterday that’s exactly what he did! By throwing that one steer he qualified for state. To say he is excited is an understatement! He cannot wait for another opportunity to throw steers! He looks up to his older brothers, the oldest for fishing and the one for Bulldogging. To follow in their footsteps makes his chest swell with pride. Knowing that in two years he will need to bulldog from a horse, he is looking forward to riding again. 

His mountain just got a little smaller. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is we ALL have mountains to climb in our life. From our grandparents to our children. Complaining about them is fine, it lets us express our frustrations, deal with our emotions and relieve the pressure associated with realizing there are problems. But in the end, if we do nothing about anything other than complain all the time we miss the beauty of watching those who have figured out just how to chip away at that mountain of troubles one hill at a time, we miss out on the shared elation as one day those troubles are gone and a beautiful view from the summit can be seen. 

Just a thought from a windy morning walk. 

God, could I get a little help? Please……

I have a confession to make.

I think I am mourning the loss of my wife.

Over the last couple of weeks, the two of us have held some very emotional and poignant conversations in regards to her health, my mental health and our families future.

She is by far the strongest woman I know. Her courage and tenacity is second to none. This shit sandwich she’s been handed and forced to eat time and again would leave most average humans gagging while pleading for the feeding to stop. Yet she bites down, grits her teeth and trudges through every mouthful!

I try to remind myself that God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The other day during a conversation with her doctor she told him she’d had enough! It was time to either get busy living or get busy dying!

Think about that statement! A mashing of words spoken with the seriousness of an appellate court judge! No bullshit, no grins or giggles, no carefully chosen not wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings words! This is a line in the sand and no one had better fucking cross it! For the first time in a long time I didn’t laugh, find a joke or even smile a nervous smile. She was making a stand and if you truly know my wife then you know never to cross her when she makes a stand!

And I think once again: God will never give us anything we can’t handle.

The last couple of days have been harder then normal. My irregular heartbeat is back, (which always leaves me panicking) my stomach is on fire and the head is pounding pretty hard. These are all secondary reactions to an emotional outpouring trapped deep within this sack of skin. I don’t know how to adequately express what I’m feeling or even describe it’s magnitude which tears my innards apart! Three long years I have been holding it together! Three long years I worry about tommorow and what it may bring! Three long years have been the worst juggling act I could ever have performed, always feeling like I am one hand movement from dropping all the balls.

Three long years and I continue to think: God will not give us anything we cant handle.

In that time I have gained 25 pounds, developed sleep apnea which leaves my chest and head hurting every morning and I have cried more times than I care to remember! Seriously cried like a baby! I’ve cried in the truck, the barn, while working a horse, after waking up from a nightmare to find she isn’t there only to quickly realize she’s at her dads for treatment! I have cried while blogging, in my dorm at work, after a call with a cancer patient, while reading a book and even while taking a shower.

To be honest I cry at everything nowadays! Like some stupid, weak, lovelorn teenager!! Show me a stupid animal video! Hell here comes the waterworks! A love story movie. Tears! Wedding videos! You guessed it more water!! And you know what makes it even worse?

I am angry as hell, looking for someone to blame and yet I continually tell myself; God will not give us anything we cannot handle!

That anger leads me to yell at our kids way more than I should, I yell at drivers on the road and sometimes I daydream someone will cut me off so we can fight! Senselessly hoping not to win, but instead to feel the stinging pain of loss. I know it’s wrong and because I know it’s wrong I work really hard at tempering my emotions!! But this long term tempering is wearing me the fuck out!! All political rants get deleted from my FB feed so I don’t get angry. If an argument starts I do my best to walk out of the room or tune it out by acting dead or stupid, much like a fainting goat! I have figured out how to curb all this anger when cornered by using a tried and true method of striking first with wicked biting sarcasm! But sometimes that bites me in ass when I take it to far and then hurt someone else’s feelings! I can’t win! Developing these weird coping mechanisms are only piling more worry and angst on top of an already over loaded emotional mountain! Yet I keep doing it because going through this joint struggle over the last three years I have found there are more important thing for me to focus on in life! Like waking up, or breathing!

And there I am wondering if God is really giving me what I can handle or if it’s all a big fucking lie!

Today really brought it home for me and it hit me harder than before. A friend posted a picture of my beautiful wife from five years ago and through all my inspirational quotes, kind words and such I realized why I am in this strange place mourning for the loss of my wife. Not that she is gone in the traditional sense of the term, because she obviously isn’t, but for who she used to be! That woman, that confident, beautiful woman who could teach 30 kids in classroom, come home and ride horses with me and the kids, whip up a dinner from absolutely nothing, then toss her hair into a pony tail, throw on some clean clothes and let me strut her sexy ass out on the town!

I hate what the drugs have done to her, I hate what this disease has done to her, I hate that everyday she wakes up and no longer recognizes the person looking back in the mirror and sobs. She’s had me cover all the mirrors in the house so she doesn’t have to look at herself and that makes me mad at God. I hate that she shakes so bad she can’t hold simple items and there is nothing I can do help! I hate that she struggles to get up, walk or climb stairs! She was once a toned, hard fitness instructor and now is a frail version of her former self! I hate that I feel like I am failing her, and I can’t do a thing to make any of this any easier in any way! I hate that she doesn’t know how beautiful I still think she is or how she continually stresses over some imaginary thing that should drive us apart!

I hate, I’m angry so I hate some more and I think again; God will not give us anything we can’t handle.

The realization that I am also mourning the loss of OUR life together weighs like an anvil around ones neck. I go to parent meetings alone, doctor appointments alone, after school activities alone and rodeo with the kids alone. She is miserable because she can’t be there for her children and it is a horrible heavy guilt for her and I am torn up because I can’t imagine how that must feel as a mother. Now, I don’t mind being alone, it’s good to be alone every now and again, just not all the time. Thankfully I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful, caring families anyone could ever ask for and they treat my family as if we were part of their families! Rodeo families are hands down the best in the whole world!!! I seriously look forward to seeing these people every month! But at the end of the day, when everyone goes there separate ways, I sit alone, in the trailer, pondering what life would be like, if Jacy had never gotten sick. All of the fun she is missing out on and how guilty I feel when I forget for a moment and start to have fun myself.
Then I’m mad it’s not me. Jacy is something special. I am not. She has done almost everything right her entire life. I have not, in fact I spent most of my early life doing just the opposite. She is kind to everyone, I can be a bit of an asshole. So why? Why has God burdened her with this punishment and left me alone? Why is God putting this upon our family, our children, our friends and relatives? Is it truly because God thinks we can handle it? What kind of bullshit is that? Does that mean people who hold no struggles are weak in Gods eyes so they get a free pass?? That makes no damn sense!

I always say we need to have faith. Believe in our faith. I believe in God. I believe there is a reason all this is happening. I believe we are being tested. I believe there is a plan and I hope God reveals it soon for as of now I can no longer see the Forrest for the trees.

The fact is pride is what leads us to believe we can conquer all without help or faith. It is how this simple statement I have repeated and lamented over continues to come forth.

“God will not give us anything we cannot handle.”

In reality it reads: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The way I read this is as such: God WILL give us all more than we can handle. He will challenge us, challenge our ability to retain faith and he will forgive us our temptations.

I believe my faith is strained right now. I believe we (my wife especially) have been given way more than we can handle. I believe the temptation to just quit is great.

So…..

God, could you give us just a little help? Please….

I’m not sure how much more of what you are giving us we can all take.

(Fuck I’m crying again)

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….