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

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

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

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

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

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

The white noise is everywhere.

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

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

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

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

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have always been a man of my word.

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

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

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

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

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!!!

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…

 

 

Can you hear me now?

In my twenties I never thought much about life and what it held for me. Every day the sun rose I tried my hardest to earn the respect of those around me. At that age you just want to be heard. Your ideas, thoughts, designs, you just want to be equal with those around you. To show the world that you are not just another dumb kid. Of course not helping matters much my looks were far younger than my age, therefor anything that came from my mouth was treated with kid gloves, quite literally.

Some life changes came and into my thirties a family was started, a career blossoming and again I yearned to be heard. The problem? I was the older guy as most in my profession started young and had already promoted to mid-level or even officer ranks. During that time I learned about fatherhood, gained some maturity and just when things started looking my way I also learned a lot about death. It was a challenging time and still no one was listening.

Welcoming my forties, our family grew, my inner child faded away as motorcycles, boats and fishing tournaments slid to the wayside for coaching baseball, and raising/riding horses. Trips to Haiti for humanitarian reason filled our summers, helping us grow as human beings and rodeo soon dominated our lives. For once in a really long time things felt as though they would look up, our family, especially myself could or would find contentment in life. Then came Leukemia, cancer, and a Bone Marrow Transplant. A very sick wife was struggling hard, fighting for survival and once again I found myself yearning to be heard.

This time it was different.

You see before, I longed to be taken seriously for whatever I may have learned along the way. Wishing those who I surrounded myself with would just listen, understand that maybe just once I actually did know something and could be thought of as equal or even a peer to someone new.

Over time I stopped yearning to be heard but instead chose to listen. Listening is one of the most important traits we can learn as a human being. Listening allows you the opportunity to feel empathy, compassion and love. Three of the best human characteristics we could possibly have or share with others. So I listened, and listened some more and I learned to love by not saying a thing. To empathize with those around me and show great compassion to those less fortunate than I. Listening gave me an opportunity to engage my brain instead of my mouth. Insecurity feeds a rapid fire mouth while silence often times shows great strength.

Now as I am but a few months away from my fifties I am yearning to be heard again.

My wife is struggling with all that has happened to her. She has been a pillar of strength for so many including myself. There is not a day or moment within the day I do not think about her. Alone, in her chair, or upstairs in bed, wondering, asking God why this happened to her. She has survived so much and yet she feels as though she has lost just as much as she gained. A woman who thrived in our barn, was an angel to so many children within a classroom setting and my best friend is still patiently waiting for things to get better. We are one year since chemo and one month away from her transplant. We are three weeks away from when she left the house for what was supposed to be at its worst no more than four months. It was eight months instead of struggling to survive. She is trying her hardest, but most days leave her incredibly exhausted and unable to move. She may have two good days and four really rough days. Her body is fighting her at every turn. She looks up and smiles at me but we’ve been together for 15 years and I can always tell when there is something hiding behind that smile. Some things she just can’t say, but my heart knows what they are because I have listened. 

So to my wife I hope you can hear me because this is what I have to say.

I love you.

I have loved you since they very moment we kissed. It was a confusing time, a scary moment but an inner sense told me it was supposed to be.

There is something about your personality that is mesmerizing. Like staring into an oasis after a long hot journey across the sand. You are that safe comfortable place so needed after such long travels.

You haven’t changed; your caring shines from the inside of your soul. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t instantly feel comfortable around you.

You are the devil when you are angry. But if you weren’t my strong personality would roll right over you and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

I could never imagine a day without you. Just like chocolate

We have four super fantastic pain in the ass children who love you! They are frustrating and amazing all at the same time. They also have no idea just how serious ALL of this has been and because of that they can be a bit selfish at times. But remember, they love you. They show it every day by not doing their chores, arguing with you about homework and treating you like its days of old where you would pick up after them.

I am scared to death but refuse to show it to you. You have enough to deal with emotionally other than dealing with my fears. This whole thing is so unnerving and yet watching you fight so hard, how could I ever tell you I am scared as well.

Quit worrying about what GvHD has done to your outside appearance. I know its difficult, and I understand you miss your old body but; I love you, the person who is you, it doesn’t matter to me what you think you look like because when I look into your eyes and the smile lines under those eyes relax for just a moment, you are there, whole, kind, caring, soft, understanding and as beautiful as always. I only see you..

I don’t know what the future holds for us, for you. I will not pretend I have the answers anymore. This whole thing sucks, it is painful, emotional and at times beyond comprehension. But I do know this; There is no one on this earth that I would rather be with. I am thankful every day that you chose me for a spouse. Yes it is hard taking care of everything without my partner in crime but I got it. I am doing the best that I can and the only reason I am doing so well is because of my love for you and my faith that God is watching and has a plan.

So please my dear wife ease your worried mind, have faith, look into my eyes and know I will always be by your side, helping you any way I can; Loving you and cherishing every moment we are together. Lean on me all you need, and rest when ever you want.

For every day is a glorious gift from God.

. .

 

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…

 

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The wedding crasher…

Standing in the shadows of an open dimly lit arena. Sparkling white Christmas style lights strung through roofline trusses bring a serene glow to this event centered on two young people professing their love. They stand before family and peers, nervously speaking as to this union, this moment, hands twitching bodies touching for support, faces beaming as if they just won the lottery. Little do these two know they have and it will take some time before they fully understand exactly what they have won and the stakes involved.

My eyes dart back and forth, as through a microphone sounds of tears falling reverberate across this vast space. I am alone, the woman I married is not here; she lies in a hospital room far away. My heart aches. There is something about a wedding that always brings it in for me. Whenever Jacy and I attend a wedding we always hold hands, we always relive that moment 14 years ago when standing in front of family and friends we said; I do. Looking into her eyes, no matter what our lives hold outside this very moment we always know we made the right choice. The sacrifices were worth it and every day brings a new sunrise, a new reason, and another chance to fall in love all over again.

Everyone is so happy! The tables clumped into groups, families tied together reminiscing over old times while devouring food and drink. I came as a guest, a friend of the grooms’ family. I knew hardly anyone which was refreshing. It allowed me a rare chance to sit and watch unmolested. Smile at new love, chuckle at old love still trying, and witness youngsters sizing each other up from the sidelines. All I could think about was my girl and how lucky I was to have her in my life.

A few weeks ago a wonderful woman was explaining to me how my blog moved her. She could not believe one person could write about the troubles that have befallen our family. How easily I share feelings the way I do, professing my love so publicly. Sometimes when I finish writing a piece I too have a hard time understanding what has come from brain through my fingertips onto the screen. I think about the kid who hated school, who struggled with bad grades, who lived only to party and cause mayhem with his friends. I wonder about individuals who held no reservations in explaining to me on a regular basis that I would never amount to anything and what they would say now. Heck, I believed them for a very, very long time.

My writing comes from experiences, from love won, love lost and love taken away permanently. Writing was never easy for me, it was and still is hard! But over time I have found my voice, my muse, my, well my being. It is my release from the day to day tortures that haunt us. Everyone has them, they are in different and varying degree’s associated with all aspects of our lives! Without writing them down, releasing them from my cranial vault, they would in fact weigh me down to where I am certain I would not be able to rise too any occasion. The writings on my blog are a mere fraction of what is stored upon an electronic cloud.

As this woman spoke so kindly of me her husband jokingly replied: Thanks James for ruining it for the rest of us. Now I have known him for a long time and his pithy comment was intended for a good chuckle. I took it as such chuckling along but as the weeks went on, it crept into my psyche, slowly gnawing at me without remorse. It has been eating at me ever since, chewing my insides like a cancer and we all know how well versed I am on that topic as of late. How have I ruined anything for anyone? This is my story not yours; I am only sharing this journey in hopes it reaches and helps someone else, another husband, partner or longtime friend traveling down the very same road! How on Gods green earth am I ruining anything for anyone?

I mean, hey, I get it, this joking statement admonishing me for somehow pulling my “Man” card from the file of all men by showing how I really feel about the woman who swore to spend the rest of her life with me is somehow wrong! Let me reiterate, I know he didn’t mean it that way, it was purely said in jest! As idle conversation to be laughed at! It is my own brain churning that statement over and over again as if I should carry some form of guilt for sharing anything! But in the end it only proves I suppose that some words, even the simplest when spoken in jest, combined the right way can in fact hurt.

After sitting on this for a while I began to wonder, have we as men lost our ability to show how we feel or express our love for another? How many years after marriage are we supposed to quit saying I love you? At what point is our relationship just an existence? Do we simply just cohabitate, thriving off the inadequacies of our significant other, never recalling what it was like the first time we held hands or kissed. Forgotten are the hopes and dreams of a young couple in love? Our lives drug down by normalcy, children, financial responsibilities, the suffering of our friends with whom we bitch to about those we supposedly love?

Jacy and my relationship is far from perfect believe me. We have both spent more than our fair share of times upset with the other over both important and trivial matters. It would go on for a few minutes, a few hours and on rare occasions a few days! It is part of marriage! No couple is perfect! I am more scared of a couple that never fights than a couple who fights, forgives and loves. But one thing about Jacy and I remains through thick and thin. We both LOVE each other unconditionally.

We have learned over time that being in love means learning how to forgive. Sometimes even when you still think you are right. Why? Because when you look into each other’s eyes you should still see that glow, a glimmer in the corner that lets you know she loves you and the person you met all those years ago is still there waiting only for you. You should be able to answer without a doubt what it is she brings to your relationship and why you admire her for it! She should be able to respond instantaneously in the very same fashion.

Listen, if I am ruining things for everyone else, then so be it. I didn’t learn all of this the moment I was married. The person I was before my wife was someone who was angry and in pain. I trusted no one, and put walls up all around me, shoving those closest away. I was self destructive and brought a heavy toll to those who surrounded me and it has taken years of talking and listening to turn myself around.

When Jacy came into my life it was a revelation. I knew, she knew, we both couldn’t believe it. We both fought against it, but we knew. The day I married her my heart exploded with joy and in no time she took to loving me as no other had ever done. She loved me for who I was, what I was and because I was me. Since then I can without hesitation tell you that over our 14 years she has changed me from a arrogant, egocentric, self-centered man to the person I am today. ( I know, not much different right? Ha Ha) I truly disliked who I was before and without her pushing me when I didn’t want to be pushed, picking me up when I had fallen down, believing in me when I felt there was nothing left to give and showing me how to care for others. Without this woman, today I would be a miserable human being inside and out.

There is no way anyone will ever get me to feel sorry for being lucky enough to express my feelings. Jacy Franceschi is my wife, if you have ever met her then you know the instant joy she brings into your life. She is friendly, open and honest, she may say things you don’t want to hear, but they are better said than any wall or wedge being driven between two people over an inability to communicate. She will in fact give you the shirt off her back. Listen when you are down, help you to get back up and cheer you on when things are great. I have never known a person who can make friends instantly no matter where we are, and it is her smile that is her signature trademark!

What is happening to her is beyond unfair! For all she has done for so many it just isn’t fair! Not that God, or any other spiritual higher power you may believe in is keeping tabs on who deserves or doesn’t deserve to have cancer-Leukemia. But for me it doesn’t make sense. I am struggling with why this woman I love, who loves me in return should have to suffer this way. She once told me it was better that Leukemia happened to her than me, because she felt I had suffered enough in my life. That was a hard pill to swallow. But the reality is, I am still suffering, the loss of my wife for the last four months has been overwhelming to say the least! I miss her every day. Her smile, her kiss, her laugh, her down right goofiness at times. I miss watching her and Parker snuggle at night while reading, seeing her and Jake laughing over a goofy joke, I miss listening to her and Cody talk about dog training, I miss her and Jessica talking over the last softball game. I miss it all! It is my family and one person is missing leaving us very incomplete.

She is also the strongest woman I know. What she has gone through is beyond words. There is a reason I only post pictures of her from behind. Out of respect. What Leukemia and the resulting GvHD have taken away from her is more than many of us could ever handle. She is gaunt, without any fat or muscle left on her frail bones. She struggles to walk daily, cannot see most of the time and her skin is mottled red. Her hands shake and she is constantly coughing like a twenty year smoker. She needs assistance to shower, move or go to the bathroom. Yet every minute of every day she greets every person who walks in her room with a smile. She asks about their day, how they are feeling, wanting know who is dating who, who has a child on the way and shows she cares, that she is more than just a patient, she wants to be your friend. She says please and thank you without hesitation and cracks jokes to anyone who will listen. Each time the doctor talks to her about progress she believes it will be next week or the week after that she will go home. Jacy has surpassed many others who tried but haven’t made it this far and she has done it with style, class, determination and grit! She refuses to believe there is any other option but to go home. She is simply amazing, she is my hero and I love her.

Standing in the shadows of an arena, under some twinkling lights, watching two people in love start upon a journey towards an unknown future. A smile breaks across my face, for they haven’t a clue and neither do most. They know they love each other, they know they are now husband and wife and that is all that matters right now. Yet their marriage now becomes about what they don’t know, the future and that’s the way it should be, there is so much waiting ahead for them both. As they walk out of this arena tonight, I only pray they remember marriage is not a fairytale it is in fact hard work, but the payoff is worth every single struggle. I could say I wish we could go back to that day, knowing what we know now, but it wouldn’t change a thing. We still would have done all the things we have done, fought for each other’s love the way we have over the years and worked our hardest to become better human beings. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I said there is no way I will ever feel sorry for being lucky enough to express my feelings the way I do, and I don’t. I feel sorry those you don’t know how to express theirs. Don’t wait until it’s too late, because when it is, you cannot turn back the hands of time. Regret is an awful weight to bear.

Jacy I am coming for you honey, warm up those hands cause I plan on holding them for a really long time.

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So you want to become a dad?

This holiday season our family has been surrounded by our dearest family and friends. During this festive spectacular there has been ample time for Betty to ponder the meaning of or too my life.  Now we all know there are many theories in regards to the meaning of life, and each one of us has a different feeling about how life relates to us as individuals. One such couple who I care about immensely has left me befuddled, challenged, and as though there is a damned up reservoir of advice for which I should be sharing. But also with the knowledge opening these flood gates to soon would unnecessarily drown them both.

These two love birds are about to jump off the relationship cliff by getting married. Hurray! We are seriously so happy for them both!!!!

But a topic continually arises in regards to the more domestic side of two lovers joined at the hip. CHILDREN! Should they procreate? Shouldn’t they? How many little genetic markers should they raise? Can they handle the unpredictable, emotional strains friends say children may bring to their lives? Would they even make good parents?

Then the question that always precedes the sigh of frustration; If you were to do it all over again would you still have had children?

First and foremost because they are worried about a future with children shows they care and is definitely a GREAT sign! So many children are brought into this world with no plan, no understanding of the responsibility, and no real physical or emotional commitment.  Many times children are born with the best of intentions, until one or both parents hits their first giant wall of emotion without the ability to seek out help or ask for assistance. Then everyone in the family suffers.

This future husband is a caring kind-hearted man with a spectacular sense of humor who values family. He is so worried about this one aspect (children) of the upcoming relationship solidification, and I personally find it to be sweet.

It dawned on me that no man should have to have to worry this much! No one explained parenthood to me other than to say it will happen if I didn’t provide protection! I was only given the generic description of events to come, as in late nights, no sleep, no friends, poopy diapers etc! After our nuptials were completed grief from every family member we ever encountered in regards to when we were going to have our own little clones was all we received! Not one conversation started with general pleasantries or curiosity into how marriage may or may not have changed our lives, oh no! Every talking point was always the repeated squealing of a broken record; when ya gonna have kids (skip) when ya gonna have kids? (skip) when ya gonna have kids? (skip)

Sad….

So after 3 years of writing this little blog, trying my hardest to share a Fathers side of marriage and raising children, it is time to help a fellow brother out! Give him some cred and lift him up! Let him know it is ok to wonder, it is ok to be scared, and I am here for him when ever he needs me. How am I going to help this man you ask? Well how nice of you to ask! By explaining what being a parent IS and what it IS NOT! Of course this is purely from this fathers perspective. (there might be a few marriage tie inns as well)

WHAT BEING A FATHER IS NOT

Glamorous; No matter how anyone tries to sell parenthood there is nothing glamorous about being a dad.  There are no Ward Cleaver moments, Eight really is enough, The Brady Bunched things up for you and its open season on Partridges! Things are quite simply never tied up in a neat little bow in under 20 minutes and 9 times out 10 you can’t fix everything with a hug. You will never be able too juggle your job, after school activities, dirty diapers, runny noses, and the occasional vomit then expect to come home slide ever so carelessly into a $5000.00 dollar tuxedo, expect the misses to look like a Bond girl ready for the taking while you fire up the Aston Martin for a night at the Casino. Martini’s shaken, not stirred!

Easy: Don’t ever believe for one moment you have it all figured out, because if you do, it hurts twice as hard once you realize you don’t! Parenting is hard work, every single second of it is hard! Rewarding, but hard! You can’t just turn parenting off, set it down and go shoot hoops with the guys down the street! Throwing your child in a locked room while you watch Monday night football with the boys down at Hooters is also out of the question! Just because you taped a daycare placard upon the closet door doesn’t make it so!  I know you think the kid will be fine, rooms dark, he should sleep and wont even know you are gone right? NO! BAD, BAD, BAD! It’s not even an option moron! From late nights rocking junior to sleep,(that’s right buddy its your job as well as the wife’s) to cleaning everything, fixing scraped knees, doing homework, forcing yourself to actually become smarter than a fifth grader (yeah you will quickly learn your degree don’t mean shit). Parent teacher conferences, rashes, sickness, crazy questions, arguments, sleepless nights, bratty friends, good friends, snobby parents, caring parents, children’s sports, children’s obnoxious sport parents and so on, and so on, and so on… There will be days you will feel so numb from exhaustion you may find yourself at the park napping on a concrete bench only to be mistaken for a homeless man.

Scheduled: If you are a person who lives and dies by your calendar you are doomed my friend! Who needs everything to fit in a nice neat little box of time or emotion anyways right? You will fail and its ok! Toddlers don’t run on a clock trust me! You can have nap time at the same time everyday, but it doesn’t mean you will get that entire block to yourself! And it only gets worse as they get older! Between school and sports you will re-learn the importance of HAVING a calendar while ignoring the time boundaries for which that very same calendars foundation is formed! Layman’s terms? -LEARN TO GO WITH THE FLOW MAN!

Sanitary: In the early days you will clean more strange, smelly substances than an Emergency room orderly! Heck some days you may even have a touch of something spewed, sneezed or wiped, stuck directly to your clothes! (Hopefully your James Bond Tux has a great dry cleaner)There will even be a time when you notice people have begun standing a bit away from you during conversation. Now while you are understandably perplexed by this newly found distance, wondering if it’s a coincidence or not, trust me when I say it is you!

Don’t worry about those people anymore,anyways, because after a while you will stop caring! Also you will quit looking over your shoulders, sleeves or sniffing your clothes for baby remnants! It just wont matter! Around the three to six month phase you will stop caring about the fact you are wearing the same clothes day after day, and the smell of every possible baby stench in the world will no longer resonates within your sniffer! Nope you are now a true entrenched father! 5 O’clock shadow, JC Penny sweats, disheveled hair and all. It is a disgusting badge of honor, it is the first step to never having a real wardrobe again and it will in the end bring a certain peace to your egotastic vanity; so wear it proudly.

Without conflict: You and your spouse will fight over the stupidest things! I know she folds the towels all wrong and refuses to turn off the bathroom light! But believe me the fights will reach a new level of stupidity! Rivaling a group of ten-year old boys engaging in verbal judo on the ball field! Yes you two are best friends, the two amigos, this is your best bud, your party girl, the woman who drinks beer one night like the boys then classes it up in a knock out dress while caressing a glass of wine the next!  But put a bun in that oven and all bets are off! Her body morphs faster than a Decepticon, her opinions change by the minute, her maternal instincts take over, the baby begins sucking the life out of her and blam! Your ship of freedom has sailed! You being the stubborn man you are continue searching for your lost buddy with boobs, your amigo, your sex with my best friend high-five afterwards partner in crime! But guess what pally? That ship has sailed! Blame it on exhaustion, brooding, misunderstandings, low blood sugar, what ever! Having a child will test the very meddle that is your relationship!She is still there, trust me, and you will find a whole new beauty to the woman you love, but get ready to shed your former life. I know it sounds bad right now, but it is so worth it in the end.

There will also be times where your parenting is nowhere near on the same page, when the two of you will become ships in the night, passing casually from time to time with nothing more than a horn for bellowing at each other. You will feel at times disconnected from one another. It sucks! It really sucks but it is the way it is! You can put each other first, put the children first, do what ever it takes or do nothing at all, but you will need to figure out how to raise this child together and you will need to work on your relationship all the time! If you don’t, you will suffer and so will your children. There will also be conflict as your children become teenagers. It’s what I call “poking the bear”and you better be ready! Oh they start poking the bear early on, challenging your parental authority, your patience, your mental acuity and your ability to recover. But it really hits hard once that nasty angry, hormone raging, puberty comes around. I have found over time that anger and yelling is definitely not the answer when dealing with this teenage metamorphosis. Staying firm and direct always wins when dealing with untamed emotions! Teaching your children to have a good sense of humor about their minor transgressions is also a good thing. There is an old saying I have plagiarized for years; He who yells first looses.  They can be absolutely disrespectful little shits that you want to beat within an inch of their lives as venom spews from their massive unrestricted pies holes. But staying calm while talking with a very firm almost terrifying tone wins each and every time. Once things have settled down, talking about what they were trying to accomplish also helps their young minds expand and become one with a future in adulthood.  Teenagers have wild emotional swings that are really not their fault, if we as parents can remain calm both parties win.

WHAT A BEING A FATHER IS

Humbling: I don’t care how tough you think you are, how many bullets you took in a gangland rumble, shrapnel from Afghanistan, bucking broncs you rode at NFR, Harley s you’ve built, Bulls you wrestled! MMA fighter, Doctor, scientist, Police Officer, Fireman, Garbage man, banker or lawyer.  I don’t care if you are this years Nobel Peace Prize recipient! The moment you hold a child, your child for the very first time, unless you are a piece of shit heartless bastard it will bring you to tears. Look into the face of that little wrinkled, pale, writhing, shaking life that now depends on you. That’s right buddy this human is a part of YOU! A baby’s cooing will make even the strongest mans knees buckle. That emotion never changes either. I cried just as hard as the day he was born on the day he left for college, you see in my eyes this one child had taken everything there was to give and now off into the world he went. I was spent, I was proud, I was filled with love, I was humbled by what God had entrusted me and my wife with. A life…

Full of mistakes: Hey big shot guess what? You are not perfect! Sure you scored four touch downs in a single high school game, went to college on scholarship, dated the homecoming queen, and now own the most successful flooring business in the tri-state area! Being a father is all about making mistakes and you sir are going to make them whether you like it or not! You are going to make huge, gigantic and at times what feels like irreversible mistakes! SO WHAT!!!! Do you know what separates the good dads from the bad ones? The ability to recognize those mistakes and act accordingly! Everything you have accomplished in life to this point doesn’t mean shit! You are now the CEO of a new company!  Corporations have merged creating a new entity and you need to give this start-up 100%! These people we bring into this world learn by watching and they are watching from the very minute they are born. If you act like an ass don’t question why your kid acts like an ass! If you treat people like shit expect the very same in return as they grow older. If you continually show compassion, empathy, creativity, solid ethics and an ability to communicate effectively you, your wife, and your children will all win! You wont always be perfect at it, but winners you will become. I have said this before many times but learning to say you’re sorry when you are wrong, sometimes even when you don’t feel as though you should apologize and your child will grow doing exactly the same. Being a dad is about setting a good example, but that example is not set by being perfect. It is set by being perfectly honest with yourself.

Rewarding: For every twenty set backs to your selfish life. (of course you didn’t know you were selfish until you had kids and your wife points it out to you. Over and over and over again) There are those moments. Moments that will stay with you forever. Moments that stir emotions within a man suppressed by modern-day society. Moments like the first time I saw my child walk on his own. Or when they draw you a picture and write; daddy I love you on it. When they climb in bed with you in the middle of the night or laugh at your impressions while reading a story. The first time they ride a bike, or sing on stage and to you looks like Travis Pastrana jumping buses or sounds like angels harmonizing in heaven. A solo with the clarinet, your daughter who was terrified riding a horse, now doing so with perfection and loving it! Letting them catch-all the fish on a day trip or helping them tie their shoes. It’s all the little things that make up the day. Its remembering not to let your shitty day fall upon their tiny shoulders because their hearts are so big they will gladly carry that burden for you without even knowing they are doing it. Coloring, legos, playing on the swing-set or jumping on the trampoline with them. Camping, smores and scary ghost stories. Watching them grow and evolve, change shape and voice tone. I once came across an old voice mail as we were changing out the system in my firehouse. It was my 14-year-old when he was 8. The sound of his little voice politely asking my voice mail for his dad to answer the phone please had me bawling like a baby. I hadn’t realized just how much this child had transitioned to almost man status until I heard the lost squeaky voice of his prepubescent age. It is still getting a hug and an; I love you dad, after they’ve turned 18. For all the freedoms given up, conquests never taken,  and selfish time disappeared there isn’t a moment I would trade, a second I would change or give up, for five minutes of being surrounded and loved by my children.

To my friend, I hope this helps your decision, I hope it made you laugh and puts you at ease.

If Love conquers all… Loving your children is the greatest reward.

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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 micro-liter (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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