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…

 

 

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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.

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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…..

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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…

 

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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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Every minute of every second of every day…….

 

I have not written in a while and for that I apologize. Today while thinking about my children, watching the news and looking into the eyes of some of our youth. This came to me. I don’t know what it means, but once I started typing I could not stop.

Every minute of every second of every day, we grow older. Life moves before us at an astonishing rate, faster than our minds are able to fully comprehend. In reality we stand frozen facing the hourglass of life, witnessing what appears as agonizing seconds, thunderous ticking of a tock, movement that seems to stand still as life revolves at a pace that is not to our liking and yet we breathe.

Breathing an absurdity that is our arrogance. For as we breathe we continue to expire and yet no reality of decay meets comprehension. It is within our egotistic nature to face the hands of time and laugh. Laugh through our young mouths as we expire, laugh with our condescending young minds as we inhale, laugh and laugh some more, for we fear not what may lay ahead when youth is our only guide. We fear not what lies ahead when youth is our only means, we fear not what lies ahead for we have never known otherwise.

Every minute of every second of every day we are older, we are wiser, and once age has gripped us tightly we slowly become irrelevant. The youth of this world hears not what we say, they hear not what we have to offer, and they fear not the repercussion of blind foolishness. Though we have learned through experience, though we know from pain, though we still struggle with suffering, we have mentally surrendered to the tick tock, we stand brave faced into the hands of time ignoring what we could never have known and yet we are to be considered by youthful brigades as obsolete.

Breathing in we struggle with ignorance of youth along with an hypocrisy that is born of our own. For through inspiration knowledge falls away, sloughing from the skin of an aged arm, what little remains unused, thrown to the wind by the deafness of youth. Exhalation of life reveals that our future is of our own making; its remnants left from advice unheard throughout our journey of youth. Elders ignored, a blind eye turned to the very history we were scorned for not abiding.

The world, our future, our children’s future can never be realized until the hand of youth joins with the strength of age. Youthful creativity meeting elderly knowledge, young love and passion mixed with aged temperance, wide-eyed exuberance with sometimes narrow but skilled guidance. One melded with another, not two separate living beings fighting for space and time to no real conclusion.

Every minute of every second of every day we grow older, and unless we understand a world will always turn, a day will turn to-night and then to-day again and soon what came from nothing will return to nothing. There will never be a unified progression.

We all leave this world with only what we chose to share.

I choose to share love, wisdom, peace and tolerance for all. Some days are harder than others, the fight for tolerance on all levels is tough, but I have been guided by many great people who imparted wisdom that remains heard though they are gone. Hopefully my children or the youth, will understand, listen and realize that one day they too will be older, they must share, understand and guide others.

For every minute of every second of every day will soon be over.

What else do I have to leave behind, what else do we all have to leave behind but love?

 

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And then, like that, he was gone…..

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Last night I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do… 

I left my son at college. 

Hold on you say: THAT is one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? Through all your life experiences, work related and personal, all you have had a hand in or dealt, that was one of the hardest things you seriously have ever had to do??? 

Me: yes..

Cody James Franceschi was born on July 11, 1996. He came out with the cord wrapped around his little neck and an interesting shade of purple illuminating his hue. After 30 seconds of delivery room panic he was placed in front of me. The moment I held him, I swore I would never leave his side.  I didn’t care if he grew up a monstrous felon, I would never, ever leave this boys side.

and I haven’t… Until now.

Having children is a cruel fucked up joke! You spend all this time planning, preparing, and making lists. You swear to all within range he will be better than you, raised properly and through due diligence turn 18 and head off into the world a well rounded individual due to those 18 years of unwavering efforts. The little bundle of joy arrives, you hold him and instantly this macho, puffy chested, kick a puppy bravado melts away.  

What was I saying about being tough, having a firm hand, kicking his ass out when he is 18? Boogie, boogie boo! What a sweet little man; is he cooing? Did he just make a pee, pee? YES! MY BOY JUST MADE A PEE PEE!!! HE IS A GIANT AMONGST MEN, A LEADER OF THE PEE PEE FREE WORLD!! LOOK NURSE, LOOK! NO OTHER LAD HAS PEE’D SO FAST AND SO WELL IN ALL OF YOUR CAREER! RIGHT???

You bring him home, don’t sleep for nights, but one look in their faces and its all ok isn’t it? Over the first couple of years there are more sleepless nights, something like 5,000 dirty diapers that need to be changed (didn’t know you held a degree in waste water management did you) snotty noses, first trips to the doctor, and the crying, oh my goodness the crying; and thats just you 10603680_10204623672698324_6162773971597865019_naround midnight in the fetal position on the floor, let alone the kids whimpers. 

Things move along, they go to school, make new friends, have parent teacher conferences, a few teacher, teacher conferences that you might find out about later, and in the middle of it when you are struggling to help them with homework because lets face it, your college education is out the window; unbelievably after all this you can barely function at a fifth grade level! Then what?? You and your spouse come up pregnant again! Whoopieeeee!!! Oh well we got this now so whats one or 3 more over a 10 year period. Right?

Middle school comes and you watch his heart break over a girl who moves away, you stay tough, tell him she wasn’t the first and she wont be the last. Spend countless hours sharing tales of the heart and the woe involved hoping he can glean some valuable information. But he remains strong and yearns for her anyways. He does date a few other girls, but lets face it, you always remember the first girl you liked. 

IMG_0522We begin to see his excellence arise as he comes home with awards, both scholarly and athletic.  His whit becomes sharper, his laugh is developing, a voice changes.

Then one day he is in high school and you are left wondering how this happened? Four years, you have four years left with what was a, 9 pound bundle of joy just yesterday. Thats plenty of time right? Yeah, four years is a long time so all is right with the world. 

Four years of 0 period, cross country, band practices, the fair, raising pigs, FFA, homework-tons of homework! You look around and it feels as though life is spinning out of control! His dry whit has now formed an attitude which in reality is his testosterone testing the proverbial waters. He becomes an avid bow hunter, loves

taxidermy, duck hunting and fishing. He is running at a 100 miles and hour and so are you! Helping coach his team just to spend more time with him, meeting more kids you think are awesome and their equally awesome parents. You keep trying to make his hobbies a priority but with three others at your beck and call, all in their early stages of adolescent development those moments he held your sole attention are becoming harder and harder.  He gets his drivers license and a hunting dog, then just like that it begins…

He slowly starts heading out without you. He doesn’t need you anymore to get him out to hunt, fish or mountain bike, and you being the ever busy, trying to be all to everyone dad let it happen.  

Another thing starts to happen as well. You trust him.  No accidents, no tickets, he is where he says he is going to be, comes home when he says he will be home, takes care of the house for you while you are gone, and stands side by side with you when building fence or the barn, or fixing something all without you asking him. He doesn’t have to do it, he particularly doesn’t care for the ranching side of things, but he wants to because its valuable time he is sharing with you, without making it a big deal. He has befriended a wonderful man through his mom who owns a kennel and a 3 year friendship, work equity relationship arises. This man (Steve) teaches him how to train bird dogs in exchange for work. He takes Cody under his wing and treats him like a son. A father couldn’t ask for more.IMG_0828

He still leaves the shop a mess, and forgets to mow the lawn occasionally, drives his mom and I crazy while exerting his unrequited knowledge on occasion, but he is always there at home. You watch him branch out into training and boarding his own dogs. His love for canines, all canines is amazing, they all flock to him without question and he can get them to do pretty much what ever he wants. “Thanks again Steve.”  He idolizes you, your training abilities, knowledge of classic cars, guns and stuff. Every boy should have that one adult that is not his dad or mom to look up too. Just so they know dad/mom aren’t completely full of shit. 

End of the year parties, graduation, kids you both have watched from 5-18 all still friends patting each other on the back happy to have finally finished high school.  Its an amazing time, filled with laughter, high hopes, and the prospects seem endless. What college will they be accepted too, what branch of the military are they joining, where is the Tech school they are attending. The conversations are inspiring and so fun to listen too.. You smile, proud of them all, feeling like they are your kids as well. An accomplishment for sure. 

Then it happens.

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You arrive one Thursday morning with another family to move him into his dorm. He is rooming with a life long friend. The son of one of our closest friends, so it feels extra special. The 10550937_10204634312364309_4595586460827221397_nexcitement is palpable, the boxes are torn apart, belongings placed carefully around the dorm. Then it hits you just a little, this is THIER room. Not a room in your house, not a void of space for which they can hide and try their best to avoid following the rules. This is THIER room.  It is perfect. It smells like 30 years of boys who came before them, the carpet and tattered dorm furniture are mid 80’s at best. But they have arrived, 18, adults and out on their own 5 1/2 hours from home. They are free!

I am proud, so very proud of the man Cody has become or is still becoming. I am overwhelmingly proud of all he has accomplished through his tenacity, his mothers help and besides my fumbling self. 18 years ago I felt I had all the time in the world with this boy, now as I sit and write this, my head is filled with every single wonderful thing we have done together and as a family. His brothers are going to miss him so, Parker idolizes Cody and Jake has really needed his guidance this last year. I have not seen them yet to see how they are handling this huge IMG_0717change in our family dynamics. But even with all the memories, the family time, the brotherly and sisterly bonding. I feel like I may have missed out on some things.  

And this is where raising children becomes the cruelest of jokes. I have also come to realize, he doesn’t need me anymore..

Oh I will always be his dad, he will hopefully call me for advice and want to talk now and again. But he no longer NEEDS me. It is devastating and crushing my heart….  

Here is the second cruelest part of the joke. 

Somewhere over the last year, he became my friend.  I didn’t realize it until this morning when I was making coffee and he wasn’t there, strolling out in his shorts or PJ bottoms. You see pretty much every morning I am home he walks out and says; what’s up pop? Then has a cup of coffee with me and we talk about hunting, or guns, or cricket (his dog) or the fire department. We talk like two grown men as opposed to a father and son. 10394559_10204636401056525_8503219086095135140_n

My friend has also been there every evening to say goodnight as both of us are always the last to go to bed. I took it for granted, and today I realized short of school breaks the first year, then trailing off as he gets his own place next year and develops his own life, he will no longer be there or here or what ever the case may be. He wont be stopping by the station anymore to say hi and hang out for a while between school or practice, or asking if we can go fishing, hunting, shooting bows, another series of events I assumed would always be there. He wont be around anymore to save my bacon when things fall apart schedule wise around this busy ranch. He is grown, we fostered him, loved him, guided him, argued with him and now he has succeeded and is gone. My son, my friend, is on his own and the silence within these four walls this morning is deafening. 

So many asked yesterday if I cried?

Well I am glad to say I held it together, that is until this morning when I tortured myself by walking to his room ( a reflex response to our daily coffee routine) looking in, seeing only his hunting dog, lying on the bed, sad, wondering why Cody’s truck was here, I was home and Cody was not. It was more than I could take; she doesn’t understand whats happening, the boy who slept alongside her everyday for three years since adopting her, is now gone and I cant explain to her why or that he will be home in a few months or that she will move with him next year when he gets his own place. The emptiness of the room became the emptiness within my heart, knowing he will never truly live here 100% again. This will always be his home but no longer will he reside within its walls everyday, something apparently I have taken for granted for 18 years.

So there I stood, shoulders slumped, no Cody lying on the bed, room half empty of his belongings and a sad dog who had surrounded herself with her favorite play-toys. 

I balled like a baby…….. 

JACY 20

The Face of Leukemia (December 11, 2013)

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And so another aspect of this journey begins, a long and winding road filled with new highs and lows. The first hurdle has been crossed. The hospital is temporarily behind us as we will head back towards it in a month. Now begins a fight of great proportions.  Battling her compromised immune system.

4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).

That is what we are hoping to achieve over the next week.  It doesn’t sound like much but in the grand scheme of things it’s the difference between life and death, staying home and heading back to the hospital. Walking then running, being surrounded by family and friends ar remaining in isolation.

Jacy’s white blood cell count was obliterated, dropped to zero by chemotherapy. This was of course designed as such to decimate the mutated cancerous “blasts” of immature cells invading her system, slowly eliminating her ability to fight infection, damaging other cells and choking her system with further useless cells.

Before she was able to come home her white cell count needed to rise above 800 and for days we would get excited as it rose to 600 then dropped to nothing with an onset of fever and night sweats.  Jacy’s platelet count would drop meaning her red cells were disappearing and her body was having trouble converting or carrying oxygen within her system.  Chemotherapy as I have said before destroys all cells.  You must kill them all so new ones can grow and flourish.  Or as the doctor put it, be brought as close to death as one can get before being allowed to live. So everyday would start out with a new blood transfusion, platelets and a lot of rest.

Along with all this cellular bombardment comes the neupogen shots. These shots are started after white blood cells slowly start production. What is neupogen?

Filgrastim- (Neupogen) is a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) analog used to stimulate the proliferation and differentiation of granulocytes.[1] It is produced by recombinant DNA technology. The gene for human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is inserted into the genetic material of Escherichia coli. The G-CSF then produced by E. coli is different from G-CSF naturally made in humans.
Filgrastim is marketed under several brand names, including Neupogen (Amgen), Imumax (Abbott Laboratories), Grafeel (Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories), Neukine (Intas Biopharmaceuticals), Emgrast (Emcure Pharmaceuticals), Religrast (Reliance Life Sciences), Zarzio (Sandoz), Nufil (Biocon) and others.
Apricus Biosciences is currently developing and testing a product under the brand name Nupen which can deliver filgrastim through the skin to improve post-chemotherapy recovery of neutrophil counts.

Ok so that was the technical doctor jargon, a pharmacists evening read. The down and dirty is Neupogen jump starts your system, telling it to make white blood cells and make them now!!

Neupogen is given through subcutaneous shots, started in the hospital and once we achieved a white cell bench mark the responsibility has been passed to me for in home treatment.  For all the greatness that is Neupogen there are also a few side effects for Jacy to deal with and they are;

The most commonly observed adverse effect is mild-to-moderate bone pain after repeated administration and local skin reactions at the site of injection.[3] Other observed adverse effects include serious allergic reactions (including a rash over the whole body, shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, and sweating), ruptured spleen (sometimes resulting in death), alveolar hemorrhage, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and hemoptysis.[3] Severe sickle cell crises, in some cases resulting in death, have been associated with the use of filgrastim in patients with sickle cell disorders.[4]

The bone pain is killing her! It hurts to lay down, it hurts to stand up, she explained it to me as such, “my bones feel like they are exploding”. Can you imagine feeling as though your bones were exploding? I can’t.

So we are finally home and the last 48 hours have been an adjustment. Jacy is still exhausted, but very, very happy to be in her home. She is sleeping a lot (which is good), her bones are exploding inside, fatigue comes from walking downstairs (although we did journey outside yesterday which was awesome). The bed is soaked from night sweats and she awakes at 3 am unable to return in slumber. Jacy is also coming to terms that her life in the forseeable future will not be the same. This is going to be the hardest for her. Not being able to ride her horses or walk outside to play with the dogs is bringing much strain to the newest face of Leukemia. The thought of not being able to teach in her classroom this year is devastating. But she will prevail.  She is an incredibly strong woman who will triumph over this bastard known as Leukemia.

Today I held her as she cried over a current life lost, the realization of a unkown future, and the feeling of utter helplessness. I have always considered myself a strong person, but until you have faced a battle of this magnitude, become a true foundation for the person you love. You realize everything you have done in the past pales in comparison. Then you cry, not in front of her, but alone, so that foundation remains steadfast. My tears of sadness shedding her pain not mine. Throwing those feelings away, never to be seen or felt again, because we can only live for the positive.

Remission is a word the both of us are longing to hear. A word associated with freedom from the grip cancer/Leukemia has upon a soul.  We will walk every step together towards Remission, holding hands, moving slowly until we arrive.

Still kicking cancers ass, one cell at a time.

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The Face of Leukemia cont….

(Sorry everyone I am a little exhausted today and my writing shows)

The next day brought a tsunami of nurses and doctors. They filled into Jacy’s room, each with a different explanation, each with an intended purpose, each wanting to ensure we knew what was happening and why. They were fast, they were thorough, they came and went just as quickly. They were also some of the nicest people I have ever met.  I mean seriously generous, kind-hearted, nice people.

You know what I am talking about, the kind of people you see in a small town where everyone knows everyone and when someone is down they all rally behind that person with empathy, generosity and love.  Wait that sounds familiar? Nawww that doesn’t happen anymore these days. (sarcasm)

Anyways the first nurses we became acquainted with were JoAnne and Wayne.  Wayne is a 40 year veteran in the nursing profession and it shows right away. His knowledge and approach with patients is mesmerizing.  This man could teach a very successful class on customer service.  JoAnn is hilarious and does her absolute best to keep us in good spirits from the moment she strolls through the door.  She is absolutely adorable, her and Jacy hit it off right away, a new friendship is born.

The morning is filled with more needle pokes, more blood drawn, and an echocardiogram of Jacy’s heart. This was needed to ensure her heart was healthy enough for the Chemo meds as they are extremely toxic to heart muscle. So a baseline for cardiac output is measured, tolerances devised and the green light given for treatment.

Dr. Truong comes in to discuss possibilities and probabilities in regards to Jacy’s treatment of chemotherapy.  We sit together in awe as numbers, types, statistics, age, medicines and death are all thoroughly covered.  In the end Dr. Truong tells us it doesn’t matter what current statistics are, what matters is you the individual.  You, your brain and your body will determine the outcome of this procedure. She emphasizes a positive attitude will get Jacy along way during treatment.  She looks up to see Jacy smiling her patented big radiant smile and instantly knows attitude isn’t going to be a problem.

Within minutes the I.V. stand becomes loaded with several cocktail mixtures for inter venous consumption.  Lines go in, Jacy lays back and before long my lovely wife, who three days ago thought all was right with world is now a Cancer patient in treatment with chemotherapy.

We spent the better part of the afternoon talking about the last ten years together, where we came from and where we hoped to be when we retired.  Promises made to slow life down when we walk out of this hospital, but I know deep inside that isn’t going to happen. It takes a lot to hold down two jobs, run a ranch and save little puppies from death (Coopers Good Dog Rescue) then raise four children while participating in kids sports, 4-H, FFA, high school rodeo and well good old life in general. Truth be told it has created memories we will cherish together always. We talked about everything under the sun but do you know what we didn’t talk about? Letting cancer win! Thats right, positive attitude all the way! Every one of our conversations about the future had the two of us in it, no death, no separation, only triumph and togetherness. Our conversation started winding down, we made fun of cancer a few more times, even held each other and cried one or two more times.  Then we sat back and began to wait. For what I did not know, but we waited…

While all this was happening,  behind the scenes at home an army was taking shape.  A collage of human spirit weaving its way slowly together getting stronger and stronger by the minute. It was amazing, I had received a few phone calls from loved ones and very close friends within minutes of Jacy announcing her condition of Facebook.  But those few phone calls started a ball rolling that like a snowball tossed gently down a fresh snow covered hill, grew larger while gathering size and speed until it would become an avalanche of love and support so great that people wanted to be consumed by its force and power. Humbling to the say the least.

 

Night rolled into day and I awoke, rolling off  the couch from hell to watch the nurses change out a fluid bag on my wife’s I.V. stand.  She awoke feeling fine, just a little tired and still ready to kick cancers ass!

By 11 the Dr. Truong had re-emerged bringing her infectious smile to our room.  We had a very nice conversation where she explained the importance of a spinal tap on Jacy to retrieve spinal fluid. The Spinal fluid would be tested to ensure no cancer had spread to jacy’s brain (this of course would be devastating) or was trapped within the spinal column. If so this would lead to a chemo treatment directly into the spinal column itself.  No one wanted that…

Jacy is still bouncing off the walls with positive attitude and posting pics of herself on Facebook.  This is good for her, as the higher her spirits for a longer period of time the better mental state she will be in when the chemotherapy really does make her sick. I sit patiently by her side, knowing that moment of nausea will come soon.  She has three “pushes” of high does chemo drugs to go through and the first is tonight.

At 5 pm the nurses assemble for the first “push”, they are covered in gowns and face masks, it looks as though this process should be a scary thing not a positive one. It lasts for 30 minutes, is monitored by nurses for any abnormalities within jacy’s vital signs and the nurses kick me out of the room when it happens.

Walking the halls I am sick to my stomach! I still can’t believe this happening to us! But I promised to be positive, so here goes. I am positive we are going to beat this! I am positive my wife is going to be fine. I am positive I will love this woman to the very end! I am positive I can handle all of this for myself, my wife, my family, and my friends.  I am positive we are going to kick cancers ass…

And it all starts right now!