So this is 50…

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”

                                                                                                                                ~Muhammad Ali~

 

I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!

And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.

Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..

 

Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.

I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.

Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????

We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.

I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.

When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.

The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.

Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle  from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.

Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.

I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.

Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.

I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.

So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.

[JF1]

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The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

Lets talk about????

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

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

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

Let’s talk about sex.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OURSELVES….

Didn’t see that coming did you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apps.

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

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

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

Best Secret Folder

Secret Photo& Video

Calculator hide

HiCalculator- Private Album

Private Photo

Fake Calculator

 

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

Settings lock

Secret Piano Icon

Keep Safe photo vault

Don’t touch this

HiFolder

Vault

Hidden Secret Files

Photo Umbrella

FileMaster

iDiscrete

HIDE

Picture safe

Private photo

Album lock

My Media

 

Snapchat

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

Yik Yak

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/14/16 addendum

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

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

~Betty~

 

 

 

Parents; What are we doing?

What are we doing?

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

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

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

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

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

Family always comes first

Don’t lie

Keep your word

Do what’s asked of you

Never hide anything from your parents

Be respectful of others, especially your elders

Education comes before all else

Always be thinking and putting your future first

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I ask what influences are different today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

whiskey

photos from CBSnews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you’re an expert? Hmmm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

And so we say goodbye..

Quietly we slipped into town. It had been a while since I last stepped foot in my hometown of Sonoma California and as we meandered through streets filled with wandering tourists my memory tried hard to visualize this once peaceful quiet place as it was many years ago. This town still holds a certain charm, a quaintness which unfortunately now feels like a false front. Gone are homes actually owned and lived in by people downtown, instead each cute little cottage or early 1900’s home is filled with one type of business or another. Gone is that small town feeling where mom and pop mercantile line the plaza. Instead the city is surrounded by winery getaway bungalows, tasting rooms, restaurants, and high end hotels catering to those with wine adventures on their mind. Oh there are a few small business breweries, diners and stores but for the most part as you drive in it no longer has that small town charm but more of a high dollar Los Gatos feel.

The traffic was horrendous and as we pulled into Duggans for dads memorial service it was evident no one held an ounce of patience for driving across this very congested portion of the city leading to downtown. Standing outside for a moment before walking in to face family and friends I did soak up the Sonoma sun and smiled, remembering how blessed I was to grow up here. Something I have never taken for granted.

Once inside mom and I placed a few pictures around, made sure everything was in its place while beginning to welcome people with open arms. Last night I had decided for me at least this was not going to be a sad event. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that, besides I have learned over time there is no reason for us to cry or be sad. The only reason we cry is for ourselves, our own misery with someone we love being gone forever. Our loved one feels no pain, carries no worry and would only want those of us left behind to smile, remembering the good not the bad.

After many, many hugs, some wonderful conversation, and several well placed jokes we came inside and began the service. Our pastor was fantastic, light, charming and funny he brought a warmth and glow to this occasion that was desperately needed. Family sat in front and when it came time to speak, my mother did her very best to relay how she felt and followed up her recollections with directions for after the service.

Next it was my turn and I have to say, I was pretty nervous. I started with a joke. Dad and I had spoken on several occasions about memorials and funerals. Our running gag was never had either one of us heard a family member walk up to the podium, thank everyone for coming then slam their fist on the table, look the audience in the eye and say: John Doe so and so was a Son of a Bitch!!!! So that’s what I did by sharing that story! Thankfully the room laughed and just like that my nervousness melted away just a little. Pulling a prepared statement from my jacket pocket I cleared my throat, steadied my vocal chords and began to read:

What I learned from watching my father.

Many things can be said about Robert Franceschi

He was a charmer when need be.

A friend for life once you worked past his often times gruff exterior.

A hard worker

He loved 49r football

He was my dad

But it’s not the image he portrayed that matters to me, instead it is what he taught me from witnessing his actions as opposed to his words. For we know as young emotionally charged youth we fight against our parents every chance we get. Yearning for freedom of our own, to make our own decisions without help from our parents so called “words or pearls of wisdom”. No it’s what I witnessed, without words through silence filled deeds and actions that resonates so very deep within my soul.

From watching my father since the moment I can recollect his life lessons rang true, teaching me…

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself – Dad struggled and worked hard every day to support his family and even when things didn’t go his way he never gave up. We were never rich, often times just barely having enough money to get new school clothes was a burden but my dad did what had to be done and if that meant going from a salesman to a barn builder, a store owner to a restaurateur then that’s what he did. Was he scared? You’re damn right he was, but he always tried and it’s because of him that I have never been afraid to try something new, reinvent myself, morphing into a new side job or purpose and I will sell my last belonging to make sure my family always has what they need.

A love of animals- My dad loved animals, he loved horses, dogs, cats, birds and ostriches. Oh he complained like hell about them, especially my mom’s dogs! But when he wasn’t complaining and no one was looking that tough guy wall came down and he would sit with a dog/cat on his lap or a bird on his shoulder. When his last horse passed away he was devastated for as he put it; Goldpiece was the only one who listened to me anyways.. I love my horses, dogs, chickens, pigs and cats. They are part of my family and whenever they hurt, I hurt. It’s because of my father’s spirit for animals that I care about them as much as I do. I couldn’t imagine life without pets and livestock roaming our property. Whether for riding, petting or putting dinner on the table they are a huge part of our lives. And yes whenever that damn SPCA commercial starts and Sara McLaughlin begins singing while sad puppy eyes stare back at you through the tv screen well I am here to say you just may find it raining only behind my glasses.

To sing whenever possible. I know right? No one can picture my father standing tall in front of a crowd singing his heart out. Well he didn’t, but what I learned was no matter how difficult a day’s become when a song comes on the radio that you love don’t be afraid to belt it out! For you see many times I witnessed his day/mood go from bad to good with nothing more than a good country song and some alone time inside the Ford truck recording studio traveling down Hwy 12. The power of song is amazing, you don’t need to know how to sing or even sing well but for those two and a half minutes you are George freaking Strait and no one can take that away from you. I drive my kid’s nuts to this day singing every song that makes me happy as it billows from our cars speakers. When I am through I always have a slight smirk upon my face.

A genuine appreciation for the automobile. Dad loved cars, all kinds, makes and models and that love trickled down to me. From the time I could walk I can remember staring at this truck, crawling around in that car and listening to my dad tell stories about not having much money so one time he painted a car with a roller and brush. When dad purchased a restored 1936 Ford and brought it home it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. With its swoopy fenders, giant bug eye headlights and sparkling chrome grill that car was to me what was right with the world. Soon after a 1941 Mercury arrived and not long after that a 1921 Model T. The two latter cars are in my garage awaiting the day they will travel the roadways again with the same regal status they once held within their time. Nothing made my dad smile more than when he drove one of his old cars.

Nothing in this life is given to you and hard work pays off. Shake a man’s hand when you see him, look him in the eye, your word is more important than anything you possess. If not for watching him work the way he did while trying his best to keep things running at home I never would have learned the patience needed to understand the old adage of “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes you can risk it all by taking loans and building your place into the very best place it can be from day one. Or you can work hard, recycle materials and slowly, without debt build something from nothing, hopefully leaving some form of legacy for your children to inherit. I am working hard to teach my children those very same values.

And lastly but most importantly

Marriage isn’t easy- That’s right, marriage is in no way shape or form easy and if you believe it to be some fairytale story you are sadly mistaken. But what marriage is, is filled with mistakes, sometimes big ones! And with those mistakes also come huge successes, both of which help forge a bond between you and your significant other. Learning the ability to say you’re sorry so another doesn’t emotionally suffer and learn to accept apologies in return, forgiving all wrong doing while never holding a grudge. Giving of yourself wholly to your spouse and your family regardless of time, place or series of events. Remembering that someone you love, loves you back no matter what and with that love comes good times and bad, but it’s how we handle ourselves that create true memories lasting a lifetime. Not posed pictures hanging on a wall staged like a portrait session in the woods, but memories of moments alone, together, surrounded by smells, sounds and sights. From the moment you first met to your final kiss goodbye 55 years later. Marriage isn’t easy but done right, marriage is life fulfilling and holds rewards like no other….

I am sure there is a dozen or so more I could recite, but this is where it ends. I know he looks down upon us all, free from pain, free from his broken down body, free from stress and doubt. I pray his spirit sends a sign to my wife so she feels his comfort, knowing he is alright with her not being here to help celebrate his life. I pray he is surrounded by old friends, family and those he cherished. I pray he feels our love and rests easy knowing we are ok, for sadness knows no place when your job here on earth is done.

We celebrate who he was and the legacy he left behind.

I love you dad…

When it was over I was relieved. Sitting down and listening as my Aunt and Uncle spoke, then watching as our former neighbor stood in front and said something that rang so true of my dad. If I was ever in a fight I would want Bob right behind me. Along with; Bob always did the right thing. That indeed was my dad. To hear it from another adult male figure from my young adolescent life was indeed fulfilling. Dad always did the right thing, no matter the cost and if you ever witnessed my fathers rage then you definitely knew you wanted that man in your corner when the shit hit the fan. Not because his anger was a dangerous thing but because as stated prior, dad always did the right thing. That extended to his ability to control and corral that anger, putting it to good use when the moment arose. Usually leaving a UPS driver or two with a need for an underwear change should they be found guilty of speeding on our road.

At the end of the day we had a very nice lunch at Rossi’s, it was such a pleasure to see so many faces from our past. The ability to reconnect, tell tall tales, have a few laughs while surrounded by so many special family members and friends will keep my heart warm for a long time to come.  Its just to bad that life has engulfed us so, that we may only see each other at weddings or funerals.

Either way thanks to all those who gave up their Saturday to pay tribute to my father. I know he was looking down, smiling and wondering just who in the hell was going to pay for the whole damn thing!

God Bless you all..

Tomorrow the adventures continue as the Franceschi clan loads up and heads to Saratoga to spend the day with their mother…

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The Barn is a great place to think.

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Sitting in my barn this morning listening to the horses eat while chattering with each other, the sun crossed over with warmth entrenching the very entrance for which my bum was planted. Smiling at a state of relaxation which overcame my body, a bit of gratitude for all God has placed before me enveloped my being.

And so I pondered…..

Staring at standing water, which was everywhere, in times of past my frustration level would have risen. Instead I am pleased, for even though this means mud all around and frustrated horses it equates to much needed water and lush turnouts in the spring.

It was a heavy soaking rain and a portion of one of our barns that for years no matter the adjustment would flood instead remained high and dry after a summer rebuild. We are slowly gaining ground and this quirky piece of land will continue to challenge us, but seeing the west side high and dry was a huge win! My arena is a small lake, yet the water allows me to see where it needs to be floated and readjusted creating a better arena next year to ride and train.

The back piece where we began building a roping arena before Ms. Jacy went into the hospital has held up perfectly with water shedding in the direction we planed the ground. This means come spring we will add the permanent footing with no adjustments and before you know it the long summer nights will be filled with horses, people and fun. The way it should it be.

I am thankful for the people God continues to place in my life.

We are not supposed to agree or get along with everyone, that would be insane. But as of late I have learned to forgive, forget and understand that many times the problem isn’t with them, it is with me (short of someone intentionally hurting you). A person who rubs you wrong or continually pushes your buttons is who they are and you cannot change that so (as I tell my children) when you are wits end remember that and understand you are the one that has a problem with them! Limit your exposure, take your own stress away and appreciate them, for they have taught you how to become a better you.

An entire community has surrounded our family during these last two years and that support has seen us through many rough spots. We are very blessed to live in a town filled with so many loving caring people. I have sat and watched with pride as our little population has stepped up for the benefit of so many as it seems we are in a weird slump when it comes to survival. The numbers of those in our town reeling from the effects of Cancer, Leukemia, and unexplained tragedies is astonishing! Yet we come together, strap our boots on tight and march to help. Our town folk don’t help for notoriety as I have seen in some places, but because we are still small enough that everyone knows, everyone and genuinely care! There for it is done out of love. There is no greater reason to help.

If you build it they will come. When we built our first barn we hoped to have a bigger family here, a horse family of like-minded individuals who not only loved their animals but enjoyed the company of those around them in the barn as well. We have all been to those barns where everyone complains and the atmosphere is filled with unhealthy competition and all feels toxic. But I can say almost four years later I feel as though we have accomplished that goal. When I walk into our barn I am surrounded by an extended family. Fantastic people who are fun, caring and look out for each other without an inkling of malice or complaint. I am a fan of getting to know each horse and their owners, understanding their personalities, how they behave and react to any situation. We are filled with quite the group and they are all wonderful. My barn manager is also a huge blessing as without her drive and enthusiasm, especially during these very trying times for our family I am convinced without a doubt our place would have suffered greatly. She is my go too, a solid foundation for what we have that I can stand upon; we are very blessed indeed.

Rodeo is a big part of our lives and without an escape from reality into this world I love so, I am certain I would have gone crazy by now. As many of you know I love cutting horses! I love riding them more than anything in this world (thank you Wes and Jalinda) but with my wife being sick that has taken a back seat for the last two years. Rodeo is my son’s passion and to witness this foundation we gave him and our daughter in regards to horses and riding flourish and expand under the tutelage of many great caring and giving adults has been a Godsend for certain. Every weekend we pack up and head out is another opportunity for him/her to reach their goals, take another step forward in competition, and to meet new people even if to only shake a hand and say hello. The rodeo family is huge and they all look out for each other. It is amazingly fun to see so many adults come together for the benefit of not only their children but everyone’s children! Offering help and support while coaching them hopefully to the next level. For me, to be able to help on horseback during the cuttings and in the chutes with other friends during the roping events has allowed me to cheer on so many kids while still feeling like my normal horseman self. To share in this experience is like no other! I hope other parents see it the same way when they are tending a gate, loading a bucking chute or pushing cattle through the chutes. It’s being able to pass on your knowledge, your love for the sport, your passions all while doing nothing more than being the support crew! It has kept me sane through this time of hardship. I thank every family that has adopted me over the last two years. Made sure I was ok, asked how my family and wife are, and ensured I was never excluded or left behind. It’s tough being the lone man out, even tougher when you think about how you can’t share any of these experiences with your wife, your son’s mom, but thanks to this new family I have become a part of I have never felt out of place or alone. I am truly blessed and thankful for you all…

My second family has been behind us all the way and staring here across our fields, I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. Being in the fire service is tough, long hours away from home (especially in the summertime) at times mentally and physically exhausting. But there is no other job quite like it. It also allows you to forge a bond with others like yourself. Living someplace else for a third of your life you become a family, and family always takes care of family. I don’t know how I would have been able to keep my head on straight without the love and support I have received from my fire department family. They have been there from the beginning two years ago, covering shifts, making sure my family is taken care of and always leaving me with these words no matter the time or place. “Whatever you need James” I have been humbled by them all.

Looking over at my dad’s house, I wish I knew it was going to be his last Christmas. I don’t why? It just is resonating with me that maybe we could have carved out more time for him between running around to the hospital and two separate families. I know there is nothing I could have changed and what is done is done. My dad and I hardly saw eye to eye on anything and he could be a touch over the top when he was cranky. But I just wish I could have told him one more time I loved him and given his frail old body a hug. Oh well, I am blessed they allowed us to move them here, where at least he died with his family around him and as we put the finishing touches on his memorial at the end of the month I hope he looks fondly upon all who come to say goodbye and know he was loved.

Staring at the back of my house I think of my wife. How lucky are we she is still with us today? She still hasn’t made it home and it has been almost 7 long months since we drove out of the driveway headed to Stanford for what was supposed to be at the most a 4 month turnaround. Once again the word family rings loud as without this tight, crazy group of misfits that we are I am sure without a doubt this entire process would have been a complete nightmare. Jacy’s family has been by her side every day. Helping with our children, jacy’s care and ensuring she is never alone. Her sisters have brought smiles and laughter and her step mum quit her job to care for her every day! The true definition of a strong family is enduring even the hardest of times and never faltering, no matter the circumstances. To her mom, dad, step mum, sisters and brothers I love you all and admire all that you are as a family. I feel very blessed to be a very small part of what and who you are. Thank you for caring for my wife.

I am also thinking about my oldest son. It has been quite the year for him. Coming home from Humboldt and deciding to join a local junior college to save money while helping me with his siblings. I joke he is my domestic partner, he thinks it’s funny, well not really. We are hoping Jacy is home before August and healthy so this young man who has placed his life on hold to live at home, help raise kids, while going to school can step foot upon Sac-States campus and finish his education. I worry about his ability to grow as a man trapped at home like it’s his senior year all over again. But it is a good deal, he lives for free, helps me and has no bills while going to school and working. Plus he has his beloved dog Cricket by his side! He seems ok after finding his grandfather in the driveway a few short weeks ago, but that is another thing he will live with forever. Thankfully Cody has very broad shoulders and seems to be able to handle a lot. A gift that will serve him well as he chases his dream to become a CHP officer. Blessed to have such an outstanding young adult for a son.

We will continue this fight, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. Ensuring sanity remains while hustling here and moving about over there, remaining blessed and appreciative for all that we have and hold. Jacy’s fight is far from over. She is slowly regaining a bit of strength but no great progresses have been made. She is very comfortable in her new apartment and continues making her scheduled appointments at Stanford. She still has pretty severe GvHD of the lungs and is battling the very same condition in an eye. Today she is at Stanford getting poked and prodded while receiving platelets. She is also feeling the love this morning as her mom and step mum share the duties of caregiver and transport coordinators. Jacy wakes up each morning, wishes she was home, but is very thankful for her family and to still be here with us!

In summary, I guess it just comes down to what you want out of each and every day. These are things I am thankful for right here, right now. They will not fade away tomorrow or the next day, but instead be built upon, stored in the “forever appreciate” locker inside my head and used for the day when it’s my turn, to show some love, compassion, caring, encouragement, excitement, admiration, and humility at some point during someone’s day.

And for all of that I am truly thankful…

One last thought comes to mind.

You can curl up and die in the shadow of some perceived misery or gather yourself up, stand on your own two feet while learning, absorbing, adjusting and reinventing along the way.

One life right? So I have chosen the latter….

 

 

She shines…

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You pass by her or someone just like her on any given day. A smile, a wave, a kind hello. Sunlight radiates from within, bringing warmth and security to all who surround her. A light, a ray of hope, a beacon in the fog, an uplifting hand when you are down. She sees everyone and everything, never letting even the smallest of details, events, emotions, or troubles pass by her watchful eye. Why? Because she genuinely cares. Her storms can rage like the mightiest of hurricanes soon settling, defusing until rest comes upon a peaceful shore. Sunbeams litter the landscape in its aftermath revealing a renewal of all surrounding her. Of course this is what she wanted all along, for she knows exactly how to get her way.

Until now.

Jacy has been tempted time and again with promises of freedom only to have her body veto. She remains in room 41, locked away from the world she knows, the family she loves, the friends she adores. Doctors come and doctors go, all with the same agenda, to heal this woman and send her home where she belongs. It is not for a lack of trying, or because they wish to keep her secluded for scientific purposes, on the contrary, like any professional athlete these doctors hate to lose. They take their jobs very seriously and it shows. To make matters worse for this crew of cranial geniuses, they just so happen to like her. There isn’t a one of them that doesn’t like my wife and do you know why? Well first of all if you do know her personally then that was a moronic question. But if you don’t, if you don’t know my wife then reference the above material. For it is all true.

The other day when I arrived her room was filled with attending doctors and students. They yammered on about good news here and not so good news there, how if one thing happens we may have other options and if another happens how options would be limited. Covering bacteria, viruses, internal bleeding, and further medications. Standing in the corner gazing upon the herd like a pie eyed cowboy it amazed me that with all this information she still smiled and said; thank you. She made jokes about the bad and quipped about the good. She never ceases to amaze me.

Her light, her inner light is always trying to shine! The internal batteries may be faltering a bit but she somehow generates enough power to smile and say thank you, to everyone or anyone that will listen! She strains to speak at times but it doesn’t stop her. She is fighting so very hard to live, to move past this episode in her life, to come home and see her children grow up! Having now been incarcerated inside E block for 127 days, she inspires me daily. I hurt all over, I can’t sleep, I am eating but not well, yet no matter how sorry for myself I begin to feel all I need to think about is the woman who gave herself to me, withered away to nothing but skin and bones still smiling, still saying thank you, still striving to make someone’s, anyone’s day with kindness and love.

Meningitis

Meningitis is a relatively rare infection that affects the delicate membranes — called meninges (men-in’-jeez) — that cover the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly and contagious among people in close contact.

Viral meningitis tends to be less severe and most people recover completely without specific therapy.

Fungal meningitis is a rare form of meningitis and generally occurs only in people with weakened immune systems.

Yep that’s where we are right now. Meningitis, some bacteria formed upon one of her heart valves, a still bleeding bladder and now to make things more interesting she has begun having bloody stool. Today I believe she needed 5 blood transfusions. Every time this woman gets a leg up, something kicks the good leg out from under her. Two weeks ago we were laughing and counting down the days until outpatient was achieved. We are currently sliding backwards. I am not sure if we are back to square one, but it sure feels close. It has to feel like an impossible mountain to climb for my wife, yet she rarely shows it.

Monday when I arrived after listening to the where too’s and what fore’s spewed forth from the doctors with delicacy as to not upset or misinform I took a seat. Eyes heavy from a lack of sleep, brow furrowed after looking at my wife’s soft, doped up face. My shoulders slumped with the weight of it all and I did what any other rational husband would do at a time like this. I passed out. Yep that’s right! No sooner did I exchange pleasantries with everyone was I crumpled up like a used napkin left wedged into the furniture. Saliva dripping from my mouth, my body off kilter hard to starboard, barley able to stay in the chair. An hour later I awoke to see family members leave as my wife moved in and out of narcotic consciousness. Making my way over to Jacys big green auto reclining chair I rendered a hello and a kiss on her forehead. She asked how I was, I replied tired. She mumbled me too and both of us passed out again. This time for three and half hours. Somedays it’s all too much.

She contracted a fever that day and it started a ball rolling that just pushed her even further away from outpatient care. I was informed this morning she had in fact contracted meningitis as described above. What the hell? Why can’t she get a break? Why can’t her body just let this all happen so we can take her home? How long do you think her sun will continue to shine kept captive in the confines of E wing?

I worry about so much, every day about so many damn things. But of all the things I am worried about, I worry most about her ability to stay positive and keep those rays of hope alive. To shine brightly, not letting all of these repeated setbacks snuff out that light. I am so terribly worried..

I pray God knows what he is doing..

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…

The wedding crasher…

Standing in the shadows of an open dimly lit arena. Sparkling white Christmas style lights strung through roofline trusses bring a serene glow to this event centered on two young people professing their love. They stand before family and peers, nervously speaking as to this union, this moment, hands twitching bodies touching for support, faces beaming as if they just won the lottery. Little do these two know they have and it will take some time before they fully understand exactly what they have won and the stakes involved.

My eyes dart back and forth, as through a microphone sounds of tears falling reverberate across this vast space. I am alone, the woman I married is not here; she lies in a hospital room far away. My heart aches. There is something about a wedding that always brings it in for me. Whenever Jacy and I attend a wedding we always hold hands, we always relive that moment 14 years ago when standing in front of family and friends we said; I do. Looking into her eyes, no matter what our lives hold outside this very moment we always know we made the right choice. The sacrifices were worth it and every day brings a new sunrise, a new reason, and another chance to fall in love all over again.

Everyone is so happy! The tables clumped into groups, families tied together reminiscing over old times while devouring food and drink. I came as a guest, a friend of the grooms’ family. I knew hardly anyone which was refreshing. It allowed me a rare chance to sit and watch unmolested. Smile at new love, chuckle at old love still trying, and witness youngsters sizing each other up from the sidelines. All I could think about was my girl and how lucky I was to have her in my life.

A few weeks ago a wonderful woman was explaining to me how my blog moved her. She could not believe one person could write about the troubles that have befallen our family. How easily I share feelings the way I do, professing my love so publicly. Sometimes when I finish writing a piece I too have a hard time understanding what has come from brain through my fingertips onto the screen. I think about the kid who hated school, who struggled with bad grades, who lived only to party and cause mayhem with his friends. I wonder about individuals who held no reservations in explaining to me on a regular basis that I would never amount to anything and what they would say now. Heck, I believed them for a very, very long time.

My writing comes from experiences, from love won, love lost and love taken away permanently. Writing was never easy for me, it was and still is hard! But over time I have found my voice, my muse, my, well my being. It is my release from the day to day tortures that haunt us. Everyone has them, they are in different and varying degree’s associated with all aspects of our lives! Without writing them down, releasing them from my cranial vault, they would in fact weigh me down to where I am certain I would not be able to rise too any occasion. The writings on my blog are a mere fraction of what is stored upon an electronic cloud.

As this woman spoke so kindly of me her husband jokingly replied: Thanks James for ruining it for the rest of us. Now I have known him for a long time and his pithy comment was intended for a good chuckle. I took it as such chuckling along but as the weeks went on, it crept into my psyche, slowly gnawing at me without remorse. It has been eating at me ever since, chewing my insides like a cancer and we all know how well versed I am on that topic as of late. How have I ruined anything for anyone? This is my story not yours; I am only sharing this journey in hopes it reaches and helps someone else, another husband, partner or longtime friend traveling down the very same road! How on Gods green earth am I ruining anything for anyone?

I mean, hey, I get it, this joking statement admonishing me for somehow pulling my “Man” card from the file of all men by showing how I really feel about the woman who swore to spend the rest of her life with me is somehow wrong! Let me reiterate, I know he didn’t mean it that way, it was purely said in jest! As idle conversation to be laughed at! It is my own brain churning that statement over and over again as if I should carry some form of guilt for sharing anything! But in the end it only proves I suppose that some words, even the simplest when spoken in jest, combined the right way can in fact hurt.

After sitting on this for a while I began to wonder, have we as men lost our ability to show how we feel or express our love for another? How many years after marriage are we supposed to quit saying I love you? At what point is our relationship just an existence? Do we simply just cohabitate, thriving off the inadequacies of our significant other, never recalling what it was like the first time we held hands or kissed. Forgotten are the hopes and dreams of a young couple in love? Our lives drug down by normalcy, children, financial responsibilities, the suffering of our friends with whom we bitch to about those we supposedly love?

Jacy and my relationship is far from perfect believe me. We have both spent more than our fair share of times upset with the other over both important and trivial matters. It would go on for a few minutes, a few hours and on rare occasions a few days! It is part of marriage! No couple is perfect! I am more scared of a couple that never fights than a couple who fights, forgives and loves. But one thing about Jacy and I remains through thick and thin. We both LOVE each other unconditionally.

We have learned over time that being in love means learning how to forgive. Sometimes even when you still think you are right. Why? Because when you look into each other’s eyes you should still see that glow, a glimmer in the corner that lets you know she loves you and the person you met all those years ago is still there waiting only for you. You should be able to answer without a doubt what it is she brings to your relationship and why you admire her for it! She should be able to respond instantaneously in the very same fashion.

Listen, if I am ruining things for everyone else, then so be it. I didn’t learn all of this the moment I was married. The person I was before my wife was someone who was angry and in pain. I trusted no one, and put walls up all around me, shoving those closest away. I was self destructive and brought a heavy toll to those who surrounded me and it has taken years of talking and listening to turn myself around.

When Jacy came into my life it was a revelation. I knew, she knew, we both couldn’t believe it. We both fought against it, but we knew. The day I married her my heart exploded with joy and in no time she took to loving me as no other had ever done. She loved me for who I was, what I was and because I was me. Since then I can without hesitation tell you that over our 14 years she has changed me from a arrogant, egocentric, self-centered man to the person I am today. ( I know, not much different right? Ha Ha) I truly disliked who I was before and without her pushing me when I didn’t want to be pushed, picking me up when I had fallen down, believing in me when I felt there was nothing left to give and showing me how to care for others. Without this woman, today I would be a miserable human being inside and out.

There is no way anyone will ever get me to feel sorry for being lucky enough to express my feelings. Jacy Franceschi is my wife, if you have ever met her then you know the instant joy she brings into your life. She is friendly, open and honest, she may say things you don’t want to hear, but they are better said than any wall or wedge being driven between two people over an inability to communicate. She will in fact give you the shirt off her back. Listen when you are down, help you to get back up and cheer you on when things are great. I have never known a person who can make friends instantly no matter where we are, and it is her smile that is her signature trademark!

What is happening to her is beyond unfair! For all she has done for so many it just isn’t fair! Not that God, or any other spiritual higher power you may believe in is keeping tabs on who deserves or doesn’t deserve to have cancer-Leukemia. But for me it doesn’t make sense. I am struggling with why this woman I love, who loves me in return should have to suffer this way. She once told me it was better that Leukemia happened to her than me, because she felt I had suffered enough in my life. That was a hard pill to swallow. But the reality is, I am still suffering, the loss of my wife for the last four months has been overwhelming to say the least! I miss her every day. Her smile, her kiss, her laugh, her down right goofiness at times. I miss watching her and Parker snuggle at night while reading, seeing her and Jake laughing over a goofy joke, I miss listening to her and Cody talk about dog training, I miss her and Jessica talking over the last softball game. I miss it all! It is my family and one person is missing leaving us very incomplete.

She is also the strongest woman I know. What she has gone through is beyond words. There is a reason I only post pictures of her from behind. Out of respect. What Leukemia and the resulting GvHD have taken away from her is more than many of us could ever handle. She is gaunt, without any fat or muscle left on her frail bones. She struggles to walk daily, cannot see most of the time and her skin is mottled red. Her hands shake and she is constantly coughing like a twenty year smoker. She needs assistance to shower, move or go to the bathroom. Yet every minute of every day she greets every person who walks in her room with a smile. She asks about their day, how they are feeling, wanting know who is dating who, who has a child on the way and shows she cares, that she is more than just a patient, she wants to be your friend. She says please and thank you without hesitation and cracks jokes to anyone who will listen. Each time the doctor talks to her about progress she believes it will be next week or the week after that she will go home. Jacy has surpassed many others who tried but haven’t made it this far and she has done it with style, class, determination and grit! She refuses to believe there is any other option but to go home. She is simply amazing, she is my hero and I love her.

Standing in the shadows of an arena, under some twinkling lights, watching two people in love start upon a journey towards an unknown future. A smile breaks across my face, for they haven’t a clue and neither do most. They know they love each other, they know they are now husband and wife and that is all that matters right now. Yet their marriage now becomes about what they don’t know, the future and that’s the way it should be, there is so much waiting ahead for them both. As they walk out of this arena tonight, I only pray they remember marriage is not a fairytale it is in fact hard work, but the payoff is worth every single struggle. I could say I wish we could go back to that day, knowing what we know now, but it wouldn’t change a thing. We still would have done all the things we have done, fought for each other’s love the way we have over the years and worked our hardest to become better human beings. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I said there is no way I will ever feel sorry for being lucky enough to express my feelings the way I do, and I don’t. I feel sorry those you don’t know how to express theirs. Don’t wait until it’s too late, because when it is, you cannot turn back the hands of time. Regret is an awful weight to bear.

Jacy I am coming for you honey, warm up those hands cause I plan on holding them for a really long time.

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