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…

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The Face of Leukemia belongs to another………

Oh god! It’s happening right now!!! It’s happening right now! Oh my god, oh my god, holy shit, I’m not ready, or lord I’m not ready!!! Please don’t go, PLEASE DON’T FUCKING GO, YOU CANT LEAVE ME, YOU CANT LEAVE, PLEASE BABY PLEASE D O N ’T  G O…………..

I… love … you….

Time of Death (TOD) 12:10

Date: 10/20/2018

No it’s not a reality show, or some made up Holly wood bullshit and I am not writing a paragraph for some future best seller!

It’s the playlist running through my head every day since my wife succumbed to GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease one week ago. GvHD, a nasty derivative of a Bone Marrow Transplant post Leukemia diagnosis.

I have been a firefighter for 23 years. Nothing, and mean NOTHING prepared me for those 30 seconds as I watched the woman I loved, cared for through sickness and health, good times or bad, take her final, gasping, breath at 12:10 on a bed she made me swear she would never be in (hospice provided hospital bed) in the transformed living room of the place she loved more than anything-her home.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people I have personally witnessed perish. I cannot tell you the number of people I have personally watched suffer in agony as the one they loved slipped away. I cannot tell you the number of times I drove back to the station after an incident, filled with sadness for those people and sluffed it away with humor or companionship from my fellow co-workers.

I cannot tell you how badly all of it hurt and came to a head at 12:10 on Saturday the 20th 2018.

The storyline if there was one should read: quietly I wept by her side knowing she was in a better place, free from pain, one with God. I took comfort in knowing these things and because of this knowledge was able to open up and allow others to grieve by her side.

But this isn’t a storyline! This is my life..

If I hadn’t been in a chair, I would have fallen to the floor, If my sons hadn’t been by my side I would have crawled under the bed, but make no mistake, I wailed, I sobbed, I kissed her face, over and over, and over again, just praying for one last look, one last mumble, one last anything.

There was nothing. She was gone, I was crushed, my heart is consumed with pain, I feel immeasurable guilt for the multiple hours she spent alone, trapped in this house as I ran from one place to another, and the thought of living life without my center, my navigational north by my side is unbearable.

Today is the one week anniversary of her death.

I have made it a week. The house is empty, oh so empty. I still am not used to the silence associated with no medical equipment running, no sounds of her coughing or calling my name for assistance. I need more than anything to hear her making dumb jokes, asking if I think GvHD has made her sexy or wanting nothing more than a cheek snuggle. I pace around in the morning early, trying my best to fight the urge to go downstairs and check on that fucking empty room.

This is NOT how she would have wanted me to be. I sit in her room and tell her I am sorry, I tell her I promise as time goes on I will get stronger, but right now I am mourning. I have come to realize I am not mourning just the loss of my wife, my best friend, a person who gave so much of herself to those around her which in turn made me a better man. I am mourning the past, the five years lost, filled with sickness, Stanford, Kaiser and such. Date nights, alone time, reconnection, weekends, and walks around the property, loading up and taking horses anywhere or nowhere at all. I am mourning what we didn’t have for 4 of those five years. I am mourning what we will never have again. I am mourning for my children, for my grandchildren and that is what hurts the most. That woman lived for babies, for being a presence in their lives and the thought of my grandchildren never meeting their goofy, fun loving grandmother. The thought makes me sad, so sad, as if I am drowning in a perpetual sea of sadness.

I am sad my son’s wives will never know the true unfiltered love of a mother in law with no agenda. I am sad my daughter won’t have her mother at her side on her wedding day.

And I am angry.

The hardest part for me is why? I am not supposed to know the answer, I am supposed to believe and follow faithfully. My faith has always been strong. How many times must a man suffer? How many times must a family suffer? What is it I am supposed to learn from all of this?

My whole life I have wanted nothing more than a family, to marry, grow, and together step through the seasons of life. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, births and birthdays. To have a ranch where they all come together with their children built upon the seeds their mother and I threw into the mix. To die an old couple knowing we did our best, grew our crop and watched it flourish to harvest together.

To pass on our love, compassion and set an example for our future Franceschi generations.

I have been robbed, she has been robbed, and our children have been robbed. For that I am angry.

She would tell me to knock it off! To not be angry, we all knew this was a possibility, that she did this for no other reason than to be by her children for one more day, to hear their voices and feel their presence for one more day. She would tell me she succeeded and that it quite simply was time to go. She had a funny way of always knowing. She just had a way. I loved her for it.

Right now, I wish she was here, for 7 days later, I really need her to help show me the way…

The Face of Leukemia now belongs to another.

Picture taken at 11:30 am. 40 minutes before she slipped away.

I am not fine…

I am not fine.

There it is, I said it. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. But, I have acknowledged it, pulled it out from under the emotional rock it was hiding and verbally stated its presence.

I am not fine.

There are many reasons I am not fine, and it’s not a simple answer to the question of why? But it is a truth, a truth I have been hiding for quite some time now.

I spent this week in San Diego as a participant in a Health and Wellness for public servants seminar. The first day started with an amazing opening speaker who really inspired and justified my resilience in accepting this time away from Jacy. After that it was a lot of the same old build up, and for us fire guys a reiteration that ICS should always be used while managing any type of incident. Including a mental health crisis. After 8 hours of what was new and interesting information for most and a segment of boring refresher for us fire people. I prayed the class would only get better. It did not disappoint.

Day two found us thrown into the emotional arms of a speaker covering the essentials of support, where that support comes from and what it looks like when built properly. He carefully broke down through his own experiences where we go wrong as public service personnel when it comes to identifying the who, what where and why of our foundations for strength while working these spiritually, emotionally and mentally taxing professions.

As he stood there expounding on his failures, the recognition of a skewed priority system, the ability to deny professional help after a triggered emotional event and the wall he built around him by simply stating he was fine when asked. It hit me, hard, like a ton of bricks that everything he was saying fit me to a tee. That I to have been pronouncing my resilience nonstop and answering every question in regards to how I was doing with the five year demise of my wife as I was “fine”.

But I wasn’t fine. In fact I had been living this lie for so long I actually began to believe my own bullshit.

You see in those few moments as I wandered in and out of his lecture, with every key point fitting me perfectly I knew it had gone on long enough. But where did all this come from? How did I get this way? Why have I been able to carry this load so well for so long and still be standing?

Day three gave me the answer.

During a transition in classes on day three, having freshly been removed from an hour long course on family crisis and the emotional well-being of children in regards to perceptions related to our jobs.

I received the phone call no one wants.

My wife, the love of my life, the strongest human being I know in this world was in demise. As many of you already know Jacy has been fighting a very long hard battle with GvHD post Leukemia transplant. The GvHD has won. We quietly placed her on long term hospice four weeks ago. Affording us instant access to RN’s who would come straight to the house when needed. Also giving me a strong base to stand on as I have been the head nurse to my wife for over a year.

 

 

 

The phone call went something like this: James, Hospice is taking Jacy off the Stanford medications, she can no longer swallow, or eat and really it’s about pain management now. She has but a few days.

Of course there is much more to it than that but this is neither the time nor place to run through her complete medical chart, emotional state or my irrational state of mind.

As of late I have been referring to myself as the air traffic controller of our family, that call was the equivalent of having a plane drop from my screen. Call sign, call sign, pandemonium and panic ensue.

Yet it was also in that moment, standing on a deck just outside the convention overlooking beautiful Mission Bay trying to keep it together as 600 hundred of my fellow public servants could see me from many vantage points I not only realized 100% I met every single criteria for a public servant-no a human being, father of four, dad, a fucking husband in distress and the honest recognition I needed help. Just like that, the clarity as to how I have been able to keep going for so long hit me like a brick.

My father.

My dad could drive me crazy! His self-righteous bullshit was always something I rebelled against! But since his passing here at the house almost three years ago I have come to realize that even though I fought against him so hard for so long there are traits he taught me that I carry proudly to this day.

Son; always put one foot in front of the other, life will knock you down but you need to keep going. What else are you going to do?

Of course in his later years he did nothing but sit on his butt and blame everyone and everything for his perceived failures in life instead of cherishing what was around him. This was also a bone of contention between us because I believed the latter and it made me mad he wouldn’t follow his own advice.

But here I was, overlooking the ocean, swelled up with a myriad of uncontrollable emotions. Not more than a few hours earlier I had been talking to one of my co-workers about how tired I was after five years and several Leukemia associated battles. Trips to Stanford, scares, triumphs, disappointment, doctors’ visits to Kaiser, Jacy crying in the elevator proclaiming she wasn’t ready to die, because she felt there was so much work left to do. It all has taken a tremendous toll on us all, of course no more than what it’s done to my wife.

The only life I have known for five years is that of a single parent (I fully admire all of you single parents) doing his best to get three of my four kids where they need to be when they need to be there, run our ranch, work my job as a firefighter, and care for my wife 24 hours a day many times with little sleep. I am blessed the most amazing support structure in Jacys family and with the assistance of our Gina I don’t know how I would ever have gotten it all done, but either way, yeah I was tired.

But what struck me, what really opened my eyes at that very moment was the realization through wonderful training that week, was that I hadn’t been placing one foot in front of the other for five years, no, no my friends. I have been doing it for 18 years.

 

 

 

I never dealt with or recovered fully from the loss of my first wife. I have been doing the emotional two step in one form or another for a very, very long time, affecting my personal relationships, my children’s ability to grow as human beings and my own self-care.

So yeah I am tired, I am so fucking tired.

But in that same instant, I’m not ready!

I am not ready for any of this, I have the skills to handle it, I have a complete support network in place to handle it, and I have the contacts to some of the best professionals in the business to handle it! All of that is something I didn’t have in 2001 when Kim died. I have been praying for peace for my wife, but her mind says she isn’t ready. I have been wanting to have a moment where I don’t need to worry about anyone or anything, but I am a man who cares deeply for his family, all of his family so that is not a viable wish. But I am not ready to say goodbye.

On the flight home I stared at the ceiling, I could hear my wife’s angelic voice in my head as I replayed moments from the past. It hurt because we haven’t had a conversation that was completely lucid in quite some time. I relived many of my favorite times with her and realized how much I will miss even the tough times. She is the only woman in my life who understood I never ever meant any harm when at times my mouth wrote checks I couldn’t cash. Which means she is also the only person who could ever call me on my shit without receiving the full verbal wrath of James Franceschi! Something I am always embarrassed by when it inadvertently happens.

I don’t do alone.

What am I going to do without her? Why is or did this happen? I have been so focused on keeping her alive that now as the time dwindles away I haven’t remotely considered how I am going to function without her, her strong willed personality, her gigantic kind, giving heart, her ability to coerce me into doing things or trying things I never, ever would have done or experienced completely against my will only to have me thank her for it afterwards. That larger than life smile, how will I go on without that larger than life smile in my life? How are my children going to function? Cody and Jake have been through this, they still have no idea what’s ahead, and they are quietly struggling as well but what do I say, what do I do? What is Jess going to do in a house filled with all boys, no mom to be there for prom, homecoming, graduation, and all the girly things that need to be addressed in the way only a mom, no, only my wife can do! What about Parker, why is this happening to Parker her only child? She fought so hard to bring him into this life and now she won’t be there for him either!! She is his everything!!!

Listen, I understand I am not the only person in the world this has or is happening too. But what the hell???? Why is this happening to me twice and how in the fuck do you justify taking away quite possibly the kindest most giving person I have ever known. Why not me? I have spent my life as an asshole, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work???

 

 

 

Jacy Mirelle Glenn Franceschi answered a call 16 years ago. She fought hard against all odds to answer that call, fulfil that vision and she has without question made me the man I am today! Something I am so, so grateful for! She fought long and hard, working night and day to create the James Franceschi that sits here typing, wondering why? Is God saying her job is done and if so couldn’t he have found a different, less painful and disturbing way to tell her?

I love, love, love my wife. What am I going to do the first morning I get up and I don’t hear; Good morning my love as I grumble across the kitchen floor and make her coffee and breakfast? That first morning the kids don’t yell goodbye mom see you after school, hope you feel better today, while she does her best to respond with: have a great day! The first time her hospital bed isn’t there, the oxygen machine isn’t running, the doorbell isn’t ringing with medication deliveries and the house is cold and empty as if she never existed? The house she created, the home she filled with warmth and love, the ranch we tried to build together???

WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP SHIT IS THAT??? MY BEST FRIEND IS DYING SLOWLY AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!!

I’M NOT FINE, THERE IT IS, I’M NOT FUCKING FINE!!!

Is it just a party??

Rolling down this dirt path carved into a country landscape from many years of vehicular abuse, these almost gypsy like heathens moved like a battle hardened caravan having just crossed nature’s own brutal convection oven labeled the Sahara. One by one their vehicles of choice came to ease and were hastily placed into park. Dust, once billowing behind now came to settle as they spilled like sullied cargo from within these sheet metal four wheeled coffins. Wiping their eyes and straightening the linens draped upon their weary bones, eye contact was made with their hosts and those who had previously arrived. These weariest of travelers sighed a heavy sigh with shoulders slumped while large grins appeared upon their faces. Slowly stepping forward towards these friendly smiles warmly becoming one because they were with family; they were finally home.

AND THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE GOES TOO????? BETTY!!!!!!!

(Thunderous applause, cheering can be heard for miles)

This weekend we did something that hasn’t happened in a very long time here on our ranch.

WE HAD A FAMILY PARTY!!!!!

That’s right, my wife wanted so badly to get her side of the family together and to feel normal, even if just for a few hours.

Before Jacy got sick, it was not uncommon for us to throw multiple summer shin digs out here on the ranch. Beer, BBQ and good times! Life is short and spending time with family and great people is of the utmost priority because as we all know, it can be over in a minute.

So, one by one they came, by car, by motorhome, by four wheel drive. Some were family we see on a fairly regular basis, some came from the east coast, some came from the north, some we hadn’t seen in a very long time and some I had personally never met.

I used to LOVE throwing a party, I would spend days preparing the meat, Jacy would spend days preparing the house and making all the side dishes. We would dress up the place, throw down some lights, set up the music and wait, much like kids on Christmas morning for people to arrive.

But I cannot tell a lie, that feeling has been gone for quite some time. It just hasn’t been in me, I really don’t want to socialize most days, I don’t want any extra work load put on my plate, and I don’t want to plan anything for every time I open my calendar the schedule is completely full.

I dream of running away all the time. No place in particular, in my mind it’s just a quiet place of solitude with no responsibilities at all. It’s a weird feeling really, this place you go to in your mind when as the sole everything to your family you should remain steadfast and not let imaginary substance take hold. You feel guilty for mentally giving up at times. Yet it’s hard when you live with the constant fear of always forgetting something important, never doing any one thing good enough, and worrying every time you leave the house that something is going to happen to your wife. (That feeling really sucks when I go to work 48 hours at a time)

Well something did happen to my wife, and myself too.

She smiled.

Surrounded by a portion (all of our friends and family weren’t able to attend) of those she loves, for a full day while jokes flew, stories were told, and laughter reigned king my wife was able to forget four years of suffering and pain. My wife was able to believe her life was and could be normal. My wife who gives more of herself to anyone and I mean ANYONE who would ever ask or even look as though they needed her assistance. Felt as though her life was whole again.

Since Saturday came and went, she hasn’t quit smiling. Oh she was exhausted Sunday night after all had gone home and quiet settled upon our little ranch house. Today is Monday and for the most part for her is has been spent in bed.

Last night, I swear when I came to bed amongst the hum of her oxygen machine, through the glow of the security lights she has surrounding our bed, my wife, my little tiny, half blind, frail, sweet wife, was still smiling.

For me, it reminded me about the importance of family and great friends. It reminded me that even though things seem difficult at times, if I really wanted to hit the ole pity party streets within minutes I could find others who have it way harder than myself. It reminded me this is a journey and no matter the outcome I need to always embrace the journey for when my journey is over, well it’s over.

So why not fill that journey with incredible moments, experiences that will never be forgotten, surrounded by people you love, who love you right back?

Sure today we are right back into the grind of things, but I’m still smiling from a great couple of days that took a little work to make happen and the work was so worth it. My wife is still smiling from the opportunity to not only still be here on this planet but also being surrounded by the ones she loves. Our children are still laughing at all the fun they had with their cousins, nephews and friends. And I’m pretty sure each and every family member or friend who stepped foot on our ranch Saturday afternoon is in some small way still smiling too.

That itself says it all.

So smile a little smile, tell the ones you love, that you love them, put away the politics, the news, the electronic i-device of slavery and get everyone together for some good food, a few drinks, lots of laughter and memories that last a lifetime.

It is so worth it.

And now and ending worthy of literature greatness.

Blitz laid quietly amongst the empty tables and chairs, belly warmed by the earth beneath his fur. His head hung heavy upon his front feet as Jacy slowly stroking his ears mumbled aloud; it sure is quiet now isn’t it buddy?

He groaned, took a deep breath and sighed again. The breeze was warm upon her back as she gazed upon a now lonesome backyard that only a few hours ago was brimming with energy and love. Smiling as a tear rolled gently down her cheek the salty droplet landing adjacent to her lip. A day, a single day she swore would never come, a moment of time her brain told her she would never take part in again, the thought of all those days trapped within the bustling walls of Stanford hospital flooding every pore of her body. Shaking, feeling numb as memories of pain and despair, sleepless nights and the thought she would never, ever come home rears its ugly head. She looks down at Blitz and mumbles; I proved them all wrong didn’t I buddy? One by one she proved every one of them wrong and survived what had previously been deemed un-survivable.

Now, face turned towards the property, a thousand yard stare firmly affixed she sees nothing of the landscape before her and as the sounds of the last vehicle fade into the distance she smiles. Not because these traveling familia nomads are all gone. Not because quiet has befallen her world once again, and not because she can finally rest. No she smiles because in true Jacy style, she did it all her way and was able to once again surround herself with love.

Ok so maybe not literary genius. Readers Digest?

 

 

 

 

The top ten behaviors a man should practice after his wedding day to hopefully create a successful marriage/life.

Summer is upon us and with it a cavalcade of weddings adorning our handheld devices through many wonderful social mediums. A wedding is truly one of the most beautiful moments in a person’s life. The coming together of a young couple, their families, friends, associates all in the name of love. Both young and old find some nurturing aspect of these long held rituals. Whether it be a remnant of time gone by, the same warmth felt from that very day as you hold your partners hand many years later or simply the romance associated with watching others in love. It is all there for those who love, love, the idea of love, or being in love. Even the most cold hearted cannot help but smile as two become one in a union of souls and adoration. It is also a very special day for divorce attorneys as another crop of prospective clients march bravely into the streets!! Wow! Sorry got off track rather quickly on that one! In poor taste?? Oh well I apologize, now where were we? 

The thing is, what happens the day after your wedding? Is there an instant change in the relationship? Most say being married is just like dating, only now you share a name whether hyphenated or not, and a bank account. Life before marriage was perfect and arranging this union was the mere icing on top of a proverbial cake when it came to building a life together. There was and is that feeling of; nothing could ever tear the two of you apart and marriage was simply the concrete or glue needed to bind this relationship.

I know this all to be true because I felt exactly the same way, not once but twice.

My life has been filled with many ups and downs, hell some would say it has been quite the roller coaster ride! At 50 I am pretty sure I have experienced more than most, yet still less than others. There have been more tears and moments of doubt than I care to recall. I spend quite an amount of time wondering, contemplating how to make the lives better for those around me and am constantly trying my hardest to learn something, anything from any and all experiences I am exposed too.

When it comes to marriage as with most men, I am no genius. But I have and always will love the idea of being in love. There is someone for everyone, I truly believe in that premise. Sometimes it is not the person you are looking for and love will come up and slap you in the face! Your relationship blinders having been so thick and narrow you couldn’t see it coming! But there it is and all of a sudden you are awe struck/smitten. Sometimes it’s a feeling or a premonition or you even feel as though God or some form of higher power is steering you in that right direction. A perfect union that becomes love, eventually with a little luck becomes marriage and then when all is right, it becomes a life. Something to be proud of, a traveled road with a gigantic footprint left behind, hopefully a footprint of love pointing the way for others within your family to walk proudly in those very same steps.

No matter the journey traveled how do we get there? How do we have, or create a successful marriage? Television and the movies would have you believe marriage is either a gigantic disaster waiting to happen or sprinkled with chocolate upon the gilded wings of angels. Nice picture huh? MMM chocolate..

The fact of the matter is marriage is work, at times extremely hard, emotional work! You see the thing is as I asked previously; what happens the day after? And after looking at all the lovely wedding pictures on FB today for some reason I thought maybe, just maybe some advice whether warranted or not from a man who has gotten very lucky twice in his life when it comes to marriage might do the trick! Advice from a man who is still madly in love with his wife and the very spirit that drives her every day regardless of everything that has happened in our lives would or possibly should be in order. We learn from those who came before us and regardless of the age there are some basic strategies that I believe hold true no matter how old or young you have become. Strategies or an ideology that hopefully can be built upon and passed down to your children should you make that colossal child bearing mistake! I mean devoted loving moment that will fill your life with so much joy (misery), happiness (frustration), fulfillment (you’ll never be alone again) and love (feels so good when they say I hate you)!!

That was pure sarcasm so no one get their undies in a bunch!!! I absolutely couldn’t live without my children! (No seriously they are part of my retirement plan) Hee, Hee, hee!!!

Ok I’ll stop now.

So after much thought and deliberation, dwelling on the many times I have failed to follow my own advice, here are the top ten things in this man’s eyes, from obviously a man’s perspective that you must do to even attempt creating a long and happy marriage. I am sure some will disagree, but so far by following these simple rules my marriage has indeed been the highlight of my life.

  1. CONTINUE DATING

That’s right kiddo’s, just because you are now married does not mean dating stops! I know you youngsters are saying right now; duh! We date all the time! Well wine tasting weekends, sports venues, concerts, and even burning man will all fade away with time because children, finances and career choices seem to take its place so make it a priority. Year 1-5 will be easy! Its every year after that life seems to continually get in the way! Don’t let it! And if you make a set date night, keep it!!! Or at least do your very best to keep it! There are exceptions but don’t make them the rule, keep them the exception. Listen, date night doesn’t have to be at the Fairmont! A walk at the beach together, a night under the stars, a movie, heck even just shutting off all electronics and talking over dinner. (We will get into talking over dinner later) Just make it happen, you both need it!

  1. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS

I think for men this may be the hardest! Let me break it down for you boys, just because you are now married does not mean YOUR income has doubled!! Oh I see you wringing those fists together thinking that new Malibu Wakesetter is on the way!! Or it might be time to upgrade from the old Ford Focus to the BMW M5! Here’s the sales pitch; I mean come on honey it will be a sweet luxury car you can drive too!!! Hey I know, now that we have combined our money we can put a swimming pool in the backyard and then all your hot friends can come swimming!! And about that pool thingy we need to buy a house so we can have a pool! Let’s get on that shall we!!

Yeah, ahhhhhhhh NO! STOP!!!!! It starts from day one, yes you now are a part of each other’s financials and that does make a difference in both your lives and the decisions that need to be made, but they are decisions made together, as equal partners in a hopefully thriving business (your relationship). Work together on all big purchases and decide together how, where and when any monies will be spent. Keep your expenditures to a minimum and never, ever live outside your means. Just because you have credit, and together your credit score is off the charts does not mean you need to use it!! The more money saved the better! Always have a minimum of 6 months’ salary for you both squirreled away somewhere and an emergency fund with a set minimum decided by you both that is for nothing but EMERGENCIES!! Just to help you out with that last one gentlemen, running out of beer on poker night with the boys is not considered and emergency! Are we clear on that? Your car breaking down (you know that four wheeled object that gets you back and for to work) when you’re short of cash between paychecks, that lads is an emergency!!!

So play it smart kids, save, save and save! Start a ROTH IRA early if you can, and save some more. Put a monthly set amount in an interest bearing account and trust me when I say; you’ll thank me for it later!

  1. ONE PERSON DOES THE BOOKS

Ok this one is up for debate, and I am sure many of you are saying right now; OH HELL NO!!! But I have found if the both of you in your love lorn, twitter pated state decide to combine finances (some couples don’t, keeping separate checking accounts and that’s perfectly understandable and ok too) then together determine who is better suited to manage those finances and assign that person to do so. There are those that believe every bill should be gone over together or splitting the bills like roommates is the perfect fit. You know if that works for you fine, but I am here to tell you, life between the two of you will be so much happier if only one person bears that monotonous monthly barrage of bill paying splendor! Then at the end of the month the two of you can discuss expenditures together if you chose to do so, ensuring your finances are still on track. Bills being paid on time will become a learned habit by one person and there will never be any miscommunication about how, where or when something should be paid. Now of course it also frees up that partner of yours to live their life very much like my wife does. She says she lives like a mafia wife. She don’t know where the money comes from and she don’t care, she knows the house is stocked and foods on the table, and that’s all that matters. So what if Jimmy Beans took one in the head for not delivering his monthly vig, he should of fucking paid up so mamma can get a new pair of shoes damn it!

  1. BE SUPPORTIVE

So here is one that’s going to be hard for some of the men to hear. Wait, no they will hear it, but not understand it, no wait! They will understand it but the definition of what it truly means to be supportive will be lost on them. Ok I am being tough on you guys with generalizations but it comes from a place of experience, understanding and acceptance of my failures as a man.

This was one that was hard for me because what I thought was supporting was in fact me devaluing her attempts at whatever it was she was attempting. Right now you are thinking; huh?? Let me explain.

Example; your wife comes home and states she would like to go back to school, adding onto her degree would help fulfill her desire for higher education.

Great! Right!

So you tell her you are behind her 100%! You tell the world how awesome she is for doing this and you expound all the benefits both didactic, mentally, professionally and emotionally she will receive by attempting this profound journey! Yep you are showing support.

Really you aren’t doing a damn thing but giving lip service.

Where are you when the laundry needs doing? When her dog needs walking, when she needs help juggling work and classes? Where are you when her study group goes late? Are you an understanding partner by having some dinner ready when she gets home, some alone time for her to decompress or do you play word games of guilt with her mind. Oh you think telling her how much you miss her since she has been hard at the books every night is supportive but the reality it is, you are whining and selfish. Afterwards she ends up feeling bad, then after a while she begins feeling so bad she starts slacking on school work needing to be done or she slowly starts resenting you for the pressure put upon her and your relationship. She knows going back to school has created an added strain to the relationship, but she doesn’t need you showing just how much on a regular basis. Now in a strong relationship she really misses you too and will definitely let you know without prompting. She will do her very best to keep date night in the forefront, alone time between the two of you is always in her thoughts, even just being together at night watching a movie should be considered a treat! But don’t throw guilt, even unintended guilt around like its everyday fodder. Don’t let your insecurities come across as support. Because it’s not.

A supportive spouse is there as a partner! Be supportive in any way possible. Remember guilt is bullshit and talk is just that, talk…

  1. WORK SHOULD NEVER COME FIRST

I know, I know, it’s a career thing! We should all retain that hardened resolve to succeed. In my chosen profession as a firefighter the building is filled with Type A personalities so it appears that working hard to obtain that next step, notch in the old career belt would be an absolute! One pitting themselves against the other, striving for success and always giving every ounce of what you have to become the very best you can be.

But there is something you should know now while you are young that may be really hard to understand. You cannot get back time you never held. From the time I left home as a young lad I have worked my ass off! Sometimes there were three jobs at a time, me scratching, clawing, working my way towards something anything! After marriage it was no different. My excuse was always centered on building a life for the two of us. Then I was trying to provide for the three of us, for a house we had purchased, and not long after I was providing for the four of us. I was never home, ever…

When I became a firefighter after years of working a fulltime job, a part time job and volunteering. I swore I would never put my family last again. I made a promise to my wife I would put her and the kids first no matter what! That first year and a half, I worked every overtime shift, every strike team assignment and went to every week long class I could attend. It never stopped, or should I say I never stopped. Promise after broken promise all under the guise of bettering our position through hard work and laborious conditions.

My first wife passed away that year.

She never reaped any of the benefits I promised. She never had any of the time I swore was coming, we never had any family vacations, time away just the four of us. There was never any special memories made, just memories of her life, my life and the two of us passing each other on the way in or out, me coming home from work then her heading to work. Me heading off to work then coming home one, two sometimes four or even seven days later. Her frustration and sadness was written all over her face. I could not get back that time I never held.

Her death taught me a lot about myself. What a selfish jerk I had been, that I was not who I thought I was but was exactly what everyone else made me out to be! It was painful to recognize, a horrendous image in the mirror looking back upon myself. Greedy and self-centered, a man caring only about his personal ambitions. I promised if I was ever allowed the privilege to do it all over again. Things would be different. A life that would be vastly different. I would no longer turn my back on those I loved for selfishness.

My family would/will always come first and to that end I have kept my word. I did remarry and my wife is a selfless, amazing human being. I don’t know where she came from or why she chose me. I don’t know where I would be without her and I have worked very hard at keeping my promises while always working on becoming a better man. I screw up time and again, after all I am a man! But make no mistake, she and our children have always been the first priority in our lives!

OT up on the books? Only taken after talking with my wife, my kids. Checking to make sure there are no family commitments that precede it.

Family vacation planned? Plan it! Take it, do it, enjoy it, and create those memories lasting a lifetime!

Kids are participating in school sports? I am there! No work or project will ever stop me if I can help it! From standing at the sidelines, cheering on my children or simply standing there quietly where they can see me and smile knowing dad never let them down.

Now don’t get me wrong, in my profession there are definitely times where it just cannot be helped and I am at work whether I like it or not. It is part of the emergency services life. But I chose, work for and have stayed with a department that is close to my family, their schools and sports activities. So even while I am at work, occasionally I am able to still participate depending on the activity. I am one very lucky man in that aspect. I am keeping my promise.

I will preach it a thousand times! Family, your family, your wife should always come first.

  1. TIME APART IS GOOD

Ok I know she is your best friend, the two of you do EVERYTHING together! She is the sunshine in your morning the heavenly silver lined cloud that adorns your evenings. When you look at her your brain turns to mush and your heart beats to no end. She is the non-existent unicorn you have captured and she is all yours, no one else’s. Skittles and ice cream for everyone!!!! Yay!!!!!

But who were you before her?

It is a valid question. Think about it.

Yes the two of you will grow as human beings together. There are parts of you both that will change over time as your lives expand and your beliefs change. But I ask the question, who were you? What were you? What were the things you loved to do or partake in that developed the person she fell in love with in the first place?

There is nothing wrong with a weekend away fishing or hunting. Poker night with the boys or wine tasting with friends now and again. There is nothing wrong with loading up the horses with a few buddies to disappear into the hills for a day or two! Still participating in the activities that made you well uh YOU!

For me it is fishing and riding motorcycles.

If I can get away fishing for a day or two I reboot my brain. Remember why I am who I am. Reflect on all that has happened over the last few weeks while finding where I have either failed or succeeded. It is that opportunity for me to remember who I am, while doing what I love with no expectations or assumptions.

The same goes with motorcycle riding. If I can disappear for a day or two, the open road helps me find myself. The solitude in combination with that motor humming beneath me, the openness out on the road, an ability to be one with my surroundings, smelling the air, feeling the temperature changes as I ride! I find myself very quickly. Motorcycle riding and motorcycles in general is something I am very passionate about, I have been riding motorcycles since I was 15. So you can see it is one of my activities that allows me to remember who I am, where I came from, cleansing my soul and regenerating my resolve.

So find that thing that is you! Keep it, hold onto it, and use it when needed. Your wife will understand, it is the reason she needs a girl’s weekend, rides that triathlon, participates in marathons or has bunko night and time with her best friends. We all need that something that defines who we are while allowing us the freedom to grow.

Now if your thing that defines you is bars and strip clubs! Buster you are on your own!

  1. CREATE YOUR OWN UTOPIA

This one to me is very important! So many of us live together as couples/partners but really we are living apart. We rent, we own, we live in a van down by the river! But we treat these places as stop over points, places to rest our heads at night, a place to keep us out of the weather and nothing more. All that is good and fine, but the reality is, as a married couple or partners your domicile should not only be a reflection of the two of you but a place you look forward to being!

Seriously, when you are at work you should not dread going home! Your home, no matter where it is should be your vacation spot before you even actually have a VACATION SPOT!!!!

Your mind is blown right now huh?

Think about it, don’t you want to live somewhere that you cannot wait to get back too? I know I do! Our house is exactly what we always dreamed it would be! Yes I totally need to remodel the kitchen and we need new carpets, ok the entire interior needs repainting, (shit feeling kinda bad about our place right now) but when you pull into our driveway and look around you see something we have worked very hard for, a place our children will remember the rest of their lives, a place where I can sit under a tree and watch the dogs run about. A place where my horses walk up to the back fence and say hello. It is not what everyone would want, it is more than some and less than others, but it is our place. I look forward to going home and being there and if I never was able to travel on vacation again it would be fine. You see I can simply move the trailer out back and build a campfire. We are there because it is our vacation spot before we had a vacation spot! It is our utopia.

Find what makes your place special and expand upon it! Dream it together, build it together, live in it together and before long it will be your utopia, your special place filled with love and personal growth! A place you long for every moment of the day.

  1. Children

I have talked about children a little in this list, as if it’s an assumptive equation. You know like;

Billy + Sally = Baby Dudley

But here is the thing and I cannot stress this enough if you decide children are for the two of you! Do not under any circumstances if at all humanly possible have children before you are ready! Ok that might have been a little strong, but here me out. I understand there are times accidents happen both pre and post relationship solidification. And you know what, if you are ready to meet that challenge head on then you do you and do it damn well!! Good on ya! But there is a family dynamic that has bugged me from before I even understood what it meant.

Family members that start pushing children the minute you get married.

Mom, dad, Auntie Bee, Uncle Rufus they all miraculously become that stock trader with the inside scoop on child rearing. Pulling you aside and whispering in your ear that little insider trading nugget that will undoubtedly enrich your lives.

Things like……

Hey buddy listen, you and the misses should really be getting to knocking boots seriously right now! The quicker you have kids the sooner you can retire without having to pay for the little shits anymore!

Or

Hey girl, you know if you have a couple little dumplings right away you will be young enough to rebound that body and still have time to rock a career after they get into school!!

Or

Hey guys my wife Gertrude is pregnant so why don’t you two get pregnant as well then we can raise our kids together!!! Doesn’t that sound like fun???

Or-and this is my personal favorite

Hey kiddo the faster the two of you procreate a couple of tax deductions the better off you’ll be financially. You know what I’m saying?

Why yes, yes I do because I speak English too… Ugggg!!!

Each one of those lines has been used on me over the years so the names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Here is the deal. Have children when you are ready. I know you are thinking; when will that be? Trust me you will know. Like dropping a hot iron your foot you will feel the pain and know the time is right. On the first round we waited five years. We decided we wanted to build OUR life together before bringing another life into the mix. It really bothered some of our family but we didn’t care. Also if it happens it happens and that’s ok too, just have the resolve to do it your way, the way the two of you want to make it happen. Everyone means well but sometimes you just need to remember that following your own path is alright, regardless of the popular consensus.

Also, and this very important as well.

Once you have children. Never, and I mean EVER let those cute, cherub like bundles of love divide you.

My wife comes before my children. Always! If there is no us then there is no them. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear. By placing my wife first all the time it teaches them the importance of having respect for one another. They will do everything they can as they grow to wedge themselves between the two of you, to get what they want at all costs and most of the time they don’t even know they are doing it! But if much like the war, you are a united front then the enemy will never get through! Once they feel the repeated habit of unification they will understand its importance and actually relish in the reliability of two parents on the same page. It becomes a feeling of safety for them because they know both parents care enough to keep the emotional ship on an even keel.

  1. LEARN TO ACCEPT CHANGE

Life is about change, the sooner you figure that out the better off you’ll be. We grow older and our bodies change. The sun moves around the earth, time moves on and our jobs change. We wake up every day and our moods/tastes change. Our union or marriage will endure change time and again. I mean you aren’t still wearing that Cosby sweater from the early 90’s are you? No you changed and your taste in clothes has changed. Or at least I hope so because nothing is more sad than that 50’s something guy with a mullet still trying to rock the members only jacket and parachute pants from 30 years ago. No sir you can’t touch this! Nor does anyone want too!!!

Accepting change can be a daunting task at times, but accept it you must. To fight against the hands of time is ludicrous and I can say from experience that in the long run most times change is good. Yes some times change can be bad but after careful consideration I am sure you will have learned something along the way.

So remember it may be same as it ever was but in the end, change gonna come.

Embrace it.

Well Gentlemen! Here it is! After much thought and consideration, countless reflections and several self-inflicted go fuck yourself moments! If you are still reading this long ass diatribe written by someone with no real credentials and an incredible ability to sound important when in reality I am nothing more than a hack sitting alone in my basement!!! I bring to you the number one most important thing you as a newly married man can do to ensure a successful marriage with many years of unrelenting happiness falling upon your freshly adorned virgin feet of gold!!!

Are you ready? Can you feel it’s importance???

  1. LISTEN, PARTICPATE THEN RECIPROCATE

What? You already listen you say? You are the best listener in the world? You are a solid participant in your marriage and of course you love to reciprocate right? Of course you understand reciprocation is completely different from procreation? You got that? Yes?

A little confused right now? Let me help.

Us men are fixers, we love to fix everything! If we can’t fix it with our hands then of course we are going to fix it with sound advice, if we can’t fix it with sound advice then of course we will do our best to fix it emotionally. If we can’t fix it emotionally then we pretty much say fuck it and have a beer, it wasn’t worth fixing anyways!

Here is the problem fellas. If you want to have a blessed, wonderful marriage learn first to LISTEN.

Listen with your ears not your mouth. That’s right, one thing I have learned through many hard headed interactions is my wife 99% of the time does not want me to fix the problem, any problem. Nope she simply wants me to listen, quietly, without a response of any great magnitude. You see she already has the answer, she has already worked the problem out in her head, she has already taken the emotional steps to remedy her current situation, and she only needs me to support her by listening. Quietly, carefully, cautiously, while looking into her eyes with great interest. Don’t have a response ready, don’t talk Just listen.

She also needs you to PARTICIPATE.

You want to know why things have been a little, well shall we say, ICY between the two of you lately? Caught yourself holding in your stomach while gazing into a mirror wondering if she is no longer impressed with that ever changing bod of yours? Thinking maybe the fire is slowly dying because you cannot seem to get her in the mood? You have been married or partnered up for just over a year now, five years, ten years, twenty years! Can things really being going south?

PARTICPATE!!!!! You know what gets the old juices flowing with the supposed love of your life? Let her come home to find you vacuuming!!!! Want to see her strip those clothes off and jump you? (ok this is my fantasy but I think it fits good here) Let her walk in while you are folding the rest of the laundry no one could get to all week! Wanna see her smile and give you that adoring sly look she uses so well to weaken your fortress of steel? Have her come home from a long ass day surrounded by morons to a well cooked meal (Sorry Boston Market doesn’t count) and a glass of her favorite wine? You do know what her favorite wine is don’t you? If not you have some fucking homework to do!!!

That’s right fellas a marriage is a two way street. There are days it’s going to suck for you and there are days it’s going to suck for her! So be a team player my friend!!! After all the last time I checked the two of you were part of a union! A union by definition is the act of uniting two or more things! So start acting like it!!!

Kids need a ride to school? No problem, you got it! Participate!

Dry cleaning needs dropping off? Damn straight it’s on your way to work! Even if it isn’t!

Doctor’s appointment? Hell you will drive her! Of course unless she really doesn’t want you too then uh, hey how about we meet for lunch after??? Don’t know, I am winging it on that one! I said I was a hack working out of my basement so let it go, it’s still great advice!!

You see where I am going with this? Participate, become part of the solution not part of the problem. You no longer live at home with your mommy and if you decided marriage was for you so a woman or partner could cook, clean and do your laundry then you just married your mom! Uh GROSSS!!!!!

So get off the couch, clean up, do some laundry, make some dinner, and be a part of the great team you envisioned when you said; I do.

RECIPROCATE or to give and receive. For all that she gives you, brings to your life, shares with you unconditionally. Give it back and more. Living the selfish life is no way to live. Living it while married is a recipe for disaster. She fell in love with you just as much as you fell in love with her. You joined together, whether under the eyes of a God or the powers of the universe. For every little moment you share, a touch of a hand, sweet kiss or even just that special way you gaze at each other from across a room. Reciprocate, give it back, and then give it back some more. Never stop giving, never stop touching, never stop saying you love each other, never stop holding hands. Some days it will be hard, you may be mad at her, she may be mad at you, heck you both may equally want to throat punch each other! We are human, we are an imperfect animal. But where we can fix that is by always showing a love for each other. Remembering why we became a union in the first place. What it was that created this love and if we stop reciprocating on one side, the other or both, then the love dies. Boooooo!!!!!

No matter how mad I may get at my wife, or mad she may get at me. We have always done this one thing, this one simple thing and the minute we do it, we instantly begin to feel the love we have for each other, we start looking into each other’s eyes, and then we begin talking. Once you start talking the problem can be solved and even if it’s not solved you know what you just did? Right? That’s right gentlemen, you listened, you participated and then you reciprocated. BAM!!! IN YOUR FACE!!!!

That one thing we do? We hug.

At some point either she or I will say; do you want a hug? Sometimes it no, I am not ready. For me I am a hugger, it is who I am so I am always ready for a hug. I may not really want it yet, but I’m ready. It’s ok if neither person is ready. I wait patiently, and after a bit of time, we see that look in each other’s eyes and we know, we are going to hug it out! It’s only a matter of time before we are laughing and watching The Walking Dead or Americas Got Talent together!! Whoop, Whoop, case closed.

So there it is, just in time for the summer marriage season! I apologize if this was no help at all or you were looking for advice to help you with Farmers Only dot com.

I’m just a man, an imperfect being, trying my best to make the next day better than the last. If I can drag you along for the journey all the better. Learning is so much more fun in a group than all alone.

Good luck.

 

Remember if you like my page then PLEASE hit the like button! If you think my story is worthy, then please by all means share it with the world!

But if you hate it! Really hate it, well then, I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you like my article, well then, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not social media stalk you. But if you hate it, Really hate it! I will look for you, I will social media stalk you, I will find you and I will leave you with a very nasty emoji…

 

 

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. 

She fights

Every morning she wakes up between 4 am and 0930. Her sleep is not natural as pills determine the night or days slumber routine. Weight is something she cannot gain and although there would be some envious of this side effect it is anything but glamourous. Her eyes work somedays while others they are filled with a blurry focus similar to gazing through a plastic milk jug. Her breathing is labored at times and she needs oxygen throughout the day and night to help keep her lungs strong. Pain is everywhere and nowhere, moving from an arm or a nervous leg to her back, sides, head, teeth and eyes. Medication is everywhere, we have pill bottles around every corner (figure of speech) waiting to either empty or crack open in dire need. 23 little pills, swallowed three times a day. Each pill with a specific purpose, each pill supporting another as they cross paths within her tired system.

Each day is a new adventure, wandering from upstairs to down. There are moments of greatness! A trip to the basement, or a stroll to the tree outside, down the road. Muscles yearning for mass from not that long ago, arguing with her central nervous system over usage, proper form and desire. Prioritizing each need hoping it can guide her successfully towards a much needed strong finish.

The garden yearns for her touch, her flowers and fruit trees scream for attention! There is one big draft horse and its little Donkey friend who stare at the house wishing she could come out and play. Little do they know she stares right back?

Her teaching job calls to her as she misses each and every child who ever graced her classroom door. Their quirky attitudes, laughter and stories, making each day special in its own way. Instruction, knowledge sharing, testing, creating, and showing each child no matter their background that her classroom was always a safe place to be, a wonderful place to learn.

Friends come and go, happy to see their friend has made it to this place of reclusion. She moves about between the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Little stints in each area much like a 7th grader changing classes. Sitting just long enough to learn and appreciate either her surroundings or emotional moments shared between herself and her children. She laughs and loves to have endless conversation with her friends. She knows she will pay for it as with any two hour visit there is a three hour nap post get together with her pillow. But when she awakens she smiles, for a visit is something special when not more than three months ago there was talk of her not surviving.

She longs to be free. Free from this damn GVHD! Free from this home that has somewhat imprisoned her for hours on end. She longs to hop in the car and drive herself to the fabric store, feeling that independence so taken for granted not that long ago. Oh occasionally she spreads her wings and drives to a softball game, or over to the produce market. They are after all straight shots and if her eyes get to bad I am but a minute away. But it still isn’t the same.

The feeling of exhaustion from walking to the car, shortness of breath after lifting a couple bags or fruit, closing the cars hatch and finally sitting back behind the wheel. This is a mental war with her physical being that’s being fought and has escalated rapidly. There are times she wishes she could just tell herself to knock it off and get with the program! This runner, swimmer, biker mom who could out move most people on their best days now needs help just to get up the stairs. She is cooking dinner again and slowly starting to do laundry (because she wants too!). Anything to make her feel normal, like nothing has happened and life is just as it was or should be. She is sewing and drawing which are two things she very much enjoys. She is constantly trying her hardest to gain just a little more ground. No matter what that ground may be.

People constantly ask me how she is doing. My response is always the same.

No better, no worse, just one tough lady who is happy to be home.

Jacy survived chemotherapy, she survived remission, then recurrence; she survived chemotherapy once again and then watched with the strength of a thousand draft horses as a new immune system entered her body during a BMT transplant. She has survived every GvHD (Graft vs Host Disease) complication known to man and lived after putting her big girl panties on willfully accepting a new trial drug to combat her symptoms. Her doctors tell us each time we visit that we are in uncharted territory. She was not expected to survive but when asked what her thoughts were she said; I am not leaving my family! End of story! You can do what you want, but I am not leaving my kids or my husband.

And she hasn’t.

My wife has always been a fighter. She fought for our relationship in the beginning, she continually fights for our children; she fought for our daughter and fought for hundreds of children in Haiti. She fought this thing call Leukemia and now fights GvHD. She is currently fighting a bit of trapped in the house depression, along with an ability to hold onto hope for herself and her future. She fights against the elements, hoping one little organism isn’t out there with her name on it, waiting to attack! A nasty little bugger giving her something else to fight for with her back up against the ropes. She fights for herself and her need to succeed. She fights because that’s who she is and what she does well. She fights while keeping a patented Jacy smile affixed firmly upon her face.

She fights to come back to church, and pray.

She fights to have some semblance of her old life back.

She is my hero and that’s why I will always fight for her.

jacys hand

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever heard???

Have you ever heard the cry? It’s a voice inside your head that won’t leave you alone. A mash of emotions trapped inside with nowhere to go. The voice is always there, begging, nagging, wondering, encouraging or discouraging depending upon the day, but do you hear it? Do you hear it cry? It cries for freedom, it cries for solitude, it cries for exhilaration and it cries for despair.

Have you ever told it to just shut up? To leave you alone? Do you find yourself arguing with it while driving in the car? Does it make you crazy just when you feel life isn’t crazy enough? The voice cries out, yearning to be heard but you swallow it down, forcing it into a state of mute while smiling on the outside hoping no one around you hears its needs. Have you ever heard it cry?

Over the last two years my life has been blessed. It has been hard, it has been emotional, it has been; well it has been hell. But through it all I have been blessed to talk with so many people and touch so many lives. To share correspondence with just one person walking in the very the same shoes makes every moment staring at a computer screen while typing my life to the world worth it! All I have ever wanted is to share, to explore and to help. To hear my inner voice cry.

During any time of hardship or struggle there are always those looking to find something wrong with you? Its ok, it’s not that they or anyone else is doing something wrong, for the most part they care and are trying to help the best way they know how. To intervene. We are all taught to intervene from the time we are children, but what we are not taught is what to do after we have intervened. You see I believe every person is different. People handle things differently, they handle stressors differently and it’s ok. Just because someone is not living up to your expectations of how, where, when and why they should behave doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. It just means those of us choosing to intervene, whether it be loved one, family or friend, need to broaden our horizons learning to accept and understand. For you see that wounded person is listening to their inner voice cry.

Maybe they have never heard it before, this inner voice and this new found annoyance keeps them up at night, or maybe it’s always been there but now that person is listening, hearing the voice and understanding its hunger to be heard. Hardship, or tragedy has turned up their hearing aids. Either way, it is that person’s voice to listen too, and they will listen to the point of acceptance or denial. During these times of trial this person may need nothing from us or they many need complete and total support, but believe me when I say, the inner voice is crying out and it’s running the show.

On a particular day when things weren’t going so well I found myself in a full blown argument with my inner voice. Long list of things to do and I felt as though I was losing the battle. In the middle of it all I glanced into my rear view mirror to see Parker gazing off into the distance with that faraway look reserved for those who have checked out from their current realm, entering the wondrous Walter Mitty world created in our heads.

I asked; Hey Park do you ever answer the voices in your head?

He smiled without breaking his gaze out the window: Why yes I do.

How many voices are in there little buddy?

Only one dad, but there is room for more!

With that, a sly smile and a gleam in his eye, my dry humored, wicked smart eleven year old boy let me know he understands.

So when you hear the cry from deep inside, don’t ignore it. Listen, that voice may be your savoir or it just may be the only one who is listening at the time. Either way over the last two years I have stopped pushing it down deep inside, acting as though it doesn’t exist, and because of that, my inner voice has been able to put pen to paper as it were for everyone to know the true, what, where, when, why and how.

Ms. Jacy is hearing her inner voice cry as well! It is screaming to heal faster! As though the Bionic Woman were trapped inside just waiting to roll out that super human strength! Yesterday we walked, climbed some stairs and tried to make it up her dad’s driveway a bit. She did great, but as with any exertion for her at this stage it came at a cost. She went in laid down and drifted off to sleep. Her medications leave her pretty well zapped. The bladder issue has not resolved itself so Platelets and blood are still the order of the day. She has an IV pump tagging along with her where ever she goes and there are 23 medications consumed three times a day. UGGHH!!

But here is the best part. She is no longer in the hospital. She is able to nibble on regular food and this makes her smile. Although she definitely does not like being told to what to do when it comes to her nutrition. We spend a lot of our days talking about the future, being thankful for our amazing families and sleeping. Yep when I am on Jacy duty I actually get to sleep a bit, something my body has been lacking for a very, very long time! It is nice to be back next to my girl.

The kids had a great winter vacation. Thank you to everyone who helped make my children’s Christmas extra special! All my love to you all! The kids of course received the best present ever when their mom came home to her dad’s house. They stayed at Grandpas from the first of the year until late last night! Spending their days with family and their mom! Everyone was so happy!

So we move onto the next phase. Weekly trips to see Jacy on the weekends and closely monitoring her progress. She has her Step-mom by her side daily. Gina left her job to care for my wife and we are forever grateful for this dedication. It leaves our entire family at ease as we know how well she is being cared for! Everyone keep those prayers coming as we have a long road to go and I firmly believe it is because of all your prayers we have made it this far! God bless you all.

Time to go, I hear my inner voice crying…..

buckle up

Thankful

 glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.

: of, relating to, or expressing thanks

As people are winding down their 26 days of being thankful prior to Thanksgiving, I ponder. Sentiments aside, these one, often two line quips of gratitude at times feel forced. You know as in; I better come up with something, I have 18 days to go and I wouldn’t want my friends to think I am a thankless idiot! While other lines of recognition feel genuine and heartfelt, leaving one to pause and reflect, often times a nod of approval comes forth as we connect through their honesty.

I decided in late October this was my year to compete in this annual tradition. 26 days should be simple enough, Lord knows there is plenty for me to be thankful for! Being one who thrives on a challenge it appeared as though I would have no trouble. A comfortable location was established, pen and paper solidly in hand when it occurred to me (quite arrogantly I might add) writing down my overwhelming gratitude in one bold sitting would be of no consequence! Just a man, his love for everyone, gratefulness for prayers answered and the watchful eye of an entire community! It would be as my son would say; easy, peasy….

After 30 minutes I found myself with head firmly placed in hands, everything I wrote sounded trite, as if I was pandering, pleading for recognition in my sincerity, my “thankfulness”. Verbs, adjectives nouns and pronouns all clashing together like a 60 car pileup on Interstate 80 in dense fog! Of course the metaphor being fog, as in the soupy, dense thought process consuming my brain! Writing then scribbling, scratching then tossing it all aside! Sitting at my desk going through page after page of printer paper was incredibly frustrating! Of course even more frustrating was the moment I realized; I WAS SITTING AT MY FREAKING DESK! WHY IN THE WORLD WASN’T I ON THE COMPUTER USING WORD!!!

Phew sorry I had to take a break and return my heart to a reasonable rate. 

26 days of being thankful may as well been 2600 days describing the taste of peanut butter! I was stuck and stuck good.. Then like the sun rising in the east, it dawned upon me. I am thankful everyday even when at times I may not show it. So if I were too, let’s say, write down my feelings in regards to being thankful, maybe and this is a big maybe now, maybe I could try expressing myself in one single written act of thankfulness? No little one/two liners or single paragraphs although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t my style. One written piece that says it all by getting to the root of my thankfulness, no extra explanation, no need to wonder where I am going with it and no publicly being thankful my cat still uses a litter box! (That was day eight on a friend’s page) Although that is a giant plus! Really!

Better late than never! With one day left to go Im diving in head first! Wish me luck!

14 years ago a woman entered my life, she brought with her light. For you see at the time my life was somewhere lost inside a dark tunnel. I was alone, trapped inside myself, cold and filled with hate. Life was not what I had expected, or even planned and I wondered how I would ever be able to share the joys of life with others when there was no joy in mine. For many years prior my personality was a fabrication, a way to hide my insecurities, my short comings. The person I had become over the years I didn’t particularly care for and in reality if I had met myself in an alley somewhere I would have probably kicked my own ass. I yearned for a way out of who I was and what I had become, but did not know how. Stubborn, jaded and incapable of recognizing it was not the world who had a problem with me, but me who had a problem with myself. It was tough to even look at myself in the mirror each morning and I usually hated the upcoming day.

The light walked through my door and she knew, she knew that very minute I was trouble yet there was something more. She knew despite fighting every urge she had to run that this was where she needed to be! She braved the loss of friends and family because in her heart and soul, even though it was confusing and it hurt, this was where God needed her most.

It was a tough decision to love me. She could have done much better, she could have had a better life financially, and she could have found someone with the same values and views right off the bat, but she listened to that voice that said to trust in him. She listened even though at times it frightened her to do so. Sometimes the whole thing was just too much and she would run home for a week or two. After careful reflection she would return, renewed ready to follow this path.

I was no easy catch or treasured prize! In the beginning it was hard, very hard. My angry, one sided, opinionated views were difficult to take, but she took them. She would fight back, never relenting until the hardened crust around me began to break. Even during some of the toughest times she would say, I am never leaving you, never giving up, I know who you are James and I know this will all be ok. I love you.

In the end she was almost always right, I didn’t have to like her methods, but knowing she loved me somehow made it easier to accept my faults. Having her smile at me, give me a hug then let me rest my weary head on her shoulder after a day or two of kicking the ugly side of me to the curb left me feeling protected, needed. She had become the light, carefully leading me from the dark tunnel that was my personality and my life.

For 14 years she has stayed by my side, we have built a life like no other. We have four children who have also benefitted from her stubborn way of doing things, her take no prisoners attitude. One of our children is a solid man ready for the world and three others are following suit faster than I care for! She is the center of our family, the nucleus; from our ranch to the animals that inhabit it, there is a piece of her everywhere you look. She is the best of friends to many, a teacher who loves her students as if they were her own children, a hand that reaches out for you when no one else will with honesty, generosity and love. She loves her town, her church and all of her church family. She has shown our family how life is sweeter when you give of yourself and that receiving Gods love is so very important. She believes everyone and everything deserves a second chance. I used to get upset when she was mad and I never really knew why. Everyone deserves to be mad at some point, I mean no life is so perfect that you are happy all the time. But when she smiles, when she laughs, when she looks at you with that relaxed caring look, you realize you hate to see her upset or mad because it is wasted emotions in regards to who she really is, to what she really provides! To see her inner light as it shines over all who reside within her love.

I really don’t know what I would do without her, she taught me how to accept myself. I still struggle daily with old emotions and it’s hard to not have her here on a daily basis. But inside, when I get frustrated or mad, or feel the “old James” fighting to emerge because it’s the easy way out, I think about the strength of her love. Today when she hits rock bottom with treatment or ongoing issues with her body she looks at me, knows just how much I love her; knows how thankful I am and I’d like to believe it drives her forward. She has given me the strength to be loved and to whole heartedly give that love right back. To shine.

So what am I thankful for this year? Well unfortunately it’s not going to take me 26 days to explain it. (And remember there is nothing wrong with that)

It only takes one sentence.

This year I am thankful the light in my life is still able to shine.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in my life, I love you all…

 

thanksgiving-gratitude

 

Love is something special

Yesterday I sat with my wife on her hospital bed. Leaning into me we listened to others talking in the room and I staring longingly at her once again realized I am a very lucky man.

It is very easy to fall in love. The world is filled with interesting, beautiful people who intrigue and excite our lust for closeness. Each person’s definition of love is different, thereby allowing varying levels of intimacy amongst those parties involved. There is love acquired over time, love by design, and love at first sight. There are people who know a particular person is the one for them right away and while pining away for their affection develop love through mutual interests. It takes a special person to not only peak those interests but keep them thriving. A person who is willing to walk side by side supporting and surviving every possible situation one could develop or live through over time. For you see, love is not for the faint of heart or quitters.

There she sits. Yesterday while staring at her it came to me that I missed her more than I let on at times. Everyone at the hospital gets to hear her laughter, see her smile and relish in her constant silliness. All the things I took for granted or at times bothered me because of my own selfish moodiness I now longed to have back in my life on a daily basis. I was actually jealous of their ability to bathe in her good Karma.

Today someone sent me a picture of an actress on a current show (I won’t give the pleasure of repeating its name because this show is sheer poppycock) and stated she looked just like my wife! I dismissed it and then after coming back to this picture three, four or five times it dawned on me they were right! Just like that my selfishness missed her hair, her eyebrows, her eye lashes, and her round face with make-up, wearing a slinky dress on date night or goofy overalls on the way to school! I miss the way she smells, her choice of lotions always leaving her skin smooth and soft. I miss her holding me tight while dancing, whispering in my ear “I love you”. I looked at the picture of this actress over and over and I yearned for the wife who at one time didn’t have Leukemia.

I am a very lucky man

Most people felt that way at one time in their relationships but having grown used to their partners they no longer feel a longing deep inside for their significant other. Time, life, work, children and school have robbed them of time they should have spent with each other, instead creating a divide and conquer relationship which ultimately leads to a divided relationship.

I long for her to come home. I hate leaving the hospital, I want to stay there all the time. To hear her laugh between coughing and vomiting. To watch her smile even though the news she has been told sucks. To hold her hand even when she feels as though she is a thousand degrees. To walk with her down the hallways even though she must have help from a nursing assistant. To sit and eat lunch like two old people with no teeth! She with soup and me complaining there isn’t enough candy in the drawer.

In the past we too were a divide and conquer relationship! I divided to conquer and she wanted us to handle things together. She never gave up on me even though there were many times she could have, many times I may have needed to talk her into one more chance, she calmly continued loving me. Stubborn and tough she never ever gave up, she always knew that even though I was going to fight, kick and scream, I would come out the other side, wiser, gentler and more giving.

That is why it’s my time to be there for her! I know she is kicking and screaming on the inside! So I keep her going, telling her it’s going to be all right while showing her how to remain calm, think things through and understand there is a better tomorrow for her waiting. When this is over and she comes home she will have known I never gave up on her, I calmly helped her to understand it is ok to feel sad, ok to feel frustrated and ok to want this all to end as long as you vent it all out and then restart towards the finish line. She is fighting hard, but she is not fighting alone. She is not superwoman, she did not become the fighter she is today without losing a few rounds in life. She will come home knowing I love her with all my heart and soul, and I am thankful for all she has given me.

Our lives will never be the same. Leukemia has made sure of that. But what our life will be has yet to be written. An open page awaits us and as much as I long for the wife of days gone by, I cannot wait to see what life has in store for us as a team, a couple, as friends who are lucky enough to be married to one another.

Like I said; it is easy to fall in love, staying in love is something very special indeed.

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