A Horse of Gold……

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This is the story of a horse. A very special horse..

Now if you follow my blog then you know here at Betty’s house we ride horses competitively (cutting horses, gymkhana) and for fun (trail riding, etc.). Nothing brings our family greater satisfaction than introducing a child to the joys of riding horses. The feeling of freedom so many never experience in a lifetime that comes from loping in an arena aboard a 1500 pound animal.

But it wasn’t always that way here at our ranch.  There was a time when if I never saw another horse again it would be too soon.  Growing up on a horse ranch as a child, I had my fill of horses and the chores that went along with raising these four-legged beasts. I never understood why they came before us children? My self-centered life revolved around much more important things than feeding and watering them twice a day.  It was always an inconvenience for me and I was a sniveling pain in the ass to my parents.

Why?

Simply put, I was too young and self-absorbed to realize these chores equated to valuable life lessons instilled by my parents.  Lessons that would form who I became, as life away from home molded me into the man I am today.  Animals have a way of inadvertently teaching, by forcing you to learn responsibility, punctuality, empathy, kindness, courage and patience.  I learned all these important traits from begrudgingly taking care of horses and sheep on our ranch.

So what does this have to do with a story about a horse?

When I left home, animals had left a bad taste in my mouth. I swore to the heavens above I would never, ever own a horse again.  As a young adult I worked with a few horses on a dairy and would ride them any chance I could while hanging out with friends. My skills were average but I could hold my own using lessons taught by my mother.  The reality? I never was looking to head down the old equine trail ever again.  You see all those years of watching my parents struggle to make ends meet while raising, training, showing and riding horses combined with the responsibility of feeding, watering and caring for these creatures left me feeling very strongly in regards to never owning a horse.

When I was a teenager my parents dissolved the horse business, selling off all their animals, taking jobs in town and soon purchasing and raising ostriches for meat. No more horses! Hurray! Life seemed pretty good.

Then one day my dad purchased a horse named Gold Piece.  He was—–Gold—– I know hard to believe huh? He was a Tennessee walker.

The Tennessee Walker or Tennessee Walking Horse is a breed of riding horse. Originally bred in the Southern United States to carry the owners of plantations around their lands,[1] this breed is known for their unique four-beat “running walk.” The breed is rarely seen in any of the sport horse disciplines; however, they are popular in trail riding because of their smooth gait, stamina and easy temper. They are also seen in Western riding disciplines and in harness. –Wikipedia—

Gold Piece was a tall horse with a wonderful gate, he was friendly enough and my father adored him.  My parents built him a fine paddock at their home and Gold Piece quickly became my father’s four legged friend.  There doesn’t seem to be a recollection of my father ever riding Gold Piece although my mother claims she has been atop this steed.  For years Gold Piece just roamed his little 3 acre patch coming in to eat in the morning and talk with my dad (as dad puts it) repeating the same schedule of events in the  evening.

I never understood why someone would own a horse without riding it. Horses to me at the time werent pets, but livestock and should have been used as such. It’s in the animals best interest to be worked and exercised everyday, used to their potential.  So needless to say it bothered me that this horse just walked around, eating his way through my parents finances.  (Complete self-absorption huh?)

My parents eventually sold their home and moved onto our ranch, Gold Piece in tow, allowing them to ease their financial burdens while growing older.  We made a home for the horse and before long seeing him out there ignited a passion inside our children. We acquired a few horses (against my better judgment) and all my children began to ride.  My wife took the lead as her love for all animals carried over into caring for these creatures as well.  All the while Gold Piece just stared blankly from his paddock while watching us do our thing.  I would go pet him and tell him I was sorry he wasnt being ridden then remind him he was dads and I really didn’t want to cross that line.  During the winter my wife found an affordable arena for us to board our horses so the children could ride out of the rain as our place would turn into a bit of a mud pit.  After a few weeks and some favorable reviews to my parents, Gold Piece soon joined us at my father’s request.  It made dad feel good to know his buddy was out of the weather, and socializing with other horses.  My father had developed some health issues that year which slowed him down a bit; so he dropped by the barn everyday when he felt good, every couple of days when he didn’t, but his horse was always there, head hanging out of the stall, happy to see him. In fact it used to make me chuckle, because I could never figure out how the horse knew my father had arrived on the premises.  But sure enough, trucks would come and go, then when dads truck arrived Gold Pieces head would pop right out and he would start licking his lips in anticipation of the apple/oat cookies my dad always carried in his pocket.

One day while watching the kids ride, I tired of sitting on the sidelines, if my dad wasn’t going to ride this horse well gosh darn it I was! I grabbed a saddle, pulled down his bit, tacked him up and moved off into the arena.  Within fifteen minutes my head was abuzz with all the memories of riding horses at my parents ranch as a kid, with friends while growing up, and on trail rides as a young adult. Gold Piece had reignited a passion I had suppressed for far too long.

This horse, single-handedly or Hoofed as the case may be erased my ignorance, awakened the realization my parents hadn’t been punishing me with all those chores as a kid; he helped me understand what I needed to do as a father with my own children and brought back my need to ride, enjoy the thrill of riding, along with competing against other trained animals working as team towards a common goal.  During his tenure at the barn Gold Piece gave many of our young friends their first rides in the arena and he gave my oldest a reason to ride with his father. Always willing and full of steam Gold Piece would go until the verge of collapse if you asked him too.  (Pretty cool horse.)  My younger children seeing their parents ride this big Gold trotting machine wanted to ride every chance they could.  If it wasn’t for Gold Piece my wife and I wouldn’t have met and made friends with a wonderful group of people that we ride horses with to this very day! He and his stubbornness also introduced me to my “sister from another mister”. For that I am very thankful.

Gold Piece wasn’t always perfect, he challenged me every chance he could, made me earn my way around the arena on more than one occasion and taught me through sheer will to ride again, for that I am very appreciative.  But what he lacked in patience under saddle he more than made up for in personality outside the arena.  He never kicked, bit or pushed his weight around. If you were small he side-stepped out of your way while carefully keeping an eye on you. He always let you pet him and was happy to do so.  The little ones had no problem grooming him and he eased under pressure from the brush, much like a cat would purr at a belly rub.  He was just a good old horse.

Gold Piece passed away today.  My daughter found him down in his stall this morning when she went out to feed. He was close to 30, fighting cancer and we all knew the day was coming. But it didn’t make it any easier. My father is devastated.  As I sit here writing this I believe this horse was probably my father’s last true friend; always there when he needed him, never argued or disagreed with him and listened with nothing but the best of intentions. Nothing is harder than watching your dad cry. My mother is doing her best stiff upper lip imitation as always, but I know deep inside she is hurting as well, not just for herself but for the loss of my father’s dear friend.

A funny thing, for all he taught us he never asked for very much in return. He ate his hay, talked to my dad and went about his daily business like that of a proud Tennessee walker. Upon hearing of his passing, a friend of ours dropped us a note on Facebook that read; I think he (Gold Piece) heard there was a little girl from CT that needed him…..It may sound a little crazy but I looked it up on Yahoo news and it’s true. Little 6-year-old spitfire, Jessica Rekos, one of the 20 children that perished at Sandy Hook Elementary School had desperately wished for a horse and was going to get cowboy boots for Christmas.

Because I believe there is a God, because I believe that everything happens for a reason and because I know that horse would never have left my dad for anything in the world, maybe just maybe it’s possible to believe there was a higher calling and he (Gold Piece) answered that call, meeting up in heaven with a little girl who wanted nothing more than a horse of her own. I could think of no greater comfort for such a little soul, and maybe, just maybe her parents can now rest a little easier. The lord will take wonderful care of her as she rides the heavens above upon her beautiful horse of gold.

Rest In Peace both of you, the fields are endless, you are both safe now, god speed…

gold piece 4

Gold Piece-

12/17/2012

is Santa a Lady?

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is Santa a Lady?.

via is Santa a Lady?.

Is Santa a lady??? I have often pondered this very question! I mean the organizational skills alone are mind numbing!  There is not a man alive that can hold a candle to Santa when it comes to logistics.  Yet there are several ladies I know who could handle it quite well, all while still holding a second career, writing a thesis for their Masters degree and schooling their children on homework!  Could it possibly be the woman in red is standing behind the man running everything quietly, out of the spotlight, using the “its a mans world” theory to sell the notion of masculinity when it comes to delivering toys to all the good little girls and boys???  HHHMMMMM???

Anyways that is my question but please check out this blog (click on “is Santa a lady?”link above)  as I found it to be quite humorous.  Then ask yourself, could the man in red, really be the woman in red? Or is it a front?

What my father never taught me about life……

 

What my father never taught me about life or at the very least I refused to listen too….

Over the years there have been numerous times when my ideals, opinions and hard learned wisdom have spewed forth wanted or not.  Reflecting on the expansion of my life over the years from a single man aimlessly wandering through life to a married father of four with a career, mortgage and an unending flow of responsibility; I wonder how life should be experienced by my children.  Should they struggle earning their way through hardship, confusion and eventually embarrassment? Or should I provide them an effortless transition into adulthood with all the privileges it entails?

While stuck in this conundrum I find myself spewing more wisdom to one of our younger members here at the firehouse.  Good solid foundation wisdom, things my father never taught me. (He was always gone at work)  It was then I realized this list needed to be created.  A middle ground if you will, not just for me, not just for my children but for all children and parents out there who are afraid, embarrassed, or alone and unable to sit down and have an open honest conversation about life and what awaits them in this scary world.

There is no order of importance in these writings, just written down as they flowed from brain.

Finances

A credit card is not the same as money.  It never has been and it never will be, if you are using a credit card you are just padding some wealthy executive’s pockets.  Pay cash, or use a debit card.  Save yourself the interest.

Put away a portion of your paycheck every pay period.  Even if its $10.00! Don’t use it for anything! You will be amazed at how fast it adds up and becomes a tangible amount, there in case of a cash emergency.

Purchase used instead of new! There is nothing wrong with “thrifting”! I have tons of brand new and slightly used designer clothing obtained from thrift stores! I have lots of friends who spend thousands a year on new designer clothing! If that’s how you wish to spend your money that is fantastic! But I live on a small budget and I can’t tell you how many times compliments have rained down on my thrift store attire! Example: New designer shirt with tags at thrift store $4.99 after 50% off sale $2.50! Same shirt in a well known department store that rhymes with ordstroms; $69.99 true story!

A used car with 20-50,000 miles on it, is still a new car to you! Don’t waste your money on a brand new car! You might as well just shred 10-20,000 dollars and throw it into the wind!  Is a subjective status so important to you that throwing away that kind of money remotely makes sense?

Don’t live beyond your means! If you can’t afford it you don’t need it! Our country does a fantastic job through marketing of making you feel as though you are entitled to a new car, a new house, a new boat, a new motorcycle, a new trailer, a new leather jacket, etc…. Right behind that marketing genius are commercials warping your mind into believing you need $40,000 in credit cards along with a second on your house, helping you keep up with the Jones’s! Don’t fall into this materialistic trap.  Set a budget, learn your true expenses, your true needs, then identify your wants and systematically achieve them over time! Not tomorrow with a 19% interest credit card or next week with a 7.5% interest loan, but over time through hard work and savings.  The best person to borrow from is you! Not some bank in a glass & steel building on Wall Street!

If you decide it’s time to purchase a home, make sure it fits into your budget! We have all heard stories about families moving into a house they couldn’t afford only to lose it later because making the payments became impossible! Yes there are many unscrupulous and greedy lenders out there backed by even greedier banks but the responsibility still falls upon you! A 5000 square foot palace with a pool does you no good if you can’t furnish it, maintain it, or see yourself living there in financial comfort for the next 30 years.

In the end an old saying come to mind; a penny saved is a penny earned. It still rings true to this day.

 

Your job-any job including your inevitable career choice

If you tell an employer you will do a job then do it 100% from the time you arrive till the time you leave at night. Not 20% here and 80% there, 100% all the time! You gave your word, this business gave you an opportunity and they don’t owe you a damn thing! You owe them for the paycheck that pays your bills.

If you change jobs or move on to a higher level within the company (listen closely this one is a big one) don’t under any circumstance bitch about your old job, your co-workers, the hours, your boss or any other aspect of your former occupation! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people doing this and it always ends up biting them in the ass! Once when I was younger I applied for a driving job with a local beer vender. I made the final round of interviews and although it was a driving job, this vender was a nationally owned company with excellent benefits along with a pay scale that would have doubled my current cash flow! I wanted it bad! My final interview was a slam dunk! When I got home I just knew the job was mine! The phone rang an hour later; it was the human resources director politely informing me I had been passed over for the position! My heart sank, when I asked why, he was kind enough to explain at one point during the interview when asked about my current employer I had made a few off the cuff, derogatory remarks.  If it weren’t for those remarks which showed a lack of character from the company’s point of view the job would have been mine.  Lesson learned.

When it ends up becoming your job to correct problems within a company remember to complain up not down. Never ever let your subordinates hear you bad mouth your bosses! It just sets the tone for them to do exactly the same when you are not around.

Always lead by example. Nothing helps you climb the ladder quicker.  Ass kissing may work in the short term, but in the long run you will be labeled just that, an ass kisser.  No one will ever respect you or the work you perform.

Show up early.  Anyone can roll in with minutes to spare, but is that who you really are? The employee so disorganized, so lacking any care for the company or business you represent that you can’t show common courtesy and arrive a few minutes early to greet your co-workers.

Don’t say you can accomplish a task if you can’t.

If you need help ask for it, don’t run around acting like you know what you are doing when you clearly don’t.  Remember most people with little effort can spot a poser a mile away.

There was a time early on, when I held three jobs at once.  I said yes to all three of my bosses no matter the task.  Sometimes the three would overlap, leaving me feeling as though I was a hamster on a treadmill.  My work was always substandard and I was exhausted all the time. Never take on more than you can handle. It is one thing to get ahead, but at what cost? No kidding, thought that year I was going to have a heart attack!

That’s all for today! My next blog entry will encompass love, women, dating and relationships.

Lord help me…..

An American oxymoron…

 

My 13 year old asked me the other day while watching Top Gear, a television show that originated in the UK and has grown to a spin off in the United States.

Dad; what is the difference between a GMC truck and a Chevrolet truck?

Sitting back in my chair, realizing this was a moment where I could lay waste to any positive view he may hold towards these vehicles with a short idiotic tirade, I gathered my thoughts leaned down, put my arm around him and using my best Ward Cleaver laid this little number upon his unsuspecting bewildered eyes.

Ahhhh-hemmmm!

(Clearing my throat, using my best grandpa jones old man inflection)

The difference between them son is symbolic of the widening indifference in our countries mental acuity.  You see when our country was young, led by intelligent, strong willed, dedicated individuals we as a country knew the difference between right or wrong. A child could play in the street without fear, a woman was revered by men, a mom was considered the, be all end all of every child, and your house was your home, not a temporary storage area until you moved again hoping to make an extra buck.  Community meant that everyone cared about their town and participated in its growth.  You didn’t just live there to commute somewhere else without a care in the world about your neighbors or their well being.

The difference clearly rested in a country becoming accepting of all races and religions without prejudice.  Remembering we are all products of family members who immigrated here and just because we are third or fourth generation doesn’t mean we hold some inalienable right over others trying to achieve the same dreams. Yet that is exactly what we continue to do and every race and ethnicity is as guilty as the next when it comes to this process. Our country started with the ability to parent each other’s children without fear of retribution, living under the guise of “it takes a village”.  Education was a number one priority and teachers were revered for success afforded them through flexibility not unattainable federal guidance. Teachers are taught to “have the power” and “Show students the way” yet due to spineless administrators and frivolous lawsuits our children have all the power backed by parents wanting an education for their children but refusing to back any teachers play when it comes to their precious heathens.

Oh yes son the difference is clear as daylight! For you see in this country we have allowed so many to abuse the legal system for so long that a citizen of the United States is now considered guilty until proven innocent. Prisoners have all the rights and citizens have little to no protection from the criminals.  Our police forces have been told to uphold the law using the iron fist of justice, yet the iron fist has been reduced to cheap tin and is now tied behind every officers back leaving them unable to complete any given task or have the appropriate authority to do so.

In god we trust is upon every dollar yet church and state has been cited as a conflict of moral/ethical principal. The difference is right in front of your face son. Hold the door for a woman today and you are oppressing her right to equality, don’t hold the door and you are rude self centered man. Rape and abuse are the center of every television drama, glorified for all to see which seems to be an oxymoron in a civilized society.  The real housewives of any city USA are a ratings boom feeding these women millions of dollars. As American women we should be ashamed of these poor excuses for humans yet we glorify their shallow self centered struggles. Meet any woman who behaves as they do in real life (not reality TV) and she is instantly a trash talked bitch cut from the pack and left to obscurity.

What is the difference? ah yes, everyone gets a trophy when playing sports and no one loses; because if we have all winners that means someone will feel bad about losing, possibly stunting their ability to feel good about themselves in the future.  It also means that no one person will know what it feels like to truly succeed at something through failure, there bye over time eliminating the need to perform and win from our genetic make-up.

Our society is told to go outside and live life daily, these directions come from the confines of a television we paid way too much money for because its quality is so good you actually feel as though you are there, thusly preventing you from actually being outside. The difference is complaining about the rain while sniveling about the sun, whining about the heat while crying about how cold it has become!

The differences are right in front of you, you are bombarded with them every day.   WE (Americans) choose what we believe in as individuals, then we stick to it come hell or high water! Its what makes us great as a society, but its also what may in fact lead to our downfall.

In reality there are no real differences, a tweak here a few horsepower there, but essentially the very same truck. Over the last 100 years “we the people” have become so blinded by the Hollywood glow of some that lead, so ethically corrupted by misled faith, disenchanted with reality, bought off by envy and the American advertising machine that handles everything from a bar of soap to the Presidency, that “we the people” actually believe  there is a tangible difference between a GMC and a Chevy truck.

If you don’t think other countries aren’t laughing at our pig headed stupidity then drive down to your local Honda/Acura-Nissan/Infinity- Toyota/Lexus dealers and see who is having the last laugh at your expense..

Oh yeah, by the way son the GMC truck is waayyyy better than a piece of junk Chevy truck any day! Duh!  Stupid Chevy owners…

 

 

Waking up=Suck

 

Waking up this morning from a short night of slumber, I sat at the edge of my firehouse bunk slowly orienting myself to time, place and event.

Time: 0600=Sucks!

Place: Still at work not home next to my lovely wife=Sucks!

Event: Daily awakening from crappy slumber after night of running calls= Suck!

As I rolled my eyes around the room, shedding “suck” from the moment, dreams that occupied my brain during the night began flashing forward like bright, stop motion photography.  Some nights they easily dissipate like the mist, while other mornings they linger, playing over and over again like a bad date or a misspoken word during the most inopportune of moments.  Groundhog day…

This morning was different from the others, as I replayed each and every one of my night’s adventures I was reminded of an article that caught my attention sometime back.  The article dealt specifically with dreams and their process; the gist of it stated every morning after a solid night of dreams you should arise and immediately write down the events that occurred. “Hmmm a reporter for your dreams, now there is a job I could handle with ease! The interviews would be tough, for I can be a defensive prick, but I would never let up on myself eventually catching myself with a misspoken word or phrase leading to my cutting edge personality ending up on TMZ!”  In time you will either become enlightened or befuddled, contemplating a good stiff drink (even if you are not the drinking kind). 

A cup of coffee, the morning news and yet I am left wondering about last night’s slumber filled adventures. What do they mean?? What purpose did these dreams serve and why was my subconscious mired in mystery? Dreams were so much simpler when I was younger!

Then like a brick to the side of the head, a thunderbolt across the bow, Edison’s first look into an invention called the light bulb it comes to me.  No Dr. Freud inspired answer, no years of studying psychology in college; I haven’t read a few books at Borders in regards to the human brain, converting me into an armchair hack, nope just a good old-fashioned Ah Ha moment in the making!

We dream in decades…  I know crazy huh!  Think about it though, we dream in decades! My dreams revolve around an approximate ten-year cycle! A certified block of time short of or equal to the amount of storage space left in this super computer known as a brain!

Our brains works like this…

The Frontal lobe handles planning, reasoning, delving into the emotional aspects of my day; minute by minute, then the Parietal lobe moving, orienting, recognizing and stimulating my every thought! The Occipital spends every second of my being visually processing what is happening then leaving the Temporal Lobe to perceive and recognize sounds, memory and speech!   

The brain can only store so much information, so much emotion; the stresses alone should leave your brain requesting a donor! So it only makes sense that when the brain is resting, it’s dying to have a little fun at your expense! A little ME TIME as it where! Helping purge itself of all these crazy thoughts, dreams aspirations, emotions, desires and dreads that flow daily through your waking hours!  Using its abilities for evil, filling your dreams with unattainable goals (Wendy Peffercorn), aspirations (Steve Austin) and disappointments! I still don’t understand why I am not President of the United States!

While delving back into time at decades past it all makes perfect sense! While in my 1-10 phase of life my little brain lived for the simpler things.  When laying my weary little head down to sleep with blankie, I was filling my brain with thoughts of new bicycles, model cars, skateboards, G.I. Joes and Atari game systems!  Nightmares revolved around falling from unknown heights, being chased by dark scary men across deserts, jungles and inner cities!  The scary evil monkey who lived in my closet for the love of God!

10-20 my dreams were filled with cars, tractors, scary U.F.O’s, girls, (U.F.O.’s and girls were equally scary) climbing the highest mountains and awaking naked in a classroom filled with the most popular people in school! (Come on who hasn’t dreamt about being naked in class? You’re a liar if you deny it!).  There was lots of fighting in my dreams back then, nothing was more befuddling than arising to find my room thrashed, sheets soaked in sweat and feeling as though I went three rounds with Rocky Balboa! Yo Adrienne!!

20-30 Endless nights filled with dreams about wealth, expensive cars, drugs, and dying! (It was the eighties after all, could have been a little Magnum PI/Miami Vice thing going on or the constant watching of the period classic “The secret of my success”).  Of course my sleep during this decade was relegated to where and when as working multiple jobs at once early on then moving to a dairy where there are no days off led to round the clock efforts!  Once I started driving truck it only got worse and my dream cycle latched onto the whole dying theme! Usually a grotesque mangled death inside my truck! Yuck! What kind cruel trick is that for my mind to play upon myself!  Sick bastard!!

30-40’s my dreams changed as did life! My income was finally stable, everything revolved around the growth and safety of my children! Slowly evolving, changing me into Marlin the clown fish from Finding Nemo!

No little ones you can’t swim out past the reef it’s too dangerous! You just aren’t ready!!!!

Ahh dad, who cares if I have one little fin instead of two I can do it!

Yeah the kids pretty much hated me during this period! 

Now at 46 I fear being alone; my children are growing so fast and Marlin is slowly releasing his grip around the neck of adventure, allowing the children to explore, challenge themselves, unhampered even by their fathers’ best efforts!

So what does my 50-60’s have in store for my personal dream factory? Will I wake up rubbing my eyes and start pacing in circles screaming “MAKE IT GO AWAY, MAKE IT GO AWAY”!  Or will I be an oasis of relaxation where my brain quietly goes to recharge every night with me awakening next to my lovely bride, smile on my Charlie Brown Face and no fear of the unknown. The darkness that lurks deep inside gone forever!

Now that would not =Suck!

 

To infinity and beyond!!

This is a sad day in Betty’s world. 

Today’s obituary: Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American NASA astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, United States Naval Aviator, and the first person to set foot upon the Moon.

Let that sink in for a moment.  The first man to set foot on the moon, July 26 1969 has perished. 

Although he was just one N.A.S.A. (National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration) team member in a pool of extremely intelligent and talented individuals, Mr. Armstrong was lucky enough to be chosen to command Apollo 11 and even luckier to be first down the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) planting his feet firmly in lunar soil then muttering the all too familiar phrase “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” thus forever cementing his name in American history. 

Little known fact: Mr. Armstrong actually stated “That’s one small step for (a) man: one giant leap for mankind” as man/mankind would have been improper use of the English language because man is synonymous with mankind.  But the (a) was blocked by static so the recording and phrase we all know to this day is forever cemented in history. 

So why is Betty so sad?  Mr. Neil Armstrong was one of my childhood hero’s! In elementary school I would read about space missions up to and including landing on the moon.  Then I would run out and play as if I were an astronaut.  Circling the jungle gym like it was the moon, coming in slowly, after burners at half thrust, slowly easing my spacecraft onto the top then leaping to the ground screaming; “that was one small leap for all kids, one giant landing for all kidkind!”

Yep we all wanted to be astronauts! Space suits, space ships, stars and planets, we dreamed and we dreamed big.  At night coming in from the barn the moon would call to me like a lost friend.  Staring at its kindly giant face, wondering what it was like to stand on its forehead looking back at our giant blue sphere. Knowing that Neil Armstrong stood there, gazing upon his home from a perch that few would ever see! What did he think, how did he feel? Was he scared? Did he worry that he and his crew may never come home? 

Yeah space the final frontier; these are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise! Her five year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before! Crap! Wait wrong fantasy!  I also used to pretend I was Captain James T. Kirk, but that story is for another time.

Astronauts, sheriffs, firefighters, teachers, superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Capt. America etc..) Cowboys, sports heroes, they were all there for us to idolize and admire.  To dream about becoming as we grew into adults.  These images forever etched into our minds, approved of by our parents and lived in the fantasy play periods of our afternoons. 

Where are today’s heroes? Who do our children have to look up too? When my kids are in their forties who will they look back upon as being their childhood heroes? Computer generated actors? Rappers? Boy bands? Disney created childhood mental cases waiting to explode as adults? I am just not seeing it! Where are the brazen leaders, moral guided heroes, larger than life humans that stand by their convictions leading the way for all youngsters to dream?

Am I wrong? Is it just me?

Rest in Peace Neil Armstrong.  Thank you for the endless hours of dreaming your bravery brought to my young life.   

 

Another page…

Reflection:

Betty is turning another year older tomorrow (or today depending on what timeline you reside) and with it brings a myriad of inner struggles rolling through my ever spinning brain on a daily basis.  There are so many things to accomplish yet time is running amuck.  These “things” spin wildly out of control consuming my thoughts every minute of every day; feeling as though there is some great stopwatch in the sky ticking away every second of my life!  A timekeeper resting upon the outer edge, screaming down to me like the gate-keeper from The Wizard of Oz: “you are running out of time”!  

In life I have always done things the hard way, it is just my nature! Repeatedly I feel a need to fail at something, helping me to understand the nuances, finer points, angles, and basic structure of whatever I am trying to achieve.  Never having been gifted with any great talent, most of my life has been left wondering why? My grandmother once told me “when you find what you were meant to do in life you will love it, cherish every moment of it, and crave the pursuit of “it” for the rest of your life”. She stood by that statement and achieved many great moments in her life including writing and publishing her memoirs. Those words, her words continue to haunt my thoughts, leaving me empty wanting to try everything without truly finding something to cling too.

Once told I would never amount to anything.

Throughout my existence there were several times the above statement was thrown into my face, and though it has been a driving force in whom I have become, it has also become an obstacle to success, an easy way out when things get difficult, as in; “well I was never expected to amount to anything, so what did you expect”? Turning another year older, one would think a bruising phrase would slowly fade away; disappear like a trapped antelope in funneling quicksand. Yet every now and again it rears its ugly, brooding head leaving me stunned and hurting inside.

Looking upon my life there have been quite a few major accomplishments, successes that are by no means trivial and yet I still feel empty/unfinished.  I feel as though there is something “greater” for me out there, something bigger than myself left to do.

How do I tame this feeling? What can I do to quench my thirst for greatness? Why can’t I just be satisfied with what has been achieved in my life so far?

Something tells me I may never know the answer.

Here is what I do know.  Writing is devilishly fun! Making people laugh, pulling out emotions you didn’t know you held the strings too, sharing stories/experiences everyone can relate with is exhilarating to say the least! I plan on continuing this effort, hopefully growing and sharing other people’s experiences along the way. Life is a journey that should be shared and hopefully someday we can all share it together.

So another year in the books, hundreds more stories to write and one man who goes by the name of Betty left smiling, frowning, laughing, crying and hoping someday he will slowly figure out this crazy little thing called life…or at the very least figure out how to slow down these voices in his head, using them for good not evil..

Closing abstract light, vision obscured, only anticipation, arousal, and intrigue are left to sensory overload. What will happen, where will we go? Eyes darting side to side while covered by fleshy matter, blinded, yet everything is seen clearly, concise and vibrant. A story, soliloquy, or diatribe, what lays in store for this personal moment? Holding no control over any outcome yet relishing the moment, for it is all mine;  no one can enter these locked chambers, pilfer my seconds, part with peaceful noise. 

Drawing winds from the south, entering through inspiration, swirling, turning unstable air removes all waste, clears all debris then retreats to the north as fast as it came. Sometimes forceful other times with gentle relief.   Regardless an engine is fueled, light shines in, darkness retreats, a story unfolds and a brain once void of feelings, numb, weighed down by the trappings of a daily routine is unleashed through paired hands.   The end product of a mind not left to waste, an imagination once thought sterile, creativity not classically trained but allowed to flourish through determination. 

This is how writing has changed my life…..

Thank you grandma, I think I found the “it” you were describing.

(Beulah Fabris; 1913-2006)

Olympic Bound..

Watching the 2012 London Olympics over the last 12 days has left me in athletic awe! How I yearn for a challenge of that magnitude,  to focus mind, body and soul on one sporting activity, rise to the challenge, overcome insurmountable obstacles to be the very best that I can become!

Yes it is true, like many young people around the world I have decided to become an Olympian! To feel the thunderous roar of an adoring crowd, performing at the peak of my physical prowess, standing atop an Olympic podium while our National Anthem plays and I (being the great Olympian I am)do my best to lip sync the words knowing that someone at home can tell I have no idea what the hell they are! Yes, YES I want to be that guy!! (Thunderous applause)

Sadly, there is one little problem with my dream, a small issue really but a problem none the less.  I am 45 years old and last I checked there weren’t too many athletes at 45 breaking ANY world records! Oh sure I run most days (3-5 miles), work out constantly in the gym,and eat (somewhat)right, yet near a 4 minute mile I am not! In fact I don’t believe there to be anyone currently cresting the precipice of senior citizenship dominating the track and field ranks! Not one person of age flowing effortlessly without the aid of Ben-Gay or a walker traversing a gymnastics canvas! Not one person that can be referred to as “sir” or “ma’m”  swimming at dolphin like speed or rowing sculls with the ease of a 5 horse power outboard! So what‘s a guy like me to do? All these dreams, hopes, aspirations bottled up inside ready to explode upon the scene? What to do, WHAT TO DO?????

ANSWER:

I will “do” as any red-blooded American father would; I will impose my wishes upon my children!  Disguise their efforts as being “what they want”!  Twist their little minds and stress their little bodies fulfilling my dreams not theirs! Propping them up high on a pedestal of half-truths with statements like; you are the best, no one can perform like you, daddy loves you even when you fail (lie), oh and remember we are doing all of this just for you!  Yeah that’s the ticket!

Want to join the swim/dive team? Well then you will swim/dive morning and night everyday all year round eating tofu and drinking tiger’s milk! Up the ladder jump! Onto the starting block, jump! Swim, swim, swim and dive, dive, dive! Honing your craft, building your skill set and slowly becoming a champion! Hee, hee hee!

Gymnastics, wrestling, boxing or trampoline; No problem, hit the gym kid and don’t worry about school, you don’t need friends from the outside, you have us! Gym people are your family now, plus we’ll get you a tutor so training is all you focus on! LOOOOVVEEE YYOOUUU!

Want to be a runner/sprinter? Peeeerrrrrffffeeeecccccttttt…….

Get the hell out of the car right now! Start running! Oh don’t worry, we won’t leave you behind, but if the Australian Runners can train in the desert and those little Kenyan kids can run from village to village out of necessity thusly making the Olympics as young adults; then your sorry little butt can run out of pride! The pride you are going to bring your father when he receives his Olympic passes in 2016 whoop, whoop (tear in my eye)!! That right kid; so shut your pie hole and start running, we have little time and lots of miles and injuries to get through so WE can make it to the national trials! Oh yeah, give me a hug because daddy thinks your number one!

So there it is, my plan is in place! National exposure, our countries pride along with selfless coaching on my part will bring them to the forefront of the Olympic stage! Thereby ultimately allowing me to perform as an Olympian! Genius, pure genius I tell you!!!

They may hate me for a while but once a Gold medal is around my neck; whoops I mean around their neck (wink, wink)it will all be worth it; right? Yes sir look out NBC’s Today show here we come!!

In closing, later tonight we will stand in front of a mirror while developing our signature “thanking Jesus” ritual!

                                To the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!!!

 

Haiti Mission Trip part 11 The last day

 

Friday June 15th 2012

This morning the group is filled with a combination of excitement and sadness.  It’s that feeling you carried with you at the end of summer camp.  Happy to go home yet saddened to no longer be surrounded by these people whom you have become close to in an abnormally short amount of time.  Knowing when you wake up tomorrow the scenery will be completely different. Your feet, your body and soul will no longer encompass this place you called home for the last 8 days. It’s as if you were never there, then you ask yourself; if I come back to this place will it be the same? Will I carry the same feeling of accomplishment and joy currently residing within my being?  Could there ever be another group as wonderful, humorous and caring as ours?

We had our last breakfast, we cleaned up our rooms and many of us left suitcases filled with clothes, shoes and other belongings behind for the church to distribute to its members.  Everything was moved downstairs quietly towards the loading zone as the guest house trucks arrived to cart us away.  Small talk and innocent giggles were had by all.  Before any of us had time to sit and reflect any further it was time to go.  Our final goodbyes, our last au revoir or in Haitian; bay-bay; goodbyes are always miserable.  Some small tears were shed, many blank faces climbed aboard our chariot home. As we pulled away I looked back at our temporary home and sighed.  Many days I was ready to leave, while other days I couldn’t wait for the next challenge and now here I was watching it disappear in my rear view.  Mixed emotions swelled inside bringing tears of joy to my face. 

It only took a few minutes for most to settle down and you could see many reflecting as we rolled along towards the guest house.  Gone were the naïve Americans white knuckling their ride through town, in their place were 10 seasoned mission participants who no longer feared NASCAR style driving, crowded streets, UN personnel, language barriers, and humidity. The further we traveled from Leveque the easier it was to accept our next destination.  The guest house was looking more and more inviting. Yet inside I was already longing to see our new-found friends again.  I knew there would be another mission team in two weeks, then another after that and so on.  Before long the people of Leveque would forget who we were but I was positive they would never forget our contribution.  We had all talked about traveling back to see the finished church, I feel as though this is my next personal mission. 

After 30 minutes we arrived at a dirt road that headed back into the hills; this led up to the mass grave constructed for an estimated 316,000 who perished on January 12, 2010.  We had all declined the offer to see this memorial.  Not out of disrespect mind you, but from exhaustion.  The further we travelled the more we all relaxed and exhaustion was evident on every person inside that bus.  The bus turned anyways and up the hill we traveled.  Letting out a heavy sigh of frustration my mind-set was soon replaced upon arrival to the memorial. 

Where a sloping hillside once stood now lay a football field sized plateau. Of to the left, closer to the original hillside sat a marble monument.  Simple in stature and design, looking upon it you suddenly felt remorse for ever thinking you could drive by this place without stopping.  To get at the memorial you needed to traverse this football field sized area which meant walking over the dead.  Humbling to say the least; the entire area lays in clear view of the ocean with a gentle sea breeze enveloping you where you stand. A picture perfect view for all souls at rest; with my head hung low I made my way back to the bus where I vowed to never look past another’s reflection of the past to meet my own personal needs.

Two hours, lots of sweat, a few bumpy roads and we were back inside the comforts of the guest house.  A facility that when I arrived looked as though it had seen better days, but to me on this day it appeared as though it was the Grand Hilton, the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, it was filled with luxury and comfort. After unloading both vehicles I made my way upstairs to our rooms where immediately the i-phone was plugged back into the world.  After 30 minutes of returning e-mails, sending pictures and catching up on work I found a clean pair of swim shorts and headed to the pool.  

Our entire group was here and after jumping in I realized it was the first time I had actually been cool for 8 days. It was fantastic!  Water, cool water all around my skin, no sweat, no wet clothes, we all swam until our fingers shriveled up.  Many of during the course of discussion joked that when you arrive at the guest house for the first time the pool should be off-limits.  Because you can only truly understand the significance of this little concrete gem after you have sweated your ass off for 8 days! Of course we were only joking, maybe….

After dinner our group was invited into another structure for a debriefing.  We all shared our stories of trial and triumph with the coordinator.  I am sorry to say I don’t remember her name as she was the replacement for Sara who had finished her tenure on this assignment.  It was an excellent way to end our journey as we spoke very highly of the church congregation in Leveque.  We also discovered there have only been a couple of instances when a going away party was thrown for the team. She had heard lots of compliments about our group over the week and was impressed we took the entire building to the ground.  We all left feeling very good about our efforts, knowing we came together as one and performed to the best of our abilities, it was gratifying to say the least. 

As the night wore down we all trailed off to bed.  The 1950’s metal bunk with cotton batted mattress I despised the first night felt like a goose down bed from heaven.  Drifting off to sleep all my brain could focus on was the pride I held inside for our group, the immense fatherly pride I held for my son, the new friendships I now cherished and the thought of hearing my wife’s voice the minute we touched down on American soil tomorrow.  Sleep came quickly…

 

Haiti Mission Trip 2012 part 12 Coming home..

Saturday June 16th 2012

Bleary eyed and disoriented most of us stumbled around trying to figure out whether we were coming or going.  A nice cool shower, a shave, and a fresh clean pair of clothes for travel, we were one by one getting ready for the long ride home.  Our final breakfast together was filled with prayer, laughter and stories of the past week, a truly fantastic way to end this journey. As we gathered our belongings, purchased our last gifts, distributed passports and documentation, the anticipation of finally being on a plane home started setting in on us all.  Loading up and pulling through the iron gates for the last time I was finally ready to go, ready to be home again.  I had come to this country with a simple goal, tear down a building, with that goal complete; I found myself leaving with so much more, more than I could ever have imagined obtaining from this little tropical island and its people. 

The airport was controlled chaos, people moving you here and there; the same issue we had previously upon arrival in country with baggage handlers reared its ugly head as we unloaded from our bus.  John C took the front, Paul was in the middle and John G and I took up the rear of our group ensuring no one was separated or bags grabbed. A few of us purchased some last-minute gifts before entering the boarding area, while others just made their way upstairs.  The terrace was crowded and hot but at this point no one cared. After an hour we loaded and were finally on our way.  The flight was quiet and uneventful, (except for the reemergence of the corn muffin) most of us were quietly enjoying the in-flight movie, or sleeping.

Landing in Miami the winds were blowing very hard and our arrival was hair-raising to say the least! As we deplaned heading into the terminal there was an indescribable feeling that came with walking on American soil.  There is something to be said about the freedoms we Americans enjoy on a daily basis. It takes experiencing the trials and tribulations of another country to fully grasp this immense gift we have been given, it is the reason people fight and die trying to reach American shores.

We all gathered for one last dinner together before catching the last leg of our travels home. During dinner every one of us was plugged back into society.  8 days with little cell phone use and an abundance of conversation, now with little more than 5 hours left together we all were texting, Facebooking and catching up with family and friends. Cody called his mom the minute we landed in Miami, giving her a short synopsis of his adventures. I called her sometime after that and relished in hearing her voice.  I couldn’t wait to land in SF and see her face.

The 5 hour flight was uneventful and in the blink of an eye we were face to face with loved ones.  Our dear friend Alisa (Maggie’s mom) drove her commuter van down to pick us up. When they pulled up curbside my wife was hanging a welcome home sign out the window! We all hugged saying our last goodbyes as Paul and Mason went their separate ways with family and friends.  Climbing into the van sitting next to my wife for the ride home the whole trip seemed surreal.  A years’ worth of planning, fundraising, meetings the anticipation of going and it was all over, done, we were home. Sharing our stories of adventure with Alisa and my wife Jacy the trip home went very quickly. My body was exhausted; there was a numbness that took over as we made our way to the house at 1 am Sunday morning. 

Hot water! Hot water flowing over my body in copious amounts! Soap and a towel smelling of bleach; the sound of little Parker snoring while Jake sleeps quietly in the bunk above him, being home is grand.  Slipping into a clean shirt and shorts, I stroll downstairs, peek in on Jessica then over to check on Cody finding him completely passed out, his dog Cricket (who he missed more than family) snuggled up to him lying under his arm. I whisper Goodnight son, thank you for coming with me on this great adventure, I love you. Then slowly close his door as Cricket raises an ear at the creaky hinges.  

Climbing into bed, looking at my wife lying next to me sleeping I feel as though I may be the luckiest man alive; a nice house, a soft bed, a woman who loves me, food in my refrigerator, an awesome family, wonderful friends and a great job.  When I left for Haiti my feelings were that of a married man with a wonderful family, yet I didn’t have enough, I wanted more, feeling as though with budget cuts at work, an increased workload (both at work and home) and a severely dwindling income our lives were becoming extremely difficult.  Over ten days I learned what difficult truly was, I also learned how to be happy even content with my life in those same ten days. I learned from emulating my Haitian friends.

A Haitian is thankful for each day

A Haitian is thankful for the food on their plate

A Haitian is thankful for friends and family, willing to do anything at anytime or anywhere for someone in need

A Haitian is thankful for God’s love

A Haitian believes every little moment is a gift from God

A Haitian believes hardship instills belief and all hardships can be overcome with a willing attitude

A Haitian doesn’t know the word can’t

A group of Haitians changed my life forever. I am filled with joy, love and appreciation for all God has blessed me with in this life. For that I can never repay them, I pray for the little group in Leveque and hope one day I can revisit this special place to sit and worship in a brand new church.  A church built with love and devotion from many caring hands who know there are no obstacles that can’t be overcome with God’s help.

And to our church group; the nine of you are amazing human beings. You are all caring, loving, hard-working people who I am very proud to call my friends.  We may not talk everyday, we may only see each other once in a while or only know what the other is up to through Facebook but there is one thing we will share for eternity.  It will bind us till the day we leave this earth.

Haiti

I love you all, thank you for the time of my life.. 

OSHA out…..