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

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

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

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

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

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

The white noise is everywhere.

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

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

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

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

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have always been a man of my word.

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

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

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

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

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A million no mores………

Where are you?

I see you in the trees, I hear you in the wind. Your smiles a reflection of the sun, your tears an afterthought of rain. I smell you while passing a garden and feel you in the dirt upon my hands. I know you’re in my heart, my chest feels nothing but pain.

You belonged to no one, yet you were mine. I will always have been the lucky one.

Things have settled down, people have filtered away. My house is no longer filled with the sounds of an active family, but instead a quiet, sterile silence echoes from the walls.

I have a lot of time to think. No more oxygen machine, no more pills to be taken, no more round the clock care, sheets to be changed, special meals to be made, I.V.’s to exchange or breathing treatments to administer. No more last minute pain pushes or middle of the night Kaiser Pharmacy runs. No more doctors’ appointments or shuttling to and from her second home at her dads under the wonderful care of her S-MUM. No more……. Anything.

There is also no more middle of the night laughter as she owned being high as a kite! No more rambling conversations with me acting frustrated to get her goat then tell her I was listening all along. No more stories of childhood or the time she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, all having been recited a thousand times. No more theological discussions involving what some would consider the gospel truth, then mixed in with stories of what we both called historical biblical sleight of hand. No more listening painfully to The Real Housewives of any fucking stupid city as she played it purely for background noise to quell her ever increasing anxiety. No more walks together outside or watching as she bravely and oh so blindly used her will of steel to walk on her own. No more morning breakfasts where I tried so very hard to create something flavorful and delicious to make her smile, knowing that being stuck in bed while I ran a million chores made her sad. No more arguments about who wasn’t listening to who or her telling me to slow down because her brain didn’t process as fast as it used too. No more inadvertently hurting her feelings as I needed to treat certain situations in a clinical aspect to get her to comply then working towards forgiveness and a long awaited hug and kiss which she always made me earn and rightfully so. No more watching her snuggle her children or her dogs with glee! No more watching her find joy in the simplest of things, hear her recollect every amazing moment with each and every one of her children or fill those precious moments with every worry she had about their future. No more sage advice from a woman who pulled no punches while never saying she was sorry, but then fill your face with a million kisses instead knowing you’d probably already forgiven her. No more family holidays with her smile radiating across the room. She couldn’t see, but she could sense every single minute surrounded by those she loved and the joy upon her face was the stuff stories are made from. No more hearing her at 1 am downstairs, alone, singing or laughing or talking to her iPad as she recorded things for her children in the future. No more hearing her sob, alone downstairs at 1 in the morning as her brain helped her realize what was to be a certain fate. No more morning goodbyes or walking through the door hellos, followed by a joyous “I love you”. No more hidden cards telling me how much she loved me, no more painted art or crafty paintings! No more kissing her while she slept and adjusting the covers so she was warm. No more, no more, there are a million no mores.

Saturday was the start of something.

Seeing each and every life she ever touched, listening to all the stories and remembrances, being surrounded by that much love was an amazing experience. I know she was there, I hope she was happy, I am sure she spent time in her own way touching each and every one who walked through our gate. Jacy just had a way. I fell in love with her for many reasons, but one of them was because she just had a way. She drew you in like a moth to a flame, she held you close with her warmth, compassion and heart of gold. She only ever cared about you, never herself and that my friends is an amazing quality that is not seen all that often today. She was quite simply an angel.

I can remember dropping her off for choir practice and thinking as I drove away that church seemed a little brighter once she walked into the building. I loved listening to her sing in the choir too. She always glowed. She always said that we all find our way, it is what Go has planned for us. There is no roadmap, no directions, we simply need to trust in him and we all find our way.

After Saturday, seeing everyone and watching a day of remembrance unfold exactly the way she hoped it would, I knew in my heart we will also find our way.

It will be long and painful for all of us. There will be a million new experiences for us. We will make new memories and find our way while hopefully honoring the leader of our family with each and every step.

I will miss being able to report our successes and failures to her, hearing her laugh or wanting to give us a hug. But we will find our way.

The truth of it all is I don’t know how to be anyone but Mr. Jacy and I miss more than anything hearing her voice out loud. It’s in my head, it’s in soundbites and video, but I am selfish, it is not the same.

But I can hear it, and I hear her telling me to have faith, stay strong and find a way.

She told me once that she will be waiting for me with open arms on the other side, and though it will seem like an eternity for me, for her it will be but a joyous moment in time, for she had been with me all along, in my heart and in my soul.

I loved you Jacy Franceschi, I will always love you, I will always be grateful for every single moment we spent together and apart. When it was easy it was good, when it was hard it created what marriage is supposed to be and those memories will never fade. I loved you with everything I had and I can never repay you for what you brought to my life.

I miss you so bad, but I can truly say not only was I loved, but I was loved by an angel.

You were my everything…

The California Stop

I want to talk to you all about something important.

The future of our world.

Ok wait, let’s rephrase, how about the future of America? Nope, nope, nope that still paints to broad a stroke.

Hmmmmmm???

The future of our youth and the direction our country may or may not be headed towards with them at the helm?

No, that comes off as narrow minded and degrading…

WAIT! I got it!

The repercussions associated with adults living and raising our children in the grey area created by society’s ignorance towards methods of the past?

Shit! I just can’t seem to get this one right!!!! Not usually my style to lack on words or the ability to use them.

Let’s try this another way, through a long, drawn out explanation.

Now before all you youngsters either hate me, understand me or feel the need for a safe space to sort out your feelings please understand nothing has changed over time when it comes to what I am about to tout. Only the players and the landscape for which they played the game. Life is cyclical and my hope is we are on the precipice of change. You old timers such as myself I hope will get this instantly!

The other day while driving through town I found myself yelling at another vehicle from the helm of my galactic beast! After 37 years driving semi-trucks, pickups, cars and oh yeah Fire Engines, with all that experience I think I have earned the right for a holler or two! I love driving, always have since the day I took the family tractor for a joy ride. Even with all that, I really only have a few pet peeves when it comes to the rules of the road and it drives me insane when I see others breaking them.

First and foremost let’s just get this out there, I am a certified serial speed offender! I hate going slow, I loathe going slow, I mean I really detest moving at the speed of stuck! But with that being said and placed so effortlessly on the table let me ensure you the minute I cross into any city limits I am Johnny law jr. I don’t break the law, I drive the speed limit, I use my turn signals, hell I even stop for pedestrians in the cross walk!!! Yup I am that guy. Living law in the grey…

So where was I, oh yes, the other day a certain individual in a newer blue mustang rolled hard up on the stop sign, and at no point even attempted to bring his 350 horsepower pony to a full and complete stop! Rolling right through as if the big red sign that said STOP on it was merely a suggestion, this idiot completed the perfect, textbook California Stop! Of course he glared at me as though it was some form of inconvenience that I was waiting my turn, being on the right of another vehicle per the law. Yet in truth I believe the glare was more of a fuck you. He knew he was more important than I, he knew he was more important with more important places to be than any other person so carelessly sharing the asphalt with this asshole and he knew he was an asshole and just wanted make sure I and everyone else knew he was an asshole. (Secretly I just like saying asshole)

Staring at this hellish, lame blue piece of shit for which the owner obviously cherished more than his wife or significant other, with its mirror like shine, extra loud pipes and fancy wheels a question flashed through my head! Crass and obnoxious as a teenage boys lifted Chevy Silverado rolling hard and loud with childish straight pipes and oversized 44’s I slowly pondered!

Where the hell did the California stop come from?

I remember (fade away music and fuzzy picture is appropriate right now for my flash back) back as child in the 70’s we were taught to obey the law, respect the law, and to fully understand that if you broke the law there were in fact very dire consequences! You acted respectfully to those who represented authority and from that respect you earned it in return. A very simple, easy to understand logic that ruled our little place in the world. Ahhhh Mike Brady would have been proud. (Look him up young ones)

It was simple really, here let’s do a short recap. Don’t break the law, doing so has consequences, show respect and earn respect, live life with no worries. See! Easy!

I’ll never forget the day my dad slammed on the brakes in his old orange ford sending me to the floorboard (easy youngsters there was no seatbelt laws in the days of the Flintstones) and screamed at some guy about his “California Stop”!

California Stop what the heck is that dad? I questioned.

That is where you roll up to the stop sign, then proceed without coming to a full and complete stop. It is against the law son. It is named after us Californians because we supposedly are self-important and have places to be which keep us from obeying the law because we are above that! (Ok I’m para phrasing for the love of god I was like 8 or 10!)

Being the semi- inquisitive type, you know; only when it suits me, it became my mission to watch for these California Stoppers. There were not that many upon a first hard round of observations. Dad said it was because the fine for running a stop sign was steep and it took points away from your license so people feared that happening. Of course being recently adept at earning a million points on my Atari playing Pitfall I couldn’t even fathom losing one damn point, let alone several! The thought left me paralyzed with fear!

But hey, we have the law, the good old fashioned black and white, dealt out swiftly by your friendly local police officers, order and tranquility, points earned and points lost, so straight forward and yet confusing at the same time law.

As I became 16, obtained my driver’s license and set out alone in the family station wagon, I was always terrified of breaking the law, in specific the act of running a stop sign. Not stopping for the full and correct 3 seconds or creating a sense that forward motion had in fact come to a halt was a death sentence for me. I always looked both ways and spent a considerable amount of time clearing intersections while ensuring the law was properly followed. It was easy really, and the only times I ever saw the law in my rear view mirror was either for speeding (grey area, GREY AREA!!!), being out after curfew or when I was once mistaken for inhabiting a truck hauling some burglary suspects and we (my friends and I) were all pulled out and sat on the curb like criminals! The grey area that time wasn’t the law it was my pants and they weren’t grey!!

Ok I am droning on, so anyways, as the years went on I began noticing people were increasingly no longer stopping at intersections all the way! Over a ten year period it slowly became the standard, I mean everyone is doing it right? Just up and keep going! Only stop if there is a light and even then on right hand turns people started to roll those too. I couldn’t figure it out! What was changing and why was it changing? We need law and order, we need civility, we have laws for a reason, to not have laws and obey them leads to all out anarchy right???

Then one day, I was in my early thirties, I too rolled a stop sign, oh I had been doing it forever (bandwagon jumper), everyone does, nothing ever happens so my friends say, which I always found hard to believe and yet here I was motoring on when Johnny Law slipped from a side street and lit me up all red and blue lights an shit!

My heart was racing, what had I done? As he walked up the side of my old Ford, I already had paperwork in hand but for the life of me could not figure out what I had done. I wasn’t speeding, I know I stopped at the intersection (California stop denial! its real check it out!), maybe a tail light was out yeah that must be it.

Rolling down the window the officer took my information, told me he would return and after what seemed liked hours as rubberneckers gazed upon my scarred and shadowed soul cast so darkly under the glow of blue and red rotating police lights. They (rubberneckers) all slid by as close and slowly as possible. Bastards! I just knew they were laughing inside the comfort of their cars, making snarky remarks while calling me every name in the book! You could see it on their smug condescending faces!!

The police officer came back for which I produced my best Ill kiss your ass smile. While handing my paperwork back through the window he then explained I had in fact rolled the stop sign at the intersection behind us. My father had taught me to always be respectful towards authority so of course I didn’t dare challenge his findings in regards to my driving ability. Oh and you know I stopped, I stopped hard, the hardest stop anyone had ever stopped since the dawn of vehicle stoppedness!

He kindly thanked me for being so polite and explained (because of my skilled Eddie Hascal impression) (kids look that one up too) he was letting me off with a warning. Please never run another stop sign again. Ahhhh wasn’t that sweet???? So nice of him to recognize pure sincerity when he saw it.

From that point on, as the years passed by I started noticing other things as well. People no longer moved out of the fast lane, choosing to camp there much like a Memorial Day weekend, staking their claim and not budging no matter how hard you pressed them! There were people passing on the right, all the time, as if it was safe! I mean last time I checked that was labeled the slow lane and the left was the fast lane and oh my god I feel as though I am in Bizarro land! Also people tailgating! Whatever happened to a minimum of three car lengths between you? It feels as though with some people they are so far up my ass I am expecting colonoscopy results at the next red light!

The world is definitely going insane! No one IS following the rules of the road any longer!!! The stop sign became merely a suggestion, a set of turn signals is now apparently an option on all vehicles, and I mean it must be because maybe 10% of people can either afford them or are using them while operating their car! Semi-trucks are given no room for stopping, red curbs are for parking because let’s face it, it’s only a few minutes and what the odds the fire department is really going to need that spot! Speaking of fire departments, hydrants are now all the rage to park in front of as well! They really make your car pop! While parked on the street!

Also a trend has formed with the invention of social media. Now you don’t just complain to your friend or neighbor, you start an outright media campaign over every injustice ever committed by anybody, anywhere, anytime!!! No matter how stupid!

NO JOKE! I once saw the same man on a very public forum bitching about the lack of police presence in his neighborhood to handle those unruly teenage speeders, suddenly change his tune and begin complaining about the piece of shit cop who gave him a ticket for parking the wrong way on his street! His statement was that he was only in the house for a minute so he shouldn’t have gotten a ticket!!!! He was parked the wrong way! It’s not even a grey area, it is against the law!! What the hell is wrong with people??

(Cue heavy thinking) Hmmmm????

And right there, right there and then ladies and gentlemen of the jury it came to me.

Much like the moment I realized Santa Clause was not real, or expiration dates on food are for a reason! The second I fully understood the pull out method was not a viable option for birth control, or the real reason the pretty gal in Vegas “liked” me was not because I was funny or good looking but because she felt there was money involved.

Yes it hit me like a truck, slapping my face harder than the moment you knew your drug dealer was a narc because he had ALL his teeth!

The California Stop is to blame for all our nation’s problems!

You see we now completely live in a vast grey area brought about by the California stop. We have gone from a law abiding society to near anarchy. It began with us slowly accepting the California stop as a way of life. A social identity, and once we did that other aspects of travel law began to fall, and with that we taught our children through our own failures that as long as you don’t get caught it is ok. This of course traversed into other manifestations. You know the mindset, well if he got away with it???

And so on, and so, and so on..

The California stop has ruined all our lives. Go anywhere in the world and they know what the California stop represents and where it originated. It is the bane of our existence, the precursor to all our problems and much as the entire world believes that if you are a Californian you are a surfer, you live within walking distance of the beach (because although long the state is roughly only ½ mile wide) and you are a Democrat. The California stop is of your doing, it is your legacy and the world has every one of us Californians to blame! Don’t worry they are blaming us and hating us for many other things as well so don’t feel too bad.

So please, I beg of you all. Stop at the stop sign. 3 full seconds! If you can do it consistently then maybe like monkeys in a UC test project others will soon follow, mimicking your obvious love for safety, rules and standards. Then before long everyone will be stopping, cars will begin using turn signals again, people will start waving hello to each other as they pass, much like a Sunday drive about of days gone by.

And with just a little luck.

Kids will no longer get trophies for participating in real sports or soccer, parents will start reprimanding their children without fear, safe spaces will no longer be needed, people will have hope, laws will once again be followed creating a brighter future for all and some guy in a Mustang will no longer be known as an A-Hole by some other guy with way to much time on his hands to think about this shit. But instead he will be admired as the owner of a really bitchin car….

Oh fuck, ok I can’t go that far, who I am kidding, he was driving a newer mustang for Christ’s sake! It wasn’t like it was the wholly grail of mustangs the GT500 or a Hertz special, hell he wasn’t even in the ball park of a 67 fastback, Mach 1 or the California Special! Bahahahaha naw he’s still an A-HOLE in a poor man’s Camaro!!!

But hopefully you all get my drift…..

 

 

An Incredible Journey

I am on an incredible journey and I don’t know why.

Why was I chosen to walk this path filled with so many unexpected surprises? Why do I struggle with the same challenges day after day, feeling as if there is no reprieve? Why I am even allowed a new morning when others for who I look up to, revere or admire are facing their last days or have simply vanished, passing from their earthly constraints.

Every day I awaken, place my feet firmly upon the floor and stand up. I then make a conscious decision. Do I carry on, or give up? Do I meet the day’s challenges or pull the sheets over my head and cry foul? Do I continue to regress emotionally or do I say fuck this, square up my shoulders then throw a middle finger towards an overwhelming temptation to just quit?

Lately it has definitely been the latter. I’ve been putting on a good face while struggling to get out of bed then smiling the smile, telling the same old jokes, letting the actions or words of some bring me down and basically feeling as though I should be giving up. I am not happy, not happy in one little bit.

The darkness has crept in and I haven’t seen any light for quite some time. Between the duties of caregiver to my wife, caregiver to the public and struggling to remain a vigilant father while my children struggle with their own feelings for which they have no knowledge or control over in regards to our current situation. I have slowly faded away. Not all at once, but little bits at a time.

It feels like constant darkness in my head, every moment of every day and there has been nothing I can do about it.

So you begin to ask; if there is so much darkness why do you proclaim this an incredible journey?

Because like it or not, hate it or love it, detest its existence or clamor for more, it is an incredible journey!

As human beings it is our job to grow and share. It is not a right, you are not rightfully given another day on this earth. You have no right to prosperity and wealth, you have no right to a job, a house, a marriage, a life of any kind. You have to earn it!! Then grow and share through the process!

That’s right, I know this may come as a shocker to some, but your life is earned. What you have accomplished by the time your final day comes (and it comes for us all) is 100% purely up to you!

My grandmother came to me in a dream last night. (Don’t get all; holy shit he’s gone off the deep end) Although I know dreams are a conglomeration of memories, subconscious thoughts, neural transmissions and blah, blah, blah. It was exactly what I needed at just the right time.

My grandmother on my mother’s side was a very interesting woman. She graduated from Stanford during a time when women were considered less than men. She dated a few notable individuals of the time. She made her own way through life when in her forties her husband, my grandfather died of a heart attack. She had a very successful career in finance when women were considered nothing more than secretaries and used her skills to set an example. She traveled the world going where she wanted when she wanted with nothing holding her back!

As a child I vaguely remember her stories about life, travel and the many lessons she put before me. Whenever we visited she used buttons to teach us about money, plants in her greenhouse to teach us about life, books to teach us about literature and conversation to teach us about the human equation. I woke up this morning wishing I was 8 again so I could hug her and listen more intently.

She wrote a book about her life. I have it on a shelf. I have read twice and when I awoke this morning it dawned on me that I may need to read it again. I need that emotional connection, to relearn what it means to be me, throwing caution to the wind, standing up for and protecting my ethics, beliefs and way of life no matter what anyone else says because my life is mine. To help stay on track, for in my heart I still believe that we all learn from one another’s triumphs and mistakes. During this crazy time where our socializations seems to only focus on a small device that spews nothing more than negativity an hate tearing the very fabric of this country. Maybe one small voice, writing about his struggles in an obscure seldom read blog could remind us there is a positive, no matter the circumstances and that choice would mine to make. No one could take it away.

My current situation has a myriad of balls all up in the air, a juggler’s nightmare as gravity brings them towards me at a dizzying pace! It constantly comes up in conversation when people say; I don’t know how you do it, in regards to the struggle associated with raising four children, working as a firefighter while caring for my wife with stage four Graf vs Host disease. Watching as she withers away, gets strong then withers away again. Is frustrated with the fact she is going blind yet bravely and with great fortitude works her way through daily activities for which she refuses to give up on. She is strong, brave and amazing.

It (the how do you do it comment) is a simple enough statement, it is never meant with any disingenuous undertone, and my response is usually almost always; it is what it is. I say that as to not offend anyone or hurt their feelings. But my real thought is; how could I not! This is my life, my family, my wife, what the hell else am I supposed to do?

I realize we live in a decaying society where it is easier to point a finger, post it on Facebook, complain publicly, give up and run away than it is to stay behind and fight for the ones you love! Fight for the life and family you have created! To me that is a sad moniker of what our lives in this country have boiled down too. If the going gets tough-make a spectacle then QUIT!

There are those that wonder why I write so openly about my personal life and if it affects anyone close to me.

Yes it does affect those close to me, but I have always felt deep inside it was my obligation to share everything. Why? Because I have yet to see one writing that adequately covers or assists the multitude of struggles and emotions I am feeling. Everything ever written in regards to being the spouse of a Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant survivor is generic! Nothing even remotely touches the many facets of life this horrible disease along with recovery post-transplant throws in your face. It is all glossed over as to not scare you. Well guess fucking what? Life is a scary thing, now throw in all the new challenges associated with a wife whose body is trying to kill her and well you better sack up and learn from someone who has walked the path! Stay firmly away from those who wallow in a dream world where after treatment life just carries on as if nothing ever happened!!! Which is where I think I come in, for those who want the truth and seek it through my writings.

So then I wonder do people think my attitude comes naturally. My ability to cope? To understand and carry on?

Because it takes work, patience and the ability to listen, not pass judgement when you can and keep an open mind. It takes and incredible amount of faith and that faith is tested, over and over and over again! This journey I am on reinforces all those things on a daily basis!

So then my mind digs deeper into that simple question of “how do I do it” and I wonder some more. Do people believe that being a firefighter comes naturally? That we are all born with some obscure kryptonite type gene that predisposes us to the atrocities of the human condition? You see, firefighting, that is the easy part! It always has been and always will be. You still need to understand basic chemistry and have a few years’ experience using those skills to know exactly when and where placing the right amount of water at the right time will put out the fire while saving lives and property. This professions education is real, the long hours studying and keeping those skills are mind numbing. As a firefighter you need to become proficient at a little bit of everything. Building construction, demolition expert, code compliance, hazardous materials, chemist, investigator, auto mechanic, auto technician, computer genius, locksmith, heating and air technician, heavy equipment operator, financial advisor, ER doctor, supervisor, pastor, councilor and truck driver. If you added up the salaries of all those things each member would be worth over a million a year and we can go into the private section with our degrees and make three times what we struggle to earn in our jobs, but that’s not why we do it. It is an overwhelming need to help people. But as if that load of constant learning wasn’t enough, and as I said, fighting fires using all that education is in fact the easy part, you know what the real struggle is? The thing that keeps us up at night, the thing that not one mother fucker prepares you for that haunts your very soul when you lay your head down on that pillow?

It is the endless onslaught of death that we must deal with on a regular basis. Dancing in our heads like ghosts from Christmas past. Dealing with them any way we can, through counseling, good friends and time away from the big green fire engines. It is also coming back the station and reading in the local paper that our city council doesn’t support us in the least. Or we are attacked by the public because we go as an engine company to the store to purchase our supplies which we pay for from our own pockets or that our retirement is some magical golden egg that is draining the state’s coffers when we pay an ungodly amount of money per month out of our own pockets to fund it. Its understanding and coming to terms with the fact we are not funded in social security therefore we only receive from social security what we put in prior to joining the fire department. But hey none of that matters as we lay our heads down at night, trying to erase all those horrible images while also knowing we are unsupported you know why? Because most of us won’t live past 60! It is a statistical fact we will all contract some form of cancer from all the chemicals and carcinogens we have absorbed or inhaled throughout the years! But no worries we’ll just keep pushing it all down deep inside so it doesn’t show when we get home! That way our families and spouses won’t see or feel our pain, so they can have that great husband or father home for few days all happy and cheery like normal families!! Right? Right?

Why do we do it? Why do we keep coming back for more? Because we wish nothing more than to make that one save, that one moment in life where a positive impact on another human beings life has been made. So despite being treated like shit by our public officials, living with our deepest emotions, we can rest easy knowing another is alive, enjoying their family because of the sacrifices we willingly made. Fulfilling our own prophecy through hard work and dedication. Bringing life full circle.

This journey has allowed me to witness my wife fight for her life while I hold her hand, struggle as she struggles and rejoice as she rejoices. We don’t always agree on the topic of rejoicing but through this journey I have learned the importance of shutting my mouth while allowing my spouse to find the joy she needs over little accomplishments. I have learned to keep my mouth shut as she sheds tears, relinquishing my need to fix things. For there is nothing I can fix and only a shoulder to cry upon or an ear to yell into is needed at that moment in time. I have found understanding I never knew I had as unwarranted venom flows from her mouth one minute and angel’s wings sprout lifting her high over her pain another. I hug her when she needs to be hugged and leave her be when she wants nothing more than her headphones and a television show she has seen 100 times so she can listen to it as her eyes will no longer allow her to watch.

This journey has taken a toll on my life and although as of late I have been angry over its direction, angry at the life we now lead, angry at myself for being so very fucking angry inside!! ALL THE DAMN TIME!! It is still my journey, I am writing (quite literally) my own story. It is up to me how it ends.

At the end of the day, when my time has come, I want my children to look back and not remember the struggle. But remember their father handled it all, with strength, grace, positivity, faith and a plan. Ok let’s face it a few good old fashioned Irish/Italian hot headed fuck you fest temper tantrums as well. Then I want them to be able to go to a bookshelf, pull out a well written book, open the pages and read the story of my life, their lives, and the lives of those who loved them unconditionally. I want them to ride along in this journey page by page and remember the way I remember my grandmother.

Does labeling this shit storm we live in a fantastic journey mean I will become more positive? No, it means I know who I am and what I need to do.

Will my mood cease to be down and at times dark? No, I am human and with that naturally comes forms of negativity. It is life.

The blog has been dark as of late because I have been struggling with so many emotions tearing me up inside. I am sorry I haven’t been able to share for those who reach out to me on a regular basis. Time to light it up again, hit that keyboards and continue along with this fantastic journey.

God help me…

 

 

 

 

Climbing life’s mountain. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is teaching him patience and humility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

His mountain just got a little smaller. 

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

Just a thought from a windy morning walk. 

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

I have a confession to make.

I think I am mourning the loss of my wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…..

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

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

(Fuck I’m crying again)

I dreamed a dream about a dream until I realized I had been dreaming all along.

As a child I would lay awake at night gazing upon a ceiling of white, not knowing what darkness or light of a new day may bring. Excitement, happiness, sadness, confusion or worry were commonplace in those silent moments before slumber. This single moment of nightly reflection was a time I dreaded for I neither knew nor had the ability to process each and every thought or feeling rapidly infiltrating my developing brain. So I did my best to create an alternate reality (you know the dreaming before you actually dream) about the future and what it may hold. This was done with a gentle rocking back forth as if I was a baby clutched within my mother’s arms.

Eventually I would contort until finding I was flat on my back. My eyes cast toward the sky, head laid upon a pillow for which I would trust with my slumber until well into adulthood. Then and only then after dreaming about dreams would I drift off to sleep and eventually dream. It’s funny how things can become so very important when we are children and yet nominal as we grow older. That pillow was a lifeline to some nominal form of sanity. It was a trusted object for which I looked forward to after a long day. A moment of pure bliss as my head met its tattered misshapen form. It smelled good, it formed to my head just right and it meant that hopefully after a little blank moment or enlightened thought process the best was yet to come.

To dream

What is it to dream? We dream with eyes wide open about our futures and what they may hold. We dream about what we want to become as we grow older or where we wish to be within a certain designated time frame. We dream about that perfect human match, a soul mate who mirrors our better selves forming a solid foundation for which life and dreams can be achieved. We also dream as we sleep. The subconscious collecting data from deep within our cerebral cortex, correlating it into a one night only performance. Hyper-infusing our confidences and fears into a woven tale of wonderment, confusion or terror.

As a child I recall dreams were abundant. They would come and go, filled with mystery and wonder. Our subconscious mind working overtime filling our thoughts with the impossible, the amazing and at times the downright frightening! But as a child, I can remember the importance of dreams. How some mornings they left me mesmerized or flat out invigorated! I can remember getting dressed before school thinking today anything is possible! All from a dream that boosted my confidence or left me wondering whether or not it was in fact a dream.

During those very early years it was mostly dreams of playing baseball, swimming, learning to ride a bike, or flying! Flying like a superhero, swooping long and low over rooftops with the speed of lightening. My dreams always had a happy undertone that I was popular, or famous and life was licking my fingertips waiting for me to grab onto it and hold it tight!

Into the age of teen wonderment, nightly I would drift off with rock music playing in the background much to my parent’s dismay. My dreams consisted of cars, high school and girls. Real cars would fill my head, not the plastic ones rolling around our streets today! A 1957 Chevy or a 1966 Chevelle! Yes hardened steel and abundant horsepower!!! My 1964 Chevy truck became my world and before sleep I would dream about having the money to one day fix it up so that it would shine, making the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.

During this time I was particularly fond of writing (shocker huh?) and would pencil my dreams in the morning upon waking. I dreamed of being a writer one day, I also dreamed of being a cowboy, or a movie actor. This of course led to desk bound daydreaming where in class my thoughts would wander off and I would be dreaming about the day I would have enough courage to leave home to chase those exciting dreams. An actor, on stage or in the movies I didn’t care! Imagining myself in a full scale western movie, riding, shooting and doing my own stunts! Sometimes I would dream about being a doctor, going to school for a really long time just to prove to my parents that even though school was incredibly hard for me I was in fact smart after all.. It was certified Walter Mitty syndrome!

I never did have the guts to leave, head out on my own. Terrified of the unknown and worried about rejection along with where I would sleep or eat, those dreams became nothing more than lost hopes. I regret those decisions to this day.

Early adulthood and my dreams began to wane. Sleep becomes more of a necessity as life treats you a little harder and exhaustion gives way to reality. The reality being there is no longer time for dreaming about any future while lying in bed. Work became my outlet and I ran at times to the beat of two or three jobs at once. My cherished pillow, the one I longed for at the end of the day no longer mattered as resting my head anywhere warm and dry was more important than comfort or security. Life has picked up speed and there no longer remains time for my silly dreams.

Marriage and not long after children come, days are filled with responsibilities beyond comprehension. My thoughts range from love and pride with this life we are building as a team to worry and fear for what the future holds for us both and this family we have created. Today’s moments are about these people who are now the backbone/foundation of your life. Your dreams for the future are no longer your own but those of a collective whose agreeance is mandatory. These moments of life you will cherish forever, they will create a better and stronger you, you will achieve more than you imagined but those achievements may not be part of what you initially dreamed life would become. You will smile at how quickly life expands, grows and evolves with the continued addition of all who come into your life. I believe these years are the years which leave you with a smile upon your face when your time has come to an end on this earth. You are now following a path and new hopes and dreams will emerge, but you must not forget who YOU are and begin to allow those day dreams to come back. You need to listen to your heart and follow the right path. You long for the nights when deep sleep brings about happy dreams about life, love and family.

There for to quit dreaming is to quit living and hopefully your dreams continue on through the latter portions of your adult years. For me, life and my dreams are much different. I now dream for the thought processes of a child, returning to the innocence of adolescence with all its narrow minded wonder. My head hurts every day, my body is so tired, it’s as though I have drug a truck uphill for miles. When I lay my head down at night I no longer have a single trusted pillow, hell any pillow that is thicker than a postage stamp will do. I can no longer stare upon the ceiling to dream about any kind of future and what it may hold for sleep apnea has its evil grip upon my body. When sleep does come it is at the hands of my wife’s oxygen machine running, the sound of dogs barking, a television squawking hoping to ease my wife’s nervous mind and sheer exhaustion overtaking me while I struggle to breathe through the mask of a CPAP machine.

To dream a lovely dream would in fact be a delightful dream.

Many times I fear sleep depending on the day, the stress level over Jacy’s health or what may have transpired during a shift at work. These dreams do come and with them sometimes death, tragedy, harm and images to disturbing to mention. Often times awaking in panic or fear, drenched in sweat while ripping CPAP mask from my face! This will lead to walking the halls until I can calm down. Many times I awaken feeling as though I am having a full blown heart attack complete with chest pain, sweat and difficulty breathing! It is scary, and tiresome at the same time. Most nights I can no longer fall asleep until I know all my children are safe at home, in their beds. Sleep comes with a price as my worries surpasses any expectations of deep slumber. Listening to Jacy’s labored breathing, coughing and doing my best to stay out of her way as she tosses and turns for fear of waking her from a much needed rest. When I do get the chance to fall into a drop dead slumber my dreams lead to a land I wish not to visit and these places only lead to eventually being awake. Once there I daydream about a life once lived, a love inspired by the continual thought of a new day where my wife is healthy, happy and free from all this torment.

I wonder why life can’t be like the movies. A story with all its problems neatly wrapped up in 90 minutes. Where a young boy can dream while gazing at an arcade machine about being BIG and it happens. Or a girl dreams about running her own clothing company and she does. Or a rat believes it can be a chef in Paris and voila! He is..

What would we be without dreams?

You see things and you say why? But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”

~George Bernard Shaw~

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~C.S. Lewis~

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

~James Dean~

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

~Oscar Wilde~

And my personal favorite

A man is not old until regrets take place of dreams

~John Barrymore~

And with John Barrymore’s quote I say this.

You are born with the ability to dream and with the very same skill set you shall perish. What you do with it in between falls squarely upon you.

Whether asleep or awake, dream, dream big and never let anyone detour you from those dreams.

Breaking up is hard to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s all behind us now.

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

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

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

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2017 a story not yet written.

The easy way out is to sit and complain, feel sorry for yourself or constantly wonder why? I have never liked the phrase “It is what it is” and yet for some strange reason it seems to be flowing from my mouth more than ever lately. As though my repertoire of emotion driven responses has taken a thoughtless vacation. In reality I have allowed myself to quit, therefore to find conversation worth having has lost its drive, its zest, leaving no creative or emotional yield.

Our family has started the year out with continuing troubles. It is beginning to feel as though each year meets us with a newer version of this show we call our life. A downcast tragedy written and directed by who?

Our lives are a journey, we are never guaranteed safe passage through it all and though it would be easy to complain or blame God (trust me I have done my fair share of why me? And what the fuck!!) In the end it is up to me not God to make a difference. To cry towards the sky with a shaken fist screaming at a creator or heavenly being leaves only the foolish exhausted and hoarse. God (depending on what you believe) may have created you, but you and you alone need to be able to hear the voice when it calls to you. To open your eyes and your heart, to remove the blinders and stigmas that come with the drudgery of day to day living before you can make an appropriate decision or change with your life.

The reality of it all is we (my family) are nothing special in the grand scheme of things. We (my family) and our troubles are but a spec amongst the hundreds of thousands living with troubles/struggles of their own. What makes our struggles any different from those struggling around us? What I do believe is how we handle our situation in particular may lead to another feeling hope while they wallow in the despair of their own personal pool of troubles. Sharing, compassion, and the ability to constantly learn, change and grow is what makes us unique as human beings.

I often find myself thankful for the social media platforms we all enjoy. I believe it helps us all to find, create, share and understand much more than we ever could prior to living within our own social boxes or narrow geographical boundaries.

On one hand I believe much of our perceived troubles come from looking at others who consistently post online what appears to be a perfect life. If we don’t feel our lives are up to snuff we tend to live through others and that can lead to feelings of resentment or envy that we may not have the ability to recognize. And yet we also see others who are struggling with every aspect of life so we tend to either selfishly feel a little better about ourselves, or we become distraught with those troubles igniting our inner compassionate drive thus feeling an overwhelming need to help. Another amazing human trait that could easily be lost within the alternate reality world surrounding us. Although social media often times comes across to me as the biggest reality show on the planet (and I hate reality shows for there is nothing “real” about them) it is a mind boggling creation to say the least.

Where Social media becomes a place of hope from the heavens is during days like today. One blurb, a sentence or quip and Social media becomes what it was initially intended, a place of connection for everyone you care about to come together. Words of encouragement flow like rivers to the sea. When someone is in trouble, within seconds there is another there to help. When a message needs to be heard by the masses this electronic medium becomes the town crier! It has become a community without terra firma.

 

So thanks to this wonderful world of connectivity, 2017 has not started out as bad as one would think. We are here, we are all alive! Encouragement and love flow freely through texts, blurbs, snaps, postings, phone calls and the shared written word. I say take whatever life has thrown at you and find a way! There is always a way. No person should ever feel the world or deck is stacked against them solely. It is your life, you and you alone make the decisions on how you are going to handle the curveballs life can and will throw your way. I may not like what is happening right now, I may feel frustration over how our life is going and what is happening within the confines of my little niche in the world, it may pain me to see the woman I love and our children suffering through what is essentially a not fair situation. But there is always something to be learned, a message to be shared, a heart to be touched, a moment of never ending love to be cast upon those involved.

We will get through it all, journey be damned.

Jacy is still at Stanford and will be there for an as yet undetermined period of time. She has a pretty bad case of pneumonia along with Rhinovirus (a cold). Now a cold is not so bad except Jacy has an extremely compromised immune system which can lead to very serious complications if she becomes infected.

For a few months now, Jacy’s heartrate and ability to breathe have become a huge concern for us. She can’t make it from the bed to the bathroom without a heart rate of 160, and her oxygen saturation levels dropping into the high 70’s, low 80’s even with oxygen on at 4 liters per minute. She ends up winded and exhausted by simply moving 20 feet. It has left her demoralized and feeling defeated.

The other morning as Jacy was having trouble controlling her heartrate and breathing, and the world became rapidly smaller she felt as though she was going to die. It was painful and it was scary. There was no feeling of bliss or relaxation coming over her and in that moment as the lights were growing dim she realized this was not the way she wanted to go. She was choosing for herself, fighting for her right to pick where and when!

Yesterday in the hospital still sad that she missed out on Parkers birthday she vowed to fight even harder. This thing, this GvHD will not win! There is way too much at stake and no one is going to tell her how it is going to be!

So today she sleeps, today I quit whining about how tired I feel, today we relish in the endless love shown us by friends and family through phone calls, texts and the almighty social media! Today we look forward to what tomorrow has to bring.

Tomorrow isn’t written yet and what we do with it determines how this story goes….

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t just a horse…

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When we received the phone call my wife sat me down and prepared me for the next statement. No it wasn’t anything drastic, we had been looking for a cutting horse for some time hoping to start Jake in that direction.

But with myself having grown up around horses and on a working horse farm she knew the words coming out of her mouth were instantly going to be met with resistance.

“I think we found a horse for Jake, I am going with our friend to look at him”

Me: Cool you found a nice gelding for Jake to ride?

Her: Um, no he’s a stud.

Cue: opinionated, I know more than you, obnoxious, are you freaking crazy look.

I ranted for a minute or two about the dangers of a stud in conjunction with no child should be on, near or around a stud let alone further learn, hone or develop their cutting skills aboard a stud! WE DON’T NEED IT, DON’T WANT IT, AINT HAVING ANY OF IT!!

Lil War Peppy- A.K.A Tank arrived at our doorstep the next day, out of shape, with long incorrect feet and a studly bellow which let everyone know on our ranch that although he didn’t exactly look the part, he was the new master of this domain.

I shook my head.

Tank was born April 6 1992 on Village Creek Ranch in Burleson Texas. He was born a direct son to the great world champion Stud Peppy San Badger who was introduced into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Yes he had royalty in his veins and soon enough we would see it shine through.

He traveled around a bit after his four year old year, moving to Wynnewood Oklahoma, the Compass R Ranch in Campbell Texas and through a sheer stroke of luck after a series of unfortunate events our little Blue Sky Ranch right here in Winters Ca.

We knew the minute this out of shape, screwy footed horse stood in front of a cow inside an open arena we had in fact made the right choice.

The very moment he unloaded out of the trailer and I was finally able to be face to face with this majestic diamond in the rough I knew my wife was right, and I needed to just shut the hell up.

I heard about these fabled stallions, the ones that don’t act like idiots all the time that actually listen, even when surrounded by mares yet I didn’t believe. Every stud horse I had encountered my entire life had always been an idiot. Oh some were sweet as pie as long as they were isolated or surrounded by very docile geldings. But never had I seen a stud who was gentler and sweeter than any gelding could ever be.

Tank took some conditioning and gentle, corrective foot care to get him back in line. He had a horrible split in his right front hoof that took almost two years to completely repair. He was a little stand offish at first and after a few weeks of me establishing some solid ground rules he slowly came to realize this was indeed his home and no one was going to pen him up or harm him in any way.

My son Jake, took to him right away, and he to Jake. The horse was a bit rusty and he favored his right side but with some solid schooling from Wes Johnson Cutting Horses and a bunch of lessons with junior aboard the two became quite a team. They rode almost every day and it wasn’t long before Tank was following Jake along like a puppy. And right there is where I saw it. I saw the look, in his eye, his neck, his relaxed demeanor and his ability to adapt to whatever Jake asked of him. Tank knew when Jake wasn’t doing it right and I can’t tell you how many times I watched that horse scoop the kid up during a run! Jake was out of position so tank would lose the advantage and place himself out of position to scoop the kid back up hoping not to lose him while getting back to work.

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Whenever Jake was around Tank would lower his head and listen intently, it was a thing of beauty. Occasionally he would remember he was a stud, but with a little correction he would fall right back into the fold and remember his place.

Now not everything was always daisies and roses, there would be times when Jake would cross up signals or Tank just simply hadn’t been warmed up enough and he would say screw you guys and get a bit broncy. One time in particular I think Jake was about 12, during a practice Tank just flat had enough of the crossed up signals bullshit and after several attempts to save the kid told him to get off! As a father in my opinion it was the greatest moment of that kid’s life! He rode that bronc all the way across the arena, with two old guys (me and Wes) screaming ride er cowboy!!!!! They made it to the furthest wall when Jake did the unthinkable. He reached out mid buck and grabbed for the fence line. One of the deadliest mistakes any cowboy can make. Grabbing the fence mid buck is a one way ticket to some missing teeth, a broken rib or face and even death. You always ride it out and if you start losing it, look for a spot out in the open where you can hit the ground and roll away without harm. Never wedge yourself between a fence and a firing set of 1400 pound hooves.

Luckily for Jake Tank bucked off the opposite direction. Jake sat for a moment stunned at what just happened. Looked at us both, started to snivel a bit and then said; DID YOU SEE THAT??? I RODE HIM!!!

We all laughed and with a little coaxing, a minute or two of schooling by Wes and Jake got right back on and finished his set. It was a defining moment for them both.

The two of them went on to win a few things and finally came up reserve grand champions in our cutting club before we figured out just why no matter what we did this horse favored his right side.

He had a bum shoulder. We will never know if he injured it as young colt or even as a young stud. He spent ten years on one ranch with little on record to show for it. But no matter the limitation that horse would always give you his best try. It was just who he was, and if he couldn’t do it he still tried.

Over the years Jake moved on to younger, more agile and skilled horses and Tank became mine. I rode him three to four times a week, keeping him in shape and would cut on him to sharpen my skills. He was solid and slow and not always correct which allowed me to focus on my riding ability instead of the horses ability to cut. As long as I always remembered to go easy on that right side, we would be just fine. I got what I needed and he always strutted out of the arena feeling accomplished.

Eventually he became my turnback horse. It was the one job he truly loved. He always knew when we were headed out to the practice ring or off to a show. He would get excited and call for me as soon as the trailer backed up to the barn. He didn’t care for corner work, but that’s because I think he wanted to cut the cows, but he loved turning back, more specifically the left side of the arena. He could push off that left front much better on the jump so he knew his place inside the fence line.

Over the last three years of his life, he taught several kids how to ride, made several more happy to have a horse to ride, was used for senior pictures and was the go to horse for our youngest Parker. Tank and I also participated in a Sutters Fort reenactment where we rode in together as mail call for the settlers. He loved doing it and would get super excited as we rode around the park surrounding Sutters Fort in downtown Sacramento. As we passed people in the park they would smile and wave and he would calm down just so they could pet him. Once away from the pedestrians his head would come up, his ears would go forward and his tail would rise. He would strut, like a king, like the boss, like a stud. Once we passed through the forts front gates, it all went away, and it was show time.

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He loved those little kids which was the strangest thing to me. When little kids came around he would put his head all the way down to their level and wait. He loved nothing more than their little hands petting his face, stroking his neck and scratching his ears. He wouldn’t move so much as a single muscle. Just stand there like a statue, ears moving back and forth, lips being licked and eyes soft and gentle, not a tense bone in his body. I had somebody tell me once that Tank looked as though if he could have laid on his back like a puppy he would have just so the kids could scratch his belly.

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Tank became my best friend.

The hours we spent talking, going for rides, helping teach kids, riding alongside others and simply being a team I could not count. He was the first place I would go when walking into our barn. The first one to get rode while others sat saddled and tied to the barn or inside the arena. He stayed with me all day as my mount for when I was helping others. We have gathered cattle, doctored cattle, branded, rode the trails, gone sorting, cutting and worked the alleyways of events. But most all of he listened and gave me consistency when I needed it most. The last three years with Jacy being sick have been hell. He has always been my favorite confidant, that non judgemental set of ears that carried me and allowed me an hour or two of normalcy during our very abnormal times.

No matter what I needed to do, where I needed to do it, be it rain or shine, this wonderful, kind, amazing animal was there for me. I truly loved him.

Tank passed away on Saturday the 17th 2016.

I got the phone call from one of our borders that he didn’t look right. He was breathing hard and not acting his normal self. She had seen him roll in his stall and he just didn’t act right after that. She sent me a video of him breathing hard and although it was hard to see I had a bad feeling.

Our barn manager showed up minutes later, calling me to say it was colic and she was starting treatment. I pulled off the freeway and we both started mass calling Vet’s to get someone there as soon as possible. By the time I arrived I knew it wasn’t good. His demeanor was poor, he was breathing very heavy and soaked in sweat. When I walked up and took him from one of the girls, he sighed heavy and just leaned into me. I stroked his mane, kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

My heart was breaking.

Tank passed away later that afternoon.

I have lost quite few animals in my life. Some were closer than others, but losing this horse was hands down the toughest one to date. What this horse (the one I didn’t want) brought to our family was a piece of fabric that wove us all together. He was the best horse I have ever owned. I can say unequivocally that I loved him with all my heart and as he slipped away with his head near my lap, me stroking his mane, while he stayed relaxed because he trusted me, I could no longer hold back my emotions.

If you know horses, if you love horses than you know just how powerful that moment was, when a stud horse not only trusts you, but trusts you all the way to the very end. He would have done anything I asked of him and the thought of this ranch without him was and still is overwhelming to say the least.

Some will say just get over it, there are a million great horses out there, and yes I will turn the corner from sadness to fondness for all he brought us the minute he crossed through those gates. But for right now, at this very point in time, well, I haven’t even been in the barn. His stall empty, no bellow or happy snort as I walk inside to greet me and no big 1400 pound hug. It just hurts my heart way too much.

Tank is laid to rest overlooking the ranch from under the old oak tree. Right next to him is the founder of our ranch and Cooper’s good dog rescue. Cooper himself. There were two dogs Tank let follow him around. One was Cooper the other is Jack.

I hope his spirit is running wild and free with Cooper right by his side hoping we will see each other again.

I just wish I could ride him one more time, we have so much to talk about……..

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