It’s ok, go ahead, I’m sure I have heard it all either to my face or behind my back.
What do you see???
A 54 year old man that some would argue is well past his prime? Kind when he wants to be or grumpy, selfish and maybe a bit of an asshole?
What do you see when you look into my eyes?
Green coloring, dullness and exhaustion. Anger, exasperation, or disdain?
Blank, kind or idiocy?
How do you judge me as I walk your way?
Cocky, still strong, or broken and gimpy?
Or do I seem just stiff and slow?
Who are you?
Are you a perfect human being?
Who are you to judge me at all?
Who are you to say anything about my life, how it’s lived or how I may appear.
Are you that much better at life than I?
Have you taken a moment to see life through my eyes? To understand before touting your opinion for all to hear?
Have you walked a mile in my shoes?
I am a 54 year old man this is true.
54 long hard years that I will never let define me but years none the less that definitely explain a little about who I am.
You may say I am old, you may see me as past my prime yet I say nay. With age comes wisdom, life lessons and most importantly; perspective.
Looking into my tired crows feet encased eyes.
The green in my eyes used to shine quite brightly. Fed by the devil inside and a need for constant mischief they are now mellowed, tempered, colder, and see things, habits, and people much, much clearer. They still gleam now and again with the sparkle of a child or with the heat of desire, but do not take their stony gaze for granted as they are still sharp and alive.
When I walk toward you I will always greet you with open arms and a smile. I will take you in as one of my own and if you are willing to listen regale you with wisdom from years gone by. It’s just my way.
I may look stiff and slow, and in some ways I truly am. Injuries from years past haven taken its toll on my slowly aging body. A life or death surgery, replacing my aorta with a synthetic tube. The loss of a gallbladder along with a few broken bones, torn muscles, shattered shoulders, knees, burns and scars. Calculating movements brought about by years of being trampled and shit on both physically and emotionally.
I carry with me the weight of so many deaths, families broken, spouses, children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, brothers/sisters, grandparents and friends. Lives snuffed from this earth, witnessed during my long and eventful career in the fire service.
Two wives, women I loved who were my life. Their lives taken way to soon, leaving behind hurting children and families, nothing modern medicine could do to save them. A void left behind that sits like a black mark on my brain. Yet each day I put both feet on the floor and take that all important step forward, trying hard to never be weighed down by life, experiences and the injustices it may bring.
How could you know?
How could you know as you judge me that I believe life is always best lived. That I know better than most our days are numbered and we should live, love and laugh every second of every moment of every day.
How could you know from your platform of judgment, I believe we do this gift of life a serious injustice by neglecting to do just that.
How could you know that after all I have been through and seen, I still carry enough love in my heart for more. Much, much more.
More love for my children, more love for my true friends, more love for new friends, more love and adoration for someone very special in my life, who I choose to love wholeheartedly. A woman who deserves every single bit of the love I have to share.
These people I love are my kingdom and I would fight to the death to protect each and every one of them.
How could you know that I am always looking to share.
Share my knowledge, share my charity, share my emotions, share my passions, share my fears, share my laughter, share a hug.
What do you see when you look at me?
For someday I will be gone.
I won’t be sad.
I will die like so many before me.
It is the nature of the game.
But I will do so on my terms, with a smile on my face, and those I have loved so, will know they were loved in return.
I will no longer be here to care what you see.
And no matter what you see or your opinion, I will have been filled with more life and love than any one man rightly deserves.
As of late I have written about many aspects of our family, between watching my oldest graduate, the 13-year-old head off to compete in Junior High National Finals Rodeo, my two little ones finding their way around horses, softball and the thrill of competing associated with both, and of course my wife’s almost year-long battle with Leukemia. There has been plenty to lament over.
As most of you know I am an advocate for youth and horsemanship. So many of our youth are missing out on the joys associated with horses and the many disciplines that accompany these amazing animals. I feel as though we have the perfect life, its hard and gritty, exhausting and at time debilitating, but it is perfect. Our children and our animals being the key or center of this perfect life. But being that as it may often times we sit around the back yard with friends, a couple of beers and play the “what if” game. Usually revolving around “what if” you had a million dollars? Or “What if” you won the lottery? How would that change you and would it create the perfect life?
For me the answer is always the same. While others conjure up majestic fantasies of philanthropy, travel, education, expensive colleges for their children and houses beyond what anyone really needs, all I center on revolves around children and horses. (Ok maybe a new cutting horse for me, and a new kitchen for the house, but hey it’s my fantasy right?)
My dream centers on taking what hard work, luck and Gods guidance has provided our family, then building upon it. An entire facility to help kids learn how to rope, cut, run barrels, chute dog, bull-dog, tie down rope, goat tie, etc.. A place where our local kids could come and practice, enjoy their horses, while also enjoying the camaraderie that comes with practicing surrounded by like-minded individuals, friends. A place for kids to go have fun while learning every aspect of rodeo long after I am gone from this earth.
I can hear you now. Cant you already do that? What on earth would all that money be for? A fully functioning covered roping arena with cattle, ground improvements for year round work, a larger safer all-weather barn, every training aid available for the kids, a covered hot walker and simply put ( I know its selfish) a larger horse trailer and a truck without 200,000 miles on it.
Hey it is my dream.
The funny part about this whole crazy dream of mine, is 10 years ago if you had asked me if I’d ever step foot on a horse again, I would have told you no…..
As I have become older and through the eyes of my own children I have learned of my own short comings, the opportunities I gave up simply by quitting. Whether it was a fight with my parents, the hard work associated or my longing to be anything but what I was; trying to hide from my reality.
I grew up on a horse ranch. We moved from a very small place in Napa when I was 5 to a nice spread in Sonoma. My parents had a very large barn, hot walker, paddocks, of course horses and a fully functioning roping arena. I vaguely remember trainers and the occasional times when as a small child I would sit atop the cattle chutes. My parents belonged to Napa Valley Horseman’s Association so once a month we attended dinner meetings and once or twice a month we loaded up and headed out for horse shows. For me as a small child it was fun, horses were around, trainers and their kids and sometimes we would wait until no one was looking to hitch rides aboard the Hot Walker by clipping our belt loops to the lead lines then hanging on for fun! (This always got us in really huge trouble)
But as I grew older my opinions changed. It has taken me until just recently to understand why? We never had much money so my parents fought a lot about finances and the horses. As young children this was particularly scary. My father’s booming voice was always frightening but never more so than directed at my mother. I wasn’t a particularly popular kid, early on my social skills were indeed lacking and wearing boots, buckles and western shirts to school didn’t help much either. But as I said money wasn’t falling from the sky so we wore what we wore and even though I was teased at times I did like my boots.
By the time I hit junior high, 4-H consumed my life, and raising sheep to show at the fair was fun. Thank God for the whole Urban Cowboy thing, cause I was able to wear my cowboy hat with pride. I still dabbled with riding now and again, but gave it up as I felt there was no way I was ever going to get it right. My mother’s standards were high and I was always looking for the easy way out. This of course caused friction. I still remember everything she taught me to this day, including basic horsemanship principles. Always accused of never listening or being too lazy finally took a toll upon my spirit as I began believing this to be true of myself as a whole.
My parents had a stud-horse. He was dappled and dark, tall and elegant looking, he was a race horse and had won on the track; he was also a complete asshole. We were always warned to stay away from this horse although secretly I always wanted to kick his ass. Even at a young age I can remember daydreaming about being big and strong enough to walk in grab this horse, throw everything I had ever been taught about horsemanship out the window and just plain old-fashioned choke this bastard out! I would stand near his paddock, alongside the shavings pile and stare at him. He would charge the fence, rear up and slam his hooves on the ground, kick, ram gates, and bellow at the top of his lungs. If he ever got out we would have to hide in a stall or the house out of fear. He pushed my mom around and loathed my father as dad wouldn’t put up with any of his shit! The sad thing is no amount of training changed this horse’s disposition! Being at the barn meant constantly looking over your shoulder out of fear as he would charge the stall door, slipping out of the darkness to take a bite of your head or shoulder as you walked by. In the end, between my own frustrations, my mother’s stern way of teaching or my finding it easier to just quit, any desire or strength I had towards wanting to be around horses finally came crashing down the morning I watched this four-legged piece of crap grab my dad by the chest, pick him up shaking him like a rag doll thusly sending my father to the hospital. It was then and there I put to rest any aspirations of ever becoming a horseman.
Through Jr. high and high school I worked hard at surrounding myself with people who didn’t have anything to do with horse shows, rodeo and the such. I still dabbled back and forth occasionally, we had a local rodeo for a few years and I always spent the weekend working in the back with my friends, pushing calves and steers, telling a good yarn about how I could do those events if I wanted too, but in the end it was nothing more than a lie, my overwhelming fear of failure or being around any four-legged creature just pushed me further away. I was lucky enough that my friends who did ride never truly gave up on me. Oh I wasn’t a part of their groups anymore, but friendships remained, I was tolerated and some friendships remain casually to this day. In truth, looking back I envied them, all of them, but hid in my own shadow for so very long.
I fought for years against who I really was, but every job I ever held, new friendships acquired led to rodeos and occasionally trying new things all leading me back to ranch life. Looking back now so many years later it was obvious what I wanted, what I needed in my life, I was just too stubborn to accept the reality of it. And as in most cases it took an equally stubborn woman (my wife) to snap me out of that funk some years later, opening my eyes to the possibilities and what I had to offer not only myself but our children. In the end I feel as though I missed out on the very best years of my life! Training, competing, loving, these wonderful creatures and all they bring to my spirit. Sadly I feel now as though time is running out. The moment in life when I should have been running hard at achieving all that I missed was spent with blinders on using the excuse I was too busy working hard supporting myself then eventually supporting my family; it will always leave me wondering “what if”.
Fast forward to today-to my dream.
My wife and I have worked very hard to develop a place where kids (and their parents), my kids and their friends can come, ride their horses safely, without ridicule or demoralization, instilling solid guidance starting with the most basic of horsemanship skills; the very same principles my mother instilled within me. Where riders can excel; not by just jumping on their horses and running a barrel pattern as fast as physically possible, but by becoming one with this animal that allows them to climb upon their backs. So many children I see today have mom and dad purchase them the fastest, greatest horse; no questions asked and then never take the time to learn about their animal. What it can do, what it can’t do, why it even wants to do anything at all for you? These horses are smart and willing; they need guidance, reassurance, praise and most of all love, understanding and patience.
I purchased my first cutting horse when she was two and half. She was ornery, feisty, with a huge engine and a strong will. She was also agile, cowy and loved to work. I was told as a new cutter this wasn’t the horse I should buy. A fully trained, finished horse was the horse for me. But like so many times in my life, I used my gut to make a decision and it was the very best decision I could have made. I had something to prove to myself after all those years of running from who I was, and this was the opportunity to put all those doubts to rest. Her name was Cassie and we didn’t exactly get along from the start, but using what I knew and what a very good friend (Wes) was patient enough to teach me along the way we slowly became one. Cassie tried my patience and left me eating dirt a few times. (Which in our barn will cost you a case of beer.) We would scrap, things would go south and I would always go back and spend the evening figuring out what I did wrong first; then slowly methodically work on it until we got it right. We went from black eyes and bleeding knuckles (a term, we weren’t really punching and kicking each other), bent feelings and frustration to inseparable team mates.
Today when I come home from work she (Cassie) whinny’s at me, when I leave for work she whinny’s, when I load up the trailer without her, she pushes against the stall door, and if I work another horse before her she mean mugs me and paws the ground every time I pass by her stall. It took 3 years of steady everyday work for this horse to become good at what she does, but all that aside the very best part of all of this is when I walk her out to the middle of the arena, gently tighten her cinch one last time, climb aboard and feel her sigh a happy sigh of relief as we warm up for whatever today’s lesson is going to be. When I go in to feed her, change her blanket or just pet her, she leans into me and sighs, dropping her head, letting me know it’s ok as I gently pet her letting her know how much I appreciate her.
Everyone hopefully has something to bring them that much joy after such hard work.
So there it is, my dream and I how I got there. I want that feeling for every child who loves horses, who loves rodeo, who loves and is willing to put in the hard work it takes to achieve, succeed. I want to provide that opportunity for so many, so one day when they are middle-aged they don’t push back from a desk, step out of their truck, punch out from their job and ask themselves; What if?
Last night while gazing upon the stars at 1 am after our 5th medical response in a row my brain began reflecting upon life, its crazy highs and sock you in the gut lows. In a matter of 40 minutes myself and our crew had lent assistance to a wide generational swath of our local society.
From devastating self-destruction both mentally and through chemical intervention to an actual emergency need in conjunction with a health care system abused by those neither willing nor able to understand its legal ramifications, the resources lost, nor the world that actually doesn’t revolve around them personally. A true sampling of consensus within a short period of time.
Becoming judgmental is an easy undertaking, fighting the urge to prejudge individuals upon first encounter is hard. Being a fireman the communities trust is put in our hands to always do the right thing. See people for who they are not what they have become. We are allowed glimpses of people’s lives that would otherwise go unnoticed. That is a large responsibility. Some days it weighs heavier than others on my heart, as my eyes witness these revolving cross sections of our society I go home upset or unhappy with what I have seen. Thus the judgmental aspect forms and memories that cannot be erased etch themselves into my psyche permanently like a scar for all to see, left for me to pick at from time to time for no other reason than because it exists.
Staring into the nights sky, pondering what it all means, fogging up my brain. Reliving experiences from my life, candid moments, snap shots and like a Grisham novel this story is all sewn together with a fabric of revelation. Every moment finding a place as to why. Why it happened, when it happened and that it happened to me. There is a meaning and the meaning determines not just who I am but WHAT I am or have become. The people in my life I hurt, loved, helped, shared experiences with and what I learned from each and every individual who has crossed my path, set eyes upon my craggy face.
Shaking my head as if my brain was an etch a sketch hoping to erase an unfinished drawing, I can’t lose this feeling that all is not enough. There is more life to be lived, we are trapped in a stereotype of how life should be lived and for the most part succeed out of learned habit. But what if there was more? We have one life to live, we are not guaranteed any days here on this earth, trust me I have held the hands of many who were cheated, watching those last moments fade away in their eyes, lives unfulfilled, potential disappeared, erased forever.
Yet the world still turns, it feels no repercussion from human losses. Sun rise, sun set, society still moves, people still awaken, babies are born, buildings erected, mountains moved and society trudges on. Eventually who you are or were, is destined to become a faint memory or forgotten. It is life and life goes on.
I live a life of fear. Fear that I will never be good enough, fear that my children may perish before me, to be forgotten before they had a chance to become something, anything that leaves a mark no matter how small upon this world. Fear that my wife may lose this battle with Leukemia at some point, leaving sadness and despair to rage within our family. Fear that I will perish before I find what this longing is deep within my heart that whispers; no screams at me there is something more. A mark, a substantial mark that I am supposed to leave upon this earth. Complete narcissistic view I know, yet it lingers deep within my soul. Maybe I am already leaving that mark and just don’t see my hand to spite my face? Fear that she (my wife) will know the pain of losing me, carrying an ache, sorrow and agony with her for the rest of her days. Fear.
So I stare up at the stars and I wonder why? Why do I feel this way? Why cant I be happy with the here and now. Why I worry about how much time I have left or lack there of? I wonder how I can be better, a better father, husband and friend, a better co-worker, I wonder why?
Remember those days when you felt as though you had the world by the balls? There was nothing to stand in your way, no mountain you couldn’t climb, no one was going to say no to you! Do you remember? I do.
If you don’t understand the feeling I am referring too, just look at your child. Not your self-absorbed teen ager; your child. 1-9 years of age. Before society, television and friends ruin their ability to think on their own, be creative beyond our walled off perceptions. Give a child an adult sized problem, one requiring and answer and you will see imagination, inspiration, out of the box thinking and a confidence just waiting to be tapped. But as they grow older that ability goes away through structure, through habits neither right or wrong learned from observing ones elders. That feeling you had as a kid of being able to daydream all your problems away. To look deep into a problem and come up with the craziest most unorthodox suggestion known to man. To be confident.
That is the way I feel about Leukemia in my life. I don’t have Leukemia, but when my wife suffers, I suffer, when she hears news both good or bad, my emotions grow raw with glee or anger. I refuse to hear the word no. There has to be a yes to this struggle. I refuse to believe that my wife wont beat this disease. I refuse to listen to statistics and the medical dribble that often accompanies those numbers. And to date she is winning, we can see the finish line and victory looks great!
I feel as though my wife has the world by the balls! That she has another opportunity, showing the world she is unbreakable. That feeling has inspired me, left me in awe of her positive attitude, her out of the box thinking. She unknowingly has allowed me to reconnect with my inner child. There are no problems that cannot be tackled without imagination. She has left me finding the positive, loving all who surround me, laughing just a little bit harder, saying thank you a whole lot more and remembering that life is a gift to be cherished. I kiss her on the head every night while she sleeps, the smell of her skin soothing my soul. She has and is all I will ever need.
And so I am left staring at the stars, at one in the morning, wondering if there is or could there ever be, more………
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of silence. Normally right now I’d be cozied up in my captain’s chair, shorts on, comfy t-shirt, freshly showered with a hot cup of tea off to my right. Then carefully place my iPhone ear buds into place and with the stroke of a finger, “classical to study by” gently lulling my senses, firing a few neurons, stimulating a thought process into action.
But not tonight.
Tonight there is not a sound echoing through the corridors of our home. Four children off to sleep, two dogs snuggled up to a few human blankets while one stands guard at the front door and the other ones at my feet. I’m still in my shorts, we are out of tea and the silence is just to grand to ruin with any music of any kind. Yep pretty nice..
All Neurons firing properly.
A moment of pure heaven like this seems the perfect time for a bit of reflection covering the last 29 days.
Iran agreed to limit their nuclear development program
Chinese Spacecraft Change 3 safely landed on the moon
Paul Walker, Ray Price, Peter O’Toole, Eleanor Parker and Jim Hall all passed away.
Nelson Mandela as well walked towards the light.
Hanukkah has begun and Winter solstice is upon us.
School shooting in Colorado
Hospital shooting in Nevada
Oh yeah and that whole my wife was diagnosed with Leukemia starting a scary fight for her life.
Oh hey that last thing! Yeah funny thing about that last one there, because of that little bullet point I knew none of those things above it happened. Can you believe that? It appears as though my full focus was on one thing and one thing only. Apparently there was neither time nor wanten for me to flip on a television and search out these wonderous revelations. Seems as though reading, learning and living a life of leukemia can really skew a fellas sense of priority.
Case in point; just prior to cuing up the old blogger keyboard this evening my finger (on its own of course as I would never) clicked upon the Yahoo banner and up popped all these top headlines Yahoo believes I should know about. Amazingly enough not one of them held an accurate title as most were standard stretched truth “catchlines” instead. It also seems as though most stories revolve around “celebrities” as if our lives would wilt into the unknown without our latest gossip over Kim K or what the Jackson’s are suing over in regards to their dead iconic son. What wonderful philanthropy has lofted Brad Pitt to sainthood and why the hell is Angelina Jolie 98 pounds? So it seems as if by worrying about the effects of Leukemia upon my wife and our family, worrying about the hundreds of thousand United States citizens suffering from Leukemia and other forms of cancer every second of every minute of every day. My thought process is severely flawed. According to polls and data it appears the American people don’t care, but what they do care about is the Real Housewives of some dumbass city? Or perhaps how millionaires actually need assistance finding a date! Really? You are worth millions and you need to waste your money using Ms. Smartypants to find someone for you? COME ON! Not buying it! Then of course there is Kanye laying it all on the line, like a police officer or soldier, risking his very life to entertain us poor lowly citizens. Yep over the last 29 days I got it wrong…
I always knew being so wrong would feel so right!
So here I sit very content with these current choices as my wife sleeps soundly. Gone are the night sweats for now. No more needing to have me fetch a pain reliever at all hours of the night. Gone is that horrible aching pain associated with a feeling of her bones exploding while creating new life within her blood stream. Gone is the never ending headache. Gone is also her hair, all of it, everywhere, seriously, ok except her eyebrows which so far is pretty cool. But man can you imagine waking up one day to find all your hair is just gone? Can you? But anyways you know what isn’t gone? Her beautiful smile.
Jacy’s smile as I have written in the past is one in a million. Leukemia has not taken her smile from her face. She wears it proudly each and everyday. Leukemia is keeping some of her energy, which is to be expected, but even that is a battle she is slowly starting to win!
We met with Dr. Truong today and we still have a long road to go with 3 more consolidation therapies planned. (One week a month, for three months in the hospital for chemotherapy) We are also being referred to Stanford for a possible bone marrow transplant. Once at Stanford more data will be in and all our options will be revealed. But in the end, we are way ahead of schedule, her white cell counts are through the roof and the last marrow draw showed no immediate signs of Leukemia! We are beating this monster handily! Wait for it, wait for it, YES everyone that means we ARE Kicking Cancers Ass One Cell At A Time! Ok not really we but she…
So in the end I think I will keep the television off. In the end it appears that maybe just maybe whats going on around me, in my personal life might be a bit more important than whether or not Mylie Cyrus’s life IS a wrecking ball.
And at the end of the day, I think I’ll just sit here, relaxed, enjoying these tiny moments knowing the woman I love is sleeping peacefully and because of her will and tenacity I get to enjoy her for yet another day..
Another couple of days spent sitting patiently watching her sleep. For some this could become tiresome or even boring, but not for me. Time trudges on, as the thought of her waking to speak with me, even for just a little while weighs heavy with anticipation! A second of lucidity, a moment, a glance, the chance to press her cheek against mine long enough to feel close again.
Through all of this, I am reminded that as her husband it’s my job to care for this woman. It is an honor to ensure she has all she needs and it’s my privilege to do so. But none of that would be as easy as it sounds if it weren’t for all the wonderful people who continue to support our family back home. To continually be humbled by the kindness, care, love and empathy shown to us by our friends, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers is overwhelming to say the least. But I am and I thank you all..
Saturday while staring at the east Kaiser wall an epiphany overcame me! So after a little one on one discussion, today with Jacy’s help the two of us acted upon that revelation.
This morning my wife woke up, shuffled her way into a shower, did her hair along with a little make-up. Now this of course took all the energy saved up from a solid nights rest that one participating in chemotherapy could muster, but that did not deter her from participating in this master scheme. A phone call, some texting, our kids taken to school without the slightest knowledge (because loose lips sink ships), and I stealthily rolled into the parking lot of Dixon Montessori Charter School at 0800.
At 0815 I cleared the threshold of Ms. Jacy’s classroom with nothing more than a smile, a cell phone and one iPad mini in hand. The students were gathered together and a simple question and answer period began. You see Ms. Jacy (as most already know from reading my blog) was hauled off to the hospital right after returning home for her lunch break on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. Although her students knew what was happening through reports on Thursday and Friday, they had not seen or spoken with the teacher they have all grown to love since.
That was about to change
Jacy’s students know me either as Mr. Jacy or Firefighter James, Ms. Jacy’s husband. So not a lot of time was wasted with useless questioning about my presence. The kids were excited to see me and to hear the latest news, especially in person. But when I held up the iPad and explained my plan the place went nuts!
Now it took me a few tries as I am not the most advanced person immersed in the world of technology. But for the rest of my life I will never forget the sounds of joy that came from each and every student when I turned the iPad around and there was Jacy’s smiling face looking back upon these students. They cheered and clapped and screamed HELLO! A few “bomb-diggities” were tossed about freely! It was fantastic. She could see all of them and they could see her. I stood as still as I could holding the iPad up so she could take in the room and they could feel as though she was right there with all of them. This woman truly loves these kids, all of them and they love her! She has spoken of them everyday since being incarcerated in the Kaiser hospital system. She told them all about her stay, what was happening with her and how much she missed them! It was grand.
When we were finished, looking down and saying goodbye into the iPad, she beamed at me with a look of happiness. The look on her face warmed my heart, but being the ever gruff man I am supposed to be I choked back a bit of mist in my eye, told her I would see her in a couple of hours and hit the end button. Walking out of the classroom I knew Jacy had just received a good old-fashioned jolt of uplifting spirit! Something we all need from time to time, but more so for her right now. Looking back, pretty sure some skipping was done on the way back to the car. Maybe even a selfie high-five?
This week is going to be a long one. There are more complications like the persistent headache that never goes away, continued fatigue and weakness, there are also some sporadic nosebleeds which have us worried just a bit. She can’t bleed as there is no way for her blood to effectively clot, so she has been receiving blood and platelet transfusions. Friday is D-Day and it cant come soon enough. It’s when we find out whether the first round of chemo did the trick! There is a long road ahead for us and every time we meet the doctor I feel as though it is preparation for the road to get longer. But never the less we will travel this road and hopefully meet some really wonderful people along the way. Hopefully we can spread the word about Leukemia and the effects it has on its victims, their families and friends.
The face of leukemia spares no one. It belongs to your mother, your father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, friend, acquaintance, and stranger. The face of Leukemia can attach itself to any and every person in the human race and it does not discriminate. The face of leukemia cares not about your age because, old face, young face, the face of an infant it still survives. The face of leukemia doesn’t care about your financial status, whether you vacation in the Hampton’s or live in a cardboard box under a bridge. The face of leukemia is driven by this disease and the victims it inhabits therefore the face of leukemia is and always will be you.
Look in the mirror and ask yourself, what would I do if I had cancer? Who would I turn too. What questions would I ask? How would I react? Would I be ready to take cancer on and kick its ass without wavering?
I never asked myself those questions before now. But I have, and I am going to do everything in my power to make this a success for the woman I love. I am also going to tell everyone I can about leukemia, it effects, its signs and symptoms. Then with a little luck, the power of positive thinking, prayer and the amazing skills associated with the many medical professionals we have encountered up to this point.
“The face of leukemia” will have a happy ending!
Because I love her face, and leukemia can’t have it anymore……
Staring across the counter I see a boy dazed and confused, sweat beads upon his upper lip, lost in a barrage of questions that he cannot bring himself to answer. His schoolwork and grades are slipping, he does not know why. Time spent in a classroom he cannot answer to what; a combination of blame and distrust hovers thick and dark like smoke in the air. Homwwork or none, tests taken or not, assignments finished or lost, a blackhole appears to have swallowed his brain.
Wondering why he behaves in such a way, acting out with such fervor, withdrawing into a shell behind an impenertrable fortress of emotion. I realize he sees me, not for who I am or the counteless things I have sacrificed for him, but as I saw my father. Have I forgotten what it is like to be a child?
No answer will be good enough, the feeling of stupidity overwhelming, daunting, immoblizing all but the pounding beat of a heart. Knees shaking, rage seething, teeth grinding. Taught to speak your mind yet not in the presence of an adult during certain times that is at best confusing, because children are to be seen and not heard. Not a word seems to pass through that porthole known as a mouth without an excuse vilifying the moment. But why?
Does the hypocrisy of parenthood travel from father to father? Can I not grow as a man, become a father who stands upon my own two feet without repeating generations of mistakes? Am I destined to become something I chose not too simply because cause and effect have burrowed into my pshyche, leaving me with unwilling lessons learned then placed ever so carefully into a tool box deep inside my brain to draw from when needed.
He moves like I move, laughs as I laugh, is impulsive, irresponsible, idiotic at times. Disrespectful on occasion with authority yet kind, caring and generous to those he cares deeply about. He strives to be the center of attention and will do anything for a laugh. But is this all a genetic flaw or is he gleaning all this behavior from watching me? Soaking in my every movement like a dry sponge looking for damp releif.
Not willing to concede this truth of generational discourse before I can snap back into reality it is to late. My voice has raised, growling like a starving half rabid junk yard dog the pale look of disbelief tells me more than a Stienberg novel ever could.
Have I set these wheels in motion? Will he truly become just like me? Has years of self made promises to become better than the parent before me flown out the door like yesterdays trash?
A shoulder slump, a tear rolls gently over a rounded cheek as recognition of self made failure comes to fruition in his mind.
I cannot berate his behavoir towards his siblings or others as he reacts with the same exasperation that draws his eyes from within my shadow. An ear that listens quietly as tiraids rule upon a celluar network as if the conversation was considered private inside the confines of a truck. Mimicking, learning, digesting any and all mannerisms that may help him in the future. Me not seeing the ugly circle that may emerge from my lack of filter.
Staring across the counter he stares back as a young me and I stare back at him as my father, and there it is the circle is complete.
Children I would like to introduce you to Kaiti Rees.
Kaiti was on La Gonave, in the village of Source a Philipe for 30 days with her team sponsored by the Wesley Foundation. Kaiti along with other members of her team became invaluable during our mission and our entire team felt God placed us together in this community for a reason. We cherished every moment spent together, I personally am humbled by this womans service to others and was proud to know her, if even for a little while.
With that being said; when those of you ask why we seem glum since returning, when those of you dont understand that a few are sad or mopey from this experience please understand it is not because we didnt succeed, please understand it is not because it was a horrible experience, please take a moment to recognize during this time (and ours was short compared to others) the human spirit touched many of us in different ways. The human condition, remains etched in our brains, the tradgedy left behind will always be left to question. all we have when we return is the knowledge we completed our task, God guided our outcome and that we remain “faithful” in our beliefs.
This is an excerpt from Kaiti’s personal experience and I beleive it says word for word what many are feeling.
“Last night I pulled the covers up over my legs. I was cold. When I woke up from a bad dream I turned the lights on as I checked the house for monsters.
I woke up in the morning to the sound of rain- no roosters or donkeys or dogs or creole commotion. I realized for the first time in a month I hadn’t watched the sun set. Over an ocean. A mountain, such beauty.
Last night at the restaurant the waitress asked me what I wanted to eat. It took half an hour to decide.
I took a shower this morning. It was hot. Too hot. When I got out I dried off and stayed dry.
I went to the bathroom and put the toilet paper in the bowl. I flushed even though I only peed.
I opened my closet to pick out some clothes. More than anyone needs. Why do I have all of these?
I need to go to the grocery store, even though my pantry is still full of food.
I walk to the door but change my mind. I don’t want to go outside. There will be no “bonjou”s or “ka-tee”s. There will be no little hands reaching for me.
And i can’t help but wonder if the girls or Franslaine have eaten today.
My fiancé pulls me in tight. Kisses me goodnight. I roll over and actually sleep. I know he’s here holding me. But I dream about Haiti and I dream about her. Baby born and died in a bucket, how many more?
I keep looking at pictures and don’t know which stories to tell. Everyone wants to see smiles, hear it went well. But there’s a pain behind my smiles and I don’t know how to cry. So glad to be home, but still wondering why.
I want to run and not stop for an hour. A day. A week. I want to scream and stay silent. I want to sleep with no dreams. I want others to know and understand these memories. I look at Becky’s stomach. 4 months to go. How can I not be exited? How can I not be sad? The same stomach Madame Jackson had.
I’m typing a note on my phone in the shower. No boys carried this water to a barrel above. No one will care how long it runs. No one will see the tears washed away in the scum. The shower walls and floor are white. No dirty rag or stains of mud. No cinder block window to let in the wind or sun. There’s no lizards and crickets to share my space. No rush to get out. No agenda awaits. Culture shock hits you when the rest catches up. Checking the time but you’re not sure why it wont go. Sit in front of a tv you don’t watch. Eat what you want but i doesn’t fill you back up. You’ve poured out more of your heart than you know. The getting it back. It’s hard and it’s slow.
But you don’t want It back, and there lies the beauty. You want it changed- and that takes getting used to. So you sit and you pray as you turn off the shower. Turn off lights you don’t need to use anymore. Pick a simple t-shirt and jeans from the closet to wear. Walk out the door, forgetting to even do your hair.
Life will go on both here and there. A life that’s unequal. A life that’s unfair.”
You know, lately I have been feelings as though our world has been going to hell in a handbasket! ( Yeah I know it’s a dated expression)
But nothing and I mean nothing has sent me further over the edge than the following story! It received little coverage, little debate and apparently WE as a society have said this is ok!
Before Betty fires up her stove as smashes down her ladle please read, enjoy and if, as a parent, future parent or aspiring to be parent you don’t feel sick to your stomach than maybe I am just getting to old and outdated for today’s society.
Huffington Post D.C.
Maryland School Bans Hugging: St. Mary’s County Public Elementary Schools Ban Hugs, Birthday Party Invitations And Homemade Food (UPDATED) Posted: 03/18/2013 1:22 pm EDT | Updated: 03/21/2013 4:51 pm EDT
From the same state that suspended a 7-year-old for turning his Pop Tart into a Pop Tart shaped like a gun, comes a ban on hugging.
Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports on the new guidelines for visitors, parents and students for St. Mary’s County public elementary schools:
Birthday invitations should not be handed out at school, Hall said, because students who are not invited could have their feelings hurt. She said school PTAs could develop phone and email contact lists, with parents’ approval, to distribute. Foods for celebrations should be limited to store-bought items that contain ingredient lists so as not to interfere with children’s food allergies, according to the rules.
Parents visiting the cafeteria should not hug or touch children other than their own, nor should they discipline other children, the guidelines say. Parents should also not walk with their child when he or she leaves the cafeteria.
Other changes include limiting recess visits for parents, prohibiting visits from siblings and a new ban on approaching teachers in person to schedule meetings. Visitors must also now check in with the front desk and have their photo taken. The complete list of rules can be read in the Best Practices on School Visitors document.
The rules were chosen by a panel of parents and teachers over four meetings.
To the best of our knowledge, the school has no current plans to ban Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or award-winning books.
This isn’t the first school hugging ban. Schools in Oregon and Florida banned two people wrapping their arms around each other in 2010. For a variety of reasons, the act of expressing emotion with physical contact was also banned in schools in New Jersey, Brooklyn and New Zealand in 2012.
Are you freaking kidding me! I cannot walk with my child, I can only hug my child and not his best friend who looks to me as a father figure! I cannot comfort a child who has fallen and is crying in the hallway as a concerned adult! Or assist the lost and crying child out front who can’t find their mommy! I am sorry but what the holy HELL!
Yes that’s right ladies and gentlemen your local PTA and school board are taking our little futures and pushing them one step closer towards assimilation! Lets teach our children to continue down a mired pathway of insensitivity, callousness and just plain cold emotion! Dont you dare point that bony finger of judgement at me for being angry! You all want to persecute the bullying child yet in the very same breath teach that love and compassion are forbidden within school walls?
You say we need to embed kindness and diversity but let anybody hug a child other than the proposed finger printed and background checked parent during a prescribed time and place tells of the exact opposite! We all need to emphasize the importance of sharing, giving, and respect! But unfortunately now when your child needs love, attention and emotion, a teacher can only remove them from class, point them towards Broom Hilda the school nurse ( no offense to all the wonderful school nurses out there just a reference since your hands are now tied as well) who then sets them on a cold fiberglass chair while mom or dad are notified of their childs emotional needs!
No that’s OK American school systems! Lets continue down this blasphemous path of callousness, coldness and anguish! Yes sir! Move forward (separate subject but tied to this subject just the same) with more of everything is the “teachers” fault! No personal responsibility on the parents behalf! Lead the way school administrators with your obvious collective of higher educational thought process by continuing to pander to a lowest common denominator by punishing the caring, the thoughtful, the loving, and the watchful eye of parents who care about not only their children but all children because we know, and remember the pain and hurt associated with being a small child alone in a large place such as school! Now not only will little ones become callous and cold but as they age they will have learned to show no emotion or caring when another child is hurt or scared! Instead laughing, pointing fingers, verbal assaults and even pointing thier little cell phone/cameras to video, then placing this travesty on You-Tube for amuesment!
Oh wait; that is already happening! I digress….
Heres and idea, and yes I am now going to lump my hatred for our school system allowing parents to blame their teachers for the lack of education their precious little bundle of joy may or may not be receiving as opposed to reprimanding parents who cannot be bothered to raise their own children with manners such as, oh lets shoot one from the hip here; RESPECTING YOUR FREAKING TEACHER AT ALL COSTS!!!
Yes I am wandering off again, grrrrrr, so back to my brilliant simple idea: There is an old saying which I still adhere to this very day. “It takes a village”. If a child needs a hug-ask if you can give them a hug! Then point them in the right, responsible direction! (I know shocker huh!) If a child is misbehaving in class; give the teacher back the power to reprimand said student! Man if I was rude or disrespectful to a teacher in my day… POW! I got it when I got home! If we don’t teach our children to respect teachers RIGHT NOW they are going to grow up disrespecting all forms of authority! It starts with parents, then teachers, moves up to bosses, cops, firefighters, employees, and right on down the line until we (society) just ends up having no respect for anyone or anything! This is simple human nature people!!!
QUIT QUIT QUIT ALLOWING OUR SYSTEM TO PANDER TO THE LOWEST OF THE LOW! Yes the boogy man is out there! Yes everyday a child will disappear, be molested, murdered, hurt, and bullied. Do I want that? NO! Does it make me furious? YES and it should you as well! Is the answer taking away human compassion from their little psyche’s? NO! The answer lies within us! Stop thinking about how this (raising our children properly) inconveniences us as adults! Quit expecting the school system to do it for you! Stand up for your children! Put away child molesters for life! Anyone who harms or murders a child needs to be put away for life! Send the message this society will not run scared! This society will not allow this to happen anymore without dire consequences! This society will no longer tolerate bad or inappropriate behavior from children as well as adults.
We all need to put our foot down and say: I AM MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!!!!
These children are our future! Do you want our future filled with continued callousness, disrespect and hatred for all who walk this earth! If so then I see no other alternative but to lay down and let the Terminators bring us to extinction.
Where are you John Connor when we need you?
Am I crazy, am I wrong? Lets get to talking about this for I feel as though we are on the precipice of social collapse and all we are willing to do, is stand by; let it happen and point a bony finger, because it is obviously someone elses fault.
Betty needs a hug!
UPDATE, March 21, 4:45 p.m.: Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports that the no hugging rule was only meant as a suggestion.
St. Mary’s public schools are backing off immediately implementing rules for visitors that initially limited homemade food and hugs for students from anyone other than their own parents, Superintendent Michael Martirano said this week. What were called “best practices” for school visitors outlined at a school board meeting last week should have only been recommendations, he said, and they were incorrectly announced as new rules that would go into effect immediately.
Lets keep it going people! This school district came to thier senses but others remain in effect and even more have implemented or are about to implement this type of distorted thinking!
Recently while rummaging through some old keepsakes I came across a letter. Now while most of us at some time or another have kept letters from old boyfriends or girlfriends, or from our parents while we were away at camp, even notes from friends, this letter was a little different.
Wrapped in a dingy standard, business envelope it was thin, wrinkled and worn. The writing on its face was faded and simple, addressed to me from me. You see it was dated 1984. Mailed from the office of my old high school, a project straight from the bowels of a creative writing class. Premise;write a letter to yourself to be opened when you reach 25. Address it to your parents home to ensure you receive it and be “creative”.
Well being the pretentious Teaching Assistant that I had become, the whole thing seemed stupid and as such the writing was poignant to say the least. The letter was all of a 1/2 page written on wrinkled binder paper and said: Well asshole if you are reading this then good job! You made it to 25, now give yourself a pat on the back for still being alive. Never thought you would make it past 21! You are still a loser. Hope you still have some friends to pester. Loser!
So what does this all have to do with the price of tea in China and most of all my count down towards turning 50?
The letter drew a sad emotional response. Sad that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to write something pertinent, honest, heartfelt, whimsical or even just plain factual. Yet I threw away that time being a punk to myself. Shorting myself with an alloof flippant attitude towards something that could have captured the feelings of being a teenager in the 80’s. A paragraph, a page, a note, a quotation, anything to show myself and the world development, growth and the ability to change, adapt and overcome life’s challenges and obstacles. To be able to map a path taken between the age of 17 and 25, from 25 to 46 and into the future.
Then I read it again and you know what, strangely that may be exactly what I accomplished. Not eloquently mind you but looking beyond that moronic statement to who I was at 25 its there, you just need to read between the lines. When I was young, I was a know it all, selfish, moody little bitch. To be quite honest if my 46-year-old persona met my 17-year-old moronic self, I do not think we would like each other very much. I would probably kick my own ass! You see back then if we were friends, I was a loud joke cracking fool, if we didn’t know each other I hung back in the corners like a wall flower scared of his own shadow. I was a contradiction of introvert and extrovert all rolled into one. Some days you just never knew who you where going to get. In some ways I am still that way today, with the exception that as an adult hanging back in the corner of the room allows me a few moments to figure out who all the “players” are and how to approach people.
Getting closer to 50 has given me the chance to reflect on my life, where it has been and where it is headed. I see a lot of the same attributes in my oldest teenage son and I am worried for him. He is at a stage where emotions, testosterone and the inability to become outwardly friendly towards new people have paralyzed his ability to cope with strange situations. He is moody and if you are his friend he is the dry witted life of the party, but if he doesn’t know you he clams up and can’t even muster the strength to say a word while he stares at the ground.
Part of me wishes my 17-year-old self could come back to life so he sees there is hope. As his father I want to protect him, but I know he needs to fall on his face to learn how to handle the rough edge of life. Learning from every encounter, mistake, misfortune and success are the building blocks to a foundation that forms our adult existence. I don’t know how to bring out the best in him, I don’t know how to tell him I went through all the same feelings as a kid without him tuning me out as his father telling the tale of walking both ways uphill in the snow barefoot to school.
But most of all I don’t want him someday to become mired in the fact he is closing in on 50 years of age while reading a letter from some 17-year-old asshole known as himself….
I feel as parents we sometimes skip over the obvious things that require attention when raising our children. Oh sure, I am a big believer in “leading by example”, the number one way for a child to absorb the rights and wrongs of this world. But sometimes we are not always there to lead by example. There are times when no is looking that our children have to make decisions without our input.
There are many tried and true statements that we as parents spew forth on a daily basis.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Speak to people the way you expect to be spoken too.
Listening can be more valuable than speaking
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Put the toilet seat down
Wash your hands
blah, blah, blah,
One of the most important decision-making ventures in a young childs life is who will become their friends. There is no manual for this aspect of childhood! No ability for us as parents to interview prospective candidates thusly weeding out anyone who is not up to snuff! At times we as parents may or may not have a say in this matter as many “friends” are nothing more than names we hear a little about during conversations away from school. These are kids our children spend the day with but don’t socialize with outside of school. If you think because they don’t spend time with these children outside of school these children are not molding your childs ideals you would be wrong.
Very much like an office, we have people we socialize with inside and outside the office (inner circle) then there is the “filler” (outer circle)those people who you work alongside, go to lunch with but when its quitting time the relationship time clock has just punched out.
The “Fillers” still have a profound impact on our day-to-day mental acuity. From idle conversation to gossip, to full-blown “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” bullshit! These people are there preying upon our very emotional survival!
So how do we go about guiding our children in selecting and keeping quality friends? Helping them to spot the “Real Housewives” of this world?
Once again it may be left to setting the example. Over the years many people have come and gone in my life. Some needed to go, while a few were the product of life changes. There are those who I miss dearly and there are the core few who are still a constant in my life today.
So what is the secret? How do we continue to guide our children without disturbing the natural order of things? Listen I know every person they meet and interact with will help mold, change and craft who they become as adults. But I still want a say, I still want to be there giving them just a little guidance, using my years of experience in this particular arena!
Maybe I worry too much. Maybe I should just trust them and be there when things go to hell! Maybe, just maybe leading by example really does pay off in all aspects.
So to my children, someday when you read this story (and you will). I have many friends, people I care about and would do just about anything for; It is not in my nature to miss an opportunity to help someone in need or to make a new friend. So I have created a list of what it means to be my friend. Some are true heartfelt descriptions while others are a mixture of satire and actual events that solidified a few long-term, diehard friendships. Hopefully this list will be of some help to you all in the future.
What it takes to be my friend
Willing to drop what you are doing no matter the time of day or night to help.
Can bear each others burden without judgement
Understands we may not always see eye to eye but in no way does that diminish the respect we hold for each other.
See’s my wife as my equal and understands she comes first.
Gives me shit when I screw up but will defend me to the death if someone else jumps on the bandwagon.
Takes my car keys away when I am drinking.
Lets me vent and doesn’t take offense if I become passionate about my point.
Isnt disappointed in me for being a life long Cowboys fan.
Has no problem reprimanding my children or with me reprimanding theirs. “It takes a village”
Has my back, period.
Continues to keep secret the time we stole a police car!
Understands that “going fishing” is code for; we are gonna throw some lines in the water and drink a shit load of beer!
Forgives me for the time I let you go upstairs with a really drunk girl who threw up on you.
Pulls me from a garbage can after getting thoroughly tossed
Understands I am a complete smart ass and appreciates me for my efforts.
Lets my narcissism flourish because well; lets face it, I am great, to know me is to love me!
Allows me to stand between them and some mouthy jackass, preventing a fight even though the jackass really needed to have his skull thumped.
likes me even though musically I am still trapped in the 80’s
Never lets me forget the time I got sea sick in some of the worst weather on record while salmon fishing!
Know and I mean know, if you are my friend I will cry when you cry, I will laugh when you laugh, I will bleed when you bleed, if you are angry I am angry as well! You have made it past the thick layers that form who I am and for that I will remain like an old blood hound, on the porch waiting for the chance to hunt by your side again.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.